Just like last year, I am starting my race season at Woodside. This year, however, I opted to go straight to my favorite distance, the 50k. Rain was in the forecast for this one, but I didn’t really believe it. Not sure why and, of course, it turns out that I couldn’t have been more wrong.
This runner believes that one sign of how well a race is going to go is the music that comes on the radio driving to the race. Generally, my taste in music ranges from the Grateful Dead to Phoenix. Not pop music but mainstream enough. There are a few exceptions. Of late, I have had a bit of an obsession with Lady Gaga (which I proudly stand by, so hold your jokes). When “Paparazzi” came on, I knew it would be a good day. To my great, surprise David Guetta came on right after. My wife can’t understand why I like David Guetta. “He’s just a skinny Euro walking around in jeans and a t-shirt” she argues. Ummm, have you seen me lately? I digress.
“Rain Or Shine”
A quick check of the radar in the morning revealed that a storm had moved through and no system would be moving through any time soon. That information was about as false as they come (thanks, weather.com and accuweather). It was pouring when I got to Huddart Park. And it would rain for much of the race.
As usual for PCTR, the race started right on time. As soon as the gun went off, I found myself running somewhere in the top 10 as I was making my way up the initial significant climb (2000 ft).
Gliding Through the Rain
By the time I reached the Kings Mountain aid (57 mins), my hands were already too cold to open my bottle for the volunteers. Scott Dunlap was there to help and took care of topping off my bottle (I usually try to unscrew my bottle coming into an aid station). It took us both a bit to recognize each other. Scott was all bundled up in a big red jacket, and he commented on how “trim” I looked. That compliment just made me happy and it lifted me through the next section along the Skyline Trail with ease. I rolled into Bear Gulch Aid (1:45) within two mins of Alan Abbs and another runner, whom I would catch up to on the ensuing downhill. I was in the middle of a two hour stretch of the race, where I felt like I was just gliding and covering the miles with ease. It’s great to feel hard training miles paying off during a race!
The next section through Wunderlich was uneventful, except that the trails were getting muddier. Us 50k runners had been lucky to be the first ones on the Skyline Trail, which was muddy but I knew would be a mess to return on later in the race, because a couple hundred more runners had covered it once if not twice by the time we were to return.
Exchanging “Good Jobs!”
Completely unprepared, I actually thought the Wunderlich loop was a true loop and not a lollipop loop, so it was a nice surprise to see a lot of the rest of the field as I was finishing up that section and be able to wish others well. Back at Bear Gulch(3:07), my legs were a bit tired, but I knew that most of the uphills had been completed, and we’d be thrown right into the 35k field. It was a joy to pace with people, because I was starting to hurt. However, the continuous encouragement from people helped me tremendously in getting to aid 4 in less than an hour (4:03). This section actually has mile markers and my splits were something like 11, 10, 10, 9, 8…in that order (note: this section is more than 5 miles, hence the difference). I was getting faster again, which would not have been possible had I run by myself on this section.
Now, it was time for one last fuel up (3 cookies, chips and water/gatorade mix) and time to charge the last 7 k to the finish. But, boy, was I hurting. I was done for the day and had mentally checked out at the last aid thinking that this downhill would take care of itself. Big mistake! It took about 37 minutes to cover these last four, mostly downhill miles to cross the finish line in 4:40 and 8th overall. Despite the struggle at the end, I registered 15 minute PR! That’s huge considering that my last race was a 17 min PR. What a start to 2010!
At the finish, I caught up with Paula, another recent transplant from Atlanta, and her fiance as well as a few other people. Soon, I got cold though and it was time to go home, wash off all the mud and enjoy some hot tea.
Last But Not Least
An extra special “thank you” to all the volunteers as well as Sarah and Wendell, who had to deal with the rain, mud, wind and all kinds of nasty stuff (which is fun to run in, but absolutely no fun to stand in). Thank you!!