Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Chattooga River 50K revisited

I stood at the start of Saturday's edition of this year's Chattooga River 50k, shivering.  June, South Carolina, seriously?  

I don't think I have done anything to earn this gift of perfect running weather.  So I'm sure I'll pay for it, either at Boogie, or Laurel Valley.  One of those two races will hit record high temperature and humidity, I'm sure of it.  

Jade couldn't make it to the race, so I drove by myself to Cherry Hill Campground on Friday in the rain, and setup the camp in the rain.  Everything got wet.  As soon as the tarp and tent are up, the rain stopped.  Go figure.  Sean was already at camp, so we chit chatted about our year of training or lack of training, and the weird weather that we're about to experience.  I found Terri at her campsite which serves as the start/finish/post race food area for the race.  Terri wasn't terribly happy either.  Rain caused her to not able to organize the race supplies, and the runner marking the 10 mile stretch of the course is over due.  She had dropped him off at the trail head at 10:30 that morning, and it has been almost 6 hours.  Course marking must be difficult, I thought.  

Dinner was a can of campbell soup, and a bit of rice.  I worried there isn't enough carb, so a can of Yuengling got tossed into the dinner mix.  Relaxing in the cool weather, I manage to read about 150 pages of Bill Bryson's book A Walk in the Woods before falling asleep in the tent.

Doug and I at start
At the start, I bump into Doug from SC.  Two years ago, I came to this race to do my first ultra.  Stupid stupid stupid idea.  Most people look for a flattish 50K to break into ultras.  I thought this race runs along the river, so must be fairly flat right?  Doug took pity on me that year and slowed down to allow me to stay with him the entire race.  Without him, I most likely would have gotten lost and turn into another banjo boy and never be seen again.  Doug and I quickly caught up and discovered both of us have absolutely no goals for the race except to not die.  Excellent.  

We cruised comfortably through the first 7 miles on Winding Stair Trail and catching up on our lives and races and things in general.  Coincidentally, we finished this section and hit AS1 in 1:32, exactly the same as two year ago.  

The next section is the first ten mile stretch that runs along the Chattooga River.  Still taking it easy, we soon catches up to a few runners.  A camper around mile 12 is looking for his dog.  We promised we would bring the dog back if we see him.  Eventually we caught up to Walt who is coming back from a toe injury.  Walt is an amazing runner, and it takes an injury and three months off from running to slow him down to our pace.  

The trail is not how I remembered from two years ago.  Someone had done a fantastic job of trail maintenance, and it is far more runnable than before.  There were a few sections that I call the super highway, no rocks, no roots, just smooth dirt.  Holy crap, there goes my excuse to run slow.  

Walt cruising down the super highway
We hit the mile 17 AS2 and I discovered I still have about 1/4 of the 2L Hammer Perpeteum mix left, so I elected to not refill it, and hope it'll last the next 4.5 mile section.  The next 2.2 miles to the turn around bridge is all downhill, and by the time Doug and I arrived at the bridge, I was getting tired of running down hills, if there is such a thing.  However coming back is nothing but power hike, which made me wish for downhill running by the time we arrived back at AS2.  

Topping off the hydration bladder and loading up on food, we headed out into the final 10 mile stretch.  Walt had caught up to us as AS2, and from here on out we end up running together for rest of the race.  

I could not stomach the thought of letting a crippled runner pass me, so I did my best to stay in front of Walt.  Walt on the other hand, didn't really want to finish before 9 hours, but didn't wan to run alone either so he stuck right behind me.  Doug who brought up the rear, could not figure out what the heck the two morons were doing in front of him, but also didn't want to run alone, so he stayed right on Walt's heels.  Chasing each other, we finally crest the "Hill that sucked the happiness out of me" and arrived at the beach.  Taking a break from the accidental racing, we soaked our noggins and feet in the cool Chattooga and generally prevented vomiting.  

Hanging out on the Chattooga, mile 26
The Big Rock, mile 27
The last few miles of the course had quite a few downed trees.  For some reason, I feel like the best way to get over these trees is to sprint then hurdle over them.  On one of these hurdles, the landing made me painful aware of my trashed quads.  Walt and Doug knew better than hurdle at end of a mountainous 50k.  

One of the many trees along the course
The brownie that I got from AS2 melted, making my food look like shit
We climbed to Hwy 107 the final time and I glanced at my watch and was surprised to see it's just shy of 8 hours.  How the heck did that happen?  The three of us cruised into Cherry Hill Campground, not caring about the finish line, but made a beeline for the chicken BBQ sandwich, baked beans, potato salad, watermelon, ice tea, and cookies.  This is the reason I run: yummy food at the end.