Monday, January 10, 2011

Harbison 50K Trail Race

Autumn and early winter have passed and my training had diminished quite a bit.  Things spiraled down on me after my birthday run at the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Ultra where I quit after 50 miles.   I suffered IT Band issues for the first time and was forced into physical therapy and to rest for a few weeks.  The rest and fear of re-injury caused me to withdraw from Shut-In-Ridge which left me pretty down. 

Running continued but I was not attempting any runs longer than about 8-10 miles.  I finally got in a few longer runs and was starting to regain some confidence.  I had never really considered running the inaugural Harbison 50K.  This race was directed by Dan Hartley who I had met on a few other occasions.  With the logic and insight of an undertrained but obsessed runner I decided to register for Harbison just two weeks before the race.

So with no solid base and no build up I show up on the morning of January 8th just outside of Columbia, SC.  This would only be my second 50K.  Harbison was strikingly different weather wise compared to my other ultra the Chattooga River 50K which was held in blistering heat.  Temperatures were I believe in the thirties and great for running.

I arrive at the park and locate a wonderful campfire near the starting area.  It is pitch black out and the fire was a great start to an exceptionally put together event.

As the sun begins to rise the number of racers grows and I begin to see a few familiar faces.  I meet up with Brian Guzik and we discuss our lack of prep for the race.  I bump into Jason Sullivan who is volunteering today and we chat about running together soon.

The best always arrive just before the start.  As dawn approaches I notice three figures dressed in very sinister looking, black, Inov-8 Team outfits.  This race has brought in some great athletes and in front of me is Mark & Anne Riddle Lundblad, and Dwight Shuler.  Mark and Anne would go on to take first in their races and Dwight took third.

On to the race... The first 6 miles were nice rolling single track that I ran with Brian Guzik.  We talked and kept things calm and the miles ticked away nicely.  We arrived at the first AS and in the blink of an eye Brian is waving bye and off ahead on his own.  It was nice to have his company early on but I train alone and knew as the race went forward I would feel better tackling this solo.  Brian went on to finish a great race about an hour ahead of me as he also did at Chattooga.

Things began to slow down a bit for me but I was still running steady until about mile 11.  At this point my quads starting getting beat and I knew this would be a very long and painful day.  That lack of real training just smacked me in the face!  I start mixing it up with hiking and running.  This would be a mental game the rest of the day.

Relentless forward momentum... relentless forward momentum... yeah... yeah... but it hurts

The course is deceivingly more difficult than expected.  There are no difficult climbs (which I like by the way) but the course is like a roller coaster.  A consistent pace for me is impossible at this point and with good training probably no better.

Harbison is set up as two 16 mile loops.  This played with my head all morning as I wanted to drop after the first loop.  Just prior to mile 16 I get it in my head to make a fast pit-stop at the AS and get started on loop 2 before sanity arrives.  I arrived at the end of the first loop and  downed an Ensure and a 5-Hour Energy, fill my bottles and off I go.

Completely solo for about the next 10 miles and really struggling.  Stomach issues creep up on me and I'm forced to make like a bear in the woods.

My arm begins to cramp at the elbow from carrying my Nathan hand-held bottle.  I fortunately am wearing a winter cycling jersey and I'm able to slip the bottle in my back jersey pocket to shake out the arms.

I think I power hiked the majority of the second loop.  It was really getting me down.  I can hike pretty fast so I just kept moving forward and was keeping pace with several that were jogging.  I never ate anything solid the whole race and consumed only gels, S-Caps, and a few gummies.  I really struggle to consume calories at the aid stations and will need to overcome this in future races.

I traded places during the last several miles with Scott Hodukavich and shared some nice conversation with him that helped pass the time by.  My quads are completely toast but the rest of me felt pretty good.  My stamina is great and I feel like my hydration and energy levels are decent.  I just can't get myself to run for any stretch particularly anything that goes even the slightest bit downhill. 

I can smell the finish... not really but I know it is close since this is my second loop :)

I start running the last 400 meters or so to save myself some dignity.  I run through the finishing chute and see my buddies Jason and Brian giving congratulations out to me as I pass by.   The clock shows 7:38:27 which is exactly an hour better than my first 50K.  I am handed a very nice beer glass for a finishers award.  This later held several well deserved Yuenglings!

With the lack of training considered... I'm satisfied with the fact that I finished and was not the last one in.

The course was marked so well I think I Hansel & Gretel could have found their way home!  Dan did an incredible job putting this race together and the volunteers were tremendous.  I highly recommend this race but remind those considering it that the course is tougher than it initially appears.


Dwight said...

It was a tough course. I thought about dropping after the 1st lap as well. I knew my fitness was a sham and shouldn't be in the position that I was. Then I remembered the motto:

Nice job finishing when you weren't feeling your best.

imtheguz said...

Enjoyed running with you Mark - I knew you'd do it. Looking forward to seeing you at another - hopefully soon (and both of us better prepared!).

Triple F said...

Nicely done . . . from the one who was the last one in!

Dwight said...

This was a tough little course. I thought about pulling out after the first lap as well. It was way more than I wanted to do as it was supposed to be just a 'training' run. I took a wrong turn on the first lap and that really took the wind out of my sails. When I found the trail again, there were several runners right behind me. I made the decision not to give it to them. They had to catch me. I ended up putting about 30 minutes on them in the second loop.

Never give up...EVER.

Way to stick with it Mark.....d

Jason said...

great job finishing out there Mark!