Monday, January 31, 2011

Sultan 50K

I must preface that a year and half ago when I began running I never thought I would be running 32 miles through game lands with a crown on my head.  I discovered the Sultan 50K by accident when searching for additional trail info of the South Mountains.  I read about this birthday run for Mohammed after stumbling upon Annette Bednosky's blog.  I remember clearly thinking these people have lost it running 30 plus miles, in shorts in the winter, wearing crowns!  Keep in mind at the time I was barely running two miles at a time on the treadmill.  After reading more blogs written by local ultrarunners I became inspired to join the insanity.  My wife will vouch for the day I came to her and said I want to run ultra marathons through the mountains.  She looked at me in that way many husbands would understand and questioned my logic and asked "you think you might want to try a 5K or something first"

Somehow on January 29th, 2011 I find myself amidst some premiere trail runners at the bottom of Roper Hollow Road.  The crown has been issued and fitted to my skull and shall not be removed till I complete the course!
Matt Kirk delivering the course briefing

Steady climb right from the start

This course is very challenging and has somewhere over 6000' of elevation gain with about equal the descent.  I am fortunate to know the course as the South Mountains are where I do almost all of my running.  It was great to see so many runners enjoying the trails that I call home.

Course overview by Rubitrack & Google Maps

Elevation profile
I started out very conservative and power hiked most of the climbs through the game lands section which covers 10.5 miles.  As soon as I hit the state park boundary I had new found energy and and fell into a comfort zone being in such familiar territory.  I was able to pass about a half dozen runners which was unusual for me and I was hoping I was not getting over confident.  Once making the right turn onto Upper Falls Trail I knew things leveled out and I could make up some ground for the next 3-4 miles to the aid station and turn around point.  I see Mad A, Grand Kirk, and several others already on the return trip and I look at my watch... I knew they were on a course to break 5 hours.  The steep and technical descent down the backside of the Falls Loop is always a tough trail for me.  It began to take it's toll on my ankles as I run down the trail like an out of control skier making his first run on the moguls!  I reach the bottom and cross the bridge and see my wife and kids on the trail waiting on me.  I quickly discard my gloves and arm warmers as I was burning up at this point.

Shedding layers on an unseasonably warm day

I arrive at the aid station and turn around point in 3:01 which I was more than satisfied with.  I take a peek at Sultan's cake but can't find an appetite for solid food at the moment.  I feel bad for not partaking in the birthday festivities and gloom over the boner points I will receive.  I begin to struggle with my Nathan hydration pack as I always seem to do.  With the very much appreciated help of a volunteer, Charles West I believe it was, I manage to get filled up for return trip.  I down an Ensure and a 5-Hour Energy and grab a handful of gels from my drop bag.  My wife, Amy,  takes a few precious pictures of me and my daughter Mackenzie.  And just like that before I can think of other options I am off to finish what I started.

I was her king for the day but she will be my princess for a lifetime
Heading back out after the turn around

Things slowed down considerably on the back 16 as expected.  The heat was becoming a little uncomfortable and I was overdressed.  Climbing the last hill on Upper Falls Trail around mile 19.5 I develop stomach issues.  I'm forced to make a pit stop and and very glad to have brought those baby wipes.

Mile 22 I start to feel the first twitches in my legs and know that some cramps are developing.  Let the mental battle begin!

Thoughts race through my head... why am I doing this... this will be the last one... forget about Mitchell... you can still get your money back...

Up to this point I had been consuming a gel and an S-Cap an hour.  Somewhere around mile 20 I tried to eat a gel and just could not get it down. I had now gone about 1.5 to 2 hours with no calories and was starting to feel really zapped. 

Mile 24 I am feeling really nauseous and need fuel... I squeeze a gel into my mouth and try to wash it down quick.  I gagged on it and spit it out before swallowing.  The next thing I know I'm vomiting.  After three clean outs I rise and I'm aware the nausea will more than likely pass now.  The frightening part is knowing how much hydration I just lost and I still have 8 plus miles to go.

Just keep moving forward....

I'm now noticing that I'm not really sweating anymore which is never a good sign.  The legs are starting to spasm a little more frequently and I'm having to alter my stride a bit to keep from locking up.

I see Richard Lilly and Angie Burns a quarter of a mile ahead and I use them to pace me for awhile.  That worked for several miles but then they faded away and I am solo again.  I try to keep things as steady as can be and begin hoping for a sub seven hour finish. 

I'm now on the final 3 miles which is mostly downhill and I'm ready to be done.  I round the final corner and here some hooting and hollering.  I'm either at the end and there are still runners there cheering or I've run into a hunting party thrown by the Roper Hollow Mountain locals.

Then I hear "do a cart wheel" 

It is over 6:57:19 and I'm beat and very nauseous.  I am very thankful to have been a part of a great event in my favorite mountains.  I stuck around and chatted for a few minutes but really wanted to get home.  I drove off without really saying farewell as I just was not feeling well.  Sadly I had to make two roadside stops on the way home due to nausea and vomiting.  Arrived home and slowly refueled and re-hydrated the body.

Woke up the next day feeling much better and the legs felt surprisingly well.

Sights are once again set for the next challenge....  Mount Mitchell

The Sultan himself earning great bonus points on his birthday run

Happy Birthday Mohammed and thanks for a great run!


imtheguz said...

Way to make it thru those rough spots! "Keep moving forward" is as important as anything. Congrats an a PR!!

eminnick said...

welcome to the crazy world of ultra trail running, you are going to love it! you have come so far in just a year and a half and you have so many great runs to discover. You will love Mitchell! thanks for sharing the photos on fb.

Rob French said...

Very Impressive man. I thought I was doing good after 3 yrs back at the running game. Your progression shows that it can be done if you just put one foot in front of the other. It helps to be tough! I'm so thankful I found the trails, mountains and amazing people that inspire me along the way.

jenn said...

great post! love the pictures! so awesome!!! CONGRATULATIONS! I pretty much echo exactly what beth and rob said:o) good luck with training for MMC!