Harbison 50k: 2015 Edition

Is there really any better way to kick off your racing year than by playing in the woods with a bunch of other weirdos for a few hours? Of course not, which means I registered yet again for the Harbison State Forest 50k.

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Course map and bib from packet pickup Friday evening. It’s a simple but nice touch to have names printed on the bibs. I’m not one for race keepsakes, but I can appreciate the effort for those that are.

Saturday January 3rd dawned…wet and foggy. But, it was warm unlike last year! Also different from last year is that we weren’t going to run the Lost Creek section (that’s the super squiggly bit on the far left of the map above. Squiggly bits are slow and sad). The wet conditions weren’t really a concern as my only goals for the race were to finish and remain in one piece. It’s very likely that Harbison will be the only ultra I run this year as I shift my focus to road racing and shorter events so I wasn’t about to take any unnecessary chances on trail that might derail the rest of my race plans. Deciding to take the pressure off earlier in the week ended up being the best thing I could have done for myself due to the conditions of the trails which got progressively worse as the day went on.

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I had to stop by a Fleet Feet in Columbia because I’d completely forgotten any Gu. Luckily, they had my two preferred flavors in stock!

Despite (or because of?) the rain, mud and muck, IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! I didn’t wear a watch, but the few little time splits I heard after the first loop told me that I managed to stay pretty even paced on the second loop even though the rain began coming down in earnest and some sections of the trail got downright treacherous (I’m looking at you,Midlands Mountain Bluffs). I ended up 6th woman (29th overall) and a time of 5:38. Full results are here. I chose to have the four Gu that I brought with me, plus some water, Coke, and pickles from the various aid stations. I saw that the aid stations were more than adequately stocked with the ultra runnings classics like pbj sandwiches, chips, fruit, Tailwind products, and more I’m sure. I just tend to stick with my own little tried and true options since I know they work. Also, I didn’t carry any water with me, but the aid stations were placed evenly enough apart that I knew I’d be okay just grabbing a cup of water every few miles.

The course itself was great. I REALLY like that Lost Creek had been removed. That meant we reached the fabled SpiderWoman and SpiderWoman II trails much earlier in the first loop and they were…dare I say it, manageable! Of course it was somewhat (a lot) worse on the second go round, but I would say that the newer course allowed for lots of recovery time between sketchy/technical sections. As alluded to earlier, the bluffs section of the Midlands Mountain trail (I think that’s what it’s referred to. Either way, it’s the far right of the map that is beside Broad River) was probably the worst part. It’s a single track section with a steep banking and a severe drop off. Also, it was super slick from the rain. Also also, it got beat up pretty badly the first loop from all of us. Also also also, being already brain dead from the several hours of running prior means that Slip ‘n Slide OF DOOM is a far more accurate name than the lovely imagery that the name Midlands bluffs conjures up.

Overall, I’m a huge fan of the course. I am also partial to loop courses and out-and-backs, but I understand that I’m in the minority with that preference. One downside to the day is that I heard of a few people getting off trail. I know I did that briefly last year so I don’t have much room to talk, but I have a hard time understanding how that happened this year. I never felt confused when looking for the surveyor’s flagging, and the directional signage seemed very obvious to me. Frankly, I feel like someone gets turned around or lost at every ultra I have run on a trail system. There’s got to be some kind of Vegas odds that dictates that sort of thing. Again, it didn’t happen to me so I don’t know the circumstances behind folks getting confused, but I felt like I should mention it for the sake of full information as I have it. On the upside, that’s easily the only negative thing about the entire day I can think of.

My personal favorite part of the day is that I inadvertently ended up running most of the way with a couple of fellow Greenville Track Club members. Getting to chat with Brian and Kerrie through the early and mid portions of the race made it much more bearable when I was on my own for the last miles. Also, the HAM radio folks that volunteered their time to keep tabs on us runners meant that I was never too far from human contact– a reassuring thing to know when the going got tough! Actually, ALL the volunteers were absolutely awesome! There were motivating signs (“Run now, poop later” was the obviously best one), cowbells (so glad to know I wasn’t hallucinating ringing in my ears), and cheerful encouragements (“Good job, and hey, you don’t have to see me again!” from one gentleman later in the second loop).

The finishers, like last year, get these trail/tree motif medals that double as a bottle opener:

Photo Courtesy of Nathan Maxwell <--- Another 50k runner!
Photo Courtesy of Nathan Maxwell <– Another 5ok runner. Thank goodness other people remember to take pictures at races because I am terrible at it!

After the race there was a new challenge if getting the mud out of places that mud shouldn’t be. I didn’t even fall down, but there was gunk everywhere. Everywhere.

While I can’t say what my future in ultrarunning will be given my other goals and life and such, I can comfortably say that I plan on being back to Harbison 50k for the 2016 edition. Thanks again to all the volunteers, the RD David Nance, and to y’all that put up with my running and writing about it!

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Race Recap and Weekly Roundup

Soooo…I already failed at my challenge to blog everyday this month. However, dear reader, I’ve done you a service as the last couple of days would’ve been just some variation on being cold/tired/hungry. I have had a lovely little week of running everyday, so there is that. And hey! I’m writing now, instead of just dropping the blog-ball for weeks like I’d be inclined to otherwise, so I’m not too distraught over missing a couple of days.

On to the running week:

Monday: 13 miles

Tuesday: 12 miles

Wednesday: 12 miles

Thursday: 13 miles

Friday: 10 miles

Saturday: 15 miles including Paris Mtn 20k (more on that below)

Sunday: 10 miles

Total: 85 miles– I feel really solid about this week’s volume, and overall I think my training mojo is back! I ran VERY slowly most of the time (aside from a few pickups here and there, strides after Mon/Wed/Fri runs, and the harder effort at the 20k). Frankly, that’s the only way to build mileage: by slowing down…wayyyyy down, if necessary. I only tracked my pace during the race, and otherwise just ran known routes at whatever pace I needed to to make it through that day.

As for Paris Mtn. 20k…well, I went into the race a bit fatigued from the week, but overall I’m okay with how it went down. I ended up just 5th woman in 1:39:54 (this time means almost nothing, because MOUNTAIN. AND ROLLERS. AND MORE ROLLERS). Oh yeah, it was also raining and about 45*f. Not my ideal race conditions by any stretch. It was still a solid effort near the end of the biggest week I’ve had in months.

Somewhere after mile 11, I think. (Photo from Pace Running Magazine. The gallery can be seen here: http://on.fb.me/12BOFeq)
Somewhere after mile 11, I think. (Photo from Pace Running Magazine. Full gallery here: http://on.fb.me/12BOFeq)

I’m already looking forward to the next few weeks of mileage, now that I’ve got the rhythm of running a lot back in my system. Sleep, coffee, food, run, food, nap, stretch/foam roller/core, food, sleep. Rinse and repeat. Okay, so I do have to work and do chores and such, too. But the semester is almost over and I’m at the cafe only three mornings a week right now, so I have a pretty ideal running-centric schedule. And those naps are seriously necessary.

I’m not so sure if I’ll get back to blogging every single day (how much can you really read about the daily mileage grind?), but I will definitely be keeping things a lot more updated. Now, time for second dinner…

Upcoming Races

I wasn’t sure what next to post, so it seemed easy enough to think about the races I’m running in the next few weeks/months. I’m actually running a race this weekend: the Paris Mtn 20k Road Race here in Greenville, SC. I don’t have much race-confidence going into this one since it’s a longer race, and up a FREAKING MOUNTAIN, amongst other concerns (like the 80% chance of rain on race morning). It’ll be a solid hard effort anyway, and fun in that masochistic way that  running races can be.

After that, I’ve got just two *goal* races coming up (I might hope in a few little other ones here and there): Harbison 50k in Columbia, SC on January 3rd followed by Myrtle Beach Half Marathon on February 14th.

I can barely believe it myself, but the half marathon is actually my major race focus through the winter. I have a very old half PR (1:32 from 2010), and I just know that I should give sub 1:30 a shot. I’ll be honest in that the 1:32 was something of a fluke. It was one of those days where I felt amazing, the course was favorable, and the weather was ideal. Basically a race-day that only comes along very rarely in a running career where everything was perfect. I want to prove to myself that I can race, really race, a half.

I’m definitely just running lots of easy miles through December which should send me into Harbison 50k with at least a decent base, if not speed. The plan from January through the half in early February is to beef up my track work and shorter (but faster) tempo runs. It sounds so easy written out like that doesn’t it?

Dec. 2nd

I’m already worried that I’m going to run out of blog topics and it’s only day 2! However, I actually had people read and comment on my post yesterday (THANK YOU!) and while I answered the comment, I thought I’d go a little more in depth for today’s post.

Essentially, I was asked if it is really a good idea not to take a day off of running at all. It was (rightly) pointed out that recovery is just as important as the running part of training. I explained that I felt confident in my plan, but I did want to expand on that a little more. Recovery can vary drastically between runners, AND it will vary at different points in a training cycle.

What that means for me, right now, is that I am running only easy, slow miles and thus my recovery needs are different than if I were doing 2-3 hard workouts per week (some combination of tempo runs, intervals, hill repeats, progression runs, and fast-finish long runs). If I was in a high quality phase of my training, taking a rest day every 10-14 days would be more necessary. However, because I am running just by feel right now, and likely only rarely even dipping below marathon pace, I can get away with running for 31 days in a row. Because pace doesn’t matter, and I don’t have any real mileage goals, just getting the time on my feet and letting my body go at the speed it wants to on that day means that I should be okay in this challenge.

Another thing I do want to note is that I’m also really, really lucky. While I’ve certainly had my share of little niggles and aches when bumping up mileage, or sore after a hard race, I’ve been largely injury-free in my running. This means that while I’ve struggled at times with consistency in my running due to motivation or time or burn out or whatever, I’ve only rarely been sidelined because of physical limitations. Many of my running peers are not so lucky, and they NEED those extra recovery days, no matter how slow and easy they are running (I will say that I don’t think many of those runners are actually slowing down ENOUGH on the easy days, but that’s an opinion piece for another day’s blog).

Anyway, I just wanted to expand on the reason that I feel pretty good about taking on this challenge of running everyday for a month. So far, these first couple of days have gone smoothly, and I’ll see you tomorrow dear readers (y’all are still out there, right?)!

 

December Challenges

I’m one of those people that gets really excited at the beginning of a project (or training cycle, or school semester, or…). That said, my enthusiasm wanes significantly as the novelty wears off and my follow through is somewhat iffy. As 2014 comes to a close, it’s easy to kind of write off December and look forward to what 2015 may bring. This is the time of year that a bit of gluttony and laziness seem more acceptable since we have our New Year’s resolutions coming right around the corner. However, I decided to set myself a couple of December challenges that will hopefully see this year ending on a positive note and set me up to begin 2015 with gusto.

Challenge #1:

Write a blog post everyday for the month of December. I enjoy writing, but I’ve never been very consistent at it. In particular, after finishing my Master’s thesis in May, I was so burned out on writing and editing and anything remotely academic that I’m just now beginning to feel the desire to write again. I’m not setting a word count goal or anything which means that some blog posts will likely be nothing more than a sentence or two, but I just want to get in the habit of writing. I’m also going to just force myself to hit ‘Publish’. I have numerous blog drafts sitting in my WordPress dashboard that I never finished, or never really started. Because this challenge is about quantity and consistency, I’m going to worry less about obsessive editing or second-guessing what people may want to read from me (not that I expect much in the way of an audience for this).

Challenge #2:

Run everyday for the month of December. This one is probably easier than the first challenge. I’ve gone weeks and weeks without a day off of running before. I just haven’t done so lately. As I mentioned in my marathon post, I sort of burned myself out before the race, and in the month following my 3:18 effort, I’ve let my running momentum take its sweet time to return. It’s the season for base mileage, but instead of getting in the 70-80+ miles a week I should be hitting, I’ve been quick to rationalize a day (or two) off each week and only hitting 40-60 miles per week. So, just to get myself back into good running habits, I’m not taking any days off this month (barring some catastrophic injury/illness, of course– I’m not trying to end up in the hospital). I don’t have mileage goals in mind; I just want to get back to the very effective, very consistent, very rewarding mileage and fitness that I experienced through mid-late summer.

So that’s it. Nothing crazy, but some good goals to end the year with. Until tomorrow, blogosphere…!