Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wintery Mix - A wet start to 2015

So we are roughly three weeks into the new calendar year of 2015. I’d love to say it has been going smashingly but it has been a bit of a struggle. But if this blog was all sugarplums and roses, I’d be either the greatest runner ever or just not honest. I’d bet money on being neither. Currently having a nasty cough does not help matters. Especially, considering the timing of the cough but I’ll circle back around to that in a bit.

For this month, I had two races on my plate right out the gate.

One really out the gate on 1/3 down in Elkton, MD at a race called PHUNT. PHUNT has been around for some time now but this was the first year of an entry fee as the run transitioned from a fat-ass to a full blown race. Carl Perkins, the RD, really did a tremendous job on a number of accounts and it showed with 350 (correct me if I am wrong, Carl) individuals signing up to tackle the 25K and 50K courses. Originally, I was not going to do PHUNT but back around late October, you could say some bugs were put in my ear by my friend Maggie and Carl, himself. Part of this was due to Brian Tinder flying out from Arizona for the race. Brian is a member of Adidas’ Ultra Team. Eventually, I folded to the pressure and signed up for the race. To be one of the best, you race the best. You could say that was my first mistake. And I say mistake because I really should have expected other factors around the date of the race to impact race day. See I work for a financial company that just so happens to match their fiscal year to the calendar year. You might be able to guess, I should have saw the crazy workload coming. Boy did it come. It also matters that it is the time of year when people have to use time off or lose it. Both my boss and I fall into this category. So here we are with a major project and understaffed. Add in the demands of the holiday and I toed the starting line at PHUNT much more tired than I usually would. Of course, I had to put thoughts of being tired out of my head once we started. I did my best by taking the race out from the start trying to get into a nice flow and hopefully open some gap on Brian and Chris Beck. Lets say, my plan did not work. I felt tight in my shoulders and knew I was not in for my best day. I could not get into a smooth rhythm. Towards the end of the 1st 25K loop, I felt like a sitting duck. I let Brian and Chris move ahead. Aside from catching them both at the S/F aid station, this was the closest to the lead I would be the rest of the day. It was now cold and a slight drizzle was moving in. I thought about not going back out but made myself move forward. In hindsight, I probably should have brought more layers with me on that second loop. I muscled through as much as I could just trying to enjoy the scenery a bit more. And if I got close to the lead great. I was being honest with myself what I had in me. Eventually after the second major aid station, I caught up with Chris whose day took a bad turn and just kept moving. For a little bit, that put a spark in me but when I learned Brian had ten minutes on me with less than 5 to go, that bubble was popped. I meandered in to the finish content with second place and was happy to be out of the cold even if my body was still cold. Eventually I layered some clothes and took a nap in a chair. Conditions were getting worse and by the number of people who dropped from the 50K down to the 25K, it emphasized how crummy a day it was. A few of the TrailWhippAss folks dropped but the majority were still out on the course so I was waiting for the rest of the flock to come in. Dylan ran a great race for third. Maggie tied for 1st female. Eventually Ryan and Destrie made it in. It was at that point of us all being in that I headed home. Next year, I am going back but only for 25K. I learned my lesson of trying to race a 50K at one of the company’s busiest periods. Congrats to Brian Tinder for coming out east and running a textbook race for a solid win in miserable weather.

Up second was a super small race I did last year, the Batona 50. This year it on 1/19 and was extended from the 53.4 mile distance of the Batona Trail to 55 miles so people could run to their cars.  Also, notable is the decision to do away with the long 50K option. 2015 meant all or nothing. I had a blast in the inaugural running so once registration had opened I signed up. Batona fit perfectly into my schedule as it was a nice long effort far enough out from Black Canyon (on 2/14). A week out the weather looked fantastic. However, as the week progressed, there began a call  for rain. But this was not to be until after 3pm. Based on my goal of close to 7 hours, I was not worried. Then the time moved to 1pm. I got concerned enough to run out to buy a piece of gear I did not have. A light packable rain shell that could handle the rain. Night before, the talk of rain turned to 11am! Holy cow, this is not what I wanted to hear. But of course, it got better as I started developing a little cough the day before. Terrific timing. My cough told me I would have to run a pace that did not induce coughing. With this being a 55 mile run, that was not expected to be a problem. Race morning, I woke up feeling nice and rested until at PHUNT. I felt good because Peg was driving me down to the race and would be supporting me at the even number aid stations. Given the weather forecast this benefited me by having access to additional clothing without needing to carry more. Batona is a super small race with only 8 people toeing the start this year. Once the RD, Angie sent us off, I went out nice and comfortable running wise. I could not say the same about the weather as immediately precipitation started to fall. For the most part the trail was very runnable. Caution had to be taken on the road crossings from thin-ice and patches of the trail had ice too. I went through the 1st aid station without stopping since it was early. When I got to Peg at aid station 2 (Paul was manning the official support station), I had her assist with refilling my handheld and with giving me a cough drop. I had encountered a few spots when I throttled my pace down, I would cough. It was in this stretch before AS 3, that two things would happen, I would scrape my knee after a minor slide on some ice and I would lose my GPS signal. Denis at AS 3 helped by pouring some water on my knee to clean up some of the blood. The rain was not washing it away. Oh, I should mention the rain just kept getting steadier now. I was not having any fun. I was not soaked but a cold rain with trail ponding was wearing me down. It felt like the horrible weather at PHUNT again but worse since I would be out much longer. As I made it into AS 4, I decided to drop. I had been running for a little over 3 hours and did not want to subject myself to another 4-5 hours of rain. I was thinking about my health predominately. Having a cough meant I was compromised to a degree and did not want to make matters worse in the long run. Amazingly, three hearty souls finished the full race! I applaud them for their determination in quite possibly the worst race weather I have been a part of.  Also, amazing dedication to the volunteers who supported these three people on their finish. Ironically, the finish rate for the race was higher than last year when only two people finished.

So for those keeping score at home 2015 has yielded a 2nd place and a DNF. Not the start I was hoping for especially since the Batona race was a great long run for Black Canyon. I’ll have to regroup a bit. I’ll be having a lighter mileage load this week to tend to my health. And I will figure out how I will get another long run in before Black Canyon.

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