Sunday, May 18, 2008

Highland Forest 30-mile Trail Run

All I gotta say is WOW!... to the amazingly beautiful and difficult Highland Forest trail course. I did know the course somewhat from last year when i did one ten mile loop and remember it being a challenging event. The ten mile loop consists of some skiing trails and nature paths/gravel roads but mostly singletrack. There are parts that are, in my opinion, very difficult to run. I must say that this race is very well organized, stocked w/ food and energy drinks/gels and extremely well marked. There were not at any time moments of confusion on where to run. Michael arrived at my place early in the morning and hopped in my car for the hour or so ride to Fabius where we discussed some possible plans for the race. We decided that we would try and run with Eric Davis, who would be running 20 miles, and see how we felt from there. When Mark Driscoll (race director) sent us off the three of us took the lead. We were even ahead of the people that were doing the ten mile race but quickly agreed to let a couple of them go past for we had a long,long way to go. We were still moving at a pretty good clip though and it was so invigorating to be in this forest. The changes in elevation and terrain kept it interesting because we were constantly switching gears. Eric would open it up on the downhills and we would chase yelling and joking and having a blast. Then the uphills where i would walk portions and we would all switch out the lead. Eventually we came through the first ten mile loop in 1:20 and we were all feeling great! On we went for the second loop and discussed possibilities for, at least Michael and I, breaking the 4-hour mark. We agreed that it would be very difficult as the course was getting pretty sloppy in some parts from all the trail runners passing through very muddy spots. I started to notice a little strain in my hamstring on the second loop probably slightly tweaking it from jumping over a log or stream or something. Later in the loop probably around mile 17 or so i started feeling slight symptoms of possible cramping. "Oh boy, here we go" i thought but my hammy stayed pretty loose for the most part as i stretched it nicely when i walked the steep uphills. Michael and I ended up pulling ahead of Eric as we entered the start/finish area to begin our third loop and were pleasantly surprised that the second loop was a bit quicker than the first. I grabbed half a Kashi bar, some gatorade, an orange slice and headed off for the final lap. Michael explained that he wasn't feeling too good and was going to take it easy and then possibly pick it up later in the loop. I decided that i was just going to try and get this finished as fast as i could so i picked it up a little and got a little bit of a lead on him. About a mile and a half into the loop i started some minor cramping that slowed me down significantly. I knew it was just a matter of time until Michael caught me because i could hear him in the woods behind me. Eventually he did and passed me as i let out a couple of yelps when the cramps surfaced. I was feeling a little discouraged because this seems to happen all too often to me in races longer than 20 miles but i tried to stay positive and still have fun w/ it. As Michael moved on out of sight i just really focused on myself; fueling, shortening my stride a little, hydrating and giving thanks to be out in this beautiful environment. Before I knew it I was running strong again! I love when that happens. I kept looking at my Garmin GPS and, even though the miles were ticking by slowly, i was almost finished. I pretty much accepted that i wasn't going to make up the lost ground on Michael but still charged for second place and quality points for the Ultra Series. As i hit mile 28 and almost choked on a chips ahoy cookie i knew it was almost over. I made the final stretch through the open field and saw Eric clapping his hands and waving me in. It was also great to have the support of Tim and Karen who stuck around in the rain to cheer us on. As i approaced the finish line everyone was yelling for me to hurry and try to break 4:10... the clock read 4:09:45 and counting. I picked it up and sprinted the last 20 yards through the finish line with a time of 4:09:54 or so. I was so happy to be done and to bag a second place... and come to find out Michael was not even that far ahead of me. I really pushed the pace the final portion of the race... so that was a little boost of confidence. We hung out for a bit and ate some homemade soup with Joe,Lorrie,and Ed as some of the other ultra runners came trickling in. The ride home was a struggle to keep our eyes from closing but eventually made it safely. I have to say that i felt genuinely satisfied for this accomplishment today and had a great time with fellow runners and friends. Next Ultra: Highland Sky Trail Run (41 miles) Davis, West Virginia

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