Sun- 10.5 miles- route record 1:25- one strong mile= 5:51
Mon- 10.5 miles- easy
Wed- 7 miles easy on treadmill
Thurs 4 miles AM, 11 miles PM, 4 mile walk evening
Sat- 50 miles- 7:34 (8th/314 @ BRR 50)
While I have done a lot of races over the years the only race I have ever completed five times is the VHTRC's signature event the Bull Run run 50 mile. And this happened yesterday underneath a beautiful blue sky with temps climbing all the way to 80. This course is beautiful, close in, superiorly well managed and is the absolute perfect fit for my skills as a trail runner with road runner speed tendencies.
This was to be a biggy race for me in my build up to the MMT 100. However, I did not want to taper as I still need some big mile weeks heading into MMT. I also wanted to take some self induced pressure off by going into the event a bit tired. Then if for some reason I did not run well...its because I was tired and not because I suck:-) ....So with a strong week under my belt I toed the line with 300+ others Sat. morning feeling pretty good but not super peppy.
As always the first 5 minute loop at BRR is really fast as all the guns take off to sort themselves out before the single track trail narrows the field down. I tried to get out strong without breathing heavy and managed to hit the trail around 17th or so. I quickly settled in and began to do some walking on some of the early steep climbs while those around me continued to press. Soon a few more folks passed me including first women Amy Sproston and VHTRC legend Derrick Carr. Derrick is a great guy and super consistent runner and when he sarcastically asked "is this a 50k?" I knew the two of us were on the same wavelength. I settled in with him and we would run together for the next 3 hours.
Compared to the runners around me I tend to run at a faster pace, but stop to walk for longer breaks and more frequently. This was true with Derrick and superstar senior Mike Campbell (who managed to run an insane 8:06 at age 59!) We all leap frogged back and forth as I took my walk breaks, had two off trail pit stops, but then would bomb all the downhills at 6:00 min pace in an effort to beat up my quads and would catch back up.
The miles rolled by and after falling to as low as 23rd place we began to work our way up through the field. After the first 16.6 miles of out and back we arrived at the start/ finish aid station at 2:24. Memory of last years too fast early start and sketchy math told me this was likely a really good pace. I felt very comfortable and my stomach (despite the pit stops) was feeling fine. I was eating shot blocks and sharkies every 20-40 minutes and drinking just water with salt tabs on the hour. All was going well and we rolled thru the next ten miles at 9:00 mile pace despite the challenging terrain of rolling hills.
My brand new Asics 2130 trail shoes felt fine, but needed a tightening up of the laces around 20 miles as I felt like my toes were sliding forward in the shoes too much. This did the trick and I had no foot issues the rest of the day.
After reaching the amazingly decorated wolf-run aid station (26.1 miles-3:49) I knew I was going to be able to have a sub-8hr run if I could stay smart and not fall apart. Temps were hot and I began drinking a cup of something at each aid station in addition to filling my bottle. Leaving this aid station I really felt great and began to press a bit more as we continued to pass some runners who were now beginning to fade in the heat and from the overly quick early pace. Around 28 miles I left Mike and Derrick for good and began to chase after Amy and good buddy Keith Knipling.
Approaching the infamous do loop I felt strong but hot. The super folks at the aid station told me I was mere 10-15 minutes behind and this news further fueled my fire to "chase em all down". I had reached the start of the do loop under the 5 hour mark and continued to think that something in the 7:30-8:00 range was definitely possible. The do loop is ugly though and all the leaves and poorly laid out trails are confusing and frustrating. Being toward the front of the field this year no trodden path thru the leaves was evident making the route finding more difficult. I could not wait to leave the loop knowing I only had a short bit with better footing yet to go.
Once back at the aid station having see no one in the loop I was excited to hear I at least made up time on those in front, but a bit bummed to learn I still had nearly 15 miles to go. It had to be less than that!?! I shoved off feeling strong and running with purpose. some of the next miles clicked off at 8:30 pace. At Fountainhead I learned I was now only 2 minutes back and was encouraged by the "you look great" comments. I continued to press and hoped that by wolf run I would catch someone in front of me. No luck.... but once there the volunteers told me that someone just left. So as fast as I could I again gave strong chase having now covered 40 miles in 5:59.
5 minutes later I began to see folks in front of me. I got one, then another, then a third. Then after passing super photographer Aaron S and crossing yet another stream I finally caught Keith. We chatted a bit and I pressed on with his knowledge that Amy was "just ahead". Two minutes later I caught a glimpse of her. She was brightly dressed in pink as part of the WUS-pink mafia team. Two more minutes and we were running together.
Having really red-lined a bit the last 4-5 miles I had to tone it down and settled in with Amy thinking that I would recoup for a while then continue to press on for more places but the pace she was setting was damn fast! She was destroying the BRR course and in its 17 year history no other women besides the legend Anne Lundblad would run the course as fast as Amy.
We stayed together for the next few miles with me again walking more of the ups-- falling behind--- only to pound quickly the downs and catch back up. The heat of the day was beginning to really suck and I kept getting twinges of cramps in my calves and anterior tibialis's. I swallowed my last salt tab, ate my last shot block, and hoped for the best. At the last aid station (6:40) we had 5. something miles to go and I knew we could break 7:40. Rough and slow footing trail remained along the river but Amy's desire to set a PR on this course was strong and together we toughed it out finally reaching the last big climb. A strong hike to the top and run on in brought us home in 8th place overall in 7:34. A mere 2 minutes of the CR for her and just 11 minutes off my best on the course from 2001.
At the finish I had no appetite, felt ridiculously hot and thirsty, and had my pec muscle cramp as I gave a celebratory fist pump. Ugh! What a day! All in all I could not ask for a better tune up race and feel pretty confident now heading in to MMT. In 2001 and 2002 I managed top 8 finishes at BRR and followed these with top 5 finishes at MMT. These days MMT is more competitive but I do think a sub 24hr race there is within reach.
Now the question of what to do next weekend for my last big beat down training effort remains.