Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Buzzards Marathon – Hershey, PA – March 6th

Grass root events are great.  Expectations are low and they bring out the runner who just wants to enjoy the challenge of the course.  Those who came out to the 2011 Buzzards Marathon also were challenged by Mother Nature.  The course was sponsored by Harry Smith (Chief Buzzard) and held outside Hershey, PA.  I took this as an opportunity to visit Mom and Pop with the princesses.  The princesses had a blast and so did Mom and Pop.  OK, back to the race.  So it takes a special runner to show up in torrential rains with flood warnings posted.  A race consisting of four climbs and 8K in elevation gain/loss (per the Garmin).  With the weather, add in running up mountain stream now flowing with the rain.  All this combined –FUN, FUN, and more FUN.
The climbs did not have any switchbacks,  straight up with plateau after plateau.  On days like this you start the climb in the rain, pass through rain and fog, and end up back in rain (sometimes) or just get into more fog.  Today I went all out on the down hills, fast and furious – for me at least.  The second climb was Marcia’s Madness – enough said.  I ran up creek beds with flowing water, through briar patches, over fallen trees, and many, many rocks – all at a 45 degree angle.  Then back down the other side of the mountain on fire roads rolling down to an aid station.  This was point to point so we turned around and did it in reverse.  Again, I minimized my time at the aid station.
By the end, I was completely waterlogged.  Imagine 2 inches of rain fell over the 5 hrs and 27 minutes I was on the course.  This was a great hill training run. 
What did I learn?
Hills can be fun and fast paced walking works to get up them in decent time.  Dry creek beds turn into creeks very quickly in the mountains during rain storms.  Running downhill fast and being in control is a careful balancing act.
What’s next?
Two more 50 milers on the horizon – one late March (Bel Monte) and one in early April (BRR – currently on wait list) as the next and final stage of training for the CAT-100.

Hashawha Hills 50K, Westminster, MD – February 26th

I was using this run and the Buzzard’s as shorter distance training runs in the CAT-100 plan.  This 50K was somewhat muddy and a little icy.  The course consisted of a 15 mile loop that was repeated.  The terrain consisted of a lot of meadow perimeter running (not too exciting for me) and single track trail running.  Since this was late February, overall the conditions were good, the forest was bare and not much to see.  Can’t wait till spring time!  My strategy was to start slow and gauge the conditions.  I did this through the first loop and pretty much kept my position.  Passed a few folks here and there at the end of the first loop.  On the second loop, I was slowly trying to catch someone in front of me.  The chase was on for about 5 miles I would get within striking range the loose grip over and over.  I had my 100 oz Camelbak with me and this turned out to be a strategic advantage.  I passed this competitor at the aid station and little did I know that I would also pass another competitor as a result.  I am learning that strategy and planning plays an important part of ultrarunning.  You must find a way to minimize the distance (less time at aid stations, faster downhills, etc.)  or risk falling behind in the pack.  This race was all about passing by the aid stations and focusing on the event.  My hydration system and food was all I needed.  Although I did want to overly partake in the perogies!!  I had to fight back the temptation. 
The unexpected swag was a locally made coffee mug to all the finishers.  I collected mine after 5 hours and 51 minutes!
What did I learn?
I am getting better and I am focused on my mechanics and body.  I am learning how to stay hydrated and fueled properly.  I also am finding ways to pick up and drop off the pace as needed.  I am not on one speed that continues to get slower.  I can store reserves and tap into them if needed later in the race.  I learned that my progress is slow and that I have a lot of training left before CAT.