Saturday, February 2, 2013

Uwharrie 20

Welcome to Uwharrie National Forest!
Price of admission:  your soul...
or maybe part of your right leg
Thanks for visiting!!
We hope you enjoyed your stay.

It was a busy week at work with some long days (or a long continuous 3-4 weeks) but yet I still decided to make the trek down to Randolph County on Friday night; home of the NC Zoo, Richard Petty, and Asheboro - the closest 'city' to the Uwharrie Mountain Run.  

Running has taken a backseat this winter - one, I've been preoccupied with 'other things' (see prior statement); two, I've accumulated virtually every common running injury in some fashion since late October, all of which I had always heard others complain of, but never had a problem with myself until 2009:

  • Achilles pain
  • Busted knee-cap from a fall
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • and the latest - IT band syndrome (never had before)

I guess each year, I accumulate a new one.  By age 50 I'll have kinesio-tape keeping my limbs attached to my body.

Blah, blah, blah, excuses excuses.  I was going to run this freaking race.

This was despite that my rule of thumb that 30 miles a week might be enough to finish a marathon - but it will get ugly unless you really lower your expectations.  Uwharrie Mountain Run is about the same amount time wise as a marathon.  Therefore, my 25 miles a week wasn't a recipe for success.  So I lowered my expectations considerably.  I can't remember the last time I went into a race this long, this underprepared (but worse yet, this far from 100%).

I signed up for Uwharrie last year and missed.  This year I was determined not to do the same.  I've heard of the race since high school - Uwharrie is about an hour from where I grew up.  Almost everyone I run with regularly has done the race - I felt like I was missing out on a seminal part of local running culture.

So I woke up around 5 AM in what seemed like an unusually large Hampton Inn in Asheboro, a town somewhat 'off the grid' (is Uwharrie one of their big events?  Why does Asheboro need so many hotels?  Is the zoo THAT popular?).  

Drove to a place called the Eldorado Outpost (it was 20 degrees when I arrived).  Tried to stay warm until about 8 AM when we set off into the woods.  I was thankful to start running if anything just to make sure my toes hadn't fallen off.

The first mile of this race is really bizarre, anyone who has done it will say this - the trail is extremely steep and rocky, and congested; it was worsened by the fact that this year the front of the pack went off course so there was a period of about 15 seconds of total confusion as people started running back to get on course.  This only made the early race congestion that much worse.  And apparently this happened in all three races on the day - the 8 (where it could make a huge difference), the 20 (only mildly disruptive), and the 40 (where it probably was a rounding error in the final results).

I was aiming to be mid-pack, so I found myself walking up the trail for basically the whole first mile.  Something about being in the woods with a hundred other people in virtual silence in a single file line in freezing cold seems about how I would envision purgatory.  

A mile later, I finally realized that I wasn't out there for a hike - I was actually supposed to run.  So I did.  Or tried to.

My IT started flaring up about 4 miles in (great, only 16 miles left, is what I told myself).  

At 8 miles, I took a nasty spill, just before the aid station, falling on my already busted knee.  Ouch.  By the way, I didn't even thinking about dropping out there.  You reap what you sow.

I finally had some distance from the other runners after the aid station, which was good because I seem to only fall when I am running around other people.  So I proceeded to hobble my way through the woods.  The next 7 miles were uneventful.  

Around 15, another guy and I took a wrong turn and ended up in a campsite, adding about a minute or two, before we got back on course.  I only had a few GU chomps left, so I decided camping out for the night wasn't the best idea unless I wanted to learn how to trap small animals.

By about 15, the front of the 40 mile pack was coming back.  Ronnie Weed was running well in 3rd at this point.  He passed me just before the 'big ass hill'.

Downhills really sucked (thank you IT band).  Uphills were the only place where I had a clear advantage over everyone I was running around - probably because of all the cross-training I've been doing - but unfortunately I kept getting stuck behind people, only to have them pass me back when I hit a technical spot.  The 'big ass hill' mile was only a minute slower than my overall pace.  Had the race been 20 miles of the 'big ass hill' I might have finished in the top 15.  

The proceeding downhill/technical mile was by far my slowest - over 17 minutes.  Had the race been 20 miles of this, I would have been left for dead.

At 18, I started coming up on a coworker of mine, Morgan.  I also realized at this point, I had a shot at breaking 4 hours.  So my goal was to break 4 and maintain my undefeated streak in the office (yes, I am THAT guy).  Prior to that point, I was running with no sense of urgency.  Sometimes you need to play mind games with yourself to get through something like this.  After I told myself repeatedly not to get competitive.

So that is where I finished - 3:56.  I wasn't tired so much as my legs were telling the rest of my body "wtf?!?"

The best part by far was seeing all the familiar faces - a friend of mine I grew up, Colleen, and her parents.  All the various folks from Carolina Godiva.  This is why I do these things.  Shared common experiences are the best - even when they are something as wacky as running a 20 mile trail race in the middle of nowhere on a freezing cold day, under trained and injured.

And plus I can say I set two personal bests - a Uwharrie 20 PR and most minutes run* (previous was 3:50, my first marathon, which was a far more awful and painful experience than today... so there).  All and all, definitely glad I did it.  

Would never do the 8, attempting sub-9 minute pace seems as treacherous as downhill skiing or mountain biking, neither of which I particularly enjoy.  And honestly the 40 seems far more doable after making it through the 20 after in the shape that I was in, but I'd have to be in top shape to even think about that...

* there was a fair bit of walking

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