Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Last Saturday I ran the Holiday Lake 50K++ race. You might be asking, why is there a '++' in the title of the post. The race director is Dr. David Horton and after talking to some friends and reading other blog reports for the Holiday Lake race, it seems that Dr. Horton is of some renown in ultramarathon circles, especially in the southeast. One of the unique features of a Dr. Horton race is that they are measured in "Horton Miles", which means that this race was a tad bit longer than a 50K, being it was 33.26 miles. He is an absolute blast in person. He's one highly energetic cat that seems to be in perpetual motion all the time. You can tell he is seriously passionate about his race directing.

The few days leading up to the race I was getting worried since the forecast was calling for a chance of freezing race/light snow. Then to add some more worry, I was planning to tent camp at the race site. But usually these things work themselves out and the weather turned out to be as good as you could get for a trail run. I think the starting temps were in the low 30's and at the finish, it was probably in the low 50's and clear skies. So it was great weather for running. The only thing though, it was right chilly in that tent overnight.

I had been doing some tempo runs in the last couple of weeks leading up to the race. My Tuesday night running group probably thought I was acting a fool or something, but I put in some good hard efforts for those last Tuesday night group runs. So at the start of the race I made the classic mistake and took off too hard. The course started out on roads for a little over a 1/2 mile and then you were funneled into a single-track section. Reading reports from previous races, I heard that this early section can leave you walking if you get stuck in the back, so I figured I had to be in the front half of the field so I won't get stuck in a single-track conga line.

So I'm going way too fast and I know this isn't sustainable, but I kept up the pace and rolled on. We ran into the first aid station and it was a blast, folks were cheering us on and I was feeling good. Remember I told you about Dr. Horton and his exuberance, well I'm coming through the aid station and since I was feeling alright I picked it up a little, feeling that energy from the aid station folks when all of a sudden, Dr. Horton comes up to me and yells, "you're the 2nd black man, 2nd black man". I got a laugh out of it and high-fived him as I ran past him.

The course is a circuitous out and back that was listed on the race flyer at 16.63 miles for the loop. I came into the turn-around at around 2:30 and I knew this was way too hard for me and shortly thereafter starting having a bit of a meltdown and lost some of the snap in my legs.

One thing I overheard another racer describing these things say was that you've got to manage the lows and highs of these races. That was true, because I was starting to fade fairly soon after the turnaround. I was getting pretty tired about 4 hours in and then to top it off, I guess I took on too much nutrition and I was getting the dreaded rock in my gut. I think around this time I started getting the chorus to Donnie McClurkin's, "We Fall Down" stuck in my head. Bro. Donnie helped me out; it helped me stop focusing so much on what was going wrong and instead got me to thinking about staying steady. Also one of my buddies told me sometimes in races he'll say "Lord, if you pick 'em up, I'll put'em down. That mantra along w/ Donnie's song helped me big time.

The last 10k of the race was me just trying to bring it in without walking too much. Early in the race, I was either running or doing a fast hike on the hills, however in those last miles, I was walking just about every incline. The good thing about this finish though is that the last third of a mile or so is downhill and I just let gravity bring me on in.

All in all I enjoyed myself in a weird endurance-high kind of way and felt real good about finishing. I ended up w/ a time of 5:31 which was almost an hour faster than the Carrboro 50K last month. I ended up at 101st place out of 248 finishers and 21st out of 50 in my age-group (M40-49).

I'm already thinking about another ultra. The main dude that got me thinking an ultra was even possible, Lloyd, did a race in Virginia called Bull Run Run that's in April. Come to think about it, trying to follow after Lloyd, I ended up signing up for my first Ironman too. He and Adrienne just had a new beautiful baby girl, and I'm sure they'll have their two daughters trail running in no time.

Then I know fellow bloggers Dr. Marc & Tanya will appreciate this, but one of the things that definitely helped me get through all of the long training runs was making regular visits to my chiro doc, Dr. Josh. I peaked at around 60 miles/week with a couple of weekends of doing long runs on Saturday and then following up another semi-long run on Sunday. All of those adjustments and gettting that treatment on the Traction Table helped me to hold up.

I'm really lucky that Lisa let's me indulge myself with some probably needless athletic purchases. Now some of y'all know I'm a gear geek. This race was no exception to that rule. I picked up a pair of these specialized trail racing shoes by La Sportiva, called Raceblades. I guess the unique thing about these shoes are that they have a low profile ride without having such a cushioned sole that is more common in trail shoes. Then I used these camo pattern gaiters. Those things worked out good and kept the trail debris out of my shoes. Then I used Inijini wool socks, coupled with Blistershield and liberal application of Bodyglide to my feet let me finish without any blisters, despite the fact we had 4 water crossings.

Well that's about all. I don't know what's next, but I kinda dig this ultra thing. One thing I'd like to do, maybe next year is Rim2Rim2Rim. That's where you start at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, run down in the canyon and up to the North Rim, turnaround and come back. I understand its around 42 miles and seems epic. Who knows maybe next year?



Dr. Marc and Tanya said...

Great report, Dr. Horton is an incredible Ultra runner. "The Runner" great DVD about his running of the entire PCT. I am also glad to hear you are taking care of your body with Chiropractic; It does the body good :) Hey great finishing time, but I think you may still have a marathoners mentality, meaning you think of speed first, you have to slow it down for ultras even if it's a(only)50K. Early in any ultra I always walk the hills, run the flats and downhills. Then as the miles and hours pass I asses and reassess my body and push when I can. But the more ultra's you run the better you will monitor your energy intake and output. You are welcome to join us in May to run the Grand Canyon we don't run the R2R2R though. We run South to North, sleep at the North rim Lodge. Have a great dinner together over looking the canyon. Wake up early the next day and run back. We make it a weekend thing. Pure Fun! Till later- Marc

Lloyd said...

Congrats Rob! You're a machine. I'd definitely be interested in running R2R2R with you. fyi, I'm putting off umstead for another year... training with a newborn isn't easy! hope all is well.

rob said...

Doc - Thanks man. You're right pacing is huge when doing these things. I think I learned my lesson now, you've got to respect that 50K distance. Can't play w/ it, since it'll come back on you. That Grand Canyon trip sounds very cool. Man I wish I could make it; I think it would be a great trip, but we're counting our pennies lately. I had to take a 10% cut at the job. I'm not complaining since that 10% cut sure beats an unemployment check anyday. Thanks again for the racing tips. I'll holla at y'all soon.

rob said...

Thanks too Lloyd. Man baby Jolee is really beautiful. You and Adrienne are blessed. I figure the Umstead 100 would be iffy being a new Papa and all. We're gonna miss you, but there's always another time. Ann did the Uwharrie 20 and had a PR. She's running really strong lately. I'm trying to talk Ann into running an ultra. Then I don't know if you remember Karen Murphy, she does the Umstead saturday morning runs. Anyway she was 3rd at Uwharrie 40. Take care bro, give Adrienne and the girls a big hug from me & Lisa.

Dr. Marc and Tanya said...

We understand, we are counting those pennies also. Big time. We are not going to do as many races as we thought we would in 09. Just can't afford it.

Anonymous said...

totally sick,

good stuff Rob!

John Hirsch