Monday, April 18, 2011

SweetH20 50k

So I am a terrible blog updater.  Mainly cuz I am too lazy to click on my own link and move my fingers to create words and sentences and paragraphs.  Sad huh?  Saturday, April 16th, I finally ran my first ultra marathon.  The SweetH20 50k  in Lithia Springs Georgia.  This is the 5th year of it's existence and it already has a very large following across the south.

I discovered the SweetH20 race last fall shortly after I first discovered ultra racing.  I decided right away that this would be my first race.  So I began training.  I won't go into detail of my boring training except to say that I wish I had not lost the month of January to a minor foot injury.  I think this affected my base fairly severely and the progression I made prior to the race was shortened.  But you can't change the past.  Luckily there was a guy in my company that had run this race in 2009.  We began talking and he said he was going to run it again this year as well.  I also got a good buddy of mine, Tony Heimpel, to start going out to Pine Mtn with me during some of my training runs.  My goal was to convert him to a trail runner.  He is already a way better and faster runner than me, but I wanted someone to run trails with me.  I was successful.  So successful in fact that I convinced him to sign up for the 50k also.  So now there would be a trio!

During my months of training before the race I also began doing a lot of research about the race to delve out as much information as I could.  Luckily again there are plenty of bloggers around here who have run this particular race multiple times.  Christian Griffith's blog has the most comprehensive race reports I have found so far.  I read his reports about SweetH20 over and over.  So, thanks Christian, you have been a big inspiration for me.

Fast forward to race time.  The day before race day Tony, Travis(the other guy who had run the race already), and I drove up to Lithia Springs and checked in to our hotel.  Then we went and did some recon on where the start of the race would be and where we should park.  As we found the start point we also ran into the race director Johnny Buice.  What a nice guy.  He informed us where we should park and what time we should show up to ensure a good parking spot.  We left back for the hotel and jumped in the hot tub to continue getting our muscles loosened up for the following morning, hit up the packet pick up area in the hotel, and then got ready for the spaghetti dinner in the hotel later that evening.  Guest speaker was Jennifer Pharr Davis who set the land speed record for women on the Appalachian Trail.  On the way in we ran into Johnny again and he smiled and greeted us by shaking my hand and calling me "Mississippi."  Not sure why but I rolled with it.  The spaghetti was awesome and so was Jennifer's presentation.

That night we slept pretty good.  A big storm came through with lots of rain.  I don't remember any of it though.  Everything cleared up by morning.  We got dressed, checked out of the hotel, ate waffles at the waffle house, and drove to the Sweetwater Creek State park.  I'm pretty sure we were the first people to arrive.  We got a great parking spot right at the start line.  So we killed some time getting our gear ready and body gliding all our friction points.  Thank God for body glide.

At the start line everyone was gathered laughing and getting ready.  Johnny got on the bull horn and announced there would be no river crossing due to all the raining and heavy run off.  So they did a lighting fast reroute before we ever got there and the problem was solved.  The Douglas County Rogue Runners were amazing.  I'll talk about them later.  So off we went.  I purposefully stayed to the rear of the group.  250 something runners.  I refused to get caught up in pre race excitement.  So me and Tony and Travis started out easy.  Also we knew there would be some bottle necking at first.   The first mile and a quarter roughly is on pavement until it hits the trail. 

There at the trail it started backing up some.  Then at the spillway where there were ropes to slide down and climb up on the opposite site, and a short jog down the trail where there was a short, steep, rocky downhill crossing a creek.  After that is when it began opening up and all the real racers took off.  I began working on finding my pace and monitoring my hydration and nutrition.  The first aid station was at around mile 3 but I bypassed this one as I had full bottles still and I could tell my body hadn't worked through the waffles and shot blocks I ate just before the race. 

The first 7 miles or so were great for a beginning of a race. All runnable.  Lots of low ground next to the creek and small climbs and hills.  Right around mile 7 is AS 2.  Right before that I had to make an EMERGENCY bowel movement stop off the side of the course.  Thank God for wet leaves.......  So I hit up AS 2 and filled up my 2 hand helds, at some potato chips, fig newtons, mountain dew, and more potato chips.  Leaving the AS2 you begin the power line section which leads to the infamous Top of The World section.  One word:  Brutal.  Hill after hill on this section.  Once you reach the top of one you can see over the next and realize that there is an even bigger hill.  It could be quite demoralizing for some one who doesn't have a strong mind.  My mind is a lot stronger than my body fortunately.  The downhills through this section are punishing to say the least.  Two hills I remember the most.  There is a descent that leads to a little stream crossing about midway through the power lines that was so steep I had to move sideways down it.  Immediately following that stream crossing was an ascent where I had to use my hands in places to make it up to the top.  But making it to the top is only a soul crusher as you realize there are still three more to go.

At the top of the final power line hill on the way to TOTW was GUTS member Sarah Tynes.  It was motivating to see a face I recognized even though she doesn't know me.  I still felt awesome at this point.  I had been making sure I was drinking a few ounces every few minutes.  I had also eaten my second gel just before that last steep ascent.  I air high fived Sarah and began making my way to the open top are of TOTW.  I had already seen many runners coming back down on their way back to the beginning of the loop.  I saw Travis briefly here even though he didn't see me.  On my final hill to TOTW I passed Tony on his way down.  We high fived.  The amazing thing about trail runners and ultra runners is that everyone is encouraging each other.  All volunteers start cheering and clapping everytime you come into site.  Very cool.  At the end of TOTW I finally hit AS3.  I refilled my water, ate potato chips, a get, more potato chips, mountain dew, potato chips, and dropped another Hammer Fizz into one of my hand held water bottles.  I left and started making my way back down.  On the way shortly after AS3 I went to pass Jason Rogers and I cut a little short in front of him and rubbed shoulders with him and simultaneously stepped in front of a camera shot.  Sorry Jason.  I felt like a tool.

Coming down from TOTW was great.  I picked up the pace and zoomed through the next section of power lines and the next few miles to Jacks Hill.  I ran with a trio of very cool guys through this section.  I hope I can find them again via the internet or hopefully we meet at another race.  We walked up Jacks Hill and made it to AS4.  Filled up on water and potato chips and had my picture taken.  Then me and the other three guys took off back to the beginning.  At the beginning I split ways with the trio cuz of another EMERGENCY bathroom break.

As far as the second loop goes it was much slower.  I implemented the Gallowalking technique.  I would run hard for a bit and then walk.  I was alone for much of the second loop.  There were times when I felt like I would throw up but I knew it would never happen.  I drank 40 ounces of water between each aid station.  So for the day about 2.5 gallons.  I thought right before AS2 that I had actually stopped sweating because my shorts and shirt were dry.  So I can across a stream and sat down in it.  The water was cold that day.  Then I realized the back of my shirt was still soaking wet.  I had been running in the wind all day and it was so constant and strong that my clothes were completely dry in the front.  Crisis averted.  At AS2 I stayed for a bit.  I ate a lot of potato chips, took more Ibuprofen, and drank a lot of gatorade.  Cuz this started the TOTW for the second time.  I puposefully walked every step of it this time to conserve energy.  It ate up a lot of time, but it was worth it.  At AS 3 I ran into one of the members of the trio I was running with earlier.  Nice to see familiar faces.  Here again I ate a lot and drank a lot of gatorade.  While there a lot of people caught up to me.  I decided I was tired of this little catch up game that was going on.  I had already passed a few people right before the second TOTW and on the way to the AS3.  No more.  I took off.  I knew I had roughly 10k left.  I pushed as hard as I could.  Eventually I caught up and passed the guy I saw at the AS3 and left him behind.  At AS4 I only filled up one bottle and took off.  I finished at 8 hrs and 50 mins.  Travis unfortunately had to drop after 15 miles because of a hurting achilles.  Tony finished at an awesome 6 hrs and 59 minutes.  This was his first ultra too.

At AS4 on the first loop

Gear accountability the night before.

My shoes  a little worse for the wear after words.

I'm gonna lose a couple of those guys.

Sweet shirt and finisher's hat

pre race

Quote from Geoff Roes written on my arm.

first loop somewhere between AS1 and AS2

Tony coming up Jacks Hill first loop

Travis at jacks hill loop 1

What a great day!  I seriously felt awesome the entire day.  So much fun.  the volunteers that worked the aid stations were absolutely amazing.  They worked their butts off to feed, hydrate, and encourage all the runners out there.  Great people.  Thank you so much.  It wouldn't have been near as great with you guys.  Johnnny, what a great race.  I will definitely be registering again next year.  It was so exhilarating to cross that finish line and earn my finisher's hat.  I felt great after the race.  I felt great the next morning.  But as the day went along my quads became increasingly sore.  As I write this my quads feel destroyed.  I wiggle my toes and I can feel it in my thighs.  But it was totally worth it.  I can't believe I performed so well.  My time was slower than I had originally planned, but I am very happy and satisfied.