Monday, February 21, 2011

Holiday Lake 50k 2011 Race Report

Well I had a wonderful day at the Holiday Lake 50K this year on Feb 12th, a perfect setting for my return to ultras after missing 4 seasons. I arrived at the camp early as planned, moseyed around while they finished setting up for registration. The weather was wonderful, a contrast to the last time I was here for this race in 2006 when it was cold and a wintery mix of snow and rain.

The crowd seemed larger than in 2006 and most of them quite a bit younger as well, definitely enthusiastic. I turned in early in the bunkhouse right next to the start, I remembered how last time I had issues with getting to sleep so this time I came prepared with ear plugs, they worked perfect, I am an early bird so did not need to worry about an alarm clock to wake me up.  Morning came and I went out to my car to get my breakfast that I had forgotten to bring in the previous evening.  Brrrr it was colder than I had anticipated, I started to fret a bit about what to wear now, I had already decided that shorts with my compression shorts would be sufficient but now I was concerned what to wear topside. In the end I settled on a long sleeve technical tshirt and a second technical shirt on top, medium weight gloves and a thin hat.  It was going to be cold in the beginning but I knew from experience that I would eventually warm up. It is a pain though getting through that first part, I hate the cold and really have to convince myself that it will be worth not being too hot later.

The course has changed since 2006, its ran in the opposite direction to start as well, I like the change, although the hill right at the beginning is a bit of a pain, it will later be a wonderful relief at the finish when running back down. I spent the first loop running very conservative, I had not had many long runs this winter due to the seriously cold weather we have had in central PA this year, as I had said I hate the cold and so all but one of my runs since late October have been on a treadmill which is another hate of mine but when faced with sub 20 degree weather and blowing snow it was the lessor of the 2 evils. I figured there would be suffering on the back half so I was walking most of the uphills and just working on my running form and being efficient.  I made around the loop and back to the start in 3:08, which I thought was not bad, I had wanted to be in the 3hr ballpark so I considered myself right on schedule. I grabbed my mp3 player and shotbloks and set out on the return loop.

The last 3 miles of the first loop which of course is the first 3 miles of the second, is what I consider the most difficult portion of the race technically and I was glad when I made it up onto the road of the aid station just past that section, I was feeling pretty strong at this point and had my first feeling that today might just go better than I had expected, it felt like I had a pretty good bit of gas left in the tank so I decided to start to push things a good bit.  Those long more flat sections of the course seemed to go on forever, I was passing people here and there, mostly when we came to hills when they stopped to walk and I pushed on, shortening my stride but continuing to run. Someplace early on those long stretches a woman with long blond hair  wearing pink passed me going at a nice steady pace. I had thought I would catch her at some point but apparently she like me discovered she had plenty of gas left as well because with every hill I came over or corner I rounded it seemed she was further away. As planned I switched on my mp3 player and switched to caffeinated shot bloks after I crossed the last road on the course, with about 8 miles left this point is psychologically all down hill effort wise as far as I am concerned and so it was here that I felt I could push the pedal the rest of the way down and see what I could do.

This last section went by pretty quickly, I was steadily passing a person here and there as I progressed. At just past the state park picnic area I could feel my left calf wanting to cramp, this was alarming because when my calf cramps it is crazy painful, so I backed off a bit but continued with a steady pace.  With about a mile to go it seemed like it was taking forever to get to that last downhill on the road, fatigue was setting in but I was still pushing I do like to finish strong so I was pushing as much as my cramp at any moment calf would let me.

Running out onto the road there was one person out a good 50 yards ahead of me, I pushed it a little thinking I might be able to catch him, but no go he was pushing as well.  Turning that last turn down the road you could hear the cheers of the crowd, its a wonderful feeling, something I missed so much the past 4yrs and 4 months since I ran Mountain Masochist my last race. You don't really know how precious something is until its taken away.  I crossed that finish line at 6:10:40 to the handshake and congratulations of Dr. Horton with such joy and feeling of relief, I am back.