Wednesday, January 26, 2011
New River Trail 50K
Anybody looking for a 50K PR? I'll let you in on a little secret. Start heading toward Fries, VA in early October and look for a super pretty and ultra flat rails-to-trails path along America's oldest river, you wont go away disappointed. Annette Bednowsky's New River Trail 50K is really a super event. One of the smoothest, most layed back events I have participated in, this race can really bring out the best in experienced ultra racers or provide a non-intimidating environment for the first timer.
The venue runs along a well maintained and well traveled crushed gravel path along the a remote section of Virginia's Historic New River. This out and back course starts in the sleepy town of Fries, VA and travels a few miles down stream before crossing the river to hit a spur path along the scenic Chesnut Creek. Aid stations placed about every 5 miles allowed you to race with minimal supplies. Annette encourages "green" racing so it is important to carry your own water carrier but Johnny on the spot volunteers and fully stocked tables made for quick pit stops and added to the PR possibilities.
I traveled to the race from a job I was doing up in WV. I knew the course as I had biked on it several times. Beautiful and super flat. Living in the mountains, I have no idea what to do with flat racing. Anyone who thinks you can just switch between the two have never tried this. Running flat might be fast but the monotenous constant pounding of the same muscle group can provide disaterous for anyone not prepared. Fortunately, the place I was working was near the C&O Tow Path along the Potomac river and provided perfect training for this river path. I had a pretty good base going in but the few weeks prior, I worked specifically on running flat and constant. I felt pretty good going into race day.
The morning brough cool and foggy conditions, perfect for a fall ultra. This was the third edition of the event and it sported a crowd that was the biggest to date. Lots of good peeps coming together to support efforts to protect the New River Trail corredor. My plan was to start out very conservative and try to finally run negative splits. (Never before seen in my exploits). A quick group of 8-10 runners hit off the front and I let them go. I thought I was running a pretty slow first 5 miles and was feeling pretty good. I found a few folks to run with and had a good chat as I move between racers trying to hold my "backed off" pace. I knew about how many were ahead of me and was pretty well placed about 10 miles in when I finally couldn't stand it anymore. I had so much energy building up inside I had to break. I told my running companion "good luck" as I quickly picked up the pace. I started to reel in the various groups ahead of me and since it was an out and back, I saw that I was in 6th place at the turnaround. The lead guys felt a bit too far out of reach but there were a couple within striking distance. This felt too much for me as I really picked up the pace after the turnaround. Gold Fever is a good way to describe it. I caught three guys pretty quickly and found myself in third place and at about 20 miles.
I passed the marathon mark at 3:08 and was still feeling pretty good. I didn't think anyone was going to catch me at this pace. I was doing good with food and water and having the best run of my short running carreer. Then the wheels came off.
Its pretty amazing. I have bonked before but never like this. Usually its because of lack of water or not enough fuel or lack of training. This time I just hit the 'wall'. My legs just quit turning. I was at mile 28 or 29. It felt like I went from a 6:45 pace to a 10:00 pace in about 10 seconds. I kept telling myself to push through this. It didn't feel painful, I just couldn't get my legs to move. Quicksand. Molasses. BRICK WALL. Whatever you want to call it, I was there. I managed to hang onto 3rd place but I lost a huge amount of time in those last few miles. I had negative splits for 25 miles but I probably should have held back until the 15 mile turn around. Oh Well. This still turned out to be a huge PR for me in 3:46. I really couldn't have asked for much more. I came away very happy with the effort and would recommend it to anyone, experienced or novice.
Annette put on a super race. Great setup, beautiful course, great cause and a swag package that outdid itself. A couple of other bonus' that I appreciated: Instead of having a raffle at the end of the race, you were given a few tickets to blindly bid on all the raffle items when you picked up your race number. When you finished the race, you could just stop by the tent and see if you won any of the great booty. No waiting around until the end if you needed to get back on the road. Same went for anyone finishing on the podium. This may sound arrogant but it can be a huge amount of time to sit and wait for everyone to finish. As I had been working on the road for several weeks, I was anxious to get home and really enjoyed selecting a 3rd place prize, thanking the race staff and heading home.
If you are looking to have a good race, wanting to do a super long tempo run or needing a season sparking PR, you will not do better than the New River 50K.