“The Journey is the Reward…”
It’s a little hard to write a race report about a 40 mile ultra that you’ve run the past few years, but of course I’ll try.
First, here are links to the last two years reports:
Next, a photo of me… I thought this was around mile 32, but I don’t know why I’d be smiling so much that late in the game!
Next up is the obligatory elevation profile. After running the race the past few years and hitting it in training a couple times in the past six or seven months, I’m pretty familiar with it. I can tell you that on the way back in, the hills at 6 and 3 are terribly painful. And I knew it and was not looking forward to it. On the way out, Dennis Mountain at 16-17 seems like it is straight up. Maybe because it is! And while that little section from mile 18-19 looks pretty tame, it is nearly impossible to run — the trail is so narrow, tight, and twisty, you just can’t get any rhythm or speed going.
Second up, I’m stealing what my running friend Der Scott wrote about the trail — he has a way with words:
Uwharrie is different. He is like the older, harder, gristly uncle who thinks your father has been too soft on you. Uncle Uwharrie loves you, but thinks that pushing you to the limit will make you a stronger person. As you struggle through his challenges, even at your lowest points, he tells you in no uncertain terms to “Grow up!”. And then when you’ve made it through, he slaps your back and gives you your first beer. He’s the uncle you love and respect. And also fear.
Now, just some random thoughts:
- This year I talked my friend David H into running it, his 1st ultra. I took him to Uhwarrie in September, long before registration opened, for a 25 mile run, so he knew what he was getting into. We also went back in late December, hitting the other end of the course. David did great, finishing in 8:23, while struggling with cramps and nutrition issues. I told him ultra runs are eating contests with a little running thrown in, because if you can’t get your nutrition down, you can’t run well.
- I slept really well the night before, turning the lights off at 9:00 p.m. and only waking up around 12:30 and then about 5 minutes before my alarm was set to go off at 3:45 a.m.. I got up, got dressed, made coffee, etc. and was out the door to David’s house getting there about 4:30, where we took off for the church parking lot where the shuttle would take us to the start. We arrived a few minutes before 6:00 a.m. and I was struck by how many cars there were already. The past couple years I had arrived at about the same time, and was the 4th or 5th person there. Turns out several 20 milers came to the wrong church, and they eventually had to turn the 40 milers away to the other shuttle area, which meant we had about a 20 minute delay. Also, there were more runners allowed to run this year.
- At the start we quickly made our way through the registration line, and then went to hang out in front of the roaring fire. I waited as long as possible to take off my warm outer layers, hang my backpack in a tree, and head to the start. Where we had to wait about 20 minutes due to the parking snafu described above. But I got to meet a few new people and chat with others, like Alan B who was running his 1st ultra. He is a fast road runner coming in at low 19:xx in 5k’s and a 3:00:xx marathon, but the trail and the distance would be a new experience for him
- Shannon was there and as always taking pictures…
- Things seemed much busier and more crowded this year. Now that the results have been posted, I see that the registration was capped near 150 runners instead of the normal 70-80 finishers that I recall in the past.
- The race starts with a bit of a road run and then a long double track climb, before it turns into a single track climb. I went out in the top 30 or so, just to avoid any bottle necks. The 1st hill felt so much better than last year! Hopefully that was a sign of things to come. I didn’t see David and Earnest once “go” was yelled… I knew I was going faster than I probably should have been.
- About 4 or 5 miles in, Shannon and I ran together and talked. We were talking about how we were going too fast, but I started rationalizing with myself that why should I bank effort/energy when I am banking time, and that this strategy paid off for me at Boston. So I just decided to run with it… I wasn’t red lining and I felt good. Yeah I was a good 30-60s faster per mile than I should be, at 10:30, but this was the easier part of the course and I knew I would slow from miles 15-25 where it gets hard, and slow due to fatigue on the way back in general.
- From mile 10-15 I ran with Jamaar, and we talked a lot, which was great. It kept my mind off the running for a while.
- My pace slowed from 10:35 just before Dennis Mountain to 11:05 at the turn around. I’m not sure exactly when I got to the 20 mile mark, but David said it was about 3:42. Earnest had passed me around mile 19, and David came right in behind me. I went into a bit of a rough patch around mile 17 or 18 that would last all the way until mile 26. I quickly grabbed a couple of gels, my 2nd bottle of perpetuem, and took a couple ibuprofens, and was out, but David and Earnest had already gone. I thought that would be the last time I would see either as they seemed to be pulling a way and I was struggling a bit, thinking about a long 20 miles back in.
- Just before the turn around, I saw Anthony, and he said hello, and the did a double take because I was probably a lot closer to the turn than he expected me. 🙂 On the way back out, I saw Charlie, Ernie, the Sock Dock, and many others…
- I pretty much struggled all the way to the aid station at 26. At one point I tripped and felt my R calf start to lock as I caught myself. This was the 2nd race where I had not carried endurolytes. At the NF 50 in GA I just forgot. For this race I had mixed 5 capsules into my perpetuem bottle, but that apparently was not enough. At the aid station I asked if they had anything stronger than Heed, and they had Endurolyte capsules! Woohoo! I quickly took 3 and pocketed 3 for later. As soon as I left that station, I felt like a new runner. There’s no way the Endurolytes worked that fast, but now I finally felt good.
- I stubbed my toes a bunch again, but I can’t tell yet if I’m going to have any blue toenails like I did after the NF 50 in October. I had never lost a toenail due to running until that race, but now I’ve lost three! I tripped at least a good 4 or 5 times, but never went all the way down. I was able to recover without a face plant on all of them! On one, a slight downhill, the only reason I didn’t face plant was because I was able to catch a tree in my right hand. Of course, then my shoulder felt like it had been ripped out of socket for a while.
- Sometime in the next few miles I came up on David and Earnest, and David was hurting with both cramps and nutrition issues. I ran with them for a bit, and then Earnest and I ran on, and after a few minutes I went on solo. I still had thoughts of breaking 8:00, but it was going to be tight. I was only a couple minutes ahead of that pace, but there was a long ways to go with 10 more miles of tough trail.
- I again ran with someone, though I never got his name, for quite a while. We chatted a bit but on the 2nd to last big hill at mile 34 I told him to go on and I never saw him again. The last mile or two is always so tough. There is a lot of downhill, but it is very rocky — loose rocks — and steep. You have to balance out your time goal with the value of your life. Or at least not breaking anything. I was careful on the worst sections but ran as much as I could, and the last half or so is a decent trail so I was going hard. I ended up hitting the finish in 7:57 — 53 minutes faster than last year and I made my “super stretch” goal! Woohoo!
- Shoes: I saw a couple of people in 5 fingers, a couple of NB minmal shoes, and one pair of Hokas. The guy in Hoka’s literally looked like he couldn’t keep his balance. I know some people love them, but I’m afraid to even try them on. I wore the Peregrine, pictured below, and while running warehouse lists the forefoot at 19mm, my forefeet were really beat up by mile 30 or so. So much so, in fact, that I had to heel strike quite often to try to take advantage of the heel build up. I guess I’m going to need a shoe with a rock plate or something at some point!
- Here’s a cool shot of David that Shannon took:
- This was actually the 1st year where the water was not so high that you couldn’t avoid crossing like David is above. Just to the side of any crossing like this were always a couple of rock steps that you could attempt to use to cross without getting wet. I was pretty successful at staying dry until mile 35 or so, when I slipped on the rocks and got both feet wet! Granted, finding the bridges takes longer than running right through, but having dry feet for so long was nice compared to last year when my feet were frozen numb!
- As I said earlier I finished in 7:57… I had thought a sub 8:00 would be possible for me on a perfect day, and even with that rough patch of nearly 7 miles, I still made it! That just shows how fast I ran the 1st 15 and how I was able to not degrade too much on the last 15. 🙂 Results are posted and I was 27 out of 148 finishers, which is much better than I ever expected. All in all I had a pretty solid run.
- Now it’s time to take a week or two off, and then I’m going to focus on breaking 20:00 in a 5k. I plan on doing a 12 week program built around that.
- Garmin data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/147283684
- I saw Sasquatch once. But it was not a good view and when I turned back to get a better angle, he was gone.
- Here is a graph of my training miles — I know, not much! But more than last year.
Thanks for the quote and compliment, Sean! I have a whole new respect for you folks who run the 40 miler out there. Especially at the pace that you ran. Madness, sheer madness…
I had no idea the Sock Doc was out there. That’s too cool.
Yeah, he was there, though he had a rough day due to a bee attack a couple of days before…
Nice write up. Yes, I was surprised to see you so far up.
For a guy who doesn’t put in a lot of mileage, you sure have gotten faster. Congrats on breaking 8 hours, I know how hard that is!
Thanks AC….I did bump the mileage a bit this year, but looking back all of my weeks were less than 30 miles except the one training run I had in Uhwarrie of 25 miles. I think that long run 6 weeks out really helped, even though I bonked horribly on it! I’m going to update the post with my training miles as it is interesting to see. I do think I need to up the mileage to break out of my current plateau in the 5k, though I have a history of injuries with too many miles, so I need to be careful. The last 3 years has been fairly consistent which is also a big key.
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My friends and I were talking about how many runners were wearing minimalist shoes or shoes without some kind of sturdy protective toe as we couldn’t figure out how anyone could survive this course without toe protection!
I’ve also been surprised to read all of the race reports where everybody just splashed through the water. We weren’t particularly concerned about time, and I’m so blister prone that having wet feet is just a recipe for disaster for me, but now I feel like such a sissy for always looking for a dry way to cross! I’m with you though – it is so much more pleasant to have dry feet. Although I suspect I will need to get over that if I want to continue trail running.
I definitely think there is a time for minimalist shoes, but if you are trying to run fast on a tough course with lots of roots and rocks, that is not the time! I would certainly hike Uhwarrie in huaraches or vibrams — shoot I’d even hike barefoot for a mile or two. 🙂 But definitely would not race it.
Normally I don’t care too much about my feet being wet, but last year after they went numb on the way back in, after the 3 or 4 crossings in sub 40F water, I thought I’d take a break this year. 🙂 In the past couple of Uwharrie races there was no way to stay dry as the water was mid thigh high on me! The best prevention of blisters (besides shoes that fit well!) is wool socks. I tend to start all long races or back packing trips with a nice pair of Icebreaker wool socks on my feet, and in the really long events, I’ll have a pair of injinji toe socks in a drop bag or with me so I can put them on under the wool if necessary. I also wrap my water bottles with a couple of rounds of duct tape just in case. 20-30″ of duct tape wrapped on the bottle takes almost no space and is not heavy, so it’s one of those things that is worth it.
I agree with Sean, even though I wore RunAmocs for the 20 miler. I could probably run the 20 miles in 3:50 at my absolute limit in the RunAmocs, but there would be a price to pay in terms of foot fatigue and leg fatigue (you have to shock absorb *much* more with your legs). 40 miles would be out of the question completely in RunAmocs (at least for me, and I do a lot of running in RunAmocs).
Can you run Uwharrie in minimalist shoes? Sure, but you had better have some decent experience with the shoe of choice! Should you? Depends on your pace, distance, and overall goals.
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