Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pisgah Mountain, 23K or 50K, Winchester NH, 8:45am September 17, 2006

The Scene:

The New England ultra running scene is small in comparison to the western part of the states; it seems like out west you can find a few ultras every weekend. In New England there are only few ultras a year. We have the most notorious Vermont 100 in July also part of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning and the Pisgah and Vermont 50. It just so happens that Pisgah and VT50 both fall in September and are within a week of each other, which is unfortunate because I would have liked to partake in both. My decision to run Pisgah was based on many factors one of the major reasons is the VT50 has 650 Mt. bikers also participating in the 50 miler, so you have a 50 mile bike, 50 mile run and 50k run, this seems a little busy, although I’m sure it’s a wonderful venue and the proceeds go to a good cause, who knows maybe next year I’ll attempt the 50! Pisgah State Park’s 13,500 acres of rough forested terrain run through the towns of Winchester, Chesterfield and Hinsdale New Hampshire and with the parks 21 square miles it makes an ideal spot to host a 50k trail race. A local running store named Endurance Multisport located in Keene NH puts on the event and did a spectacular job “top notch in my books” and all it cost was $30 bucks, less than a dollar a mile. This was the best darn 50k in New England!

The Prep:

My preparation started early in the week, I had everything packed and ready by Wednesday night and in the end didn’t really help matters because I left most of it in the car. That same week I received my new Brooks Cascadia’s, I guess the first time you run in new shoes shouldn’t be a 50k but I knew these shoes were what my feet craved! For the reminder of the week I did the eating thing the hydration thing…carbo loaded…watched my diet, tried my hardest not to eat foods high in fat and crammed as many calories in on Saturday as humanly possible, I wanted to make sure I didn’t run out of gas at mile 26!!! I was one bloated bloke by the time I went to bed! The morning came quickly and I was on the roads by 5:30am. What I thought was going to be a relaxing ride to the start quickly turned into a nightmare. I got on some crazy back roads, fortunately my wife Cathy became my CathyCathy (over the phone solution for idiots who get lost and don’t carry a map) I highly recommend her for a personal navigational crisis, although she did hang up on me a few times, I think even TomTom would have done that! 8:30 and I finally pulled the car to a stop and scramble out; luckily my poor parents who had been waiting for me since 8 had taken the liberty to sign in and grab my number. Thank goodness the race director gave a little speech; it gave me those precious few seconds to prepare =)

The Race:

The 50k and 23k kicked off at the same time, after about a mile the 50k takes a 17 mile excursion through the park before it links back up to the 23k trail. The majority of the crowd continued down the 23k course and gave cheery shouts of good luck as we branched off to the left! With the mist rolling in off the mountains I felt like I was departing to a distant battle, all I needed to hear were bag pipes playing! I quickly settle into a rhythm and enjoyed the first 12 miles of the leaf laden singletrack trails. At some point I lost my fuel belt bottle of gel, luckily I had some sport beans tucked into my camelbak! Only a small setback, it wasn’t until mile 12 when I hit my first road block! I ventured a ½ mile off the course, I suddenly approached another aid station and these two guys explained what had just happened, they also took the liberty to mention another route I could take if I wanted to call it a day, I guess my facial expression was that bad. Without a note of hesitation I sprinted back the ½ mile to the turn. I still can’t explain how I missed the trail markings…oh-well you can’t change the past, I just made a mental note for the future…(pay close attention to any bright pink trail markings). After 4 hours and climbing and descending Pisgah Mountain I approached the Kilburn Loop aid station (mile 21) fairly beat-up! My legs pounded, knees ached and I was having a bad case of side stitches! The course does its best to fit 31 miles within the park boundaries and gets an A for creativity but at Kilburn Loop I was tempted to call it a day. I re-fueled and decided it was time for some chips and coke to knock me out of this daze! I remember someone at the aid station mention the scenery along the Kilburn Loop was the best part of the park…at this point I wasn’t here for the scenery and thought hell since I ran this far what’s another five. I think the coke helped because the haze was gone and I got my stride back a few miles into the loop! Quick note: You can’t get away with the marathon shuffle on trails because you’ll get seriously hurt and I almost did! Back on track and feeling okay I arrived at the Kilburn Loop aid station for a second time with a more positive outlook 26 down only 5 to go! Inhaled some more coke, took a very deep breath and marched along, there was no stopping now, my legs felt fresh thanks to a rush of adrenaline. As I continued down the path to my surprise my dad was waiting just up the road near a parking lot! He had his running gear on and was ready to run the last 5 miles with me! Thanks dad, I really needed someone to cheer me on those last few miles. It was very uplifting because he couldn’t maintain my pace and told me I was looking good and to continue on! In 6 hours and 20 minutes I transcended from start to finish; enjoyed the ups and triumphed over the downs, discovered freedom, determination, joy, adversity, companionship and gratitude! What a ride!!

My mom managed to snap a few pictures before the start: