I ran this race three years ago as it fit well into my schedule. I hadn’t run it since because it is two weeks earlier. However, when Ben and Amy said they were ready to run an ultra, this race seemed perfect. The course is challenging, but not too difficult, and we all could stay with our good friends, the Dunbars, before and after the race. So, we all flew over from Huntsville to Greenville yesterday afternoon. Enjoyed the evening with Bradun and Elise, and then got up this morning to be at the race start around 6:30am for the 7:30am start.
The temperature is a comfortable 50 degrees this morning, and we all start with just shorts and t-shirts. The plan is for the three of us (Ben, Amy, and I) to stick together for the first half of the race. The race director gives us some instructions and tells us that there are 37 runners starting the race today. Okay, another top 20 finish is well within my reach!
Mile 4.5 57:03 (12:41 avg./mile) Aid Station #1
The first section loops around a lake before starting the toughest climb in the race. Ben is ahead of me, but he is not going out too fast. Amy and I are staying close behind so far. At the aid station, I grab some potato chips as there is not a large selection—just some candy, potato chips, and pickles. I guess the real food will be at the next one.
Mile 11.0 1:31:09 (14:01 avg./mile) Aid Station #2
|Darin on the first loop|
Leaving the first aid station, another runner, Paolo, joins up with us. He is from Italy, but is here in SC for business. This is his first ultra, so he wants to pace off of other runners that know what they are doing. I am in the lead with Ben and Paolo close behind. Amy is hanging back a little, but is still in contact with us. When we start down the hill to the other lake in the park, Amy hangs back a little farther, but tells us she is okay. When we start to circle the lake, I step to the side and let Ben and Paolo pass by. I need to take a leak, and I also want to wait for Amy. I don’t see her for a while, but then she finally comes along. After circling the lake, we start the next climb back up the mountain. It is not long before Amy and I catch Ben and Paolo, and the four of us come into the aid station together. This aid station provides the same limited amount of food, and I grab a few potato chips before heading down the trail.
Mile 15.6 42:36 (9:16 avg./mile) Start/Finish area
Leaving aid station #2, the trail is all downhill until the original lake. We take the loop around it and continue on back to the start/finish line. On the downhill, Amy again hangs back. Paolo, Ben, and I finish the first half together with Amy about a minute behind us. Bradun, Elise, and Martha are all waiting on us here and cheering for us. I request the chocolate milk, and Martha begins pouring cups of chocolate milk for us. I switch out my Camelbak at this point and take off my shirt. The weather has warmed up to about 70 degrees at this point, and it is still morning. We finished the first loop in 3:10:48. I tell Ben and Paolo that I am heading out and plan to push the pace a little.
Mile 20.1 1:01:26 (13:39 avg./mile) Aid Station #1
Back on the trail, I pass a couple of runners, but quickly realize two things: it is getting hot quickly and I don’t have as much of a push as I thought I did. On the climb, I spot two older hikers about 400 yards ahead of me. It takes me a few minutes to catch them as they are hiking up the trail at a nice pace. As I get closer, I am wondering how old they are. Clearly they have gray hair, but their strides indicate they aren’t too old, I think. When I catch them, I see their faces and immediately know they are at least in their 70s! I mention what a beautiful day it is and then ask them if they have any great grandchildren (as I am sure they have grandchildren). Their answer is that they are blessed with several great grandchildren. I compliment them on their hiking skills and push hard so that I put some distance between them and me quickly. At the aid station, I grab some potato chips and a couple of cookies. This split is a little slower than the first time, but I figure I can do the next section faster than I did this morning.
Mile 26.6 1:44:09 (16:01 avg./mile) Aid Station #2
|Darin on the second loop|
If it was still cool, I may have had a chance to run this section faster than I did the first time, but now the mercury has climbed well into the 70s on its way to a high temperature of 80 degrees today. I work the downhills hard, but the uphill sections are wearing me out with the heat. I chase another runner ahead of me this whole section, but he is usually just out of sight. I run out of water in my Camelbak a few minutes before getting to the aid station. When I finally get to the aid station (13 minutes slower than this morning) I find the runner I have been chasing just getting ready to leave. I also find that the water jug is nearly empty. I have to tip it forward just to get about 10 ounces of water into my Camelbak—not as much as I wanted, but it should be enough.
Mile 31.2 47:09 (10:15 avg./mile) FINISH
I catch the runner (Scott Simon) ahead of me while we are going downhill. His legs are cramping, and so are mine, but downhill running is one of my stronger suits. As I near the lake, here is Bradun hiking up towards me. He runs with me about a half mile back to the lake where he takes the shorter route around back to the finish line while I follow the course the long way around the lake. I manage to keep Scott behind me as I finish by myself in a decent time.
Official Finishing Time 6:43:32
12th out of 37 starters (5th male)
I didn’t hear Scott at all after I passed him, and are therefore surprised when he finishes just 50 seconds after me. Paolo finishes 13 minutes after me, and I start to think that Ben probably isn’t far behind. Indeed just two minutes later (a mere 15 minutes after me), Ben crosses the finish line for his first ultra-finish in 6:58:35! He says he hasn’t seen Amy at all on the second loop. Bradun, Elise, Martha, Ben, and I enjoy relaxing near the finish line as we await Amy’s arrival. She doesn’t disappoint, finishing in 7:46:27.
It is a great day, and Ben and Amy are no longer rookie ultra-runners. I am satisfied with my time, and I can only imagine that it won’t be too long before either Ben or Amy dusts the old man (me). I now have seven weeks until Hellgate. I will try to get a couple of long training runs in between now and then, and I need to lock down who is going to crew for me. It might be Ben and/or Amy again, but they also have a little event the weekend following Hellgate (they are getting married)!
Never stop running,Darin
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