Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Holiday Lake 50k++ 2012 Race Report: The "++" means more speed.

Well, since I haven’t written anything since Masochist because of one reason or another – usually physics homework – I’ll start off by saying that the two months after Masochist didn’t go too well for me. Since I ran so great (for me) at MMTR, I decided that I was good to go after 4..er…3 days of recovery time. My legs felt fine! But I during my 5 mile victory run that Wednesday, donning my MMTR Finisher PataGucci shirt, I finally discovered what that mysterious thing called IT Band is…and it kept reminding me of its existence for the following 2 months. I was in pain. The pain weaned and waxed, like phases of the moon… except not pretty.  I was lucky enough to be in good shape nearing Hellgate, where I paced MMTR buddy Anthony to the finish from Bearwallow Gap, about 24 miles. But after a spur-of-the-moment 19ish mile AT run with some friends the next day, my leg was done, and I knew I was going to have to listen to it this time. Luckily I was about to head home to The Flat Land of Mathews County for a month. In Mathews, running is boring and you often get asked “Are you lost? Do you need a ride to town?” by its natives who have not yet heard of this newfangled thing called Physical Activity. They assume that this scrawny sweaty mess of a girl running on the side of the road must either by lost, crazy, or both. So I started doing yoga and momentarily lost all motivation to run. Why would I ever want to run? How on earth did I do MMTR? That wasn’t me….or was it? Then I caught the PLAGUE!!! No, not The Plague, just the most terrible flu ever known to mankind ever. So for two weeks I hobble around the swampy marsh that I call Home in a cold sweat surviving off chia seeds and turnip greens, because that’s all I could keep down. I seriously lost all motivation. A 4 mile run in the park that I always considered “hilly” (until my arrival to Blacksburg) felt like the most challenging thing ever. Then…there was the question of Holiday Lake. Would I run it? Why would I want to run 2 uninspiring laps around a flat lake? But all my friends were running it…should I just go ahead and use it as training? I decided almost FOR SURE that I wasn’t going to sign up for Holiday Lake because it was stressing me out just thinking about it! It was just toooo close to properly train for. But my mom said that at this point training wasn’t what my body needed. It needed rest. And you know what? As per usual, my mom was right.  
I sent in my registration for Holiday Lake the day I moved back in to my dorm room for spring semester. My parents and I went by the post office and bought a stamp, and that was that. All I wanted was the finishers shirt so I could do LUS this year and never have to run around the lake ever again. Just kiddingJ of course I will do HL again. I mainly tried to just get a good long run in every Saturday, and running with fast friends from triathlon definitely got some speed back in me. What else is there to do for training?
          We had a sizable group of Hokie’s show at HL, including undergrads like myself and grad students, which was very nice. One thing I love about Horton’s races is that you always get dinner and a show!  And this time, a heated cabin! This is a five-star ultra if there ever was one. After a restless nights sleep, the morning came dark and early. Thankfully, it wasn’t very cold (compared to Blacksburg) so I broke out the shorts and just a long-sleeved shirt. The start was crowded, and after a big Hokie Hi cheer, the countdown began.

            The first lap was very mental for me. I am used to having long climbs up mountains and dense forests with wild flowers and waterfalls, just  me and my thoughts, trying to cross the finishline within the time limit, and Holiday Lake is very different from that. I was not at all used to running so much! I knew once we got off the pavement it was going to be a race for me. I tried to pace myself since I knew we had plenty of extra-long Horton Miles (the best kind of miles) ahead of us, but I was having trouble slowing down. I tried to remember the last time I actually raced…2010, at the state championship for cross country my senior year. That was a race. And by the time we got to the first aid station at HL it would have been over. My my, how times have changed. Well anyways, once the sun came out the day turned out to be pristine running weather, with a high around 40ish and partly cloudy. I felt okay, my form was a little off and I had a weird pain in my left quad, but around mile 8 or 10 I was finally warmed up and had worked all the kinks out. I had come to terms with the fact that I’d be racing, and decided I could do it. I could race. It was on.
            So I finally felt better, and picked up the pace. I’d run through the turn around since I didn’t need anything, and caught up with Jamie Darling, one of the nicest runners at these races. She was near my friend Jan from Tech, so we all chatted for a bit. She said I was definitely on pace to get closer to 5 hours than 5:30, which was my new time goal. So I started going faster…and finally got that runners high I’m so fond of, and really started racing the clock. With 6 miles to go, my calves, hamstrings, and feet started to hurt. They were a little confusing as to why I was making them work so quickly. I wanted to walk, but the course didn’t give me a reason to walk! I took an S!Cap, and it made my fatigued muscles a little happier, but they were still hurting so I just kept telling myself that the pain meant I was doing it rightJ I was getting my monies worth. When I got to the last aid station, I got this idea in my head that I could break 5 hours. My mind was definitely in for it, it was just a matter of how fast I could make my legs go. After another few miles, I caught up to my friend Guy Love, and he told me we were on pace to break 5. I couldn’t believe it!!! So I kept going faster and faster and felt amazing, and next thing I knew we had 1 mile to go, and I had 9 minutes to do it in to get under 5 hours! When I got out on the road, I knew it was in the bag. My body coasted on down the road, and there was Horton standing under the race banner. I crossed the finishline, 11th female, and the clock read 4:58:05. I got a big happy hug from Horton, which made running about 33 of the 33.26 miles worth it, and got my finishers shirt. How’d he know that lime green is my favorite color?!

Rachel ran fast. Er. Than usual.

The idea of breaking 5 hours never even crossed my mind. It just happened. The only thing I wanted to do at Holiday Lake was have a fun weekend with my friends, just out there running around the woods. Well, I got that, and more! I’m still not sure what happened out there, but wherever it was, I hope it happens again. Running ultras in the mountains will always be about going on an epic adventure, pushing your body to the limit and enjoying the beautiful wilderness – my natural habitat – in a way that is more rewarding than you can ever imagine. I feel most comfortable doing that. After Holiday Lake, it looks like I can...competitively...enjoy my home. How weird is that?!
I woke up Sunday a little sore, mostly in my lower back, feet, and shoulders, and went for a walk to get things loosened up. Yesterday, Monday, I felt almost completely better. But having learned my lesson from MMTR, I decided to just kickboard around the pool for a while than to run 5 miles. Maybe a short jaunt today (Tuesday).
I’ve never been the fast girl. Not a track, not a cross country, not at test-taking in school. I’m not even sure if I can consider myself fast now. But man, it’s the quickest I’ve ever been! Luckily, it is at something I truly love doing. Coming back to my dorm room after a fantastic, perfect weekend of running is a culture shock for me (and for the girls in my residence hall for that matter), but it’s more incentive to get out of this building and on to the trail and reinforces how much I truly love running trail ultras and being around the people who run them. My 2012 year of ultras could not have gotten off to a better start, and hopefully the rest of LUS follows suit. Who knows what could happen this year?! Apparently I can run fastish, and there is no doubt in my mind that I love running ultras.
Thanks, Horton, for a fantastic event! Also thanks to the girls from the tri team for coming with us to cheer us onJ
See ya at Terrapin!

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