Monday, May 18, 2015

Rattler Trail Marathon: Running on Rocks and Roots

I went to the Rattler Trail Marathon (May 9th) at San-Lee Park in Sanford NC with little to no expectations. I had a flair up with my arthritic hip on Tuesday before the race. The only thing I did fitness wise was swim 36 laps (1 mile) on Friday. I was well rested but had no idea how the hip would hold up during the race. My only thought going in was to take little steps so I would not extend my stride and stretch something which would cause more downtime. 

The race was put on by Dan Paige who is also the race director for Uwharrie 100 (link) in October. Dan is an accomplished ultra runner so he knows how to put on excellent events with all the details handled. The race offered 3 distances- 10K, Half and Marathon. Everyone started at the same time. 

Dan and Amanda Paige

The course comprised 3 loops around the lake at the park.  The bike trails are single track, twisty and constantly turning with all the rocks, roots and boulders you could ever want to run over by choice. There were not any significant climbs but you were constantly going up and down all day. The race was free with donations going towards rebuilding some of the park that burned in the past. Beautiful facility. Well worth the drive to enjoy the park. Two minutes off the highway 421 By Pass.

I saw many of my friends from the Southern Pines Ultra Club (Link) and Mangum Track Club (Link). The race started and we were off at a fast pace. As always, I wanted to watch my heart rate as a guide for not going out too fast. My aerobic threshold is 135 to 145. At the Umstead 100 miler, my heart rate averaged 141. Based on the short distance of a marathon, I wanted to keep my heart rate between 155 to 160 which is pushing the limits. The temperatures got up to 86 degrees which made the race more challenging to keep the body cool and keep the heart rate down. I run mostly in the morning so I am not used to running in the heat. Three miles in and my heart rate was 166 to 170 so I knew I was going too hard and needed to slow down. I was able to pass most of the slower runners and got my heart rate down to 162. I never was able to get below 160 the whole day. I decided to stop worrying about heart rate and focused on not letting it creep up any higher than 170 on the climbs. I figured if I bonked from going out too hard then I would learn more about my limits. 

"The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into impossible" Arthur Clarke

I brought my own food and drink to carry during the race. I am a big believer in taking the thinking out of the equation and being self sufficient. I don't want to face any decisions in the race other than to keep going hard. The marathon race was 3 loops so I brought 3 bottles of water/fuel mix, a gel bottle and a couple of Clif Bars to munch on. During the race I ran up to my cooler, grabbed a bottle and I was back at it. Most other racers were waiting for their bottles to be filled up. It is time this 49 year old could not afford to give up compared to the youngsters I was racing. 

The course was super technical. I had to watch every step and I still managed to trip and fall 6 times. One time when I fell I landed in the creek beside the path. The cool water felt good. I felt like I was trail dancing as very few steps were normal. Because of having to take smaller steps to dodge obstacles, my hip held up well. I tend to push hard when I am racing and often don't pay attention so I was leading the marathon at mile 9 until I got off course for 1.5 miles and then I was in 3rd place at mile twelve. I kept thinking to be patient and run my race. As long as I did my best that day, I would be more than happy with whatever place I ended up. At the end of the second loop I passed the leader as he waited to get more water in his bottle and food. I took off and he got within 5 minutes of me at mile 18. I finished strong and was able to finish in first place by 25 minutes. The heart rate is the only thing I watched and if I respected it I would have some energy at the end of the race. I also want to give a shout out to Cherie McCafferty from the Mangum Track Club for winning the marathon for the ladies.

I highly recommend the race for trail lovers. 

Quest for the Crest 50K Link

My next race is "Quest for the Crest 50K" in Burnsville NC. It is billed as the hardest 50K in the US because of the 11,200 ft of climbing and 11,700 ft of loss in 50K. There is 22,900 ft of elevation change. As a manner of comparison- Speed Goat 50K out west is thought to be one of the hardest 50K's and it only has 11,000 ft of vertical gain and loss. I have been getting on the Stair Master for 45 minutes at lunch with my weighted vest in addition to running around 65 miles and swimming during the week. This race is going to be a climb fest for me. Racers are coming from around the country to run this event. I will be thrilled if I finish in the top half of the racers. 

Gear used:

 Orange Mud
Orange Mud Link
Xtend Link
Skechers Link

"Limits like fears, are often just an illusion" Michael Jordan

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