Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Terrapin Mountain 50k: Lesson learned

This past Saturday my family and I made our way to Sedalia Va. So I could run the Terrapin Mountain 50k and my wife could run the half marathon. As the race was approaching my nervousness was increasing. As you may have read, I ran the Arkansas held race the Sylamore 50k trail run and it went great I improved my time by almost 2 hours and post race was fantastic as far as walking and talking goes. The Sylamore 50k has an elevation gain of around 6000 feet but with no climbs higher than 1000 feet so it is up and down the whole way. I figured up and down what is the difference, I can run a 6:20 maybe a 6:40 cause of the elevation. Well,  Lesson learned.

Right before the gong
      The Terrapin starts promptly at 6am at the Sedalia center in Sedalia VA. At 5:30 I was crawling out of my skin for the sound of the gong (a signature start of the race by director Clark Zealand). I have not been that excited in all my runs. So once the gong was banged we were off at a nice respectable pace. We start out on road for about 1mile then turn right onto some gravel and begin the 2500 ft climb in just 3 short miles. This is where the mortals walk/run. So we did at a pretty good pace. My wife and I came into camping gap in about 1 hour on the dot, 10 minutes slower than I anticipated or guessed. You see I have never climbed that high in my running career, so 10 minutes wasn’t bothering me. We filled our bottles, kissed and off we went. She climbed another 1000++ feet and I went flying down 5 miles and 2500 feet of gravel road to the other side at Goff Mountain rd. I say flying because I made it down in 45 minutes, with 2 pee breaks and a bottle fill up before hitting the second aid station at the bottom.

At the Goff Mountain road aid station, my quads were obviously concerning me, having never done that before. I had some weird sensations in those puppies. Luckily for me we had to climb up again, so I could rely on other parts of the legs. As we started our accent up Goff mountain Rd, I had yet another scary thought, "if I walk this section it is going to take 12 hours, better yet if I walk all the hills I am certain to be left out here". So I followed a couple of guys in technique. Run from flag to flag then walk from flag to flag. It breaks up the monotony as he said and was working quite well. We jumped onto some single track after a while and I felt right at home. You see I am back in Maryland by way of Little Rock, were the stride is a little something like stride, stride, stride, hop, jump, stride, hop, you get the idea. In Little Rock once you master this you can be an accomplished runner. After a successful technical decent I was back at the horse trail aid station.

Now all I have to do is run back up to camping gap for 3.1 miles and something around 2000 feet, I think? Here we go from flag to flag. I met a guy at Goff Mountain Rd and we had been chatting off and on since then (I am pretty sure his name is Kenny) in conversation he mentioned that I was going to get tired of seeing camping gap. To be honest at the second visit, I wanted to kiss and hug the station, this feeling continued throughout the day.  It marked the next step and another step complete. Despite not agreeing with Kenny he provided me with some distraction and turned out to be great trail company. So if you’re reading Kenny, thanks for the trail company. I must be honest I made up a nickname for Kenny in my head strictly based on his hiking technique and skill. Every time we hit a steep one I knew I wouldn't see him until the downhill, my specialty. To me Kenny will be forever known as the "Billy goat". As we made our way through "WHORE LOOP"(I am not sure why it is called this but that is what they called it) I hit a low point on the climb up to the first orienteering point. These hills seemed relentless and I thought we would never get to the top. We did and I promptly used that down hill to regain my momentum to finish. At the orienteering point there was a lot of bathroom breaks and snacking. I used that time to pass up a lot of people and I wouldn't see them the rest of the race. 
Post race meal with dad

Sore, tired and hungry, but damn good looking.

I carried that down hill momentum into the gravel road and back to camping gap #3 were I came in at 4:40. This leaves me 2 hours and 9.9 miles to achieve my 6:40 time. Do-able in my mind. So I filled up snacked lightly and headed up Terrapin Mountain. Along this hell of a climb a mantra was created “WTF” with less acronym more words. I reached the orienteering split of overlook and fat mans misery and went right. I punched at overlook and headed to "fat mans misery".  I was so excited to squeeze in between those rocks; I had been looking forward to that since 5:30 that morning. I squeezed and off I went. Just as I was attempting to lift my leg onto a rock, an angel said. "Did you punch", "of course I did not, thank you" I replied. Some banter was exchanged and off we all were, a gentleman whom I did not get a name and a team of 2 women. They graciously allowed the gentleman and I to lead the decent and we obliged. Now this was not running down hill, it was slowing yourself down, down hill aka a controlled fall. About 3/4 of the way down we ran into the "Billy goat" and the guy in the kilt. Very nice guy, since I was full of fire coming down the hill they let me go ahead of them. This could have been a fatal mistake, no use crying over spilled milk so on with the story. We popped out onto what looked like a 4% graded creek bed. And descended down to the Terrapin Mountain lane aid station. In passing, a man say's to me "this is some kind of F-in cruel joke, making us run down to the bottom and then back up". For a split second I thought he meant we had to run back up Terrapin Mountain!! I almost burst into tears and collapsed, then I remembered why I went over the course and map so many times. (to avoid melt down). With my mind at ease I ate and drank and off to the last 5.5 miles to the finish.

I like to call this "the dark time". I went into my fuel belt for the 5 reserve endurolytes I found the night before and decided to leave in belt just in case of emergency. They were crushed, all but one. So I took it and promptly licked my fingers and "fun dipped" as much powder as I could. Gross, but helpful. This part was lonely, painful, emotional, beautiful and, cold. All reasons I am out here. I have been living by the philosophy "it's not an ultra or a worthwhile race if I don't have to talk to my self". I first start off with a little drill Sergeant then to a consoling mother figure, what ever it takes to finish. At the creek crossing I think I managed a smile for the camera and then 1 mile to go. I did what I do and flew down the hill passing once again and feeling remorseful about it, the "Billy goat" and "the kilt". I did not pass to beat these guys so I could beat them, only to get it over with. I always save a little to finish strong, it's part of my plan every time. So I did, I ran the last mile faster than the first mile. At the finish the fanfare was so awesome it made finishing even more emotional. No 6:40 but at least I made a sub 7:00 coming in at 6:59. Another highlight was getting to hug multiple family members and the welcome from Clark, Steve and the "stands", a group of runners all cozy in field chairs and blankets. Thanks to all of you. Thank you also to all the aid station volunteers, none of could do it without the volunteers.
Thank you to Clark Zealand for putting on such a beautiful and well organized race. This race is now one of my favorites and I can’t wait to run it again next year. What’s next for cookrunbeer? The North face ultra endurance challenge 50k. I decided to wait until next year for the promise land, because I am planning on the MMT50 in November and trying to put on the smart hat for this one. Until next time, stay tuned for a BEER:30 review of the Crispin Jacket whisky cask aged cider.  See you on the trails.


  1. by the way its not WHORE loop its WOR loop which stands for White Oak Although it is tough so the other might

  2. Great run report. I've been looking forward to reading it. Congrats on finishing it so well. I know it was a tough one.

  3. Hey John. Nice race report. Thanks for mentioning me. I was very glad to meet you and enjoyed running with you. The gentleman in the kilt is JJ Jessee. I ran the last few miles with him last year, so he was just returning the favor. Here is the link to my blog.

  4. Thanks for sharing John.
    Good to hear the stories of the 50k, I still aspire to conquer that distance, I dont think it is too far away for me.
    I ran the half, and experienced some of the same emotions you mention, of course.

    Since Kenny shared his blog, I will as well. I have a race report on there as well.
    Comments are nice.
    Kenny, I'll be going to your blog now.

  5. well first off to everyone i types a message to each of you and it erased it twice, so here we go again.

    Thanks for the comments and good luck to you at the Ouachita 50 in april. I wish i was running it Again, and congrats on all those 50ks in a row. You are like my satellite motivation. i figure when i don't feel like going out, "Ben is out there" if i slack than we wont be able to run a 5:30 at Sylamore next year.

    Again thank you for the company n the trail. i look forward to seeing you again, maybe at the MMT. and if you have any advice for a first time 50 miler i would love that. truth be told i am nervous ad all get out. my recovery in the following 11 days after terrapin was as graceful as the use of a jack hammer. i had to jump on the mountain bike cause i was tired of less than mediocre runs. any way see you out there.

    Thank you for the comment, i know what you mean by "comments are nice". i mean we are talking to people to share our love. a little "hello, how do you do " goes along way. i just hope people are trying these recipes i am putting up. i would love to know if they are good or bad.i am heading over to read your race report right now and i will for sure put you on my follow list and look forward to hearing about your upcoming races.

    i am still laughing, what a mistake. if someone would have whispered that to me i would have changed it but not now. the comment makes the post even funnier.

    I look forward to meeting all of you out on the trail. we will be the ones in the cookrunbeer t-shirts, and pulley enjoying a nice craft beer post race.

  6. Hey John,Love the pics of you and Siobhan.Got to find some of these beers. I'll be bringing a selection of Great Lakes brews with me to Virginia Beach, hope you can make it and sample a few. I would hate to have to drink them all myself.