The forecast was for upper 80s or low 90s and the weather didn't disappoint. What started out as a warm day, just continued to get warmer. Many runners camp in the field that is by the race start/finish, and this year we decided to camp too. It made for a really easy morning, as the run starts at 5:30, which means an early morning regardless of where you're coming from. I was chilly when I went to bed, but was surprised to wake up to temps that were already about 10-15 degress or so warmer than the night before.. I actually didn't mind the heat until the final climb up Apple Orchard Falls, where it started to feel a bit steamy.
For me, I have 2 favorite sections of the course. The first is the first big downhill/rolling section which is along a grassy fire road up near the Blue Ridge Parkway. The sun has just risen at this point in the run, and the views of the blue ridges off to the right are spectacular. My second favorite is the climb up Apple Orchard Falls. It's the final big climb, and passes along a beautiful stream and then climbs up an impressive water fall and a set of wooden steps that didn't seem as long as I had remembered. The water seemed to be up this year, and the falls were even more spectacular than I remembered.
I went into it as a final long run before MMT, and vowed to myself not to run it too hard. I didn't feel like I really pushed it, just had a good last long run, and finished up right at 6:00, which is about 10 minutes faster than I ran it in last year. The finish is a long downhill road section (the same section you climb at the beginning) and it felt good to cruise down the last 3 miles or so to the finish. I ended up as first loser, as Horton likes to mention (2nd female), about 10 minute behind Bethany. Bethany ran strong the entire day, and I lost sight of her around mile 20 and never saw her again. Sean represented WUS well by winning in just over 5 hours, and Vicki Kendall turned in a great performance in winning her age group and running a huge PL PR of 6:49. Vicki is going to have a great MMT.
It feels good to be done with long runs, and I plan to spend the next 3 weeks resting up for MMT. I feel like I've put in the miles for the most part, with 4 long runs of 50 miles, 31 miles, 50 miles and 34 miles in the past 5 weekends. The main thing I worry about is my lack of training on MMT trails this winter. I plan to do one more run on them this weekend, but at this point, there's not much I can do. If nothing else, hopefully my winter of heat training in El Salvador will compensate for my lack of rocky trail training. Bring on the heat!