Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Laurel Highlands--Maybe not the wisest choice

First off, Laurel Highlands is an excellent event and I highly recommend it. This was the 30th year for the 70 mile race (a 50k option was added 3 years ago and there is a 70 mile relay option for teams of 2-5 people). The trail is, more or less, 70 miles of point to point single track run along ridgelines in a lovely ‘mountainous’ (east coast definition) heavily forested section of PA. The trail, the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, is well-marked with yellow blazes, and concrete obelisks that mark every mile. You would have to struggle to get lost here, as the yellow blazes are so frequent, they're almost obnoxious.

Not feeling completely recovered from MMT, I wasn't sure what to expect going in, and really just wanted to experience the LHHT from point to point. While I loved the trail, I didn't necessarily have a good time out there, and am hoping that I didn't do something really stupid, such as injure myself to the point where I have to take extensive time off. A quick recap of the highs and lows, starting off with the lows and ending on a positive note:

The Bad:

1. I puked. Now, I realize that others do this every time they run an ultra. I, however, can count on one hand the number of times I have puked in my life. I just don’t puke. E.g. Give me a bottle of whiskey and no matter how much I consume, I will not puke—probably not a good thing, but my sphincter is stubborn. I can remember my sister being a bit more of a puker as a kid, and every time it happened, I would run to the farthest spot from her, plug my ears, and sing ‘Jingle Bells’ as loudly as possible (my fear response—I also do this in horror movies). Not only do I not puke, but I fear it. I puked around mile 55 when I tried to swallow a gel, and then again in the parking lot of the hotel with a crowd watching. No fun. I also puked after MMT in the shower. Am I becoming a puker? No fun at all!

2. The ankle/foot issue that has been nagging since mid-April bothered me from the beginning of the run and seemed to worsen. It was bad enough that after about 20 miles every time I stepped on a rock or ground that caused my left foot to be flexed, I noticed it, and really angled rocks occasionally caused me to yelp in pain. It started early, and I considered dropping but couldn’t decide if I was going to make it worse by continuing. I still haven’t come to a conclusion on that one, though I’ve got an appointment to see my foot doctor in the morning. After some on-line research, I’ve self-diagnosed it as tibialis posterior tendonitis and hope that it’s a minor case, although my foot doesn’t like to go in any direction except forward at the moment. I’m hoping the magic “Make-a-doctors-appointment-and-the pain-will-go-away” strategy will work. It seems every time I finally give in and go see a doctor whatever has been ailing me disappears just in time for the appointment. Here’s hoping that works tomorrow, or that he tells me to suck it up and run on it.

3. I just felt off. My heart rate seemed really elevated and my breathing seemed off. MMT was one month prior—residual effects? I'm a WUS?

4. I wasn’t really having fun, and wondering far too often, ‘Why?’

5. A couple of good crashes. To be expected.

6. Despite the fact that it looked like trolls and gnomes should have been frolicking about in the woods, not a single one made him or herself visible to me. Boo.

The Good:

1. The trail. These pictures aren't mine (they are Tim Segina's), but picture 70 miles of single track, climbing up forested slopes, winding through fields of ferns, around rock formations, across dozens of log bridges, through patches of mountain laurel, up rocky staircases, with the bonus of a blazing downhill to the finish. The scenery was really hard to beat.

2. Legs felt good. Besides my ankle/foot issue, my legs felt pretty frisky.

3. Ferns. Did I mention that there were miles upon miles of lovely, lovely ferns? IF there was ever a place for gnomes or trolls to pop out a wish you a happy afternoon, LH is the place. Reminded me of the troll walks that one of my bio professors in college used to lead. Of course, we never saw trolls on any of those, either—I'm still a believer, though.

4. A win. Really, winning is almost always fun, even if it was less fun on Saturday. My time of 14:02 was good enough for first woman. Only one woman has broken 14 hours in the 30 years of Laurel Highlands (CR is 20 years old at 13:46). I really felt like I was standing still at times. Heck, I was standing still at times. I do hope to run this one again, and feel like there's a lot of room for improvement.

5. Fun road trip. There were some memorable moments. What happens in Comfort Inn room 219 stays in room 219. Don’t worry Keith and Mitchell—heck, you don’t read this blog anyway—your spooning incident is safe with me.

6. The race organization was top-notch. Thanks to the race directors who put on a great event. I still haven't figured out what causes some races to fill and other not to fill. It doesn't sound like the current RDs want this one to get much bigger, but regardless of size why some races fill in a week, and others never fill is something that puzzles me. This is the type of event that I would list as a favorite and one that should fill in minutes. I'm glad that it doesn't, being that I sent in my entry fee the week of the event. It is nice to still have awesome events around that one can jump into on race morning.

Give this one a try—you won't regret it!!


Anonymous said...

Hey thanks for that. Sorry to hear you had some down moments. Hope your foot is OK.
Dan Nephin

B.Gill said...

i had to deal with posterior tibial tendinitis after JFK last year. not fun, but it sounds like yours isn't as bad as mine was, so hopefully it will have a speedier recovery. heal fast chica!

but what i'd really like to know is, who was the big spoon?

ultrarunnergirl/Kiry said...

Amy, nice report. It is remarkable that this race doesn't fill in minutes, isn't it? It's really a treat.

Bobby, if you'd come to WUS you too would know the whole story of who got to be the big spoon . . .

ultrarunnergirl/Kiry said...

I am also not a puker, but both times I've run LH70 I have puked, and impressively. I've only puked in one other ultra, and that was my 2nd 50K. Maybe it's that first section with the brutal climbs so early followed by terrain that's so runnable?

RunSueRun said...

Congratulations on your win, Amy. If it had been your day, the CR would've been yours. Wonderful trail, huh?! Always liked how the course traverses the *entire* LH trail. Good luck on the ankle/foot issue!


Anonymous said...

completely agree about the ferns at Laurel -- they were amazing. they looked so inviting that at mile 50-something my pacer had to actually talk me out of laying down and going to sleep in them. they looked better than laying in a water bed at the time. -Eric

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