Monday, March 30, 2009

Bel Monte 50 Miler, 2009 Forest Gnome Edition

On Saturday, I ran the Bel Monte 50 Miler in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, Virginia--my first long run on trails in a few months. Perfect running conditions, 50's and damp. It rained until early Saturday morning, but stopped in time for the run and didn't pick up again until mid-afternoon. Bel Monte has 25k, 50k, and 50 mile options and the course is a nice mix of single track, fire road, and gravel road; some parts of it pretty technical, but other parts nice and pine needle-y. I signed up for Bel Monte because I'm feeling months behind on long days on trails, so figured I should jump in with 50 miles my first weekend back (there were the shorter options of Terrapin Mtn 50k and MMT training run #3 on Saturday, as well). I'm not sure that I can catch up in the 2 months before MMT, but 50 miles on Saturday seemed like a good idea.

The bad:
The first 5-10 miles. I felt like crap and my legs felt like logs. Training on roads is not training on trails, and all sorts of little muscles get forgotten. Between not being able to see the trail (a flashlight might have been handy) and not having run on trails in 6 months, I struggled in the beginning.

I had thoughts of giving up running altogether during the first 5 miles with people passing left and right. Of course, some of those were 25 and 50Kers, and those that weren't, I passed back at some point. One guy, when I told him to pass me, said he'd prefer not to, because he distinctly remembered my pony tail bobbing by him later in the race on other occasions. He did pass, but regretted it later.... ;)

The Good:
Some sweet single track up on the ridge lines. It was fun, once I got back in the groove of it, to navigate over rocks. I was pretty happy to not fall once, especially after a long break from trails, and the fact that I fall on most long trail runs.

Listening to Mongold growl(?) at me as he barreled past to stop walking. The 50 miler had a few out and back sections, which allowed you to see other runners. Mongold mentioned to someone afterwards that he hadn't walked a step--he broke last year's course record by more than an hour. Fun to watch.

Live Scroat Belly and Split Lip show in the woods. Seriously, an unfair advantage. I was in a funk and pulled out my iPod--hello Witchita--I love those boys. They never fail to pull me out of a funk.

The fog, although it obstructed the views, was nice and made the run seem a little mystical. There were places where I wouldn't have been surprised if a gnome had hopped out from behind a rock and waved at me. Maybe next time....

Just being out on trails in the mountains--it was something that I really missed and was anxious to come home to.

I felt clumsy and out of shape at times, but felt strong in spurts, especially towards the middle and end. That was encouraging, that I had more than 50 miles in me if need be, and I could recover from the dead leg lows I felt early on.

Nutrition: 5-15 gels (probably somewhere in the middle), a couple of packs of shot blocks, and a handful of savory aid-station snacks towards the end. One S-cap, and not a whole lot of fluids. I emptied my Nathan bladder once (Nuun), and filled it half-way (water) at mile 32. That was it, besides grabbing water at the last couple of aid stations. It was damp and chilly (to me) outside, and I wasn't thirsty. Energy-wise, I didn't bonk and stayed on top of things.

Shoes: No blisters--might be a first--and no lost toenails--another first. I think the numerous river crossings actually helped in that regard. I wore injinji socks and my very old Asics Trail Attack I. While they looked new (washing machine), they need to be retired, as I have no idea how many miles they have. Unfortunately the updates to the original Trail Attack I have not liked nearly so much. The original had a snugger fit to it, and a light weight road shoe feel. And it was the shoe on top, when I unearthed and opened my tub of shoes on Friday afternoon. I am still in search of a perfect trail shoe. I won a pair of Vasque boas, and also plan to order some La Sportiva's this week, so hope to find something I like soon for MMT. Otherwise, I'll go with Hardrocks again, although I'd really like to get away from them. They seem like too much shoe, although they are the only thing I've found that make my feet less un-happy after long runs on the rocks of MMT. Maybe MMT requires too much shoe.

I ran alone most of the day. No one passed me, and I didn't pass anyone until the last couple of miles. I finished in 9:26, which was an hour faster last year's course record. It's only the 2nd year for the 50-mile option at Bel Monte, so that won't last for long. 6th overall and 1st woman. The results claim that only 43 of 103 starters finished....not sure why? It's a challenging course, but not overly so.

Two days later, and I'm walking funny, and won't run until Tuesday's WUS. Bel Monte did prompt me to put my name on the Bull Run waiting list, as another 50 miler would help with my confidence pre-MMT. It was great to see some VHTRC friends out on trail, Bradley, Sean, Steve, Mitchell, among others. It feels good to be home!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Back home again....

After a little over 5 months in El Salvador, I'm back in the states. While I'm glad to be home, I had a great time in El Salvador and will miss the friends I made here, and many things about El Salvador. But, I must say, I'm glad to be home to my 'regular life', running in Rock Creek and the Massanuttens with friends, and enjoying spring in DC. I had the opportunity to travel around a bit during my time in El Salvador, and I hope to go back someday soon to explore some more. Some photo highlights from the last 5 months:
The view from a run up to Boqueron, one of the volcanoes surrounding San Salvador. Beautiful views. A fun run, and uphill for 15 miles.

A truck 'parked' on the side of the stree in Apaneca, El Salvador. A sleepy little town on the 'Ruta de las Flores.' Wonder how long this truck has been 'parked' there?
And we in the US insist on car seats for kids up to how many pounds now? It was a hot afternoon; definitely not the most pleasant of rides.

I was there for 2 big elections. The left won over the presidency in the recent presidential elections. Will be interesting to see what that means for El Salvador.
The view from the barge on the ride to Isla Ometepe. Site of the 1st Fuego y Agua (F y A) 100k and 50k Ultramaratones. What an adventure!!

Another shot from F y A. The view on the climb up Volcan Maderas.
Also from F y A, from the top of Volcan Maderas. An inactive volcano, crater lake is often clouded over and rainy. We were fortunate to have great views and sunny skies.

Again, F y A, a view of Volcan Concepcion from the road.

The view from half-way up Volcan Concepcion during F y A. I dropped my camera on trail soon after this shot and luckily the next guy picked it up for me.
From a day-trip to Cayos Cochinos, Honduras with J-Leh and Tonia.

Not a bad spot to stop off for lunch, unless you don't eat fish.

A day trip to Cayos Cochinos in Honduras (a group of small islands close to La Ceiba).
While the rest of the group opted for snorkeling, J-leh and Tonia and I opted for coffee.
River rafting in the mountians near La Ceiba. This day of rafting had its consequences....
Not us, although we'd gone down this run earlier in the day.
My rafting guide trying to convince me to jump. I did, but it took me a while.
The mountains were beautiful, and the forests intact.

J-Leh and I enjoyed a nice hike in the woods, even though we never did find the giant waterfall.
And glamour shots from the suspension bridge....

J-leh and I spent a few days in Roatan, Honduras between Christmas and New Years, and went diving for the first time since living in Chuuk. It was great to get back under the water, and I hope to plan another diving trip soon.
I dove for the first time in 5 years, and J-leh dove for the first time ever!
The ruins in Copan, Honduras.

Another photo from Copan.

The view from Cerro Verdo of Izalco, a volcano I climbed with my running friends. It was a fun day with good friends.

A partial group shot from the top. Jose Alberto, me, David, Gloria, Juan Pablo and Luiz. I'll miss you guys!

One of the few touristy colonial towns in El Salvador, a view of the cathedral in Suchitoto.
We ran to the beach several times--one of my favorite runs, 20 miles and much of it downhill. This wasn't actually one of those Saturdays, but this was a trip to the beach after my last Saturday long run in the mountains around El Salvador.
The group, after one of those weekend runs to the beach.

I'm happy to be back in DC again, but I will miss many things about El Salvador, especially my early morning running buddies. I won't miss setting my alarm for 3:30 for early Friday morning runs though! Well, actually, I guess I will. Thanks to my dear friends--come and visit me in DC!!