Sunday, February 10, 2013

You Run Some, You Walk Some...

Yesterday marked the first big race/challenge/totally crazy thing to do of the year: Louisville's Lovin' the Hills 50k!  My running partner of the past few months, Nancy Muir, mentioned the idea in November shortly after the Stonesteps 50k, and I was in.  We then drafted Jason Krasnow as runner #3, and Heidi as support crew.  This team would help make completing this insane course possible!

Me, Jason and Nancy, with Heidi on Camera Duty!
The journey began Friday evening, with a two hour drive to Louisville, where we would meet up with my buddy Joel Stone and his girlfriend Lisa Maly.  Joel recently relocated to Louisville for his job with 5/3 Bank, and was kind enough to host Heidi and I the night before the race, even treating us to eggs, turkey bacon and toast in the morning!

We arrived at Jefferson Memorial Forest around 7:30 on Saturday morning and met up with Jason and Nancy.  It was a brisk morning, around 32 degrees, but it was clear and according to the forecast we would have a sunny day in the 40s ahead of us.  The good weather was an encouraging sign, as the elevation profile for this race called for 7,000 feet of climbing (2,000 more than the Stonesteps 50k!).  There were about 300 runners who turned out for the 50k (31 miles), 15 mile and 6 mile races.  With a "Ready, Set, Go!" from the race director, we would set off on what would become my longest day of running ever!!!

As I started out with Nancy and Jason, all of our spirits were high. I have trained/raced enough with these two to know that I can't hang with them for 31 miles (they have way more discipline/work ethic than I do when it comes to training, and I give them a ton of credit!).  So shortly after the start, I dropped back and wished them a good race, knowing that if I stuck with them for very long I would pay for it later.  I settled into a nice, easy pace, and based on how I would feel at the end of the race, this was a good decision!

Nancy & Jason completing the first leg... still smiling!
The race consisted of three legs... the first two being about 6 miles each, and the third being a whopping 19 miles.  While the race started out on a gentle ridge for the first mile or so, it didn't take long to see where the race's name came from as there were about 3 brutal ascents & descents within the first 6 miles.  When I finished the first leg, Heidi was there waiting for me with a fresh water bottle and Lara bar.  Her mental & physical support would be critical throughout the day.

The start of the second leg took us right past the finish line.  It was kind of depressing to think about how much more running I would have to do before I would be back there, but at least I was feeling good.  This 6 mile section of the race was pretty uneventful... definitely some big ups and downs, but I was still feeling good and had settled into what felt like a pretty comfortable pace.  I had told myself that as long as I took it easy, I could finish the race without a problem.  The taking it easy part was a good strategy, but there was no way this course would be finished without any problems!

Limping in to Scott's Gap!
The third leg consisted of an 8 mile run up, down and over a series of ridges to a 3 mile loop at a place called Scott's gap.  About half way out to Scott's gap, my body started to rebel.  My right knee, which had been tender the past couple of weeks and bothered me off and on last year, began to hurt, and my muscles started sending me those "we've been running long enough now" signals.  I knew that Heidi would be waiting for me at Scott's gap with some ibuprofen, so I soldiered on.

When I got to Scott's gap, I was really hungry, so I wolfed down a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, half a banana and a handful of goldfish (along with that ibuprofen).  Heidi told me that Nancy and Jason were still out on the three mile loop.  I was surprised that they were less than 3 miles ahead of me this far into the race, but I would quickly find out why!  Feeling a little refreshed, I set out on the 3 mile loop.

This loop began with an insanely steep hill, and would be followed by two and a half miles of barely-runnable ups and downs through a series of gullies & creek beds.  At one point the trail passed across a steep hillside where I could see an old fence line, and could tell by the lack of vegetation that goats had once grazed here.  All I have to say is that terrain that makes mountain goats happy does not make a runner happy!  This would be the most difficult section of the race for me.  After the race Jason and I went on and on about how tough this loop was, and all Nancy could say was "according to the elevation profile it really wasn't that bad."  I guess Nancy is part goat... and believe me I mean that as a compliment!

After the loop, Heidi again greeted me, encouraging me and letting me know that I only had 8 miles left.  While on the one hand this was encouraging, on the other hand, it was kind of daunting as well.  My knee was really giving me problems, and by this point I was reduced to about a 50/50 mix of walking and running.  I had a bad feeling that this last miles would take me about 2 hours to complete, and this turned out to be a pretty good estimate.

Nancy & Jason encouraging me at the finish!
After a long, slow journey, I finally reached a small pond in the woods that I knew was right below the finish line.  I picked up my pace, ready to be done, and about half way up the last hill I could hear the music at the finish line.  Shortly after that, I could make out Heidi's bright blue jacket, and then heard her signature "Whoooo-hoooo!"  Heidi, Jason and Nancy cheered me up the last hill and through the finish.  Without a doubt, this was the toughest race I had ever done, somehow even making the Stonesteps 50k seem easy.  Congrats to Jason on a strong finish, and to Nancy for finishing 3rd in the women's division!

After the race, I stumbled into the visitor center at the finish line where I enjoyed some homemade chili and a killer massage.  Heidi, Nancy, Jason and I would spend a fun night in Louisville and enjoy "all you can eat" pancakes on Sunday morning.

While it was an incredibly difficult run, and I am physically paying the price for it right now, it was a beautiful course, a beautiful day, an amazing challenge, and an awesome crew... definitely worth it!  Someone asked me around mile 12 if I would do this race again next year, to which I replied "yeah, probably!"  If anyone had asked me this question after Scott's Gap, the answer would have been "hell no!"  Now, sitting on the couch, I'm a maybe.  Nancy said she wants this to be an annual race, though, which means Jason and I will probably tag along no matter how we feel about it!

I'll be resting up this week, and then get back into training for our Foothills Trail adventure in March.  Heidi already ran 10 miles this morning, so I know I have to keep up!  Thanks for following along as Heidi and I embark on this journey, and thank you for supporting our efforts to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society!


1 comment:

  1. Way to go Matt! I can't even fathom running a race like this, you are awesome!