|Eastern Divide 50k elevation profile (click to enlarge)|
This is the first year for the race, and when I first heard about it, I knew I HAD to run it. Located just outside of Blacksburg, it was on my "home" turf and it was also in part put on by TriAdventure, the team I used to coach for! However, having been living in Virginia Beach for the past 2 months, training on hills for this race just did not happen. I knew it was going to be a challenging day.
I'm happy to say that everything went according to plan and I raced strong given the course and the warm temperatures. My nutrition plan worked out perfectly and I know it contributed to optimizing my performance. The start of the race was at the Cascades, popularly known for the amazing waterfall about 2 miles up the trail. Luckily I've hiked to this waterfall many times before as I only saw it for a mere 2 seconds today:
|Me, Kenya and the Cascades waterfall (2010)|
|Pre-race...On the right: TriAdventure had 5 ladies complete the 50k and Anne Thompson, coach, was also the race director!|
I started out relaxed and in third place, but quickly lost track of the first two girls. I was able to make it to the waterfall (2 miles) before I walked for the first time. After that point I walked much more than I had planned or care to admit. Then again, I was towards the front of the pack and most people around me were also walking, so I don't really feel too bad. I knew I was losing precious ground on the first two runners, but chose to conserve my energy for later in the race. By the first aid station I was the 5th place female but not by much. I didn't need anything so I kept slogging along up the hill. In all, it took me 54 minutes of climbing to summit the mountain (~ 5.5 miles).
The next section was somewhat technical but mostly downhill. I really picked up the pace, moved back up to the 3rd female position and started chasing down some guys! I struggled some with the sun shining in and out of the trees as it made it difficult to see the trail and I was afraid I was going to twist my ankle. Miles 8 though 16 featured a beautiful section of fire road along the ridge of the mountain. I am really proud of this section because I chose to focus on my strengths by pushing the pace knowing that the flat(ter) sections would make my race. I knew I would likely spend the rest of the race chasing the 2nd place girl as I could sense she was far ahead, so I kept pushing. Never, ever give up! It was still early in the race and I knew anything could happen.
The next challenge was a 1.6 mile climb up to aid station 4 (mile 18). Again, I slogged my way up the mountain. I was motivated though because I knew my dad was waiting at the top! Hooray for dad! He met me at the aid station and I was never so happy to have him by my side. Aid station 4 featured the drop bags so I refilled my bottle and grabbed more fuel. One volunteer was so nice and squeezed a wet cloth over me as I worked. Volunteers are AWESOME!
It was 4.2 miles to aid station 5, and while I thought I ran decently fast during this section, we really only averaged 10 min pace. It was one of the easier sections of the race, but I was starting to feel the mileage and my right calf started to seize up on me a bit despite my pushing the fluids and electrolytes. After aid station 5 (mile 22) we entered the forest trails surrounding Mountain Lake. I have never run these trails before so I did not know what to expect (at this point I'm glad I did not as it was the most challenging section for me). I felt good early on and left dad behind, but that did not last long. At the start of the rolling hills I began to struggle big time. I was glad dad had my back because I was feeling lightheaded and he kept me moving forward. The heat was taking its toll, so I just focused on one mile at a time. One point featured a very steep, technical climb which ended in a sunny meadow with really high grass. It reminded me of crewing Jordan at Mountain Masochist and Hellgate in the past and I finally (truly) understood how he feels during these races. After what felt like forever, I FINALLY reached aid station 6 and to be honest, was quite grumpy! This was my least favorite section for certain... 4 miles to go...
After aid station 6 was another climb through the sunny meadow. At the top we re-entered the forest and I dreaded the sight of it. Luckily, I caught a second wind and was more than ready to get the race over with! I left dad behind on a technical downhill (a strong point of mine thanks to many years of crewing Jordan at ultras) but I knew he was ok with that. He ran back to the finish while I did the final two mile loop. With a 1 mile to go I was feeling great again and a wave of emotion swept over me - I was overjoyed yet found myself choking up a bit. These races are mentally, physically and emotionally draining! I approached the finish line strong, proud and more than happy with my performance:
|"Finally this thing is over!"|
Special thanks to Anne Thompson- for all of her hard work in directing the race and for encouraging me to do this when I wasn't sure about it. To my dad, who has been such a huge help all weekend and pushed me through the roughest portion of my race! To my husband- though he could not be there I know he was cheering me on from afar! And finally- to the many, many volunteers that worked tirelessly through the day- thank you for all that you did!
|L to R: with Heather (former VT Tri teammate and today's 1st place female); with Dad; with Anne|
Nutrition: Expresso hammer gels x 3, cherry shot bloks x 2pkg, beet juice, 4 hand bottles h20 +nuun, endurolytes
Weather: 60-75 degrees, 50-90% humidity