Saturday, March 23, 2013

Race Report: Terrapin Mountain 50k

In the two weeks leading up to this race, I was feeling pretty horrible. Life + training had caught up to me and wiped me out. I hit a wall and each day all I wanted to do was sleep. My runs were a struggle much more so than usual – I was short of breath and my pace much slower. Needless to say, I was not feeling too confident about running 31 miles including 7,500ft of elevation gain, much more than I’ve ever run or trained on. The good news is, I went into this race very well rested. My fatigue caused me to taper much more than normal, probably a blessing in disguise. Regardless, I opted to run this one “for fun”- to not worry about my pace or placement and enjoy the course and views (which I had heard were stellar).

We arrived Friday night and picked up our packet, pitched a tent, chatted for a while before hitting the sack early. Thanks to daylight savings, it was really nice to arrive and do all this with the sun still shining. We were in bed by 8:30 as all I really wanted to do was sleep! I joked to Jordan that the next day I would just sleep while he ran and see him at the finish .

I'll take a sweet mug like this over an extra t-shirt any day!
Our numbers: I was seeded 5th for women and Jordan 7th for men
(5 & 7 happen to be my lucky numbers!)
Race morning we were up by 5AM. I slept well and it made a HUGE difference getting a full 8 hours. At least I was much less grumpy than normal, ha! We did the normal pre-race stuff and I hit the bathroom 3 times (yea, nerves will do that to you). The nice thing about the girls room and ultras is there’s rarely a line!
Obligatory pre-race coffee sitting in our tent.
10 minutes before the race and I was still deciding what to wear (typical). I debated on a long-sleeve shirt but opted for a tank top with arm warmers and shorts. It worked perfect too so I’m happy with the choice.

To start the race the director hit a “gong” which I thought was pretty unique. We were off and I ran with Jordan for the first ½ mile before he took off ahead. Both the ½ marathon and 50k runners started together so there was really no point in trying to figure out positioning. I just focused on taking it out EASY. We started the first climb a mile in and I ran it based on feel. Per usual my calves cramped up pretty badly but it didn’t seem to affect my pace.  I walked at times but tried to keep moving, if anything shuffling up the mountain. At about half way up the mtn David Horton was sitting on a rock at yelled at me “loooooookin pretty Chaaaaaaang.” Thanks, lol.

Beautiful mountains.
After making a “lollipop” loop we popped back out on the gravel road I flew down earlier (~12 miles into the race). At that point a race volunteer told me I was in 3rd! This really took me by surprise because someone previously said there were 4-5 girls ahead of me and I wasn’t really pushing the pace.  I sort of shrugged it off though, because it was still very early in the race and after all, I do have a history of going out too fast. The climb back to the top of the mountain was about 3.5 miles and for someone who used avoid hills at all cost, I feel like I took it in stride. I was in my happy place, enjoying every moment of the experience. I chatted with one of the guys who was also kind enough to remind me “it’s ok to walk some, you know.” About halfway up I moved into the 2nd place position and that too motivated me to kept moving forward. At the top I was feeling pretty good about the race – I was halfway and well ahead of my goal time yet still feeling very relaxed. Rudy of VT Ultra was kind enough to refill my camelback and I was on my way.

Next was another 6 mile lollipop loop. Rudy said “you’ll climb to the top of the mountain and then fly back down.” The peak was mile 21 and though I was still had plenty of life left in my legs, I could definitely feel the starting effects of a bonk. I quickly pushed the calories and soon felt better.

Elevation profile according to my personal Garmin.
I passed Camping Gap once again (main aid station you hit 3 times total), and then immediately we started up a very steep incline of about ¾ mile to climb the actual Terrapin Mountain. I knew it was coming but it definitely was much worse than I expected! At this point in the race it REALLY hurt. At points like these I now have a better understanding of why ultra running has a huge mental component. Nonetheless, I kept pressing forward and at the top was a quick out and back of maybe 100 yrds where we went to the cliff overhanging and punched our bibs. Nice view and all but to be honest I was terrified (of the heights) and thanks a ton to the runner who kindly punched my bib for me. Next was a long, technical downhill. My quads were still feeling great but the decline was steep and rocky which was pretty tough even for a downhill lovin’ chica like me. The most interesting point of the race, called “fat man’s misery,” was during this section (around mile 23-24). It featured a very narrow and downhill passage way wedged between two rocks. It was pretty much an “are you KIDDING ME?” type moment.
Here's a pic of "Fat Man's Misery" borrowed from here.
6 miles to go and I knew at least a few of them were downhill. I was feeling great until we hit a short uphill of about ¼ mile. Enough to wipe me out and I’m certain I was running low on calories. I finished off two half-eaten gels but in retrospect should have eaten more. It wasn’t until about 2.5 miles to go that the next two girls passed me. I tried to respond and run with them but my legs no longer had that “oomph.” I flew down the final downhill in their pursuit, but then again I’m certain they did as well.

That's the mountain we ran up/down in the background.
Almost done... MUST. KEEP. RUNNING!
The last mile was pretty excruciating! My legs were certainly done for, but finally I turned the final corner and received a very enthusiastic greeting by the crowd. It was so wonderful to take that final step and very rewarding knowing I had run a strong and smart race. My second half was less than 5 minutes slower than the first (whereas at Holiday Lake it was a full 40 minutes slower). And regardless of my finish time and place (4th female, 5:22), I accomplished my main goals of “running happy” and enjoying the experience.
Post-race with the hubby.
And of course, David Horton.
Thanks to Clark Zealand (race director), David Horton (always a pleasure), the VT Ultra Team (which produced a lot of stellar performances!) and especially to my wonderful hubby!! He continued to encourage me while dealing with my crabbiness for 2 weeks leading up to this race (and definitely deserves some sort of award for doing so).

Lessons learned:
  • PACING: It’s so important to take it out easy (especially with an uphill start) to preserve carbohydrate stores as much as possible. Bonking is not fun and I’m glad I didn’t have to face it again at this race. 
  • NUTRITION: My camelback worked out so much better than the hand bottle I normally use. My hands were freed up and I definitely drank a lot more, while more easily carrying and accessing my fuel. I still need to learn to eat more later in the race. I tend to forget more when fatigue set or as I approach the finish line think "I've eaten enough to get by." Also: a little bit of Tums and Advil are wonderful!
  • ATTITUDE: This race shows once again that I race MUCH better when I take the “just for fun" attitude and don’t stress. I tend to run smarter and I can’t imagine how much more energy I usually burn worrying about pace or placement. 
  • I CAN run up mountains and it CAN be fun! (I need to keep reminding myself of this)
  • I can be a perfectionist yet I know "perfect" races are very hard to come by. At the end of the day it’s easy for me to say “I could have done this better or run a little faster” but I'm reminding myself of the importance of being happy with the outcome as is and not over thinking it (except in instances when really did not run smart like I did at Holiday Lake).


  1. Great report - filled with details and discoveries! I was rooting for you as I was reading! It must have been gorgeous and good it didn't rain.

    To produce such nearly even splits at all, let alone with that big ascent at the end is incredible. What a great accomplishment, Kristen!!

  2. It was SO gorgeous. Wish I had taken my camera and shot a few pics at the peaks. I'm sure others will post some soon. Thanks Cort!


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