Monday, September 25, 2006

Megatransect

This last Saturday I "competed" in the Lock Haven Megatransect, a 24.9 mile trail run through Bald Eagle State Park. I finished in 5 hours and 17 minutes. My goal was 5 hours, but I will take the extra 17 minutes. The course was a lot harder than last year. You can view the course with this link here. Here is how the race went . . .

The race starts at 7am. It was almost raining (just very humid) and cloudy which meant it would be a fairly cool day for the race. Great running weather. I swallow 2 power bars on the drive to the race. My friend, Johnny D, and I get to the race with just enough time to pick up the race packets and give a quick stretch before the race is started.

The first section is simple enough. A few miles of road until, we get to make the vicious right hand turn that goes straight up the first mountain ridge. Johnny D and I cruise the road at a nice simple pace. ( around ~9 minute talking pace) We joke around with some of the other competitors. Everyone is in a really good mood. The road slowly turns up hill, some of the runners already start walking. (They know there is a long day ahead.)

The first climb is straight up two thirds of the mountain followed by a diagonal section that goes across it and then to a boulder field that takes us over the mountain. I start climbing. I walk up the hill at good pace, when I finally get to the top I reward myself with a energy gel and keep on "running". Next stop the boulder field.

The boulder field had to be one of the most intimidating parts of the run. It was cloudy so you could not see where it stopped and the boulders required some finess to get over at times. I'm half way through the field and I realize that I am sweating like I have never sweated before. I am drenched. Keep in my this is only one hour into the hike. I lick my lips. They tasted salty. (Images of Ravi at the end of Ironman CDA flashed through my mind.) I reach the top of the first mountain ridge and reward myself with the another energy gel.

What follows is a very rocky and mostly flat or descending trail section that smooths out as it gets to the bottom of the mountain. Lucky for me, at the very first aid station I picked up 3 gels and a pack of salt tablets. Right after the first aid station, I take 2 advil, and 2 salt tablets and a energy gel.

Eventually I reach what mentally feels like the half way mark, a feeding station in a place called Zindell park. It is really only 10 miles into the hike. It is also the lowest elevation of the course. I get a refill of my camel back and take 3 energy gels. I get to running and who I did see less than a quarter mile behind me, Johnny D!!!! He tries to trip as I run past him.

What follows is 6 miles of steady up hill running with a section of very steep trail in the middle. I knew that if I wanted my goal of 5 hours , I had to tear this section up. Well, that is what I did. I pushed myself through the section. Taking gels as I needed, taking salt tablets as needed. I reach the top of that section, and I am no longer happy. I realize I'm out of gels!!!! The classic rookie mistake. I try to turn it into something positive. At least I don't need to worry about eating while running untill the next aid station. The next aid station felt like it was never going to arrive. I just kept trying to push the pace. Alot of the people I passed were walking. I would say my pace was a very steady jog.

Finally an aid station, I grab 3 gel packs. Someone tells me the next aid station is 3 miles away before the last epic climb over the mountain ridge that started the race. I decide it will be a good idea to 3 gels over this section, to have enough energy to make over the mountain without stopping.

Somehow in this section, I run what feels like 8 minute pace while ingesting 3 more gell packs and 2 more salt tablets. I get to the next aid station. I am slightly delerious but pumped to be almost done. I feel alot better than last year and I know that once I get over this mountain the end is only a few miles away. I grab 3 more gel packs and start climbing!!!

The last mountain trail is so steep in the beginning it requires a rope to climb and really the rest of it is not much less steep. The sun starts coming out of the clouds. I'm sweating and my calfs start cramping. People start passing me. I'm getting worried. I finally reach the top and reward myself with another gel and look over the town of Lock Haven.

The last ~5 miles are steep decent of the mountain followed by the paved section that started the race. I try to go down the mountain as fast as possible, but I am way too tall and uncoordinated to dive bomb a rocky trail that steep. Some fellow runners show me how it is done as they fly past me. I keep my pace up and make it to the paved section, I decide to eat another gel. It is no time to slow down. I've got a goal in mind.

I jog as fast as I can. I even catch the runners who dive bombed the downhill. Lucky for me, the running had an added benefit. Train tracks cross the course. As I crossed the train tracks, a freight train was about to block the runners from crossing. I was the last runner to make it through. That saved me about 4 minutes and to stop running would not have been enjoyable at that point.

I cross the finish line grimacing through a lot of pain. I had finished at 5 hours and 17 minutes. It was a long painful day, but alot of fun. I can't explain how that last sentence makes any sense, but to me it does. What followed after the race was some of the worst stomach pains I had ever experienced for about 3 hours. I couldn't eat, nor did I really want to.

Johnny D crossed the finish line and headed straight to the food. He ate 2 slices of pizza and a hot dog before I finished my first soda. That man must have an iron stomach. Well that was the megatransect. It was fun. It was painful and I look forward to doing it next year!!!

1 comment:

Ravi said...

dude, that sounds painful...I'll stick to the elliptical trainer...