Monday, June 20, 2011

highlands sky 41 mile trail race=Technical sections with a capital T.

mile 17 of the highlands sky course. yep that's a trail

A surprised Jeremy and his sweet GF Sara
pre race antics --give ME the towel-- beth!!
I think Kathleen saw someone using the bathroom in the woods
another famous M&N shot

Ashley Dolin and I at 19.7
mile 39.. only 2 more! hurtin just a little! ( i'm a good faker)
AAH! running on grass after all those rocks-- SO nice!

my super duper awesome finish with my kids, keith and rhonda from VHTRC

AAAH!! popsicles with the kids and getting to sit down! HEAVEN!!!

Highlands Sky!!! Where to begin? Well I'll start by saying I went into this race extremely undertrained. Post PL, and the month of May was pretty much a waste concerning my training. I had a handful of 20 milers under my belt, and a week of "heat training" 2 a day runs 6-8 miles the week before when we had our family vacation at the beach. The sheer thought of running 41 miles was pretty daunting and overwhelming. SO I just chose not to think about it. I'm usually pretty hyper before each race. Obsessing over every detail, course info, nutrition plans and gear selection. For this race, I seriously came up with my nutrition plan and learned a little about the course the thursday before the race with a little help from my" ultrarunning chick mentor". I pretty much just threw some gear in my running bag and didn't think too much about anything.

I KNEW I needed to try to take it easy the first 20 miles, ( being patient for these longer races is really hard for me) and then the plan was to really focus and run strong the last 20.

The kids, fred ( my dog) and I met Brock in beckley, WV. I decided to rent a cabin and have this be a fun family weekend in addition to my race. Pre- race meeting on friday was SO fun. It was great getting to hang out and talk to all my friends, meet new people and I won a friggin SWEET patagonia top that has "the" on it. I LOVE it
The new patagonia tops are such an improvement! Best running shirt EVER.

Anyways, I went back to the cabin, laid out my gear, got the kids ready for bed, and went to sleep myself. I woke up at 3:30, got ready and walked down to Rick and Tammy's room, and hung out with them until it was time to leave for the start at 4:45.
The ride in the family van was fun as always with beth, doug blackford, kathleen cusick, tammy's sweet nephew Mason, Rick and tammy grey.. I wasn't really nervous at all because I knew I wasn't going to really be racing. I was just going to strive to be comfortable as long as possible and then just hang on and finish.

The start was a little quick on 2 miles of paved road before we got on the trail. Got on the single track and we immediately began climbing: and thus a BAD BAD bottleneck. I just tried to be patient and get around people when I could and let people around me as well if they wanted to run faster. It really just ended up that Bill potts and I ran through the stinging nettles to pass up some trains:oP it was all good! I lost beth and kathleen about mile 7, had to make a pit stop ( FUN!) then ran some with rick and doug but lost both of them about mile 16. lost Doug at an aidstation and then rick on a technical super rocky and muddy section of trail in the roaring plains wilderness.
I was still feeling good and comfortable, and I stayed this way until about mile 26. BUT I have to say I was SO shocked how technical some sections were SO rocky.. like miles of super rocky trail. and so muddy haha. WELL, IT IS A TRAIL RACE.. but I seriously hadn't ran in a race this technical EVER.. only on training runs at Mt. Rogers is about the only thing I can compare the technicality of this course to.
about the marathon point, I was running with my new friend from middle TN, Bruce on the road across the sky did I hit my first low point. I just tried to work through the rough patch the best that I could. We got to the end of the road across the sky ( this section was AMAZINGLY beautiful) and I just tried to eat all I could. I was very hot and felt pukey. so when I would get to an aidstation, I would find the ice bucket and get my head/hair wet and take the sponge to the back of my neck. Then I would drink ginger ale.. both of these really seemed to help me feel better. I did get a little upset ( inwardly-- I didn't have a melt down- but was probably close) on a couple more rocky and muddy sections because 1. I felt this was a VERY hard race and 2. frustrated at the terrain because I felt I was going so slow and would never finish. GRR! THEN I would remind myself how wonderful it was to just BE there in this breathtakingly beautiful place! Yes, it was a race and I kinda needed to hurry.. but really, this is RECREATION. FUN. I wasn't at the front racing for some award, so there really was no need to get my panties in a wad over some big sharp rocks and mud holes. After I stopped fighting with the trail and just accepted what lay before me at each turn, I found myself running MUCH MUCH better. I was relaxed and having fun!.

going to the "butt slide" section which is a steep muddy descent for about .5 miles I met two really cool people: Keith Moore and Rhonda Stricklett. I leaped frogged with both of them for the next couple of miles and then stayed with them for the final push, and I got such an energy boost just being around these two. They were both so nice and positive! :o) It was a joy to get to the finish and see Brock and my boys! and ALL my friends were there:o) The kids had so much fun with their dad while I was running, they played on the climbing wall and the euro- bungee and rolled down this steep hillside and played with other kids who were there. This was a VERY family friendly event!! VERY NICE!
Sweet end to a very epic and challenging day.

Dan did an excellent job with this race. It was so organized and the volunteers were amazing. The aidstations plentiful. The finishers shirt is another really cool patagonia top only it's blue with pink stitching and the race logo on right side of the chest. Very nice!! The post race BBQ was yummy and The mtn states brew plentiful!! Thank you for such a wonderful experience WVMTR!
I'm already excited about next year because I know what to expect now!! ( as far as the course!)

I felt like I learned so much at this race. The positives is that I kept moving along better during my rough patches and worked through them. My nutrition plan was bulletproof this race. I got hot, but I never felt bonky or deathmarchy and my fingers never were swollen. Also, Im really happy I just got this run in so that I can gain fitness from the time on my feet and the fact I ran 41 miles! that was a great long run for me! so YAY! I feel like I can just build from here and get back to where I was.

Right now I'm getting everything Prepared for the CTR 10k ( my brother Todd's Race!!) shirts, awards, and ALL the details! The race is going to be on August 13th at 6pm this year. We are opting for an evening race! So exciting! I love races in the evening/night!
plan for a long run the next day August 14th at Mt Rogers for all my ultrarunning friends who are coming to town to support the race!! :o)

So I'm going to run some shorter races in july:
The BEAR at grandfather mtn, NC
WOLF RUN at bays mtn, TN
and CRAZY 8's 8K ( world's fastest 8k!)
Then either I will run cheat mtn 50 or Iron mtn 30-- I haven't made up my mind! :o)


Christian said...

Congrats on your race, sounds like it was a "complete" trail running experience. Looking forward to attempting it next year, the "T"echnical part sounds very intriguing.

jenn said...

thanks christian! I swear to you.. the single track sections are pretty wild! easily the hardest I've experienced during a race. The Roaring Plains and Dolly Sods Wilderness areas are amazing! It's quite an adventure for sure!

annette bednosky said...

You rock soooo well! What a fine adventure and your enthusiasm abounds all around and in your post! You wear your Patagonia prize well! Congrats for staying positive and strong.
...As far as looking into the future, I have requested that Coach Howard schedule your race as part of my training for that day! (If he doesn't, I'll likely come anyways!)
Recover well and again, thank you for your contagious enthusiasm!

JJJessee said...

Good Job, UltraJenn! Glad your nutrition went so well. That can be hard on a warm day. Congrats on the finish.

David C. said...


Great race report and great job! You rock!

You have inspired me further to run HS40 next year and look forward to putting it on my race calendar. .

Also, hope maybe some of us from C'ville can make it down to your 10K in honor of your brother. Have to check out here with family plans, but it sounds like fun and a good cause!

Rob French said...

As Annette said, your enthusiasm abounds... which inspires many and sure makes me early morning(5 a.m.) runs a bit easier.

Count me in as a volunteer for Todd's race and the long Mt. Rogers run the next day.

The Sean said...

"After I stopped fighting with the trail and just accepted what lay before me at each turn, I found myself running MUCH MUCH better. I was relaxed and having fun!."

Love it!! Nice job learning out there:)

Rick Gray said...

You ran a smart race all day long. Sorry I could not push you into the finish, but you certainly pushed me. You took the course as it came to you and you accepted it. Congratulations on making that huge step with just accepting things just how they are. Highlands next year will offer another set of variables. There always seems to be something different than the previous year. Congratulations on a great run. I am so very proud of you in taking things easy early on.

Tony Mollica said...

Great RR! I loved it and your obvious joy!

elis said...

hi, jenn!

congrats on your race!
a hard and beautiful adventure!
I loved your race report!

ultrarunnergirl said...

I love how you have adjectiv-ized with Bonky and Death-march-y. Glad you were able to appreciate the incredible scenery on that very tough and technical course.