It was a cold blustery morning, and the forecast said it would remain that way all day. It did, but no worries considering 40 degrees is near ideal conditions for me. A bit chilly, but I like it that way. As soon as everyone had gathered for this Thanksgiving weekend tradition frolic in the woods, we set off onto South Ridge Rd, ascending steadily for a bit over a mile and then rolling the remaining 4 to 5 miles to the intersection of the Shut-In Trail. I kept the pace comfortable and had a very lively crew with me the entire time. I do not believe there was a single moment of silence during this stretch, so it flew by. I reached the Shut-In in 55 minutes. Right on schedule.
Once on the Shut-In, I began to separate from the group a bit and lead everyone through this remarkable section. It ranks up high on the list of favorite trails. The talkative nature of our group began to fade, but only in the slightest bit and typically only on sections of trail that required a bit more attention. While running this section of trail, I started to feel some slight discomfort in my right hip. I wasn't thinking much about it though as I was still moving really good, but as the trail kept on it was getting a bit more noticeable. By the time we hit Bent Creek Gap Rd, I knew it was not in good shape and the step down hill over loose gravel for the next 1.5 miles did nothing to help things. I had a good mind to quit after completing the first loop, but I was still on pace to get the sub 4:30. I had reached the end of the first loop in 2:18.
And then it got painful, just a couple of miles into the second loop, I was having to stop and stretch my hip. My psoas muscles were beginning to feel tight as well. My pacer, Adam Hill, yea that Adam Hill, Mad A! He is famous. Well, he was constantly encouraging me to keep it up and keep rolling. At the 21 mile point, with just 8 to 9 miles left to go, I was still on pace to get the sub 4:30. All I had to do was pull it together. But the problem was that this wasn't a fitness issue, it wasn't a bonk, it was muscles not wanting to work and the associated pain that follows. I was wanting to call it quits and find the quickest route back to the care at this point, but the way we were heading was almost the same so I decided to go ahead and suffer and finish this thing. I had to take some very long walking breaks, stop to stretch my hip and groin about every 10 minutes, and shuffle along some pristine single track. Mad A stayed with me for all but the last 2 miles, when I told him to go ahead and get some actual running in. I felt bad that he was hanging with me after my goal was out of the question, especially his PR on this route is a ridiculously fast 3:51! But I definitely appreciated him hanging back with me and trying to help me accomplish a personal goal.
In the end I finally got to stop my watch and sit my butt in a chair in 5:05. Not the 4:30 that I wanted, but it was still a PR. Now some might think that my 50k PR would be quicker than that, but this is the easiest 50k I've yet done. All others have had a minimum of 6,000 ft of gain. This one only has around 4,000. One day, I'll have to run an easier one, and capture a true PR, but this course will always be funner!
|Helping the Hills set up their tree the night before|
|Gobblers & Elvis|
|Running with king of rock'n'roll|
|That guy in the yellow shirt is famous|