Promise Land Preview

April 20, 2009

Six days to go before my biggest running challenge yet. But first, a bit of background….

In the fall of 2007 I ran my first marathon – the OBX marathon. I was (and am) proud of this achievement. But, in retrospect, it was a relatively easy marathon – to the extent that a marathon can be easy. I wanted more.

I got it a few months later, when I ran my first ultramarathon – the Holiday Lake 50K++. At 34(ish) miles through the woods on trails and fire roads, Holiday Lake bore little resemblance to the flat asphalt of OBX. I was hooked on running long distances through the woods. Still, I realized that as far as trail ultramarathons go, Holiday Lake was pretty tame, and there were bigger adventures to be had.

While realizing that I preferred trails, I returned to the roads for the Charlottesville Marathon a couple of months later. I wanted to run this one for two reasons. First, it was my hometown marathon, so I felt like I should check it off of the list. Second, it was supposed to be tough, with some big hills. I wasn’t disappointed.

So, I ran an “easy” marathon and then a more difficult one. I ran an “easy” ultramarathon and … you can guess what’s coming up next weekend. The Promise Land 50K++ ((thanks Keith Knipling for the great race report) is my next step along the ultramarathon progression. Billed as “The Toughest 50K You Will Ever Love”, it runs over the tallest mountain in central Virginia (twice), and boasts 7,300 feet of climb over its 34 miles. I think this one will constitute a “more difficult” ultramarathon.

And what after that? Assuming I get through Promise Land, there is no shortage of challenges to choose from. A 50K (even a Horton 50K++) is a short race, by ultramarathon standards. Ultras also come in 50 mile, 100K and 100 mile flavors, and some even push beyond that. As long as my knees, my wife, and the good Lord allow, there are lots of possibilities….

But first, I have to get through Promise Land.

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The Monster’s Revenge

April 8, 2009

Another Charlottesville 10-Miler is in the books. This one was #12 for me, or maybe #13. The only way I can keep track these days is by my race t-shirts, and the shirts from the first few years have long since been turned into dustrags.

My training had been sporadic enough that I knew a PR was unlikely unless I was willing to push myself to the point of injury, and in light of another adventure that I have planned for 3 weeks hence (more on that later), I didn’t want to do that. I just wanted to have an enjoyable race; one that wouldn’t leave me out of commission for several days afterward.

The only complicating factor was The Monster that I had created after last year’s race. He had been gunning for me for a solid year – training hard and talking untold amounts of smack. I had barely beaten him the year before, and I knew that he had both the motivation and the training on his side for this year’s race. I didn’t see a happy ending for either of us if we ran together – we’d probably push so hard that we’d both crash before seeing the finish line. My best chance was to hold back for the first half, then pick it up for the second half and see if I could catch and pass him with no gas left in his tank. That was the plan, anyway.

My daughter and I arrived at the start, and after giving her a quick hug (it had to be quick; her friends were watching), we parted ways to take our respective places in the growing throng of runners lining up at the start. I squeezed my way into the crowd a bit closer to the starting line than I typically do. I wasn’t planning on a kamikaze pace, but I didn’t want to have to waste too much time zig-zagging past slower runners. I looked around for The Monster, but didn’t spot him.

A couple of minutes later, and we were off. I’ve run this course so many times that it’s really almost routine, but it remains my favorite road race. I felt good through mile 6 – going somewhat faster than planned, but nothing too worrisome. Mile 7 was a bit of a challenge, as it often is for me on this course, but I was able to push through and even speed up a bit for the last couple of miles. I wound up finishing a couple of minutes off of last year’s time, but I was satisfied nonetheless.

Still no sign of The Monster. Where was he?

I found out via text message an hour or so later. He smoked me – big time – by 7 minutes.

I was happy for him.* He had put in the work; he deserved to win. Besides, there’s always next year.

In the meantime, other challenges await.

*I was also happy for my daughter. She cut 9 minutes off of her PR! It won’t be long before I’m going to be racing The Daughter as well as The Monster….