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Viaduct Trail Ultramarathon - RunUltra Marathon

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Lanesboro, Pennsylvania
United States
79F / 26C
Total Time = 9h 43m 41s
Overall Rank = /
Age Group = F
Age Group Rank = 2/
Pre-race routine:

At the beginning of the year, when I started seriously looking at running my first 100 miler this summer or fall I had initially looked at the Headland Hundred. I was living in California at the time and loved the atmosphere at the PCTR races, not to mention it was a beautiful course. But with graduation looming and an uncertain future, I held off on registering. Then in April I landed a good job, but it required moving all the way to New Jersey. So I quickly started looking at ultras on that side of the country. I found the VTU, which would be run on the same weekend as HH. But the similarity stopped there. Running trails in CA I was used to hills, and lots of them. I signed up for the hilly races (Diablo 50) for the extra challenge. But VTU has less than 4000’ of climbing. To me, that’s like a blueberry pancake... damn near flat!
Running a flat course may seem like an advantage, but as I found out in July it is not necessarily easier. Faster, yes. Running long distances on an entirely flat course represents a different challenge. There are no hills that force you to take walking breaks. No hills to work different muscle groups. No hills to break up the monotony of running solo for several hours on end. Instead of sore quads after long runs, I had sore knees. I was going out and running non-stop for 40 miles until the pain hit and mandated walk breaks. This would not work. But at this point, it was now 2 weeks until race day, and no time left for long runs. I would just have to venture into unknown territory on race day, possibly trying out something new.

I began to stress about how painful the last half of the race would be. Would I be able to walk on Monday? Would the pain prevent me from sleeping? Would I be doing permanent damage to my knees? How would I make the 3 hour drive home, exhausted and in pain? But then I started to think about the running through the night aspect that is inevitable in a 100 miler. With a field of 25 runners, only 11 of whom would start the 100 miler, it would be pretty lonely on the 12.5 mile long trail. I had no pacer or crew. I would have to rely on a night training run at the end of March, my lights, and mental toughness. And the hope that maybe I would hook up with another runner for at least part of the night-time running.

Down to the last week before the race I realized it was time to pull things together. I still had not made any hotel reservations. The part of me that was freaking out about running at night was telling me to drop out. I decided it was time to suck it up and act like I was actually going to run the whole damn race. Worst case scenario would be a DNF. I may not finish, but I should at least put my best foot forward. I had put in a solo 100K as my longest training run 2 weeks prior to the race. After that, I logged only a few runs before race day. I figured at that point I had done all I could and just wanted to have fresh legs on race day. Well... until I joined a gym a few days prior... and tweaked my lower back lifting weights.
Event warmup:

Race day: I had packed everything up the night before, since I would need to be up in the middle of the night to make the 3 hour drive out. Up at 1:30a, and after running back in 2x to make sure I grabbed everything and turned off the alarm, was rolling down the road by 2a. I knew I hadn’t packed enough for breakfast, so I was ecstatic to find that Dunkin Donuts is open 24 hours. Score! Bagel and coffee. (I am now a huge Dunkin fan... anything open 24/7 gets a big star in my book). The drive turned out to be long and boring – didn’t see many signs of civilization, not many cars, and it got worse as I got closer to the race. Last 10 miles were on po-dunk little roads with no lane markers. Did see a porcupine crossing the road, but since my camera was in the back, I didn’t have time to get a pic. Finally got there at 5am, with one hour to get prepped. There were several cars there already, but no activity, presumably people who had spent the night sleeping under the Viaduct. After lounging in my car in the dark for a while, I puttered around, making last minute switched of gear between my drop bags, chatting with a few people, and eventually heading over to race check in.
  • 9h 43m 41s
  • 50 miles
  • 11m 40s  min/mile

Finally at a couple minutes past 6am, after a song and prayer, we were off! More than half of the people were running the 50M, so I knew I would have to be careful not to go out too hard. I kept thinking about something I had read on the RW Trail forum last year regarding pacing in a 100: “if you think you are going too slowly, go slower” or something to that effect. Basically, you can’t start out too slow, but if you go too hard then you will really suffer late in the race. The course was a 12.5 mile stretch of trail with a very gradual – almost imperceptible – incline on the way out to the turnaround, with 1 small “gorge” which required walking.

The first leg out went well, I made it to the turnaround in 2:26 – passing the other 100M woman shortly before. Pacing was right on target, and I made a quick stop, passing a guy as I left. On the way back I picked up the pace – partially because I was thoroughly warmed up and it was slightly downhill. Near the 25 mile mark I knew that I was probably pushing it a bit much, so I backed off. Hit 25 miles in 4:44, took a good 5 minutes at the AS there as my left arch and right knee were hurting. Headed back out, still shooting for 75 miles or more. Then next few miles were pretty sluggish as my stomach worked on the Ensure I had downed at the AS. Ever since about a mile into the race I had been running alone – nobody in sight ahead or behind. My goal for the time being was to keep my pace to hold off the other woman and to get in as many miles as I reasonably could before dark. Then things started to go downhill.

About 5 miles out the of 25-mile aid station I developed a pain on the outside of my right foot, behind my ankle bone. It was a mysterious pain – starting suddenly as I was cruising up the trail. Walking didn’t really seem to help, but the pain wasn’t bad, so I kept on going. That was my first mistake. Over the 7.5 miles to the turnaround the pain got a bit worse and I knew my race would be over when I hit 50 miles. I knew that if I hadn’t already injured myself, that pushing beyond 50 would very likely result in injury. At the turnaround (7:22 into the race), the volunteer asked how I was doing, and offered a ride back to the start/finish. I declined, but told him I would be stopping at 50. That was mistake number 2.

As I headed back down the trail, the pain seemed to get worse. Three miles back (9.5 to go) it topped out at what I would call “severe” and I was forced to walk/limp for a while... then run/shuffle/limp. It should have been obvious to me that I was in serious trouble at this point, but I kept on moving forward. As the pain seemed to recede, I was able to resume running. After the turnaround at 37.5 miles, and the decision to call it a day at 50 miles, I had been running as hard and fast as I felt I could sustain – which was somewhere around 10:00/mile. In fact, after the pain decreased, I hammered down the last 6.5 miles of trail non-stop at better than 10:00/mile, flying past a couple people, and eating very little (I hadn’t grabbed enough food at the last stop). It was good mental training, forcing myself to keep pushing and digging deep, as I was aiming to finish in under 10 hours. In the last few miles I saw a few guys headed out for the second half of the hundred. Finally I hit the old bridge indicating only a couple hundred yards to go. I was disappointed at having to drop (finished in 9:43:41). The course had actually turned out to be slightly more challenging than I had anticipated (which was still far easier than my last race), and I think a lot of people noticed this in their times.

Energy-wise I felt great. I had put in the miles, I had paced myself well, and was mentally prepared to do at least 75 miles – to the point that the 50 I had run seemed “short”. I must have looked a lot better than I felt, as everyone seemed surprised that I was dropping. After cooling down however, the ankle continued to get more painful and I limping around quite a bit. I hung around chatting with people for over an hour after I had finished. The other woman attempting 100 had taken a spill around 40 miles, abrading her knee, and dropping out. Another woman there, who had DNF’d the 50 (her first attempt), thought she had been crazy to sign up for this, but I kept assuring her that she was in good company as we were all crazy.

The race turned out to be fairly uneventful for me. Weather was great – upper 70s, moderately humid and partly sunny. No animal encounters, no GI issues, no gear problems. A group of annoying guys on ATV roaring up and down the narrow trail (had to stop 3x in last 18 miles). A few die-hard volunteers cheering us on and some really friendly, encouraging front-runners. Just a nice day to be out enjoying the trails. Despite DNFing, I feel privileged to be able to go out and run such long distances on gorgeous trails.
What would you do differently?:

Lessons learned: Out running the race, I was having serious doubts about whether or not it was a good idea to run 100 miles. My right knee had started hurting at 16 miles (and is still a bit sore as I write this 3 days later). However, I think making sure I train properly, building a solid base, and wearing new shoes instead of old ones to a race might help this. My other big concern was running through the night alone. Turns out the race directors were willing to pace anyone who needed/wanted a pacer through the night. Now that I’ve met a few other crazies in the area, I might be able to coerce somebody into pacing me through my next attempt. Oh yeah... and running through pain is a very bad idea... very bad. It sucks to drop out of a race, especially when the pain doesn’t seem so bad, but being injured sucks waaay more. Trust me...
Post race

Last updated: 2008-07-24 12:00 AM
09:43:41 | 50 miles | 11m 40s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
This was actually a DNF from the 100 mile category.
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Bad
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Too easy
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2008-08-12 9:23 AM

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Subject: Viaduct Trail Ultramarathon

2008-08-12 11:58 AM
in reply to: #1596709

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Subject: RE: Viaduct Trail Ultramarathon
Amazing race! Hope the knee feels better.
2008-08-13 8:52 AM
in reply to: #1596709

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Subject: RE: Viaduct Trail Ultramarathon
Sorry to hear about the ankle.  You are a resilient trooper. 
2008-08-13 10:06 AM
in reply to: #1596709

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