Saturday, April 25, 2015

Race Report - 2015 Double Top 100K (50K)

Amazing view from the Cool Springs overlook on the race course.
While I had sworn to never ever do the Double Top race again (I finished the inaugural Double Top 100 Miler in 2012), getting in to the 2015 edition of Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc meant that I had to find the toughest races out there leading up to UTMB to get myself ready for the ridiculous amount of climbing I'd have to do. With that in mind, the Double Top course was a logical selection. However, I did feel that the 100K distance would throw enough elevation gain my way (15,000ft) to be a meaningful training race.

Unfortunately, I couldn't convince any other running buddies to join me this year, mainly because a local stage race took place over the same weekend. Oh well, I've been on my own on plenty of these road trips and I needed the training. I wasn't in stellar shape at this time, but I had been able to complete my first real 3 week training cycle since finishing Mt Cheaha 50K in February. Since then, I had been plagued with getting sick twice as well as deal with a nagging ankle tendon injury that kept me away from running for multiple 2 week blocks at a time. In short, not really conducive to productive ultra training. However, with my goal race still months away, now was the time to be same about injuries, so I do not regret the loss of fitness for the opportunity to let the injury heal.

I had completed the Georgia Death Race a month earlier with very little training as I was still in the midst of dealing with the ankle tendon, but I managed to finish it. I felt better prepared for this race as I had actually completed a solid training block with weekly mileage of +70 along with a weekly elevation gain between 7,000-10,000ft. Not too bad for the first training cycle.

My main goal for Double Top was to stay relaxed and to enjoy the journey. The field of runners was extremely small, so I knew I would be out there by myself for most of the day. I had a secondary goal of getting done in about 15 hours, but that goal was really secondary. The weather looked like it would not cooperate once again with thunderstorms rolling in the night before the race. With the weather forecast looking iffy at best, I decided to take the early race start option to hopefully get some running in before the trails were completely destroyed by rain and mud. Thankfully, the rain stopped about an hour into my race.

The race course consists of 20 mile loops with 5,000ft of elevation gain, definitely not a race course for the faint of heart. It includes 2 major climbs (powerline section and the Cool Springs switchback section) as well as the deceivingly long climb back from the Pinhoti Connector out & back section. I managed to get lost only once (at the turnaround spot at the top of the race course). Other than that, the first loop was pretty uneventful. In fact, I actually enjoyed most of the course with the exception of a short cambered section of trail that made me worry about my left ankle again. Thankfully, the ankle never flared up. I completed the first loop in 5 hours and that included lots of running in the dark, so I was feeling pretty good about my pace.

I started the second loop feeling pretty good and only slightly frustrated that I spent 10 minutes trying to figure out which way to go. We now had full daylight and I knew that it would get slightly warmer and that the humidity would be higher just because of the overnight rain. However, that didn't become an issue until the second time up the powerline climb. While this course has some amazing scenery (even from the powerline climb), you just kinda have to put your hands on your quads, put your head down and keep on climbing. I had brought my trekking poles, but was planning to keep them in my pack until the third and final loop. I'm not sure they would have made a difference at this point in the race. However, when I approached the top of the climb, I was clearly overheating. I didn't feel like eating or drinking and I was slightly nauseous. I'm not sure why, but I immediately started the inner discussion to stop this race early. I was about 35 miles into the race and I really didnt feel like doing another marathon. This isn't usually like me, but I just wasn't that motivated to finish this thing. I realized that my ankle had covered the entire distance so far without any inflammation, so I didn't want to push it. I was overheating, which I also used as an excuse.

However, I did decide to at least complete the second loop, so I'd get the other major climb in before I'd call it a day. I managed to hook up with Richard Hulsey on the last 7 miles of this loop, a fellow ultra runner who was volunteering out here this weekend and who was intimately familiar with this park as he does regular trail maintenance here to assist the park rangers. His company made the final 7 miles much more bearable and enjoyable. It was like getting a tour of the park by a local. However, as much as I enjoyed this last section...and the other sections before, it did not deter from the fact that I just wasn't fully vested into finishing this thing. When I arrived at the top of the park to complete my last loop, I saw RD Perry and I tapped out. Even Perry's kind words of encouragement to continue (or was he insulting me? I can't remember;-) didn't change my mind. He did, however, give me an official 50K finish, but obviously I didn't qualify for official awards not did I want to. My failure to complete the official distance definitely shouldn't be rewarded. However, I do appreciate the fact that Perry gave me the finish for the shorter distance.

On that note, I want to thank all of the awesome volunteers that were out there this weekend. They took great care of me and I can't express my gratitude enough. It is often the same faces that volunteer at these events that often extend over multiple days and while it is a rewarding experience to volunteer, it isn't always fun and games. In fact, it is often way more exhausting than actually running an event. So, thanks again to all of you!

Hell of an elevation profile for 42 miles:-)

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