Sunday, August 28, 2016

Race Report - 2016 Yeti Snakebite 50K

The bounty of my labor.
It had been a while since I'd toed the starting line of an ultra marathon. The longest time between ultras for a while. In fact, crossing the finish line at the Cruel Jewel 100 Miler, I was ready to take a serious break from ultras. It was time to recover and do some stuff just for fun. Not that I don't love running, but training for an ultra is always a serious time commitment and it requires one to be somewhat serious about their training. Anyway, I decided to just run for fun and not race for a while, I started to dabble a little in mountain biking and road cycling, attempted a couple of MTB time trials and logged a few century rides on my newly acquired road bike. But it was time to get back for some fun in the mountains. Heck, I couldn't even remember the last time I ran a local 5K. I started to look at my calendar and it looked pretty blank. Time to fill 'er up. The Yeti Snakebite 50K had been on my calendar, but I wasn't even close to tackle this race as a competitor, so I decided to start properly training again in August and to use the Yeti as a fun training race with friends. I knew a lot of other Huntsville runners would be there, so hopefully I would have some company as I trudged through the woods.

Race day approached and the training schedule I had started to follow in early August was going well. In the meantime, I continued to enjoy road cycling three to four times a week. I was enjoying both. In fact, I enjoyed both so much that I came up with a silly idea. There was a 100 mile road cycling event taking place just outside Birmingham, AL (North Jefferson Century Ride) Saturday morning and the Yeti Snakebite wouldn't start until 7PM that evening. Theoretically, it should be possible to do both and if I kept my HR low during both events, I might actually make it and not be completely destroyed afterwards, so my thought process. I started to take a closer look at the logistics, like how fast I had to ride to give myself enough time to drive from Birmingham to Atlanta and still make it to the starting line of the Yeti Snakebite and how I would try to recover and refuel during the 2-3 hours between events to have the energy to do this. Once I was reasonably sure that I could at least attempt to do this, I registered for the century ride and booked a cheap motel in Birmingham for Friday night.

During the KOM segment of the Century Ride.
I arrived at the start of the Century Ride without any problems. I was proudly wearing my new "North Alabama Express Cycle Club" kit for the very first time. It is a fantastic kit and it makes it extremely easy to find your fellow club mates at these big events. With over 5000ft of elevation gain I soon found out that this 100 miler was nothing to sneeze at, especially considering that it was (only) part 1 of my fun filled Saturday. Thankfully, I rode with an awesome group the entire day, making such a ride seem much easier than it really is. In the midst of this ride (at mile 70), I even managed to won a little KOM competition put on by the ride organizers. As we approached the finish line, I was still feeling good, but my mind had been doing the math for much of the final hours of the ride, hoping that I would have enough time to make it to Atlanta for the Yeti Snakebite.

A quick group picture after riding the 100 miler.
After a quick finish line photo with my fellow cycle club riders, a shower at the nearby local gym and an amazing free cheeseburger and fries to go (courtesy of Burger Heaven, one of the main sponsors of this awesome event), it was time to put the pedal to the metal (all within the speed limits, of course) and I was on my way to Sweetwater Creek State Park outside of Atlanta. I arrived 35 minutes prior to the race start, barely enough time to get my bib and try to find the other Huntsville runners to at least say hello. I was slightly stressed at this point, but I quickly reminded myself that I was about to be in the woods for a few hours and to just enjoy it.

Cary Long and I decided to run together for at least the first loop. I reminded him to run his race and to not be concerned about my pace as I was in for a long day. I had no idea what my body would allow me to do and I was carefully watching my HR, literally walking each and every bump in the trail. I never do this in a race, but this was a training race and I wanted to keep my HR sub-aerobic. I was also very thankful that this was my plan as any attempt to try to go a little harder truly felt like more effort than I wanted to exert at this time. Two miles into the run I made another observation, one bottle was not enough for the first 5-6 mile section until the water stop. I was out of water, so I definitely needed to keep it slow. I guess I was already running in the negative as a result of the century ride earlier in the day. I planned to take it even easier now and to grab my UD vest once we completed loop 1 (of 3) so I would have access to two bottles, instead. Cary and I stayed together until we completed loop 1. At that pint, Cary continued on while I "dashed" (more like slowly walked) to my car to grab my vest and change into a dry shirt and hat before heading out for loop 2.

It took me a long time, but I would eventually catch back up to Cary, David Nast and first time ultra runner (and now finisher) Alli Law. I would spend the next two loops running with either one or all of them. In fact, had I not, I would have been reduced to one bottle for the remainder of the race (thanks again, David) due to what I call "a little incident" during the second river crossing, where I not only lost my footing but seemingly one of my collapsible water bottles as well. Some shouting for assistance and accusations of drunken and disorderly conduct ensued (from me directed at the aid station workers, who, unbeknownst to Cary, I happen to know). Thanks for the shot of moonshine on my third loop, Franco, it was delicious:-) Cary was sure a fight was about to break out, which was a funny thought considering the setting. I guess you had to be there to understand:-)

If memory serves me right, Cary started to fall back a little and I continued on with David and Alli, but my memory gets a little fuzzy here towards the end of loop 2. After all it was now almost midnight and my brain was showing the effects of a long day of endurance events. At this point, the thoughts of quitting after one loop that Cary and I threw back and forth at each other during that first loop had long passed. There was no question I was going to complete loop 2 and continue on to loop 3. The only question would be how long it would take me. I refilled my bottles and ate some cookies and pieces of banana after completing loop 2. I was ready to get this thing done and enjoy a cold brew a third of a Subway sandwich that David had promised to both Alli and I as we were out there. Oh the things we treasure when out in the woods to run an ultra. Lesson of the day: All it takes is the promise of an ice cold beer and a third of a sandwich to get you to the finish line of an ultra marathon. Thanks again so much David, it really did keep me going:-)

David, Alli and I ran a large part of loop 3 together, but with 3 miles to go, I could smell the barn. I was ready to get done. My legs felt surprisingly well at this point, so I decided to pick it up a bit. I continued this little push all the way to the finish, glad to not have quit, allowing me complete an interesting and fun filled day of endurance adventures. Thanks again to everyone I cycled and ran with on this day. Each and every one of you had a big part in my completing this little challenge I had set out for myself and congrats to everyone that finished!

One happy finisher with beer in hand:-)

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