|Thanks, Jobie Williams, for making me look like I still had spring in my step.|
This race was kind of a last minute decision for me. My training plan for Pinhoti called for a 30 mile long run that day and a race sounded way more appealing than yet another solo long run. I caught a ride with Cary Long, who had also arranged for a sweet "house sitting" gig at Daniel Lucas' home, who happened to be out of town and strangely enough was comfortable with Cary and myself staying at his house unsupervised. Two thing stood out from our stay at Daniel's house. First, we tripped the home security system and spent roughly an hour waiting for the SWAT team to bust down the door while sitting on the living room in our boxers with bags of white powder in our hands. It would have looked really really bad. This is the short version, Cary already described the details in his blog post and a recent podcast interview on East Coast Trail & Ultra Runners. Second, we couldn’t get the coffee maker to work as our combined IQ apparently wasn’t enough to operate Daniel’s fancy espresso machine. That meant no coffee first thing in the morning, which could (but thankfully didn’t) throw a wrinkle into my morning routine.
We got up early Saturday morning to give ourselves time to stop somewhere for some coffee before heading up Raccoon Mountain for the race. We scooped up David Thurman at a local coffee shop and headed to the race. We arrived an hour before race start giving ourselves plenty of time to mingle, since we had picked up our race packets the night before. I had no plans for this race other than to cover the distance and maybe pick it up a bit at the end. Unfortunately, mild early morning temps made everyone including myself feel extra confident. I think it resulted in many folks starting much faster than usual and resulting in more carnage late in the race along with slower overall times. Case in point, I was reduced to little more than a slow shuffle for most of the final 10k as a result of muscle cramps I wasn’t able to shake even with liberal amounts of base salt.
The early stages of the race went well, I was moving at a decent clip and I hydrated well. However, I didn’t eat much, expecting to be able to rely on electrolyte fluids at the aid stations. Unfortunately, I ended up having to drink more water than usual and not electrolyte drink, which I think contributed to the onset of muscle cramps later in the race. I ran my own race, occasionally connecting and running along with a runner here and there, making new friends along the way.
The StumpJump course is not only very challenging with over 4000ft of climbing, it is also extremely scenic, so if you can spare the time, take your phone or camera along and snap some pics of the valley and river views, you won’t regret it. Even when I run a race as a training run, I am usually in “racing mode” missing out on those picture opportunities. As the race went on and my muscle cramps slowly set in, I opted to slow down my pace immediately. After all, this was a training race and I was in no mood for a death march. While I was able to avoid that, I wasn’t able to race at the pace I had originally envisioned. As a result, a 5:30 goal turned into a 6:09. But while I thought that I was somewhere in the middle of the field, I was actually still near the top 20 when I finished.
Apparently, everyone ended up slightly slower than anticipated. I’m sure the early morning temps had everyone running a bit more aggressive early on and possibly pay the price later in the day. At least that’s what happened to me. I felt pretty good crossing the finish line and while I waited for my fellow Huntsville peeps to finish the race, I had the opportunity to catch up with old friends and even make some more new ones. I love the ultra running community!
Quite a few of us had a tougher than expected day, but the burgers served at the finish line more than made up for it. The weather was perfect and friends and food abundant, how can you not have a great day. This was my second SJ50K finish and while slower than expected, it was still a big time course PR.