Saturday, September 29, 2012

2012 Megatransect Race Report

The Megatransect.  A trail marathon with 5,000' of vertical gain. Sold out in 90 minutes. 700 participants.

Rising from bed at 3am and spending a good part of 12 hours solo, both driving and running, leads to some random thinking. A few of my more pertinent, yet random race day thoughts in no particular order:

Could the trigger points in my soleus muscle be related to the shoes I wear or just the effect of pushing through fatigue and the accompanying sloppy running technique? 

Is my rapidly graying hair a result of excess cortisol production due to too much endurance training? Or did the stress of the excess endurance training trigger turn on my gray hair gene.

How much cardiac inflammation and ultimately cardiac scarring did I incur by averaging 169 bpm heart rate for 4.5 hours?

Does post-race gluten consumption influence my recovery? 

Do speed hikers have an issue with eating too closely to race time?

Does it really matter what type of shoes I wear?

Could a ketogenic diet enhance my performance in ultrarunning? Even if it does can I actually do it?

Why do most trail runners like the ups and the downs but not the flats?

Do real gentleman actually go to gentleman's clubs?

Why doesn't every race have deluxe porta potties such as the ones featured at the Hyner and Megatransect.....carpet and plush toilet paper!?

Why does my runner's high sometimes take 2.5-3 hours to kick in?

No one seems to talk about the runner's low experienced a day or two after completion of an event that required months of training. Why not?

My race went better than planned. Although I really didn't plan at all. The Megatransect course changes occasionally so I didn't pay much attention to the 2011 route on their website ( I figured they would put up the 2012 course map a day or two before the race. That never happened. Perhaps because the course didn't change (further review shows that it did change) or maybe they don't think it matters. Regardless, they had a map in the grab bag. Except that in the darkness of the 7am start I didn't  notice it. Either way, I knew the course was tough and would bring the usual dose of trail running pain.

The course starts with 3.5 miles of paved and forest roads leading to the first climb. On the way out we crossed a railroad track about located a mile from the start/finish area and I couldn't help but think of a long freight train lumbering through and ruining someone's day (or providing a chance for a much needed, but not gonna happen otherwise, break). This scenario makes for good TV coverage and always causes consternation in a certain French bike race during the month of July. As luck would have it a train did roll through sometime after 12:00. I'm sure it slowed someone down. 

With no trains in sight a group of 14 of us crossed the tracks incident free. Gradually the group began to splinter. 2 runners were a 1/4 mile clear heading into the woods with another group of two about 200 meters behind. The rest of us were a mix of young and old. Veterans and rookies. Those going out too hard and those ready to carry on  the pace to the finish. The group consisted of:  a guy with a mohawk and matching yellow shirt and shorts, two females matching each other stride for stride, another guy with a good bit of body odor already worked up (no one was running behind him for long), and my unremarkable form save for my rapidly graying hair and short stature. 

The first 6 miles were uneventful. I passed a few on the first steep section with a mix of hiking and running.  I passed a few who don't like running downhill on rocky terrain with the early leader a victim to the technical challenge.  I chatted with David Lister and Brennan Donnelly to pass the time. Brennan stated that he was in over his head running with us as David won the 2011 event. I zoned out a listened to the clank and clatter of rocks underfoot as the three of us descended in silence.  It reminded me of  "Thunder Rock" in Acadia National Park. Thunder Rock is apparently known for the thundering sound made when the tide is right and the ocean catches a pile of rocks submerged in a hollow and clashes them together. Naturally when I was there it sounded more like rocks in a washing machine without the metallic clang. Not to impressive. Yet when running downhill the rocks were clattering and I was happy to zone out and let the miles melt away. The first hour passed quickly and my mind snapped back to reality when "The Boulders" burst into view looming ominously above us. 

The Boulders is a section of trail that is essentially a river of giant boulders. If it were flat it would be simple hopping from rock to rock which isn't always simple. Even if it were that would be too easy. Instead it's a river or rocks on the side of a  mountain. So you have uneven hopping. Uphill. For a least a half-mile. I love this type of terrain. I left David and Brennan behind and quickly caught and passed Jeff. Far up rock slide I could see Jeff Smucker and Frank Leiter as the exited the boulder field and disappeared into the trees.
Courtesy of 2007 Mega
I ran solo for a few miles until I caught up to Smucker, with Leiter a hundred meters ahead. Smucker said the lead runner (J.J.) was running all the hills. If you have never run a trail race this might sound obvious. It is running after all. But once you run a trail race you realize the absurdity of running all the hills. For most of us it's not only impractical (energy spent with regard to ground covered) but an impossibility. If you are running all the hills early on either you are stupid or you are strong. Turns out J.J. was on form as he kept it up all the way for the win.

We arrived at the 10 mile aid station where Leiter was suffering from allergy fits. He was coughing with tremendous force. I questioned how he was feeling but he waived me past and said he would be fine. At this point I was in a tricky situation with regard to tactics. I slowly realized I was now in second place with 16 miles to go. Do I go all in and try to catch the lead runner with the hope that his early strategy of running the hills causes him to fade? 

I felt pretty good about my chances when I rolled in to the 14 mile aid station and got my first unofficial time check of 1:30 behind the leader. Those good feelings faded fast. By mile 16 my hip flexors were quivering. By the time I hit the mile 17 aid station I didn't even bother stopping. I didn't want to give up seconds to those chasing from behind.

My feet hurt, my left shoulder was tight (must have been the using my upper body for the first time in weeks on the slick ascent complete with safety rope....or perhaps the wicked descent to the creek where the rope caused a bit of burn before I let it go and almost slipped on my face) and my calves were starting to get twitchy.

The last 6 miles of trail were torturous. Every dropping acorn made me think that Frank, or Jeff, or David were padding down the trail on springy, frolicky, legs eager to make me pay for going out too hard, too soon. I set the goal of getting to Mile 22 aid station without getting caught by anyone. Once I got there I reset my thinking with the goal of getting down the mountain and onto the road without getting caught.

The last downhill tested my abilities. Each foot strike caused my hip flexor tighten. I wanted to let gravity take over and cruise down the mountain but my brain and my muscles couldn't get it together. I felt bockety to use a Frank McCourt term. Ever push that grocery cart with the wheel that is obstinate and causes a veering towards the cereal boxes? That about describes it.

I hit the road with the knowledge that there was a turn onto a flat, grassy strip leading to the finish (Thankfully David mentioned this on the run out at the start). My pace slowed dramatically when I hit the grass. It was easier physically than the downhill but the fading pace was wracking my brain. I glanced over my shoulder repeatedly while suffering through the last 1.5 miles; certain someone would have the legs to overtake my rapidly wilting form. I felt heavy and sluggish. I wanted to walk. I lumbered on. 

I finished in 4:32??? and was congratulated by J.J. who came in 6' earlier. He was chattering and bouncing like he had just warmed up for a 10 round bare knuckled boxing match. When asked how I felt he seemed taken aback when I flopped to the grass and elevated my feet on a bench. Sometimes the mind wants more than the body can take.

I captured one race photo:
First Place Female Ashley Moyer 
The Post Race Party was typical for the Grand Slam Series races which means it's anything but typical. Pulled pork, slaw, potato salad, pizza, the Sheetz truck with complimentary "real fruit" smoothies and coffee related drinks.  I got my twitching calves rubbed down. This caused a great deal of pain especially in the left soleus muscle. My feet could have used an epsom salt bath. Or just a long break.

Next up: Stone Mill 50

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