Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lord Hill 50K Trail Race

Last Sunday I ran the Lord Hill 50K Trail Race; my second trail race and my second ultra marathon . With nothing planned for the start of the year I needed some encouragement to kick start my running in the New Year. In the first few months of the year there are very few organized races, but the Lord Hill race at the end of February seemed like a somewhat aggressive but attainable goal, and despite the fact they offered a 5 mile, 10 mile, 20 mile and 50 kilometer race, I figured I might as well sign up for the full thing and do 50K. I was surprised to find out my wife signed up shortly after me (but for the much more reasonable distance of 10 miles). The course was a 10 mile course with the 50K races doing the 10 mile course 3 times, then a small 1.1 mile loop at the end.

Immediately I discovered my training schedule was going to be very limited with Tuesday’s devoted to City League ski racing and Saturday’s devoted to taking my daughters up skiing for lessons. I tried to get in as many runs as I could with my usual 6.5 mile maintenance and a longer weekend run when I could pull it off. By the time of the race I had only managed 2 runs on trails, and only one run over 10 miles in length. Add to my severe lack of training, the weather forecast was calling for 1 to 2 inches of snow between 10 AM and 4 PM on the day of the race; this would be exactly the time I would be running. I knew I was in trouble.

As the day of the race came around, I tried to reassure myself that I wasn’t trying to set any records with this race, and that I wouldn’t push myself too far and I would drop out if it was no longer prudent to run. On race day I awoke to pretty much blue skies in Seattle, and I figured my concerns about the weather were unwarranted and the forecast (as always in Seattle) was wrong. We drove on out to Lord Hill Park near Monroe, WA but as we neared Monroe the skies suddenly were filled with clouds. Upon arriving at the start of the race, one of the parking volunteers commented that he hoped we had really good mud shoes, and that the race was going to start with a river crossing.

A pre-race briefing was provided to the 20 mile and 50K racers at 8:15, then the 20 mile and 50K race was to begin at 8:30. However, just before the race was to begin it started snowing. As the race kicked off we ran about 100 yards, before crossing the previously mentioned “river”. The river turned out to be little more than a creek that could easily be jumped over; however I found out that as I did my second and third loop of the course the creek became increasingly more difficult to jump over.

The small creek was the least of my worries during the race. After about half a mile the course turned sharply up “Oh Lord Hill”, a steep series of climbs, straight up a hill on a narrow muddy single track trail. The hill was steep enough so that pretty much everyone just walked it. After “Oh Lord Hill” the rest of the course was a beautiful (albeit very muddy) single track course winding though woods, along creeks, and past a large pond. There was an aid station at the 4 mile point on the 10 mile loop, which worked out to be a great spacing as the majority of the effort was put into the first mile of the course as you climbed “Oh Lord Hill”. The first loop was interesting with snow falling and the course receiving a little dusting of snow, but by the second loop the snow had stopped, and by the third loop the sun was out. I now had no excuse not finish this race.

At the end of my third loop I was greeted by my two daughters and wife (who had time after she completed her race to drive an 45 minutes, pick up my daughters, have lunch with them, do some shopping, then drive back 45 minutes to the race course, and wait 45 minutes before I finished loop 3). After thanking them for meeting me I headed out for the final 1.1 miles (and the most difficult 1.1 miles I’ve ever run).

When the race was over I ended up finishing in 7 hours and 29 minutes and coming in 39th place out of 55 racers. Not a ranking that is going to win me any prizes, but one that I am proud of anyways. And now with a couple of days to recover and some time to contemplate the race, I find myself looking on the internet trying to find the next race and a little bit surprised by the fact that I can’t wait to run my next 50K.