I have to give credit to Scott Breeden, who suggested I sign up for LLTH back in late december (?). I saw that the race was a great deal (50$)! and I went ahead and registered without looking at much else. In my usual procrastinating fashion, I finally started looking at the race statistics and reports the week before. I read several blogs suggesting there was upwards of 7000 feet of climbing with an equal amount of descent. Well ok, maybe thats why its called lovin the hills. Then I noticed the fastest times were getting slower over the years... Ok, so they added a few more climbs and a few extra miles to the course, sounds good to me. Even then, some very good trail runners were posting 50k times in the upper 4 hour, low 5 hour range. To me this says everything. Its a hard race. Well thats good, I like a challenge.
Friday morning I hit the road to bloomington to pick up LLTH vet Scott Breeden, and from there we made it to packet pickup with plenty of time to spare. The race swag was nothing too fancy, but we did receive very nice sweatshirts and a new copy of the latest trail runner magazine. The drive into Louisville had been scenic until we hit rush hour traffic, and then I had paid little attention to our surroundings, yet I was surprised by the lack of hills in the immediate Louisville area. Scott assured me that they were there, I took his word for it, and we headed to the pasta dinner where Scott's buddy Beau Hollis met us. We stayed at his place before the race, and he gave us the low down on what the course was going to be like and what we should expect for trail conditions.
After sleeping in a bed (maybe the 2-3rd time I've ever slept in a bed before an ultra), I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to go. I opted to wear the NB MT110s instead of a newly acquired pair of Asics Gel Fuji Racers, as I had only ran 7 miles in the Asics. Beau lived very close to the race start and after a short drive I saw some nasty looking hills jutting out of the horizon. Yup, this is going to be fun as I drove up a 2 mile long uphill to the race start, passing a trail crossing near the bottom of the climb. We got to the race start with plenty of time to spare, stayed warm in the car, and before I knew it, it was time to boogie.
The start was a little confusing as the 15 mile and 50k runners all start at the same time. I ran quite a bit harder than I knew was wise for the first 2-3 miles, but I really wanted to get out in front of anyone who may run slower on the technical long downhills. Pushing some of this section I noticed my heart rate edging near 180 bpm. This would be a constant theme throughout the day. After about 5 miles I rolled up to the first aid station, Beau had been meeting Scott (who was battling with the leaders all day) at each aid station, and was still at this one. He suggested I was 4-5 minutes behind them, which surprised me a little bit. Later I found out they didnt really start pushing the pace until mile 13 or 14.
I had begun picking off a couple 50k and15 mile runners who had started out too hard and were hurting pretty badly. At the second aid station (~13 miles) I noticed that one runner was gaining on me. I found that surprising and decided to run a couple climbs hard and see if I could dismay his attack. He was having none of it though and soon caught up to me, and suggested we run together for a little bit. I chatted with him for a few, found out his name was Harvey Lewis, and after running with him for a while, I could tell he was a strong and smart runner. Later I found out from Scott, he is an animal with several low 17 hour 100's to his credit as well as a Badwater finish.
Anyways, I ran with Harvey for probably 3 hours, and it was great having someone to talk to, he was a super nice guy and had a great hill strategy. One thing that I noticed was that he was easily running away from me on the technical steep downhills. That was a little surprising to me, as in the past very few people have been able to out downhill me. I found that the MT110s are not the perfect shoe as the upper seemed to stretch out a little bit and the thin firm midsole did not allow for serious downhill bombing. At one point I overfueled or underhydrated and found myself with a slight stomach cramp. I was running in the high 160s low 170s all day long and this likely was too high of a HR for one point when I ate a cookie, drank a swig of coke and then tried to eat a gel.
On the return trip from the final 15 mile out and back section I started to feel the implications of running at a high HR for 4 hours. I tripped, caught myself before I fell, took another 10 steps and tripped again and went down. Nothing serious, and I popped back up and continued running. Then maybe 5 minutes later, I tripped again. I decided it was time to slow down a little bit and collect myself for the remaining run. After slowing down for a little bit, my stomach crap disappeared and I felt reinvigorated. I started running the climbs again, slow and steady and passed a couple runners on two steep inclines and even caught back up to Harvey, even if only for a moment.
After passing the Bearcamp aid station, the last portion of the race is essentially a very long climb until you reach the finish. However, it was not super steep and I surprised myself by running almost the entire way. My GPS read almost 31 miles and the finish was not yet in site, after cursing once or twice, I remembered everyone was probably feeling the same way, and pushed on. I ran the last climb, saw the finish line and ran across in 5:23, good for 6th place and a free Montrail hat. Everyone's GPS had come in at a little over 33 miles, suggesting the course was a good deal longer than advertised. Scott had finished in an incredible 4:53, and he also reported that he had trouble keeping up on downhills in the MT110s. After getting some homeade soup, Beau and his friend Patrick took us to a fantastic BBQ hidden away in the countryside and then we went back to Beau's for showers before Scott and I headed back to Bloomington.
My overall thoughts about this race: 1) It is the hardest 50k I have ran (by far). 2) It is well organized and well planned. 3) There was a battle for places 1-3, but also places 4-9 were only about 10 minutes apart, suggesting that there were a lot of strong runners with a ton of guts. 4) The people were all very friendly, and it seemed like a family reunion for many runners.
|From L to R. Me, Beau, Scott. Post race (photo Beau Hollis)|
Avg HR: 171 (woah)
Fuel: 1 Peanut butter Gu, 1 Turbo Chocolate Cherry Clif shot, 1 Roctaine Gu, 1 package Margarita shot blocks, 1/2 package of lemon-lime shot blocks. 1 S!Cap and 3 bottles of water.
My GPS deleted the data I which I was very excited to look at :( but the elevation profile below is from last years race, which was a touch shorter, with apparently 1 less climb.