Terrapin Mountain 50K, Sedalia, Virginia 4,4

Elevation Range: 1092'-3783'      Elevation Gain: 6768'        RESULTS
March 22, 2014 -  I should be disappointed that I didn't perform up to expectations
at this event, but I'm not. Getting out in the mountains to climb and dance with the
rocks in the sunshine did me good after a winter of flatland running.  While I was
primed to do well here I could not have anticipated coming down with my first
viral infection of the entire winter, coinciding precisely with the race.  I felt the
cramps coming on late Friday afternoon before driving the four hours up to the
race venue in Virginia, hurting enough that I knew better than to eat anything.
Arriving at the start after dark at about 10:30 I kicked back to rest in the car the
balance of the night, but was hungry and crampy, so didn't sleep much.

After picking up my race number and a quick holler at Clark Zealand and David
Horton, the old grouch lined up with the other 400 participants in the 50K and half
marathon to head into the mountains at an otherwise perfect 48-degree breaking
of the dawn.  Legs were good so I moved easily up the first mile of road before
hitting the woods on a jeep trail that would climb a ways before shrinking to single
track for another three miles and two thousand feet to the first aid station at four
miles.  Once the race began I forgot about my troubles and turned to engaging my
strategy - easy and steady, holding back enough to go when the real race began.

It took about 54 minutes to arrive at Camping Gap Aid Station after crossing one 
stream and slogging through plenty of melt water from snow that had blanketed
these mountains only days before.  The woods was bare otherwise and still deep
in the throes of winter.  The back side of the first climb was a quick descent of
five miles on a firmly packed gravel road.  After a swallow of cold water on top I
welcomed my old friend gravity and rolled evenly down the road, generally holding
my place in the field with those around me.  The descent was comfortable without
pushing it; the quads seemed prepared to take on more, but I held back a bit
through nine miles.  The force of the downhill effort began to make my stomach
feel like one big side stitch, most likely from the stomach flu I was suffering from.
I have been sick during events before, even foolishly running ultras twice with 
feverish pneumonia, but I wasn't sure what to expect with a crampy stomach like this.

Once the course started climbing again I began to assert my climbing skills and 
move on the field over the next seven miles to the halfway point back at the
Camping Gap Aid Station.  Alternating running with walking I passed perhaps a 
dozen runners and was feeling reasonably good, despite the cramping that eased
a bit during the climb.  Reaching the half way point in three hours, I still felt I 
could finish the course under six hours with my closing abilities, but the next
five-mile section up over Wild Oak Ridge and back shut me down.

While running uphill was fine I had to slow to nearly a walk on even mild down
grades to handle the pain in my stomach.  I discovered that the Shot Bloks I was
eating through the first half were not moving from my stomach, and they were
likely impeding the fluids I was drinking from passing through.  My stomach was
knotted and filling up with everything I was putting into my mouth; I wasn't
getting any energy to my muscles, and worse, I wasn't rehydrating my body.  This
I discovered when both calf muscles began to severely cramp to the point of having
to stop, even though I was eating two S-caps every hour.

I needed to slow to allow my stomach to empty.  I couldn't eat anything more for the
balance of the event and drank sparingly until things started to relax and open up.
Needless to say, my race was over.  I aimed to finish, but took whatever time
necessary to get it done, forgetting about expectations and finish time.  From mile
21, I made the steep climb up Terrapin Mountain for most of a mile at literally a
turtle's pace.  There was no power walk left in me, even though I wasn't feeling any
tiredness.  At the top I stopped to appreciate the view in full sunshine, took a couple
pictures of a girl that was doing the same, then casually walked along the ridge,
truly enjoying being there.  The views were fantastic, reminding me of many a
hike along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia and North Carolina in years past.  I was
in absolutely no hurry.

The descent off Terrapin Mountain was tortuous for my stomach.  I had to walk very
gently to prevent muscle spasms in my calves, but the main problem was still the
painful knot in my stomach.  It took forever, but I got to the bottom with perhaps
five plus miles to go.  Surprisingly, very few people passed me on the descent, despite
my arduously slow progress.  As the route shifted to easier terrain more than thirty
mid-pack runners eased on by me, sometimes walking, as I just couldn't generate
any power or speed, given my circumstances.

Temperatures had moved up into the mid sixties and it turned out to be a near 
perfect day.  I crawled along at 4 mph on the level and down hill to the finish in
6:54:40, having to stop and dry heave even to manage that.  It was just one of
those days, but I learned a long time ago that it is always a matter of how you
react to the day's circumstances.  I kept my poker face to the end and didn't
draw any judgment from having to slow and give up at least an hour for being sick.
There was no anger or disappointment, but I wasn't in too social a mood, so departed
for my long drive up to Pennsylvania after changing clothes and relaxing for a half hour.

It was a pretty course, by and large, and the day was enjoyable, regardless.  Clark
Zealand is a gentleman and good RD, not the showman that Horton is, but it is 
always a pleasure to be in their company.  Volunteers were generous right to the end.
The events of the Beast Series always live up to their reputation for quality and 
challenge.  Glad I did Terrapin, but I won't be back.  The fields are getting bigger than
I like, so I will likely seek out smaller venues with equal challenge in the future.  My
only advice to RD's is to KEEP IT SMALL.  Create more events, but keep the fields 
small to preserve the original spirit of the sport.  We like to run far back into the
hidden recesses of the mountains and canyons to escape the crowds and find peace in
a gentle or challenging solitude with nature; let's leave the crowds in the city.



the climb up to the summit

atop Terrapin Summit

the climb down Fat Man's Misery