Terrapin Mountain 50K, Sedalia, Virginia 4,4

Elevation Range: 1092'-3783'      Elevation Gain: 6768'        RESULTS
March 18, 2017 

After a break from racing for six months and opting not to toe the line for six events I had registered for, Terrapin Mountain would serve as my return to racing following a long period of much-needed rest and injury recovery. I had announced to race director Clark Zealand that I would not return to Terrapin Mountain following a poor performance the previous time, but I love the Blue Ridge Mountains in this part of Virginia and have missed the welcome at races put on by Clark and David Horton.

Sitting relaxed in my car at 0600 after a good night's rest, I looked out at the string of head lights winding up the road toward the race venue at the Sedalia Center, which sits on a slight hill amid broad open fields. With four hundred entrants in two events, there were a lot of people arriving to test their mettle against the mountains on this 37-degree morning. The movie Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner came to mind as I watched the line of approaching lights: "If you build it, they will come." In its tenth year Clark had built something of great value that had now become a tradition or a new adventure for all these running folks. We had talked about it before; the explosion of interest in these trail race has far exceeded anything we all could have imagined only a few years ago. There is a certain gestalt here that is hard not to get caught up in.

Thinking about the task at hand in the final hour before the gong sounded, it was apparent that my enthusiasm for racing after all these years was not what it used to be. After heading out from most of 500 starting lines, the thrill no longer runs up my leg, but once the race begins there seems always to be this magical transformation. Thoughts of any sort are turned off and my animal instincts honed through all the experience take over. I no longer think; I am conditioned to focus on each unfolding step, each breath and act as if it was the most important thing in my life.

I've written hundreds of accounts about race day. Each one is different; each one is a worthy story unlike any other; each holds some jewel to celebrate and grow in wisdom. The early part of Terrapin climbs a couple thousand feet in the first four miles of road and singletrack before giving back the altitude over the following five miles of gravel road. The climb was mostly about finding your place in line and hoping the queue matches your ability. It was not too bad, with a good balance of walking and running. Arriving at the top I coasted over with all systems good.

You never know how your body will respond until you are out there doing it. With a stress fracture to my right navicular meta-tarsal, a very tender left knee and the usual wincing lumbar pain, I probably should be seeking disability rather than racing technical trails, but I still adhere to the philosophy of "hobble on, hobble on" and count on the endorphins take care of any discomfort.

Sections of the road were covered with slippery ice from the previous evening's rain storm and freezing morning temperatures. Everyone around me seemed to dance or glissade over the ice without incident. From there to the bottom it was mostly about letting gravity do the work while protecting the quads from over-hammering.

After the turn at the bottom, the real climbing began, first on the road, then easy on single track trails before finishing back where the descent began on the same road. Temps were warming nicely; while over-dressed for sure, I was comfortable in my wool fleece and lycra support pants. Not having my climbing muscles yet, after a winter off, I alternated light running with walking to keep the effort aerobic while gaining a certain amount of training effect at the beginning of the season.

Everything was good until after mile 19 when I opted to back it off on the downhills to protect an increasingly sensitive stress-fractured foot. The legs continued to perform well and I still had the aerobics to march the steep and muddy climb up to the summit and overlook of Terrapin Mountain proper. Coming down was a different story. Very greasy with mud and perhaps some ice underneath. After squeezing my skinny buns through Fat Man's Misery (pic at right) I encountered some S&R personnel evacuating an unfortunate racer who had broken her ankle on the mountain. The med-evac would have been treacherous on that slippery grade. There were at least a dozen volunteers prepared to bring that runner back to safety. I thanked them all for going above and beyond.

The final miles on fire trails and back down the way we came were at a leisurely tempo. I had no reason to run faster and enjoyed looking around at the beauty just enough so as not to trip and fall. I was pleased to stride it in with good control, ittle fatigue, and no hard breathing. Clark was waiting with a smile and friendship hug along with Rebekah Trittipoe who I enjoyed sharing a few middle miles with on the course. Always wonderful to see Clark.

I wasn't tired or even very sore. Cleaning up first with some wet wipes I grabbed some post-race chow before heading out for my next adventure. All day I was holding back a little bit knowing that the day after would hold more climbing and dancing on technical trails up and down Three Ridges and the Priest, only an hour north on the Appalachian Trail. The 50K was just a warm up!!!

It was a good day to return to racing... and a good effort to measure my fitness. Coming in under 7 hours was good enough. More significant tests lie ahead. I am on track. Clark puts on a good show; the volunteers were everything one could hope for and the cameraderie of fellow racers was worth the entry fee and sweat. Prayers are with the woman who broke her ankle; may she return next year and cross the finish line with an even better story.



the climb up to the summit

atop Terrapin Summit

the climb down Fat Man's Misery