Posts Tagged ‘running’

Wild and Wonderful: Capon Valley 50k Race Report

18 May 2014

I had heard nothing but superlative things about the Capon Valley 50k, and the 2014 iteration was no exception.  Started by an equestrian club as a fundraiser, and hosted at a Ruritan park, it has turned into a mid-Atlantic staple due to the great course and the ridiculously friendly volunteers (on which, more below).  My result – 6:09:21 for 15th place – was consistent with other efforts, neither better nor worse.  Yet I was extremely pleased because my preparations in 2014 have been lacking, to say the least; I tried several new tweaks to great success; and the experience really rekindled my enthusiasm for running, which has been lackluster since Oil Creek last fall.

In the four weeks leading up to CV50k, I ran 22 miles, 14.75 miles, zero miles (impromptu business trip to Brussels), 41.1 miles, respectively, and then a handful of miles the week of as an unneeded mini-taper.  Through the end of May, I had run 218.5 miles for 2014.  For sake of comparison, that number was 352.45 (!) in 2013.  I’ve simply been in a rut, in which lack of fitness and lack of inspiration are mutually reinforcing.  Yet Laurel Highlands Ultra has been looming in my mind, and the early spring DNSes left a bitter taste in my mouth, so I’ve been slowly, but surely, regaining my legs.

I rushed out of DC Friday night and made it to Capon Valley around 10:00 pm.  From where I parked, I could see very few campers.  I made my bed in the back of my car and fell asleep.

The next morning came quickly.  I went inside to register and investigate the breakfast.  The friendliest women I had ever met sold me pancakes, a muffin, and cups and cups of coffee.  I have the tendency to compare everything I like with Wolfsville (defined in opposition to everything I don’t like as DC), but here the comparison seemed apt.  I felt at home.  I was bantering.  I might have said “wooter.”  I used an outhouse and I liked it.  I felt just like Ricky when Uncle Pen came to visit.

We walked halfway down a gravel line to the start.

At the signal, I began running.  CV50k is the epitome of an old school race – no frills, no excuses.  First we were in a field, then we were on a road, then we were in the woods – a natural and thoughtless sequence.  I had no nerves and started running naturally.  My main goal was to have a solid, consistent training run with an eye toward Laurel Highlands.  Things were going swimmingly for about a half hour, following sparse ribbons, until the gentleman in front of me – shirtless, tanned, mustachioed – announced to the collected runners that we had taken a major wrong turn and were wildly off course, or rather, we had cut a large part of the course.

Roughly fifty runners, it seemed, were standing still in the middle of the woods.  He declared that we should head back to AS1 and eat the extra distance.  Checking in there, we could continue on our way.  I considered not turning around, but even though I wasn’t “racing,” it didn’t seem sporting.  That’s ultra.  (Mind you, I bear no negative judgment toward folks who chose to kept going.)  Running the course backward, we first passed the three guys who would go on to win, having a laugh about the “Capon Valley 60k.”  The aid station folks looked confused.  I called out my number, grabbed some water, and headed back out.

The course switched back and forth between singletrack and fire roads.  I couldn’t guess the proportion, but a week later it feels like 50/50.  I loved the course overall.  There was plenty of variety; as soon as I was getting used to the terrain, it switched up.  The piste was smooth compared to a lot of what I typically run.  The hills were plentiful, but not overwhelming, and never so long that the caused any despair like that slog up Long Mountain last fall.  There were a couple of screamers that wreaked havoc on my toenails, but everything was manageable and allowed long stretches of consistent running.

Judging by the elevation chart, there was a big climb in the middle, but I passed it without realizing.  I spent a good bit of the race either immediately or shortly behind the eventual women’s winner.  She was remarkably consistent, so marking myself to her helped me be the same.  At one point, naturally, I tripped on a perfectly flat, smooth section.  Of course I would.

One of the changes I had made to my strategy was to stop riding the gel train.  I’ve tried to switch my diet toward the low carb/high fat direction and have done most of my longer training runs with minimal nutrition in an effort to force my body to burn fat better.  It paid dividends at Capon Valley: my energy levels for consistent and I was able to move forward steadily all day.  I nibbled on aid station food and drank a little Coke, but mostly stuck to water and a salt pill every hour.  I was pleased.

I was also very conscientious about pacing.  Even when trying not to, I go out to hard and blow up poorly.  (Later, it dawned on me that I don’t go out to hard; I only blow up because I’m not fit enough to go long.)  But again, I had pop in my legs the entire day and was running the rollers that any other day I’d be walking.  I even had enough for a kick down the finisher’s chute to the surprise (it seemed) of the two folks I was running in with.

Indeed, from the last aid station to the end, I was feeling great.  It was nothing compared to my crazy Mountain Masochist finish, but I was increasing my speed and felt like I could have picked off a lot of folks if I wanted to.  This tells me (1) that my new adjustments had worked well, and (2) that I could probably function at a higher level throughout the day rather than keep a huge store of energy for the end.  But I brought home feeling very much in control, and I’m thankful for that.

Overall, I can’t say enough good things about the day.  I ran exactly how I wanted to and it rejuvenated me.  The course, accommodations, and race staff and volunteers were all top-notch.

Even the navigational snafu couldn’t ruin my mood.  When they posted the results, I had initially been DQed for failing to check in at AS1.  I emailed the RD to explain that while we had gone off-piste, I, along with many others, returned to check in, which added somewhere between a half mile to a mile to our total distance.  I didn’t care so much about the DQ, but wanted them understand what had happened.  Based on the email exchange, they nevertheless switched me to an official finish.

Mostly when I return, or intend to return, to a race, it’s because I felt I didn’t give it an honest effort and want to run my best possible time.  But I very much hope to return to Capon Valley next year for the sole reason that it was an all-around, immensely gratifying experience.