March 8, 2003
This year, for the first time, Way Too Cool accepted registration online. The race filled in about 4 hours! I’m glad that I was online and got registered before the race filled. I’m also glad that they did do online registration because I feel more secure (and in real-time) that I can get in.
Last year, the race was two days after my birthday and this year, it’s the day after my birthday. Because of the Leap Year, the race will either be the day BEFORE my birthday (effectively letting me run the race twice at the same age) or 6 days after.
How I got to the race (with people from GVH), the giveaways (tech shirt and sweatshirt), and the cost of the race (around $50) remained the same from the previous year. The marked difference, for me, at least, was the weather and the conditions. Last year had been overcast and come a day after heavy rain – so very muddy. This year, it was not nearly as cold at the start (somewhat bad omen) and certainly not as muddy.
Much of the sections where it was slip-and-slide down the hill, it was a bit rocky, but at no time did I step anywhere and worry that my shoes were going to be pulled off. Strangely enough, my pace was pretty close to my pace last year – apparently mud helps you run faster when you are sick!
The one difference I did notice was that there were far fewer “stream crossings” to be counted than the previous year. Areas where the water was freely pouring across the trail because of runoff or overflow were conspicuously dry this year. The BIG stream crossing was just shin deep, rather than waist deep.
This year, I also tried employing a new strategy with regards to Ball Bearing Hill. This is a hill with 700′ of elevation gain over a distance of 7 tenths of a mile. Last year, I was cramping the entire way up the hill. This posed a major problem as cramps would occur each time I took a wide step, and getting up that hill involved ONLY wide steps. Step, cramp, step, cramp, step, cramp. Very painful. Last year, it took me 27 minutes to cover that short distance. I wanted to improve upon that time.
I decided that the best way to improve would be to be well-rested when I got to the hill. From the map, I remembered that from the “Little Stream Crossing” to Ball Bearing was about 3/4 mile and flat. I decided that I would walk this entire section, with the goal being to bring my heart rate down to a comfortable pace and then I would maintain this pace up the hill (as opposed to running to the hill, having a quick heart rate and then struggling up the hill, not being able to catch my breath).
Along that stretch, I got a lot of commentary from the people who passed me, from “Are you OK?” to “You know that this section’s flat?” My answer was, ‘I’m OK. I’m just preparing for the next section and resting.’
This turned out to work pretty well. When I got to the base of the hill, I wasn’t stressed, nor was my heart racing. I moved consistently and did not cramp. I routinely passed every single one of those doubters – and yes, my long legs helped…but it helped the most to start off with a lower rate, rather than maxing out immediately. I summitted the hill in around 13:30 (basically half my time from 2002).
I mentioned this to a spectator/volunteer near the top, who said to me, “Oh, I’ve climbed Ball Bearing in 13 minutes… on my horse!” Ha ha.
Later, as I was nearing Goat Hill, but walking because I had cramps, one guy I had passed said, “Are you walking because there is a hill coming up?”
I replied, “There is a hill coming up, but I am having some problems.”
He said, “Well, I’ll walk with you anyways.” A bunch of us walked to the hill and up the hill (and I’m certain they all did better because of it).
Despite my better strategy, drier ground, and moderate weather, I did not improve upon my time from last year, but ran within 4 minutes of my previous time. In an ultramarathon, that’s essentially running the same time (4 minutes divided by 31 miles comes to about 6 seconds per mile).
My running log notes say that for my “next ultra, I want to train better.” Guess we will find out in a few months whether that happened or not.