Run at the Rock Race Report

A little preface timeline is in order.

Sat, Nov 29, I get stomach cramps so bad that I can only eat 5 bites of my meal at my son’s birthday dinner (at a restaurant). That night I get a whole of about an hours sleep because of the cramps.

Sun, Nov 30, at 3am I toss my cookies. I’m not talking a little vurp or a small throw-up, we’re talking stuff shooting out my mouth and through my nose. Sorry for the visual, but it’ll be important later. At 11:00 am, I ask my wife to take me to the hospital. Now keep in mind, I *hate* doctors and hospitals. I normally only go when I’m bleeding or something’s broken. Long story short, I get stuck with an IV, full bag of fluids, along with two different medicines, one for the nausea and the other to settle my bowels. Says it’s a virus and that I’d have to ride it out. Not much to eat all day Sunday except for some chicken broth that evening.

Mon, Dec 1st, out of work and spend the entire day in bed, eating the broth from chicken soup and eating white bread. By Monday afternoon, I’m eating applesauce.

Tue, Dec 2nd, still out of work. I’ve graduated to the couch and to eating the noodles in the soup and yet more applesauce. 2 bananas were really a treat.

Wed, Dec 3rd reluctantly back to work and nervous about eating solid foods. I go for my swim at lunch. It felt good to be exercising again. Ran a fever Wed night and sinuses stopped up.

Thur, Dec 4th. I got up and did my dynamic strength workout (scaled down). I was feeling pretty stopped up at work, blowing some bad stuff from my nose, by the time work was over, I felt horrible and feverish. I cancel my run, figuring rest would be more beneficial.

Fri, Dec 5th, I went to the dr in the morning. Was diagnosed with a sinus infection and said it may be due to the stomach acid from Sunday damaged the lining causing it to become inflamed and infected. Prescribed antibiotics and a nasal spray. Met up with my friends and we drove to Burlington to stay overnight for the race. Before bed, I took my antibiotics and Tylenol sinus. Slept like a baby.

Race Day

Race: Run at the Rock
Burlington, North Carolina
7 mile and 14 mile trail run, both starting at the same time (I ran the 14).
Temp: ~30 degrees

During my warmup run, I was feeling pretty good. I went to the start line and set myself up next to the 7 min pace marker, as I had intended on running a low 7 for the duration of the race. This was to be accomplished with the first 2 or 3 miles being ran at 7:10ish pace, then increasing the pace to 7:05ish for miles 4-9 and the last 5 miles right at a 7 min pace. This would have me finished around 1:40 and well within range of placing in my age group. I ran it last year in 1:45, so shaving 5 mins off over 14 miles was certainly doable. I knew the terrain wouldn’t allow me to dial in the pace exactly, because unlike a road race, the constant ups and downs of the trail would cause big gaps in the pace. However, I figured it would even out in the wash as I tend to barrel downhill on the edge of out of control while I conserve on the uphills.

I still hadn’t seen my teammate, Bill Shires. We had emailed back and forth and had planned on meeting at the race. We both had the same goal of finishing in 1:40 (or under), so we had planned on running together. As I looked around at the start, I couldn’t find him anywhere. Right before the cannon was fired, I spotted him up ahead of me. There was quite a few people in between us, but I was certain I could catch up to him before the first mile. For the first 1/4 mile, the race was ran on a paved road before making a turn into a field. Then, shortly thereafter, it turns into singletrack.

I weaved in and out of traffic trying to catch Bill. I was making good progress until we hit dirt. By the time the crowd reached the singletrack, I became stuck behind folks I couldn’t pass. The trail would open up just enough to pass every so often. When it did, I would take the opportunity to try and close the gap between Bill and I. In the first mile of the race, I could really feel my quads burning on some of the hills. They were steep enough that in sections it was like climbing stairs using roots as the stairs. Even though I knew it was a bad idea to be using so much effort so early in the race, I continued as I wanted to catch Bill and I didn’t think much of it as other runners around me were maintaining such a pace. The only problem was, many of the people around me were only running 7 miles as opposed to my 14.

At the first mile marker, I looked at my watch and saw 6:38. That was a problem. I was running considerably faster than my 7:10 pace that I had intended. Instead of putting forth such an effort and blowing myself out in the first 3 miles, I pulled my pace back quite a bit to try and recover from such a bad idea.

Before the race, I debated back and forth as to whether I was going to carry my hand bottle. This race is the best supported race I’ve raced all year. There were 3 waterstops along the 7 mile loop. By mile 3, the bottle was down-right messing with my head. The weight and sloshing was truly messing with my mojo. I poured out all of the water and at the 5 mile mark (or so), I had an opportunity to dump it where it would be near the finish line. About 5 minutes later, my watch alarm goes off, notifying me to take my first Gu shot and electrolyte. Guess what. I was nowhere near a water stop. I took the electrolyte first. I held it in my mouth and feverishly worked up saliva to get the capsule down. At 34 degrees, the Gu was so thick, I had to chew it. It took me nearly a mile to get all of the Gu off of my lips. "I’ll get water at the very next waterstop", I thought.

My pace varied greatly from mile to mile, but I continued to conserve on the hills and barrel down the other side. At mile 6 (or so), I stumbled on a left-hand turn going downhill. It all happened pretty quick, but it felt like slow motion. In those couple of seconds, I stumbled, regained control, stumbled, regained and then lost it, rolling into the woods. I jumped up and kept on running, not losing much time or ground and only a little pride.

As I crossed the finish line for lap one at 52:07, I was 3 minutes behind schedule. No problem. I figured I’d have no problem making it up on the back half. putting me right on track for finishing at my goal time. I picked up a cup of water near the 8.5 mile waterstop. I hadn’t seen anyone in front or behind me for the last half mile. Without any leaves on the trees, I could see the trail ahead and behind through the turns. Even when the trail opened up on a couple of long straight-away’s, I couldn’t see anyone. It had become quite eerie that I wasn’t either catching up to anyone or that there wasn’t anyone catching up to me. I planned to pick up the pace a bit, not only to make up for the 3 minute deficit, but also in an attempt to catch *someone*. But then…

The problem started around mile 10 and boy did it go downhill fast. My right IT band started hurting. It actually started around mile 9, but it was only ever so slight. I had figured it was only due to some of the climbing and it would work itself out. By mile 10, it was bad enough it had become a concern.

I picked up a glass of water at the waterstop at mile 11. The firemen that were manning the waterstop seemed to be watching me closely. They could tell my leg was hurting by my run-limp-run-limp stride. The mental anguish I was suffering was just as bad as the physical pain. I had been looking forward to this race for quite some time. Even though my training during this "off-season" still consisted of swimming, biking, running and strength training, I had gone wrong somewhere. I was a better, stronger, faster and more experienced runner then last year. The 1:40 time should have been very doable.

By mile 11, my pace had dropped to almost 8:00 minute miles. During mile 12, it had slowed to 9:00, as I had stopped once to try stretching and light massage to make it settle down. It worked somewhat, but it was very short-lived. I hadn’t seen a soul during miles 8-10, and now with my slowed pace, a person would catch up and pass me every now and then. That was extremely de-motivating, especially since two guys looked like they were in my age group. Grace Wallenborn, the first place female from last year passed me and we shared hello’s. "Come on, Marcus", she said. I shouted back about my leg problems and told her to keep on trucking. We had run together for 90% of the race last year. It was still pretty de-motivating to see her and the person running next to her pull away from me.

"Death before DNF", I kept telling myself. It’s a funny saying to throw out there when your running with a group of runners on a training run. But at what point do you decide *not* to push through pain? If it’s an injury, do you push or stop? It hurt. It hurt real bad, but it wasn’t a pulled muscle. There were no broken bones and certainly no blood involved. "I’m gonna finish this, damnit", I told myself.

I finished up at 1:50 and change. A full 10 minutes behind my goal and close to 5 minutes slower than last year. That put me 44th overall out of 229 runners and 5th in my age group.

At the finish line, I limped around a bit, and conversed with Grace. I also chatted with a couple of friends, Amy Reagan and Dirk Wuensche, who made the trip with me. They had run the 7 mile race which was both of their first trail race. We waited around for another buddy, Jim Payne who was still out on the 14 mile course.

My attempt to stretch my legs was returned with cramps, not only in my legs, but all over my body. One of my lats would cramp up. Then, one of my forearms. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Then, as I thought back trough my nutrition plan, I had come to the realization that I only had 2 small drinks of water during the entire race. What a stupid newb move. Think a little dehydration could have caused the cramping along with other problems?

On a side note, I had picked up the Mizuno Breath Thermo Stretch Crew shirt and Breath Thermo gloves. They both worked AWESOME. All I wore was that shirt and a Believe Achieve long sleeve tech T, and I had no problem staying warm. Both the gloves took a little time to get warm, as it works off of the moisture of your sweat, but once activated, I stayed warm for the entire race.

Also, as another side note…  If you are looking for one of the best races to participate in, you should really consider Run at the Rock.  I’ve raced a bunch of races, and this event is by far the most organized, supported and well thought out.  The race director, crew and volunteers all did an OUTSTANDING job!

It was a fun race, despite the cold, the problems and my poor performance. A bad day running beats a good day doing just about anything else, especially when you’re with good friends.