Sunday, March 23, 2014

Haulin' in the Holler 25K

Oh where to start??

I guess I could start with the fact that I finished! Yay! haha

I went Friday night to pick up my packet for the Haulin' in the Holler 25K since I had never been to this particular park before. It's an hour and a half away from me, so I stayed with a friend in Charleston which is about 30 minutes away from the Putnam County Park. My friend went with me, which was nice, since it was kind of out there!
Source - Putnam County Park, Eleanor, WV
Unfortunately, we had used my friend's phone on Friday, so when I pressed go on my Saturday morning, I thought it was just taking me a different way...nope. My phone took me to the wrong park! And my cell doesn't really work in Charleston, so the gps wouldn't pick up to find the right park! Ugh. I had left plenty early, but I needed to be at the park (the right park) by 7:00 am for the pre-race briefing. I was freaking out a little. Fortunately, I knew which exit to go to from the night before and I had the race page up before so it would still pop up. I just went from their directions and what I remembered from the night before. Thankfully, I wasn't the only one who was running late and they went back over which colors to follow along the paths and which to avoid, which was really good since some people would go the wrong way because they hadn't listened!

After using the port-a-johns, I was still worried that my stomach would give me issues. I only had one mini bagel for breakfast because I was so worried. I made sure to drink water and had a little hot tea, but well before the race started so that I was hydrated.

We lined up on the old fair grounds and started at 7:30 am. Thankfully it was a beautiful day. It didn't rain once and stayed in the sixties with a slight breeze. It was perfect! The route included about a mile of running on gravel before we hit the real trail. It was single track trail pretty much the whole time. There was a couple of spots that included 4-wheeler trails, but these areas were so gouged that it was hard to run on those. I'm not going to lie, some parts were scary. The trail would get really narrow and if I misplaced a foot, down the mountain I would go! And I had a right to be afraid of falling because I did fall, twice! Oh it wasn't bad, I just tripped over a couple of roots. To be expected of course. There was usually someone in front of me or behind me, but only a couple of times did I actually talk to someone. Trail running is not for those who need crowd support and lots of people around. I liked it though. The people behind me made me run when I didn't feel like it and if they passed me that made me want to catch up to them (which I never did, haha). The scenery was beautiful, even if it was still all brown from winter. I imagine it's really gorgeous in the summer. There were huge rock formations, little streams that had makeshift wooden bridges over them, beautiful trees, and of course beautiful mountain views. I should have taken my phone but I didn't want the extra weight.
This is a good running portion of the trail from last year's race. - Source
It was kind of hard to not keep thinking about how long I had to be out there. But I tried my best to just focus on to getting to the first aid station at mile 5 and then the next one at mile 10. The volunteers were really great. They were out in the middle of nowhere the whole day. I think the only way they got refills and such were from 4-wheelers (ATV's). I took a big risk at the aid stations and tried something new. They had Hammer Heed, which is supposed to be like Gatorade, I was not a fan. I took one drink and poured the rest out.
So I took some Mountain Dew for the sugar and caffeine. I didn't eat anything at the first one (was still worried that I'd have stomach problems), but I did take some grapes at the second one. They tasted fantastic and the Mountain Dew was good too. I did feel funny right after I drank it, but I think my body just had to take it in. I also took two Cliff Shot Blocks thirty minutes in since I didn't eat much for breakfast, and then I took a Vanilla Gu each hour. I think my nutrition was pretty good. I could feel my legs get extra tired when it was at the hour mark for my next Gu. They didn't upset my stomach and I feel like my energy kept up relatively well. Unfortunately, I think my handheld water bottle was leaking a little. I ran out of water before each aid station and when I had about two miles left. It needed to be just a bit bigger. I'm still glad I went with the hand-held versus the belt. It didn't get on my nerves the whole time.
This is the water bottle I used. - Source
In the end, I did a lot of walking. I think that is a big part of trail running though. Perhaps with more practice I'll get better though. I'm glad I went with my regular shoes since I didn't get blisters, but I think I definitely could have used the extra support. My ankle kept twisting and at some points I slid. One downhill was so steep I almost just sat down and slid, but someone was behind me, so I had to go sideways instead, haha. There were just a lot more steep parts that killed my legs just walking up them! The trail included various terrain really, from really rocky, to muddy, to nice leafy and dirt packed, to steep steep hills. And of course parts included all the above.

The hardest part was the last 3-4 miles. The trails snaked up and down the mountains, so at about mile 3 and half I could hear people at the finish line and I could see the white building that where we started, but I knew from my watch I still had a way to go. Being able to hear it though and see the road at various points and then going away from it, was so hard mentally. I was so tired at that point! When I knew I was close and I made, what I figured was the last turn, I picked up the pace and ran the last mile into the finish line. I didn't have anyone there, so the few people who were working and cheered for me was greatly appreciated. I also made sure to stay put until the two people that I had been near the whole race had crossed the finish line. One mind game I played with myself was to not let them pass me. They didn't know it, but they helped get me through.

So did I reach my goals? I didn't get the first one of four hours. I finished in 4 hours and 22 minutes! That's a long time to be running/hiking! I was slow, I know, but F* that, I finished something incredibly hard! And today, I can barely walk! haha. My thighs are burning and my left knee hurts, probably from either one of the falls or just from the terrain. My arms also hurt, I guess from holding the water and just keeping my arms at a 90 degree angles for that long.

I don't have the official times yet, but I know I wasn't last. But I do know that I finished, I gave it my all, and I didn't poop my pants! It's a win in my book!
My finishers 'plaque'. Handmade by the local boyscout troop. Very neat!

P.S. There was also a 50K, that did the same loop I did twice. I can't imagine! Good for those people!