Trail Monster Running

Visit the official TRAIL MONSTER RUNNING website for information on upcoming group runs, local trails, trail races and more, including the Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival and the Bradbury Mountain trail Running Series.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

TMR Fat Ass 50k

There's nothing like an epic run with friends.

Back: Alosaurus, Matt, Blaine, George, Fezzik, J-Rock, Stephen, Floyd
Front: Dave, gIANt, Top Cat, Danielle, Gnarls, Dora, Ryan, Mindy

Chuck e-mailed me on Friday to say that the route for the Fat Ass 50k he had planned from his house was impassable and in no way runnable, not even by the heartiest of Trail Monsters. The snow storm earlier in the week had deposited more than a foot of heavy wet snow in the area causing trees to bend under the weight and block the trails. This meant that the snowmobiles that are usually out grooming the trails for us runners couldn't get through and the trails had received no traffic of any kind. Luckily Chuck had a back-up plan and after work (and after an 8 mile run earlier in the day) he went out to scope out a 5.2 mile route for us all to run Saturday morning.

His description of the route started with: "It is not going to be an easy run in more ways than one, but it is very doable." No one goes into a 50k run in the middle of winter, or any run with the Trail Monsters, expecting it to be easy so this sounded okay to me.

For the first lap we agreed to stick together so everyone could learn the course since we didn't have time to put together a new map and Chuck was the only one who knew where to go. The route started out with a short stretch of paved road, then into the forest on snowmobile trails, across an open field, back into the woods on not-well-traveled-foot-trails that lead to a loop taking us up and over Hedgehog Mountain, then back the way we came. After a week of easy runs I was feeling good and looking forward to a wicked long run, for no particular reason other than to see if I could get through 50k in the middle of winter.

The weather turned out to be not very winter-like at all and made for comfortable running conditions. The problem with the warmer than usual weather (which followed a lot of rain a few days before) is that it made the snow not very comfortable for running on. The section of snowmobile trail was quite firm and perfect for running, but the open field we ran through twice per out-and-back lap was soon named the "Field of Death". There was a lot of post-holing and three wet spots that were virtually impossible to avoid. 15 minutes into the run we all had cold, soaking wet feet.

The section of trail leading to Hedgehog Mountain had received foot traffic at some point during the winter but not much recently and was pretty sluggish for the first time around. We soon learned that straying off the middle of the trail lead to serious post-holing in snow that was about 3' deep. Not fun for the members of the group who aren't much over 5 feet tall.

The climb up to the summit was not so steep that it couldn't be run and offered a nice change of pace even if it was more effort. Once at the top of the Hedgehog we took a moment to catch our breath and enjoy the view and then set off on the fast downhill.

On the way back of our first lap Chuck had the idea of an alternate route through the field that would hopefully be firmer and drier. After a few steps along this route Alan and I decided it would be better to go back the way we came out but everyone else followed Chuck through what was later described as "post-holing hell". Even though the original path was difficult this other route was far worse.

It had been just cold enough over night to create a thin layer if crusty iciness on top of the deep snow which meant that as your foot sunk in and you moved forward your shin was ravaged by the jagged edge. This was repeated over and over with each step through the "Field of Death". After we all made it out of the field we paused to assess our wounds, those wearing shorts obviously fared the worst:

If you ain't bleedin' you ain't tryin'

We all finished the first lap together and from there the group spread out and thinned with each successive lap. For most of the route the more we traveled it the easier it got to run, with 16 people on an out-and-back we did a pretty good job of packing things down. The one exception was the 1/4 mile descent off the top of Hedgehog Mountain which just got churned up with each pass and became more loose and slippery with each time around, but was still a lot of fun to cruise down.

Watch out for snowmobiles!

After the 3rd lap most people decided to call it a day. I paused for a moment when I realized I was only half way through the run, at least in terms of distance. I had been running for 3 hours and although I felt good it seemed unlikely that I would be able to run the next three laps in another 3 hours. Prior to starting the run this morning, and without knowing the course, I arbitrarily said to myself that I wanted to get this done in under 6 hours.

When I set off on the 4th lap Alan had already gone on ahead, Emma, Jamie and Jim were a little behind and Floyd was the only one ready to go when I was so we took off together. We ran the next two laps together and thankfully Floyd was willing to go at a pace that I could hang onto. Having him there helped keep me from slowing down, which I'm sure I would have done had I been on my own. We managed to knock off the 4th and 5th laps in about the same time as our previous ones, and we moved in and out of the house to refuel after each lap a little quicker each time.

We caught up to Alan on the 5th lap but as we neared the end I stopped for a bio-break and Floyd kept going. He grabbed a quick handful of m&m's at the pit stop and took off like a shot, I think a little anxious to get this finished. You never would have guessed that he had already run 26 miles. I refilled my Camelbak bladder, grabbed something to eat and headed out with Alan right behind me. Although having company is great on a long run we were all getting tired and I think we each decided that we had to do our own thing to get through this last lap. I was definitely feeling the physical effects of all the miles, my hips were getting a little sore, my shins were scraped raw and my ankles had taken a serious beating from 5 hours of uneven terrain. As I headed out on my final lap I met Emma who just finishing her fifth lap. This was her longest run since last September, and even though she looked like she could have kept going I think she did the right thing by stopping at 26 miles. We paused long enough for a kiss and I was on my way.

There was a noticable drop in temperature and it was now getting into the afternoon, the desire to keep warm was helping to move me along at a reasonable pace. Just as I was approaching the beginning of the uphill loop around Hedgehog Mountain I saw Floyd flying down the hill. Halfway through this lap he had already got about 3/4 of a mile ahead of me, WTF? I didn't think I was slowing down that much, it turns out he was just going incredibly fast. We stopped and chatted briefly, I congratulated him on his first ever ultra distance run and we went on our ways getting this thing done.

I didn't mind being alone in the woods, it was a beautiful day and I felt lucky to be able to spend most of it outdoors doing what I love.

About a half mile from the end Emma met me on the trail and cheered me on as she ran me in. It was definitely nice to have a little company again.

1:01, 1:01, 0:59, 0:59, 0:57, 1:01

After the run we all hung around at Chuck and Katy's working on calorie replenishment. Thanks to them for being such good hosts and to everyone who came out to make the second annual TMR Fat Ass a lot of fun.

time: 5:58 (did not subtract out for stoppages)
distance: 31.2 miles
pace: 11:28 (average pace not actual moving pace)

weather: 31-38 degrees, clear sky, light breeze

conditions: soft wet snow

gear: Inov-8 Roclite 295, wool socks, short tights, long sleeve top, singlet, Moeben sleeves, thin gloves, buff, sunglasses, Camelbak Magic 2L


Yak Hunter said...

Well done and nice pictures!

mindy said...

Great write up Ian - this was so much fun, I'm still thinking about what a great time I had! Congrats on your miles and to everyone else, it was a fantastic day, I wish I could have stayed a little longer at the end, but had to get home. Looking forward to the next TMRFA50K.

pathfinder said...

This looked like so much fun. I am on vacation for the 28th but will be intown on the 29th so perhaps I will run a shadow fatass the day after the real event.