Thursday, July 17, 2014

Troop Trot 39k Recap

Troop Trot 39k , Villa Rica, GA
Field: 45 in the 39k, ~30 in the 10k
Spectators: None, It's all in the woods.
Start/Finish: Picnic shelter with real bathrooms close by
Course: The trails of Clinton Nature Preserve
Schwag: Tech shirt
Other: The race is organized by Boy Scout Troop 39. The boys help lay the course, work the aid stations, hand make the finishers medals, and present the flag pre-race. The money goes to their troop and the project is part of their bridging ceremony.

I signed up for this race to use it as a dry run for the 50k. Being 6 weeks out from my goal race day, it would give me time to adjust to anything that wasn't working well in terms of gear or fuel and shift training as needed.  I am so happy I did this.  I learned a lot, including a few things that could be game changers.
Pre-race. All smiles because my feet aren't bleeding yet.
Let's start with the race. Troop Trot 39k is put on by boy scout troop 39 (hence the distance). Their scout master is an ultrarunner so it is very well organized and planned out. I participated in the 10k last year, and chose the 39k this year. The 39k course consists of a triple loop (8+ miles each) with aid stations at the midway point and end of each loop. Each lap consists of fields + power lines (~20%), gravel roads and wide trails (~10%), granite slabs (~5%), and the rest is single track curving through the woods. There are roughly 800 turns per lap (give or take) as the majority of the trails used are mountain bike trails and there are some technical sections (i.e. tons of roots and rocks to trip on). The last 2 miles of each loop feels like the longest 2 miles ever. Here is a rough sketch of what it looks like:
The last two miles, also known as the hunt for the bridge. Not to scale.
Race day arrived and I was a bit nervous. I kept reminding myself that it was all for training and to approach it as a learning experience. I had never run a trail race over 15k before this race, so there was a lot of 'new' to experience. It was a humid morning (low 70s temp, about 97% humid at the start) and to be honest, the humidity never really broke in the woods. Stuff was slippery and wet throughout the race, not to mention the insane amounts of sweat the runners were adding to it.
Beautiful day, but by the 3rd loop (i.e. high noon), the power line area was mad hot.
Mentally, I chose to approach the race one loop at a time. The first loop involved a lot of sorting out of the field. There were several instances where I was tucked into a slower chain of runners on the single track, but I wasn't overly worried because I wasn't there to 'race'. I didn't stop at the first aid station, but did take an Island Boost at mile 5. I started to get in the grove around mile 7, at which point I was passed by a man running in flip-flops (not a confidence booster). By the time I finished the first loop (1:40ish) I was feeling strong, but was in need of some cold water. To my surprise, Miranda was working the aid station (after running the 10k) and she was awesome. She topped off my pack with cold water and got me a banana (I also had a few gummy bears because who can resist gummy bears).
Loop two started out a lot better and I felt strong for the entire loop (miles 8ish-16ish). I had more room to move and run on the runnable areas. The first 2ish miles of the each loop were very runnable and I tried to take advantage of it. I ended up tucking into a three some for the first half of the loop and I really enjoyed the run/walk rhythm of the guy I was following. I ended up leaving him at the aid station at mile 12ish, but not before gobbling down some more cold water and gummy bears. I did leave the aid station with Lisa, the lady I parked next to who is also running the same 50k in August, and we maintained a good pace together randomly chatting our way through the loop. I did manage to repass man in flip-flops at mile~14 and he informed me that they were actually sandals. Given how many times I stubbed my toes on rocks and roots, I wasn't sure if I would ever enjoy sandals or flip-flops on a trail run.
All smiles at ~mile 16 with Race Director Josh behind me. I'm soaked in sweat. (Thanks to Miranda for the pic!)
Coming through the end of loop 2, I ran into Miranda again and she had me pose for a picture. I had another half a banana, some more cold water, and a gummy bear or two. I set out for loop three, the victory lap, feeling good and ready to be done. I was strong for the first two miles of the loop, but by mile 18, I started to feel my energy drag a bit, a sign I probably needed to be fueling more. My tummy was feeling a bit sloshy as most of what I had consumed that day was liquid. In addition, at mile 19, I felt my blisters begin to pop and my poor toes were bleeding. I had felt hot spots forming on my big toes and baby toes throughout the race, and at this point the little ones ruptured and it was rather uncomfortable. I tried my best to keep moving to the aid station at mile ~20 and regroup there.
Yep, another bloody shoe photo to add to the collection.
I took a few extra minutes at the aid station to evaluate things. A nice volunteer added some cold water to my pack (just having cold water in my pack cooled down my back) and I nibbled on a few gummy bears. The wonderful volunteers kept asking what we needed and Lisa and I both said Coke.  She informed us that there was some at the finish and, thought a little bummed, I figured I could use that as motivation for the remain 4 miles. Suddenly, the most wonderful Boy Scout in the world spoke up and said "No mom, I threw some in the cooler when we left this morning" and then he served us shots of cold coke. It was perhaps the most clutch move of the day. I've never been so happy to have a Dixie cup of coke.

The coke helped settle my stomach and give me a little lift. The next three miles consisted of running and walking (my toes were killing me at this point) and dreaming of taking off my shoes. I could tell I was getting tired as I was stubbing my toes more and more (i.e. not picking up my feet) and then managed one triumphant face plant (no injuries to report). At mile 23, I tucked my head down and decided to grind it out through the remaining 40 switchbacks to the finish. I thought I would never find the little foot bridge. I came in 13th overall and was the 4th girl out of 38 finishers.
Sorry, I totally spaced out and forgot to take a post-race photo. Was busy eating watermelon.
Overall, it's a great race. Challenging, but well organized. Sure, it wasn't fast, perfect, or comfortable the whole way, but I learned a lot and gained a lot of confidence on long trail runs. I have a list of things I need to address before the 50k and a plan of attack to do it (probably in another post because this is really long).

Do you like trail running? Have you ever used a race just for learning?

Miranda: How does this course compare to the Snakebite course?

22 comments:

  1. Awesome race recap. Huge props to the boyscout that saved the day.

    Ok I am totally on board with running races for "training" to work out the kinks. The take aways are huge. I'm copying this plan in the future.

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    1. Thanks Schlub! The race was a great learning experience. I'm putting together another post of lessons learned and what I'm doing about them.

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  2. Nice job! That is a lot of turns for a race, holy smokes! Isn't if funny how a little thing lit a shot of Coke can get just make your day when the racing gets tough?!

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    1. Thanks Jen! I may have exaggerated a tad, but it was a really curvy race. I could never seem to tell where I was on the course. Thank heavens I didn't get lost!

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  3. You did amazing even if it was just a training run/race. Sounds like it was the perfect tune up race to get you ready for your 50k in six weeks. Wow, your 50k race is really coming up fast!

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    1. Thanks Captain! I can't believe it is only 6 weeks either. Cue freak out now.

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  4. Okay, I know that some of the same trails will be used for Snakebite this year as were used last year, but it won't be the same course. That being said...less switchbacks at Snakebite. The locals around here always joke that you go run at Sweetwater and you feel like you've covered some ground, and you actually have, whereas at Clinton you feel like you've probably done 6 miles and it's only like 3. So there's that advantage. You won't have aid as often, though; maybe every 6-7 miles? There's where the advantage of a loop race comes in. As far as terrain, it will be about the same. Roots, rocks, lots of picking up your feet. The rolling hills are going to be similar, temps and humidity will be similar. The field will be bigger, which is good because you're less likely to be out there alone, but it's not as good because you may get "stuck" behind a little pack of runners. Hope this helps!

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    1. HUGE Thank you Miranda!!! Looks like the aid stations are every 6ish. Very helpful to have an idea of what I am heading into. I'm hoping to make it to one of the preview runs in the coming weeks.

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  5. Sounds like the Boy Scout saved the day! The race map looks like it would have been easy to take a wrong turn. Congrats on not getting lost and on a great 39K finish!

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    1. Thanks Tina! There was one precarious moment when I had my head down and almost missed a turn, but I managed to stay on course!

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  6. Awesome job!! I'm going to see how my marathon goes first and then decide if I ever want to run any further. I would love to do a 50k in the future!

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    1. Thank you Courtney! So far I'm really liking longer trail running. Still some learning and adjusting, but it's a lot of fun. Totally different atmosphere.

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  7. Great job on the run! Boo to bloody toes. You did great, that was a good idea before the ultra. I love trail running :) I do go quite a bit slower at times but I love it, I just wish I had more variety closer.

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    1. Thanks Karen! Yeah, the toes were a bit of a bummer, but I think a change of shoes should really help that. I love the atmosphere of trail running.

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  8. Super job!!!!!
    Dang, the blister looks bad. :/
    This is a great dry run for you for so many reasons. I have a trail that looks just like the stretch under the powerlines near me. It is HOT too!. Congrats on a serious training run.

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    1. Thanks Raina! Yeah, my toes were pretty beat up. I've got several new blue toenails to show for it. Luckily everything is healing quickly.

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  9. Great job. Sometimes I race just for learning experience, or to see where I am too. I find it takes pressure off the race and helps me look forward.

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    1. Thanks Abby! Absolutely. There was a lot of learning that was really helpful!

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  10. Gotta a race recap that starts with all smiles because my feet aren't bleeding yet! Great job and hooray for boy scouts!

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  11. CONGRATS!!! dude. the feet thing would kill me. I have no idea how I would do it. The only trail race I did was with you...although I would love to do more!!

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth! The feet thing was really tough and made for a slow last 5 miles.

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