Sunday, September 7, 2014

Snakebite 50/50 Race Recap

My finisher's glass full of my finisher's reward (Bell's Oberon Ale).
Snakebite 50/50, Lithia Springs, GA
Field: 175 for both the 50k and 50 miler
Spectators: Not a ton because it was a trail race, but the folks hiking the trails were very encouraging as were the other runners.
Start/Finish: At the group shelter
CourseSweetwater Creek State Park trails and some trails on private land adjacent to the park. 50k runs a triple loop, 50 miler does 4.5 loops.
Schwag: Everyone gets a t-shirt and homemade beer soap, and all finishers get a pint-glass with a beer (or two), some craft beer ice cream, and a high-five from the race director, Jason.
Other: The course utilizes trails within the state parks as well as some of the oldest (now abandoned) roads in the area (you can still see the cart ruts).  In the park you pass by the old mill which still shows char marks from where Sherman burned it during his march. That's right, you're getting a little history with your sweating.
It only took 3 tries to get one with my eyes open. Not kidding. 
The Jayhawk may stop agreeing to take my picture.

Pre-race:

After months of training and planning, Snakebite 50k race day finally arrived. The Jayhawk was nice enough to join me and he volunteered to help with timing (I think he wanted to be there in case anything went wrong and he needed to lug me home). It was reassuring to have someone to chat with and to know I had a dedicated volunteer each lap if I needed help.  I felt fairly calm and relaxed on the ride, but did get some nerves as gun time approached. Having never run longer than a marathon and being a little uncertain how best to handle the heat, there were a lot of unknowns going into race day.
Waiting for Jason to yell go!
The weather for the day was set to be clear, but temps were forecast into the 90s. I have to say, I was a bit nervous about this. Balancing salts and hydration as well as fuel was already my focus for the day, and dealing with extreme heat added a little extra challenge.
I'm a big fan of the shirt.
 

The course:

The course consisted of a triple loop each about 11 miles long. After a quarter mile-ish on the road, the course turns into the forest. Each loop (it was actually shaped like a barbell with a some overlap in the middle) was mostly single and double track through the woods with some field crossings (ok, one precarious one that the race director aptly named Copperhead Road because the brush/grass was over knee high and there was limited chance of seeing a snake coming), gravel and paved roads (maybe a mile or two per lap), several sets of stairs (because why not), one steep ass climb through the power lines, a few bridges/makeshift bridges, a stream crossing, and a little granite to crawl over just for good measure. In short, the race director, Jason, gave us a little bit of everything that trail running has to offer. Ok, everything but a rock scramble, but I bet he would have gladly added it if there was a spot available.  The runnable parts were extremely runnable and the other part were not. Thank heavens it wasn't wet, because I'm sure I would have come down more than a few of those descents on my rear had it been.
A view of the park (not park of the course).

The Race:


I decided to approach the race like I did the Troop Trot and take it easy the first loop, find a pack to run with, focus on fueling/hydration/salt, and scout out the course. It was still a bit dark at the start, so everyone took it a little slow as it was hard to see your footing under the shadow's of the canopy. I tucked in a good spot an took in the route (as so I wouldn't get lost later). At mile 1ish we passed the giant sign that read "Timberland Rattlesnake Area: Do Not stray from trail" which was a great moment of inspiration for what was to come. The pack was constantly spreading out for the first chunk of the loop, but it allowed me to settle into a pace without being overexcited. I ran into Miranda who was holding down the fort at the midpoint aid station (it's always nice to see a friendly face) and had a quick snack. The rest of the loop I felt my body both settle into my stride and gain strength. I'm sure some of it was confidence, and by the time I cruised into the start/finish aid station, I was moving well and in good spirits.
Last mile or so of loop one on a very runnable portion of the course down by the creek. (Source)
Loop two went really well. I felt strong the entire loop, fueled well, and really found my stride. I made the most of the road like portions, pushed the pace, and made a lot of progress on those parts. I kept it consistent on the trails and felt much more comfortable with the trail aspects hopping over trees, relaxing downhill, and stomping through the stream crossings (turns out my new shoes dry really well). The loop cranked by much faster than the first, and I rolled into the start/finish with a smile on my face, pretty darn happy with how the race was going and how I was feeling.
Coming in after loop 2.
I knew loop 3 would be the hardest, not only because of the miles already logged but because of the heat. By the time I headed out for my 3rd loop, it was nearing mid-day and the heat was really building. I set the goal of running as much of the runnable sections as I felt I could without risking any heat issues. I knew this would not lead to the fastest race, but I wanted to make sure I finished and enjoyed the race rather than be dragged to the finish with heat stroke, hating the whole experience. I still felt on top of my hydration and salts (something I'll post more about later), but was beginning to get that sloshy feeling. So off I went, with a solid run/walk pattern, always moving forward, and stayed with that pattern the whole loop.
Cranking through the last mile. (source)
The heat was pretty oppressive (90s) and long periods of running did feel tough in terms of breathing and the heat, but I was still enjoying it. I never doubted finishing and I never mentally got down on myself. It was one of my stronger races mentally, and I really felt the payoff from all the months of training. At the end, I ran solidly through the final stretches, smiled at the camera, enjoyed the sense of accomplishing one of my biggest goals of the year, and pushed it up the hill to the finish and the awaiting celebration. 33 miles total in ~7:30 (my garmin died at mile 32). Good enough for 10th lady.
Climbing the hill one last time on loop 3 into the finish.
I really liked the course. It was challenging, but not impossible. It was that good kind of challenging that made you work on certain parts, but also gave you some nice runnable sections to make you feel like you were making progress. Since the terrain was always changing, it kept your mind engaged and had enjoy variety to keep it interesting.
I'm done!

Post Race:

The finish line was a pretty great place to be. Immediately, both the Jayhawk and Jason, the race director greeted me, gave me some high-fives, and a beer. After catching my breath, I joined the other finishers on the patio to cheer on runners as they came through their laps. The Jayhawk was quick to bring me ice cream (he had been waiting all day for me to finish so he could share one or two with me), and my stomach was calm enough that I could easily eat and drink.  
It's important to eat after a long race. They were small single servings, I swear, and I shared with the Jayhawk.

The spare beer and the winner's prizes.
Overall, I felt great. No wounds, pulls, twist, or troubles.  I was pretty excited to put on flip-flops (which the Jayhawk ran and got out of the car, MVP for the day), but other than that, I was no worse for the wear.  The Jayhawk and I stuck around the finish for a few hours, cheering on the other runners, enjoying the scene, and rehashing the race.
The Jayhawk told me to keep my eyes open and this is what we got. Crazy lady.
I really enjoyed the Snakebite 50k and I will most definitely be back for another Yeti Trail Runner's race. They are a great group of runners that love to have a good time and poke fun at each other (there were rubber snakes hiding at the aid station in the late miles). The race was well organized, fun course, and the group that really cares about putting on a great event and making sure everyone gets to the finish. I am eager to run another 50k (maybe one not in the heat of summer this time) and am intrigued by even farther distance. I couldn't be happier with how things went.

What are you experiences trying new distances? Do you like trail running?
Want to know more? Check out my 50k Training Plan and  Lessons Learned from 50k Training

32 comments:

  1. Congrats on your awesome placement!! Sounds like a really hot day to be running an ultra.
    You surely earned the ice cream! I'm excited to see you already have another race planned. :)

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    1. Thanks Raina and congrats to you!!!

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  2. Excellent excellent job. It sounds like you ran a very smart race and enjoyed it to boot! Yay! The rubber snakes would have done me in when I was tired.

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    1. Thank you so much! The rubber snakes were kind of hilarious. The far aid station did a great job of lightening the mood.

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  3. Congratulations!!! You look amazing in your photos and would never know you just ran a 50k! I'm pretty sure I would look like death haha. You're a rock star for running that well in the heat! Congratulations again!

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    1. Thanks so much Courtney!!! The funny thing is I always have the worst race photos even when I try to smile, but if there was a day to have good ones, this was it!

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  4. Running in the woods is fun and not getting bit by a snake is even better! Congrats on finishing your first 50K! Like you, I'd like to run another 50K race and maybe something longer, too.

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    1. Thanks Tina! And I didn't get lost. There was a near miss on one turn, but I found it. :)

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  5. Wow, I'm so impressed. And in that heat, too-- congratulations!!

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  6. Hell yeah!! Thanks for this recap of your amazing race - I am a couple of weeks in to training for my first 50k and I am pretty scared. I have followed your journey over the past couple of months, and reading this was so encouraging and inspiring! I am excited to keep training and this made me feel more confident that I can do it, too! By the way, I am new to blogging and to following other bloggers...are there any running blogs (or even more specifically, trail running/ultra blogs) that you can recommend to me that you found helpful/interesting/inspiring? Thank you!!

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    1. Hi Brenda! So exciting that you are running your first 50k! Yay!! Thank you for all the kind words. I had so much to say about the race that I am going to do a second post this week about fueling and what I would keep or change about my training because it was all so new to me. As far as blogs, I try to keep the list on the sidebar up to date with what I am reading (I will make sure to update again this week). A fun one to check out this week in particular is Sweat Once a day because Emily is about to run her first 100 miler this weekend.

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    2. I'm looking forward to your post about fueling! I read Eat & Run by Scott Jurek and it has put a lot of interesting ideas into my head about fueling (especially with real food, as opposed to Gu, which is what I have relied on in the past)...I'll check out your blog reading list! Hope I make it onto there! :)

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    3. I really enjoyed Eat & Run. Peaking into an ultrarunner's brain is always interesting in terms of motivation and drive. While I don't see myself eating burritos on the run like Scott, I agree real food when possible and then whatever it take to get the calories in. It's a fairly individual process, but I think there are always things to be learned. I'll make sure to add you!

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  7. Congrats on a fantastic race! I'm so glad all of your hard work paid off and that you were able to run a strong race despite that crazy heat. Way to be smart about pacing yourself and make sure you enjoyed the race. I hope you ate a ton of food afterward and are recovering well! I think I'd really like trail running but I'm so clumsy I'd probably fall and really hurt myself on anything more technical than crushed gravel. ;) Maybe someday...

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    1. Thanks Beth! I was super lazy and ate tons of stuff the week following. It was really fun! I'm am super clumsy too and was amazed I didn't fall during this one (I did during the Troop Trot).

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  8. What a great recap! Congrats on running a great event :) It is seriously impressive in the heat you felt so strong, you were doing something right for sure. You look great in your pictures, you really can not tell you were running for so long. It's nice you had a good balance with very run-able trail and paths and challenging parts. Amazing EB :)

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    1. Thanks Karen! You are so sweet! It was one of the good days where the whole thing was enjoyable. I never had that down in the dumps feeling that can happen in long races.

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  9. Wow! Awesome job girl!! Such a great pace, even in that heat. I LOVE ice cream after a race. And beer. :)
    Congrats!!

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    1. Thanks Katie! The beer ice cream was very good and I highly recommend it. I've wanted to try it for a while, but it's a bit pricey. Still worth it for a special occasion.

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  10. Congratulations! You looked strong out there. There were others in awful shape but it seems that you paced yourself and still came out top 10!!

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    1. Thanks Miranda! It was good to see you again. Maybe one of these times we will run into each other not in the middle of a race! :)

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  11. PS - no one likes a rock scramble!! Lol! I had enough of that in Canada! :)

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    1. No one does, but you know Jason would have added it if he could!

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  12. Awesome job out there! It was definitely one of the most humid weekends of the year in the south, so that distance in that heat deserves huge props! And I love the beer soap. We need to find a race to run together sometime!

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    1. Thanks! Great job on your race as well. I've been looking at some of the BUTS races and am thinking about them for the future. It would be fun to meet.

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  13. Woohoo amazing job out there. Such an awesome finish in that heat!

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  14. Good job! That is wonderful that all your training paid off with a great race. Sounds like you had a fun time as well. I think you made the right decision on respecting the heat and taking it easier on the third lap.

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    1. Thanks Captain! It's always a good sign when you want to run another one!

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  15. yes, i'm this far behind in blog reading! :) CONGRATS!! you look strong and happy in your pics. It actually has me intrigued to try an ultra!!! :):) glad you had a good time and a great sherpa along with you!

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    1. Thank you!! It was a lot of fun and I would recommend trying one. Maybe not in August, but the trail crowd is a great group!

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