Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Laurel Highlands Ultra Relay Race Recap (6.9.12)

The night before I wasn't nervous at all. I didn't pick out my clothes and stuff in advance.  Megan and I only figured out what time we'd leave pretty late in the evening. 
Megan was picking me up so Dave wasn't without a car.  Poly waited with me for her to arrive.   We left around 5:30 if I remember correctly.  Then we had to drive out to Ohiopyle.
We had someone take our picture before the start.  I tried on the long sleeve shirt they gave all participants. The sleeves were a little short but it fit just like all the other ones.
Megan ran the first leg. I took pictures of her at the start.  Her segment was ~11 miles long.  She had a hill that was over a mile long. It involved a lot of walking on that hill.  Megan and I ran on trails once to prepare for this race. We were running 12 minute miles that day so we figured that was our goal pace.  Megan was slightly slower but the mile long hill and walking that hill accounted for all the time.
I took a few pictures of the trails but not anywhere that I ran. I didn't run with my camera. I wish I had. Sometimes it was beautiful and sometimes I just wanted to show how bad the terrain was.  In the far left picture, you can kind of see how the trail is rocky. On the top right picture the trail is much narrower but not nearly as rocky. The narrow trail was the third leg.  

I ran the middle segment. It was about 8 miles long. I got the short leg but I didn't even call that one first.  Jake called the 3rd leg so he didn't have to wake up as early.  Megan called the 1st leg so she had time before driving far. That left me with the middle / short segment.  I didn't mind.  Later I think I wished I had the 3rd segment based on hearing about the terrain.
I'd say most of the segment I ran was not able to be run on. I did a lot of walking. There were a lot of roots but that wasn't the worst part. The rocks were the worst. They would take up the entire trail so you had no flat portion you could run on. My ankles would roll more times than I could count. I would also sort of trip and flail my arms often. At least I didn't fall.  I did a lot of walking on the steep downhills. I also walked on the steep uphills (but I don't think there were that many of those except the one in the last mile of my segment.)   I also walked across all the tree bridges or log bridges that crossed streams. Sometimes we crossed a stream that was 5 feet below. That was not good for my fear of heights. I didn't want to take a tumble so I ended up walking across those too.  People would catch up to me when I was walking across them. I was surprised how many streams there were.  At least all streams had the little bridges so you didn't actually have to walk in the stream to get across.
Source  (read this race recap too)
For 70 mile runners, the first main checkpoint is 19 miles in.  From what I hear a lot of people drop out in those first 19 miles.

Many times during my segment I'd just slowly be jogging or walking and not remembering it was a race.  There were also other times I walked when it was really rocky because I was afraid my ankle was just going to give out after rolling it so much.  I was trying to be careful since I don't have health insurance for a few weeks here in June.

During my segment I passed up 5 people. Also at one point when I tripped over a rock, the lady behind me laughed.

Near the end of my segment was a hill. It was a bad one. It involved walking really slowly. It also involved other runners having walking sticks to help them get up the hill. There were at least 2 points on the hill that I used my hands on the ground to the edge of the trail to help me keep going. My garmin said I was going at a 50 minute mile pace at this point.   I passed 2  of the 5 people on this hill. The one guy was talking to me. We talked after the hill leveled off and he told me now I'll be hooked to trail races.  I think he is right.    Even with this hill, I finished my segment in about 94 minutes which was a few minutes faster than I thought.

We started out the race knowing we weren't going to win. We didn't care about time. We were just doing it to be fun. I still had a fear the night before that I'd finish my leg and my relief wouldn't be there.  He didn't want to carpool with us so that he could sleep in longer.  Well I finished running my segment and he was not there. I never met him before so that was fun. At the exchange I was told he could be up at the aid station versus the exchange so I ran the few hundred yards back up to that. I talked to some aid station workers. I asked them where people park. They told me. I headed back down to the relay exchange. I still didn't find them. I talked to more people asking where people parked. This time I got the correct answer and headed towards the parking area.  I finally saw them coming.  I'd say we lost 5-8 minutes at this point.  It really wasn't a big deal but it was what my fear was so I did not like it.   (For your information, Jake wasn't late but Megan drove from our exchange to the finish to meet him at his car to drive him to the next exchange and that just took extra long.)

Jake had to run 12 miles so we headed to the finish but on our way bought gas and decided to stop for ice cream. We bought larges because they were only 10 cents more than the medium.  Well they were about as big as our heads.  We sat there and ate them. It was hard to control them. They melted so fast.  I got black raspberry. It was nice. I've never had vanilla soft serve with a flavor in the corners.

We both finished our cones but it was taking awhile. At first I thought we should hurry since Megan was late to meeting me but she didn't have to drive 2 ways to the finish so I thought we'd be OK.   I still was slightly worried but as we talked I thought that was fun so I got less worried.

Well we went to the finish parking lot. We parked right by Jake's car.  We headed into the trail to find the finish.  We walked 15 minutes or so and kept commenting how the parking was so far away.  We also kept commenting on how the terrain was so much nicer on this part of the trail than on what we ran on.   We finally got to the aid station.  We thought we were good. We sat down and waited. Then we realized everyone was going on and people weren't stopping. We were sitting there over 10 minutes.  We finally asked someone and he told us this was not the 50k finish.  We had to go walk to the 50k finish.  It was a 30 minute walk away.  We stayed on the trail.  We passed the parking area once and Megan suggested walking on the road but I said to stick on the trail (bad move).  We finally got to the finish and walked over to figure out if Jake finished.  He had finished over 15 minutes earlier.  We had no cell reception so we couldn't call him right there.  We decided to run down the road to get to our car faster and try to see if maybe we could catch up to him.   He didn't know if we'd be at the finish or not. He told us we could go home so when he didn't see us at the finish he just figured we had gone home.  I was so sad we missed him.

We finished with a time of 6:26:09. That would have been at a minimum 5 minutes faster if we didn't have the mishap at the 2nd exchange. You can check out the official results to compare how we did to everyone else.  Our team name was Zesty Westy's.

I'd do this race again. I'd even do the longer relay if we had more people.   Next time I'd want us all to carpool or figure out a different way to deal with the cars. I ran with my water belt and I'd do that again.  Megan didn't carry water and she wished she had.   I would also make plans for after the race to hang out as a team. For some reason running as part of a team was even better than running solo. I felt like if I sucked it just didn't affect me. I liked the team atmosphere.  Next time I will run with my camera or camera phone since we don't have to run super fast, getting some photos of the scenery would have been amazing.

The rocky terrain was so bad for my feet that they hurt for days.  My plantar fasciitis was quite bad.  5 days later I did body pump and holding the weights was killer on my feet.  I hadn't lifted in about a month and the actual lifting wasn't bad because my foot pain was so bad.   Because of the different terrain my calves were also sore the next day.  They were slightly sore 2 days later and when I ran/walked with Dave it was a little hard.


  1. Nice job at Laurel. It can be a technical trail in places. I cant' wait to go back!

    That ice cream looks amazing!

    1. I can't wait to run more of it when I go back.

      It was. And it was only $2 for all that. Granted I wouldn't get such a large size in the future. The cone got all soaked through and was dripping before I was done.

  2. That ice cream looks so good!

    I like the shirt you got.

    Your recap kind of makes me want to try a trail race. It seems more relaxed just because of the terrain. Did it fly by faster because you were watching where you were going?

    1. The first 4 miles kind of flew but then I kept thinking about how many miles I had left where I was and comparing my Garmin and kept thinking I had more left than I did.
      It was fun though. I liked that it was relaxed.