Iliana Dimitrova's 2012 The Terrapin Mountain 50K Race Report
Another one bites the dust Terrapin Mountain 50K is my type of run, mainly ups and downs (7,560 / 7,560 ft gain / loss). I'm happy to have completed race #2 of the Beast series. Given another crazy work schedule, and running only eight times between Holiday Lake 50K and Terrapin, just finishing the race felt good.
My original plan was to actually to train (and not drop the ball as I did with Holiday Lake because of work). Yet once again life had a different plan for me I had to travel to in Bangalore, India for work for two weeks. It was all going to work out, or so I thought. The hotel had a nice gym, and there was an outdoor swimming pool, I was even thinking to run on the streets for my weekend long runs. The sad reality is that I do hate treadmill running, and after two hours at the gym upon arrival, I ceased any physical activity during the trip due to my non-stop work schedule.
Once, I was back in NYC, I had two weeks to get some training in. Unfortunately all I was actually able to fit in was 2 runs. The only thing that helped me successfully finish Terrapin, was once again, Mountain Peak Fitness! Strength training & Coaching with Elizabeth is enormous help to get me thru another 50k. After arriving late for Holiday Lake in January, my plan was to get to VA early enough to enjoy the pre-race dinner and the band playing on Friday night. Of course, I didn't manage to leave NYC till noon, and I made it to camp pass the 8 pm mark. I picked up my race packet, ate some food and turned my car into a tiny "studio apt". This was the first time that I was going to camp in the car so I wasn't sure what to expect. However, the back seats come down, so I figured I can have a comfy bed in the trunk.
I brought a pillow and was falling asleep by 9:30 pm. I did wake up a midnight, feeling hungry, and I ate a small snack. The rain was coming down hard, and I was wondering how the wet trails would affect the race. I did not have a chance to train in the heat thus in a way I was welcoming the rain and the colder weather. I was up by 5:30 am. Not sure, but I was thinking that the course is a figure eight and thus I can have a drop bag. Walking to the start, I realized that I was the only one with drop bag, the RD was nice enough to let me keep the bag by registration. After consulting with Rebekah Tiptoe, I decided to run with a short sleeve shirt rather than a long one.
The race started at 7am. Almost 2/3 of the race was in the rain and kept me from overheating. Within a mile from the start, we were up a medium hill. I had my music on and I didn't socialize with the rest of the runners. However, I did bump into a girl, who I had run into at the bathroom this am. And it turns out she going for the Beast, too. She wanted to be the first women to complete the race series in two consecutive years. We we moving up a bit too fast on the hill and we're passing folks. That was a fast pace for my under trained butt. My newly found buddy, complemented my uphill strength but I figured that the reality is that no matter how I longed for a running buddy, I had to run my own race and to finish Terrapin in my current state, I had to run my own race. So I sent her ahead, and slowed a bit. After what was like an eternity of a hill, there were some flats, more hills.
On the top of the highest hill, the line of people thinned out as the half marathon runners took a right turn at the AS (which we were going to pass three times during the race), and we had a to tun left and run 3 miles downhill on a service road. I'd refill with what turns out to be my Beast staple, a PBJ and coke. I was enjoying the fast descent. There was only one person ahead of me and we ran together for a while. Yet, I had to let him go, because I was dreaming of a pit stop but wasn't able to get a chance for one earlier due to the heavily packed trail with 1/2 marathoner runners. The guy disappeared ahead, yet I was able to pick a few more runners on the downhill, which turned into 2 miles of flat road to the second AS. Here, I refilled again with PBJ and coke, and was up a hill again.
There were a group of three army guys that, we leap frogged for a bit but I dropped them on the hill. And picked a very fast boy that seemed to be struggling as I had already passed him on the prior down hill. After the AS, I passed the boy on the hill, and by now, after a few years of trail running, I'm able to see signs of trouble and recognize what is needed. I asked him what he has eaten so far, given that we're around mile 14. He said two gels and that he wasn't feeling hungry. I told him that he has to figure a way to take in the gu I gave him and to make sure he stops at the next AS and eat some. I continued ahead and picked another buddy.
The guy was an assistant principal of a nearby school. It was refreshing to discuss mainly the southern spirituality. The pace was perfect; yet, he claimed to be a bit too fast for him. The time up the hill passed by so fast, and we (somehow) were back at first AS. From there, the course was an out and back 7 miles. We split as he was out from the AS faster than I because, I had to wait for a PBJ to be made. On the other hand, I was glad to see the fast boy coming in and actually taking food in and refilling his tank. Because I'd had to wait for a while, I figured I will eat the PBJ on the way out of the AS. Wow, from a PBJ hater I have turned into a PBJ lover. It must be the VA mountains effect, as I do not get anywhere near PBJ when in NYC. At the AS, I drank a little coke, but I think I skipped refilling my water bottle as I for some reason I thought there will be an AS on the turnaround point.
I don't think it was the 1/2 point of the race, but I was very happy that I've managed to keep a positive attitude the whole race and not to be disappointed / distracted from the lack of training and question my ability to complete the race. I was repeating what Elizabeth said, “just have fun!” On the out and back section, which was more of a grassy road with rolling hills, we would see the front runners going for the third time to the same AS and having only 10 more miles to go. It was a fast downhill for them and a gentle uphill for us. I decided to keep my nice uphill pace, pick it up on the flats and use the gravity on the downhills.
The fast boy was still struggling as he pulled ahead on the flats and downhills but I would catch him up on the uphills. On top of not eating, his other mistake was not wearing socks or gaiters so he would stop every few minutes to dig out tiny pebbles out of his shoes. Having him close by was refreshing, as I always like to have someone in sight while out on the trails. I think without him I would have missed the first puncher (we had to punch in our bibs three times during the race) on the top of the hill / turnaround point.
From there it was downhill, and I was glad for it because I had finished all of the water on the uphill and I knew I didn't need any water running the downs. Several times I saw orange lizards. The first time I thought someone had dropped a toy, but then who will be playing in the middle of the woods. Then the second orange lizard moved, and then I told myself, wow this is a real one just like the ones back in CO. One never sees lizards up in Bear Mountain, NY where I usually do weekend long runs. This was also the last time I saw the fast boy. He must have recovered and had picked up the pace. I ran all the way back to the AS that we would pass for the third time.
I was enjoying, that I was still feeling good and that there were only 10 miles to go. However, I was a bit concerned as I knew that we are yet to ascend up Terrapin mountain. By the way I was devastated that by now the AS had run out of PBJ, so I had some orange slices and grabbed two gels, drank water, and refilled the bottle. The rain has been on an off the whole time. I was pleased with being on the cooler side, but chafing was inevitable. The AS had some Vaseline and that would help. Going up the Terrapin I passed a group of a girls. The section of going up the mountain reminded me a lot of going up Hope pass. Even though this was a last 1/3 of the race, I think it was the hardest because of the steep acsent and follwed by the steep descent. Once on top of the mountain, we had to walk to a cliff and punch the bib for a second time. By then I had passed few more girls and started running with a gall who had passed me at the second AS.
No more then a mile from the second punch, we saw the markings for the third puncher. The problem was that we were on top of a cliff, and there was no way I was going jump from the rocks 20 ft down. After waiting for 5 min, the rest of the girls arrived. Some of them had done the race and knew what has to be done. This was the famous Fat Man Squeeze or a butt slide between the rocks. I think this was the most interesting part of the race, going between two rocks and literally butt sliding to punch the bib for a 3rd time. We were running in a group of ten girls and a guy, soon we were in the Stone Garden. My main objective was to go as fast I can but not trip. So, I and a lady from VA pulled ahead. I enjoyed this downhill section as it reminded me of Bear Mountain trails.
Suddenly my newly found friend tripped and bumped her knee. Blood was running everywhere, I helped her get up and offered wipes to clean up the blood. The rest of the group caught up to us and the guy offered to stay with her and send us ahead. We continued to run the downhills but this time more carefully. I was using the trees on the side of the trail to hold on and balance and I was willing to take risk to push the pace as long as there was a tree near by that I can use in case I was going to fall. Within 2 miles we were at the last AS manned by boy scouts. This time I think I am going to blame the boys for the lack of PBJ. Few orange slices were good for me and I decided to have a gel. This was another out & back AS, and we were back on the trail but this time uphill.
There were less then 6 miles to the end. Soon we turned left and had another mountain to climb but the hills were not that steep, after 3 miles, we started descending to the finish lane. I could have pushed a bit on this last section, but I had picked up another buddy. And since I was enjoying her company and I was feeling great, I figured I will stick with her to the end. We talked a lot about her experience running 50 marathons in 50 states in two years and her newly found challenge - ultrarunning. The time passed fast and the last 1 mile was on the road. We crossed the finish line holding hands, and agreed to run Grindstone together. It was a fun day, just like Elizabeth said!