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sometimes things just happen

Day 241 / Seneca Creek 50K report

Another long post, but I had to get it out. I know, readers can get blog-fatigue. I do. Some readers only read once a month, some once a week. I try to blog when I can. Yes, mostly for myself as a run journal. So here is another run report.

At church, we have been learning about the providence of God in our study of the book of Esther – how the God of the universe is orchestrating all things to happen the way he wants it to happen to show his care and protection of his chosen people. It takes a leap a faith to believe this because we can’t come to reconcile how each of us can act the way we want to act and still in the end fall into place according to God’s plan. Enough said. For those who believe in the complete sovereignty of God, it is a delight and comfort when we see how things work out seemingly toward a goal.

On a smaller scale, there are times when I don’t plan things out but what you really wanted would happen and you saw it and said that’s really what I want all along, as if it has been planned.

And sometimes, no matter how much you plan murphy’s law always ruin the day.

Last weekend was one like it (the good kind and not the murphy’s law kind). I didn’t really plan for this race. It has been a series of events and making the right decision at the right time and finally it brought to pass and now I looked back and say it was perfectly planned and executed. I couldn’t have done it any better. I was like I woke up in the morning, saw a race on my calendar, ran it, and pleased.

I was lined up for two races for the weekend. Seneca Creek on Saturday was signed up a bit while ago, maybe after I got accepted to the Laurel Highland race or sometimes in Janurary. The second race was the Reston 10 Miler, which I signed up just couple weeks ago (blogged about it).

I have forgotten (willfully put out of my mind) the race date until middle of the week of. I knew the weekend is going to be tough one. I have a 31 mile run on Saturday, then a 10 miles run on Sunday, and my own long run training (16 miles) for the weekend.

Seneca Creek Greenway 50K, is a low frill, low cost, local marathon. It was one of the best races I have done. I just love the local flavor. Everyone, mostly everyone are from the surounding areas. I don’t know anyone really, but I felt we were one big family. I was giddy excited to run with them. I don’t usual get this kind of feeling except for my weekly group run. I met couple people and we talked and laughed, which is why I love it so much.

There was no corporate branding. It was not like DC Rock n Roll. The course can be challenging. If I haven’t done other ultras in the mountains like in West Virginia or in Roanoke, this race would be considered one of the hardest. The reason being is a lot of local people are ‘road’ marathon runners, it is not easy for them. We living in the city (flat city) don’t get that kind of hills. Seneca Creek though has a fair bit of hills relatively speaking.

How can I tell of they are road runners? By the things they wear and the way they run. Sometimes it is just ridiculous. Not complaining. An example, the direction clearly said no earphone, yet there were people still listening to whatever they were listening. You only mostly see this behavior with road runners (city people). They must have their music to pump them up. I know don’t judge, because they might have their volume down really low, and they might say they can hear runners coming up behind them. Again I know some trail runners too listen to stuff (but we were taught to only listen with one ear, and leave the other ear free). Any way, I am not complaining…since I can run faster than them and stay far far away. When you throw in hills, I beat the h#* out of them. I am one of the mountain boys. Indeed, too many of them were walking up small hills as if it was a street marathon!

The course m has about 1,000 ft of total gain. Not a whole lot but enough. Of course now I am a master of hills, having done as much as 7,000 ft on some weekends. 1,000 was just the right amount for me to be able to run at a decent pace. It enjoyed the challenge.

The course is a bit longer than 50k. My watch recorded 32 miles. Knowing GPS is not that accurate any way, so 1 mile over 31, is about 3%, I would say the watch is within the expected value.

Here you can also tell who were new to trail marathon. Road runners care a lot of distance and time but trail runners know, in trail race, you never able to get the race to measure to the exact distance. I had race directors calling a 28 miles a 50K. And in Seneca Creek 28 miles is their marathon distance. So for runners coming from road running community, they were shell-shocked.

About those GPS watches, we think they are highly accurate but they are not. The accuracy is depended how many satellites it can acquire at a given moment and how frequently it is polling. The watch usually extrapolate the distance traveled from two points to give the measurement in between, giving the impression the tracking is live. It is not live, silly. The points in between the polling were estimates and on trail marathon, those hills and switch backs will throw the estimations completely off. Also for GPS to work it needs clearing of space, not under trees or rocks. Best to be on top of a hill. Trees and mountains block and interfere with the GPS signal, and most people didn’t know about this. I came across this problem while trying to aquire GPS indoor (also later outdoor). Also, we think GPS can aquire signal being on the move. The best result is when you are standing still and let it finishes it calculation, which can take a while! Surprise, surprise. I know because I have one of those backpacker handheld GPS unit and it was frustrating to use (because I didn’t understand GPS limitations at the time). Yes, finally, it takes a ‘long’ time to get a GPS reading. Most phones cheated here, they use various other means to get your position (like cell tower signal) so it is not solely GPS but our watches often do not get that fancy phone signal. I said too much. I felt superior to other runners when they said their GPS watch gave this and that mileage as if their watch is the authorative source of information. The best way to measure distance is take a measuring wheel and measure the course (which they do for road marathon, to have the course certified).

I set my goal to finish between 3:00 – 3:30 pm (race started at 8). So I gave myself 7 – 7.5 hrs. Reason being is I didn’t want to wear out myself since it was supposed to be a long run to get me ready for the race in June. But I actually pushed myself a bit too hard and was worn out around miles 24. I finished in 6.5 hrs (2:30 pm).

I don’t mind finishing eatlier than expected but in pushing myself, I made a tactical error. Actually was unavoidable. I rolled my left ankle around mile 23/24. I limped a bit then the pain went away and I went back to running. The event might have caused me to sit out for a long while and would have missed other races. So it was very risky. I knew this in the back of my mind. Just don’t get injured, I told myself.

I thought rolling my left foot was serious but after the race, my right foot hurted more than my left. I must have injured it somewhere during the race. It was unexplainable. I must have been so pumped with adrenaline that I was not aware of the injury until couple hours after the race. Somehow the back of my right heel was hurting, and still hurts even today.

Oh, on the trail, there is no mileage sign, all mileage is approximate. So at around 26 mile, I got anxious. I know last couple miles from mile 26 to the finish since I was helping out the race last year and scoped the trail. So as I was running, I said, I should be coming up to an area I recognize. It took a while, finally I started recognizing my surrounding.

The last part of the race was the decision point. This race had a feature that allowed all runners to switch to run a marathon or a 50k at the decision point at mile 27. Those who want to change their mind to do the marathon would take a left and get to the finish area. Those who want to continue doing the 50K would take a right at the decision point and they would run around the lake to get 31 mile.

I took the trail to the right. The path was familiar to me since I walked on the trail last year, scoping out the place. I never thought about running it then. Funny how things worked out. The lake was beautiful. The weather was perfect. I did not take any photo but the sunshine and the lighting made the lake sparkled in a way as if I was in an enchanted place.

No time for that. I got to finish the race. I knew I only had a few miles left. I had various expectations as I ran. I said I must cross a bridge here and there. There were three bridges and the last was unexpected. There was a parking area that I must come across. I must cross a road. Then it would be near the finish area. I came across all those places. The last section felt long after crossing the road. A runner told me, I only have a third of a mile left, and that seemed forever. I was glad to know the distance. Then we came to the last hill. I recognized it. Now I don’t remember if I ran up or walked up, but the finish line was just beyond the hill (hidden from view). Once I climbed the hill, I saw the finish line to my left. I splinted to it. The clock showed 6:30. I was thrilled. I did it under 7 hours with lot of time to spare.

I am a pro at this now. The volunteer recorded my time and took my timing chip. It was one of those you put on your shoes. I spent the race thinking what would be the best way to remove the chip. (cut it). My car was nearby, I went and changed clothes. I could hardly walk at that point. Yup, it seemed only few minutes but time flew. I then went to the bathroom. I have been holding in for the whole race. At mile 26 I was going to use the potty, but someone was in it, so I skipped it. I could also have gone behind a tree, but somehow I did not want to break the momentum of my run, so I held it till crossing the finish. That was a first. 6 1/2 hours of holding it in! Yike!

I went to the finisher area. We have unlimited food and drinks. I limited myself to one drink, since I still had to drive home. I had a good time. I met couple new people. We talked and hang out for couple hours and it was the best race experience ever.

Later, once my body (tempersture) recovered, I went back out to cheer until the last runner crossed the finish line.

For me, this race was not that stressful. I took it as a training run to get me prepare for the one in June. It was trail and I love it. It was not too technical but it had enough hills and distance to make it an ideal training run for the weekend. I did push myself a bit too hard and got injured as the result. Hopefully, I will recover soon from that.

It is interesting thinking how I got into the race. I think the race wouldn’t have been there if not for some random events. I don’t even recall when I signed up for the race. The several people I met, we were like buddies. I truly enjoyed it. The race was low cost, which was the best reason to run it for me. Less than $40 and it was an ultra, where else can you find such races? Of course there are those fat-ass races, but I have not ran those yet. It was a very good experience for me.

Sometimes things just happened to give you the best weekend you would remember for a long time!

By Antin

There is nothing more I like than to run, hike, and be with one I love

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