Day530 Holiday Lake TR (2)

Training Run – Holiday Lake

When I said I will be going to Holiday Lake for a training run, my friends and family reacted in disbelief. They think it was too easy for me.

Do I really need to train for a 50K? Not really but I thought the place has good trails and elevation to help me with either the BRR or the MMT. Best of all new trail I have never been on before. Indeed it has some good elevation for training. I have been bored lately and needed a new place to excite me. Holiday Lake gave me a feeling of adventure.

There seems to be a pattern with my training. Three weeks back, I was training for a 100 miler (MMT). Last week I was training for a 50 miller (BRR), and this week, I trained for a 50k. I guess next week would be a half marathon or shorter.

Holiday Lake is about 200 miles south from my home. It takes about three hours to get there. As always I’d go anywhere for a race or a run. It got to be big enough to get my attention to put in this much work. Holiday Lake 50K has been ones I wanted to do since I know about ultras.

Actually I was out at Signal Knob one afternoon probably in 2018-2019, doing a hike on the Meneka Peak with couple friends and afterward, I wanted to run around it again. During the run, I met a guy, he was also doing loops there but in the opposite direction. As for me, I was probably training for the JFK 50 at the time, my first real ultra. He was much better runner than I was. As we talked in the parking lot, I asked him any races he would recommend me because I was new to ultra trail running. He gave off a list of races and one of them was Holiday Lake. Of course, later I looked up his name, he was one of the first place winners of one of the races he recommended (Highland Sky). He might got first too at Holiday Lake too, but I don’t remember. Those were during his younger days. I didn’t recognize a celebrity when I came face to face with one. All he said to me was the RD knows him if I mention that he told me to sign up. (I tried to sign up for Highland Sky too, but got on the waitlist this year).

Now, four or five years later, I finally get to run it. This weekend though was just a training run. The real race is next month. I missed its first training run the previous weekend, because it was in conflict with BRR1. This weekend was their 2nd training run. It was perfect for me.

I had been reluctant to sign up in the past because it is a winter race in February. I always avoided winter races in the past because I did not like running in the cold. Eventually I got over it. You just bundle up more.

This weekend was like the past two weekends. Early waking time. This time I slept earlier. Woke up at 3 AM. Started the drive at 4 AM. Arrived and met many people at the 4H Club Center at Holiday Lake.

The race director introduced himself. Everyone said hi Brandon. Everyone was quite friendly, totally unlike BRR or MMT training run — MMT and BRR have friendly people too, but I felt once you leave the capital area, people are much nicer. I had similar experiences when I was in West Virginia, Atlanta, or Pennsylvania and Texas. Anyway, pasture is greener on the other side.

We had a bunch of college students maybe they came from Lynchburg. I have been hanging out with older people in my trail community where the average age is around 45-47, and today the average dropped by a lot because most were teens and twentys. I felt a bit younger and it brought back memories when I was first year in college, my running club leader brought a few of us out to a lake to run. It might have beem Holiday Lake or similar. I did not remember it until today. Due to we got lost during the run, but I will save that for maybe another post.

The training was on the exact course as the race. We would do a loop around the lake. It is a 16 ish mile loop. Two loops would make a 50k.

We grouped up at the parking lot at 7:30. After a short speech, we walked to the start. There we took group photos, then the RD gave the G-word, we went off.

The first quarter mile was up the road out the camp. We then turned right onto Lakeshore Trail, doing clockwise direction on this run. I think they did the reverse direction last time. On race day, we will do one in clockwise and another counter clockwise direction. Some think this is a fair way thst you get to climb or run down both sides of a hill.

The day was beautiful. We had one of warmest winter days and I was in shorts and tee shirt. The morning was cold but it warmed up to near 50F, about 15C, perfect running temperature.

I enjoyed the trail tremendously. It validated me for driving 3 hours and waking up at 3 in the morning. It was not too technical. It was very runable. There were a lot of roots and uneven surfaces. Some rocks, hills here and there. There were a few tough climbs. It dispelled my fear that the course would be entirely flat. I almost canceled the trip when I checked strava the night before and got the impression that it had only couple hundred of feet of elevation (I might have read the course 10K profile instead of the 50k). The reason I did not cancel is I was not ready to replace it with something else. I did not have time to study the map for another run, say The Wild Oak Trail, which a lot of runners were out there that day and I only learned of it afterward on Facebook. Anyway, no regrets for choosing Holiday Lake over Wild Oak. My run ended up with 1200 feet of elevation gain (for one loop), which is every good. Not hilly but enough to help me with my training. It was less hilly than the BRR training, maybe about half as much.

By 4 miles, I was with Kristine and Chris and Ruby. Ruby was leading from maybe 100-200 feet away. Kristine and Chris have been in front of me the whole time. I was only a few steps behind.

We were all new on this course. Everyone else, the more experienced folks already passed us ahead. Actually we passed some college kids at beach/picnic area. Ruby was one of the college kids, but she was new to the trail. I and rest of us assumed she knew the direction and did not pay attention at where we were going. As you know, we got off course. Chris is a city runner so he was not so keen on turns and such (I only noticed later). I ran with Kristine before, and she has a better sense of directions but I guess not by much. I had no excuses though. She was following Chris and I was following Kristine. I am supposed good at paying attention to turns by now. I remembered passing a turn and my spider sense told me, we should be turning here, but I kept my head down and followed Kristine and Chris. We went for maybe quarter mile to half a mile until the trail crossed a knee deep creek and no bridge was available. It was then, we were thinking no way we would want to get wet, crossing a creek. We did not see any streamers to indicate we should be crossing it and it seemed to be not the way to go. Bells were ringing in our heads that we were off track. While the group was debating to go across or not, I decided to turn around to find the last streamer we saw.

The group then followed me. Pretty soon we found the turn we had missed. Ruby was starting to run out of steam and got left behind. I waited for her and adviced her and also anyone here as a PSA (public service announcement), when one is running on a new trail and the direction is iffy, stick to a partner. She was telling me not to wait for her.

Note, don’t feel as a runner in a strange place that you are a burden to other runners that they had to wait for you. I remember while doing the MMT training run, the guys left me on the mountain, and it was not very nice.

It was the reason, I stayed with Kristine and Chris even though I could run faster than they do. Three pairs of eyes are better than one.

The rest of the run was uneventful. Ruby went for a mile more and turned around at 5 mile mark. Later some college kids also turned around. They were part of Ruby’s group. I told them that Ruby turned around early.

The course uses trails, double track (forest road/atv trails), horse trails, and country roads. We were running in a pine tree forest. I think it was peaceful.

There were a few places we were unsure of because we did not want to get lost again, but usually when we started to have doubts, we would come across a streamer that the race director put up, reassuring us we were on the right trail. Note, I also had a map on my phone, but the scale was too big to tell me anything useful (strava map).

I did the first loop in 3 and half hours and the second loop in 4 and half, a total of 8 hours. The race cut off time is 8 hours. This was a training run, so I did not push myself hard. I am sure on race day, I would be going faster, especially on the flat portion. I won’t DNF. Also I got lost a bit on my second loop because I was going in a reverse direction. Somehow I missed a streamer back around the picnic area and I did not remember which way we did during the first loop. I later was able to find my way back. That might have taken half hour off the clock. I think I could do it under 7 hours.

Now in hindsight, the course was actually quite easy. The full course is consisted of two trails, the Lakeshore trail (blazed blue rectangles) and the CT – Carter Taylor, blazed with red rectangles. Lakeshore trail goes around the lake and is 6.5 miles. Carter Taylor is also a loop, and maybe is 10 miles. So the race is doing these two loops, gives 16.5 miles. They are like a figure 8 with one loop on top of another.

I ended the run feeling pretty well. If I had a companion, I would have gone out for maybe a 3rd loop too. I believe I was the only one who ran two loops that day. They thought I was crazy, but it was just a normal training day.

Beautiful trail and pine forest
A warm day, we were almost at the end
I like a wide open trail
walking to the start, a bit chilly in the morning
young pine forest, I think they were replanting pine trees

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: