Yellow Spring, WV
May 19th, 2012 ~ 7:00 a.m.
First off I have to say a big thanks to the Potomac Highlands Distance Club for the club entry into this race. Without it I may never have found this hidden gem. It will definitely be a repeat event on my race calendar.
My adventure started with the drive to Winchester, VA with the kids to our hotel. We stayed at the Courtyard so that the kids could enjoy the pool that evening and the next day. Hubbs jointed us after our swim and we went to my favorite restaurant; Carrabba's Italian Grill. After a much too heavy meal, we were back to our room and in bed.
Sleep is rarely something I have in abundance the night before a race so I was happy that I was a mere 20ish minutes from the race start when it was time to get moving in the morning. A quick kiss to the still sleeping kids and encouragement from the hubbs and I was out the door.
Thanks to my GPS I quickly found my way to the race start. The start and finish was at the Ruritan club making packet pickup a smooth process. The only downside was the lack of modern bathroom facilities. The only option were outhouse/privy-type potties. However, you don't have to be an ultra runner for long before you have gotten back to "nature" when it comes to nature calls.
If you look closely at the above photo you can see I started very close to the front of 200 other runners. I'm the runner in my Yellowman pink shirt. The last runner in the shot. This might make you think that I am attempting some sort of foreshadowing but I simply ended up there when I walked to the start line chatting with another runner, Stacy who would end up finishing 25th overall.
The course, as it reads on the website, seemed very runnable. In fact that is a term that is used repeatedly in the course description; runnable. This first section was a great mix of surfaces including backyards, creek crossings, trails and dirt roads covering shy of 4 miles before reaching the first aid station located at a barn on one of the many private properties that we could be running on.
Between aid station 1 and 2 was another mix of terrains covering over 7 miles. This would be the longest stretch between aid stations. Although there was a water only stop between the full aid stations for runners that might need it.
Miles 4 through 10 were a roller coaster of terrain and emotions for me. The hills were often and steep. I quickly got warm but I was loving the surroundings and I was so glad I had brought the camera even though it was causing me some equipment malfunctions.
This power line section was a great spirit lifter. The views were amazing and I was finally getting past the early miles struggle and feeling warmed up and loose.
At this point in the race I was simply enjoying the trails and my fellow runners. Stopping to take photos and talking with which ever runners I found myself with.
West Virginia really didn't disappoint in beautiful surroundings to run in. Another thing I noticed was about my fellow runners, they were not overtly concerned about running all of this reportedly runnable course.
I think that the word runnable in the course description was used to explain that the terrain is, for the most part, not technical however, many of the inclines (call them hills or mountains, your choice) are not runnable at my fitness level. And apparently not at many other runners levels either. On many steep long hills I got to practice my "walk like you mean it" method of ultra running.
Although I did my share of walking on hills, I also did a lot of running. Without a lot of big rocks and roots I was able to really run the majority of the course. This gave me the opportunity to run with several different groups of runners.
Just before the #4 aid station I was running off and on with Christine and Bob and a group of three ladies from West Virginia who frequented the trails. Knowing this was reportedly the toughest section I knew I needed all my energy focused on forward movement. This is one of the first ultras where I did far more listening than I did talking. Who knew I could do that? I was surprisingly focused on running a smart and strong race. And so far, I really was.
Aid station #4 was where I had dropped a bag. I really didn't have much in it but it was nice to have something to look forward to. I had a fresh pair of socks, my Mission Enduracool Instant cooling cloth, pickles, a tank top, glide and baby wipes. I had chosen to wear my CEP calf sleeves and Sof Sole socks. This is the only aid station where I stayed more that 2 minutes. At the second full service aid I was "scolded" by a volunteer for not drinking enough. This would happen repeatedly. However after the first reprimand, I was drinking much more. I think the warning stemmed from the amount of salt all over me simply because I sweat so much.
I used the baby wipes to clean up a bit and remove some salt to head off some chafing issues. I ate some pickles but decided that my feet were already water logged and changing my socks might cause more blisters than it would be worth. After some salt, topping off my Camelbak, a couple pringles and a banana section, I did pick up my Mission cooling cloth and put my drop bag in the return box.
Between #4 and #5 lay almost 6 miles with a lot of nice running broken up with some refreshing creek crossings. This was surprisingly an enjoyable distance. Again the surroundings were breathtaking and the changing terrain made the journey mentally interesting for me as I was still running by myself mostly, moving from group to group of runners.
By this time of day the heat was becoming a factor. Even under the forest canopy the humidity was reaching a challenging point. Having never used my Mission cloth before I was happy to find that it really did help to make me feel cooler. I simply wet and re wet the cloth every chance I got. Sometimes all I had was a creek to dunk it in but then a quick snap of the towel and it made my neck feel instantly cooler.
A note about Capon Valley aid stations. The volunteers were wonderful. They were very proactive in helping fill packs and encouraging runners to eat, drink and then get moving. The aid stations had the usual offering of Heed, water, soda, chips, crackers, pb&j squares, bananas, candy, ibuprofen, petroleum jelly and band aids. There was also a water spray available at the 6th aid station. I can't thank the volunteers enough for supporting my day and being proactive in
hassling reminding me to drink more.
With just over 2 5ks to run I was feeling fantastic. That little hidden reserve of energy you always dream of finding, I found. The course was now in my favor with the majority of the remaining distance more down hills than up, I was loving the surge of energy!
The final aid station was back at the landowner's barn. I re wet my cooling cloth, put petroleum jelly on some chafing, grabbed a banana, a cup of water and some salt when Bob grabbed my shoulder and said, "Let's go!" Having only been in the aid station for a few minutes I knew he was right, why was a lingering. I needed to move and so we did.
I don't know where I lost Bob who I know was trying to stick close but I found myself passing people and the usual trail chatter returned. But I was passing people too quickly to do anything but offer encouragement to my fellow runners. I didn't even mind that final road section, it simply rounded out a day full of changing surfaces.
Capon Valley 50k ~ 6:15:35
And there it was that final stretch. I tried to catch one last runner but Tom Corris was just a few seconds too close to that finish line to catch him even with Gary Knipling's encouragement. But it didn't make the completion of another great adventure any less sweet. In fact it made it even nicer to have friends at the finish line, finishing in front of me and behind me and cheering me to my own finish. As my circle of ultra friends grows each journey becomes less about numbers and more about those smiling faces that I get to share them with.
Some of the great friends who I got to share my day with; Stacy who I wish I could have ran with the entire race, Abbi who ran with her sister and shared dinner with me, Christine who joined me in the creek after the race, Ultrarunnergirl who was sporting a sassy new hairdo!, Gary and Tom who are ultra running history still being written, and Rebecca who went on to run the Bob Potts marathon the next day. There were so many friends that I am sure I missing some who shared in a day full of good times.
Thanks to every one for helping make Capon Valley more than just another 50k!
photo credit and thanks to PHDC and Lindsay Brill