Daily Chatter

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k ~ Race Report

LBM, super secret spy and me at the start
The morning dawned following a night of heavy rain and thunderstorms leaving little doubt that today was going to be an exercise in determination.  I struggled with the race morning doubts and nervousness as I went quietly about my usual pre-race routine and was quickly ready to head towards the finish line to drop off my car and join the super secret spy and LBM for the drive to the start line. 
The trip to the finish area was uneventful except for the speed trap that put a bit of a damper on the morning.  Being a slower driver hopefully I will remember to lead the way next year.  We parked my car and picked up one of the runners waiting for the buses to the start line. It seems that one of the scheduled buses broke down and they were running a bit behind.  This helped us as we were running a little late thanks to some bad directions. 

Why is it that races are often easier when you travel alone?
My first running in 2010 with family  ~ click HERE
My second PR setting run in 2011 without family ~ click HERE
I may need to post on the differences I've experienced when racing with my family there verses racing solo.  It could be interesting.

Volunteers rock!
Thankfully we came across these amazing volunteers who gave us great directions to the start area.  We were quickly at the start area and dropped off our papers and $20.00.  I was handed a recycled bib number and I headed towards the start "line" to get kisses from the family.

Larry H went on to find a trail running zen late in the race

I saw Larry H from DM who I had run some of the Hashawha Hills 50k with last weekend. It was nice to get to introduce my family to him. We chatted briefly and then our RD, Ed Schultze was going over last second info and ready, set, go we were off.
Jazz hands

I need to take a moment and thank Ed for all his hard work over the years.  This will be his last year as RD for the SCG Trail Marathon and 50k.  That makes me sad.  I've done this event for 3 years.  It was my first 50k and over all it has always been one of my favorites even though it has remained one of the most unpredictable courses.  Ed has unknowingly given me very high standards for what I expect out of a trail ultra.  And while I am sure that the incoming RD Harvey Sugar will keep those standards high in his attempt to fill those shoes, I hope that the down-to-earth natural feel of this event isn't lost. 
So thank you Ed for wearing some really big shoes and for giving graciously of your time and talents to make this event the birth place of my ultra trail running love.

More awesome volunteers cheering us on

Since I am sharing Thank yous, have I said it already? 
This would not be possible for me to be doing this slightly crazy, unbelievably amazing thing that I am beyond blessed to do if it were not for the selfless gift of time, energy and talents an army of volunteers provide. They go above and beyond as they stand out in all sorts of weather. They smile, laugh and never tell me how bad I look or smell. They show me the way when my brain stops working and tell me I can do it when that is exactly what I need to hear.
Thank you for all you do!

jumping off the far bank.  Splash!

This year the trails at Seneca could be easily described in two words; water and mud.  While many would say that it wasn't that bad, I would disagree.  The only race that reveled the mud level was a section at the Bull Run Run 50 last spring.  I can and do train in all kinds of conditions.  I run in rain, wind, cold, heat.  I run over fields, road, trails, streams.  But rarely do I train at length to run in mud.  It is this fact that would most shape the outcome of my day.

Only sissies try and cross on rocks.

The course only contains about a mile of park road with the reminder being trails and open fields broken up by the repeated water crossings.  These are all elements I love so the majority of the race I ran with a smile plastered across my face.

This really is the MOST fun ever!

Although I was enjoying the race I quickly realized that due to our later than usual arrival at the start area, I was much farther back in the pack than I wanted to be.  The going was very slow in the first many few miles with passing nearly impossible at the level of risk I was running.  I simply wasn't going to break my ankle running wide of the trail to get around other runners when they did not heed my repeated "on your left" request to pass.  So I stayed fairly steady and ended up running the majority of this race with Larry H.  I resigned myself to running a training run and letting go of any dreams of a race PR.

I think I ran half the race with my eyes closed.

 This course was changed this year and lengthened.  That fact made it easier for me to attempt to be smart and focus on training for that
A race
and remembering that I had already put in a "race" effort only a week ago.  Attempting to gauge my progress more on perceived effort I only looked at my garmin to mark the passing of a mile here and there.  I had eaten a tablespoon or so of honey before the race start.  I was carrying gummies the kiddie kind again and Gus in my camelbak which was filled with watered down orange G2.  Although I was not planning on using the Gu unless I hit a wall between aid stations.  I did stop at aid stations during this race unlike last weekend.  Over the course of the race I had a section of banana, 4 peanut M&Ms, 2 pretzels, 2 pieces of potato with salt, 1 1/2 ginger snap cookies, some soda and water.  Since I didn't have any nature call issues or energy dips along the way, I am beginning to think that eating less might work better for me at this distance.  With one more 50k in a few weeks I will get another opportunity to test that theory.

I'm not the only smiling runner out there

The skies were beginning to clear and the miles were flying by.  Before I knew it I was at the lake loop.  After a brief stop to grab 4 M&Ms I headed out to circle the lake in what I thought would be another mud-fest however I was pleasantly surprised when the loop ended up being much drier than I had thought.  This section went very quickly for me and I was happy to see the passing of mile 18 as I headed back into the woods and knew that I was over half way done.

I love doing this!

My legs were getting tired from all the extra work that the mud asked of them but I was feeling strong.  However somewhere before the Route 28 aid station Larry H slipped beyond my sight.  I knew he had gotten a second wind that I was just not feeling.  I saw him leave the aid station as I topped the hill but I knew there was no way that I even wanted to attempt to run any race but my own.  I didn't want to completely lose sight of why I was out here.  Of course I needed to be doing this to help prepare for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 but I was really out here because I simply love doing this.  I love running through the woods, over these trails, through the mud and into the creek.   
Eyes closed again
I ran alone for a few miles.  At first I was enjoying pushing my body through the amazing scenery.  But as I prayed over my list of friends and family my mind started to struggle.  With each hill that awoke the soreness growing in my hamstrings and gluts, the doubts spiraled out of control.  Luckily I had caught up to a small group of runners.  I was tempted to continue on my own pace and pass them but I decided to turned my attention of them in hopes of losing myself in the joy of trail running again. 

Thanks John for getting me looking just about as tired as I was.  Don't I ever shut up?!

Amongst others, I ran with Cathy Blessing and Mike Bur. These two wonderful runners have ran during every single Seneca. That's 9 years without fail. This year they were doing the marathon distance and simply enjoying the muddy adventure. Their chatter and stories helped me get past my own mental fuzziness and focus on the proper things. I started feeling that joy again.  We entered the Berryville Road aid station together but I was once again eager to keep moving.  After a brief chat with John; a super volunteer that has been at Seneca each year I have run it and who is skilled at getting runners looking like rock stars exhausted insane people, I took off. 

Running into the finish

Those last few miles went by so quickly.  I was loving every step and even the mud didn't seem to bother me as much.  I was lost in the sights, smells and memories I have from these trails.  I remembered my first Seneca when I bushwhacked the last trail section.  I remembered how thrilled I was last year when I enjoyed such a fast run on the course.  I remembered how my daughter had run into the finish with me during my first ultra and I wondered if she would be there again waiting for me and I ran faster.

Celebrating with the kiddos

And then I was heading towards the finish.  My family was screaming.  My friends were cheering.  I was thinking,  "How can I be done already?"  It had been a roller coaster of mental challenges but I had stayed strong and proven again that on any given day I can amaze myself.
Third Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k ~ 6:57:33


  1. That sounds like such a fun race! I'm bummed that I missed it, but reading your recap was like being there!

    Great time for such muddy conditions!

  2. Another excellent 50k girl! I'm glad the mud wasn't soul sucking and how wonderful to have the fam there to cheer you in!

  3. Looks like you had a great time! Definitely looks like a good race...well, except those water crossings...a few are OK but too many brings back bad memories!!

  4. I just love your race reports! And what GREAT pictures you got here! Congrats on another strong finish! :)

  5. First of all, that outfit is fabulous.

    Second, you are a total badass. I am constantly impressed by your physical and mental strength.

    Congrats on another fabulous ultra!

    1. Agreed! Your comment nailed my thoughts exactly!

  6. How many people can say they're photogenic even during an ultra? Not many I suspect, but you and that smile are fabulous. Congrats!

  7. I love that outfit! I have a trail race this weekend and was thinking of wearing that top. YMX just makes the best stuff. You look so happy when you are out there. No wonder you are an ultra runner. Great job!

  8. Well done! You did so well were very strong indeed. I must say that is a race and route just the way I would like it. Great report and photos, thanks!

  9. That looks amazing!!!! Love all the pictures :)

  10. Amazing time! It sounds like a tough race. How wonderful to have your family cheering for you at the finish. Didn't we run on that trail at Stone Mill? I think I've blocked some of that out :)

  11. Sounds like a happy day for you (and looked like it). Nice job--you are so strong! And love the YMX top, btw. Gotta look good, even in the woods!

  12. You look so strong AND happy out there. Does it get better than that? Way to conquer a TOUGH course and yay for no GI issues!!

  13. You are a rock star!! I was dying after 7 miles of trails with no mud.. Your legs must be sooo strong. Congrats on another successful race..

  14. You never cease to amaze me! Ever since I have known you, you have been a continued source of inspiration! I will carry you with me next weekend in my first ultra :). Congratulations again, girl! Keep being awesome!