I can think of many words when it comes to the Catoctin 50k Trail Run. But the one that sticks out the most? "Finished." I failed and bailed on this race last year at the halfway point, thus making it one finish and one major fail. I promised myself that this would be my last Catoctin race and I didn't want to go out on the losing end...again. There were many highs and some major lows for me during the race. I am not going to sit here and make excuses as to why this race didn't go as planned. Mainly because with this type of course, well, anything can AND will happen.
The weather had been calling for a low of around 70 and a high around 90 for the day. I never did check the actual high/low but it was hot and humid the entire day. But that is to be expected and something the Catoctin 50k is known for. It was nice because we arrived early to pick up our bibs and talk with friends that we had not seen for awhile. There was no rush to the start line wondering if we had everything we needed. The race was supposed to start at 8:00am on the dot but Kevin Sayers (RD) had to go over the race instructions and rules. And with a good deal of "new" Catoctin runners as well as first timers, we were about ten minutes behind schedule.
We started off doing a loop around the parking lot before heading out and down the trail. It gets super bunched up at the start and that can cause some chaos with the inexperienced people thinking it's a 5k and not a 50k. I had a bunch of people elbowing their way by without warning me, which tends to rub me the wrong way. No easier way to get injured than by other people doing it for you. Once it thinned out I fell into a groove and tried to maintain a smart pace. My longtime friend, "Milburn" was racing as well and was near me so that made the miles go by just a "little" faster. The first part of the race, known to the locals as "The Valleys" is just that. It consists of gnarly single track trail that leads you down for roughly 1 1/2 miles. On the other side and leading back up is a breath robbing, leg burning climb. It flattens out a bit but then you go right back into a descent and another ascent before heading into the first aid station, "Hamburg Road."
We have trained on this course multiple times so as we neared the Hamburg aid station we were straining our ears to hear the screaming of the volunteers, friends and family. They did not disappoint at all. This is classified as a low budget race but they have high dollar aid stations. They are yelling for your water bottles as soon as you come into view. They make sure you have whatever you need before leaving. These people rule!
Leaving the aid station I knew things would soon go downhill. I had only been able to take two gels in an hour and a half. For some reason I just can't stomach those things. Luckily the miles clicked by and Milburn caught back up to me. It would be a yo yo effect for most of the first half of the race. I would get a jump on him out of the aid stations and eventually he would catch back up. The sun was now above us and the heat started to rise. We made our way down the two mile descent to the turnaround at the "Manor." My feet were feeling heavy in my Hoka One One's so I decided to switch over to my NB 840's. Well, we all do stupid things in the heat of the moment. I would suffer later in the race for that decision.
Like I said at the beginning when I started typing, "no excuses." I consider myself a road runner because that's what I run on. I suck at trails and suck even more climbing mountains. We were now around four hours strong in the race and Milburn caught back up to me on the climb up. At 16 miles in, this would be the last I would see of him until the finish. I threw my earphones in and tried to take my mind off of what I was doing. My legs still felt good but my stomach was far from feeling that way. Around 20 miles in I was stung by a huge bee in the back of the calf. I honestly can't recall the last time I was stung by a bee. Again, I won't lie...it stung! Two minutes or so later I had popped my earphones out to talk with a runner who was now walking. Lucky I did that or my race could have ended there. In an instant we were both jumping out of the way as we eyed this lovely little guy right under us. I was one step away from putting my foot on him.....
As I stopped to "play" with him and to warn oncoming runners, Todd Pearsall, the guy that was with me, hightailed it out for fear of being bitten. Later I found out that I was well within his "striking distance" of 4 to 5 feet. By the time I got him off the trail and to the side, he was coiled like a spring and super ticked off. Good times! My bee sting was bothering me so I took some benadryl at an aid station. Another awful mistake. I was not taking in much water so I was now dehydrated. The benadryl made me feel like the walking dead. At certain times I would actually find myself just nodding out as I walked-jogged-ran. I was contemplating dropping at the Hamburg aid station but that was still 5 miles from where I stood. When I got there, after what seemed like two days, Jenny (daughter of Milburn) told me to drink some Mountain Dew. I sat down for a few minutes and downed some Coke and S-Caps and then set out for the trip back into the "Valleys."
I started to feel a little better and started running. I got in a groove and picked some people off. I speed hiked the hills and ran the downs. I caught up to a really super nice guy, Larry Key, and his pacer on a climb up one of the ascents. I passed him and started my way back down the last big descent. His pacer, Kristin, a past winner of the Cat 50k, was pulling him down the descent at a sick pace! I dropped in behind them and we rolled. The last 1 1/2 miles is a steady climb back to the finish. With a little over a 1/2 mile left I pulled ahead of Larry and pushed as hard as could. I passed two more people and ran up the log steps, as well as the concrete steps. I was now with twenty yards from the finish.
I actually had fun with the finish and skipped in. I heard people saying, "He's skipping!" and that made it even funnier. I crossed the line in 8:58:53. Almost two hours and fifteen minutes slower than my last 50k earlier in the year. This was by far my worst ever 50k. To put it in prospective, three years ago I ran 50 miles in 9:09:45. That's how bad this race was. It was a hot, humid, brutal, ass kicking hell of a time. And how did I celebrate it?
Again, no excuses. I had my tail handed to me because I didn't train right. I slacked off on my miles the past month and paid for it. I know I need to figure out this fueling problem. I aim to talk with a kick butt Ultra runner simply known as "Sniper" in the next week. I am also going to speak with Peter at Vespa All Natural Amino Acid Supplement to see what he has to say. I had a great time even know my stomach went south and my time stunk. But I ran/speed hiked/walked every step and for that I am very proud! There was 177 Starters with 134 Finishers. Some made it all the way in but didn't make it in the "official" cut off time. That takes determination to do that and for that act alone, they have my admiration. Well done!
A quick thank you to my sponsor Injinji Footwear for making the best toe sock and compression sock on the market today. My calves and feet feel good if with the horrible beating they took on the trail. To Vespa All Natural Amino Acid Supplement. I promise to get this fueling thing down and then I will be ripping it up! To Jenny Milburn for taking all of the photos I used in this blog. I am now 2-3 with the Catoctin 50k and that is good enough for me. Maybe in a few years I will come back and do it to lower my time. But for now...no next year...haha.