Finishing the Fire on the Mountain 50k
Well I had the wonderful pleasure this past weekend of participating in the annual "Fire on the Mountain 50k" just across the border in Northern Maryland. The race is touted as being feisty with quite a few steep climbs and descents, speckled with some longer hills, and even some fire-road running. All-in-all, it turned out to have a really good mix of running and never had me feeling bored.
Earlier in the year after I ran the Hyner 50k, I had noted that the 50k distance just wasn't my schtick. It's a rather awkward distance for me, and one that I have a hard time mentally dealing with. When running Oil Creek just two weeks ago, I knew it was a 100-miler and I knew it would take a long time, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. For some reason though, during 50k's, I have this tendency to think that that the race will be "quick"...and often forget it's still an ultra. This leads to me running too fast, and getting too impatient....ultimately not enjoying the race. Yesterday though, while I did start out a bit too fast, I quickly adjusted my pace so that this wouldn't happen. I finished in a respectable time, PR'ing my 50k distance, but not so fast that I felt like absolute death. I comfortably walked back to my car after the race, and drove the 2 hours home with no issue. Today I'm walking fine and have no overwhelming soreness.
As far as a race report, I don't really have too many details but I'll highlight a little of the experience:
FOTM 50K - Course Map
I made it to the start about 10 minutes before the horn, and positioned myself near the front of the pack. My goal was a sub-6-hour finish. This was a soft goal as I didn't really study the elevation profiles, nor know how much tough climbing there would be. When the start horn sounded I ran with the lead pack for the first 1.5 miles on the fire road before hitting single track. The red-blazed single track that was featured over the first ~7-8 miles was definitely the most difficult and technical of the day. There were a couple of hands-on-knees climbs up steep trails followed by even steeper butt-sliding descents. It was very reminiscent of the Hyner course with climbs similar to "Humble Hill" and "The SOB". I was glad that they were featured early on in the race when I still had a lot of gas in the tank. I enjoyed this section a lot, but also got frustrated on several occasions by the heavy leaf-cover. Much of the trail was littered with rocks and roots, which were impossible to see under the dead leaves. It made for many a rolled-ankle. Still, it made it more fun in the end.
After the red trail, the course moved on to the green trail which was much more tame and almost entirely run-able. It moved alongside a creek with several crossings (and unavoidable wet feet). This section went along great as I found some good running company to pace myself with. I chatted up a lot with fellow runners and before I knew it was popping out on the road headed up to Aid Station 4. I had heard that following this station (Mile 16.5), that there were about 7 miles of forest-road running. Most runners I spoke with, looked at this as an annoyance it seemed. I looked at it as a nice change-of-pace, and a good way to break up the miles. I knew I'd be able to run those 7 miles at a good clip and chip away almost a quarter of the entire race.
Coming up to Aid Station 4
After the aid station, I headed out on the 7 mile road run and pounded it out at a great pace alongside some other runners. It went fast and before I knew it I was at the Aid Station and then into the woods on the Purple Trail.
Road Running near aid station 5
Almost to the purple trail (Mile ~23-ish)
Thanks to Kevin Spradlin for putting on such a great race, and of course to the wonderful volunteers. Also, thanks to Sheetz for setting up the coffee/smoothie truck at the finish. That Latte' was an awesome way to warm up on the drive home!
Across the Finish Line
Tossing my finisher wood onto the fire!
Switching Gears Completely:
Great news from the WAIS Divide Camp and my alternate world of Antarctic Research. The WAIS Divide Field Camp is open for business! The 2012-2013 Season is officially underway as the put-in crew was successfully dropped off via LC-130 two days ago.
Satellite Image of WAIS Divide
This is the first time in 5 seasons that the camp has been opened before Halloween thanks to some good weather in West Antarctica. The put-in crew has already settled in and is getting the camp ready for the science teams. I'm still on schedule to leave just after Thanksgiving and will be working on the replicate ice-coring as well as some of my own site experiments involving near-surface firn temperature monitoring, as well as various other surface studies.
I'm looking forward to getting down there and revvin' up the ol' science juices! This will be my 5th consecutive season down in Antarctica and my 6th deployment. It's almost as though Antarctica has become my 2nd home.
Fish-eye view of Giff and me doing some snow-pit sampling
Ice-core logging last year
That's it for now,