Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tony Martin - Terrapin Race Report

Terrapin ½ Marathon Race Report by Tony Martin

In January 2008, I weighed over 285 pounds and decided that I needed to do something about it, so one night I drove to the local track and started to jog. My first trip to the track resulted in about three laps of jogging before I had to stop and walk a lap to catch my breath and two more laps before I called it a day. Several people helped me at different points throughout the year by encouraging me, supporting me, teaching me, and motivating me to continue working out and seeking new challenges. With this help, I was able to lose almost 50 pounds and completed three road races in 2008, (a 5-miler at Percival’s Island, Rock ‘n Roll ½ Marathon at Virginia Beach, Virginia 10-miler).

After helping out at aid stations in the MMTR last year, I became intrigued by the idea of running longer distances because of the unique mental and physical challenges, especially for someone my size that’s built more for football than endurance running. After a lot of encouragement from someone that’s run ultra marathons, I began to entertain the idea of attempting a 50k. He told me that the Promise Land race would be a good one to try as my first ultra. At some point during the winter, I began extending my runs to see how my body would respond to longer distances. Somewhere along the way, I convinced myself that I could possibly complete the Promise Land 50k. I also signed up for the Terrapin Mountain ½ marathon because it sounded like fun. At this point, my wife began to think I was crazy.

I read about something called a “training run” with David Horton on the eco-xsports blog site, so I met a bunch of guys I’d never seen before on March 22nd at Camping Gap and started to run down the mountain with them. Most of them left me in the dust after a couple of miles, but I heard one set of footsteps behind me as I flew down Hunting Creek Road at a blistering 8:15 pace. As the terrain started to level out a little, my pacer pulled along beside me and we started to talk. We talked and ran together for the remainder of the 12 mile loop back to Camping Gap. My quadriceps were sore for three days and I became a little nervous about the race – maybe my training wasn’t enough for me to run the race comfortably and I’d have no chance at completing the Promise Land race in a month.

My father and I drove to Sedalia the Friday before the race to pick up my race packet. I had planned to camp, but didn’t because I only live about an hour away. I figured I could sacrifice a little sleep in order to sleep comfortably in my own bed. I set my alarm for 4:30 on Saturday and had no problem getting out of bed at this hour. I started the Terrapin race near the back of the pack and jogged slowly on the lower sections of road, then maintained a good pace all the way up to Camping Gap. This seemed to work well as I passed several walkers on the climb beside Reed Creek and a few more on the way to Camping Gap. I was passed by a few runners as we neared Camping Gap, but still made it to the first aid station in just over an hour. I refilled my water bottle at the aid station and started aggressively up the climb to the summit of Terrapin.

My legs felt fine when I reached the top and I didn’t have a problem with the first bib punch. However, I wasn’t prepared for what I found next – the trail ended in front of a couple of boulders and I saw someone disappear in a little crack between them. As I neared the entrance, I realized that I needed to enter this crevice and somehow escape the other side without getting stuck. As it turned out, I had no problem making it through as my feet flew out from under me with the first step into the slick black mud lining the bottom of this crawlspace. I lost a water bottle, scraped a knee, and slid on my butt down through the muck. I did retrieve my bottle before pulling myself free. With clothes covered in mud, a mixture of blood and mud on my legs, and the tough part behind me, I confidently began trotting down the mountain.

Before beginning the descent, I tried to drink a little water and had to spit out a couple of mouthfuls of dirt before any water would pass through the hole in the top of my bottle. Mental note for the next race: wipe tops of bottles after passing through Fat Man’s Misery. I began to run down the first part of the descent, but started feeling a pain in my right knee. The pain slowed me down in the steeper sections because it hurt too much to run fast and holding back increased the intensity of the pain. I refilled my water at the last aid station and continued on without eating – big mistake. The section from the last aid station to Reed Creek was a lonely part of the race because there were no other runners within sight although I did hear a few voices somewhere in the fog ahead. I also began to feel hungry and regretted not eating during the race as I felt my energy level going down. I remember crossing several small streams before the grand finale at Reed Creek where I gingerly traversed the slick rocks and waded through the cold water while a photographer clicked away. It was all downhill from here and I figured on holding my position until the finish, but received a surprise as an older fellow with white hair and long beard blew me away. I remember seeing this man as I passed him early in the race on the way up to Camping Gap and figured that I wouldn’t see him again until after the finish. As it turned out, he left me in the dust over the last mile and a half and I think I saw him walking around after the race in a kilt. Now that’s pretty cool.

I met some interesting people at my first trail race and enjoyed the whole day. I’ll definitely plan to camp next year (rain or shine) and look forward to attempting the 50k course in 2010.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Kenny Wheeler - Terrapin Race Report

The Miracle Weekend

Kenny Wheeler

This weekend was full of miracles for me. I had been fighting an injury of my lower left leg ever since HL in February. It hurt so bad during and after that race that I took a week off. Then I resumed running, but the leg still hurt. I tried a long training run and it really hurt. I took another week off from running. I road my bike all that week, then I ran 4-5 miles a few times the week of Terrapin Mtn. It still hurt. I really didn’t think I was going to be able to run the race.

In the motel room Friday evening I talked to God and asked him to please let me run on Sat. without much pain. He said don’t worry about it; He would take care of it. I knew at that moment that it was going to be OK.

Saturday morning I woke up and watched the weather report while I was getting ready. I was very happy that it looked like the rain was going to hold off. It was supposed to be 60 degrees and cloudy. I got to the Sedalia Center and waited on my friend Mark. He got there and asked me how my leg felt. I told him what had happened the night before. That it was not going to be an issue.

Mark is lot faster than me, so he said he would stick with me till the first aid station, and then he was going to take off. Just as planed we ran to the first AS. I only slowed down long enough to grab a few pretzels and took off down the hill. I kept looking for Mark. I even stopped and turned around a few times to look for him. I was afraid he had gone the wrong way, or that I had gone the wrong way. Finally he pulled up beside me. I asked him “where have you been? Did you try to eat all the food at the AS?” He just laughed and said he would see me at the finish line.

I ran to the next AS without anybody to talk to. When I left, there was a girl ahead of me. A friend or family member was following her up the hill, they were rubbing icy-hot on her calves. I caught up to her right after that person turned to go back to the AS. I commented on how good the icy-hot smelled. We struck up a conversation and ran together for the next few miles. When we hit the single track I pulled ahead of her.

During the White Oak Loop I was slowly catching up to two girls. Way before I caught them I could here them shouting encouragement to the other runners as they were coming at us. Most runners say encouraging words to each other as they pass, but these girls had so much enthusiasm. Not silly enthusiasm either, it was genuine and sincere. It was very refreshing running with them for a while. I called them my cheerleaders. When we got to a hill I pulled away from them. Because I was a little quicker going up hill and they were a little quicker going down hill, I would see them many more times throughout the rest of the day. Somewhere in that loop the icy-hot girl caught up with the cheerleaders and they pretty much stayed together the rest of the day.

I got to Camping Gap AS for the final time. Since all the runners had been through this AS so many times there wasn’t a very big choice of food left. Well like Horton says “if you want a better selection of food, run faster”. So I grabbed several saltine crackers and started up the hill towards Terrapin Mountain. When you are going up a hill that rugged and steep I would advise you not to try and eat saltine crackers. I believe I sucked more into my lungs than made it to my stomach. That ridge just kept going up and up for what seemed like for ever. I had not seen a soul since leaving the AS. It was so foggy and the trail up there was so narrow and the trees and bushes were so close that it was actually a little spooky. All of a sudden I almost run into a women coming towards me, I am a little startled, I am even more startled when I realize my friend Mark is with her. At this point I am just devastated because I realize there must be a turn around out there somewhere on this horrible ridge and since Mark must be many miles ahead of me it must be a long way to the hole punch that I had heard about. I had only gone a few yards when I see this plastic thing tied to a rock. I punch my bib twice (just in case one set of holes magically disappear) It is funny how your brain works when you are tired. I am really confused. I am trying to figure out what is going on when I suddenly realize that I have caught up to Mark. I take off after them.

The three of us head off the ridge together. The women mentions something about Fat Mans Revenge. Then we come upon this hideous obstacle that completely blocks the trail, so you have no choice but to descend into it. We make it through both of the obstacles. I punch my bib twice (you can never be too careful). Sometime while we are descending the mountain my cheerleaders and icy-hot girl catch up to us. There are six of us running together now. We stay together for a long time. Then Mark says his legs are locking up because of the steep descent and the rocks. I know he is slowing a little, but when we get to the last AS he’s not with us. One of the girls said he was probably quite a ways back because he had started walking.

We grabbed some food and filled our water bottles and headed back up the hill. We had gone about 4/10 of a mile up the hill when we saw Mark. He did not look good. At this point my competitive spirit took over. I thought that I might finally out run Mark. I was filling pretty good, so I figured on pushing as hard as possible to the finish. I was pulling away from the 4 girls, but then I started to worry about Mark. I started praying. “Lord help him to finish”. I was praying hard, but not slowing down. I still thought it would be pretty cool to out run him.

I was coming upon the last creek crossing when I heard someone coming up behind me real fast. I was totally surprised when Mark went by me like I was standing still. As a matter of fact I was so shocked that I lost my footing and fell in the creek. Before the finish my cheerleaders and icy-hot girl passed me too.

Afterwards I asked Mark what happened. He said when he got to the last AS he leaned on the table for support and ate and drank a lot. His legs were just dead. Then he said it felt like something just started happening to his legs and he could fill the life pouring back into them and he just took off. I believe that was when God answered my prayer for Mark.

God loves us very much. So never under estimate the power of prayer.

Thank you Clark for organizing a fantastic race and thanks to all the volunteers.

Martha Wright - Terrapin Race Report

Race Report - Terrapin Mountain 50K, 3/28/09 Martha Wright

I arrived at the Sedalia Center on Friday afternoon right before the deluge began. It rained for several hours, so there wasn't a big crowd at the pre-race dinner, but it was nice to catch up with old friends, and to meet some newer ultra runners. Many folks set up their tents right inside the large picnic shelter rather than risk being flooded in the field. (I was staying in my cozy minivan, which worked well...although I wish I'd had Linda's idea of bringing a portable DVD player.) I was asleep by 9 and slept until 5, when the remaining runners began arriving. The morning brought clouds and fog, but no rain, and the temperature was around 50 degrees. At 7:00 a.m., with the loud clang of a gong,


The starting gong. Photo from eco-x


The race begins. Photo from eco-x

the race started. We headed down a country road for about 1/2 mile (the only flat section, as it would turn out), past a few houses and a field of cows. Then we started up, about 2400 ft. in the first 5 miles (plus a creek crossing to wade through). When the long climb finally ended, we were treated to an equal amount of downhill...a downhill so long that you hoped it would end before your knees did. I was running with several friends who are about my age (let’s just call us “seasoned ultrarunners”)--Grattan Garbee, his friend Wilbert Hooper, Dave Snipes, Vicki Kendall, and there we were, pounding that downhill like a bunch of kids. We're either athletes or we're crazy. (And by the way, great run, guys! They all went on to finish ahead of me.)

Best moment of that section: briefly being above the clouds in clear skies and seeing the tops of mountains rising above the cloud layer.


There’s an aid station in this fog somewhere. Photo from eco-x

Then it was back up, for the most part, for a long while. I'm at a loss to describe exactly where we were, but it consisted mainly of pretty nice (albeit uphill) fire roads. Part of the course here is also part of the Promise Land 50K and Hellgate 100K races. Most of the time it was so cloudy and/or foggy that we were spared from seeing how steep the hill in front of us actually was, or how long it went on. I stuck to a strategy of run 100 steps, recover, run 100, recover, repeat ad infinitum.

I finally hit the top and then another long downhill back down to the aid station. This is where I made a big mistake (yes, me, who prides herself on running "smart", LOL)...I left the aid station without topping off my water bottle. And about 10 minutes into a climb up Terrapin Mountain that was nearly vertical, I realized I was going to be out of water within minutes. I debated running back down to the aid station, but I couldn't face the climb back up those rocks again (plus I wasn't anywhere near the top yet). And then help arrived, in the form of elite ultrarunner Eric Grossman, who was out for a training run and was headed toward me, downhill. He gave me the rest of the water from his Camelbak (it turns out that I was the second runner to stop him; I'm lucky he was carrying plenty of water with him!) So, with my water bottle now full and my panic level subsiding, I resumed the climb up Terrapin Mountain. At the top we had to bear right to a small outcropping of rocks and actually climb out on them to reach a hole punch to punch our race bibs. On a clear day, we would have been rewarded here with a beautiful view…instead, we had about a foot of visibility. (sigh) Maybe next year.


Did I mention it was foggy? Photo from eco-x

Then the course went over some giant boulders, followed by a squeeze through a rock formation called "Fat Man's Misery" (not for the claustrophobic). Then a long, long downhill on very rocky singletrack. At the bottom, we had a half-mile trek in and out of an aid station, and then...more climbing. This section seemed mostly uphill (to me, at least), with some runnable parts. If there were any "Horton miles" in this race, it felt like they were went on forever. At long last I came back out to the hill we originally started up on, and now headed downhill to the welcome sight of the "one mile to go" sign, then the flat road to the Sedalia Center and the finish line (6:32; about 50 minutes faster than my average Promise Land time).

Clark Zealand, the race director, put on an excellent race. This is the second year; he changed the course from a long marathon to a 50K this year. There was also a halfmarathon (all the fun of climbing, with only half the pain). The aid stations were wellstocked and helpful, and the course was very well marked. Plus they served wonderful hamburgers post-race, along with some awesome chocolate cake (also vanilla). Finishers kept coming in right up to the 9-hour mark.

Very approximate elevation breakdown…most elevation gain and loss seemed to come in large chunks: Miles 1-5 - 2,400 ft. of gain Miles 5-10 - 2, 400 ft. of loss Miles 10-20 - 3,500 ft. of gain Miles 20-25 - 1000 ft. down, 800 ft. straight up (Terrapin Mtn.) Miles 25-30 - 2500 down, 500 up, 1000 down


Clark Zealand, R.D., waits for the final runners to finish. Photo from eco-x