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.


Rick Gray said...

Tony, You are an inspiration to all of us and what you have accomplished. I salute you. The bearded guy that you refered to is JJ Jessee. He like you was not designed to be a fast runner, but he is very active in our local trail running group. He is our Grizzly Adams. He knows how to take care of himself and is so much fun to be around. He has been fighting some injuries, but as of right now, he is thinking about running Promise Land again. If he does, look him up and your day will fly by. Rick

Tony Martin said...

Thanks for the support and kind words and congratulations to you on finishing the Promise Land race. The heat was brutal and I'm impressed by anyone that can complete the race with such a respectable time under those conditions. I left everything I had out on the trail and felt really good during my second trip to the Cornelius Creek aid station. I reached that point in seven hours, so I felt like I'd have no problem finishing until I reached the tough climbs at Apple Orchard. I started having leg cramps and feeling sick, so I took it slow. It took me two hours to reach Sunset Fields and I tried to run down towards the Glenwood trail, but the cramping returned and I back-tracked to Sunset Fields to drop. I was really disappointed at that point, but have to say that everyone I met at the camp and along the trails were very supportive. The trail runners are really a nice group of people and I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. I pushed myself to the limit, but I wasn't prepared for the hot conditions. I don't think I'll try any more ultras this year, but will continue to train and may try again next year.

Rick Gray said...

Tony, You are certainly welcome, but as you have learned, trail runners are a wonderful group of people. They will support and help you when needed. They will uplift your mood when you are at rock bottom. Do not let this year's Promise Land stop you from moving forward with your ultra running. I like you had a difficult time with the heat. My nauseousness was so bad that I had very little fluid the last 3 1/2 hours. It was a tough day. I have run Promise Land now the past four years and this past Saturday was the hottest and Horton even commented in an email that it was the hottest Promise Land in history, so do not let this get you down. As the summer comes on, our bodies will be better adjusted to the heat. As we run more races, we learn to adjust our caloric and electrolyte intake. Even the most experienced and accomplished trail runners sometimes mess up and end up with a dnf. Do not despair, one day soon you will knock a course on its backside and run the run that you are capable of. Be patient with yourself. Noah did not build the ark overnight! Give yourself credit for all that you have accomplished!!! Rick