Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grindstone Training Weekend

Friday I was disappointed in how little I ran during the week.

Saturday as I climbed and descended mountains I was thankful.


Friday afternoon five of us piled into a rented SUV in Columbus, OH and drove down to George Washington National Forest in Virginia for the official Grindstone training weekend. Between Saturday and Sunday we would run the entire course in one direction (~52 miles). We arrived at Camp Shenandoah around 10pm and settled in. Michael Patton and David Peterman set up beds in the SUV, Jay Smithberger set up a tent, and Steve Zeidner and myself decided to sleep under the stars. Unfortunately a thick layer of clouds separated us from the stars and an hour into sleep rain forced us to put up the tent (this was after disturbing the SUV-sleepers three times…sorry guys).

“We are heading out in eight minutes.” What?! Alarm didn’t go off? We all scrambled to get things together for the 5:15am caravan that would take us to the opposite side of the course. Then we sat in the parking lot for twenty minutes waiting for a driver. Lovely.

The trip to the far end of the course took an hour and forty-five minutes. We drove up up and up to a small clearing on the top of a mountain where we literally stood in the middle of the clouds. After a few minutes of directions from the race director, Clark Zealand, we were off. A pack of runners took off rather quickly. It was hard not to get sucked into their pace on the gentle downhill, but I knew I would need to hold back if I was to survive the next 52 miles.

Within a few miles we reached the summit of Reddish Knob (4397 feet). This peak lies on the border of West Virginia and Virginia with spectacular views in either direction. Unfortunately standing in the middle of a cloud prevented us from seeing any of this. The day unfolded something like this: hike up a mountain, run along the ridgeline, run down a mountain, repeat. Jay kept reminding us it was only two hills the first day, which featured about 5000 feet of ascent and 7000 feet of descent. After covering the 29.1 miles, we headed back to camp, showered, and made our way towards dinner in Staunton with the rest of the runners.

After dinner we had the pleasure of sitting around listening to David Horton tell stories about running the Appalachian Trail (and setting the record), running the Pacific Crest Trail (and setting the record), and running across the USA. Horton has contributed greatly to the ultrarunning community over the past three decades. It was also fun to hear him go back and forth with Jay about training and reaching ones maximum potential.

The evening closed sitting by the pond with a Sierra Nevada in hand.

Sunday morning all alarms went off as planned and we hit the trailhead by about 7:00am. We immediately starting climbing, climbing, climbing. This was the first of only three hills Jay reminded us. The day was a bit clearer and we enjoyed some spectacular views from the ridgeline. We were not so lucky with our second hill – summitting Elliott Knob (4463 feet). It was blustery and cold and visibility was non-existent (see picture below). After taking a few minutes to take some pictures we headed down a long descent and off towards the last hill of the day. This second day featured about 7000 feet of ascent and 5000 feet of descent for a total of 12,000/12,000 over 52 miles in two days.

I was encouraged that each day I felt an energy boost with about five miles left and finished without feeling like I had emptied the tank. I attribute some of this to finally being fully recovered from the Mohican 100, and the rest to my consistent attention to caloric intake. Both days I took a Hammer-gel every 30 minutes and sipped diluted Perpetuem. I also had handfuls of pretzels and chips at each aid stop.

My current thoughts of Grindstone: This course demands respect and careful attention to details. I need to start conservatively and reach the halfway point without being completely trashed. I need to save my quads for the steeper descents in the second half of the race. I also need to maintain consistent calorie intake. If I execute, then I have a chance to finish.

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