Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Race Report: 2017 Icy-8 Ultramarathon

On February 4th, I headed to Lake Anna State Park in Virginia for the Icy-8 race put on by Athletic Equation, Inc. For this race, there are two events - the 8-hour open that allows runners to choose between two loops (an 8 mile and a 4.7 mile), and the "Groundhog Day", where runners have to stick to one loop in one direction the entire day. I took part in the 8-hour open.

I decided to participate in this event because it was far enough away from my injury, and not too close to my main Spring race (Bel Monte). My goal from the start was 50 miles, and a top-five finish, which I knew wouldn't be easy! And, like most ultras, it wasn't. However, I was really pleased with my ability to overcome some serious negativity and self-doubt after the 50K mark to push toward 50 miles and a 3rd place finish! A quick recap is below.

Quick Stats:
Total Time: 7 Hours 30 Minutes(ish)
Total Distance: 50.8 Miles
Place: 3rd Place Overall, 2nd Place AG
  • Shoes: Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 and Topo M-Runventure
  • Shorts: Saucony Men's Run Lux III Short
  • Shirt: Generic Wool Longsleeve and Salomon Elevate Jacket
  • Socks: Smartwool PhD
  • Nutrition: Tailwind, Coke, Candy, and Quesadilla

Start of the Race - First Loop
I went out with the front pack and quickly made running buddies with about 4 other guys. They had all done the event before, so I was keen to get their perspectives on the strategy and different routes and such. I knew one of the runners was going to be a contender for the win, but the course record holder, who was signed up, had not been seen. As we got to the split between long and short, three went short, and another runner (John) and I took the long loop. He had made a compelling case for doing four eight mile loops, and four 4.7 mile loops, so that became my plan.

The trail was pretty smooth, and the weather wasn't too cold. There were a couple of baby climbs, but nothing crazy. I was pretty confident if all went well that I could get to 50 miles. 

Second - Fourth Loops
I moved out of the aid station quickly, having prepared several bottles of Tailwind for me to grab easily. As I headed out on the second loop, I finally saw the course record holder, who eventually passed us about halfway through the loop. However, I didn't let him get too far...we ended up yo-yo-ing for a while, until he eventually gained some ground and I lost him. 

Elevation - Just Baby Climbs!

The next couple of loops were pretty average, but once I hit the 32 mile mark, I was running solo, and the pain started to really creep in. 

Remaining Short Loops
I took a bit more time at the aid station after my last big loop, in part because I had to change my shoes. My Hokas were starting to bother me a bit since they were just a touch too narrow. I switched to the Topos, and then took off. 

As I was running, the self-doubt and bargaining began. Since I was alone and had no idea where I was in the overall field (because people can take different loops in different directions, you have no idea what place you are in), and I was running by myself, I began to change my goals. Instead of 50, I decided just over 40 would be good. Instead of top-5, top-10 would be a successful day. This continued until my second short loop, when I realized I had more than enough time to get two loops in for 50 miles on the day. 

I sucked it up, and I pushed. I was breathing hard, and people started to look at me weird. I felt like my second to last lap needed to be fast so I could have enough money in the bank to make it to 50 miles. So I pushed, and I pushed, and I made it back to the start with over an hour to spare (the last couple loops had been about 45 minutes). I knew at that point as long as a kept a slow jog (and even some walking, which I hadn't been doing), that I could make it to 50. 

As I got to the second half of the loop, it felt like it was never going to end, but that seems to be the case with most loop courses I run. Nevertheless, I eventually got to the start, and was beyond excited to hit the 50 mile mark in under 7 hours and 30 minutes! I had set not only a 50K PR, but also a 50 mile PR as well!

Overall, the race was a good time. It was incredible that we were able to run in 45 degree weather on Feb. 8th, but that's just the way this winter has been. I think if it had been really cold, I might have had a tougher time getting the miles in - who knows? The aid was great, volunteers were friendly, RD was organized, and competitors were fun. I'd definitely go back to this event as an early season long training run!

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