Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wildcat Ridge Romp 50K

A Rock Running Row

After being sidelined for 10 wks with a shin splint turning stress fracture, I was a bit anxious to get back to trail running. Having to DNS the Laurel Highlands 70 miler in June, my Western States 100 lottery chances were slipping away. To accelerate my comeback, and try (beyond reason) to get a 100 mile qualifier in this year, I figured I needed a 50K to test where I was and force me back.

The NJ Trail Series Wildcat Ridge Romp 50K seemed to fit the req. Having run several NJTS trail races, I knew the course would be rocky and quite technical. Good! It will whip my legs into shape. Checking out the course profile, I liked that it was a 10.3 mi loop, not too heavy on the elevation gain/loss. I figured if things start to go bad, I could drop at 10 or 20 miles. RDs Rick and Jennifer McNulty do a great job of mapping out their courses to include lots of challenging sections and always throw in a few surprises.
There were also 100K, 50M and 10M races being held, with separate starting times.

Loitering around before the start, I bumped into Sky, a running buddy from NJRRC,who had been bitten a few years ago by the trail running bug. It was great to see a familiar face.

Saying Hi to Sky
Asking some runners about the course, I was a bit concerned when one said it is more technical that the NJTS Mountain Madness 50K. I had DNF'd the MM50K at 24 mi two yrs ago, after my tripping on rocks started to increase rapidly. Yikes!

RDs Jennifer and Rick
(courtesy of Trail WhippAss)

Rick started to give some description of the course. Follow the pink ribbons on blazed and unblazed sections. (That meant we would be going off trail occasionally.) He cautioned about dogs and bears, couldn't hear which ones may have electric fence preventing them from attacking.
Soon we were off running from the school parking lot, right turn into the woods.

We're off running

The first 3 miles include lots of uphills and descents, all on rocky tread, as we reached the highest point in the race. I went out slow, trying to acclimate to the technical running. Lots of fast hiking instead of running. No matter how much I tell myself I'm running well on rock, my body never seems to cooperate.

Sky uses a time warp to cover early miles

A small bit of grass between the rocks

At mile 3 we were treated to a pleasant surprise, an overlook that offered a view for miles to the south east. Took a few seconds to take in the view.

Morning light on a beautiful site

Quickly back to working the hills and practicing my rock running. Most of the first loop I was running near Jim from Long Island who was there with Dan & Yvonne, all members of an running club. It was good to talk to them about the LI running scene. Jim would be running the Leigh Valley Marathon in a month, trying for a BQ. I ran that last yr (LVM review) and told him its good place for clicking off the miles to a qual time.

Jim working the one hill without rocks

Give me a Slow Downhill, on the Rocks

Miles 4 thru 8 brought on some of the NJTS surprises I knew there would be.

Boulder hoping to cross a stream

Over or through, pick your way

Mile 7 had brought us to a picturesque waterfall. Then we realized it was the result of an aqueduct from a reservoir. We had to scale the aqueduct and hike up to the top.

Up n Over the acqueduct . . .

. . . and a bunch more of up . . .

. . . the view was worth the climb

Things became a bit more runable after that. (About 25% of the 10 mi loop was unrunable or barely runable.
Hitting some gravel roads, it was good to open up the stride and try to cruise. The gravel quickly changed to rocks, which took concentration on your foot placement to avoid catching a toe.

Something runable!

No rest from the rocks

The gravel/rock road emptied onto a neighborhood street for a half mile before ducking back into the trails to finish the loop and back to the start & check-in.

I ran with Jim for most of the 2nd loop. About mi 13 my right quad started to hurt. I guess I was favoring my left leg, where the shin splint was. I took it slow. Today was about coming back, testing out my running vest and working on nutrition. Shortly after finishing 20 miles, I was pondering to stop or go for the next loop. The 50K winner William Adams finished the race (4:28:28) while I was deciding. I couldn't get him interested in pacing me for my last 10 miles.

50K winner William Adams with early lead
(courtesy of Trail WhippAss)

50K womans winner Heather Simon 6:45:21
(courtesy of Traill WhippAss)

The third loop became quite difficult, with both my legs going on strike. I walked about 6 mi in this loop.
This walking did allow me to meet some wildlife and learn of a recent bear siting.

Seeing Blacky on the trail will slow you down

Towards the end I was only able to run 50 - 100 yards before needing to stop, even on the easy sections. I did finish in 7:08 and was happy to have completed the full 50K.

Me in pain at mile 28
(courtesy of Trail WhippAss)

Sky still smiling at mi 28
(courtesy of Trail WhippAss)

Thanks and Big Kudos to Rick and Jennifer McNulty for providing a course that did not disappoint. I successfully beat the stuffing out of me and made some new friends along the way. What more can you ask for in a trail race.

Also a thanks to Trail WhippAss and Dylan Armajani for providing a photographer at the mi 8 aid station. They posted their pics on this Flickr link.

Dylan scales trail obstacles on way to his 3rd place finish
(courtesy of Trail WhippAss) 

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