Bill and I are huge nature lovers, so anything to do with parks, the outdoors, beautiful places, and natural phenomenon are very intriguing to us. When we heard that a full solar eclipse would be within half a day's drive for us we decided we wanted to make it happen. With my big Spartathlon race just around the corner, I cannot afford to go out of town without some good training runs planned, so we also had to find a suitable place to get some good miles in over the weekend. Lucky for us, there just so happened to be an ultra just about 50 miles outside the zone of totality the day before, so our plan was set.
We'd run the Homestead Heatwave 10 x 5K on Sunday, near Bluffton, SC, and then drive as far into the Zone of Totality as possible without incurring major traffic issues. We carefully studied the eclipse maps and the various towns we could visit. We decided on Orangeburg, the home of South Caroline State University, as the perfect spot..........looked like plenty of free parking and the stadium for viewing, plus good back roads in and out of town.
Saturday we headed up to Bluffton, checked into the Fairfield Inn, which was minutes from tons of food, and the race site. This race was like none other I'd done before. Every hour on the hour you run a 5k on trails, and rest until the next hour. 50k is not very far for me, but the heat and the resting between could take its toll on me, plus 10 hours out in the sun. We ate the most delicious home-cooked Southern meal at Sigler's, a local favorite.
The course was beautiful, partially shaded, and well-groomed. We had our usual set up or shelter, supplies, basically everything needed to sustain a small army for a week, and we set up near the start/finish line. The first 5K was warm, but I felt good and stayed close to an 8 minute pace. I had hoped I'd be able to chase the lead pack for at least the first few, but they appeared to be running 7's or even faster. I wanted to pace myself, not fall and run a smart, consistent race.
I made it through the first 5 fairly easily, but it started to really get hot. I started to gradually slow each round, but it seemed as though everyone else was doing the same, and a few folks had even dropped out. I was third female, and I wanted to keep it that way, so I worked hard to maintain the same distance from the next woman each round. I started adding in few short walk breaks on the more challenging sections to get the heart rate back down.
My hydration and nutrition were working well, and I was neither hungry nor bloated. My ankles became increasingly sore each round, and I was experiencing some very minor cramping in my hamstrings and quads, but keeping it at bay with electrolytes.
My strategy each lap was to walk while sipping a beverage over to the aid station, refill drinks, sit down there for a minute, walk to my amazing zero gravity chair and plop down in front of the fan, put my feet up and close my eyes. I was hoping to conserve energy and cool down by doing this. Right before the next lap, I'd run a cool cloth over me, drink more and get psyched up for more torture.
I was running mostly alone, but keeping this amazing 9 year old in my sights each lap to try to stay consistent.....yes, that's right, I was beaten narrowly each lap by a 9 year old boy! We got a small reprieve on lap 8 with a little shade and breeze, and I was able to maintain a few decent splits, and even passed the young guy on this lap!!!
Lap 9 was my worst. I was testing out new trail shoes for a few laps, and they were a bit heavier, plus the heat was so bad that I was working incredibly hard, and my heart rate was out of control. I had to walk nearly the entire last mile of this lap, allowing several folks to pass me....which had not happened prior. I really hate breaking consistency, but I was very out of breath and cramping bad. I managed to finish the lap with a run, but I was not feeling great about the last lap one bit.
I went back to my go to shoes, the Addidas Ultra Boost, and they felt like slippers. Just one more lap, 3.1 silly little miles, and I could rest, eat, drink, and shower! The sun went behind the clouds, and the last lap was just a bit better. I went out conservatively, determined to run steady and finish strong. The other gal had gained back a few minutes on me in lap 9, but I still had at least a 14 minute edge. Still going stead with just one mile to go. I decided to walk a bit to catch my breath, and she passed me, but there was no way she'd get 14 minutes on me in less than a mile. I did run/walk the last .75, but by the time I hit the final stretch, my legs were a bit wobbly, so I had to walk the final few yards.
I've never been so happy to cross that finish line. 10 x 50k in the hot August sun on trails is no joke. I was happy to see Bill finish with at least 7 minutes to spare. He said it was one of the hardest things he'd ever done. He nearly quit after round 7, but kept going, met a nice gal with whom he could walk. She helped him keep going rounds 8 & 9, and then he had to finish. Sometimes the people we meet give us just what we need to keep going!
I managed an 833 average pace for a total of 4:23, good enough for 3rd female and 1st masters! Bill managed a 7:14, bettering his initial goal and beating out quite a few youngsters plus those who dropped out. It was a long, arduous chore to pack the car and get back to the hotel. We slept like rocks, and gave up on our idea to head to the zone of totality at the crack of dawn. We had to hope the traffic would be on our side! Stay tuned, and until next time.....
I gotta run,
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
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