Sunday, April 28, 2013

PROMISE LAND: People living life.

Dear Diary,

In the same vein? That's been my phrase for the past week. It popped into my head when we were losing 20-3 at the top of the second inning in intramural softball. D Rek pitched a strike and I rallied "eyyyy there ya  go number trece, in the same vein now whattdaya say?" It was odd. But I liked how it came out. I said it about thirty other times throughout the next few innings. I also imparted some "it never always gets worse" knowledge on my team. I don't think anybody else laughed besides me. I later struck out when I was up to bat. In slowpitch softball. Yeah, Fiji's pitcher threw a wicked 9-foot arc.

Couple of pitches

I swear I was a star shortstop in 4th grade. I guess I'll stick to ultramarathons now in my late, late age of 21.

Occasionally I feel 40.

Anywho, I LOVE PROMISE LAND. In fact, I just remembered that it is indeed the only ultramarathon I've ever raced more than once. The atmosphere is unbeatable--everybody camps out in a glorious field Friday night, bonfire, 530am start, big climbs, a gnarly decent, fellowship and burgers after the race. Those parts were what made this weekend fun.

The week before Chrissy and I ran the Bel Monte 25k which was FAST and felt great to push limits in a different way. We stayed at Bob's house Friday night (thanks Bob!) and woke up at a lovely 5am. The ~16.5 mi run was a neat out and back. I ran with a few dudes for the first half, then took off the second half. It was like running in an actual "chase pack." It was good to actually race people instead of a clock or previous time. A good fast medium-long run in and a podium finish, my confidence was boosted for the Promise Land.

Down down down down the mountain

Chrissy won!
ONWARD. After Bel Monte I decided I guess it'd be a good time to rest and "taper"...PL was only a week away! So I only did 10/6/1/4/2mi the days leading up to PL, which constitutes as rest for me lately I guess. My legs felt leaden but in repair mode. I could literally feel them mending themselves whenever I was lying down. Twitch twitch. Doing exactly what tapering is supposed to do. But you're supposed to feel a "pop" when your tapering...perhaps I need more than a one-week taper for actual end-of-season races. Learning myself and my body more and more. Good stuff! I got realllly excited to race on Monday in my room. Like to the point of adrenaline. Woah there. Five days away.

Come Friday I was only half my happy-go-lucky self. I wasn't necessarily focused but I was certainly ready to start running and not waste any energy being all bubbly at the pre-race meeting. I was reluctant to do much socializing and I hit the tent early. Which kind of sucks because the whole ultra-family was there. But as it is a Horton race, I felt the need to preform my best, and so with self-imposed pressure, I didn't seem that fun.

An early 420am alarm and oatmeal came. Wyatt and I blared the obligatory pre-race tunes and got to the start line on time (unlike last year when I woke up with 30 mins before the start and forgot all my gus; different vein). We were soon off. So it began.

I made sure I was in the front of the start line this time. Top 10 on my mind. I ALWAYS, unintentionally, start slow and work my way through the field, but with a field this stacked of good runners I thought I'd try to go out with the front-guys and see what happens (note: Glove said it correctly, "The number of guys vying for the win wasn't as deep as last year, but the number of good solid runners [us] after the top spots was huge, like 20 or 30.) So the top guys formed a pack of seven or eight and ran about ten yards ahead of a chase pack of maybe 5 of us. It was really neat. Actually a pack of leaders then a pack of chase-guys. It only lasted a mile though, naturally with the big climb right off the bat. I let the front guys go and hiked the steep uppermost part of the climb, then kind of ran alone till we hit the white oak trail. I think that's called the white oak trail?

I dislike the white oak trail. It's pretty, but it's douchegrade and just meanders along and adds miles. Once it opens up into the old grassy road I guess I started to slow, or everybody else started to run. Like really run. I felt like I was running with a marathon stride, not ultra stride, and hoards of people were passing me. Like 20 people passed me. I got pissed. "I know basically everybody vying for the top 15 spots, and these people aren't them. Who the heck are these people. Eager beavers, you're all just going to die later." Glove and I verbally told each other, quite loudly around the folks, that we were going to catch them all up the falls. I wasn't happy and I was being a passive-aggressive dick to  the rest of the field who was just trying to have a good time. And for that I wasn't happy with myself. My damn emotional history was getting the best of me. THESE THINGS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FUN....This issue of races not being fun has been with me more and more steadily since I've started to run fast(er) and trying to "race" instead of just run. Sometimes I wish I was a midpacker who never wears a watch or looks at freaking ultrasignup.

So I caught up to Dmack and Glove and we walked a good bit of the douchegrade that is white oak trail. I knew I was mad, and told myself that I can't do anything about the other people, so I didn't stay mad long. I just got bored. I finally reached the Parkway and the dirt road and downhill, and started running because I wanted to be alone (Glove and Dmack, they had stopped for water at a spring a tad before the parkway and I didn't; the first aid station was not set up). I hit sunset fields and only ate a couple oranges then started to BOOK the DARKSIDE.

I LOVE THE DARKSIDE. The course doesn't require attention until the darkside because you immediately have a steep, ROCKY, decent after sunset fields. I flew and loved it. I was with freshman Darren (dudes fast!) and was starting to enjoy the race, running with a friend and nobody else. We came into Cornelius Creek AS and I verbally stated that the previous section was great. Positive reinforcement. Potatoes hit the spot. Darren was filling his pack and I bolted off down the road, which I like because you can really run. I was alone and enjoying the scenery and happy. Funny how things turn around in such a short period of time.

I eventually caught up with Matt Bugin and we ran a few miles together back to Cornelius Creek. He's always very very solid, so I knew I was in a better spot when I was with him. He's gonna rock MMT 100 in a couple weeks (as is Joe Dudak!). Matt remarked that he considers the bottom of the falls the end of the race because "nobody I know can run up the whole falls." I was feeling pretty solid, and I was looking forward to what I could do on the climb.

I ran Apple Orchard Falls in ~42:30 and passed eight people. Stoke.

Short and consistent strides, I started grooving and digging. LOVE that climb proper. Seeing people is always good, then passing people is always great. Jared, a friend from the first time I witnessed MMTR, remarked that top-10 was close when I started the climb. Hm....At SSfields I passed a man to hop into sixth place. What? Where did everybody go? Heck yes. TOP TEN?! I felt heroic surprising Tammy at SSfields. Earlier at the same AS she remarked I didn't sound too good, and now three hours later I was cooking. Just seeing her made me smile inside. I hope I smiled outwardly, but who knows, I was working. Dmacks girlfriend flawlessly handed me my other bottle (truly flawless, thank you!). Five miles to go, all downhill. Let's go. I passed a man before the final gravel road. When he finished I learned he ran more than 25 miles with a BROKEN RIB. TOUGH TOUGH TOUGH. Mad respect.

Feeling heroic. Photo: Beth Minnick

I finished 5th! 5:11:26, only a minute faster than last year. In the same vein. Haha.

I was surprised. I was shooting for 5:10, maybe 5:05, and loosely top 10. I thought I was going to run a 5:05 and get 15th place, but that didn't happen. I'm a much better runner than I was this time last year, so I was surprised I didn't run faster, but no complaints!

One of the first things out of my mouth was "that wasn't very fun."
Three hours later I was saying, "That was so fun."
The devil and god are raging inside me.

We had fourteen hokies run. I think maybe even a couple more than that. Last year it seemed like it was just glove, rachel, dmack and myself. And now we have so many people! It's great.
Jordy finished 9th, Glove finished 10th, FRESHMAN Darren 12th, FRESHMAN Steve 15th, Earp and Mike Jones in the 30s. Incredible. We really have developed something in our little ultra team here in Blacksburg. I'm proud of everybody.

What's next? Who knows. I'm debating a 50k or 50mi for the sake of a PR just to put something down fast. Then it's 100% GRINDSTONE training. I'm really looking forward to that because it's just run as much as you can (well, it's a lot more than that, but that's how I'm approaching it). I was just kind of aimlessly running highish mile weeks before promise land, topping out at 90, just for the sake of running. I enjoy the constant training.

The post race was so enjoyable. Hearing how everybody did, catching up with friends I only see at races, sitting in the sun, eating, nothing else really beats that. I had one clear thought:

Here, people are living life. 

5 hokies in the top 15!! 


  1. Way to go man. Nice post. It was AWESOME racing out there with you even though I literally only saw you for less than 5 minutes (kept you in sight that is haha)

  2. Nice job Rudy. Beating Jordie Chang in a long trail race is no easy feat! Or maybe Jordie is slacking lately...

    But really, it's good to see that you guys have a big group of distance runners getting out there and racing. I hope you guys keep at it. If your June is open, there is a Ragnar Trail relay in WV. It is expensive but should be a fun time. I've already got a team. You should organize a team of young bucks to come up and race this summer.