So I did.
Leatherwood is the site of my one attempt to run an ultra, in 2014. That didn't turn out so well.
I came back in 2015 to enjoy a weekend in a nice cabin and run the 10-mile race. That went considerably better.
This year, still recovering from injury, I decided once again to run the 10-miler. I told myself in no uncertain terms that I was only running the race "for fun." Arriving the day before the race at the palatial cabin Sam had reserved for our group, I did the funnest thing I could think of -- climb up onto the giant horse sculpture in front of the house:
|Yeehaw! Somehow I don't think my wife thinks this is as funny as I do....|
The next morning I awoke early enough to see Karl, Sam, and Tristan start the 50k:
|Smile now while you have the chance!|
The 10-miler didn't start for another two hours, plenty of time to go back to the cabin, drink another cup of coffee, have breakfast, and get ready for my race. That extra cup of coffee might have been another bit of a mistake.
Finally the five of us who would be running in the 10-miler piled into cars and drove back to the start, where we met fellow DARTer Chad Randolph, who was also running the 10-miler:
|Stephanie, Michelle, Chad, Chris, me, and Ashley|
We had found out that the course would be different from last years' 10-miler. This time it would mostly follow the second loop of the 50k, the one that had given me so many problems two years ago. Fortunately it had been a relatively dry week and race day was cool and sunny, so I hoped it wouldn't be as muddy as before.
The course started on a paved road, which allowed the runners to string out nicely. I figured the race would take about as long as a road half-marathon, so I should probably be running the road portion at my half-marathon pace, about 8:00 per mile. I completed Mile 1 in 8:14, which seemed about right considering it involved 84 feet of climbing. There were maybe 15 people ahead of me. Then we turned onto the first trail, a singletrack that headed across a couple small creeks and then up a major hill. I passed a few people on the hill, traded places with a woman a couple times, then crested onto a rolling section before hitting a steep climb. Since I was walking this part anyways, and since this was supposed to be for "fun," I pulled out my phone and snapped a selfie:
|I didn't see Chad behind me (in red) until I looked at this photo later!|
Somehow I made my way down the steep sections (with a couple more people passing me) until the trail broke out onto a gravel road. Now the incline was less and I was able to run with my usual stride. It hurt, but it was bearable. Near the end of Mile 4 was an aid station, where Chris caught up with me and I had a couple cups of Tailwind and a couple pieces of banana, hoping they would help with the cramping. Now we were on a paved road for most of Mile 5 and I picked up the pace to around 8:10, again up a gradual hill. I caught one guy who had passed me earlier, and at the end of the mile arrived at the infamous creek crossing. I had done this crossing two years ago and knew it was no big deal so I plunged right in. The guy right ahead of me was taking it more gingerly so I managed to pass him in the creek:
|The water was actually refreshing!|
Next was another big climb, which I remembered being horrendously muddy in 2014. This time the footing was great, and I was able to walk/run up it pretty easily. I began to figure I was through with the quad-cramping. I passed another runner (a shirtless guy) on the climb, but he passed me again on the next downhill as I noted that the cramping had not gone away. But fortunately there was another big climb ahead and I passed shirtless guy again.
This became a theme of the last half of the race, me passing shirtless guy on the climbs, he passing me back on the descents. There was a long, gradual climb on a gravel road up to the second aid station at Mile 6.5, and I figured I'd lost him for good, but then the trail descended rapidly and I began to cramp up again nearly as badly as before and he passed me back. I passed him yet again on the next climb and then hit a more gradual downhill that I was able to run down without breaking my stride. I figured I could hold of the shirtless guy, but before I knew it, he had passed me again around Mile 8.
At Mile 8.2 on my Garmin we came back out onto a gravel road, and Chris had caught up with me as well. "There's no way I'm going to stay with you on the road, Dave," he said, putting a little pressure on me to pick up my pace. Shirtless guy was in my sights ahead, and I gave it everything I had. This was a gradual downhill to the finish, about a mile long, and I was running a 7:10-ish pace.
About halfway down the road I passed Shirtless Guy again, and he just said "go get 'em," so I figured he was cooked. I strode as hard as I could all the way to the finish, which my GPS clocked at 9.3 miles (inaccurate as GPS tends to be on trails). Chris had passed Shirtless Guy too, so the two guys wearing their Brolympus Racing Team shirts finished as a team!
My quads were sore, but I don't think I injured them. A few days of taking it easy and I expect they will be ready to run another day.
All the 10-milers headed home for showers, then returned to have some beers and watch the 50kers finish:
|Tristan got the "soccer tunnel" finish as he completed his first ultra!|
Back at the cabin that night we were able to really let loose and celebrate a great race. Karl even filmed me doing Old Skool rap in our rustic country lodge:
|Bustin out the rhymes Whodini-style|
Primary objective achieved: I had fun! In hindsight, the several beers the night before the race, plus the coffee before the race, may have contributed to some dehydration on race day, which might have caused the cramping. But I still finished strong with no permanent damage, so I'll take it.
Leatherwood, for all the grief it has caused me, is one of my favorite races, and I hope it continues to provide great times in the years to come. Details of my race are below.