Sunday, September 23, 2007

Odyssey 40 Miler, 9/22/07

A few years ago, when I was still racing triathlons, I did the Odyssey Half Iron Tri at Lake Anna, VA. It was a tough race but very well-organized, and it had the added bonus of being held concurrently with the Odyssey Double and Triple Iron Tris (yes, that's double and triple the usual Ironman distance). It was very cool to share the course with the uber extreme triathletes, and watch them go their distances like it was no big deal.

Odyssey Adventure Racing is the organizer of these events, as well as well-known adventure races such as Beast Of the East and The Endorphin Fix. A few years ago they started the only full Iron distance off road race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run) and today it is the only race of this distance and terrain in the US (there are others in Europe). Last year they added a half marathon and marathon trail running race, and this year was the first for the 40 mile ultra distance race. The races are held at Douthat State Park near Covington, VA, and knowing that the trails at Douthat are revered by mountain bikers and runners, I signed up for the 40 mile, along will a few other VHTRC friends. I really love the 40-mile distance, as it is always a perfect days workout, usually taking me about 8 hours to finish.

Because we were running three loops of a 13.3 mile course on a trail marked for triathletes (they were on their bike leg while we were on the trail, and would start their runs in the evening), there were mile markers posted on trees. Thus it was interesting (and deflating) to see one's mile splits change from loop to loop as the sun came out and the temperatures jumped. The total elevation gain for the 40 mile was 9,282 feet of climb,and the first 7 miles of each loop were on rocky, technical trail that lead to 6 miles of awesome downhill on wonderful, runnable trail and dirt road.

The loop format was deceptively difficult for me...after the first loop, I felt great. But after the second loop, the heat was on (it was 12 noon and in the mid 80s), and my cooler in the transition area, filled with ice-cold drinks, was beckoning. I saw fellow VHTRC and Montrail teammate Bryon Powell there, and was surprised, as he is always a top finisher...but he was calling it a day after falling badly. I also heard that Jeff Wilbur (scroll down to see him at Hardrock climbing Grants Swamp Pass) was also stopping after two loops and it was tempting to join the party...but Helen Cacciapaglia and Bryon were adamant that I get back out there, so off I went for the final loop (thanks, guys!). Needless to say, it was brutal knowing what was ahead and running alone for the entire loop, but also a good exercise for me in having a positive attitude and eating and drinking sufficiently. I came across one runner who was having big problems with the heat, but Greg Loomis had given him some gels when he passed him earlier, and he was coming back after sitting on the trail for an hour because of nausea.

I was hoping to run around 7:30 given my first loop split (2:20), but the heat affected my next two splits (2:40 and 2:53), so I was thrilled to break 8 hours in the end, finishing in 7:53. At the finish line, I saw Rusty who had finished third overall in the 56-mile mountain bike race (there were 11 other endurance events held on the trails and roads of Douthat as part of this race weekend), and we celebrated finishing with Greg Loomis, my training buddy who was worried I would beat him when we ran together three weeks ago...Greg finished second overall and beat me by over 30 minutes! I ended up third overall and first woman (though there weren't many women racing...).

Ed Cacciapaglia finished the 40 as well, and Kirstin Walcott, Jay and Anita Finkle finished the Half-M. Hopefully next year we can get a larger group of VHTRC friends to join us...despite all the other events going on alongside the 40 miler, the entire scene was very low-key and friendly, and Susanna, the trail race RD, was eager to hear our feedback (for Coke and fruit at the AS, for example). The adventure racing mindset is very much a part of this event, as the time cut-off for the 40 miler was 24 hours (allowing for the triathletes to finish), the aid minimal but adequate, and the course very tough...but as a new event on the ultra calendar, I expect more folks will come out to experience the great trails at Douthat State Park and that the minimal kinks of a first-time event will get worked out. I particularly enjoyed doing my race while Rusty did his and having him hand me an ice cold cappuccino Ultragen at the finish line! YUM!
Click here for more photos of this great day in the woods.

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