Terrapin 50K is the second race in the Lynchburg Ultra Series. A friend had shared that the field was such that I should be able to podium at this one and being me, that got into my head. I too had decided I should podium. I ran a 5:24 at Holiday Lake without much effort so I was hoping for about the same time with moderate effort and a hard finish. That was my goal and hopefully that would be enough to get me top 3.
I woke up at 12:45 on race day and drove the four hours to Bedford County and arrived at 5:10am. I was tired by now so I prepped everything, grabbed my race number and took a 20 minute nap in my car, waking up at 6:15 to do my final prep and head to the starting line.
I didn’t know anyone so I wandered through the growing crowd and immediately spotted Dr. Horton. We chatted for a few minutes and then it was race time.
I started at the front trusting myself to be smart and let a bunch of speedy half marathoners fly by. I did just that, I felt a sting of concern, not knowing who was in which race, but the pace I was holding felt like 50k race pace and so I stayed steady. After about a mile we hit the dirt road and began to climb. We continued to run, but it became a jog and then we hit technical trail and it turned into a jog, power-hike, jog. I was working hard, but I felt like it was not too hard, but I worried it was. I’ve made that mistake many times!
The trail takes you up and up until you come out of Camping Gap and the half marathoners turn right and the 50k runners turn left. Our left turn took us running down the mountain for 4 miles. This was fun but scary, I knew I had a lot more climbing and I needed to be gentle on my legs. I maintained about a 7 minute pace on the descent and was really happy with my average pace for 10 miles in. I felt very comfortable despite my fair training.
Now, we began the long climb. I didn’t know how the race connected, just that we had about 9-10 miles of ascent ahead of us. I dropped my pace to a gentle shuffle and found a rhythm. I agreed that if my pace dropped into the 13 minute zone, that's when I’d walk but otherwise I could maintain a solid pace if I could climb steadily. I was slowly gaining on a few runners. At each aid station I grew a little closer. By now, at least one person I had told me I was first female but you never know who knows for sure. I might be, but then I might not so I just did my best to stay steady.
After the 4 mile ascent back up to Camping Gap, Horton was there and confirmed I was in 1st. As he does he egged me on to go after a group of 3 guys less than a minute ahead. What he didn’t know is that I’ve been making gains on them for the past 6 miles and was playing the slow game. It kept my drive during the run to have some “rabbits” ahead of me so I used it. The trail looped higher and higher until around mile 20 it finally descended. It felt amazing to get back to running fast. I took the downhill back to Camping Gap for the third time with the same effort I did at mile 4, I knew we still had a tough section and couldn’t red line yet. I’d succeeded in passing the three guys, two anyways, and the last we ran together. We hiked Terrapin to the summit together and chatted through most of the descent.
I still felt pretty fabulous, and was trying to find the drive to kick it into gear, but my mood was low. I was so ready for the descent to the finish and the trail kept rolling. Gentle rollers, but the climbs felt hard by mile 27. I forced a gel in, knowing that my mood was due to lack of energy. I’d been eating well enough but not great. I tried to get out of my head and stick with my plan for staying steady. My paces were weak through those 2-3 miles, but my mental focus was still good. I made it to the final descent and rolled with it. I held steady around 7 minute miles until we hit the gravel road, then I tried to push but there was only so much left in my legs.
Finally, the road, less than a mile to go! I did some short intervals, counting and pushing harder for 20 seconds at a time. Then, a twinge, my left calf sent a threat to my brain that it might cramp. I slowed back down and focused on good form and careful running. No more twinges so that last quarter mile I pushed hard and finished in just under 5:13. I felt amazing, managed 1st and had so much fun!
I knew my legs would be toast, but it was worth it. I thanked the RD, Clark and spent some extra time chatting with Horton and meeting his friend Kim. It was nice to spend some time at the race and usually I’d spend more. This particular weekend though, I had to do the four hour drive home on the same day. So,I said my goodbyes and drove home filled with joy that I was able to run, to move so well. I haven’t run a race I’m proud of since 2018 and before that surgery, since about 2016. It’s been a long road and I am so happy to be running in the mountains again!
Huge thank you to the volunteers and RD for an amazing event!!