After a long hiatus...I am trying to revive my blog! Kicking it off my race report from Lovin' the Hills.
Louisville's Lovin' the Hills is one of the toughest 50k's in this area. The event is put on by Headfirst Performance, and the event is well run. Special thanks to the race directors (Todd and Cynthia Heady), Jefferson Memorial Forest, and all the volunteers that made this race possible!
|LLTH 50k Elevation Profile|
The race offers three distances: 6 miles, 15 miles, and 50k. The three race distances start together and share the first portion of the course. The course consists entirely of beautiful single and double track trail through Jefferson Memorial Forest. If you haven't run these trails, you should! The 50k course is challenging with plenty of long steep hills for every runner to love! By my count, there are 13 climbs of more than 200 feet and a few of those are over 300 feet. According to my GPS, the total elevation gain for the 50k was 6381 feet. The course for the 50k consists of 3 lollipops (out and back runs with a loop at the far end) with a trip around the Purple Heart loop thrown in for good measure. There were 7 aid stations and three chances to access drop bags (if you packed some).
|At the start with Troy and Maddy|
mileage in the fall combined with extensive holiday rest had left me in surprisingly decent shape. On the Saturday before the race, I pulled the trigger and signed up.
The weather forecast for race day was sunny with high's in the mid 50's. The weather did not disappoint! We had a cool, sunny day with a light breeze. Perfect weather for a race. The race started at 8:00am. The temperature was in the mid-30's at the start of the race, but the sky was clear and the sun was out. I started the race in shorts, a t-shirt, and a light jacket. I planned to ditch the jacket after the first 6 miles when we returned to the start area. I stood around nervously awaiting the start, chatting, and greeting folks I hadn't seen in a while. After some instructions from the race director, we started off a few minutes after 8:00am.
|On your marks...|
Near perfect conditions made for a great opportunity to really push the pace and see what could be done on this course. If I felt good on the course, my plan was to really push the pace beyond the level of effort that I have previously been able to maintain at this distance. As such, the had the potential to be a good one or a truly bad one! I started off with Mark Linn and Maddy Blue, and the opening pace was fast for my liking. Too an extent, this was good. I wanted to get out ahead of anyone that might want to take the first downhill too slowly, but I didn't want to burn myself up early. I hung with Mark and Maddy for the first mile and then decided it was in my best interest to let them go a little. I settled into a pace that I liked, an uncomfortable pace that felt good. I hoped I could maintain this level of effort to the end, but I didn't worry too much over it. It felt like a good day. I hit the first loop in Horine pretty hard, making quick work of the climbs, cruising quickly on the flats, and bombing the downhills. Perceived effort seemed like something I could maintain so I decided to embrace it.
Finished Horine in 55:10. I had a solid aid station plan that began working for me at Horine. I had all the GU I would need to get to Scott's gap (my next drop bag around mile 20) in a ziploc plus a full water bottle and a disposable water bottle waiting at Horine. I ditched my jacket, gloves, and water bottle then grabbed the water and GU and took off - no more than a couple seconds. I ran the next section with a couple of 15 milers and chatted a little. Pace was still good, and I felt good, too.
|Ready for a refill after Purple Heart|
Finished Siltstone at 3:21 elapsed. Out Siltstone in 1:11, quite fast for me. When I got to Scott's Gap, I found Maddy and Mark at the aid station. I still had a couple GU’s on me so I grabbed a full water bottle from my drop bag and took off, taunting them a little as I went by. I moved well through Scott's Gap, trying not to push too hard. I started getting lightheaded and felt like I was going to crash about mid-way through Scott's Gap. I immediately popped another GU even though it wasn't quite time. This helped almost right away. Throughout this loop, Maddy was stalking me with Mark somewhere behind her.
Finished Scott's Gap at 4:03. Grabbed a new water bottle, a disposable bottle, and my pre-packed bag of GU. If all went to plan, I wouldn't need to stop on the return trip. I was hurting fairly well by this point but was excited to push hard on the return. I stuffed everything in my vest to sort out during the first climb and popped in my music. I had a good mix of fast, jarring heavy metal on tap, the perfect mix for rockin' out on Siltstone.
Maddy had caught me, and we started Siltstone together at 4:04. She took the lead and I followed. On the first big climb, she was climbing slowly and I jumped in front, but once we reached the top she took off! I was still putting in a solid effort. Indeed, I was putting in the max effort that I had. No holding back from here on in, run with abandon!
Throughout the return trip, I was eating every 10-15 minutes. As soon as I started feeling lightheaded or dizzy, I would eat a GU. This was usually 15-17 minutes after the previous GU. The entire return trip is a blur. I was jamming to music, singing, yelling, and just trying to maintain good form. Perceived exertion was through the roof, and I was deep inside myself. As I met others on the trail, I just said good job or on your left. What they said, I’ve no idea. Mark passed me and later told me that I merely grunted as he went by. I was in a good place, embracing the pain that is the Siltstone return. Both intensely focused and completely free. I was running and moving well but splits were indeed slower than the trip out. I was trying to figure out whether or not I had a shot at beating 6 hours but my brain couldn't do any math. I thought I might so I just kept pushing.
|Collapsed at the Finish Line|
In summary, this was a great race. Likely could have run a few minutes faster if I had paced a little more conservatively early on. However, I accomplished what I set out to, racing at a much higher level of effort from start to finish! I attribute this partly to an increase in fitness and partly to a burning desire to really push and dig deep. Of course, the latter means my endocrine system was rested and fully stocked for the race. I think the big mileage from the fall, followed by rest, and topped off with a few tough workouts and lots of hills paid off.
Nutrition was sound. 20 GU's or about 333 calories per hour. Took one salt tab during the race and only peed one time. Stomach was queasy but tums held it at bay. After the race, my stomach was still a mess for a few hours.
Special thanks to my coach Troy Shellhamer and Shellhamer Endurance Coaching! Troy is not only a phenomenal ultra runner but also an amazing coach! This race would not have been possible without his help over the last 15 months.
Here's a quick run down of my performance:
First 15.5 miles: ~2:40
Last 15.5 miles: ~3:16
Finish Time: 5:56:40
Place: 13th out of 83
Last 15.5 miles: ~3:16
Finish Time: 5:56:40
Place: 13th out of 83
- Inov-8 Race Ultra 290 Running Shoes
- Injinji Toe Socks
- Brooks Running Shorts
- REI Running T-shirt
- Lightweight Patagonia Jacket
- Super thin glove liners
- A thin headband
- Ultimate Direction Water Bottles
- Ultimate Direction AK Vest
- Honey Stinger Chews
- 20 GU gel packs