Still experimenting with everything I do (mostly with the diet) and my gut has been feeling better -- most noticeably during the day. A big improvement? - yes, I'll take it even though it may only be temporary. Nights are still 1 or 2 hour segments of sleep before being abruptly awakened by pain. By the time I need to get up, I'm more than ready to get out of bed.
Last weekend I traveled down I-75 to Cove Lake State Park in Caryville, TN to run the Cumberland Trail 50k. A 3 1/2 hour drive, but didn't seem that long since I was really enjoying the Fall colors all the way there. The RD is Susan Donnelly, an easy going, veteran ultra runner and sometimes participant in the Louisville's Lovin' the Hills event here in Louisville -- so I was happy to participate in her event (4th annual). I was really looking forward to running on new trails. The forecast was spot on (rare) and the weather would be a positive factor too: 45 degrees (nice shirtless temp) & no wind at the start.
RD Susan Donnelly (2nd from the left):
Going from a 100k to a 50k, I was concerned pace wise that I would be stuck in a slower gear. Well, no worry. This course ended up dictating my pace from the word go:
Starting in the park, the first couple miles were flat & fast & I just tried to keep everyone else within sight. The next 3.5 miles was a 1900' climb up Cross Mountain. Had I not experienced the steep hills of the NotYoMomma's course 2 weeks earlier, I would have thought this climb was pretty steep. It was really just slow going (19 minute miles) up a steady incline that was on a narrow, technical path. It was single file hiking at this point & no one was passing for over an hour unless someone stepped off the trail. I used a handheld since the first few miles of the race were in the dark, but wished I had used a headlamp so I would have a hand free to help steady myself maneuvering the slick rocky areas.
After coming down the other side of Cross Mountain, the course sort of meandered up, down and around some much smaller hills. There would be one more long hill with a 1200' climb before the turnaround. I found myself with 2 others (Jennifer & Chris) running the single track for the next 7 miles after Cross Mtn. We all approached the course differently, but pretty much kept together: Jennifer was a very determined runner who would run up the hills that I hiked, but I would catch or pass her when she slowed down (sometimes to a standstill) where there were slick rocks. Chris kept behind us & patiently kept his distance thruout. At one blowdown, I somehow got turned around & was running the course in the wrong direction! Thankfully I wasn't running alone & ran into Jennifer soon afterwards. I felt sure I was on new trail, but just then I looked & saw a flag on the "wrong" side of the trail on this out'n back course . . .
For the 1st time in a very long time, my gut was not a factor with my effort (I can only cross my fingers now), so after a while it wasn't my biggest worry. This time of year the colors are beautiful, but it brings new fallen leaves & they were hiding the rocks beneath. I ended up tripping several times & turning both ankles, not seriously, making them sore. There were times I wanted to pick up the pace, but the fear of going down kept me in check. Keeping mentally focused on every step was pretty tough.
If I wanted to enjoy the scenery more, I just had to stop. My favorite place was down in a deep hollow where the morning light almost turned to darkness & the temps dropped. There were big, tall hemlocks & a creek crossing with a narrow, 25' long walk bridge (2 extra long railroad ties) that bowed with my weight. Nice.
There are several miles of gravel road near the turnaround, where there was a small, but scenic plateau. It always seems like I go into slow motion when going from trail to gravel road & it was no different this time. Jennifer & Chris flat left me in the dust at this point. Yet looking back at my splits, that was by far the fastest 4 mile segment of my race.
Cove Lake & Cross Mtn:
Talking about splits, I was under 15 minutes/mile pace for the race by the time I reached the top of Cross Mountain on the return trip. But coming back down the 3.5 miles of technical single track at that pace was not going to be possible. Despite feeling good, the best I could do was just a little faster than the pace going up -- around 17 minutes/mile -- having a faceplant on the rocks was not an option. Reaching flat ground near the park, I finished well & was able to keep under the 15 mpm pace for the race. I'm pretty happy about how things turned out, especially with my gut.