Long overdue Race Report for Long Play Ultra
Overall, in the big scheme of things this was a pretty good and successful race, not perfect but the good far outweighing the bad. I ran this race last year pacing Dixie for much of it to help him get through his fist ultramarathon and I ran a time of 6:18, whereas 3 years ago I ran this race for Western States training with a time of 5:22 (on a very cold day perfect for running and dry trails).
This year's race conditions were cool at the start with a little bit of warming in the afternoon with trail conditions that were mostly dry except for four brief water crossings. I had also hoped to try out my new Ultimate Direction SJ (Scott Jurek) hydration vest, but I had ordered a size too big and had to send it back so used my trusty 2x10oz Nathan belt instead.
Plan was to start out easy for the first few miles (at whatever pace that happened to be, just go by feel) and then get into a 9:something pace.
Also Cynthia was going to join me, originally for the last 13 miles which turned into 17 miles and if I was feeling really good and needed to pick it up I might have to go ahead of her the last 2 or 3 miles.
The first part of the plan worked out ok, but that shifting into a steady 9:something pace didn't really happen, with only miles 5, 8, and 11 (9:46, 9:38, 9:37) being under 10.
At around mile 16 the trail goes under I-75 where the road goes over the river with the path under ankle deep water (water crossing #1), then just past it the trail crosses a small boat ramp (kayak, canoe launch area). Cynthia was waiting, happy to have actually found me and having seen the race leaders fly by earlier, she was ready to go with her secret trail legs ready to spring into action.
Before getting to the meeting point, I had decided I wasn't going to try and push the pace, just enjoy the day and finish and I'd go with whatever pace Cynthia felt like running. However, as we wound our way through the Silver Lake camping area and past a rooty section of trail and onto more runnable trail (although a good amount of sugar sand) we started catching up to people who had been way ahead of me. At the start of the race I was running with a guy named Adam who was doing his first ultra, who we had now caught up with. Next up was a woman named Heather who I had not seen earlier because she was way out in front. For the next couple miles, Heather, Adam, Cynthia and I ran together until we might it to the mile 20 aid station. Stopped briefly, refilled bottles and before too much time went by, Cynthia and I took off. So, first 20 miles had actually gone by pretty smoothly. We made it back to the campground, then through the rooty section, back to the next aid station then back towards the boat ramp. Cynthia side tripped to her car to get some stuff and I took a walk break until she caught bake up. Did a quick selfie since I was carrying my phone with me:
However, for most of the rest of the run, this is what I'd be seeing since she said it was better for her to run in the lead:
Next up was the water crossing I had hit on the way out, followed by the section of trail taking the "low water" route where there were two more water crossing in the flooded cypress grove, where the water was knee-deep (but where it was nearly chest deep last year). With the warmer temperatures now the water felt pretty good and rejuvenating.
Made it out of the cypress grove and out to Croom Road where the mile 26 aid station was. Caught up to a couple more runners, got off Croom road and back onto the trail. Cynthia was setting a good pace now and making it look really easy. Caught up to another guy who was concerned that he had missed a turn and was headed to Tucker Hill, but I was 98% sure the turn was still up ahead. Went over Peace Moutain and Croom Mountain, found the turn off of the trail and onto the fire road and before long we were at the unmanned 2.5 miles to go aid station. I hadn't looked at my watch for a while but noticed the total time was 5:33. Oh shoot! I was hoping to be a good bit under 6 hours but now I wasn't so sure I'd make it. The road was good except for the sugary sand but I knew we had paved road and bike trail coming up. Last two miles were 9:20 and 8:35 with final 0.33 at about 8:00 pace. We were closing in on a man and woman running ahead who we might have caught if this was a 34 mile race.
Crossed the finish line and received my medal and LP :
Jessica was at the finish line and the three of us hung out for a bit enjoying some food, drink, and music before we had to drive Cynthia back to her car so she could get some time with her family for the rest of Sunday.
This was Cynthia's first longer trail run and she made it look easy and really saved my race from being a tough slog.