I set off on another 50K adventure June 23rd at the Eastern Divide 50K in Giles County Virginia. I was there with my "5am crew" compatriots Lauren and Mo. This being a "Point to Point" race, we had to arrive early to catch the shuttle to take us to the start. Due to some last minute changes in hotel accommodations, I had us booked about 45 minutes from the shuttle pick up point, which resulted in me taking a rash of s**t from my trail hommies the rest of the weekend!
After a bumpy ride in a school bus, we lined up at the start at 7:30am from the Casacades Trailhead. There were many others friends who had made the trip from the Raleigh area for this inaugural event, so it almost felt like a hometown race.
And then we were off! We ran for what seemed like 30 seconds, following along the side of a stream, then began the initial 2 mile ascent after passing the much touted waterfall.
I had left Lauren and Mo at the start and kept pressing on, reaching AS#2 along the increasingly rougher fire road heading towards Bailey Gap. After Bailey Gap the trail went downhill for a while. I saw a girl go down after catching her foot on a rock, but thankfully she got up and was okay. Right after that my friends Renee and Chris caught up to me. We ran together briefly, then Chris and I watched as Renee took off and headed out of sight down the trail. She was running strong and had a great race.
Chris and I ran together for a while. I admired Chris's bravery for wearing his VFF's for this race, although he had to slow down on the downhills due to the large shale rock that was everywhere along the fire road.
We reached AS #3 (13 miles), strategically placed before the next killer climb. What followed next was a seemingly endless hump straight uphill and to the summit of the mountain and AS #4. (18 miles) It was here that you could leave a drop bag, and I happily grabbed mine and put on a dry shirt. I popped some Ibuprofen, grabbed some coke and a PB&J, and Chris and I headed back out.
I had not seen Lauren and Mo since the start, but knowing the strength of Lauren and the tenacity of Mo, I was expecting them to catch me before the finish. The fire road now ran downhill after the summit, and not long after we left AS#4 Lauren and Mo caught me. Lauren was looking strong and was soon out ahead of us. Mo, Chris and I stayed together and chatted our way through the rollers. I started to struggle a little bit, starting to question whether I went out too hard too early. Mo was excited, because we were about to head into some single track after AS#5 at 22 miles. We rolled into AS#5, which was a cutoff point for the race. (You had to reach AS#5, 22 miles, by 2:30pm) We were well ahead of the cutoff, heading into the single track section, with 8 miles to go.
Only one problem. I was trashed! I shuffled along the single track, feeling like a marionette with all it's strings tangled up. At one point I was walking along a flat section, barely picking up my feet. I could hear Mo behind saying "C'mon Geno", so I kept trudging along, hoping to "run" my way out of it. I "pulled the Chain" on all my Honey Stinger chews in an effort to kick start my system. It must have worked, along with the realization that we were getting close to the end. I perked up just before we came out into a baking hot meadow and hit AS#6 (25 miles). We came up on the station and was surprised to see Lauren there. She had stopped to rest and was not feeling well. I gave her some Ibuprofen for her headache, we ate a little, filled up on fluids and headed out. It was now Chris, Lauren and myself. The sneaky and tenacious Mo (No Mercy) Percy had slipped away up the trail.
We headed back into single track, leaving the arid meadow behind.
We had finally come up to AS #7 (28 miles). We desperately asked the volunteers there how far it was to the finish. We had been getting conflicting info at the last aid station and it was messing with our heads! The good folks at AS #7 promised us it was only 2 miles to the finish. Home stretch....well,sort of.
The night before, Lauren, Mo and I scouted the finish area. It appeared to us then that We would have to run past the finish area, down a trail, hang a sharp left onto some single track before coming out into a meadow where the finish line was. I was so glad we had seen the finish beforehand, because if I had not know about that little diversion ahead of time I would have lost my shit completely. The old "Phantom Finish" trick. Priceless.
So we rumbled past the finish area, down that damn trail, which now seemed interminably longer than the night before, and passed the "1 mile to go" sign. We hooked the left onto the single track, which immediately went uphill. Dammit! We crested the hill, and Lauren said "let's run it!". I took off, and promptly turned my ankle. Releasing a spectacular stream of profanity, I limped briefly, got a hold of myself and kept looking for the opening to the meadow and the finish. I saw daylight and took off once again, rumbling toward the finish in a time of 7:13:58, 113th out of 158.Two hundred folks had registered. There were some no shows, and I'm sure a few DNF's as well. Lauren and Chris finished right behind me. The ever steady Mo had finished well ahead of us in 7:05:48. Renee crushed the course in 6:11:33!
My Garmin showed 6080 feet of climb for the course!
While not the most enjoyable race, we learned things, helped each other through the tough spots and survived another adventure!
Renee, Mo, Myself and Lauren post race!