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Holiday Lake 50k++ Race report (Read 561 times)


Imminent Catastrophe

    Holiday Lake 50k++, 10 February 2007 The Holiday Lake 50k++ is a two-loop course through Holiday Lake State Park near Appomattox in central Virginia. Runners make a counterclockwise loop back to the start, then turn around and run the course clockwise. The Race Director is Dr. David Horton, who is legendary in the ultrarunning community for holding races that are much tougher and longer than expected (he also happens to hold the speed record for running the Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada). He is also a very experienced race director and directs four ultramarathons each year. There is a term in ultrarunning: "Horton miles", which alludes to the fact that his races are not only longer than advertised, but tend to be tougher as well. The Holiday Lakes race is actually about 54 km, which explains the "++". So I could not resist entering this "Horton race" for only my second ultramarathon, I knew that this race would be well-organized. Dr. Horton had already sent us an email containing everything we needed to know about the race. I was not disappointed--everything about the race was first-rate. I arrived in Appomattox on Friday afternoon and had time to find the race start then tour the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, where General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. I then attended the pasta dinner and race briefing given by the dynamic and animated Dr. Horton. He gave out door prizes and talked about the course, cutoff times, and showed the finisher shirts and awards. Race morning was very cold, 15°F (-9°C). Fortunately there was no wind, and the cold meant that the mud which usually makes the course so difficult was not a factor, as the ground was frozen solid. I wore four layers: a coolmax vest and longsleeve, a turtleneck longsleeve, and a windshirt. Plus a watchcap and thick gloves. There were some runners wearing shorts! We were able to stay in the warm 4-H dining hall until the last moment, which was very nice given the outside tempertures. We were treated to a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem by one of the runners, I'm sorry to say I don't know her name. At precisely 6:30 we were off in the dark under a beautiful starry sky, using flashlights to light the trail. Initially there was a minor traffic jam as we funneled onto the singletrack trail, but after about a half a mile we had settled into a steady run. We ran past the parking area, where I could see my car and the thought briefly crossed my mind that I could just run over to it and drive away, avoiding the ordeal that was ahead. The course was prominently marked with orange tape every 200-300 feet, there was no chance of getting lost in this race. The first two miles were on easy to moderate hills along the shores of the frozen lake, and as the dawn broke, it was a truly beautiful sight. We then turned away from the lake onto a dirt road as the sun rose and it was another scenic moment as we ran through a golden field illuminated by the rising sun. We discarded our flashlights at the first aid station, I don't know what they did with all those flashlights. By then we all had nice buildups of frost on our hats and facial hair. We continued along dirt roads over gently rolling hills, past the next three aid stations at roughly 3-mile intervals (Horton miles, not real miles). Twice we had to splash through icy knee-deep creeks, which added the discomfort of cold, wet feet to the ordeal. Water bottles were freezing up, but with aid stations every 3-4 miles it was not a major problem. The aid stations were well-organized and well-stocked. If you are not familiar with ultramarathons, you might not know that the fare offered at aid stations is not limited to the typical water and sportsdrink you will find at a road race. Here they offered those as well as de-fizzed Mountain Dew (yay caffeine!), pretzels, PBJs, bananas, boiled potatoes with a tray of salt to dip them in, gummi bears, and more. But the best, as I would discover on the return leg, was chicken soup. Soon after the 4th aid station at Horton mile 12 we returned to singletrack along the lakeshore and began to cross paths with the race leaders who were on their return leg. I was moving over to let the faster runners pass with increasing regularity. This section was harder as it was much more hilly and narrow and is the most "technical" section of the course, although it was along a beautiful frozen river and the ice-covered Holiday Lake, where the thin ice was making strange groaning and popping sounds, which was really cool. We southerners are not accustomed to frozen lakes and it took me awhile to figure out what the noises were. Finally I reached the start/finish/turnaround point and started the return trip. I reached the turnaround at 3 hours, well ahead of the 3:30 cutoff time, so I could relax a bit. It had warmed up some by then so I discarded my windshirt and traded my heavy watchcap and gloves for lighter versions. That was a good thing about the two-loop design, we could access our drop bags at the turnaround. The next section was the low point of my race. I turned around and started to retrace the hilly singletrack, now crossing with the runners who were behind me. My legs were already sore and tired and I was not in any mood to run another 15+ miles. It didn't help that the next aid station was a long way off, and it seemed to take me forever to get there. I slogged through this section in a very bad mood, letting a few runners pass me, and finally got to the aid station with 12 Horton miles to go, dog tired, where the enthusiastic volunteers almost convinced me that I was doing great. I drank Conquest sports drink, Mountain Dew, and ate boiled potatoes dipped in salt. Not exactly a gourmet meal, but at the time it was just what I needed. In the next section I started to feel a bit better, but not much. It was still an ordeal, walking up hills and slowly shuffling along on the level parts, then through the creeks again. I was wondering what kind of idiot would volunteer and actually pay to participaate in this ordeal...oh yeah, me. Finally I got to the next aid station, with about 10 miles to go. There they had the boiled potatoes and...drum roll...chicken soup. Hot chicken soup! I don't think I have ever enjoyed any food so much. It was still really cold, the cups of water and sports drink were freezing to slushies, but they had hot chicken soup. I had some more boiled salt-dipped potatoes, chased them down with the soup, and after that it was all good. After that I found some energy and, with help from my mp3 player with music and some raunchy comedy, maintaned a slow but steady pace to the finish. I actually felt pretty good as I ran past the last aid station, back onto the lakeshore singletrack and finally to the finish, where Dr. Horton was waiting to personally shake my hand and say "congratulations". That meant a lot to me! It felt pretty good, especially after I got a shower and wolfed down the post-race lunch. This race exceeded every expectation and I am looking forward to running it next year. In fact I am actually considering the next Horton Race, Promise Land 50k in April.

    "Able to function despite imminent catastrophe"

     "To obtain the air that angels breathe you must come to Tahoe"--Mark Twain

    "The most common question from potential entrants is 'I do not know if I can do this' to which I usually answer, 'that's the whole point'.--Paul Charteris, Tarawera Ultramarathon RD.

     

    √ Tahoe Rim Trail 100M 20/21 July 2013

    Boston Marathon 21 April 2014

    Tahoe Rim Trail 100M 19/20 July 2014


    madness baby

      That is one great story. I could almost taste the hot chicken soup when you got to that part. Well-deserved. Congratulations, and thanks for sharing!
      deb


      Needs more cowbell!

        Boiled potatoes dipped in salt and raunchy comedy sounds like the perfect compliment to a run well done! What a great report! Big grin k

        I shoot pretty things! ~

        '14 Goals:

        • 2 olympic distance duathlons -- 6 days apart -- PR at least 1

        • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)


        You'll ruin your knees!

          Hey Russ, Great report! Congrats on getting through the lows and the tough conditions. I have several Horton races on my "races to run" list. He is an awesome RD and ALWAYS greets each and every finisher with a personal congratulations. Horton miles are infamous... There is a DVD that was made to document his PCT run, it's called The Runner (see http://www.amazon.com/Runner-Extreme-UltraRunner-David-Horton/dp/B000FP2P8U). Lots of good stuff in there. Low points in ultras typically equate with "NEED TO SLAM CALORIES"! The ultra fare is always great. "Relentless Forward Motion" is a good mantra for getting through them, only focusing on getting to the next aid station, not the entire distance. Anyway, way to go on the 50K! Lynn B

          ""...the truth that someday, you will go for your last run. But not today—today you got to run." - Matt Crownover (after Western States)

          va


            I enjoyed this race report. Thanks! Also, great job finishing such a challenging race!
              An excellent race & a very enjoyable read. Congratulations to both.

              The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made.

                Thanks for sharing - a great report and congratulations on finishing.

                Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away...(unkown)




                Go With The Flow
                Thyroid Support Group

                  Congrats. Very cool - and I just added that one to my future "to do" list. Love the history. I'm a history buff and never seen the Appomattox Courthouse ... now I can combine running and a little history. Awesome. The extra 4km is just mean, though.
                  E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
                  -----------------------------


                  You'll ruin your knees!

                    Love the history. I'm a history buff and never seen the Appomattox Courthouse ...
                    Yeah, I bet it's a really cool-looking old building! Tongue Clowning around Cool

                    ""...the truth that someday, you will go for your last run. But not today—today you got to run." - Matt Crownover (after Western States)


                    Imminent Catastrophe

                      Congrats. Very cool - and I just added that one to my future "to do" list. Love the history. I'm a history buff and never seen the Appomattox Courthouse ... now I can combine running and a little history. Awesome. The extra 4km is just mean, though.
                      Thanks everyone. I highly recommend this one if you want to try a 50k. A bit of trivia: The first major battle of the US Civil War was fought in Manassas, VA, partially on the land of Wilmer McLean. After the battle McLean decided to move to Appomattox, VA where he thought he would be safe from the war. Four years later the last significant battle of the war again occurred in his backyard, this time in Apomattox, where Lee surrendered in the parlor of McLean's house. Now that's ironic!

                      "Able to function despite imminent catastrophe"

                       "To obtain the air that angels breathe you must come to Tahoe"--Mark Twain

                      "The most common question from potential entrants is 'I do not know if I can do this' to which I usually answer, 'that's the whole point'.--Paul Charteris, Tarawera Ultramarathon RD.

                       

                      √ Tahoe Rim Trail 100M 20/21 July 2013

                      Boston Marathon 21 April 2014

                      Tahoe Rim Trail 100M 19/20 July 2014