Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

2016 Weymouth Woods 100K

My history at Weymouth Woods has been a rooty one. I'd say "rocky" but there are very few rocks on the course. There are, however, a LOT of roots, so rooty just seems more appropriate. At my first attempt, in 2010, I was hit with a bad stomach bug in the hotel room the night before the race. It totally wiped me out and I was only able to run two laps and walk one the next morning. I went back in 2013 and somehow managed to finish second. Then, last year (2015) I was not well prepared and had to quit after seven laps, having walked the last lap. So, I really had no idea what to expect this time other than a well-organized event with a lot of roots and sand.

For anyone reading this without seeing my prior experiences, Weymouth Woods 100K is a 14-lap 100K (4.47 miles per lap) through a Preserve near Southern Pines. It's not extremely hilly, but is rolling. It has a lot of roots along the course, and the trees are mostly long leaf pine so there aren't a lot of low-hanging branches, which means it feels more open and you can see fairly far into the woods. The area is known as the "sandhills" and there are a number of sandy areas on the trails.

I traveled down on Friday with Dennis, who had booked a two-room suite at the Residence Inn, the same place I stayed the prior year. We even ate at Brixx, just as I had in 2015. The plan for race day needed to be different, however, as I certainly didn't want to be drained after seven laps. Knowing that eating more early during our "Misgah" run really helped me later on, I planned to make and bring some PB&J sandwiches from home and have them during the early laps. Only I forgot them. I did have an assortment of granola bars, from PowerBar, Clif, and Kind. Hopefully, they would work. I just had to make sure I used them early. I also bought two Huma gels off Dennis and had my own PowerBar gels.

To keep the Park accessible for visitors, this year, runners were required to park in a field across the highway from the Park. It wasn't a bad walk and fortunately since I had some leftover TRU supplies to give to Marie, we were able to zip into the park and unload everything at the visitor's center. We arrived at the Park a bit after 7:00 and set up chairs with our gear along the walkway in front of the visitor's center. It was an ultramarathon cross between NASCAR's "Pit Row" and a football tailgating event.

The pre-race meeting was just like in prior years with an overview of course markings, Mangum Track Club award recognitions, etc... My race almost ended before it started during this meeting as a guy walked with a beagle who looked very much like a slimmer version of the one I lost last August. That hit me pretty hard and his memory would actually come to mind on occasion during the race. I will add that Marie stated that one of the directors/volunteers had blown all the pine needles off the course. I thought she was joking until she said that if you find yourself on a section of trail that has pine needles, you missed a turn.

Like every year, the runners walked out the entrance road to the starting line, giving us a little less than 1/4 mile to thin out before we hit the woods. Somebody was there with a drone (which I personally find kind of annoying) to get aerial footage of the start. Not sure if they are planning to make a video or the guy was just playing with his new Christmas toy but I don't recall seeing it again during the race. A reporter from the local newspaper, "The Pilot" was also on hand. I note this only because TRU never gets any attention from our local paper.

Each year I have attended, the start has been kind of funny as only a couple people want to be up front. Dennis and I stood about 5' behind the line, but there was no one directly in front of us. At the start of the race, an older fellow went tearing off ahead. I honestly didn't know whether he was just really good or really foolish. After he got a bit ahead of everyone, he turned around and started taking pictures. I have to think it was for his personal blog since I know Marie and the other directors are taking pictures all day long. Or, maybe he just wanted to say he led at one point?

Once More, Unto the Breach!
My original plan had been to wear a tech shirt and my Freedom Park running jacket, just as I had done at the South Mountains Half Marathon the prior weekend, but I dropped it at an aid station and didn't get it back until Lee brought it to Weymouth and it reeked of coffee. I couldn't stand the smell so I went with a long sleeve tech shirt over the short-sleeved one. It was moderately warm and I didn't expect to need it long, anyway.

I had told Dennis that I was probably going to mostly just run alone so I wouldn't spend a lot of energy holding up a conversation. He agreed and said he'd probably use his headphones for much of the race. Early on, we were in a bit of a cluster from 2nd-6th place. Another guy had pulled out ahead into the lead. I knew deep inside that I was once again going out too fast, but I was comfortable and I will pretty much have to resign myself to the fact that this is how I race. Start out too fast and try to hang on at the end. As I think about this race versus a point-to-point, I believe Weymouth lures you into running too fast. In your mind, you know that each loop is short so you aren't as focused on the fact that it's still over sixty miles of distance--it's just a bunch of small loops. When you know you are sixty-plus miles away in a point-to-point, it becomes more daunting and maybe you hold back a bit early on. It's not 14 of something, it's 62 of something.

About mid-way through the first lap, Dennis was talking to a guy who had just purchased a house near him in Blowing Rock and I talked with Martin and his friend Travis for a bit. Eventually, though, we all fell into our own race, which was perfect for me. I could just try to zone out and save my energy for moving forward. I will add that there was an 18 year-old running his first ultra who was also in our group, though he wasn't talking much.

Lap 2 - Ahead of Chase (for now)
My first four laps were all under forty minutes (versus three such laps in 2013) and put me a little over three minutes ahead of 2013 pace. I at one time had hoped to finish in under 10 hours (essentially meaning before needing a headlamp, but lack of sufficient training made that a long shot at best. I was 10:17 in 2013 so the final ten laps would have to be more than 14 minutes quicker than that year. The next two laps were trending in the right direction, but I was only besting my 2013 pace slightly. By lap six, I was about 4 1/4 minutes ahead of that year's time. It was really warm during the midday hours. I had gone down to shirtless for a bit and again lamented not bringing sunglasses as the longleaf pines don't provide much shade. I put on a white shirt around lap six because I could tell my skin was getting hot from direct exposure to the sun. I also grabbed a white hat and would soak it in water (just like Western States) every chance I got. This really seemed to cool me down, but didn't ultimately help my pace.

After being "alone" for much of the race, though with it being loops, I did pass people, Martin suddenly showed up right behind me as I made the climb up to the start/finish area to complete my seventh lap. Martin is a very good runner and I was surprised that he hadn't already gone by me. I figured he'd do so here, but he was going into the bathroom to change clothes--probably over dressed for the mid-day heat. Still, I figured he'd catch me soon enough. I was really surprised Dennis hadn't caught up. I wasn't trying to stay ahead of him as if we were racing, but figured I'd see him at some point. The 18 year-old, I now knew as Chase, had passed me around the end of the second lap and since he had a huge family/crew near our chair, I began checking his progress with them out of curiosity. I wasn't concerned with passing him, just wondered how he was doing. I joked that I had been "Chase-ing" him all day.

Seven laps was all I could muster in 2015, and even though I didn't feel great at the midpoint this year, I at least knew I could continue on. In 2013, I had done 50 miles of Pitchell in mid-October and the Mountain Masochist 50-miler in early November leading up to the race. This year and last year, I had only Pitchell/Misgah in October and November/December were practically void of long training runs. My weekly mileage averaged roughly 30 miles and I could really tell that things were going to slow down. Lap seven was the first time I had a lap slower than in 2013. On lap eight, I gained back a little time, but ten hours was well out of reach by now. It had become a matter of just hanging on. I had done a terrible job of eating enough. To this point, I'd had three gels, 1 1/2 bars, a couple banana pieces and some Mountain Dew. On the eighth lap, I took my first Huma Gel, but sadly it did not have the same "Shazam" effect it had on me at the end of Misgah.

I honestly felt like I moved pretty steadily, running at a good pace where I could run, and walking up the hills pretty quickly, but for some reason laps eight and nine were each over four minutes slower than 2013. Looking back, I can't figure out where I lost that time. I remember mid-race in 2013 having to go into the visitor's center bathroom on a couple of loops and a long pause at the start/finish to change shoes and get some new ties for the timing chip. Whether it was just the additional sand on the course or something else that slowed me down so drastically, I can't say. Those miles (35-45) are always rough in races, but they apparently got me more this year. Dennis and Lee both agreed they hit lows around that distance, Chase's crew said he also had issues around that point.
David and David provide timing.

When I had completed lap eleven, David was standing nearby and shouted to me, "That's twelve isn't it?" I had counted eleven, but could I have been wrong? A surge of hope went through me that I had 4.47 fewer miles left than I thought. He jogged over to his timing tent, looked at the computer, and said, "Nope, you're right. Eleven." I was a bit deflated. I actually would spend the next few laps wondering with faint hope if he was joking with me and I actually was a lap ahead of what I thought. It felt like I was walking less than I had in 2013 so maybe my pace wasn't as bad as I feared???

Around that time, my stomach began giving me some problems. It had mostly cooled down, but it was mostly likely due to dehydration, despite drinking steadily and taking S-caps. I asked the start/finish volunteers if they had any Tums. They did not, but I thought I had noticed them at the mid-loop aid station. I surely could make it that far.

It was on my 12th lap that I got lapped by the lead runner. I had managed to avoid getting lapped in 2013, but not today. I didn't know if it was due to him running faster than the 2013 winner or me being much slower than that year. I had lost track of my pace and really thought I might be heading into the eleven hour range. I was really surprised I had not seen Dennis and Martin yet. Then I came up on Martin. He said he was having GI issues. I wanted to joke that it was probably because he had earlier (jokingly?) said he was listening to Taylor Swift on his earphones, but figured he wouldn't be up for humor. I offered him S-caps, but he said he was already taking them and I headed on.

When I reached the mid-loop aid station, they offered me a cheese quesidillia and something else I've since forgotten. I requested Tums. Doug Dawkins showed me the bottle and I poured out three. I thanked them for the other offerings and said the Tums would suit me just fine. They told me there was Ginger Ale at the start/finish but I've never developed a taste for Ginger Ale. It took a good 20-30 minutes before the Tums kicked in, but it really did seem to make a difference. I had only taken one and put the other two in my water bottle pouch, knowing I'd probably need them soon.

Due to David's "error" on lap eleven, he now felt obligated to let me know my lap each time around. I still hoped that just maybe I was ahead of pace, but really didn't think it was possible.

Stops at the start/finish area were shorter now as I wasn't getting anything. A young member of Chase's crew had become my moral support each lap with the standard "good job" comment each time I passed. It was almost a game now. He seemed to get a kick out of it and it lightened the mood a bit as I was getting tired. I was well beyond my recent weekly mileage and my legs were sore in odd places, like the inside of my thighs--like I had been speed skating or something. My feet--toenails, specifically--were really sore. My left foot felt smashed against the shoe and the little toe's nail on my right foot seemed to be gouging a hole into its neighbor. I could kind of curl my toes to alleviate some of the discomfort, but I had to make a conscious effort to do so and most of my attention stayed fixed on watching the trail.

Midway through my 13th lap, I pulled out another Tums and noticed that the third one had vanished somewhere. I figured I'd be ok but decided when the last lap rolled around that I'd get a couple more--mostly in case I needed them on the way home. This lap went uneventfully until I happened upon a runner who earlier had been telling me what place I was in each time I passed. He seemed to be really enjoying the race and was extremely extroverted. We were just past the mid-loop aid station and he asked what lap I was on. I told him "13" and he said that at the top of the hill, I would have a 10K left. I thanked him, knowing what hill he meant. Shortly after the aid station, there is a hill that leads up to a field and a Quonset hut. When I reached that point, I told myself to take it "One K at a time," even though I didn't have a GPS to count my "Ks."

Another climb up to the start/finish area and I was on my 14th lap. There was a small victory already in that I had not been lapped by Chase, whom I knew was ahead of me somewhere. In fact, when I got to my chair, I noticed that his crew had broken down his table and was not to be seen. I grabbed my headlamp and since my white shirt was soaked with sweat and water, I changed into the long-sleeved Ridge-to-Bridge Marathon shirt I had used at the start, knowing the temperature would drop and I might slow down.

Figuring Dennis was the next person behind me and not caring if he caught up, I didn't really change my pace or strategy on the last lap. I still walked where I had in earlier laps. The light was getting a bit faint after the first mile of this loop and by the second mile, it was pretty dark. At the mid-loop aid station, I thanked everyone and apologized for never taking them up on their hospitality and food, explaining that my stomach is pretty sensitive and most things don't sit well when I am in a race. I grabbed two more Tums, put them in my water bottle pouch, turned on my headlamp, and headed on. Somehow, my headlamp band had gotten loose and it wouldn't stay tight against my head. Rather than fooling with it and wasting time, I elected to just carry it. I caught up to Travis and another guy who seemed surprised I would run in the dark. I'm not sure why they felt that way, but I just said that I was ready to be done. At one point, before I had caught up to them, I thought I saw a headlamp gaining on me. Not sure if it was Dennis or someone else, I used that to motivate me to press ahead.

I had long ago memorized all of the landmarks along the loop and knew that when I crossed the last little boardwalk, I had only the rooty climb back to the visitor's center and I was done. I ran the last little bit, rounded the corner around David Lee's trailer, and crossed the mat, noting the finish time of 10:21-something. So, I was very close to the 10:17 I had in 2013. I guess I knew it was going to be a similar time since I put my headlamp on at about the same spot as that year. What was really interesting to me was how my splits compared to that year. They are shown at the end of this write-up.

Marie and another volunteer presented me with my finisher's award--a pottery bowl with the race logo stamped into the bottom. Appropriate with Seagrove nearby. David said that Dennis was roughly 19 minutes behind me the last time he checked, so I figured I had time to get cleaned up and wait in the visitor's center. Dennis showed up shortly after, having been passed by someone, somewhere on the last lap. He said he never even saw the guy but figured it happened when he paused at the mid-loop aid station. We had a three hour drive home so we didn't stay too long, other than to thank Marie and her co-directors and volunteers. I thanked the Park Ranger who had been onsite all day. I told him that in my experience, State Park employees are the absolutely best government employees we have. And I was serious, they have always been great to work with. I think Marie agreed.
The Pottery Finisher's Award

So, I got the 2015 DNF-monkey off my back and finished third overall, which was really a case of overachieving given my training in the recent months. I was tired, sore, but happy to have finished my 75th marathon/ultra. I have high regard for the Mangum Track Club folk and they are a major part of why I have returned to Weymouth four times. All races give finisher's awards. All races give shirts--a long-sleeve tech shirt in this case. But not all races have the people who make it special. Weymouth does.


My Splits

Lap      2013       2016
  1     37:36.6    37:36.1
  2     37:50.3    36.32.3
  3     38:09.1    37:11.4
  4     40:18:8    38:41.8
  5     40:53:9    40:07.7
  6     42:55:3    42:27.1
  7     43:03.8    44:22.6
  8     46:29.1    46:22.0
  9     44:17.9    48:51.6
 10    45:52.1    50:17.5
 11    50:48.9    49:48.5
 12    49:49.6    49:03.7
 13    50:31.8    49:46.2
 14    49:07.2    50:34.5


The Aftermath

After eating very little during the 100K (5 gels, 1.5 PowerBars, 1.5 bananas, and several cups of Mountain Dew--along with water and S-caps,) I was famished all of Sunday. We went to a birthday party at an area restaurant Sunday evening. I ordered a beans & rice dish that I have gotten many times. I weighed it on a kitchen scale once after getting takeout and it was almost 2.5 pounds. I ate it all. The next morning, I find I'm down 3-4 pounds from before Weymouth. These races always take it out of me. Thankfully, Marie wasn't having weight checks after each loop!


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