Terrapin Mountain 50k – 2010 race report

Terrapin Mountain 50k logo

Terrapin Mountain 50k is a great race put on by my friend and Liberty University professor, Clark Zealand.  It is race #2 in the Beast Series and offers a beautiful yet challenging course in the George Washington National Forest, sharing some of the Promise Land 50k and Hellgate 100k courses.

If you recall, around the New Year I was having some slight issues with my peroneal tendon after I rolled my ankle pretty bad.  The problem was exacerbated by a certain pair of shoes (New Balance MT100’s, I still love them) but it resolved itself after some rest.  Well, having thought the problem was gone after some successful runs at Holiday Lake and R2R2R, I went for a run in these shoes about a week before race day.  Lo-and-behold, the peroneal became reirritated so I was forced to lay off running up until Terrapin.  I didn’t know how it would hold up, but wanting to stay in the Beast I decided to cautiously proceed with my racing plans (and with a goal to just finish, not race).

Having just experienced some beautiful 70 degree weather, the mid 20’s on race morning were an unpleasant surprise.  No worries, the weather would eventually become absolutely gorgeous later in the day.

Image courtest of eco-x sports

A down jacket while stretching and still freezing

At 7:00am Clark banged the gong (really Clark?) and we headed out.  The first 3/4 mile is on flat road, and with 50k and half-marathoners running together this made for some speedy pavement pounding, eerily similar to a marathon.  As soon as the road ended we started the climb up to Camping Gap, an aid station that we would hit 3 times throughout the day.  I wasn’t necessarily planning on running this 3-mile climb, but the peroneal felt absolutely fine so I allowed myself to get dragged along by the front pack.

After the climb came a brutal 5-mile descent.  Now normally some good fast downhill cruising feels great to start out a race, but this extended descent on gravel road meant faster-than-usual paces, and consequently trashed-earlier-than-usual quads.  Honestly, it was friggin fast.  I apparently ran 6:02’s, and a few days later I am now paying the price and can’t walk down steps.

Me and Jack Kurisky

Much of the first half of the race was run on gravel road, and the elevation was fairly binary.  Either you were climbing or you were pummeling downhill.  I kept company with Jack Kurisky, Keith Knipling and Darryl Smith for a lot of this running, but as we came into Camping Gap for the second time (mile 16.4), I realized that I was giving a harder-than-planned effort and staying with these guys would mean keeping up the pace.  The Beast Series is my focus of the year, and yes I’d love to do well in it, but I did not plan or train for Terrapin to be at race effort, and as I’ve learned before, an unplanned hard effort can bring negative consequences.  Acknowledging this fact, I let them pull away and I started stopping to take pictures whenever the opportunity arose.  It seemed to work and the second half of the run was at a much more relaxed pace.

After the second stint at Camping Gap came a nice climb up and around the White Oak Ridge.  At the top we would find our first orienteering punch (to prove we did the loop).  As I was approaching the punch, Justine Morrison appeared out of nowhere looking speedy as always.  In a normal race I’d fight to the death if given an opportunity to prevent being chicked, but given my earlier decision to tone it down, I took a picture and let Justine pass, continuing on to chick more and more of the suckers ahead.  She ended up finishing ninth overall and beating out the second place woman by more than 20 minutes.  A true rockstar, to say the least.

Justine Morrison at Terrapin Mtn 50k - 2010

Justine at orienteering punch #1

Coming down the White Oak Ridge, I started passing runners coming in the opposite direction.  This is always a good time, yelling encouragements  to strangers (“Looking good, keep it up!”) and taking pictures and heckling friends (“Oh dear god what is that bright yellow thing coming towards me?”).  If you don’t get that second reference, see the picture I snapped of Alisa below.  She was so fast (or so bright) that she was blurry.

Alisa Springman running the White Oak Ridge

Neon Alisa

After the downhill meet-and-greet section we hit Camping Gap for the third and final time (mile 22.1).  Leaving, we were immediately greeted by some fairly technical trail (a first for the day) and a good climb up Terrapin Mountain.  Orienteering punch #2 was located on a rock ledge with a spectacular view at the top of the mountain, then we started our descent which quickly lead to punch #3.  This one was located immediately after Fat Man’s Misery, an angled, narrow and slippery passageway between two giant boulders.  Seriously, this thing is a sonofabitch.  Don’t let the picture of Mario below fool you, he’s a small dude (no offense my man) and it is downright dangerous passing through here.  Oh the things we do for running.

Mario Raymond in Fat Man's Misery

Mario Raymond in Fat Man's Misery

After the fat man we had a good gnarly technical downhill, just to be sure that if there was any strength left in your quads, there wouldn’t be at the finish.  The rocks in this section were big, loose and scattered – a perfect storm for rolling ankles and eliminating Beast Series racers.  Needless to say, I stayed super focused and applied the brakes liberally on this descent.

At the very bottom of the descent was Terrapin Mtn Lane aid station (mile 25.6), a brief half-mile ascent, and then a long rolling cruise on singletrack as we headed towards the finish.  There were plenty of stream crossings in this section, but surprisingly they weren’t overflowing as one might expect after a record snowfall has just melted.  I’m not complaining.

At this point, I came across a group of soldiers wearing full uniforms including combat boots and rucksacks.  The lead soldier carried an American flag.  They marched/hiked the half-marathon course and were coming into the last two miles of their long slow hike.  One soldier offered me his ruck but I politely declined, mustering something about not wanting to take away from his sense of accomplishment.  Either way, that was pretty cool seeing them out there carrying the flag.

Soldier carrying American Flag at Terrapin Mtn 50k


With a little more than a mile to go, the course turned back on to the road we had started with.  This was a very welcome sign (as was the “one mile to go” sign), and within no time I was coming across the field at the Sedalia Center, finishing in 5:03:51, good for 12th place overall and 11th male.

The post-race lounging was a great time.  There was good BBQ, hanging with VHTRC and Lynchburg friends, and watching runners come in while looking out onto a mountainous backdrop on a beautiful day.  You really can’t ask for anything more…

VHTRC at Terrapin Mtn 50k

VHTRC peeps

Full results
My pictures on Flickr


Race Report: Terrapin Mountain 50k

I took a risk this weekend and raced knowing that my IT band was still in healing mode. I had to because Terrapin Mountain 50k is the 2nd race in the Beast Series and, aside from finishing MMT, finishing the Beast Series is one of my goals for this year. With plenty of visits to the PT and equal amounts of time spent stretching and foam-rolling at home, healing has steadily moved along and two days prior to the race I was able to get in an 8-miler with little to no pain.

This was the inaugural 50k at Terrapin. Last year they ran a marathon, but in actuality the mileage was a bit higher than 26.2, so instead of shortening it to be legit, Clark Zealand (the RD) did what any decent ultrarunner would do and he added an extra mile or three to make a nice challenging 50k.

That’s me – #5. I guess they didn’t realize I’d be taking it slow(er) today.

Rain was forecasted for all of Saturday. As I slept in my tent the night before the race, I was constantly awoken by loud surges in the rain’s intensity – never a good sign. By some amazing turn of events, mother nature called it quits just before daybreak and we were graced with a dry start. I snuck in to the middle of the pack, hoping it would trick me into running a conservative race, but as we made our way out of the lodge and into the mountains I slowly found myself passing a good number of people. I was somewhat expecting to be passing folks though. Coach Mike had formulated an ITB-friendly gameplan for me: run the uphills and walk the downs. So I did, passing everyone who sticks to the normal ultra routine of walking the uphills. It was actually quite entertaining because going up I would pass the same 10 or so people and then on the downs they would all pass me. We yo-yo’d back and forth all day long, and eventually, to qualm the “this idiot doesn’t know how to run an ultra” thoughts that were most definitely running through their heads, I would explain that I in fact had a method to my madness.

Trying to walk the downhills is tough, so I shuffled/power-walked instead.

The course itself was challenging yet fun. Plenty of climbing, roughly 8k feet of it, and despite all the rain from the night before, there wasn’t nearly as much mud as anyone had thought. Contrary to what the attached pictures show, most of the day had us running through jeep roads or single track. There was even a section towards the end that was MMT-esque with jagged rocks that made for impossible fotting. The final ascent up Terrapin Mountain was steep and gnarly as well, and to prove we were there we had to punch our bibs with two different orienteering punches that awaited us at the top.

The course was well marked and, being a first-timer on these trails, it took me onto portions of the Promise Land 50k and Hellgate 100k courses, both races in the Beast Series that I will be running this year. I don’t remember much of the specifics from the course, probably because I was concentrating so hard all day on my ITB to make sure it wasn’t hurting, but it definitely felt great to be out there running in the mountains, and it especially felt good to be running pain free. On some of the downhill sections, the gradient was so steep that I couldn’t help but move at a not-quite-walking, aka running, pace. When I would do this, my ITB would quickly chime in with a hint of pain as if to say “No no, remember what Coach Mike told you!” I quickly got the picture and went back to shuffling downhill, repeating to myself my mantra for the day: “It feels good. Don’t f@#k it up.”

FOG, FOG and more FOG… all day long.

Speaking of f@#cking it up, I somehow managed to drain my GPS battery before the race and I also forgot my camera battery sitting on the charger at home, so if you were wondering where my usual array of pictures, maps, and elevation profiles are at… sorry boss, not this time. (By the way, all pics courtesy of eco-X Sports).

Clark cheering me on as I finish. The camera guy missed our sweet high-five.

I finished in 5:41:43, 27th place out of 148 starters. Not too shabby for just trying to complete the dang thing under the cutoffs to stay in the Series. All in all, I’d have to say that Clark and the rest of the eco-X crew put on an extremely well organized race with great schwag and cool logos (who doesn’t love cool logos?!). I am definitely looking forward to running more out on these trails and running more eco-X events in the coming future.

And now that I’ve got my legs back, it’s time to make up for that month of lost training!