Trotting downhill, alone in the woods, at mile 33 I trip on a log and tumble to the ground. I try to cushion the impact with my hands, one of which holds a drinking bottle. The overpressure blows the top off and spews a jet of Gatorade straight into my eyes. My right knee is scraped and bruised. For a few minutes I fear I'm going to be yet another casualty of Bull Run. But the bloody knee keeps working, aided by ibuprofen. As I limp onward I recite the poem Face Plant aloud to myself. It comforts me.
Such are the joys of ultrarunning, when on 14 April 2007 the Bull Run Run 50 Miler celebrates its fifteenth "Battle". The BRR this year has 370 entrants, 336 starters, and 301 finishers. I'm 284rd among them, crossing the line at 12 hours 25 minutes 6 seconds, 51st among 58 in the male 50-59 age group. Conditions are near-optimal — fortunately for me, given my pitiful lack of talent, training, and toughness. Contrary to past experience the legendary BRR mud remains a mere legend, the temperature remains mild, and the forecast of heavy rains remains a forecast until a few minutes after I finish. During the afternoon sporadic light sprinkles patter on the dry leaves that carpet the forest floor.
Ironman triathlete Mary Ewell is less lucky today. Three weeks ago we ran much of her first ultra together, the HAT Run 2007. Three weeks before that we both were slip-sliding on the ice and in the mud during the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon 2007. Today is her first attempt at a 50 miler. Mary is a wonderful person to journey with, optimistic, realistic and congenitally cheerful. Runners who meet us remark on her sunny smile. We stick together for the first 28 miles of the BRR. At the Fountainhead aid station I feel strong and press onward, while she pauses to regroup.
Later, I learn what happens next: a mile down the course and only a few minutes behind me Mary slips and falls while crossing a stream: a rock flips out from under her and she goes flying. She twists an ankle and scrapes an arm. Worse, her knee is bruised and then goes "crunchy". It becomes harder and harder to bend. But Mary treks on for another nine miles, until she misses an official time cutoff by one minute and has to withdraw from the race. Indomitable Mary stays happy, however, and is already planning ahead to another 50 miler, and to BRR'08. Brava!
|location||miles||total||cutoff||15 pace||^z time||^z pace|
|Wolf Run Shoals||5||26.1||--||6:31||6:30||0:16|
|Do Loop - In||4.4||32.5||8:20||8:07||8:03||0:15|
|Do Loop - Out||3||35.5||--||8:52||8:49||0:15|
|Wolf Run Shoals||2||39.9||--||9:58||10:00||0:16|
My overall pace is 14:47 minutes/mile — roughly what I hope for when I create the charts that Mary and I carry. Before the race I vow to go no slower than 15 min/mi but no faster than 14 min/mi, especially early on when great freshness begets great hubris. The plan works.
(huge thanks to Mary Ewell for running with me, to Caren Jew and Ken Swab for taunting me mercilessly in January until I signed up for the BRR, and to the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club for creating and managing the BRR; cf. Tussey Mountainback 2004 (8 Oct 2004), JFK 50 Mile Run 2006 (20 Nov 2006), JFK 50 Miler 2006 Split Analysis (21 Jan 2007), Bull Run Run 2007 Photos (17 Apr 2007), ...)