Laurel Highlands Ultra 2007 Race Report – Prologue

First, I must say that I’m awfully surprised with my performance at the Laurel Highlands Ultra on Saturday. You were quite right Loomdawg.

Next, I need to correct any mistaken impression I may have given about the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. IT is long, hard, rocky, and nasty. While much of the trail is flat… the vast majority is either rocky or covered by greenery or worse, both. To days later, my sorest muscles (other than ones I fell on) are my abs. Most of the time, you can negotiate around the worst of the rocks, but that means throwing your body around for hour upon hours. Also surprisingly sore are my shoulders. Why surprising? Well, I was wearing a Nathan HPL 020 hydration back, so I wasn’t carrying anything.

As a prelude to my report, I must admit that on balance I was more WUSsy than tough on the day, but very little of either. Knowing I hadn’t trained, especially distance wise, I was not confident about my fitness or my ability to finish the race, and rightfully so. With this in mind, I set out at a comfortable pace. Initially I set HR alerts to keep me between 145 and 157 bpm. These go annoying, so I turned them off in the first 10 miles. They were unnecessary as with only brief exceptions I settled into my own run (not race) – finding the “all day pace” groove.

In addition to being smart about my pace, I made good gear/food choices. Minutes before the start I ditched my Montrail Nitrus in favor of the Hardrock. I just had a feeling. Oh, how glad I am to have had the Hardrocks on. I’d never raced in them before, but they were stable, protective, and not as clunky as I used to think they were. The only foot problems I had all day were four blisters, including one that’ll lose me a toenail. Two of the blisters were outside heel blisters that I always get hen I run over 50 miles. Wet feet due to fog, dew, and generally damp conditions for the first 45 miles didn’t help them at all. Another blister was caused by a hole in a sock. The final blister was due to a permanently funky toe nail, so all in all, no unexpected blisters

Also ran long with the HPL 020 for the first time. Love it! My Clif Shots, Clif Bloks, and salt were always readily at hand. The 60 or so ounces were adequate for most of the day, though I did suck it dry twice. I also used the HPL 020 as part of a newly found “trail treat.” Every aid station I tied a dry bandanna onto one of the front loops and would initially use it to clean my glasses, but would then have it to dry my face every once in a while. Quite refreshing.

Lastly, knowing that I was not trained to burn fat as efficiently as I can, I planned for an aggressive eating schedule – not including calories from sports drink, I would eat 200 calories an hour all day long. Early on, this consisted of a Clif Shot every 30 minutes. Worth noting, I’ve never been a fan of fruit flavored sports gels until Saturday, when I couldn’t get enough of the Razz Clif Shots. Later in the day I fell in love with Clif Shot Bloks. I’d never really used them before, but they are so convenient and not nearly as sweet in the mouth, which can be a great thing after eating a dozen Clif Shots in 6 hours. :-D With the Clif Shot Bloks, I was eating 3 every half hour until I started going through a low phase, when I went to 2 every 15 minutes, which is roughly 266 calories an hour.

Ok, that’s it for the teaser. I’ll post about the run itself sometime soon, so be sure to check back in. (Gotta get back to my jobby job.)

There are 6 comments

  1. Loomdog

    Very proud of you big guy! You are my inspiration for sticking to my guns on training. Hopefully VT 100 will work just like LH did for you. CONSTENT eating, steady conservative pacing (that is well above tempo pace our bodies are used to) and mentally keep the focus all day.Again Awesome

  2. Justus Stull

    I just happened upon you Laurel Highlands Report when searching for info on Montrail Hardrocks. This is my goal race for the year. This race got me off the roads and opened my mind to hitting the trail and running ultras. I grew up 15 minutes from this trail and spend many many weekends backpacking it as a teenager and now as an adult. I am going to run it this year and hopefully finish. Any trail specific advice? What do you think of the hardrocks. I just picked up a pair of last years model for $50. I was a little sceptical at how bulky and stiff they feel, but figured I would give them a try and worst case have a new pair of backpacking shoes. I normally run in Brooks Adrenaline ARS4 trail runners. They are typical street shoes changed up a bit of the trail. They were great at Holiday Lake, but the rocks on Laurel Highlands and Massanutten Mountain leave me looking for a more supportive shoe.

  3. Trail Goat

    Justus, I LOVE laurel Highlands. Might go back this year. Trail specific advice.. hmm… Well, don't blow everything in the first 10 miles for starters. There is so much runnable trail later – actually, it's pretty much all runnable once you get up on top. Make sure you can run some at the end. After the first bit, the trail becomes less technical. There are parts where you need to avoid rocks, but nothing that requires a bomb=proof trail shoe. Be prepared for sweetbriar and ferns to tug at your ankles for long stretches – it gets frustrating. Also, if you are not very comfortable with trails, the lack of visibility due to undergrowth may warrant more stable shoes.I do love the Hardrocks. I couldn't wear them at first, but once I got used to trail shoes in general, they turned out to be awesome shoes. They are my stand by for very rocky/rooty trails or on snowy/icy trails. After you run in them a bit, particularly at ultra pace, they are quite comfortable with a nature gait.

  4. aerojust

    Bryon, I noticed your love of the Nathan HPL 020. I am running the Laurel Highlands this weekend and am thinking of using this pack. Normally I carry 1 or 2 hand bottles, but because of the temp and aid station spacing I am not confident that the two bottles will be enough. I have run with 2 different camel backs before, but found them to ride rough and do not think I could take it for that distance. Does the HPL 020 ride much better than a standard hydration pack? I am trying to justify spending the money on this pack. How do you deal with electrolyte replacement when using a pack. Normally I just drop a tab into a hand held and drink up. This way I can have one nuun bottle and one carb / water bottle. I have not been able to come up with a system for this yet. Any ideas.Thanks again for sharing so much knowledge with us newbies.Justus

  5. Trail Goat

    Justus,Great timing with the comment. Be on the lookout for a separate review of the Nathan HPL 020. I started drafting one and will prioritize it now that you've asked. I can't believe I never reviewed it. The thing is indispensable – used it twice this weekend.

Post Your Thoughts