Sunday, February 13, 2011

Holiday Lake 50K++ Race Report

I don’t have anything to say.

Just kidding.

(Jennifer, me, David Horton, Martha, and Sophie after the finish)

This past weekend was the Holiday Lake 50K++ run down in Lynchburg, Virginia. The worst thing about Virginia is that it does not contain Connecticut within its borders. The drive was LONG.

On the way down, I stopped at an aid station—I mean "rest stop"—to stretch and find some food. Inside, I joined a line behind three old ladies. They were giggling, and when the taller one noticed me, she turned around to talk. The ladies were on a getaway adventure to gamble together, but first they needed Taco Bell. Girls gone wild: octogenarian style. The tall one asked me where I was headed and then interrupted,

“Sweetie, you look exactly like I did when I was younger.”

“Like me, too,” another one added, studying my face. This isn’t even bizarre. Old ladies flock to me like woodland creatures to Snow White, and these are not the first to tell me they looked exactly like me. I can only assume the 1920s was a homogenous mixture of myselves, interacting with myselves. Running around and stuff.

HL50K was the BEST. It was held at the Holiday Lake 4-H Camp in Appomattox, Virginia. On Friday evening, the runners arrived and ate dinner together. The sun had already gone, and I thought about how I would be running before it rose again. Uhhh, winter. Talk about pineal obfuscation. After our pre-race meeting (basically Horton stand-up comedy), we split off into different cabins to sleep (or, more accurately, to talk for a couple of hours about potential outfits for race day and then to fall asleep with a cabin full of new friends).

On the starting line, Dr. Horton led us in the National Anthem. It was COLD. We sang in unintentional vibrato because of the shivering. I looked down and surveyed the shoes: road sneakers, Vibrams, Montrails, Inov-8s, and others. High variability in support and style. If you ask a runner why they selected a certain shoe type, they will evangelize their convictions about why THEIR sneaker is the BEST choice for the conditions. Try it. But all I’m saying is that if a boy wears Inov-8s, it increases his rugged manliness by a factor of two. I wore the F-lite 230s, and they were perfect for the rolling, largely untechnical course.
The gun went off, and we disappeared into the darkness. We bunched up, talked, pushed past each other, and regrouped, etc. In the early morning cold, snot rockets flew in all directions. They whizzed through the air, catching the light from our headlamps—like fireflies, punctuating the obscurity of nightfall.

The sun rose, revealing an incredible course. We traveled around the lake and explored the area’s network of trails. When we ran through the streams the first time, I shrieked because it was SO COLD, and a film of ice appeared on top of my shoes. The second time through, it was a welcome relief. The ice jolted life back into my feet.

There were several open meadows that reminded me of the burned-out fields alongside the Western States course. I couldn’t figure out why they were so barren. Acid deposition? Fires? But as the sun rose higher in the sky, the fields were flooded with a resplendence of white light, and I stopped asking questions and began to appreciate the beautiful day.

Things that are annoying during a race:

1. That you can’t gulp out of a camelbak
2. That the hand straps on water bottles get loose
3. How when you wipeout on the trails, the older men look at you like you’re a fragile porcelain statue, about to break at any second
4. When your beard gets full of ice

Number 4 is something that does not affect me personally, but I observed it. There was a ubiquity of frozen beards out there. Unreal. “I like your beard.” –Ke$ha

For three hours, I had to go to the bathroom. True life: ultramarathoning. But Virginia hardwood forests lack robust trees and dense shrubbery. The trees along the course were wiry and thin—like the marathoners of trees. So I held it to preserve my dignity. The men did NOT hold it. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a man go to the bathroom in the forest on Saturday, I could pay off all my loans for my undergraduate education. I took a swig from my hand bottle and coughed up a liberated hunk of moss that had entered the mouthpiece during an earlier fall. Got to preserve my dignity. Cough.
[my rockstar friends! Sophie (my Inov-8 teammate), Martha Wright, and Jennifer Pharr Davis]

The race ended. I was the 2nd woman, good not great. Girls don’t like to get chick’d either. I felt distance-strong. I’m not at all sore from the effort, but I didn’t have the turnover speed to drive it home for the W. Sometimes, there is a disconnect between what your mind dictates and what your body will do. This is an argument for substance dualism. It’ll happen. I’m further along in my training this February than I was last, and I am biomechanically sound and growing in strength and in my love for the sport.

Holiday Lake is an incredible event. I recommend it as a first ultra or a 100th ultra. Like all the Lynchburg series events, it is very fellowship-oriented, and you will leave feeling celebrated for your accomplishment no matter where you finish in the pack. Thanks so much to all the race volunteers, Dr. Horton, and to all of my new and old friends who made it such a wonderful time.

Next week, I’m working at the NJ Trail Series Febapple 50. Great life. Happy running. And Happy Valentine’s Day. I probably love you.
(Beyoncé "Put a Ring on It" reference)

[Photos by Jennifer Nichols!]


  1. Money, my brilliant friend. Cash money! So great to see you this weekend.

  2. The worst thing about Connecticut is that it doesn't contain Virginia within its borders. Second worst has this dumb "c" that literally NO business being in there.

    I probably love you, too.

  3. Congrats on a strong race! I'm so glad I got to meet you formally!
    about the weirdo straight stretches: they freaked me out as well, I kept saying over and over it reminded me of southwestern louisiana where it was so flat, tall pine trees and these straight dirt roads... very strange terrain for what I feel is southwest VA. dunno what's up with that.
    hope to see you soon! That is awesome you are running OD 100!! :o)

  4. hahaha. only you could quote ke$sha and beyonce and use words like obfuscate and resplendence in the same blog. happy valentine's day! i don't probably love you, i know love you :P come back to CT...for all our flaws (like not being in Virginia), we miss you!

  5. kick ass race report blog! i don't know u, but u were one of the 3 chicks that chick'd me. great blog "snot rockets flew in all directions", "the men did not hold it", "horton stand up comedy"..... "i probably love you"... well i don't love u, but i'm 52 yrs old and plan to live to 100 (vegans live long) so we still have time!

  6. You might have gotten chicked by only one, but you ran great. Including you, four other young ladies said goodby to me on that course and I had a good fast day. From what I saw of your race, you were running strong and I know the rest of the year is going to only get better. You and Sophie certainly represented Inov-8 well. Congratulations on a great run.

  7. Sabrina - I love reading your blog. You make me laugh out loud. Love and miss you!

  8. Hi Sabrina,

    Tried to post yesterday, but it didn't "take". Great take on what seemed like a tough day out there when I saw you.

    I will say one thing in defense of us old guys: there was nothing porcelain-seeming about you, as you picked yourself and dusted yourself off. Way to hang in and finish strong on a less-than-perfect day.

    Cheers, Ron/ESG

  9. I love your blog posts. Great race report and finish. “I like your beard.” –Ke$ha Made me laugh.

  10. Great post, still working on a race report myself. You "chick'd" me by a minute and a half, and I feel NO shame at all. Holiday Lake was my first ultra, back in 2006. Still fun, now faster! About that drive.. I and my two partners drove down from New Haven CT Friday, and back home Saturday night. Definitely TOO far. Good thing we are not signed up for the whole Beast series, oops, wait a minute!

  11. Thanks for all the comments, friends! For those who were there, it was such a fun time. Meeting you guys and forming that community is probably the richest part about this sport.

    To the man directly above my comment, are you a Bimbler?? I've been trying to join! Could you email me about any upcoming training runs? That'd be awesome!