Grand Viduta Stage Race
a perfect storm?
Huntsville, AL only has one trail stage race. It’s organized by the guys at RunningLane. RunningLane offers up coaching, timing and of course, they organize some races.
I’ve run the race a few times before so I knew what I was getting into but this year the weather gods threw me a curve ball. To make it even better, I had just recovered from the flu about 10 days before the race. The combination of the weather and having the flu created a difficult race. It was a perfect storm for me to have one of the most challenging races I’ve ever had even though the total distance of all three days is just over 43 miles.
Day 1 (Friday, April 28th)
Day one is always a challenging due to going straight to work after the race. Day one is approximately 13 miles. The distance from my watch ended up being 12.8 miles with 1,475 feet of elevation gain. It felt cool at the start but that was a very misleading feeling. The humidity was high but a light breeze made you feel like you were cool. Due to the light breeze and the fact that I really wanted to finish within 2 hours and 22 minutes, I started pretty fast. My reasoning around this decision was very logical. Since it wasn’t going to get cooler and I knew that I was going to melt when it the sun poked its head out, it must be the right thing to do. I’ll never learn. 🙁
I did pretty well until around mile 10. I was showing signs of overheating at mile 5 but I kept getting a breeze that kept me running. I basically gambled that I could run 13 miles at a fairly hard pace and not blow up. This is why I don’t play cards. Like I mentioned earlier, I wanted to be done and back in my car in 2 hours and 30 minutes.
The reason I was feeling rushed was due to an all hands call at the company I work for at 10:30 am. The race starts at 7:30 am. That meant I really needed to finish and get back to my car by 10 am. I work about 5 minutes from the trail head. That will have given me time to shower and be present at the meeting. That isn’t how things worked out.
I did finish close to my goal time but I had to walk the last two miles. My time was 2 hours and 25 minutes. But, I was cooked and when I walked up to the van the RD was using to shuttle folks, I was the only guy around looking for a ride. My car was parked 1.5 miles away down the trail. I figured I could just take my time and run down to it. However, after over-heating, it wasn’t that simple. I almost didn’t make back to the car in time to dial in for the company all-hands meeting.
You can see the wonderful day one course on in the image titled “Grand Viduta Stage Race Day 1”. It’s a very technical 13 miles. The climbing isn’t an issue. There are one big climb everyone fears going up the Waterline trail. But, that’s it. The trail was muddy but not so muddy it affects the ability to run on it. If one thing stands out as challenging, it’s the humidity.
You can find the elevation profile from day one on the blog. It’s the image with the title “Grand Viduta Stage Race Day 1 Elevation Profile”.
Day 2 (Saturday, April 29th)
Saturday started out crappy. For some reason, I couldn’t sleep Friday night. In addition to making many trips to the potty, I tossed and turned most of the night. When I got home from work I found I was still dehydrated so consumed as much water as I could before bed. Drinking that much water before bed usually will cause me to get up to relieve myself a few times throughout the night, however, I always fall right back to sleep. That wasn’t the case this night.
I probably slept 3-4 hours. Which really isn’t that bad. I’ve run many ultras longer than any single day of GVSR with less sleep. With that said, I didn’t think much about it. I drank a bit of coffee and scurried up to the top of the mountain and visited with David Holiday. Both David and I were early birds. Before leaving the house, I did eat a few fried eggs and some sauteed spinach with my coffee.
The morning air felt very similar to the previous day. There was a cool breeze but the air was thick with humidity. After Friday, I was worried because I felt a little weak. Flu wasn’t being considered as a factor yet. An assumption was made that I was suffering due to the humidity and that it was worse than usual because it was the first humid and hot weekend of the season. In my mind, I was thinking that I just wasn’t conditioned for the heat and humidity yet.
Paul had mentioned that John Gray was supposed to run day 2 of the race. John is a pretty fast runner but he hasn’t been training. I was pleasantly surprised that we got to run the first 6 miles together. It was great talking to him. I probably talked his ear off. But, it was keeping my mind off the suckier aspects of what was going on at the time.
It was pretty smooth sailing for me up to the top of Rest Shelter. However, when I reached the top I knew I needed to walk. At 6.5 miles into the race, I looked like I had just stepped out of the shower. My sweat rate was through the roof.
John felt good and mentioned that he was going to keep running. I wasn’t feeling so good. Every breath I took was like breathing through a straw. While walking I was trying to figure out why I felt so weak. Even after walking a while I still felt rough. However, I pushed on at the best pace I could hold. The next few miles was flat so I kept moving until I reached the aid station at the hikers parking lot.
While at the aid station I refueled with pretzel, pickles and drunk some sports drink. Leaving the aid station I had to walk. I walked the entire distance from hikers parking lot to the bikers parking lot. Finally, I started running again when starting down the Sinks trail.
At this point, the temperatures are soaring. The run down the Sinks trail is easy enough running that I quickly started overheating. I bumped into Richard Trice just after the last aid station. He and I helped each other to the finish.
I thought that day 2 was as bad as it could be. I was wrong.
Day 3 (Sunday, April 30th)
John Gray and Jeff Morgan
Both Jeff Morgan and John Gray showed up on Sunday. I had the worst race I think I’ve ever had. Jeff Morgan and I ran the last day together. Jeff hadn’t been running so he was ok going slow with me. After the race, I review the weekend. I’m certain that my sucky performance over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday was due to me having the flu two weeks earlier.
After the race, I review the weekend. I’m certain that my sucky performance over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday was due to me having the flu two weeks earlier. Hindsight is 20/20. I think I should have skipped the race. It caused my recovery from the flu to take twice as long.