31 Jul 2013

Kanawha Trace 50k 2013

Author: Matt Young | Filed under: race-reports

You Get Relief at the Finish

I was hoping the third time would be the charm. The first running of the KT 50k in 2011 was a directional disaster for me which ended in a DNF. 2012 was marred by a race day migraine but I started the race anyway. My head hurt with each step in the first 19 miles and then somehow stopped so I ran the final 12 or so miles without a pounding headache but it still wasn’t pleasant.

I’m thankful to the RD, Cory, Camp Arrowwood, the countless Boy Scounts who help and all of the volunteers who make the race possible. The most compelling draw to the race is that the KT is in my backyard and I can drive 20 minutes to the start. But coming off my key race of the year just 6 weeks earlier I don’t have the capacity to peak twice so close in time so I limited my expectations.

Like usual, it was a fast start with lots of runners taking off like they’d mistaken a 50k for a 5k. I figured 15-20 runners were head of us on the road but shortly after we hit the trails more passed me. Then at the first aid station when I stopped for a quick drink and to say Hi to my friend Jeff, more runners blew past. It was fast indeed. By mile 4 I told my friend John I had to do my own thing and I’d see him later. John’s a strong runner but I thought with some road miles ahead I’d catch up to him eventually. So I settled in and worked my way through the course. I could tell I was a little tired and labored and was content to let people pass me now.

A word on the course; it’s a trail race with some backroads mixed in. The course info on the site describes it as “Caution is expected for there will be rocks, roots, trees, livestock, fence crossings, and other obstacles that you will encounter.” It’s a nice trail and typical of this area of West Virginia. I describe it as a lot of ups and downs but nothing too drastic. And since this was my third time I knew what was ahead and believed I’d eventually see some of these early passers again later.

I ran by myself most of the race and had a series of very short conversation with the eventual third place woman runner. It was nice while it lasted but it didn’t last long.

This race had a weird feeling for me that I can’t acturately describe. I guess because I didn’t have any real expectations coming in to the race, I didn’t care that people passed. In fact, I was kind of glad when they passed me because I didn’t want anyone on my heels. I didn’t want any pressure to run harder than I wanted too. I was content right where I was and with what I was doing.

But I did pass a few people here and there and coming up the hill to the aid station around mile 18 with the drop bags a few volunteers told me I was the 15th runner through. Shocker. I thought at least 30 runners were ahead of me. But I don’t stay long at aid stations and some linger so I probably passed a few runners there. And with a long stretch of trail that wasn’t flagged I suspected some runners may have missed turns. I knew from prior years that might happen and you have to rely on the trail blazes. It’s not easy following the blazes when you’re running and it requires a lot of concentration but the trail blazes are thorough and can keep you on course.

At the previous aid station I dropped one of my water bottles in a muddy rut and the entire spout was mud covered. I’d like to offer a special thanks to the volunteer at the 18 mile aid station who cleaned the bottle for me so it was once again usable without giving me a gritty grin and potential GI distress later on.

I left the aid station ahead of another runner which put me at 14 and began keeping track of my place. I passed 13 within a mile and 12 and 11 at the next to last aid station. So in 11th place I kept looking ahead for 10. But that also meant there was no more leisure at this point. With 23 miles down and 8 to go I had to press when I could so I did.

About this time I started passing the 25k runners coming in the opposite direction and looked forward to seeing my dad and Diana. I did see them working their way up a hill as I was on my way down. There wasn’t much time to talk but my dad was doing fine and told me my friend John was in 3rd or 4th place. It kind of surprised me and was a little motivation for me to keep pressing.

But my mantra for the day came to me with about 5 miles to go in the race. It was right about the 26 mile mark and I was on a very runnable section but I didn’t feel like running. I knew I had to run if I wanted to catch anyone else and not get caught at the same time. So I had this little active conversation with myself and was asking for relief. I told myself I needed relief. I needed relief from pressing and running. I just wanted a break. But the other side of the conversation told me, “You get relief when you finish.” Relief doesn’t come in the race, it comes at the finish. So that was my mantra for the final miles; You get relief at the finish.

I caught a glimpse of a blue shirt ahead and figured it was number 10. I caught up with him fairly quickly and passed him a few minutes before the last aid station. No sooner than I passed 10 I heard another runner barreling down the trail, tell his buddy he’d been off course, and then blow by me like I was standing still. The dude was flying and it’s a real shame he’d been off course.

There was 3 miles to go from the last aid station and I knew there was one more big uphill. Cramps were setting in. My calves were my biggest cramping liability as they warned me often that a big time cramp was coming. Hiking my leg too high on some of those hills sent twinges of cramps up and down my leg in that final stretch. I just needed a few more miles.


At last I saw the poster board telling the 50k runners, “It’s all downhill from here” and it was a welcomed sight. I recognized the final mile along the river and coming in to the backside of Camp Arrowwood. I could see a runner ahead of me and was gaining but realized I needed a little more time than I had to catch him.

Breaking through to the lake I looked for my family and there they were. Ann Marie, Caroline and Charlie were waiting for me at the finish line. It’s like a final victory lap around the lake as your name is announced and everyone waiting can see the finishers. Big sweaty hugs and kisses for my kids but they didn’t care. I had relief at the finish.

By the numbers: 50k (31 miles) in 5:53:13 for an average pace of 11:23 and average moving pace of 11:04. 3859 calories burned; approximately 3700 feet of gain and loss. Average heart rate 130 bpm (67% of max) and max heart rate of 168 (87% of max). Best mile, number 7 in 8:18 and slowest mile, number 26 in 16:54 (biggest hill of the race.)

Another big thanks to RD, Cory Richardson, and the numerous volunteers who gave up a Saturday so the rest of us could race.


Good day, good race, relief at the finish.

  1. Tony Mollica posted the following on August 3, 2013 at 10:28 am.

    Nice running Matt! I like your mantra.

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