2012 Table Rock Ultra
The Table Rock Ultras are held in North Carolina and have a 50K and 50 mile option. I did the 50 miler as a long training run.
The 50 mile course is actually 54 miles, creating an obvious comparison with the Mountain Masochist 50+ mile race in Virginia. There is a great description of the course on the race's web site, so I won't repeat the details, but I will give some highlights.
- The course is mostly split between asphalt and gravel fire roads, with just 2 miles of single track
- Most of the 8,000 feet of ascent and descent is over just 35 miles of the course, an average grade of over 8%. This makes many of the hills tough to run up or down.
- Though most of the course is on asphalt or gravel roads, there was not much traffic other than a few hunters and runner's crews. There were some spectacular views this year once you got above the fog.
- There were two out and back sections, a short one at mile 16 to an overlook and a longer one to Table Rock itself. This allowed you to see most of the runners, which was nicely sociable.
- The course markings were minimalist, but quite effective.
- The Aid Stations were well stocked, with some nice options such as Succeed drink and Gu Gels.
2 What worked
- Hokas. This was the first race where I've worn the Hoka shoes for the whole time. They worked remarkably well, and my feet benefited from the added protection. They were particularly good on the one mile single track descent from the top of Table Rock, where I could run much faster than would have been possible in a more minimalist shoe. On an overgrown fire road there was a lot more stress on my ankles and I rolled my foot a few times, though with no damage.
- Directions. The race provided a slip of paper with distances to each turn and aid station, rather like a marathon pace band. I found this to help, as I can never memorize the details of a course. Knowing how far it was to the next turning or aid station was comforting, and helped with some planning. At one point I was rather dehydrated and knowing the distance to the next aid station allowed me to set my pace appropriately.
- Compression tights. I think that my compression tights helped, though next time I might go for white calf compression sleeves as the race turned much warmer than I'd expected.
- Downhill Training. The downhill sections of the course were hard on the quads, especially the descent from Table Rock parking lot to the turnoff to Old Table Rock Road, where I was doing a 6:00 pace and braking hard. I could feel the stress in my VMO especially rather than the other parts of my quads. Without the downhill intervals my quads would have been toast by the time things flattened out.
- The Morton Stretch. I did The Morton Stretch three times during the race, and it helped keep my legs working. I noticed some immediate benefit after each stretch and with hindsight I wish I'd done it more.
- Destrin. This is the first race I tried Desitin to prevent Monkey Butt, and while it's too short a distance to be sure, it seemed to help. See Fixing problems in Ultramarathons for more details.
- Gu Gels. Without access to my usual drink, I relied on Gu Gels for fuel, eating about 8 of them through the race.
3 What didn't work
- No Bottle. I didn't carry a bottle, mostly because I normally only drink every 4-5 miles in training and I hate carrying a bottle. This worked okay for most of the race, but probably slowed me up by 1 minute or more per aid station as I had to stop to drink.
- No Sodium. I drank the Succeed or Gatorade that was provided, neither of which provides as many electrolytes as my usual drink. As a result, I became a little dehydrated and drinking more just increased urine output without rehydrating me. Another time I think I'd carry a small supply of salt to add to the drink, or even take some electrolyte capsules.
- No Taper. This race was a training run as part of my preparation for the Freedom Park 24 Hour race on New Year's Eve, so I didn't do much of a taper. I took it easy Wednesday and took Thursday and Friday off, but, with hindsight I'd have swapped the interval training on Monday and Tuesday for something gentler.