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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ironmaster's Challenge 50K Race Report - 2014

If you took a peek at my training schedule this spring, it would have been obvious that the Ironmaster's Challenge 50K was my first "A Race" of the 2014 season.  As is very often the case however, things don't go as planned.  Despite not having the best training going into the race, KNOWING this fact on race day was critical in ensuring a fun, albeit painful outing in the PA Woods.

The start and end point of the Ironmaster's is Pine Grove Furnace State Park, right where the Appalachian Trail passes thru.  It's located in a valley so you can bet on some good climbs during the course of 30+ miles in this region.

If you think of it like a half pipe, the 50K course starts at the bottom of the "U", goes up one side, down, then up the other, down, then up the first side and finishes back down at the bottom of the "U".  For a detailed visual on what I'm referring to, please see my amazing handy work using the hugely under-rated Snipping Tool from our friends in Redmond.

Bad-ass drawling skills

There's pretty technical (class 2-3) climbing and questionable "trails" for the first 2 miles, ending at a gorgeous viewpoint known as Sunset Rocks where some backpackers had positioned themselves for a rude awakening on a Sunday morning.

Living within 15 minutes of the race definitely gave me an advantage knowing what was in store for the first few miles.  Thankfully, I was smart about it and took it conservatively out of the gate through mile 4 or 5.  If I hadn't, it would have been a much less enjoyable day.

I'm not going to be dramatic about the whole thing though...other than getting lost several times and just being unprepared (training wise), things went really well.  No stomach issues, no injuries, I made some new friends, caught up with some old ones, and managed to capture a good chunk of the adventure on video!

And finally, there are certain aspects of every race (that charges an entry fee) that are pretty much expected: some sort of swag item, a bib, course markings, etc.  This final section is meant to highlight areas where the race went above and beyond expectations, as well as where it fell short.  This is a new section for my race reports, but I think I'd like to give it a name.  Something like "Buzz Lightyear and The Sloth"....we'll see if that sticks.

Buzz Lightyear
- Post race celebrations and atmosphere.  Full on meal + free beer = WIN!  Plus having it right at the "L-shaped" mansion with a bunch of picnic tables so everyone can hang out and cheer on the finishers was very nicely done.
- Results were up on Pretzel City Sports within 24 hours!  Without chip timing!
- Nice, classy tech shirts with a unique color, but not overly loud

The Sloth
- The course was marked really well in some places, and quite poorly in others. Almost everyone I talked to post-race had described at least one incident in which they were lost (personally, I veered off course twice).   Runners don't need markings every few feet, but we DO need them clearly at EVERY possible intersection! Even faint side trails! Just put one little flag on the course just after the intersection to let the runner know they're still on the right track and there is one less thing to worry about.
- Aid stations weren't as well stocked as some other ultras I've run with around the same turnout. This wasn't a big deal though, and I'll let it slide a bit cause the post race grub was nice :)
- Mile Markers 22 - 25 were wrong. 22 should have been 23 and 26 didn't exist. Now that I'm writing this, it really seems trivial, but in the mind of a runner who's been out there for 5+ hours, it's a HUGE difference between being at mile 24 or 25.

Training leading up to the race:
  Monday: rest
  Tuesday: brief 1.5 mile recovery run
  Wednesday: 11 easy trail miles
  Thursday: Commute on bike (8 miles total)
  Friday: rest
  Saturday: 2 mile flat hike

Race Gear List:
  Race Shirt from the Philadelphia Half
  GoLite Mesa Shorts
  Darn Tough Vermont Socks
  Hoka One One Stinson Trail
  Ultimate Direction SJ Vest 1.0
  Garmin Fenix
  Garmin Virb Elite Action Camera
  DIY Monopod

Race Nutrition:
  Greek Yogurt, Cornbread, and Coffee for Breakfast
  Water refills at almost every stop
  Clif-type bars or Stinger gels roughly every 30-45 minutes
  About 1 SaltStick pill per hour as I felt cramping coming on
  Questionable orange-drink at one aid station

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