Race Report: Lord Hill 20 Mile Run

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It ain’t called Lord Hill for nothing!

This past Sunday I had the distinct pleasure of running the Lord Hill 20 Mile trail race; my second Evergreen Trail Runs event in as many months.  And I really do mean it was a pleasure since the event went so much better than I expected that the brutal aspects of the course barely even registered in my mind.

In fact, what was truly brutal were the couple weeks preceding the race. A couple weeks prior I had come down with the flu and was not able to get in nearly a full week of my normal training regimen. And I had normal day of running and biking before I was felled again by a new malady: a migraine. That is something I had never experienced before but now that I have I understand how devastating it is. Luckily the migraine had started to clear up the morning before the race. Still – the prospect of running a twenty mile trail race with over three thousand feet of elevation gain after missing nearly two weeks of training was making me nervous.

My coach, Michele, told me to listen to myself and gave me “permission” to switch to the 10 mile distance on race day.  I told her I would consider it and play it by ear.  The day of the race I took stock right up to the starting line and my body told me I was ready to do the full twenty miles. So I kept my registered distance and off I went.

About a mile into the race I was having doubts. I had started to feel lightheaded and was hungry in a way that my body was telling me that every cell in my body was lacking fuel.  Thankfully, at 2 miles there was a very thoroughly stocked aid station.  All the requisites were there (electrolyte fluid, water, bananas…) plus the more quirky solid foods you find at trail races (M&M’s, potato chips, cut up PB&J sandwiches…) but there were also freshly made quesadillas and bacon.

I held off on the quesadillas and bacon but helped myself to some of the other solid foods which “righted the ship,” if you will, and I was feeling great for the rest of the race; pacing the rest of my nutrition with my standard water and gels.

Once I got out of the hypoglycemic fog, the rest of the race was great.  The lightheadedness, in hindsight, was also understandable, not only because of the long lapse of my training but because of the layout of the course. For the first mile or so it’s pretty rolling hill but then you hit the eponymous Lord Hill.

I learned from the start of the Blast from the Past Half Marathon, Evergreen Trail Run enjoys peppering their events with some sadistic spectacle. This event was no different.

Just over mile into the course, there is an junction where the trail veers to the left. At that junction is a loudspeaker playing Placebo’s cover of Kate Bush’s Running Up that Hill on repeat and a sign pointing in that direction proclaiming “WARNING: PAIN AHEAD!”

They’re not joking.

You’re not running up that hill as you are walking up that hill. And you’re not so much walking up that hill as trying not to fall back down that hill. It’s not scrambling but it’s as close as you can get to scrambling while still being able to technically walk.

So yes, the morose tone of the Placebo cover was a very deliberate choice. Placebo took the driving pace of the original and turned it into a durge. Just as Lord Hill takes a running event and turns it into a long slog. I don’t even like Placebo but as a former college radio DJ, I can give a tip of the cap to the music nerd who made that choice.

Aside from that small but intense portion of the race, the rest of the course is a leisurely jaunt by comparison. Of course there still are hills that you have to walk but, duh, it’s a trail race. Maybe just after Lord Hill those hills just didn’t seem so bad.  The only bad part is that the course is just ten miles so for the twenty mile distance I had to go up Lord Hill twice.

Thankfully they made it so you didn’t go down the way you came. Because that would be very, very bad. The bottom of the Hill would look like a Civil War battlefield.

I briefly considered finishing my run at the ten mile distance. However, I have the Way Too Cool 50K coming up. Lord Hill was to be the peak before tapering and wanted to regain my training. I paused, took stock and decided to keep going. I’m glad I did.

The rest of the race was even more fun since it was familiar. Plus, after crawling up Lord Hill that second time I definitely helped myself to some quesadilla and a small piece of bacon. (I would have had more, but I’ve learned through hard experience that it’s not good to experiment with new foods on long distances)

In keeping with what I experienced at the last Evergreen Trail Runs event, Lord Hill was super well organized. It was very well marked and not only were there ample volunteers but they seemed to be having a lot of fun. Their enthusiasm was contageous – which is great when you’re tackling long, hard, wet and muddy trails when most people nestled in their Snuggies and halfway through an epic binge-watching sesh and your mind is wondering why you’re not doing the same.

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I crossed the finish line with a great time: just over four hours on my watch. That time would be great for a road marathon but for a trail run it was amazing and very encouraging.  That time includes walking up hills, port-a-potties, and shooting the breeze with people at the aid stations. My hill work is paying off!  Finally.

The finishing touch for my overall experience was that the coming rainstorm only arrived just as I was leaving. Totally selfish, I know, since the volunteers and all the remaining runners still had to deal with it. But after two weeks horizontal with the flu and a serious migraine, it was a glorious victory that I didn’t feel too bad about savoring.

So that was my long training run and I’m officially tapering until WTC50K. I’m looking forward to writing up about that race in a few weeks.

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