Sunday, April 4, 2010

Race Recap: Gator Trail 50k, Lake Waccamaw, NC

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions I would argue that the road to having a bad run is paved with poor planning on my part - that, and a few miles of cypress knees to traverse...a cold food...and a snake.

Gator Trail 50k was held on March 27th at beautiful Lake Waccamaw State Park.  At this point you're supposed to ask, "Where's that?", as everyone else does, including those born and raised in North Carolina.  Lake Waccamaw is situated just south of highway 74 between Whiteville and Bolton, about 45 minutes due west of Wilmington.  The park is on the far eastern side of the lake and consists primarily of tall pine trees and hard-packed white sand.  The race is put on by race director Grant and Donna Egley and their fine staff of volunteers, under the auspices of the Wilmington RoadRunners.  It's truly an old-school kind of race, wherein there's one main aid station with water, Gatorade, peanut butter sandwiches, and trail mix.  The other two self-supported aid stations offered water and water only.  A nice little race along a very runnable course.

Some runners can be notoriously tight-fisted about some things, and that's me.  Rather than spending the money for a motel I thought I'd save a few bucks by camping at the state park the night prior to the race. Never mind that I hadn't camped since I was in Cub Scouts.  What's one night among the stars?  So I pitched a tent that my friend Chris Brown lent to me among the tall pine trees the night before the race.  Odd that I was the only camper out there, but what the heck.  After all it was a balmy 67 degrees that afternoon and I had brought some firewood, water, my iPod Touch, a sleeping bag (same one I used when I was a Cub Scout), a couple of energy bars, and my running gear.

With daylight still present I decided to run a loop of the course.  I hadn't gone ten feet from my tent when I nearly stepped on a snake, alive and moving in the general direction of my tent.  Oh great, I thought.  Now I won't be able to sleep because I'll be thinking of snakes.

I finished the loop, changed clothes, and started a camp fire as dusk turned into night.  I hadn't realized that the state park closed it's gates at 8p.m. and seeing as the nearest restaurant was 30 minutes away I decided to eat my energy bars for dinner.

About ten o'clock a cold, windy front came across the lake and the temperature dropped rapidly into the upper 30's.  Needless to say I was unprepared for roughing it in the cold, and I put on every stitch of clothing I had and stuffed myself into my ancient sleeping bag.  Suffice to say I didn't sleep much, perhaps an hour, and then it was time to break camp and get ready for the 50k.

There were about 35 of us lined up for the run.  I recognized a few of the participants, including Terri Hayes and Doug Dawkins, both ultrarunning legends.  After a roll call we were off for six laps of a 5.2-mile course.  Most of the course consisted of hard-packed sand with some roots and a little asphalt.  The most treacherous part was near the shoreline which had gnarly cypress knees jutting out of the trail, eager to trip the unwary runner.

Since I hadn't had a meal since lunch the day before I started out with no energy and went downhill from there.  After the first loop I grabbed some trail mix and such but I didn't feel any perkier until the last lap, too little too late.  Lesson learned.

After a large amount of walking I finished in 5:22:42, which was about 30 minutes slower than I had planned but far better than dropping out, which entered my head several times over the course of the race.  For my efforts I received a handmade wooden plaque and a hearty congratulations from the terrific volunteers and finishers.

And so at the Gator Trail 50k I learned that I can't take the distance for granted, I need to plan better if I decide to camp again, and that it's not always the obvious (the snake) that gets you.

Chad R.
Davidson Area Running Team

1 comment:

  1. think I'll stay in a Hotel the night before the race this year....thanks for the recap Chad..


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