I’d never done the PCT50 before, but it’s the same course as the SD100, going from Boulder Oaks (like the 2004 start), to just over 2 miles past the Penny Pines aid station to make up the out-and-back 50 miles.Â Therefore, I was familiar with the trails, and had an idea as to what to expect — pretty much one long climb to Todd’s (~17 miles), mixed in with some rollers, over what I consider to be one of the more technical trails next to Massanutten and HURT.
So I thought the 33 degree start would bring cooler temperatures during the day, but it didn’t happen.Â I’d never run in that kind of heat before — very hot and almost no humidity, and even with a slight breeze it really didn’t cool things down much.Â I’d be surprised if it didn’t get into the 90’s.
On Friday night, I drove Kyle and Michael, arriving at the Cibbetts Flat campground off Kitchen Creek Rd, one offramp after Buckman Springs Rd.Â We got to the start the following morning just after 5am, and there were quite a few people there already.Â It was cold, and reminded me of Leona a few weeks back.Â Kyle also mentioned during dinner the previous night, that it should be easier than Leona, since it had 3000′ less elevation gain, so I felt more confident in attaining my original goal of sub-10, or even a 50 mile PR.
The start was odd — no one knew where the start line was, and John unexpectedly just yelled go.Â Also, because we didn’t begin at the campground, we ended up on the narrow singletrack immediately — all 100+ of us.Â Kyle and I had to snake our way around, then I eventually got with a group going at a comfortable pace — the second/third female runners, who I ran all the way up to Dale’s (~13 miles) with.Â So far so good — energy levels up, hydrated, and maintaining a comfortable pace.
When I reached Penny Pines on the outbound, Akos Konya was just leaving on the inbound — mile 22 for me, and 28 for him.Â He maintained his lead to win overall.Â The next runner was 2 minutes back, with Eric Clifton a couple minutes after, then a group of three, consisting of Dean Dobberteen, Kyle, and a third runner.Â Shortly after, I saw Michelle, who eventually went on to win the women’s race.Â I got to the turnaround in appx 4:30, then stayed with two runners all the way back to Penny Pines, making pretty good time.Â They dropped me shortly after, as I began struggling with the heat.Â Oddly enough, I seem to have problems in the 100’s right around that section as well — the only difference being that it wasn’t at night.Â After the long climb up and over to Todd’s, it was a relatively short section to Dale’s, then a 7 miler to Kitchen Creek, and the last 6 to the finish — most of it rocky and downhill.
I caught up to two runners at Dale’s, and stayed ahead of one up until just before we got to the next aid — I was out of water, and started to suffer from the heat and dehydration.Â The other runner who I saw at Dale’s passed me at that point, commenting that he was out too.Â I remember that section from the 100 also — I thought I had gotten lost there, but having finally done it during the daytime, I realized that there was no way I could’ve, and that I was likely just delirious.
I was relieved to finally see the aid station, then felt a bit of frustration as the trail initially started heading away from it so that it could eventually switch back and start the descent.Â When I got there, I saw Bill Ramsey sitting in a chair — he had cut his run short, and was taking it easy.Â I wasn’t too concerned, since he’s a very experienced runner, and knew he’d be able to take care of himself.Â I said goodbye to him, and left the station, ahead of one runner, as I saw a couple more heading in.Â They all caught and passed me somewhere along the descent down to the road, then at that point, I just wanted to hold my position, since I’ve gotten passed there by Hans in 2004, and Gabor with his pacer Gary during last year’s 100 — I didn’t want it to happen again so close to the finish.
I occasionally glanced back, and saw a couple runners approaching, but still had a sizable gap that I tried to maintain.Â Even though it was still scorching, and I had run out of water again, I was able to hold my pace.Â Shortly before going under the bridge, I saw Scott Mills heading up the trail.Â I looked at my watch for the first time in a while, and realized that I wasn’t going to be able to break 10, and ended up finishing a couple minutes after the hour.
Kyle was there to greet me, and John Martinez (RD) handed me my medal while Paul Schmidt (SD100 RD) recorded my finishing time.Â We saw a few of our friends (Rob Harris, Gary Hilliard, Francisco Fabian, etc) come in shortly after, while we waited for Michael so that we could start the long drive back home.Â While we waited, we talked to Paul about how they’re changing the 100 mile course this year — the entire fireroad section down to Chariot to the Banner Store will be eliminated, and instead, we’ll be routed along a newly built trail, which I was real happy about.
As we hung around and chatted with runners at the finish, the consensus seemed to be that everyone had a hard time out there, primarily because of the heat.Â In addition to my heat and dehydration bonk, I also fell more times (3) in one race than I have in a long time — I usually roll an ankle, or trip, but never end up with a face plant.Â So overall, I’m glad I finished I guess, but at the same time, it didn’t help my confidence factor going into Old Dominion, which is now only a couple weeks away.
Race results here.