PB & J Fatass 50K Race Report
It’s a beautiful thing when a race falls into your lap and you can add it to your calendar with minimal additional planning. It’s even better when the race is free, and happens to be a trail race through a beautiful national park. So, when Stefan sent me a message asking if I wanted to run a 50K the day before the Army 10-Miler, which I was already heading down to run in D.C., my obvious answer was yes! The Virginia Happy Trails running club offered the PB & J 50K as a fatass (i.e. no registration fee, bring your own nutrition and something to share) organized race through Prince William National Forest, and not only was it a great race on some beautiful trails, but it served as a perfect tune-up for the JFK 50 in November. I registered as soon as I got the message, and all that was left was to pack some extra running gear, along with some coke to share at the aid stations, and head down to D.C.
The epicurean was able to join me on this D.C. trip to visit Stefan and Jamile, so it made for a great weekend getaway! We sent the dogs to daycare and got on the road Friday night after work. I’m still giddy over how easy of a drive it is from home to so many great locations on the east coast, and the ease with which we are able to pop down to D.C. to visit friends is a wonderful treat. We rolled in around 10PM, got unpacked, I laid out my gear for the morning, and we drifted off to sleep. The race started at 8AM, so we didn’t have to get up horribly early for the short drive to the trail head area of the forest, but 6AM still came soon enough. Stefan and I took off, leaving our partners to sleep in and enjoy the morning on their own. We picked up another friend, and made our way to the starting area. The lack of traffic on an early Saturday morning was a welcome treat, even if it was short-lived.
We arrived in plenty of time, and chatted with the other runners as we stretched, got our packs on, and prepared to have a great morning in the woods. There were probably 65 people at the start, and the small, intimate nature of the race was right up my ally. I’m always a fan of smaller trail races where everyone has some connections. It’s nice to start seeing the same people and make connections along the way as well. I donned my Salmon hydration vest, and decided to break in a new pair of Altra Lone Peak 2.0’s for the race as well (I know- shame on me for “breaking them in” on race morning, but I love the shoes, know they fit, and wasn’t worried in the least!).
The weather could not have been more perfect, with clear skies and cool temps for the start. Around 8AM, the race director yelled “go!” and we were on our way. From the get go, I could tell I was going to enjoy adding these new trails to my mental collection of running experiences, and they did not disappoint. The course was two 15+ mile loops, with around 1500 feet of elevation gain during each loop. The trails themselves were not terribly technical and quite runnable, which made it easy to fall into a rhythm pretty quickly. Stefan and I stuck together for the race, and fell in line with a group of other runners during the first loop. The route followed a stream for a bit, but meandered up and down, always hidden below a beautiful canopy of trees just beginning to find their fall colors.
The only minor annoyance of the entire race was the hornet that stung me about 5 miles in, but I managed to get the stinger out pretty easily and the pain was minimal. Several other folks got stung as well, so I’m guessing we ran through a nest and didn’t realize it. As I’ve indicated in the past, my sense of direction isn’t always the best, and we did manage to take one wrong turn during the first loop, which added about a 1/2 mile, but we realized it pretty quickly when we ran into a relative dead-end! The organizers had two aid stations set up along the course, and the friendly volunteers were happy to provide us with a plethora of treats provided by the runners themselves. By mile 11 or 12, Stefan and I had separated from the pack a bit, and were on our own for the remainder of the race.
The morning seemed to fly by even more quickly than I expected. We rolled right along at a comfortable pace, chatting about all sorts of random topics, as we are often prone to do, and it made the time and miles tick off quite easily. The second loop was just as comfortable as the first, with the added bonus of knowing exactly where we were going, which is always nice. I very quickly fell in love with the beauty of the forest, and decided then that I would return at some point to explore even more of the trails at my disposal. I was relaxed and comfortable for the entire race, my legs felt great, and i had my nutrition dialed in quite well, which made the experience that much more enjoyable. My overall execution during the race seemed to fall into place beautifully, and it gave me quite a bit of added confidence for the JFK 50 as well.
We made our way around the second loop, and calmly made our way back to the finish area for a clocked time of 5:47, which was good enough for 5th place, making the morning that much better! After the race, we hung out for a bit chatting with folks, and then hopped back in the truck to head back, find some coffee, and continue our busy day. This race was the perfect reminder of why I love trail and ultra running so much, and feel so much more at home on the trails, and I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome!
P.S. No PB & Js were consumed during this race 🙂