Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2011 Promise Land 50k++ Race Report

This race was billed as "not your average 50k race" and they (Dr. Horton) was very accurate with this statement.  With 8,000 feet of accent and decent this was going to be tough race, but this is what I have been waiting for.  I wanted to test myself on a tough course, I didn't want flat and easy, I wanted mountain running at it's best.  Be careful what you wish for, because this is one toughest and most grueling races out there and I loved it.  Every race I have run this year has had moderate hills at best (Bull Run & Holiday Lake had none, HAT run had some good ones), but this race was going to tell me how much progress I have made this year with running on mountain terrain.  I have a big race in September that has lots of elevation change, so this was a good test to get me ready.

I arrived at the Promise Land Youth Camp at 6pm and setup my tent. After that I went to the pavilion and signed into the race where I received my tee shirt and bib number. I then scarfed down a few pieces of pizza followed by the race briefing by Dr. Horton.

When I woke up on race day morning it was overcast with some decent winds, but forecasters were calling for the sun to make its way out by late morning.  I didn't want to wear a long sleeve shirt for fear that it would get too hot on the course and I wouldn't have any where to drop it off, so I purchased some Moeben arm sleeves from The Aid Station merchandise tent the day before.  These sleeves worked great, when I got hot from running hard I simply rolled the sleeves down and put them back up when the wind picked up on the top of the mountain.  I ate some breakfast and had my usual pre race Vespa, then I packed up my nutrition (1 Vespa, 16 GUs, 15 S!Caps) in my Nathan Hydration pack.

The race started as promised at 5:30am and 326 runners and myself began our Promise Land 50k (yeah right, more like 35 miles, but I guess that means we got our moneys worth) odyssey.
Start Line
The first 4 miles of the race were straight up hill, I climbed approximately 2,100 feet.  I tried to just relax and do a run & walk combo during those first few miles.  When I reached the Overstreet Falls aid station the first time I topped off my water and got out of there ASAP.  I began my nutrition ritual of eating a GU every 30 minutes and 1 S!Cap every hour starting at the 90 minute mark.  The next 3 miles there
Making our way to the Overstreet Falls aid station
were a few down hill down hill sections, but that would short lived as miles 8-11 were uphill (approx 1,100 feet) and I finally reached the Sunset Fields aid station.  Now it was down, down, down hill from there.  I was moving along well considering it was hard to find a good rhythm up to that point because of all the walking I was doing.  Looking back I should have taken advantage of the downhills more and tried to push the pace knowing I had more climbing ahead at miles 26-30.
trying to take advantage of the down hills
The day started to warm up as promised and the sun burned the fog away too.  It turned out to be a great day for running as the temps got into the high 60's.  I felt good energy wise up to this point in the race and felt as if I would be able to finish under my goal time of 7:30:00.  The next few aid stations seems to come along so quickly, I was wearing my gps, but was only paying attention to my time so I could take my GUs and S!Caps.
why jump from rock to rock? when you can just plunge right through it
I came into the Cornelius Creek Trailhead knowing that this is where the race would begin.  From this aid station I climbed approximately 2,000 feet to the next aid station.  I felt good up to this point and then the course finally broke me.  My walking pace slowed down significantly during this period and I lost a lot of time.  But the course was incredibly beautiful during this section.
Climb, Climb, Climb

hard to enjoy beauty like this when you are suffering on the course
When I reached the top the Sunset Fields aid station awaited me.  I ran out of water 1.5 miles before the top and I was dying for some water, when I reached the top I was treated to some water and some stunning views of the valley below.  By this point in the race I knew that 7:30:00 was out of the question and I just wanted to finish in under 8 hrs.  The last 5 miles were all down hill.  My quads were doing ok so I decided to let rip and began to pass lots of people along the way.  I averaged 10:30 minute miles the last 5 miles finish in a time of 8:03:30.

This was not the time I was looking for, but this was the type of course I needed to help assess my mountain running.  I still need to work on running steep hills and would like to complete a course with no walking at all.  This was a great race as long as you don't care about setting a PR, you will enjoy it.  Another thing I kept thinking about during the race was the new JFK qualify standards which says an A standard 50k qualify time is 5:00, B time is 5:20, and C time is 5:45.  If someone is trying to qualify for JFK does that mean they will do so on easier/flatter courses and by doing that does that mean they won't run the Promise Land 50k because their time won't give them good qualifying times and make it difficult to get into JFK?  Does this mean that Ultra running will eventually turn into road marathon environment?    I hope not!!

Anyways thanks to Dr. Horton for another great race and thanks to all the wonderful volunteers that help Dr. Horton's races some of the best on the east coast.

Now it's time for a little bit of tapering then in 2 weeks it will time for Capon Valley 50k.

My Gear:
Shoes: Montrail Badrock
Socks: DryMax
Hydration: Nathan 1.5 Liter Backpack
Nutrition: GU, Nutrilite Endurance Cubes, XS energy shot, S!Caps
Shorts:  2XU compressions shorts
Shirt:  Tech T-shirt with Moeben sleeves

For more pictures from Promise Land 50k click here

See ya on the trails,


  1. Nice blog, and I need you to coach me on laying out the pictures.

    I am guessing you just brought a camera. How did you do that and still run such a good time?

    You captured it well,



  2. Loved your report Justin. Keep working on the climbs. You will get better, but they never get easier.

  3. @Rick Gray
    Hahaha, that is some good advice. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  4. @Craig
    I always bring my iPhone with me so I can listen to music, so I decided to start snapping pictures during my run. I keep my iPhone inside a plastic bag and usually keep it inside of my Nathan Hydration Backpack during the race. I have to keep reminding myself to take pictures because I am constantly having tunnel vision. If you do get a camera you might want to get one that is water resistant and shock proof, Canon sells some good ones. Thanks for stopping by my blog.