Thursday, September 8, 2011

Catoctin 50k Race Report

I have heard many things about the Catoctin 50k, rocky, tough, and hot all have been used to describe this late July jaunt through Gambrill State Park in Fredrick, MD.  The course is an out and back race and has approximately 5,500 feet of accent primarily on single track trail with lots of rocks!  I had stayed in a hotel in Greenbelt, MD Friday night, so I woke up early Saturday morning and began my drive to the race.  I arrived at Gambrill State Park at approximately 7am, I learned my lesson from the Rosaryville 50k, and I proceeded to check in and grab my number.  As I was checking in I didn’t notice anyone that I recognize, so instead of trading war stories with the usual suspects, I went back to my car and started to gear up for the race.  I was concerned about not carrying enough water considering the temps were suppose to get into the mid 90’s, but decided to stick with running the race with my usual 1.5L Nathan hydration pack.  Because this was a low key ultra I wasn’t sure how well the aid station would be stock with food so I packed my normal two GUs per hour pay load and brought along a new drink EFS liquid shot that I read about on Karl Meltzer’s blog.  I had been experimenting with this drink during my training runs and didn’t have any GI issues so it was time to give it a try in race conditions.  I needed to see how body and energy levels would react using this in a 50k race environment before the UROC 100k.  This drink basically has 400 kcal per 4oz serving.  I am starting to get sick of having to force down two GUs per hour, for a 50k race this is acceptable but not for >50 miles.  I then packed everything else and I was eager to hit the trail.  Approximately fifteen minutes before the race we had a pre race brief with the RD Kevin Sayers about the course markings and even had a small plane fly right over us before the start, which was cool.
RD Kevin Sayers giving some last minute instructions
The horn promptly went off at 8am and off I went.  The first couple of miles were slow moving because the course was single track and it took several miles for everyone to spread out.  I was very content with moving at a slow pace for the first few miles as I was just using this race as a tune up for the UROC 100k.   My two goals were finishing and not getting injured.  I met a bunch of really nice people and chatted which always makes the time fly by.  There were a few moderate climbs during the first few miles nothing crazy.  It wasn’t until the first aid station, approximately six miles, that the course opened up and I could run at a decent pace.  The course was littered with rocks so I knew I wouldn't be setting any PR.  Given the
Typical rocky trail
high temperature on race day, I was concerned about making sure I took my S!Caps and drank plenty of fluids.  When I arrived at the 9 mile aid station I was met with smiling faces and ice cold water.  It makes a huge difference to have ice water instead of room temperature water, I could feel myself over heating but the ice water brought me right back down.  I decided to try my EFS drink at this point as I was 2:15 into the race.  The drink has the consistency of pancake syrup but still had a good taste to it.  I descended 1200' over the next 6 miles to the turn around aid station.  Upon arriving there were several runners heading the opposite direction warning us of a rattle snake ahead of us on the trail, I looked for it but never saw it (would be have been a great picture opportunity).  I arrived at the aid station in 4:00 and quickly filled up with water and got out and started my 6 mile climb up the trail.  It was much easier to run up the rocky terrain then down, so I was feeling strong and the climbs weren't huge so I was able to run approximately 75% of the climbs.  I arrived into the 22 mile and I was starting to feel fatigued so I decided to walk a bit after the aid station and take another 4 oz of EFS.  After walking a bit I started to feel good again and began running.  I made it into the 25 mile aid station in 6:30, after coming out of the aid station I started to over heat again so I decided to walk a bunch and try to recover.  Even after walking as much as I did only 4-5 people passed me which was surprising.  Everyone at this point in the race was feeling like this I am sure of it.  The last few miles were tough and I just grinded it out to the finish line.  I ended up finishing the race in 8:40, not what I was expecting but was a tough challenge I think served me well.
This was a tough 50k and I don't recommend it to anyone whom is not experienced in running technical trail.  For those who decide to take up this challenge you will be tested in technical trail running with moderate hills, I will run this race again but probably not next year as I am going to attempt to run the Vermont 100 mile race which is only a few weeks before.  BTW congrats to Tom DeKornfeld to finishing in 7:54 and to Dave Brault for finishing in 9:00.  Anne Arundel county was represented well!!!  
My Gear: 
Shoes: Montrail Badrock 
Socks: DryMax 
Sunglasses: Native 
Hydration: Nathan 1.5 Liter Backpack 
Nutrition: GU, EFS shots, S!Caps 
Shorts:  2XU compressions shorts 
Shirt:  Tech T-shirt  
Watch:  Garmin GPS 310xt 
Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters (make my feet sweat a little more, but no rocks in my shoes)

See ya on the trails,


  1. Thanks for the report--helping me to get ready for this year's race, my first time on this course.

    1. No problem. Best of luck at this years race, I will be volunteering (run sweep). The party at the end of the race is one the best!!!