Monday, June 8, 2015

Rothrock 'n Roll (On the Ground)

As promised, the Rothrock Trail Challenge had a lot of rocks. Infamously known for its technical single track, cliff scaling and unrelenting undulations, the race attracts over 400 runners to central Pennsylvania willing to test their patience and skill in the east coast humidity. It is part of the La Sportiva Mountain Cup and was my 3rd race in the series.

Rothrock Elevation Profile.

I had some concerns about the brutality of the course because my hip flexor really flared up after my last long run. The pain forced me to take 3 days completely off at the beginning of the week. Kerry and Chris graciously worked to get things under control enough for me to be able to run the race without further aggravating the strain.

To add insult to injury, our connecting flight to PA was cancelled due to a plane malfunction. We had to sit in the Chicago airport for 10 hours before the first available flight. After 28+ hours we finally made it to my parent's house and then drove to State College Friday afternoon to preview a section of the course. We chose to run the Shingletown Gap cliff trail to eliminate the element of surprise the next morning. It was going to be a long 17 miles on the trails.

Hunting for rattlesnakes.
Because the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championship is less than a month away, Tad and I made a conscious decision to run safely instead of aggressively to protect my hip and to make sure that I can recover quickly to resume training prep for World's.

From the start, I had the mindset of being out for a long run with 400 people. I followed the assembly line of racers up the first steep climb and then at the first downhill the eventual winner, local Meira Minard (she has won Rothrock multiple times), went bombing gracefully down. I tiptoed down as if on hot coals. I realized that I was not going to win this race by being conservative. I ran alone for the next several technical miles. Around 7 miles, a group of chatty men caught up to me. They kept me entertained until I fell flat in front of them and stopped the train. While I was rolling around on the ground, the third place girl passed me. I motioned them on so I could take my time and carefully maneuver the rocks. Despite my trying to be careful, I caught my toe and fell twice and rolled my ankle several times. Fortunately, just a couple scrapes and bruises to show for it.

I ran with Bryce Gavitt, two time Trophy Series winner, for a while until a sour stomach from bad pizza the night before got the better of him on the second to last climb. I am thankful for his cheerfulness to keep me company for at least 2 miles.

I crossed the finish line as 3rd woman, good for 15 points and a 34 point lead in the Mountain Cup. Full results here. The post race party was as intense as the course: a barbecue with all the fixings, pizza and even an ice cream truck to celebrate the courageous effort of all the runners.

The only rockless section.
I chose to wear the Helios SR which fit me like a glove and have a sticky rubber to grip even the slickest of rocks. However, for such a technical race like Rothrock, in hindsight I may have been better off wearing the Bushidos. Because the Helios SR is so narrow, it would get stuck between the rocks and start to pull off my foot when I pressed off. I did see 10 pairs of Bushidos on feet, but no Helios on the starting line.

A big thank you to race director Craig Fleming and all of the volunteers, especially Megan Marshall for being such great hosts, conducting a seamless race and for marking the course so well I never had to look down at my watch (which is a good thing because I would have fallen flat on my face). Thank you to Bio Skin for the awesome support provided by the compression calf sleeves. I can't wait to get my hips into a pair of the Bio Skin compression shorts! I also want to especially thank Dr. Chris Lockwood and Kerry Gustafson for fitting me into their busy schedules to make sure that I was "ALIGNed" and "PRIMEd."

The good news is my hip flexor feels better the day after the race than it has in two weeks. Mission accomplished. 

Final descent to the finish.

 *Tad Davis photos.

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