OK, so the Promise Land race boasts 7800ft of elevation gain, beautiful scenery, and a post race meal (veggie burger for me). The perfect combination. The race starts and ends with a 2.6 mile gravel road section. This road becomes one of the steepest roads I've been on. I remember one of my first mountain bike rides with clipless pedal, where I stalled out on this climb and fell over on my side. Steep, steep steep. Not so bad at the beginning of the race but to hit this point after running 32 miles is scary and not knowing whether your muscles or joints will support you is borderline dangerous.
I have made up a little chart for where I think I should be in the race and have used this in the last two attempts. I noticed that this year I was gaining ground on the projected times at every aide station. By AS 4 I was 10 minutes ahead of schedule and feeling good.
The miles between AS 4 & 6 are what I call the lower loop or no mans land. Its an up and down grassy fireroad that seems to go on and on forever. I usually suffer from cramps and a lack of motivation in this section, but this year was different. I was able to run most of it and didn't have any poor me segments.
Once at AS 6 you have a 3 mile run and hike up Apple Orchard Falls Trail This starts out as a gradual climb and then becomes a steep climb with 100s of rock and wooden stair steps. The best part of it is knowing that at the top it is "only" 5 miles down to the finish (there is one short steep 200yd climb in there that most people forget about, but I remembered). I made the mistake of taking some of the stairs 2 at a time. This caused my quads to overexert and I was about to have some cramps. Fortunately I was able to hold off the cramps until the downhill to the finish. I had a few bouts of calf and quad cramps but was able to make pretty good time to the finish.
This year I ended up 19th in 5:41:27. I improved my time by 25 minutes which is 45 seconds per mile.
It's really nice to have things fall into place and achieve and exceed a goal that you know you're able to. It was a perfect day for a race. Started out in the mid 50's, got up to an overcast mid 60's with a nice breeze.
Great day and a great event - see www.extremeultrarunning.com for more info and other races put on by Dr. David Horton