Written by Pat Hallahan
Soapstone 24k is a technical 15.2 mile course consisting of roughly 2,100ft of climb. It is single track with some wider sections consisting of two major climbs (first climb at mile 3 with a 26.7% grade for .21 miles with 300ft of fun). Second climb is much more tame and is at the end of the race. Spots of the course had knee high mud if you found the right spot (in which I did and the people behind me were sure to thank me for showing them where not to go!). There are technical smaller rocks, but plenty of room to spread your legs if technical running is your sort of thing. Plus some downed trees to get those hurdle legs on as well! Let’s get into it!
I checked out the start and noticed after about 100 yards it funnels into single track and I did not want to get stuck shuffling behind people so I went out hot. The rain had just stopped and instantly the humidity came out and I knew this may be some trouble as I am a big, big sweater. I was passed and found myself running in second but quickly noticed we were going sub 5:30 the first half mile and I slowed it down a bit. I settled in 4th and knew I had gone a bit too hard with the heat. Mile 1 hit and I looked down at my watch….5:51 it read. Usually this would be fine, but my HR was not happy in the heat. I have yet to train in weather like this this season. I spent the next two miles trying to catch my breath and my legs did not have the normal climbing strength in which I find is usually my strength. I got passed some more and found myself getting worried as it was going to be a long race feeling like this already.
Mile 3ish came and we were at the first big climb. It was wet with slimy loose rocks and my race shoes do not handle the wet rocks well. Thankfully this was the only spot I really struggled getting footing. I knew my heart rate would drop a bit having to climb very slowly (even though it usually doesn’t feel that way on scramble climbs). I was disappointed with how I handled that first big climb and shortly after I found myself getting passed by Brian. Today I wanted to make sure whoever passed me just didn’t run off with it so I stuck to his heals and just ran a pace I knew I wouldn’t bonk out on. With the humidity I just knew I couldn’t push or I would unravel way further. The slightest incline was just destroying me, which was something I haven’t felt in awhile. Many things went through my mind.
My brain loves trying to trick me into stopping when my body is screaming in pain on the inside. I’ve been in this situation way too many times and know it always passes and I’ll find some relief even momentarily at some point in the race. Unfortunately, it really only came for about 1 mile, but hey, that is better than none at all! I knew another racer, Brian, was in front of me struggling in the heat as well with the grunts and vocal descriptions. I couldn’t help but laugh, smile, and totally agree. At that time we saw Ben go off course a bit and Brian gave him a holler. He would cruise back by us later and eventually I’d try to catch him one last time.
Mile 7 came and I saw I had a bit more in my legs than Brian did on the descents so I pulled the trigger and pulled away from him. Quickly we hit a slight incline and, again, my quads just were not firing. Brian and another voice was now right on me and they both cruised by. Once again I told myself just stick to Brian’s heels and don’t give up. I knew there was a big climb with the last two miles back up Soapstone Mountain and I was hoping some runners would be struggling. I made the conscious decision to stay steady and open up on the final climb. I know I can suffer with the best of them for at least two miles and then die when I finish!
Ben who went off course had gone by so I found myself in ninth place at this point. This time with 2.5ish miles left I pulled the trigger on Brian again this time on an uphill. I saw the final big climb and two people struggling - Ben and another guy who got by me. I was able to get by the one guy and was now about 20 yards behind Ben. We bombed the descent and hit the final road section. This race truly felt like a mini ultra as it just would not end in the heat! I thought it was all down hill, but the final mile was a slight incline out in the sun and I could not wait to be done!
I saw Ben take a glimpse back and see me and he was able to maintain the same pace as me and even started pulling away again. I’ll be honest, I was pretty pooped at that point and rode it home for a 7th. I thought Breakneck was going to be the most stacked race this early in the season, but this for sure was and I was so pumped with that. This makes six races for me in the last month and a half. I wanted to get that mental edge and learn as much as possible so I felt comfortable moving forward. I understand I won’t be where I want overnight and I look forward to steady progression.
Was this the race I wanted? No! But it’s what my body gave me when the time called. All we can do is learn, adapt, and push through when we truly do not want to. We never know what we are made of until we go there time and time again. I will forever have this knowledge moving forward and that’s all I can ask for.
Next up! Many On The Genny 40 miler on June 18th by #TrailsRoc