Saturday, October 10, 2015

Virgil Crest Game Plan

[I've included here a separate post which is an exact copy of the Google Doc I provided to my crew. It lists my ETAs for every aid station and what I planned to do at each, the contents of my drop bags, and descriptions of the individual course sections. The document is posted here as it was originally written, errors and all. It's remarkable how accurate I was in predicting the ETAs - I listed times without really knowing what I was doing, and most of them were within a few minutes of my actual time. The only additional part is the miscellaneous photos at the end of the post. Click here and here to read two differently written accounts of my race experience.]

Virgil Crest 100 Race Itinerary

Listed here is what I think is my best strategy for completing the 100 miles, given my level of fitness, knowledge of the course, race rules, and safety precautions. Below is a breakdown of what I will hope to do at each of the 15 aid stations and a brief description of what I will be facing in between each one. It may sound a little long winded, but I want to provide as much detail as possible. Please keep in mind that we are guaranteed to be thrown curveballs mid-race and that everyone will NOT go exactly as planned. Where possible, I will try to provide backup plans for certain possible scenarios. I know the math is off a little on the cumulative mileage numbers listed below, but I thought it was easiest just to copy the numbers from Ian’s course description.

Pre-race: I will be heading out to the race HQ the night before for packet pickup and a pre-race briefing. All of my drop bags need to be turned by 19:30 on this night, so once I do that I won’t be able to re-arrange anything in the bags.  I’ll drop off all bags Saturday immediately before the race.

Bib# 471. Use this number for live tracking on VCU website. My cell phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx in case anyone needs it.

OB - Outbound
IB - Inbound
BCS - Best case scenario (if everything goes great, this is my fastest possible splits, estimated.)
For simplicity, time of day listed in military time.

Hope Lodge (Start, mile 0.0):
  • Race starts at 6:00 on Saturday, Sept 19, concurrently with the 50 mile race.
  • Location: Hope Lake Park, town of Virgil

Hitching Post OB (AS 1, mile 6.3):
  • Section distance: 6.3 miles
  • ETA: 7:15 (1:15 for section, 1:15 cumulative)
  • Location: 1 mile up the road from Hope Lake Park - corner of Clute Rd and Vinnedge Rd.

  • Course section description: Flat, paved walkway for 1 mile, followed by by moderately hilly cross country ski trails.

  • Big drop bag here, since I’ll be hitting this AS 4 times total. See below for drop bag contents.

  • Drop off headlamp here, ready to be picked up when I pass through the next time. I shouldn’t need anything from my bag at this time.

  • If possible, I’ll leave my Ultimate Direction pack here and swap my 20 oz. handheld for the pack on the way through. That way I won’t have to carry the pack for the first 6.3 miles when I won’t need it.

TenKate's Crossing OB (AS 2, mile 13.4):
  • Section distance: 7.1 miles
  • ETA: 8:40 (1:25 for section, 2:40 cumulative)
  • Location: Across from Gatherings on Rt. 392

  • Course section description: Hilly singletrack and ski trails, ending with a mile downhill on paved road (Carson Road, just around the corner from Gatherings.) Unmanned water stop at mile 10 (old Cortland 9).

  • Notes: Should be feeling pretty good upon arrival. Won’t need much except water and some AS fruit.


TrailsRoc Junction OB (AS 3, mile 20.2):
  • Section distance: 6.6 miles
  • ETA: 10:30 (1:50 for section, 4:30 cumulative)
  • Location: Corner of Valentine Hill Rd and Virgil Mountain Rd

  • Course section description: Section starts with a creek crossing that’s nearly dry. The ski slopes start here so I’ll be walking a lot. Hence the slow pace for the 5.7 miles. Unmanned water stop at mile 16.5 (utility road).

  • I’ll probably start feeling the first signs of fatigue here do to the cumulative uphill, which is around 2,900 feet for this section alone. I’ll have another big drop bag here that I’ll access 4 times throughout the race. See below for dropbag contents.

Rock Pile (AS 4, mile 25.0):
  • Section distance: 5.0 miles
  • ETA: 12:00 (1:30 for section, 6:00 cumulative)
  • Location: 0.5 miles uphill walk on white blazed FLT trail. Parking at trailhead on Bleck Rd

  • Course section description: Mostly singletrack, but with a long, gradual uphill on a dirt road in the middle (This part overlaps with the Forest Frolic course.) I’ve run up this dirt road before and it can be kind of mentally daunting - it lasts forever with nothing much to look at.

  • Notes: Getting to the rockpile will be a moral booster, as I’m now halfway done with loop 1, and 25% done with the race. The course will now reverse itself the same way, 25 miles back to the start. No drop bag here.

TrailsRoc Junction IB (AS 5, mile 30.0):
  • Section distance: 5.0 miles
  • ETA: 13:20 (1:20 for section, 7:20 cumulative). BCS - 13:00 / 7:00 cumulative.
  • Location: Corner of Valentine Hill Rd and Virgil Mountain Rd

  • Course section description: Mostly singletrack, but also with the pleasure of running back down the long dirt road.

  • Notes: I plan to make up some time here without ruining my quads. Passing the marathon mark into ultra territory will be another morale booster. Pick up crystallized ginger chews to carry for remainder of race, in case of stomach issues. See below for dropbag contents.

TenKate's Crossing IB (AS 6, mile 36.6):
  • Section distance: 6.6 miles
  • ETA: 15:20 (2:00 for section, 9:20 cumulative)  BCS  - 14:45 / 8:45 cumulative.
  • Location: Across from Gatherings on Rt. 392

  • Course section description: Back up and down the ski slopes, but in the reverse direction. Unmanned water stop at mile 33.5 (utility road).

  • Notes: I haven’t run this part prior to race day, but expect it to be difficult with a lot more walking. I’ll probably start getting passed by the relays teams if I haven’t already. It’s likely I’ll hit one or more low points during this stretch and will arrive at the AS in mentally rough shape.

Hitching Post IB (AS 7, mile 43.7):
  • Section distance: 7.1 miles
  • ETA: 17:20 (2:00 for section, 11:20 cumulative).  BCS  - 16:30 / 10:30 cumulative.
  • Location: 1 mile up the road from Hope Lake Park - corner of Clute Rd and Vinnedge Rd.

  • Big drop bag here, since I’ll be hitting this AS 4 times total. See below for drop bag contents.

  • Course section description: Beginning with a 1 mile paved road climb up on Carson Rd before turning left into the woods. Followed by hilly singletrack and ski trails. Unmanned water stop at mile 40 (old Cortland 9).

  • Notes: Pick up headlamp with spare batteries here, plus backup handheld flashlight. It will most likely get too dark on the trail during this section to run without it. Will want to take an extended break here, since the next 12.6 miles will basically be continuous. (Meaning no wasted time at Hope Lake, mile 50. See below.)  Meet Hayley, Gary, and Aaron for any assistance here. Gary will already be stationed here as volunteer. Upon leaving, crew can make their way down to Hope Lake to meet me at the halfway point. I’ll probably not feel like eating much solid food or gels from this point on. The cooler temps at night will hopefully make things feel a little easier.

  • This is the first AS where runners are allowed to pick up their pacers.


Hope Lake (AS 8, mile 50.0 (Halfway!):
  • Section distance: 6.3 miles
  • ETA: 19:00 (1:40 for section, 13:00 cumulative).  BCS  - 17:55 / 11:55 cumulative.
  • Location: Hope Lake Park, town of Virgil

  • Course section description: Moderately hilly cross country ski trails, ending with 1 mile of flat, paved walkway into the turnaround.

  • Notes: Halfway home! This is very important to me and not to be taken lightly - I will DEFINITELY be tempted to drop here, and the plan is to get in and out of Hope Lodge ASAP. That means I won’t be sitting down, taking any extended break, picking up or changing pacers, or messing around with drop bags. I need to stock up on food and water and then get out immediately. Pick up Gary as a pacer and head out quickly. Crew can meet me here and can then make their way back up Clute Road to find me at the Hitching Post. Small drop bag here with stuff for the finish line - I shouldn’t need to access the bag at mile 50.


Hitching Post OB (AS 9, mile 56.3):
  • Section distance: 6.3 miles
  • ETA: 20:50 (1:50 for section, 14:50 cumulative).  BCS  - 19:20 / 13:20 cumulative.
  • Big drop bag here, since I’ll be hitting this AS 4 times total. See below for drop bag contents.

  • Course section description: Flat, paved walkway for 1 mile, followed by by moderately hilly cross country ski trails

  • Notes: Meet crew here again. Will probably want to rest and take an extended break, after 12.6 miles of continuous running (Assuming no extended break at Hope Lake.) Gary will continue as pacer.

TenKate's Crossing OB (AS 10, mile 63.4):
  • Section distance: 7.1 miles
  • ETA: 22:50 (2:00 for section, 16:50 cumulative) BCS  - 21:10 / 15:10 cumulative.
  • Location: Across from Gatherings on Rt. 392

  • Course section description: Hilly singletrack and ski trails, ending with a mile downhill on paved road (Carson Road, just around the corner from Gatherings.) If my quads are shot, running down this “easy” paved road may be very slow and painful. Unmanned water stop at mile 60 (old Cortland 9).

  • Notes: Navigating in the dark after this long on my feet will probably make for a long section split. Not sure of a reasonable ETA. Switch pacers from Gary to Jeney for next 23 miles.

TrailsRoc Junction OB (AS 11, mile 70.2):
  • Section distance: 6.6 miles
  • ETA: 1:20 (2:30 for section, 19:20 cumulative).  BCS  - 23:10 / 17:10 cumulative.
  • Location: Corner of Valentine Hill Rd and Virgil Mountain Rd

  • Course section description: The ski slopes are revisited here, and this will be one of the tough stretches of the course, with ~2,900 ft of climbing and ~2,200 ft of descending. Section starts with a creek crossing that’s nearly dry. Unmanned water stop at mile 65.5 (utility road).

  • Notes: With any luck I’ll be in good enough shape to walk the steep hills at a semi-decent pace. Again, navigating in the dark after this long on my feet will probably make for a long section. Not sure of a reasonable ETA. Continue with Jeney pacing. See below for dropbag contents.


Rock Pile (AS 12, mile 75.0):
  • Section distance: 5.0 miles
  • ETA: 2:50 (1:30 for section, 20:50 cumulative).  BCS  - 00:30 / 18:30 cumulative.
  • Location: Steep uphill trail from Bleck Rd

  • Course section description: Mostly singletrack, but with a long, gradual uphill on a dirt road in the middle (This part overlaps with the Forest Frolic course.) I’ve run up this dirt road before and it can be kind of mentally daunting - it lasts forever with nothing much to look at, but in the dark I hope to be moving faster on the road than on the singletrack.

  • Notes: If I’m able to wrap my head around it, getting to the rockpile will be a moral booster, as I’m now halfway done with loop 2, and 75% done with the race. No drop bag here. Continue with Jeney pacing.

TrailsRoc Junction IB (AS 13, mile 80.0):
  • Section distance: 5.0 miles
  • ETA: 4:10 (1:20 for section, 22:10 cumulative).  BCS  - 1:50 / 19:50 cumulative.
  • Location: Corner of Valentine Hill Rd and Virgil Mountain Rd

  • Course section description: Mostly singletrack, but also with the pleasure of running back down the long dirt road. Unmanned water stop at mile  83.5 (utility road).

  • Notes: Quads (and entire body) will be so trashed by this time, running a decent pace down the dirt road might not be an option. I’ll pick up Aaron here to pace me for the final 20 miles. See below for drop bag contents. Continue with Jeney pacing.

TenKate's Crossing IB (AS 14, mile 86.6):
  • Section distance: 6.6 miles
  • ETA: 6:50 (2:40 for section, 24:50 cumulative).  BCS  - 3:50 / 21:50 cumulative.
  • Location: Across from Gatherings on Rt. 392

  • Course section description: Back to the ski slopes, but in the reverse direction.

  • Notes: With any luck I’ll be in good enough shape to walked them at a semi-decent pace. Again, navigating in the dark after this long on my feet will probably make for a long section. See below for dropbag contents. Switch pacers from Jeney to Aaron, who will continue to the finish.

Hitching Post IB (AS 15, mile 93.7):
  • Section distance: 7.1 miles
  • ETA: 8:50 (2:00 for section, 26:50 cumulative). BCS  - 5:30 / 23:30 cumulative.
  • Location: 1 mile up the road from Hope Lake Park - corner of Clute Rd and Vinnedge Rd.

  • Big drop bag here, since I’ll be hitting this AS 4 times total. See below for drop bag contents.

  • Course section description: Beginning with a 1 mile paved road climb up on Carson Rd before turning left into the woods. Followed by hilly singletrack and ski trails. Unmanned water stop at mile 90 (old Cortland 9).

  • Notes: I’ll drop off whatever gear I don’t need in order to lighten the load for the final section. Hopefully I’ll reach This AS before sunrise, but if not, the sunlight may speed things along. Meet Hayley here, who will then leave to meet me at the finish. Continue with Aaron as pacer.

Hope Lake (Finish. Mile 100!):
  • Section distance: 6.3 miles
  • ETA: 10:30 (1:40 for section, 28:30 cumulative).  BCS  - 6:50 / 24:50 cumulative.
  • Location: Hope Lake Park, town of Virgil

  • Course section description: Moderately hilly cross country ski trails, predominately downhill, ending with 1 mile of flat, paved walkway into the turnaround.

  • Notes: The downhill to the finish might be pretty painful. Hopefully I’ll be able to run the last flat stretch once I can see or hear the finish line. After finishing, I’ll likely be so hyped up that all the fatigue will have disappeared. Time for a belt buckle, a Dale Cooper massage, and stuffing calories in my face!
Gear List:

On My Person at Starting Line
  • Positive mental attitude
  • Suunto watch, fully charged
  • Shoes - Altra Lone Peak 2.0 (yellow)
  • Race bib, pinned to shorts
  • Altra gaiters
  • Nike shorts
  • FLRTC singlet
  • Bandana
  • Socks
  • Kokopelli tattoo
  • Headlamp
  • Justin’s nut butter packets - variety x 5
  • Caffeinated GU Roctane gels x 7
  • iPhone
  • Plastic ziplock for phone
  • UD vest
  • 20 oz bottles, filled with water (2)
  • UD handheld hand strap
  • wedding ring


Drop Bag # 1 - Hitching Post (AS# 1 / 7 / 9 / 15. Mile 6.3 / 43.7 /56.3 / 93.7)
Orange and black hiking backpack
  • Positive mental attitude
  • Handheld flashlight with fresh AA batteries (2)
  • Backup headlamp batteries - AAA (3)
  • Extra bandana x 2
  • Extra shirt x 2
  • Extra socks x 2
  • Extra shorts x 1
  • Tailwind scoops portioned out
  • Justin’s nut butter packets - variety (no PB)
  • Assorted gels
  • Yerba mate, half frozen
  • Picky bar x 1
  • Clif Shot Blocks x 1
  • Bag of coconut rolled dates
  • Larabars
  • Body Glide
  • Plastic bag
  • Towel


Drop bag # 2 - TrailsRoc Junction (AS# 3 / 5 / 11 / 13. Mile 20.2 / 30.0 / 70.2 / 80.0)
Blue duffel bag
  • Positive mental attitude
  • Extra bandana x 2
  • Extra shirt x 2
  • Extra socks x 2
  • Long sleeve shirt x 1
  • Tailwind scoops portioned out
  • Justin’s nut butter packets - variety (no PB)
  • Assorted gels
  • Yerba mate, half frozen
  • Larabars
  • Crystallized ginger chews
  • Honey Stinger pack x 1
  • Clif Shot Blocks x 1
  • Bonk Breaker bar x 1
  • Tooth brush
  • Travel toothpaste
  • Spray-on sunscreen
  • Extra shoes Salomon Sense Pro
  • Body Glide
  • Stick roller
  • Plastic bag
  • Suunto USB cable
  • Portable USB charger, fully charged
  • Towel


Drop bag # 3 - TenKate's Crossing (AS 2 / 6 / 10 / 14. Mile 13.4 / 36.6 / 63.4 / 86.6)
Black satchel with Cayuga Trails logo
  • Positive mental attitude
  • Extra bandana x 1
  • Extra shirt x 1
  • Extra socks x 1
  • Towel
  • Plastic bag
  • Tailwind scoops portioned out
  • Justin’s nut butter packets - variety (no PB)


Drop bag # 4 - Hope Lake - (AS 8. Mile 50 / finish)
Small orange and black bag
  • Positive mental attitude
  • Vega Bar
  • Sandals
  • Clean, dry VCU event shirt
  • Car key
  • Dry shorts

Leave in Car - Mile 101
Black Jansport backpack
  • Wallet
  • House keys
  • Clean shoes
  • Dry socks
  • Compression socks
  • Jacket

Leave with Hayley - Mile ?
  • Camping chair x 2
  • Avocado & hot sauce sandwich?
  • Extra shoes
  • Cold yerba mate
  • Spare car key
  • Crew map & directions
Need to Purchase

  • AAA batteries
  • Justin’s nut butter packets - variety (no PB)
  • Caffeinated GU Roctane gels
  • Bag of dates?
  • Vega bar
  • Crystallized ginger chews
  • Nut butter - Chocolate Hazelnut
  • AA batteries for handheld flashlight?





  • Gridley Creek Crossing. Photo: Gloria Lemus-Sanchez



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