‘Seriously, shouldn’t this [insert distance] be easier by now?!?!’
Just about every time Trex and I set out to run we utter some form or another of this phrase at some point during the run. Whether it be a short and sweet tempo run or a the warm-up for our long slow run, it seems we have some false expectations that it would have somehow gotten easier over the years given the number of miles we have logged. We somehow have this feeling like one day we will set out to run a snappy 5K and it won’t feel like we are trudging through the last miles of a marathon.
Since we both have logged well over one thousand miles each, with our longest break being under a month in the last two years straight I tend to scratch my head a bit also when everything seems to whine and complain on an ‘easy’ day. It begs the question, why is there no such thing as an ‘easy’ day after all this time?
Well I think the answer is fairly simple. It’s not easy because running is work. It’s overcoming inertia in the form of the body at rest, and by the laws of physics and biology our body will always fight us to return to that easy place of comfort (aka not moving). Therefore running will never be easy and it will always feel like work. PERIOD.
But I think also, in our case, we keep pushing the bar further and further out with each new goal we achieve, and frankly we haven’t really stopped to smell the roses. We have continually pushed our bodies to go further, and now into the realm of Ultra distances, which are not for the faint of heart or body or mind. We have relentlessly moved forward in spite of the warnings our bodies have given us, and protested when our bodies revolted. Stubbornly we have forced upon ourselves the willpower of our minds to keep going even when it means we might regret it later. With each new goal our mindsets shift the bar but our bodies remind us just how much work it will be and just how quickly we can get right back to where we started. That is why it never gets easier. We have to know with every step that we are pushing ourselves, otherwise I think we would feel entitled and unappreciative of our achievements.
To be honest I would settle for a little entitlement right about now, but I suppose there is nothing wrong with a hard day’s work, as the saying goes. So here’s to many more months ahead of hard work, sweat, blood, and maybe some tears that will bring us to our next Ultra adventure.
After my first truly long run race I’m finding some interesting and curious aftermath and the timing is on the odd side.
2 weeks after our LOHTSE 24 hour endurance run I ran a 5K that was part of the Fleet Feet 4 Seasons challenge. I’d signed up for the half originally when I signed up for the 4 race set but in the interest of being careful I dropped to the 5K.
Race day I was feeling okay and started off at a decent pace for me, in the sub 9 range. Around mile 2 I started to feel it in my left shin and backed off a touch into the sub 10s. I had a bad case of shin splints after running 24 hours on a concrete high school track at Lohtse. In the end it was my 4th fastest 5K and I really think I could have podium’ed if I’d of gotten close to my 5k PR. Anyway that was the only real issue I had 2 weeks for my first run.
I took another 2 weeks off in recovery mode before I ran again. And things took a serious AF turn for the worse. As soon as I shifted into a run every single thing below the waistline immediately started screaming at me. Knee joints, ankle joints, ITB, inner and outer fascia points on the knees and ankles, hip flexors, quads and hamstrings, I would have been hard pressed to pick out a single one of those that hurt less than the others. I was at another track but a compressed rubber one that was softer and even with that I ended up running the turf next to the inside lane.
I literally made it about 100 meters before I stopped from the pain and tried to stretch it out. Starting up again and nope, the stretching didn’t help. I made it around the rest of the lap back to the starting and then stepped off onto the grass. The next 3+ miles were…. not fun. About mile 3.5 some numbness kicked in and was able to shambling stagger flail up to a 9 minute pace for one lap before calling it quits.
I’m pretty worried at this point as I can’t figure out WTH is going on. 2 weeks prior I was feeling fairly okay.
I wait another week+ and go for a trail run. It’s only marginally better. 4 miles at an average of 14 min avg pacing (11 minute run pacing) felt like I had just run a 10K at sub 10’s.
Another couple of days and 5K at 12 min miles on trails feels like 8 minute pacing.
And that’s just RPE, my HR during these is 12 beats higher on average with spikes into zone 5 which I should never hit on this terrain at this speed than it should be for the same pacing and terrain of which I have hundreds of runs to compare it to.
It’s so bad I’d rather run solo than inflict my zombie like death shuffling pace and form on anyone and of course my mood.
Now my RW made a blanket statement that this is what happens when you tear down your body and you’re now running on a lot of new tissue which has no ‘experience’ with running yet. I certainly tore up from the floor up some things with the 24 hour race so that does fall in line with her thinking.
And at a month after that there’s going to be a lot of new tissue in those areas. So another correlating fact for her argument.
Tomorrow will be my fourth run since Lohtse and hopefully I’ll be able to push faster than a 12 min average, I should be doing 10’s at this distance and this terrain at worst for a measly 3 or 4 miles.
But the observed aftermath of a first time > 50 mile run (82 miles total in 21 hours running) seems rather daunting. After Rocky 50 I was literally fine to run within a week and ran 42 miles two weeks afterwards on some pretty rough terrain. That extra 50K for Lohtse really seems to have put a hurt on me.
I can tell I’m recovering obviously but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have some concerns about our 100 mile training which starts in 2 weeks for the Kansas Rails To Trails 100 in October and then 2 months after we’re going to try for 164 miles at Snowdrop. If 82 miles has this kind of impact, how bad is 100 miles going to be? Or 164 miles?
Why 164 miles you might be wondering when buckles are only given out at 100, 150, 200 and 250 miles? Because one of the ladies I ran a few laps with at Lohtse, Becky (Rebecca) of the Oklahoma Landrunners, did 163 miles last per a race report I read from Bob Stearn’s on Snowdrop. And I’d like to see if I can beat that even though she’s a far more experienced and accomplished runner than myself. I’ve already blocked out a pace chart for the 55 hours of Snowdrop which puts me at 164 miles in hour 54.
Best laid plans and all that…
So we signed up for Snowdrop 2019. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a 55 hour endurance race done on a 0.69xxx mile track. It’s about 2’3’rds gravel and 1/3rd asphalt. That will actually tie into my endurance plan of 2/3rds running, 1/3rd walking rather well because I don’t care to run 55 hours on concrete.
In years prior the race apparently filled up in minutes but today it was only 94% full almost 2 hours after opening. Interestingly it started at 40%+ full before registration opened, I assume to spots reserved for veterans of the race, elites and etc.
The breakdown on buckles is every 50 miles starting with 100 miles. The buckles are some of the most glittery and shiny I’ve seen to date.
One of the reasons it’s so popular I believe is that you can take up to 55 hours as a 100 mile cut off. That’s 25 hours more than most 100’s. My own goal would be of course to do 100 miles but it’s really the 150 mile buckle that I would go into the race with thoughts of getting. 200 miles is way beyond my skill set now and likely skill set in 8 months. Even 150 may be beyond me.
It’s all unknown territory at the moment with only a single 24 hour race on the books and single 50 mile.
By SnowDrop though we should have one 100 mile / 30 hour cut off race after doing the Kansas Rails to Trails in October.
The only way to grow and evolve is redefine your limits. I just regret I waited so long in life to find this area of my life to evolve into.
We’ve mostly settled on the Kansas Rails To Trails 100 Mile race for our first 100 mile attempt this year. This is October and I’ve mapped out our training plan which starts up in May. We’ll obviously run between now and then but the actual plan starts then.
This is about as first timer friendly as 100 miles can get. The route is flat, it’s mostly a straight out and back, it’s in cool but not freezing temperatures and it averages 8′ wide so there’s plenty of space to run side by side for 2 or 3 people. The surface is non-technical being mostly crushed gravel. So if we DNF it won’t be due to the innate difficulty of the race course but the sheer difficulty of running 100 miles at one time.
There’s also the problem of gear selection and choices. It’s hard to determine the best gear for a 100 miles without actually running a 100 miles so there’s a lot of unknowns there. For example my Altra Paradigm 4.0’s are good shoes up to 30 miles. After that they don’t work so well. This is something I had to find out the hard way. Gear for 100 miles is only going to be harder to figure out.
In 2020 we’ll be going after more challenging races with some vertical and better terrain/scenery. The next logical step forward in building skill sets and pushing limits.
Last weekend I did my first ‘endurance’ race, a 24 hour run, run as many laps as you can race. Going into this my goal was 80 miles; I felt 80was quite achievable at my current skill set. TL;DR I did 82(ish) miles.
But…. about 5 or 6 hours from the end my left ankle, specifically the shin muscles that pull the foot up toward the shin started really bothering me. Like ‘really’ bothering me.
I had a choice to make, take a break, maybe just stop and call it a day and take my completed laps or push through it and shoot for my goal. I chose to push through. I did this fully knowing what the end result would be; knowing the consequences. And knowing that ‘there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’. i.e. for every action there is a reaction, for every decision there is a consequence.
In my case it’s being unable to run for the last 9 days after my 24 hour race. I knew that injury was not only likely but almost guaranteed to happen. Not that I’d of likely run that first week but other than my ankle/shin as of the last few days I’ve felt pretty recovered and ready to get back out.
I have a half marathon scheduled for this weekend but trying to do that in my condition would be less than wise. Wisdom when it comes to pushing through injury isn’t something I’m known for but at least for this race I do have the option to drop down to the 5K. Although I have to pay for dropping down. I mean WTH?
So that’s what I’m going to do, run the 5k, probably with a friend at a cruising pace and just limp through it so that I can continue with the recovery so I can get back out on the trails.
The point of this if you made it this far, is choose very carefully and with full understanding of the ramifications of pushing through pain while running. Pain means something is being stressed. Stress is injury. Injury is being forced to be sidelined to avoid greater injury which leads to greater down time.
Bunny and I participated in the LOHTSE 24 Hour Endurance race over the weekend of March 16th. This was our first 24 hour and longest race since our debut 50 mile race at Rocky Raccoon a month prior.
In between Rocky and LOHTSE we also did the Post Oak Triple challenge for a distance of 44(ish) miles for me and 28 miles for her.
The point of that information is to set up the fact that we probably weren’t in a great place recovery wise going into this 24 hour race but didn’t want to wait another year to try it so off we went.
The race is done on the 400.0x meter track at the Owasso high school. This year the weather was nice, a few degrees warmer than I’d like during the heat of the day but certainly tolerable. The track appears to have been redone recently and is now a textured concrete surface. In other words it’s hard, very hard and very unforgiving. I don’t even want to imagine the damage a person would take if they tripped and fell at speed on this thing as that surface would destroy the skin of any part of the the body that touches it. No one fell during the race but that hard ass surface does do a number on the legs.
There is no view to speak of so it didn’t take too many laps before things got seriously monotonous. One more mental challenge to contend with in these types of events.
Facilities was great as there were not only two port-a-potties set up actually on the course in the outer lanes but there was a track facility also open for our use with real bathrooms and showers and even a couple of couches if you needed to take a load off for awhile.
As this was a certified and sanctioned race that qualifies for records and potential entry into the national 24 hour team slower runners were asked to avoid the inner lane and use lanes further out. I have an slight issue with that as this has an impact on the distance one has to travel to get a lap in. And laps are the only thing counted as distance with each lap counted the same. So each lap I did in lane 2 was 407+ meters, lane 3, 415+ meters and so on. But each counted as 400 meters. Over the course of 24 hours those extra 7 and 15 meters start to add up.
My distance was measured with my Stryd footpod that I have calibrated pretty closely. It measured the 50.1 mile Rocky Racoon race at 50.2 miles for example. And we did get slightly lost in the dark near the end because someone took down some direction tape that added a little extra. It regularly measures 13.1 mile half marathons as 13.1 miles. Point is, after 2 years of running on many many certified race courses I trust my Stryd to nail the distances and it doesn’t get confused when you stop moving for a little bit unlike a GPS based tracking.
Because each lap done only nets you the official 400 meters my official distance was 77+ miles but I actually traveled 4+ miles over that. Bunny who also wears a Stryd which is also pretty well calibrated to her had the same results, around 4 extra miles traveled than official.
Off hand we both think assigning lanes to runners would be more logical, at 12 hours in there were only 12 of us left moving and at almost any given time I counted less than 10 actually on the track at the same time. Then each runner’s laps are multiplied by that lap’s actual distance to give them an accurate total distance. But then you have to contend with the honor system of people staying in their lanes and not drifting accidentally or intentionally down a lane. So for a certified course I guess it makes sense. But it doesn’t feel great to have to do extra miles ‘for free’ because you’re slower when you all paid the same entry fee.
Because this was a timed race there was no way to DNF. Everyone got credit for the laps they did even those who just left before the race end. For some reason I’d made the assumption, in error, that you had to be there at the end of the race to get credit for it.
I believe if memory serves there were about 30 runners who started the race in its entirety. The majority of these were in the shorter distances, there was a half marathon, full marathon, 6 hour, 50 mile, 100K, 12 hour races all going on at the same time as the 24 hour race. For a few there was only one entrant in that distance. I think most of the non-24’s were in the 6 and 12 hour races.
We didn’t really know anyone else at the race going on other than as friend of a friend in a couple of cases. What I found interesting is the start of the race was much more street race like, no one talking to each other, everyone focused on the race. After it was down to just the 24 hour people we found the race was more ultra trail like with people becoming more chatty and outgoing.
Since we didn’t know any by name we assigned nicknames to several runners as they were note worthy for some reason and we by human nature needed a label as a way to refer to them. Thus during our race we had Chatterbox (real name Mark), a long time runner who was super friendly the whole race with everyone, he was full of trivia and history on the runners, racing in general and had a steady persistent pace that ate away at the distance.
One of my favorites, Landrun (real name Becky), who we had fun talking to and joking with. She’s out of OKC and part of the OKC Landrunners group, hence the nickname as she had on one of their T’s at race start. Probably won’t get to run with her again unless we both happen to be in the same ultra and that’s a shame as I enjoyed the laps we did together. This lady is a certified bad ass, after getting blisters bad enough to force her into sandals she still came back on the track and chewed through the miles at a walk that was as fast as my slow jog. Walking with her at her pace was a effort. I believe she ended up 2nd female and it was only her injuries that took her out or I think she’d of taken top spot easily.
Mighty Mouse (real name Brian), another certifiable ultra runner with some strong credits in his history was also really nice to chat at in passing. He was going too fast and steady to actually run with. His nickname came from a tattoo of mighty mouse on his shoulder. He’s doing and done some crazy hard race sequences, on races and at paces/times I can only wish I could do.
The Machine (Bob) and Beast Mode (John) were the two strongest male runners there that day. The Machine was just that, gliding through lap after lap without a change in pace or a stop. Beast Mode was right there with him but ultimately made the decision to drop out to save his legs for another race per a chat with another remaining runner later after we noticed him gone.
Another runner who got his nickname late, Six, because he hit that point where he only needed 6 miles to break 100 sub 24. He’s another bad ass that ground out the miles early, possibly at too fast a pace but he hit his numbers and in an ultra that’s an important piece of any race, hitting your personal goals.
There were others, Ginger (real name Betsy) who was a friend of a friend and a super nice lady who was only (only he says) in it for the 12 hour race. Her and Landrun were two peas from the same pod in my experience with them and a great person to hang with even if it was only for a little time.
Kansas (real name Jackie (sp?)) who was the eventual lead female, another steady state runner who made the miles look easy. She eventually stopped at 80+ miles before the 24 hours were up but I have no doubt could have knocked out 100+ in 24 hours.
The Marine who was another 12 hour runner who looked to hit a wall pretty badly around hour 10-11 but rallied hard and finished in hour 12 super strong was inspirational.
The Dave’s, the group of people who were in the Dave’s challenge which was do 1 mile every hour for 24 hour in honor of Dave who continued running with stage IV cancer who’s only goal was 1 mile an hour.
Basically when you see the same people for hours on end without any other distractions assigning them nicknames seems inevitable. I’m sure others did the same for us but probably were just as unlikely to get them right for us as we didn’t for them.
Back to the actual running part of the race, we were on a conservative pace from the start although still a sub 12 hour 50. But as time went on and that pavement started causing problems that pace slowed down. We were primarily self supporting as we had specific things we wanted to use for hydration and nutrition but the usual things were there at the one official aid station set up along one of the straightaways. They also had pizza and sushi delivered during the first evening. One benefit of having a race in the middle of town is delivery is a thing.
We each tried and mostly succeeded at consuming at least 16 oz of fluids an hour and intaking between 200 and 400 calories of a variety of foods as well as electrolyte supplements.
Toward the end of the race I was having to step up my game for the last 4 hours or so to insure I hit my goals and I started intaking too many calories. I knew it at the time but I also knew any advantage I could get to be able to keep going was going to be key to hitting my target mileage of 80. I did hit my target with a little bit of cushion but I also ended up pretty nauseous right after the race. Some of that nausea was also in part from pain I’m sure.
Original flavor Pringles, Spring Energy Gels, Saltines, Ramen, Reeses PB cups, a broth from Bunny with all kinds of anti-inflammatory ingredients, crystallized ginger were among the things we brought. We also had supplemented these with a few things from the AS over the course of the race such as half a banana, a Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Cookie, half a garlic bread stick and a krispy kreme doughnut.
For Hydration I used EFS, eFuel and Skratch labs. I found I preferred the EFS at the recommended concentrations. I also had the occasional plain water to supplement at least one bottle of mix an hour.
My left ankle and shin started acting up a few hours in and by the end of the race I’d had to break through a few walls of pain to keep moving at a decent pace in order to hit my target. I’m paying for that now, 4 days later and my left ankle and foot are still swollen, painful to the touch, painful to walk on. I knew I’d be paying for it at the time as well so none of this is a surprise.
My Altra Paradigm 4.0’s served me okay for the first 50k or so but after having done that distance now a couple or three times in them it’s obvious that they are 50k at best shoes for me. For a marathon they work great. Once I reach 30 miles or so the outside of my pinkie toes and that general area of the side of my foot become painful.
Knowing this was a risk going in I’d bought some Hoka One One Bondi 6’s the week before the race. So at mile 30 of a 24 hour race I put on shoes that I’d worn for about 5 minutes. In the end it wasn’t a bad decision. The shoes held up fine, some of the pain of my battered outer foot went away and no new pains showed up for the next 52 miles.
At this time I’m going to have to give the nod to the Bondi 6’s for any distance over a full marathon. They’re not zero drop which I strongly prefer but they’re not horribly high heeled either. And they got me through 50 miles.
Clothing wise my Altra shorts proved again their ability to take me long distances without chafing. Tshirt wise we were in custom race shirts we had made for the race. Specifically so we can mark laps on them. I keep finding it surprising how much other runners comment on the little things we do, like ticking off laps on a our shirts, or wearing matching shirts or hats. It’s just something minor we do for fun but they never fail to draw some amounts of comment and in some case a lot of comments.
Because I still had that new skin from some large blisters from Rocky I taped up both heels and sides of heels with Leuko tape prior to race start. I’m happy to say that no further blistering happened in that area even with baby new skin in place although it was all pretty tender by race end. I did get one small blister on the top of my left pointer toe. This was through two pair of socks, a mid weight Injinji and a light weight Features over those.
That blister could have been from the Hoka’s, hard to say at this point.
I didn’t have any critical low points during the race, there were a couple of times I ‘got quiet’ especially those last few hours where I was heavily focused on hitting my goal mileage but nothing so bad that going on was in doubt.
Our takeaways from this race are that yes there may be low points but you can get through them. That pacing is critical to being able to sustain the distance. So many people go out way too fast from what I’ve seen and read and end up struggling to just finish a race. With our pacing plan, the last 4 hours of my 24 hour race were my fastest average times. Not that they were fast, let’s be honest, just faster than the previous far too many hours.
Bunny had some issues that the format of this race helped bring about. She worked through them and was out on the track at the end for lap after lap making me super proud of her while other more experienced runners had called it a day hours earlier.
We seem to have our hydration and nutrition dialed in fairly well but still learned some things such as stick to the plan, don’t overload on calories at the end.
That a race where you have access to your own aid station with everything you thought you might need available every 3 to 4 minutes leads to a greater amount of non-moving time. Not because we spent more time per stop, the longest stop I made was about 15 minutes to make and eat raman and change my shoes at the same time. But because you stop more frequently. One extra minute per stop adds up over time.
That was one of the obvious things about Beast Mode. He didn’t stop for aid. He had a crew that handed him exactly what he needed/requested in the quantities specified when he needed/requested it as he went by his setup. He didn’t even slow down. No wasted time at all.
At the end of the day, literally I guess since it was 24 hours, having done 82 miles in 24 hours I feel we’re currently capable of doing a 100 in 30 so that is one critical key thing learned. I believe with some dedicated training to efficiency of form and increasing VO2 max that we can do a 100 mile in better shape this fall than we did with this 24 hour.
With any luck we may see you at the Kansas Rails To Trails 100 Mile in October. This is also the Prairie Spirit 100 that happens in March of the year. Why the name change I’m not sure since it’s the same race down to the location of the aid stations. But regardless, it’s looking like it’s a good candidate for our first 100 buckle.
This last weekend I did the Post Oak Triple Challenge. This is a Friday, Saturday, Sunday set of three races where you get to pick your distance for each race. The options are 10K, Quarter, Half, 25K, Full, 50K with Friday and Sunday being the ‘mile’ distances and Saturday being the ‘metric’ options.
I’d signed up for this last March to take advantage of the price discounts and had chosen the Half, 25K, Half as my triple option. Frankly I didn’t know where I’d be in my ability to run long and at the time 42 miles in one weekend seemed like a decent challenge.
Because the races are ‘heavy’, i.e. they’re all longer than the standard distance it was actually closer to 44 miles for me.
Bunny because she doesn’t sign up early for races because Life gets in the way too often for her ended up last minute only doing the Full on Sunday.
I’d of loved to have done it with her but by Sunday morning I made the decision it was too much as there is a 24 Hour run coming up in 3 weeks that I wanted to be in decent shape for. As a result she now has a trail marathon up on me.
The course is a roller coaster type course with at least for my courses about 1500′ of gain over the half distances and 2000′ of gain over the 25K. The vertical wasn’t enough to be super significant under normal racing conditions but as with last year as I understand it, the course was about 75% inches deep mud. This made for very unstable footing for me and forced me to slow down to an almost crawl at times. Buried in the mud were also just enough rocks to make thoughts of tripping and smashing ones face in a thing.
The race was very well done especially given the circumstances of having so many different races and distances all occurring at the same time over the same base set of trails. The aid stations were well staffed with friendly people with what I’d call an okay selection of offerings. But you have to remember the longest race was a 50k so having a full buffet at every AS was simply not necessary.
On Friday I maintained not a bad pace for me, especially under the circumstances of the mud but something odd around mile eight happened and it felt like my left calf had torn with some level 7 or 8 pain punching in with each step, especially the climbs. I hauled out my Paria poles and used those to help take some of the pressure off with each step. It was bad enough that I really questioned if I was going to be a DNS for the next day or at least if it would be the ‘smart’ thing to do. But while I’m pretty smart, I’m not always wise.
Friday’s ending was the oddest ending I’ve had in a race so far. We get to the finish line, technically about 100 yards away and we’re stopped and asked what distance we have. I had been wondering as I had 12.4 miles at this point and the race was billed as a 13.7 heavy half. We’re directed to basically ‘head out that way and do some laps until you get the distance’.
All righty then. I ended up doing 14 miles because I didn’t want to get back and get sent out again for being short. 🙂
Saturday with little sleep had me at the start line for the 25K. The route that had been fun the day before was just now a comedy of entertaining slips and slides with 2 falls, one of them left feeling like I was a hair away from popping my arm out of its socket due to the way I landed trying to catch myself. This pace took a big nose dive. The trail was just torn up from the day before with even the good parts now slippy and slidey.
Running on a slippery surface works all the muscles in your legs, your arms and shoulders tense up as you use them to balance yourself and it’s mentally fatiguing. I.E. it’s a really good workout / training and if it doesn’t’ kill you it makes you stronger.
There was no funny business with the end of this race, nor Sunday’s. There was the ‘Hill from Hell’ but honestly it’s a lot scarier sounding than reality is. I was expecting some 2000′ 60 degree slope or something but while it does have some slope to it it’s just not that long or that high.
On Sunday we basically did a kind of combination of the Friday and Saturday routes except part of it was backwards so no surprises. And thanks to there having been no rain for the last 24 hours the track wasn’t worse than it had been the day before for the most part. First couple of miles the mud was still half frozen from the sub freezing temps overnight but the sun came out and fixed that, turning it all back into mush again.
I was feeling the exertion by this time, the mud, the balancing act going up and down slippery slopes and general lack of sleep, not unusual for me but it certainly doesn’t help and while the pace was a little better than Saturday it wasn’t much better. And by this time I was tired of mud running after almost 30 miles of it going into Sunday.
So I was pretty happy to finally come around the ‘victory lap’ and cross over the finish line ending my Triple challenge.
We missed Bunny’s first lap finish by about 15 minutes, the full’s had a 30 minute head start on us so I went home, washed 20lbs of mud off my legs then went back out to wait on her to cross the finish line to put her medal around her neck.
It’s been a week since Bunny and I did the Rocky 50. We’re both feeling for the most part surprisingly well. After the race neither of us suffered the bone breaking muscle cramps, me in particular, after the Dead Horse 50 we did November 2018. My muscles, specifically my quads were pretty sore for a couple of days afterwards but by T/F they were good and today, S, they feel pretty normal.
For us this race started with a 8 hour road trip including stops for gas some breakfast. As is turning out to be the norm our rooms were not ready/available when we got there so we went and had lunch and did some shopping to kill the time.
After checking in we went to the main lodge at the park to do bag drop / packet pickup. The folks were really nice and encouraging when they heard this was our first 50 mile.
Back in our rooms it was time to sort out our gear for the umpteenth time and then some TV which reinforced once again why I cancelled cable tv years ago. I think I may have been asleep by 8:30 and for once pre-race slept surprisingly well.
To keep stress down my alarm went off at 3:30 and I went over my gear once again. By 4:30 I picked up Bunny and her gear and off we went to the Hunstville State Park where the race was held. Race start was at 6:00 a.m. and it started on time.
Off we went into the darkness at our normal post-start walk and then started our 1K run / .25k walk cycle. At each aid station we refilled a bottle, we both carried two full ones and one empty spare and snacked on whatever looked good. Our main nutrition was comprised of Spring Energy gels with some alternates like eGel by CrankSports, Skratch Labs bars, Justin’s Nut Butters, candied ginger.
Electrolytes were supplemented by Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes. One of the critical things we wanted to make sure of was not getting low on electrolytes to avoid major cramping during and post race. And our plan seems to have worked fairly well. So we had electrolytes in our water and additional capsules.
Overall I find I don’t care for the flavor long term of the ElectroRide. Bunny likes it but for me it becomes unappealing and I can’t afford to have my fluid less than appealing so I consume it at a sufficient rate.
Starting with Damnation aid station we started grabbing cups of Raman with broth although we had to consume it at the aid station because we weren’t allowed to leave with the cups.
For future use to avoid that time sink I’ve picked up a couple of Sea To Summit collapsible mugs so we can fill and go for these kinds of foods.
We held our schedule like clockwork for the first 25 miles getting back to the S/F in 5 hours 50 minutes. A little slow for us but we did have another 25 miles to go.
I will say the course was mostly okay running wise but there were a number of pretty large mud sinks on the trails that just kept getting wider over time as runners kept going further and further out to get around them.
In general if you were careful you could though get through the course without getting your feet soaked.
The scenery was, no offense Texas and I’m a born Texan, but it was boring. Your basic Texas scrub land with some tall pines scattered here and there. After the first mile you’ve seen all the variety the course has to offer. It was no Moab desert for views.
Like everyone pretty much says, the long out and back to Farside from Damnation seems like it takes forever and when you get there there’s just fluids and some friendly people to cheer you back out.
The aid stations were well stocked with the usual things including hot foods at most.
I was starting to get worried about lack of urination by the end of lap 1 so I wasted some time trying to pee during the layover between lap 1 and 2 and we also got our trekking poles and changed shoes.
Overall I cost us quite a lot of time with fruitless attempts at urination starting now and through the next couple of ASs that had bathrooms. But I’ve suffered Rhabdo before from runs so seeing the color of my urine can be critical for me as I don’t care to hit the emergency room with kidney failure.
Eventually I started drinking more and more water even though I wasn’t super thirsty, going through about 750ml (24oz) every hour and this did the trick.
During lap 2 we switched to walking the uphills mostly and running the downhills but because the whole course was up and down with very little flat this cost us time. Add in the pee checks, raman stops, gear malfunctions and the second lap took us 7 hours and change.
We ran into a couple of ladies, one a teacher and the other a sub on the second lap and ran with them for awhile, they were ironwomen but this was their first 50 mile and really first trail. They were quicker than us except on the more technical trail pieces but eventually left us behind overall.
I bring them up because we picked them up about 6K from the finish line again where they were trying to make their way back in the pitch black as they’d not brought any light options. We moseyed back to the finish line at a moderate walk with one detour because someone had removed the ‘do not go this way tape’ and the sign to turn off was facing away from us on the side of the trail so we missed it.
Eventually we figured it out and made it to the finish line in 13 hours and 25 minutes.
We both ended up measuring about 3500-3600 feet of vertical gain over the 50 miles. Not a stupid amount but more than we were expecting for sure. It was also mostly a rollercoaster route.
It should be obvious but for a long race you have to bring lights, plural and spare batteries. I’ve owned and own lights of all kinds, mostly hard duty mil-spec types but a few running lights as well.
Of all the lights I’ve owned and used I highly recommend a ‘non-runner’ light, I heard comments “is a car coming up behind us” early in the morning, and that is this ZebraLight in the warm white ‘Floody’ version.
It lights up a huge area in front of you without any hot spots, just a solid hemisphere of light. The 18650 batteries on high-high lasts about 2 and a half hours and is beyond bright. The medium power will last you all night, 13 hours and is as bright enough to keep you moving. It can also be programmed with a second high power that can last up to 6 hours and puts out as much light as any good ‘runner’ light. It’s light weight, super durable and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Once you’ve seen it turn night into day you’ll be happy to have it.
Stay on top of your hydration and electrolytes. It can mean the difference between an enjoyable race and a DNF. At no time were we really low energy, my biggest limiting factor was general muscle pain, specifically from my Morton’s Neuroma in my feet and just the constant stress of going up and down hills in my quads.
Gear has been packed, unpacked and verified and repacked. Packing lists confirmed and double confirmed. Nutrition plans have been laid out, prepackaged for each time we pass by a drop bag.
We’ve put in a reasonable amount of time on feet, treading that line between getting better and getting injured.
The weather though has not been cooperating with it raining and raining and more raining. And it’ll be raining off and on over the next umpteen days. So we’re anticipating the track being a slog fest of mud.
Which is only fair, our first 50K was perfect weather so in the interests of there being balance in the runnerverse this would will be hot, humid, muddy and we’ll get drenched.
And you know what, that’s just one of the things you have to come to expect, as they say, you take the good, you take the bad and there you have the facts of running long distances on a regular basis.