Kansas Rails To Trails Race Report

AKA how to not finish a 100. Long story short, we DNF’d. Read below for more details of the race, our race and the gear used –

The Race review (nothing personal) – It’s a well run race, with sufficient manned and unmanned aid stations. The course is easily runnable by anyone, the surface is probably 98% packed gravel (almost old asphalt like in some sections) with some paved areas in the towns and where the path weaves under the highway from time to time. The trail won’t slow you down.

Check in, packet pickup was done smoothly and well, no major roadblocks there. The pasta dinner was plentiful although not gourmet but sitting and talking to other runners over some canned sauce is worth the price of admission and then some. There were a lot of ‘firsts’ there. One couple we talked to, the woman had to drop from the hundred due to being pregnant and her and her S.O. were just going to walk up out to the turn around for one of the short distances, have lunch in the town and then walk back. Bravo for her for making that choice and him for supporting it.

Drop bags made it without issue to the locations we had ours, no complaints. It’s possible to have a drop bag at every manned station which isn’t something we’ve personally seen before. We just had 2 bags, one for the 25/75 station and one at the turn around.

The scenery is… Kansas. After the first mile you’ve seen all the variety you’re going to see. There are sections where the trail bed drops off fairly sharply on one side or the other so some level of care should be taken to stay between the lines but the path is 6 to 8 feet wide for all of the route.

It’s important to note that the outbound 51 miles is where most of the 1100 vertical contained. You’re almost constantly going up hill even if it’s only slightly so the first half + of the race.

The aid stations were reasonably well stocked and included the typical options. The second aid station had figured out exactly the best way to offer raman. Cook the noodles and strain and portion them out into cups and keep the broth heating separately. When you take some, add some broth back to the noodles and they’re the perfect temperature and not so overcooked they’re like mush. I wish and hope that other RD’s will pass this on to all their AS’s and each other.

The volunteers were on par with any other ultra we’ve run although I’d like to call out the two volunteers at Richmond trail head who were there when I staggered in 2 minutes before the cut off. The only way they could have been more helpful was to craft a palanquin out of the picnic table I was flattened out on and carried me to the next aid station on their shoulders. I didn’t get a chance to catch their names but they were outstanding in their care, their courtesy and their “the next cutoff is going to be tight, you should probably be moving” encouragement after I’d been laying there all of 2 minutes. We love it when the volunteers are obviously either runners themselves or they’ve crewed runners before and are aware of the technical parts of ultra running, not just how to make you feel welcome and get you food and fluids.

There are bathrooms at the manned aid stations except perhaps the most critical one, the 51.2 mile turn around. There are no public bathrooms here and there were no porta-potties. While it’s quite possible there are ordinances preventing placing porta-potties in a park this lack was noticed. Especially for those who were replacing everything to deal with the upcoming drop in temps for the night.

There was sufficient water at the water stops. I do have a trivial to most, kind of a pain for me, complaint in that most if not all of the water jugs used for the unmanned water stops were filled from a garden hose. They all had that “it’s hot mowing out here, I’m just going to take a drink from the hose that’s been laying in the sun, oh my that’s nasty” taste. For whatever reason I really do not like the taste of hose water so this was an ongoing problem for me. It wasn’t super impactful just kept me going ‘yuck’ every time I drank it. After awhile I’d keep one bottle in reserve of good water obtained from the manned stops to reduce the amount of rubber water I was drinking.

So if you’re looking for a 100 mile course as a first time course or just a affirmation race after a DNF of a more technical one, the Kansas Rails to Trails / Prairie Spirit has no serious downside other than it’s not a ‘destination race’. You won’t be presented with some grand vistas or gorgeous waterfalls or painted rocks. But if you just want to endure a 100 mile race at an easier pace than is required for a lot of them or just want to PR that bitch of a distance then give it a shot.

Now let’s get personal –

3 days ago we DNF’d our first attempt at a 100 miles. This was at the Kansas Rails to Trails 100 Mile Race as it’s known in the fall. The same race occurs in the spring as Prairie Spirit 100 Mile Race. Different buckles, same everything else.

Bunny and I have spent the last year training for this race. We did the miles, 1100ish this year , we worked out nutrition and hydration, gear selections. We put in the sprints, the hills, the tempo runs, the back to backs, the overnights, the long runs, the short runs. 2 days a week at the gym for strength training. We ran our first 50 mile race this year, our first 24 hour race, my first triple back to back to back race weekend. A lot of miles, gallons upon gallons of sweat, and a whole of time going over the same local running paths and trails.

And we went into this race feeling we were ready. My primary concern going into it was sticking with the pace plan to get us to the first of many cut offs at the turn around at mile 51.2. I created a pacing chart that I had every expectation would see us finishing with an easy pace but plenty of cushioning to not have to worry about cut offs. We have Snowdrop 55 coming up in 2 months and I didn’t want a lot of recovery time so we could use this more as a training run than a finishing run. I was honestly expecting to finish in around 27-28 hours and enjoying the experience as much one can enjoy this ridiculous sport we claim to enjoy.

And up till the turn around we did accomplish these goals without any issues. We ‘stuck the landing’ on the turn around precisely on point and still feeling pretty good about things with a projected finish time of 27 hours. I was dealing with some food issues, too many calories too early that were sitting in my stomach and refusing to either get digested or come back out.

I had a minor problem really from mile 30 onward I primarily subsisted on water, saltstick chews, hammer endurolyte extremes and candied ginger. At the AS’s I would add some calories, not a lot but enough to keep things in the processing pipeline while waiting for that lump of lead homemade goodness of pumpkin bread and cookies to get processed. I kept it to no more than half a baby potato dipped in salt or 4 chips or a half cup of the raman broth. There wasn’t really any time during this nutrition shortage that I felt short on nutrition, my fat burning was taking care of energy needs.

Even with that, we ran our 2nd fastest Marathon distance and our fastest 50 mile distance in the first half of this race. So that to me validates our training if nothing else. We’re getting better.

Around mile 60-65 things started to clear up digestion wise, the backlog of calories was moving through. But that’s when, figuratively thankfully, “shit happens”. At the 51 mile turn around I picked up poles to use. My thought was these would transfer a minor bit of effort from the legs to the upper torso during the walk segments. We’ve used them for ascents and descents before and the back 25 miles of the ROcky 50 without any problems.

I thought the poles were safe…

What I believe in hindsight that they did was also transfer a minor bit of stress to my lower back. By mile 65 my back was hurting. As both a tall and sideways big ass runner my whole life living in an average sized world I’ve had back problems. By mile 75 my lower back was excruciatingly painful. I couldn’t straighten up at this point without external assistance in the form of a wall or floor. I would take the occasional opportunity to lay flat on a bench when we passed one to give it small break but the relief this was getting me lasted for shorter and shorter time frames until eventually I’d literally just stumble/slam into the side of a bridge or one of the entry barriers and hang off it for a few moments trying to straighten and get even a second’s relief.

Without any risk of exaggeration this was some level 10 pain that I endured for several hours. But as long as we had a shot at making the cutoffs there wasn’t any chance I was going to stop, too much, too far to get to this point. That’s not to make me sound like a bad ass, I’m not, I can just tolerate pain when the potential reward is worth it, I take a couple of aspirin for a minor headache like everyone else. But I was literally throwing a pharmacy at this pain and it wasn’t touching it. A smorgasbord of over the counter, hard core prescription pain relief and muscle relaxers (all legally obtained and prescribed), didn’t even dent it.

And yes I know you shouldn’t do this, that you can dull pain to the point of real injury, even permanent injury, let’s all agree this is bad and not something anyone should ever do.

Bunny was having to act as a human bumper to keep me from going off the path. If you’ve never run this trail there are sections with a fairly sharp, fairly deep drop off on one side or the other at times and she’d get between me and the edge and bump or pull me back toward the center of the track. I was unable to move in a straight line, what would have happened if she hadn’t of been there… well it might have gotten ugly to say the least.

While that may not sound like much, I outweigh her by 80 lbs at least. And she was putting in every mile, every hour I was and carrying just as much gear. So keeping me from going off the rails wasn’t an insignificant task.

I’ll stop here to say that guys and gals, if you get lucky enough to find a ultra running partner who you can depend on through good and bad times, who is there every step of the way make sure you fully appreciate just how lucky you are. Finding someone to pace you that last 25 miles is hard enough, finding someone to run at your side for a 100 miles, to give you the freedom to push yourself to the point of destruction by taking on the burden of ‘keeping you between the lines’ is unbelievably rare.

At 26 hours, 46 minutes we were still 2 miles short of the last cut off. I’ve never run a 6 minute mile in life much less 2 of them back to back at miles 92-93. I knew we were done and with that realization I knew I could not go another step forward without going face down, my arms were toast from trying to support my torso for so long and my lower back and down into my glutes and hip stabilizers was a black hole going nova of pain (or for the nerds it felt like what I imagine is the end result of putting a bag of holding into a dimensional hole) so I went down intentionally to lay on my back on the trail to find some relief so we could finish that last 2 miles where the only thing waiting us was to get pulled for time. And the worst part? We were still on pace to finish the race in about 29:30, it’s just that last cut off killed any chances of getting to use the last 3 hours to finish.

A law enforcement vehicle had been running drag on us, stopping at each crossroads to pick up the water jugs at the unmanned stops as as everyone behind us had either dropped prior or been pulled at the last check point. He was kind enough to cut the misery short by a bit and took us into Princeton and checked us in then dropped us off at the start. Bunny arranged for that, it is just a haze of pain for me. If I’d of been clear minded my own stubborn pride to the point of stupidity would have stepped in and said, no I’m going to keep walking till they pull my stupid dying ass off the course but I wasn’t quite of sound mind at that point.

I can’t say I’m not disappointed in that my mistakes cost Bunny her first buckle and to a lesser extent me as well. I can say I put everything I had into that run and pushed through more than I thought I could, and I think highly of myself, so that’s something. At no point did the thought of dropping out or calling it quits enter my head and that’s something even more.

I can say we’ve already micro-analyzed the race, the obvious and non-obvious mistakes, the moving versus non-moving time, what we can do to fix those problems so that at the next race we reduce the wrong and increase the right.

Ultimately this failure is just the first. There may be more failures, RNGesus with the weather, terrain, mistakes will factor in that result ratio, but there will 100% be more attempts.

Technical stuff –

For this race I carried the following things, not everything was used. Each entry has a note of some kind indicating my thoughts on it’s usefulness or ability to do what I asked of it –

Clothing:

  • Altra Trail Shorts 2.0 – No longer made which is a damn shame. The best shorts I’ve found for me. When mine wear out it’s going to be a sorry ass day, literally. Wore these the entire run. No chafing.
  • REI Quarter Zip – No longer made (see above). Super soft hand, lightweight, wicking, drying. The perfect long sleeve shirt.
  • Under Armor Cold Gear Shirt – Perfect weight for the night time run, was able to get by with just this and a vest.
  • Brooks Thermal Cascadia Vest – Used this during the night when temps dropped into the low 40’s to high 30’s. Combined with the UA shirt was perfectly comfortable.
  • Injinji medium weight trail crew socks first layer, Balega no show medium weight outer layer – Went with two pair of socks for cushion value. They DID NOT prevent blistering on the outer sides of heels from all the walking we ended up doing. I do not normally get blisters except on stupid long runs when I end up doing a lot of walking and then it’s on the outside of my heels where there’s more rubbing due to heel striking.
  • Buff – Standard buff, used during the night worn on the neck.
  • Halo head wrap – Love these for their ability to keep sweat out of my eyes. That weird rubber band thing actually works as I have some old ones the rubber band has come off and I get sweat in my eyes if I wear those.

Shoes –

  • Altra Olympus 3.5 x 3 – I started in a size 13 which is my nominal size then switched to size 14’s at mile 25 and mile 50. The thought was to have as much cushion as possible for my feet and it worked out well for me.

Misc Gear –

  • Squirrels Nut Butter – Liberally applied at race start at every possible chafing location. No chafing as a result. Previous winner was Trail Toes but I’ve found SNB to be better for me personally although it doesn’t do well in the cold as it gets rock hard in the jar so carry it in a small zip lock on your person if you need to apply during a race so it stays warm.
  • Salomon 2019 12L vest – First time wearing this for an ultra race. In my opinion of the vests I’ve used it has the best and most efficient layout of storage spaces. If you can’t get everything you need in this thing then you’re running for days, not hours. Almost everything is very well thought out for my needs. My biggest gripe is the strap system to fasten it on but then I have this same complaint about most vests. Only the Nathan’s get it right and have clasps that are as easy to use when you start as when you’re staggering after 25 hours of running.
  • Paria Outdoor Products – collapsible carbon poles. I’ve put a fair number of miles on these poles and while I directly attribute them as the cause of my DNF for this particular race it is NOT for any fault of the poles, just my lack of training with them over long flat distances.
  • Trekz Titanium Headphones – Carried but never used. When I wanted music I just played it on the speaker of my phone for both Bunny and I to share. Still enjoy them.
  • Pixel 2XL – Carried to enable live track so friends and family could keep track of us. Found out the hard way that live track only lasts for 24 hours. So much for that. Also used for music which sounds good enough for phone.
  • Zebra headlight – H600FW to be exact. This light lasted the first hour+ of the race and then about 8 hours of the night on the same battery on medium. It puts out a metric crapton wave of floody light in front of you at this light setting and weighs virtually nothing and comes with a very comfortable head strap. It’s not a ‘runners’ light, it’s more of a hunting / tactical quality light which is why I think it works so well. It’ll go a couple or three hours on high and you’ll light up the immediate area like a car would. Highly recommended. If you want a long throw then get a different model though, i prefer to see everything in a hemisphere around me for 50 yards than a narrow beam for 150 yards.
  • Goodr BFG Sunglasses – Very overpriced for the quality but they get the job done and if you drop them on a rocky section and scratch the crap out of them you’re only mildly annoyed rather than going “!(@&)&!%##!! that’s $150 down the toilet!!!!111!” that you might do for any of the higher end sun glasses. I consider them disposable and if I get a year+ out of them before they get scratched up then they served their purpose.
  • Stryd Foot Pod – No better device for accuracy for distance and speed. Downside is the battery only lasts about 14-15 hours so you will have to recharge or use an alternate method.
  • Garmin Fenix 6X – No better watch ecosystem for me and the way I run and train. The current iteration, the 6 series will give you second by second GPS for up to 60+ hours. (note live track burns into this by a fair bit). If you need more than 60 hours of continuous GPS tracking without having any downtime to throw the watch on a charger then you’re beast mode and probably don’t need GPS.

Nutrition –

Note not all of this was used this race but it has been used at some points and tested well with us –

  • NB&J sandwiches – specifically Cashew butter + high end jam + banana + honey + maple syrup + salt on potato bread. These turned out to be the best options of the various PB&J’s we tested.
  • Candied / Crystalized Ginger – Eat a piece with every fueling to enjoy less stomach distress and get some spicy tasty calories.
  • EFS Fuel – A high potency drink mix of all the electrolytes, BCAA’s and other things you’re burning through. Best flavor is the fruit punch in our opinion.
  • PediaLyte – Doesn’t have everything you need but sometimes you just want to hydrate and this does the trick and with a flavor profile tailored to appeal to people who aren’t currently feeling their very best.
  • Strawberry Newtons – Good but not sure I’d take them again, they ended up tasting too sweet oddly enough during the run.
  • Peanut Butter M&M’s – Usually highly tasty but like the newtons they ended too sweet, won’t take again.
  • Stinger Waffles / Stroupwaffles (generic) – Were eaten during the run, not critical but does provide variety.
  • Cliff Nut Filled bars – Only had 1 out of 4 and only half of that one. Decided they’re good for a short run but too heavy for a long run. Won’t bother with them again.
  • Ensure Enliven – Used these 3 times for a heavy hit of calories and electrolytes and fluid replacement. Not great warm. I’ve used these twice now on runs of 80+ miles and for me they seem to work well. Bunny doesn’t get along with them as much, too many calories in one sitting.
  • And lastly at the Aid Stations I primarily had small amounts of boiled potatoes liberally smushed into salt, ramen broth (fluids, salt and warmth), potato chips (no more than 4) and never all of that at the same time.

How not to run 100 miles

While some of this information applies to a race of any distance I’m going to focus on 100 miles as that’s what Bunny and I are currently training for.

If you read race reports of 100 mile races then you’re probably aware of this recurring theme (actual paraphrased quotes below since I don’t have permission to repost)

“…started out possibly too fast sticking with the lead pack… around mile 50 started having GI issues and couldn’t keep anything down, pace was down to 13 minute miles… by mile 75 I was down to 18 minute miles… mile 90 and the death march had set it and I was lucky to do 30minute miles”

“…started out aggressive, trying to bank time… things went sideways at mile 47… started having to stop and rest every few miles… barely made the cutoffs at the last aid station…”

“…held off on hydration and fueling for the first 20 miles trying to avoid wasting time in the aid stations… bonked hard by mile 40… dropped at mile 73…”

I literally just watched yet another video by a runner doing his or her first 100 mile race. He burned through the first 25 miles in under 5 hours. Then the GI problems started before the turn around and he barely made the finish line before the cut off as a result.

It’s my 110% firm belief that most ultra runners who post race reports and most of the ones I’ve talked to do not have a pace plan. This is anecdotal obviously. Most ‘just run by feel’.

While I believe there are a number of good runners who can do this, I do not believe the majority can do this, especially for their first serious ultra marathon. They run way too fast, out of inexperience with the 100 mile distances or out of ego or out of race jitters or out of ‘this is how fast I run my 20 and 30 mile training runs’.

It’s taken me the last 2 years to figure this out for me personally. Like most I let my ego write checks my legs couldn’t cash. I train at 11 minute miles so I should race at 10:30’s. Then I crash and burned like most race reports… report.

I put my painfully earned experience from our earlier ultra’s to use at our first 24 hour race and for the first time in an ultra I was able to maintain a consistent pacing from start to finish. This went a long way for me to validate both my pace plan and my thoughts on pacing.

As it happened Bob Stearns was also at that 24 hour race and as a result of his machine like pacing I googled him and found out in some circles he’s called “The King of Pacing” and has extremely in depth and well planned pace charts that’s taken him out to 200+ miles.

This just added more validation I think to my way of thinking.

The reason pacing is everything in an 100 mile race is once you get behind the 8 ball, once you get into a deficit it’s extremely hard to come back.

A compatible and individualized pace plan for a given runner will always feel too slow at the race start. But that pacing is critical. A runner needs time to process calories both ingested and converting fat to fuel. A runner needs time to process lactic acids and flush them out of the system. A runner needs time to process fluids to replace those lost in sweat and urine.

Without that time a runner will start running a calorie, fluid and fatigue deficit which will end badly usually. GI issues will come up and ingested items will start coming out whatever the nearest orifice is, not to be gross. Muscles will get overstressed and fatigued leading to an inability to run and navigate technical terrain. Nerves will get overstressed and start firing erratically leading to race killing cramps.

Pacing, pacing, pacing, it’s what will get a runner to the finish line, strong, in the fastest possible time, with the least risk of injury to body and health.

Pacing in fueling – A runner should start consuming calories a couple of hours pre-race and continue to consume between 200 and 350 calories an hour. The average person can process, convert ingested calories to fuel, on the order of about 250 calories an hour. Any more calories than that will start to pile up in the digestive tract leading to the dreaded GI issues as the body has very good systems to deal with excess while under high activity. i.e. you’ll start puking it out.

It’s important to note that obviously you’re burning far more than 250 calories an hour. Don’t worry, your body will start converting all that fat you’re carrying into fuel. But this requires some resources, it requires extra water, blood and energy. If you’re at the ragged edge of your abilities the body doesn’t have these to spare. And you bonk.

It’s also important to note that the brain/central nervous system runs on carbs. So during an ultra most runners, even keto/fasted/fat based runners, should focus on ingesting carbs, these are what your brain and twitch reflexes are going to be short on.

Anecdotal: I knew from training runs and our ultra races that I can process about 300-350 calories an hour safely and over our 24 hour race I stuck with this for all but the last few hours where I started increasing my intake as it was looking close to whether I’d hit my goal mileage or not. As a result I was fine for the first 21 hours. Then I started getting that bloated, sluggish, ‘thanksgiving dinner’ feeling. The extra calories hurt, not helped my performance.

Pacing in hydration – This is more individualized. On a summer run I consume between 20 and 32 oz an hour. And still lose up to a lb an hour. But stay on top of it. The early stages of dehydration have no real symptoms or feelings other than your performance will start to decrease. As the imbalance gets worse the body will start pulling water everywhere it can and the biggest source is the blood. Which unsurprisingly is a big performance hit.

Monitor your urine output and color. If it’s infrequent and dark, you’re not drinking enough. If it’s very frequent and colorless, you’re drinking too much and are potentially diluting your electrolytes to a dangerous degree. These are basic rules of thumb and subject to the individual.

If you start to pee and it’s the color of Coke, then you’re in a potentially serious situation and should consult with the medical staff at the aid stations. They will likely pull you as Rhabomylosis can be very dangerous and I speak from personal experience.

Pacing in speed – This may not be easily possible to figure out without running stupid long distances. It’s a safe bet it’s going to be 90 seconds to a 2 minutes slower than the 30 mile training pace for large number of runners especially newer ultra runners. I know it wasn’t until we’d run several ultra distances, 4 50K’s and a 50mile that I ended up with a good handle on what might be the best pacing for us for 100 miles.

I know from own training and racing that a 100 mile pace plan feels crazy slow at the race start. You want to be out there, you don’t want ‘that guy’ beating you off the line, it’s his first 100 for goodness sake. But it’s sticking with that pace plan, regardless of how ‘awesome, full of energy, great’ you feel at the start of the race that will have you reeling all those people who blew out and blew up later on down the road. Sticking with the pace plan is how you’ll PR your times while at the same time enjoy the race instead of it being a miserable trudgefest of pain, fatigue and projectile vomiting.

At least that’s my thoughts on the subject.

Countdown Clocks

Snowdrop 55 Hour Endurance


Prairie Grudge Match

The Genesis issue

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…

Snowdrop 2019

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.

The Goal

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.

Rails To Trails 100 2019

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.


TANSTAFL – aka The Price We Pay To Run

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.

TANSTAFL

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.

LOHTSE 24 Hour Endurance Race Review

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.

Things were still looking up at this point…

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.

Post Oak Triple 2019 Race Report

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.

The mud was fun…. the first 20 miles.

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.