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.

Rocky Raccoon 50 2019 Race Report

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.

Jazz hands!

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.

There we are

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.

Hydration was a mix of PediaLyte, ElectroRide by Spring Energy, eFuel by CrankSports, Skratch Labs drink mix.

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.

More Jazz Hands!!

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.

Take-aways –

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.

5 Days Out #DUNDUNDUNNNN

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.


2 Weeks from now…

2 weeks from this moment right… now we’ll be 7 hours and 39 minutes into our first 50 mile run at Rocky Raccoon 50. It won’t be the longest time we’ve run although hopefully it’ll be the longest distance we’ll have run.

We’ve taken this last few days after our 2nd 50K off to recover although we both did a bit of work right before this post. Bunny did some trail work and I did hill repeats and some road work. It’s obvious to me from the hills that I’m not 100% recovered from the 50K but that’s not unexpected and it’s why there is such a thing as a taper period before a long race.

We’re still playing fine tuning with our plans for the race although mostly I think of something and find out that Bunny has already thought of it and made plans. Case in point today I decided it might not be a bad idea to have some small cans of sugared, caffeined, soda in our drop bags just in case the AS’s don’t have or have run out by the time we swing through. I text her and of course she already thought of that and has already bought them.

So having a Uber Planner for a running partner is a giant bonus towards our success on our journey toward our ultimate goals.

Speaking of ultimate goals this week I’ve decided that my target goal right now is a sub 24 hour 100 mile race. For me that’s going to require a perfection of training, hydration, nutrition, weather, course and a fair bit of luck. And of course some crew help.

For whatever reason Rabbit has proclaimed she will crew for me. She’s an very experience ultra runner and experienced at managing a crew and running a crew so making sure she’s there will go a long way toward letting me reach that goal. Having her waiting in the AS’s and Bunny on the trail makes me think I have a fair chance of accomplishing that goal.


Spring Energy fuel results

We successfully used Spring Energy gels and drink mix to finish our 2nd 50K in good shape nutrition and hydration wise.

We both had a plan based on the fuels we had, while similar wasn’t exact. At the high level nutrition consisted of primarily Long Haul and Canaberry with the occasional Hill Aide, Power Boost and McRaecovery. This was supplimented with a little candied ginger, a Skratch bar and granola bar for me, some Miur gels and Justin’s PB for Bunny.

I find I don’t care for the Hill Aide much, it’s not gag worthy but it’s also not something I’ll look forward to but the quicker energy and caffeine boost was appreciated. The other Spring energy flavors aren’t bad. They’re about on order of baby food in terms of enticing’ness. Just a little bland and short on flavor for an adult palette.

But over the course of the 50K the one gel every 30(ish) minutes and one bottle of water kept my energy levels stable and even keeled for the entire race. My aches and pains were the primary reason I was glad to see the race end, not hitting up against a wall of lack of energy.

They’re certainly not cheap, standing out as pricey amongst running nutrition but there are a number of coupons available that will knock up to 20% off the price bringing them more in line with other gels or at least less egregiously overpriced.

Go Short, Go Long, Go Very Long Race Report

Yesterday we did our last long run before our debut at Rocky Raccoon 50 mile in 3 weeks. We really couldn’t have picked a worse day to have a race. The weather on Friday was 50-60 and no wind, the weather today is clear and no wind although cold. The weather on Saturday was 20’s with 20mph winds gusting to 40mph.

I won’t lie the headwind was real and when we had to cut across it it was worse. A 3/4 angle 40mph gusting in the face as we determined is just more horrible than it bashing you straight on in the face.

The race got off without any issues, we started out doing our planned Rocky pacing which over time proved to be just a little slow for our legs. About 5-8 miles in we ended up going about 30 seconds per mile faster than we’re shooting for for Rocky. This continued over the course of the entire 31 miles.

Due to the cold not everyone showed up we’re guessing and of those that showed up it’s possible a few decided not to go back out on the second lap. In the end only 32 people crossed the finish line the second time to clock in the full 50K.

Support was typical for a street race held by FleetFeet but again the cold cut the number of volunteers down to the barest of bare minimums for lap 1. We’d like to offer our most heartfelt thank you for the few brave souls who came out to support the runners, you’re always appreciated from the bottom of ours and every runners hearts.

3 or 4 miles from the end of lap 2 we started to see groups of 25K runners ahead even with the 8 minute resupply we did from our own car based aid station and some 2 and 3 minute potty breaks. At this point my competitive streak, not very wide but sometimes pointy, kicked in and we kicked the pace up by a couple of minutes per mile and skipped our breaks to reel the runners ahead one by one, group by group. Not the wisest of things to do on a training run but it proved we were capable of doing it and pushed us a bit which with the 3 week taper coming up should in the end make us stronger for Rocky.

For lap 2 it got pretty lonely out there with all but 1 of the aid stations deserted when we came through with no one in sight or possibly trying to warm up in their cars. But there was water and some pretzels and granola bars at each one when we needed them. A trail ultra with fresh cooked bacon and quesadillas it was not but it also doesn’t cost as much as a trail ultra so one can’t complain too much.

Our pacing and plan showed its value as we continued to reel in a few 50K’ers catching up and passing another 5 or 6 who’d started out good but burned out by mile 20-25. In fairness the cold and wind was just miserable. We know of at least one person who seems to have dropped around 40k, at least they didn’t have a finish time.

Tim, the owner of the local FleetFeets, was there along with a helper till the bitterly cold end to greet Bunny and myself as we crossed the finish line for lap 2 completing our second 50K. Even announcing us over the PA system even though there was literally no one else around to hear it. He gave us our medals and as it turned out we placed in our age groups so we got a race logo’d coffee cup as well.

Finishing long distance races with little fanfare and zero crowds or cheering is something we’re used to and will always have waiting for us. We’re never going to be in the front pack where the excitement is. But we run for us (and the medals) not for having a crowd of strangers applauding our showing up at the end of a race. 🙂

Overall it was a good race/run. We cut almost an hour and a half off our 50k PR and half an hour off our trail marathon PR. We proved to ourselves our race plan works. We determined that Spring Energy fuels work for us without any bad side effects and that our fueling and hydration plan worked.

Now just to do it again + 19 miles at Rocky on Feb 9th 2019.

Pacing

One thing I’ve had major issues with so far in marathon and longer distances is pacing. My ass writes checks my legs can’t cash basically. Each run over 20 miles my resource problem has been my legs. If it’s not blowing out my quads then it’s my calves going to Crampington and more worrisome with the 50K it was my knees.

Because of the foot problems I’ve been having it’s throwing off my gait which is stressing my other joints like my knees. At least I hope that’s what it is. They’ve been slow to recover for sure.

TLDR;

Anyway one of the things I’ve been trying to work on is coming up with pacing that will let us finish 50 miles in some reasonable pretense of being healthy at the end of it.

Once I ‘go long’ I invariably go out too fast which kills me in the end game. So I’m trying to be a little smarter about it.

We finished a 30K run two weekends back and it wasn’t too bad. We hit every run and walk segment at the pace I was shooting for. I’m not sure I had another 50k in me at that pace though. Okay let’s be honest I’m pretty sure I didn’t have another 50K in me.

Last weekend we did a 40K and I was good up till mile 22 or so and then fell over a bit but we were hitting the runs faster than I plan on doing a 50 mile. I was kind of wanting to see how it went.

I’ve taken the last 4 days off with some gym work only. The tendons behind my knees continue to bother me and be a worry for going long.

I’m going to alter my plan for Rocky as a result to have a longer recovery every 3 runs instead of 5 runs. It shouldn’t cut our overall pace significantly but I think it’ll help push the crash and burn point further out.

Rocky Raccoon 50 2019 Route

Using the heat map function and some freehand pathing I re-created the Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile route for 2019 in Garmin’s route app.

Rocky 50

You can find it over here. It’s not 100% accurate to the published route, at least I only have 24.86 miles and the actual route is measured at a hair over 50 miles for 2 laps. So I’m a quarter short give or take over 50 miles.

But it should be ‘good enough’ for following or just looking at the vertical. Per Google elevation data there’s only 900′ of vertical per lap. Which is practically flat. We did 25 miles this last weekend with 1800 total vertical and while it was rollers none of it was badly sloped.

One of the things I realized when I was charting this is that when given the option to turn, always turn left and when you can’t turn left go straight. This only applies to the T junction with the out and back to Gate that you don’t do on the way back. So if you consider Farside as the turn around then the route is somewhat shorter on the way back than the way out. So that’s a plus I think.

We’re down to 4 Weeks (plus a day) before we load up the truck and head down to see if we can finish a 50 miler in less than the time allotted.

For this honestly my current target goal is 14 hours for various reasons. I think it’s pessimistic I’d like to do it in under 12 but I’d rather be short than long of my goal.

Spring Fueling

Although it’s kind of late in the game we’re trying out Spring energy fuel/food as one source of fueling for our first 50 mile race. It was highly recommended by Ginger Runner and overall he and I tend to like the same things. We have the same opinion on the shoes we have in common, the hydration vests etc.

I know the age old wisdom don’t change anything pre-race but we’re 6 weeks out and we have time to test this option out and make sure it agrees with us physically and mentally.

Spring energy gels are ‘real food’ and not just an assortment of sugars. Now I, so far with 2500 miles under my belt and in my belly, get along with pretty much anything. I’ve not done extremes like cake icing and Coke but I’ve tried a vast assortment of fuels out there from Gu’s pure sugar to cheese Quesadillas real food and none of them had disagreed with me in terms of digestion. There are a number that I don’t care for in terms of flavor or texture but I’ve eaten them all without a problem. I’ve also consumed loads of ‘real’ food on long runs and races without any problems.

Spring gels fall into the “let’s take real food and turn it into baby food” in a lot of ways. The primary ingredients are basmati rice, bananas and then some variety of add ons such as coconut oil, coconut water, fruits, peanut butter, honey, chia seeds, citrus and so on.

They have a system for fueling. Pretty much all other fuels I’m aware of in gel format and frankly most of the bar types like Picky and RX are the same basic blends but different flavors. And for some, the ones based on date puree the flavors are so close together for me because they’re all very ‘datey’ that they might as well be the same.

Spring has 5 types of fuel each in one flavor and one drink mix to supplement those. Each type is aimed at one type of output. Pre-race or when you need a boost, long slow burn, caffeine laced for a bit of pep up, recovery etc.

It’s certainly an interesting approach. Flavor wise they’re okay to me. The most popular one, Canaberry so named after Sage Canaday and Strawberries isn’t super fruity to me. It tastes like what it is, pureed rice and banana with some natural sweeteners and a hint of strawberry.

I think because they’re kind of bland they may agree with most but I doubt few will actively look forward to them? There’s not going to be a “Yay! It’s been 30 minutes time for another of those delicious yummy gels.” for me at least.

One thing with the Spring fuels though is IMO you really have to make sure you’re consuming enough electrolytes. Their system is balanced and includes their drink mix (which is a peculiar blend of flavors, I’m not yet sure if I like it or I can tolerate it). If you just use the fuels and you’re not ingesting electrolytes some other way then you’re risking getting out of whack on basics.

I plan on using their hydration but I’ll be rotating it with Ultima (Lemondate and Pomegranate) and PediaLyte (Orange) as I like those flavors and feel the mixing things up will help over 50 miles.


What does it take to try a 50 mile race?

Running 50 miles or rather traveling 50 miles on foot in one stretch with a fixed time limit is rather daunting to some, most, all but a few? Take your pick on that answer.

My wife tells me I’m crazy each time I set a new distance goal. And I’m doing it to myself every time I come home showing my true age from some long run or back to back long runs.

And maybe you do have to be a bit crazy to keep setting these kinds of goals for yourself. Everyone has to make their own determination as to what at any given point is a major goal in their lives. Because I don’t believe 99% of us can pick ultra marathon distances as a minor goal. The sheer amount of time on feet if nothing else to train the body to be able to sustain the abuse of a 50 miler, 100k, 100 miler and beyond for most of us makes it a major investment of our available time.

And you can’t even say it’s a cheap sport. Running can be a cheap sport if you’re doing shorter more ‘normal’ distances. A few miles a few times a week to try and stay in shape. You can do that in any pair of shoes, in cotton shirts and socks without any other gear than maybe a bottle of water in the summer time.

But once you reach the point where you’re running for hours on end multiple times a week then the gear costs creep up. Shoes wear out every couple of months and the wrong shoes lead to injury.

So cheap it isn’t.

Reaching this point where I’m going to attempt my first and hopefully not last 50 mile race over the last 2 years I’ll have put in a little over 3000 miles. I’ll have logged a little over 700 hours of on my feet time. 700 hours… That’s the equivalent of running 29 days 24 hours a day. Plus a little extra. It breaks down to about an hour a day unless you count travel time and then it’s more like 1.5 hours a day. So of the past 24 months I’ve given up one full months worth.

I’ve gone through 15 pairs of shoes, granted some didn’t last long because in the end we weren’t compatible for each other for the long haul and they were delegated to every day wear or boxed up in case of a zombie apocalypse. Or just being too broke to buy new ones.

I’ll have burned roughly 500,000 calories. Half a million calories or roughly 1800 standard sized Snicker’s bars. Half a million calories sounds like a lot more than 1800 candy bars but the math is what it is.

So to sum up, for me, what does it take to try your first 50 mile race?

  • 4+ runs a week
  • 15 pairs of shoes
  • 53 races of everything from 5k’s to 50k’s
  • 700+ hours of running
  • 3000+ miles of running
  • 500,000+ calories

Seems like a lot to ‘just’ do 50 miles.