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.

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.

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.

Dead Horse Ultra Race Report

So… our first 50K has been achieved and we made the cut offs and weren’t DFL (although it was a close thing)…

This is my Dead Horse Race Report from November 17th 2018:

For the TLDR; visitors:

Everything I liked –

  • Course was well laid out and marked.  If you’re paying attention at all it’s impossible to get off course.  Follow the blue strips and the painted on markers and you’re golden.
  • Course was gorgeous and ‘postcard’ worthy 95% of the trail.  Everywhere you looked, unless you didn’t like rocks, was a great view of Mother Nature in all her rocky glory.
  • Support was good, aid stations were well staffed and stocked with all the things that non-restricted diet ultra runners might need.  If you’re LCHF / Keto / Vegan then you should probably plan for that head of time although there was fresh cooked bacon at two of the aid stations.
  • Moab was a fun little town with some good restaurants and hotels.
  • If you have the time and the extra cash then there are a ton of adventure type places where you can rent bikes, motorcycles, quads, jeeps and hummers to go out and about in the desert either pre or post race.
  • While we didn’t get to do it, there’s a ton of local natural points of interest in the area that could add a lot of value for a lot of folks.
  • They had a medal!  #jewelrycollector

Things were not all gumdrops and puppies –

  • I hate to be even slightly critical of the wonderful folks that volunteer at aid stations, giving up hours of their days for typically nothing in return but smiles and thanks.   But don’t be afraid to jump out there and grab bottles from folks, especially the front packers, that minute or two saved while they get food or hit the bathroom.
  • More portapotties at the aid stations.  I know it seems silly when you’re in a massive desert and you could just go pee anywhere but in this particular instance when they request you do not leave the trail for any reason to avoid damaging the environment more than 1 porta-potty for a set of ultras with 900 runners even with staggered start times causes a backlog on the outbound trip.
  • This isn’t a negative about the race or the support or anything but just be aware that mile upon mile of slick rock is very hard on the body.  If you haven’t trained on road much you’re going to be hurting when you’re done because that rock was….some hard stuff.
  • Paying for race photos.  This is just a pet peeve of mine, I appreciate the cost for the race organizers of hiring a photographer to camp out in the desert for the day taking photos of strangers stumbling by and making this part of the swag.   I get it.  I also though won’t pay $15 for a jpg file or $20 for printed photo.  That’s my personal thing and others I’m sure feel differently.

For those visitors who like long rambling first person reports:

We arrived on Friday morning and the scenery was both gorgeous and a little intimidating.  We passed the staging area on the way from the tiny little airport that services Moab and the area and they had a lot of it already set up, the starting lane, overhead, some tents and etc and there were a fair number of folks working on the rest.   That was a good omen for us.

We spent the day in Moab, shopping for groceries (beets, honey nut cheerios, bananas, chocolate milk, regular milk, sugar Coke etc) and meandering around the place while we waited for our rooms to be ready.

We got into our rooms and unpacked and just had a short wait before we walked over to the arts center where they were doing packet pickup.   We picked up our bibs, timing chips (new thing for us), t-shirts and hat without much fuss.

Ready for anything

Bunny foo foo

Dinner was at Eddie McStiff’s restaurant, a cobb salad for me and a feta salad with grilled salmon for her.  The salads were good, service was great, prices were in line with a tourist town restaurant on the main drag.

Back to the hotel we split up to re-organize our gear, we had to undo our careful packing to comply with certain TSA regulations which in the end they completely ignored and just waved us through on our outbound trip.  Don’t get me started.

We went to sleep early, with limited success on both our parts and were up at 4 the next morning but it was only 5 our body time so it wasn’t as bad as it could be.   This might be a reason to always look West for ultra’s since we get to take advantage of the time zone difference in a good way.

Upon arrival at the race we were happy to see a long line of porta-potty’s, the day before there were only 4 which left us a little concerned about lines.

Here we are.

Our ‘pirate’ outfits immediately drew comments of “I found Waldo…” from folks.  So much for being pirates.

Our gear bags were dropped off in the truck and we waited for the race start.  The race briefing before the race was about the same as every trail race we’ve done, what to do, what not to do, what markings to look for etc.   It was competently done.

Waiting for the start

Right at 7:00 a.m. the race started and we eased out behind most people.  Our plan called for a half K walk to warm up.  I’ve found this helps me mentally and physically on LSD run days to get into the spirit of a really long run.   I’m not sure it’s needed for a race though.

Uphill

The course from the start had a bit of an hill trek to it…

On our first part of the trip we got to talk with a few people briefly and everyone seemed to enjoy our Waldo pirate outfits.  The first mile+ was uphill at a fair clip and then we traveled through a canyon on a dirt/sand road for another mile maybe and then we hooked right off the road and onto the desert rock proper.  We almost missed the turn, not through bad markings but just not paying attention.  A lady behind us who ended up passing us right at the end and finishing ahead of us (bright salmon colored shirt/jacket) kept us from heading off into the distance.

Until the first aid station we were trending uphill and running on a mix of hard packed dirt (like concrete) and desert slick rock (which felt harder than any road I’ve ever run on).    The whole way was nothing but one postcard moment after another.   At any given time there was a gorgeous view in at least 180 degrees around you.  Sometimes there was a hill to your left or right that kept you from seeing what was over there.

Leaving the first aid station we moseyed on to the second.  It was a much larger set up complete with one porta-potty.  Unfortunately the line for said porta-potty was 15 minutes long.  A fair number of folks hadn’t been able to move things along before the race and were having to do it now after 7.5 miles of jostling their insides around.

After finally being able to make room for more water we headed out to the turn around.   This terrain was just more uphill with photo-ops everywhere.  How the lead runners were able to average a 6 minute pace for 50K is beyond me, they had to be literally flying on the back half.  But then I can’t average a 6 minute pace for more than a few hundred yards so maybe it’s just not a big deal for them.

We were getting to the 15 mile turn around right as the first 50 milers were coming through.  They had a 10 mile out and back (20 total) from our turn around, other than that they ran the same course.   So yes, the front pack ran 35 miles with an hours head start in the time it took use to run 15.

We swapped out some gear from our drop bags here.  I dropped my stocking cap and long sleeve shirt as I was getting warm.  I filled up on bacon, cheese quesadillas, coke and cider while waiting for the RW to get ready.   It was about this time that my left knee started having a hissy fit.  We also spent another 15 minutes+ here.

Getting into and out of aid stations is something we’re going to have to work on, we probably spent a good 45-55 minutes total scattered over 5 aid stations.

Long way down…

Because of my foot injuries I was favoring my right leg which pushed my left leg harder and my knee took the brunt of it.  Over the course of the next 15 miles to the finish I would start having more and more difficulty in running and any incline but especially uphill inclines would cause me significant jolts of pain.

On the way back the trail takes you next to the edge of several great drop offs, like a if you fall you not only die but you make a Rorschach pattern when you hit kind of drop off.  The vertigo was real a couple of times edging up to look over.

The back trail while it trended downhill obviously, it had a fair bit more up and down baby inclines which did my knee no good at all.    The distance between aid stations back was also different, I got hit with some bad quad cramps so I was focused on getting by but from what I do remember it was a great section.

Back at aid station 2/4 I was getting worried about my lack of a need to urinate given how much water I was taking in and luckily the one porta-potty was free so I fruitlessly wasted some time in it without any satisfaction so more time added to the clock.

The distance back to aid station 1/5 was deceptively long and I made the assumption it was the same distance as going out so I only had one water bottle.  Bad choice.  Lesson learned, note the distances between AS’s both ways and carry water accordingly.  Things are really starting to fall apart now.  Cramps, swollen feet leading to toe jam forcing me to take my socks off to make some room and knee screaming at me and I was at my limit for pain killer.

RW was a champ though, she got my shoes and socks off and my shoes back on when there was literally no way I’d of been able to do it.  Another 7-8 minutes wasted on this maneuver.

We finally hit a dirt albeit sand road and were off the oh so hard slick rock which lead us to the last aid station.  There a very nice set of volunteers had our bottles filled and us on our way in no time at all leaving us with about 3.5 miles of all uphill followed by all downhill back to the finish line.

This part I won’t lie was torture.   Since it was almost all up or down inclines my knee was being the loudest of the dwarfs Screamy.  I’d “run” a bit till it wouldn’t go any further and then walk.  And by bit I mean maybe 100 yards.

We got through the beautiful canyon section and up on the face of the cliff on the left (on the way back) and the finish line was about 2 miles (best guess) in the distance about equally split between downhill (#ouchmferouch) and a gravel road.

In the videos of this section there will be a fair bit of bleeping to make the video kid friendly.   I sack up and run the last half mile, trying to smile at the folks out watching the 50 miler mid pack start to come through, oh and us and hopefully succeeding although my running form was more a Frankensteinian lurch at this point.  Which some would say it always is.

Achievement Get: 50K

Crossing the finish line without much fanfare we got de-chipped and our medals, picked up our drop bags which were waiting for us and to the car where we enjoyed a bottle of Promised Land full fat chocolate milk and a full sugar Coke that I had to open with the key of the rental car because it was in the old style bottles with a pry off lid.

On the way back to our hotel rooms we started a new segment quite by accident that we’ll calling Runners in Cars After Races or something like that.    I think in a few years when we watch it again we’ll think it’s either hilarious or the most stupid thing in the world to bother video taping.

Afterwards, albeit after a significant PTSD event that was a first for me, we went down to the Moab Diner and split an order of pancakes, eggs, ham, bacon cheeseburger and fries with a side of onion rings.   It was delish.

Livin’ on the Ridge!

Livin’ on the Ridge!

Pacific Coast Trail Runs

60K Race Report
(My apologies to Aerosmith)

Blips in my consciousness:

– It’s 3:30 AM. But at least we’re near the beach?

– We’re all on a school bus (AKA “shuttle to the start”) and someone drops their phone, setting off a cricket sound effect. “So nice to be out in nature,” someone quips. We’re all just awake enough to laugh.

– I’m biologically confused as I swing violently between passing out asleep and snapping awake to nearly vomit. What I get for riding a bus on a windy road in the dark.

– Rush for the accordion door. All of us praying after the 45 min ride that the bathrooms are open. They’re not.

 

The Whole Enchilada today

Consciousness booting…. Please wait….

While we all do our own versions of dances over lack of faculties (and in SF you can get in deep shit – ha ha – if you hit the bushes), the RD jumps up on a nearby park bench and bequeaths that he was going to do the race briefing while we were all a captive audience. As his audience barely holding onto code yellow, we pleadingly look up at him and do our best to be attentive.  [TRex:  RD is Race Director aka the person who gets all the blame when anything goes wrong on a race.]

First thing’s first, the police are on their way to open the restrooms.
Second “thing” was a ball of too much:
1. There was zero fog over the Golden Gate Bridge. We were instructed to enjoy the views but be advised this meant it was going to hit triple digits. We’re looking at you 60K runners.

Official Race Photo

No fog:
“It’s beautiful!” – tourists
“We’re screwed…..” – locals

2. There was a bike race scheduled for the same day on an overlapping course. We were informed not to panic however there were going to be thousands of bikes, non specified type (mountain or road), out there “somewhere” and they were not going to be looking for us and our small event.
3. The markings were out yesterday so they were most likely still there. However we were to be aware that this area has a high level of vandalism and so we had better be familiar with the course. The first stretch towards the Golden Gate Bridge should be the easiest as we “really don’t need the markers, just run towards the bridge. You’ll be fine.” [TRex:  I’ll never understand this.  You can’t get people to clean up their own trash but they’ll gleefully pull up marking tape just to screw with people.]
4. Other stuff I tuned out at that point because the police had arrived.

We all abandon the RD to rush the stalls. We’d been informed we’re going to be running on the sun, while dodging murderous cyclists and were using the Golden Gate Bridge as a landmark to get across the bay then follow markings that are “probably” there to the finish. What else did we need to know?

Official Race Photo

Go towards the light! I mean the Golden Gate Bridge!

Bathroom break over, we all line up and figure out that we’re supposed to go as the front of the pack takes off. That or they were just done standing around and decided we should start.

Thoughts by the Mile

Mile 1 – Made it to the Golden Gate Bridge! And we only had to have one trail running convention to figure out an intersection in getting here. Can I throw up now?

Official Race Photo

Running towards the Bridge

Mile 3 – Wow the Golden Gate Bridge is really this long. Can I throw up now?

Mile 4 – Off the bridge and the view is spectacular. Problem is, the noise isn’t. There’s a runner latched onto me who is doing a damn good impression of Tim from Jurassic Park prattling at Dr. Grant in their first scene. Word score 1,000 him to my 1. I’m still pretty nauseous so probably just as friendly as the the good doctor as all I want to do is slam a door on him. “- I heard that there was this ah, meteor, um, hit the earth. Some place down in Mexico, and made this big crater-…” I use my uphill gear to lose him. Or toss my cookies. Or both.  [Trex:  Neat, an oblique dinosaur reference.]

Will someone get that runner out of the way! She’s ruining the photo!

Mile 6– ‘Look at you eat like a big girl! I’m so proud of you. Yes I am! You ate 1/2 a waffle just like a big girl!’ Great. I’m already having an internal conversation with 1 extra personality that has shown up thus far. I’m thankful it’s the encouraging one instead of an alternative since I needed to figure

out how to eat while still bus sick.

Mile 8 – Rolling into this aid, the race plan of my coach surfaces in my mind again. The goal was to arrive here feeling very fresh, like I had just started. Unfortunately his exact words were, “like you just got off the bus”. No coach no!!! Not like I just got off the bus please…..
In due diligence, I took a PB&J quarter away from the table feeling the plaid start to materialize on my face again. [TRex:  By mile 8 I’m usually feeling like it’s time to head to whatever the local better version of IHOP is.  You know the place, where they have good pancakes and service.]

Mile 10 – The sun starts to take jabs at us as we traverse Miwok. I’ve joked about our fire trails acting like solar panels however this is not far from the truth. There are a couple of outings where I’ve been concerned about burning the underside of my nose as rays ricochet off the ground. I backed it down a little knowing that overheating would keep me from eating too and I’m behind in calories already. While it’s not near that high temp, I knew this was an going to be an inevitable race feature.

Official Race Photo

Ice Princess’ Aid Station

Mile 12 – Bikes! BIKES! Heads up! Fortunately they were on the road and not the trail as we feared and there was a volunteer to cross us to the aid. It seemed like something out of a cartoon stoplight as one direction of traffic halted on a dime (them) while the other (us) floored it. Once safe at the table a running buddy of mine calls for ice. I verbally poke at him saying it’s not THAT hot yet and make mental note to call him Ice Princess next time I see him. We only give crap to those we love. [Trex: Holy Hannah, if I’m ever on a trail with Rabbit I’m in for a seriously hard time.  By mile 12 I’m wearing a bladder filled with ice and pouring ice water on my head _every single chance I get_…]

Mile 14 – “And they died because of the weather. And then my teacher told me about this other book by this guy named Backer, and HE says” – oh fantastic, Tim was back. Good for me (and him) he found others to attach to. I let them go.

Mile 16 – F@#k….. It’s uphill which is usually my forte but lack of fuel had turned my legs to lead. I imagined my central control room with all hands at their stations, the supervisor standing menacingly over the drive control engineer who had their feet up on the console reading a magazine.

Official Race Photo

Heather Cutoff Switchbacks

Not even bothering to look up they drawl,
“I realize what you think we should be doing but the nutrition shipment we were suppose to receive never showed up so you’ll need to get in touch with procurement and work it out with them then we’ll need to process that…”
Smart ass. Who hired that clown? Downgraded to cranky hiking. [Trex: Yay!  We have a same pace, The Cranky Hike!  I wonder if she also has Hongry Shuffle?  (Hot+Angry)]

Mile 20 – Everything in me screeches “No! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Why are you not dropping to the 37K?!?! You’re going the wrong way! The finish is this way! That way is death you imbecile!”
My body somehow walks out of the aid towards the 60K out and back while my soul scrabbles at every rock, tree and trail sign in a futile attempt to stop my forward motion, save my life and get me to run to the finish instead of the required bonus miles.

Mile 21 – The heat and lack of calories finally start breaking me down on a spiritual level. Another movie quote synapse fires randomly as I’m trudging. I hear Ed Harris from Apollo 13, “What have we got on the spacecraft that’s good?” Silence in the control room as everyone looks to anyone else to call out something functioning well. I felt as bodily able as that ship.

Official Race Photo

Using whatever is “good” on the Coastal Trail

Mile 23 – Out in the beating sun. So this is hell. And there are amber waves of grain and a gorgeous sweeping view of the sea 5,000’ below. Damn Marie you’re in a state. Just keep moving.

Mile 25 – See Ken “All Day” getting a heat training run before he sweeps and he gives me the best news all day (pun intended). His wife Karen along with Victor and Lorna are at the turn around and with this news comes internal dedication to get there to see them. I also take note that many times, we know each other by our handles rather than birth names. Kind of like fighter pilots. Yeah, let’s go with that since it sounds cooler than I don’t remember your real full name.

Mile 26 – PSA: Gentlemen of the non-warrior class. If you should choose to court or settle down with a warrior woman, let it be known that she will teach you through eloquent and frequent use, how versatile and comprehensive the word “fuck” is. I meet one of my fellow female warriors and we weave together full sentences, with zero linguistic error, clearly stating the condition we are in, our goals for the near future, our views on global warming as well as whether we feel the left or right Twix are the one true Twix. We are the few, the proud, the sometimes frightening.  [Trex: You know things are going south for me and Bunny when F#ck with varying numbers of !’s trailing it are the first word we use after switching back out of Hongry Shuffle to Lurching Jog modes.]

Official Race Photo

Wheels put back on at turn around.

Mile 27 – Finally to the aid. I’m reminded yet again how much power a smiling face has and here I have 3. Karen, Victor and Lorna are there and putting all of us back on track. Since I’m not crying, bleeding, throwing up, pushing a bone back under skin or holding a limb at an unnatural angle, I’m small potatoes. In under 5 minutes they have me iced, reloaded and aimed back to the former aid station that would now be my gate to the finish. Heat and food or not, they put me back in a good headspace.

Mile 27.5 – “Is it suppose to be this way?!” My new running buddy of 1 mile, Scott, yelps as his eyes bulge out. I look at him in puzzlement as he explains he just had his first ever salt tab but rather than swallowing it, he pushed it between his gums and cheek and let it burst there.

“Uh…. I don’t think so.” I stammer and then explain that I’ve always swallowed them with a little food and liquid. This is quickly followed by a mental scramble as I realize that I’ve never read the directions on how to eat a salt tab “correctly”.* My confidence in my trail running expertise shaken, I make note to not say anything else to hang myself and study up next time I’m around the bottle. [TRex: Folks this is why I switched to the chewable ones, they can go down any way, suck, chew, swallow whole, you pays your money you takes your choice.]

Mile 29 – Encouraging side makes another appearance, “If you can do 28 miles on Priest Rock, with 8,000’+ of vert in over 100 degrees, you can do this!”
Alright! Let’s get this show rolling!

Mile 32 – I come to pass a younger woman who is a fellow 60K runner but clearly lost, walking very slowly and doing her best to win the hide and seek game with course ribbons. I apparently either talk a good game to instill confidence that I know where I’m going, or just look like I do. She follows close to the next turn then I lose her as she slows.

https://rootsrated.com/san-francisco-ca/trail-running/dipsea-trailhead-at-muir-woods-trail-running2

Photo Credit – Becca Fanning

Mile 34 – At the last aid station, as I rally for the last 3M to the finish, a different woman jams right through sans stopping, calling out her number w/ the statement she’s fine and going for broke. My aggressive side’s head snaps around, hissing and bearing syringe teeth fuming over the fact that someone dare pass it. Security flies across my control room, pinning it to the ground while simultaneously whipping out every restraint it has to control the beast. “Oh no, you’re not invited today! Coach said TRAINING RUN! Really, you’re going to show up now?!?! We’re not through at this aid station yet and not chasing anyone down today!
Wait just a damn minute and let me get his ginger ale down.
Heel!
HEEEEEEEEEEL!!!!!!” [TRex:  I have no personal experience with Rabbit’s coach but if her #badassedness is any indication she’s either supremely naturally gifted at running on dirt or her coach knows a thing or two about getting a runner up to their peaks.]

Mile 36 – With the aggressive side successfully mummified in figurative duct tape, I am back to cruising. I pass a family group hiking up through the redwood grove and as soon as the kids on foot spot me, they fall in right behind, running down the trail and yelling gleefully.

Official Race Photo

Almost there…

The one child too small to make it far under their own power, riding in a hiking backpack, starts squealing with delight, smacking their Sherpa’s ears, hair and almost eyes. I’m sure the adults were glad to see me go.

Mile 37 – Dropping off the Dipsea trail I head down the ave to the finish in the Stinson Beach parking lot. Small finish line and welcoming committee complete with cowbells ended the tough grind of a race. The RD came over to congratulate me and it was then I learned that the 60K course only had about 6,000’ of vert rather than the 9,000’ – AKA the reason I registered for this race. I just started laughing hysterically. Of course it wasn’t 9,000’! Because that was the reason I signed up!

Confused the hell out of him…

So what did we learn kids? It’s only a waste of time if nothing is learned.[TRex: and/or you didn’t have fun.]

Finis

1. “Bad” races/runs show you just how strong you are. They make you think on the fly, create and implement new solutions fast, force you to really work for it physically and therefore forge stronger armor. These are the experiences you look back on when something else in life gets rough and say, “I did THAT. I can do THIS.”

2. Heat is still my arch nemesis and today it had lack of fuel to back it up. Pain I can take. Sketchy directions and markings I can figure out. Elevation is my “thing”. Put me in more than 100 degrees and take away food? The machine starts to lose its bolts. Something I need to continue to work on. Or get an air ratchet. 

2. Seeing people I know and who do not judge me by my speed, weight, language, smell (at the time), whatever, can put me back together faster than anything else. They are fuel for the heart and you can’t get that from anywhere.

3. How f*&king fortunate are we to have the OPPORTUNITY to do this stuff? While the large portion of the planet’s population are worried about where or IF they are going to have clean water, a roof over their heads, not have themselves or their families under attack, we’re out PLAYING on the trails. We have nothing to complain about. N_O_T_H_I_N_G.

4. Hang on. I didn’t fall. Not ONCE! So maybe this song isn’t really applicable. Again, my apologies to Aerosmith. 

5. Morning bus rides can kiss my ass. Yes sir.

Photo Credit - Victor Ballesteros

Victor, Lorna, Karen & Ken. Best surprise of the day bar none.

*HA! You had to look down here because you didn’t know either! Go look at the label. I’ll wait…. 😉

Race Report: Tess Trail Run

Today as part of my 10K training I participated in the Tess Charity Run, a run for which the proceeds go to assist battered and abused women in seeking help and counseling.

The race was a 5K trail run that ran over the blue and yellow tracks of Turkey Mountain.   It had a M shape elevation chart with some reasonable technical pieces, mostly the vertical ups and downs.

A smaller turn out, only 81 participants were in the race.   There was also some larger race going on at the same time that probably pulled folks out because a) it was larger and b) it was street.   It’s been my experience and I’m sure everyone’s that trail runs pull quite smaller fields.

I’d like to say I held back knowing this was just the first 5K of the day for me but I ran it about 90% effort.  Enough to place 2nd in my age group but let’s face it, 2nd in your age group when there are 81 total runners isn’t all that.

Let’s just say I finished near the 66 percentile on the wrong side of the halfway point.  There were a fairly good set of speedsters there today with  winner turning in a 22 minute 5K trail run.   We actually picked him out before the race as the person that was going to win, he showed up in racing flats and ran in just a pair of shorts.

But overall I felt decent for the race, running the 5K on trails with a fair bit of vertical 5 minutes slower than my last flat road 5K last week that I ran about 95% effort.

After the race I caught up with a friend who ran it as well albeit faster than me (but a minute slower than my road time) and we went up the hill to do another 5K on the Pink aka Snake Run trail although we cut out that right hand out and back as you’re coming back up on the official Snake Run route which makes it 3.5 miles instead of 3.1.   Leave that short out and back off and it’s almost exactly a 5K.

We had a good time on both the race and the training run afterwards but with only a couple of exceptions I’ve had a good time with races and even those that were ‘bad’ aka my first marathon, Little Rock, my first 25K, Pumpkin’ Holler, my second half marathon, T-Town Half were still not bad.  Yes the last few miles of each one of those was pretty bad but everything leading up them was enjoyable so a few bad miles due to injury, dehydration, whatever isn’t enough to detract from the overall experience.

And if you don’t push right up to and even a bit beyond the breaking point, you won’t ever know what your really capable of.