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.

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.

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.

Running in Cars

This is a new bit I thought might be interesting.  We’re calling it “Running in Cars” and its supposed to be the exhaustion fueled conversation that happens right after a ultra marathon.

It’s may not always be the most pollitically correct conversation and may not have anything to do with running and it may not be funny for you but again our videos are for us, me really, so that years down the road I’ll be able to enjoy our really important runs and not so important runs all over again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpxspTtIvwU

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.

Our 50K Plan

We’re in our taper weeks (thank goodness) for our first 50K (2 weeks out!).  It’s been a interesting journey to get here from that first 5K I agreed to 2+ years ago when I was a 100 yard runner and 100+lbs heavier.  A journey filled with learning about shoes and socks, shirts, shorts, tights, watches, training, hydration,fueling and the list goes on and on.  There have been injuries and forced layoffs as well as high points of PR’s set and re-set for shorter distances.

And now here I am about to travel 31.5 (ish) miles in one stretch.  To get here I’ve picked up a few things that work for me and by necessity have worked for Bunny.   One of those is what I feel is a winning strategy for me to finish this thing in a time I won’t be too unhappy with and doing it injury free so we can jump into the training for Rocky.

To wit: for me a run/walk is faster than trying to run until I can’t run another step and being forced to walk and less stressful both physically and mentally.

We’re going to be running the following workout on our Garmin’s for Dead Horse –

  1. Warmup (walking pace) for 0.5k
  2. Run 1K at a pace between 11:00 and 13:00
  3. Walk 0.25K with no pace target but typically my walking pace is between 18 and 20
  4. Every 6th walk will be a double walk of 0.5k
  5. Repeat 2-4 until we cross the finish line.

We will also walk every incline of significant excessive slope.  Because literally 80% (an out of my ass guess) of the first 25K is uphill we can’t walk every uphill since we’d be walking the front half of this course but any excessive inclines we’ll walk it out.

We’ll take time to enjoy the folks at the aid stations, the scenery and the entire process and experience of our first ultra.

I doubt we’ll finish DFL but I know we also won’t finish above the 50% mark.  It’s been my experience and observation the longer the race the farther back I place.  And I’m fine with that.

For Rocky 50 Mile race , pending the results of the Dead Horse 50K run, we’re considering splitting the difference.  The first 25 miles we’ll do a distance based run/walk.   The remaining distance we’ll do a time based run walk of 7 minutes / 3 minutes.   At our cruising paces these are fairly equivalent but it would be interesting to do the 50 mile and see how it changes the ‘feel’ of the race.

For that one it works out like this –

  1. Warmup (walking pace) for 0.5k
  2. Run 1K at a pace between 11:00 and 13:00
  3. Walk 0.25K with no pace target but typically my walking pace is between 18 and 20
  4. Every 6th walk will be a double walk of 0.5k
  5. Repeat 2-4 30 times (a hair under 25 miles in total).
  6. Run 7:00 min at 11:00 to 13:00
  7. Walk 3:00 min
  8. Every 6th walk will be a 6:00 minute
  9. Repeat 6-8 until we cross the finish line.

Je suis prête

On the heals of our first ultra we ran our last long race/runs this weekend, a combo 5K/15K street race followed by nearly 19k on our usual trail loops on Turkey mountain to complete the distance. As mentioned in recent posts Trex has been bouting with injury and this was our last chance at a solid long run before we start the taper.  In total we logged 24+ miles, just shy of our goal, but a strong comeback in my opinion, in spite of the significant amount of pain we both experienced during and now after the runs.

Speaking of heels, it seems that mine took a bit of a beating during our 5/15K combo which was made worse on the trail, and now I have a nasty swollen red lump at the back of my heel that hurts quite a bit when I walk. So I am elevating it and icing it in hopes that there is no real injury, because being injured this close to our race would “sucks major donkey balls,” to quote my RH.

having a plan B–an alternative exercise routine to stick to during downtime, is extremely crucial for your mental game.

I took time off running and have been cross training with Trex since I frankly didn’t want to suffer injury as a result of over training, and had had a few early signs of things growing a bit unhappy with me right about the same time his foot started giving him fits. So in a show of solidarity and to grow my cross training muscles I joined him in his downtime in efforts to minimize the impacts of our grueling running schedule on my own body. Frankly I feel it did us some good to take some time to do more alternative exercises. I think we both needed to find some greater balance in our approach to running and sometimes being forced to is how it has to happen.

In an effort to maintain my cardio and core strength I have reacquainted myself with the love of the water, and have been swimming in addition to doing stationary bikes and weight exercises along side Trex. We also tried aqua jogging which I find to be quite awkward, although a good cardio workout, when done without the jogger belt. It will take more time to get used to this exercise and in the end it is rather boring which makes it more of a challenge to maintain focus while doing, that and frankly I feel ridiculous doing it!

But the key take away from this experience, for me, has been that having a b plan–an alternative exercise routine to stick to during downtime, is extremely crucial for your mental game. I for one found it very beneficial to be productive physically, even if it wasn’t gaining me ground in my running, because it has been a chance to practice fighting off those pesky mental demons that like to taunt and try to scare me into thinking I’m not ready.

I fully understand the impact to my bodily training by not running. It is extremely difficult to face a race feeling that you may be under prepared physically, but it is crucial to remember your training, and be prepared to face down those mental demons that try to tell you that: a few weeks of not running has undone nearly 2 years of base training. A BOLD FACED LIE!  I am using this time to hone my positive self talk skills, practice how to be supportive to my partner–who is facing those demons daily, and just as importantly to slay my own demons.  And after yesterday’s battle on the streets and trails I know that my plan B has been working. Je suis prête.