Thursday, April 7, 2022

Southwest 100 D.N.F.

SW100

ultramarathon #087 | D.N.F. #003

A nice little trip out west proved a draw to my psyche as “the mountains were calling” as they say. I had been to Fort Davis last year to run Southwest 100 put on by Ultra Expeditions, and it being a very reasonable priced race (even on the cheaper side of average). I decided to make the 9 hour commute to attempt it for the second time this March. My fitness is not peaked by any means, but I did run last month and complete a 95 Mi effort out in Louisiana (Red Dirt). This being the case heading west to the Rockies always presents challenges for someone living at basically sea level: altitude, dry air, and vertical gain!

Once I had gotten to Fort Davis I took Friday afternoon to set up my single tent and go for a little shakeout hike and run. The afternoon was cloudless, and the heat of the sun felt quite intense. This pushed the thought of how hard tomorrow during the day would be on the exposed terrain of the Southwest course. The temperatures of 70s-80s up at the altitude just feels so much penetrating on exposed skin.

The morning of the race everyone was busing around getting their drop bags set at the aid station at the start-finish. We would be passing though many times over (six times in fact) for the 100 milers as the course was 7 loops to complete. This feature of a moderate length loop also makes self-crewing very easy for a 100 miler. It was a chilly 40f something in the wee hours prior to the start. I was staying warm in my puffy until the pre-race brief. This was my attempt to keep my body temperature regulated until I started moving. Heading into the race I was standing here hoping to be back with a finish in 24 hours from now.

View of Fort Davis Historical Site up from the nature trails.

LOOP 1 

There was 24 runners at the start line for the 05:00 send off: 14 100-milers & an additional 10 50-milers. With any small ultra race the start was not hectic or anything of the sort, but more of a casual start to your typical weekend long run just with a little more group enthusiasm. 

The headtorches lite the way for the majority of the entire first loop as the sunrise was not until 07:53. I recall the exact time because I have it set on my watch in my ultra mode in order to be aware when I need my lights in my pack and such. Climbing up and back out of the Fort Davis National Park and crossing back into the Historical Site the sun was creeping up in the distance giving the eastward horizon a gorgeous morning orange glow. Moments like these are just awesome as you are moving through nature on your own feet and get to just embrace the entrance of the sun signaling the start of a new day. Running back down the technical descent into the Historical site you approach a small aid station with still 2.5 miles to go where you wind around the old historical buildings then a quick trip up the nature trails which includes a straight up section (including stairs) which is about 500 feet gain before coming around and back down into the finish.

I came across the timing mat at basically 3 hours on the nose and this was my goal time for that first loop. I figured if I could do the first in 3 hours and then every other loop at 3.5 hours I would have a crack at the 24 hour time goal I had in my head.

LOOP 2

A quick turn around at the start finish at my Victory Sportdesign Grizzley bag, I dropped off my headlamp, changed out of my long sleeves I had with me and changed into my rabbitELITEtrail short sleeve team jersey. I also grabbed a pair of goodr sunglasses as the sun was now rising steadily. I took off back out on the course with a purposeful slower pace now shooting for the 3.5 hour loop time to set myself up for success…hopefully. The climbs were a little slower this go around but I kept my pace steady. No major issues occurred on this loop and I continued to run basically the entire loop. The sun was letting us know its presence for sure as again there was no clouds to diffuse the sun rays. I had settled into my slightly slower pace and came in on the loop close to that 3.5 hour mark. Two loops done, 5 to go.

LOOP 3

My legs felt a little heavy after all the climbing and descending thus far, but I was trying to push that thought out of my head. I looked down and saw faint signs of salty sweat stains on my race vest. The heat and altitude combination was wearing me down and it was only starting to now get into the heat of the afternoon. I took some extra time at the aid station and hydrated the best I could – I downed a nice cold Coca-Cola before heading out. I also took my ice bandana with me to keep my neck cold. Something did not feel right. I knew I was in for a battle. Onward I went back out for another 14.3 Mi loop. My goal again was a slow and steady 3.5 hour time frame. After the first major limb on the loop my calves felt gassed. I tried to jog it out but just could not hold even a steady jog pace. I resorted to a power hike on some of the runnable terrain, which also meant I was now losing time on my loop time I was shooting for. It took awhile before I could run again but then before I knew it I was at the bottom of the next big climb and had to hike again anyway all the way up. This time I felt some twinges in my legs as I was making the long ascent. These were the dreaded precursors to full on cramps. I downed all the fluids I had took a salt tab and one of my gels as well in order to be proactive as I could. A little miss step dodging some larger rocks in the terrain and next thing I knew I stumbled forward, and both my legs locked up…ouch! I slowed my pace even further, which was pretty hard to do at this point.

After finally cresting the summit of this climb within the National Park I headed slowly down the steep switchbacks on the other side. This proved tricky as my legs began to cramp more on the descents. At one point both legs locked up so bad I had to turn around and face up hill putting all my weight on my toes in order to counter flex my calf muscles to get them to release. This is a painful situation until they finally release, for anyone not privy to having experienced this. I essentially hiked down the rest of the way and my loop time was inevitably becoming much longer than anticipated. In fact I came in over just over 5 hours as I was not able to get much running in at all after this.

I took a nice long break after this loop trying to hydrate as much as I could before heading back out. I was not happy about my legs and trying to work my way through it. I put on my stubborn mindset and got ready for a forth loop.

LOOP 4

With the damage of the heat and cramping on loop 3, I was just trying to work my way back to actual running again. I walked the initial 0.5 Mi of the loop and hiked up the first climb, hoping that by the time I reached the top all the caloric intake and hydrating I did would kick in and help me get back on track. Sadly this did not happen as I hoped. I trudged on slowly hiking and slow jogging, downing lots of fluids but nothing seemed to be working. There was still a few hours of sun exposure at this point and I just hoped that sunset would bring some relief so that was my next thought: just make it through the remainder of the daylight. At point my legs got twinges again, and I even had some side cramps in my abs (i.e. my core). I knew this was a bad sign. I stopped and took my time at the aid stations. Again, nothing was working. I tried pickle juice, bananas, salt tabs, lots of water, electrolytes, and yet nothing was helping my body work through this.

I was moving so slow that my attempted jog wasn’t even much faster than my hiking pace. Luckily I was smart enough to bring my headlamp with me in case the loop carried over into darkness. Sure enough I needed that light for the last third of the loop or so as I snaked my way around back into the Historical Site again finishing up the nature trail loop section again before returning to the start/finish area. Loop 4 nearly took me 6 hours to complete those 14.3 Mi. Brutal! I was beat mentally and physically as my body still randomly was seizing up and cramping. The sunset and cooler temperatures had not brought any relief to my agonizing death march I was on.

I sat down slumped in my chair. It was cold and chilly once I stopped moving. I made a quick decision that I was going to sit in my car and warm up. I let the race directors know and walked the few hundred yards down the path into the lot where I was parked. I bundled up with a jacket and hat, and got in my passenger set with a blanket. I closed my eyes and slept for about 30 minutes once I was able to find a position my legs didn’t seize up.

I awoke in a slight chill under the blankets as I was sweating slightly on my under layers covered up with my jacket on top. My body was confused it seemed. I felt quite fresh mentally but my body was still not on the same page as it needed to be. I pondered my thoughts for a few minutes and texted back and forth with my wife. With the dread of 3 more loops in front of me and the coldness of the night I made the rash decision to call off my race. I was a Did Not Finish (D.N.F.) after 4 loops, 57.5 Mi into the race. I informed the race director and passed in my ankle timing tracker. This was simply not my day. I hobbled back to my car after packing up my things and took me with a rare incomplete finish to a ultramarathon. I was content with my decision as it was my choice, but still disappointed my body was unable to respond and never really recover from the heat and perhaps slight dehydration I had occurred out there in the Fort Davis mountains.

"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face" - Mike Tyson

RESULTS

Distance: 57.40 Mi | 92.38 km (completed 4 loops out of 7)
Elevation Gain: 10,338 ft+ | 3,151 m+
My 3rd Did Not Finish.
2022 SW100: 3 finishers & 9 D.N.F. = 25% completion rate | 75% D.N.F. rate

GEAR

Shirts: rabbit  LS & SS rabbitELITEtrail team kit
Shorts: rabbit  3" FKT rabbitELITEtrail team kit
Jackets: rabbit  elements
Shoes: Altra Olypmpus 4.0
Socks: Dry Max
Headwear: rabbit  (BOCO) rabbitELITEtrail cap
Sunglasses: goodr (couple different pairs)
Gloves: rabbit   (BOCO) 
Watch: Garmin fēnix® 6X - Pro Solar Edition
Lighting: kogalla RA Adventure Light (waistlamp) & Nathan Sports Halo Fire (headlamp)
Hydration: Nathan Sports VaporKrar 12L Race Pack, x2 20oz Nathan soft flasks, Trail Racing Over Texas collapsible cup
Anti Friction lube: Trail Toes
Gear Bags: Victory Sportdesign (Grizzly Backpack) 

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Thank you for following along on my adventures.
Next up: The Game Backyard Ultra | Apr-09

Meding Baby #05 due Apr-20th (t.b.d.)
I will have to update my logo ;)




Saturday, February 26, 2022

Red Dirt

Red Dirt Ultra

Ultramarathon #086

Another weekend and another last minute sign-up for a 100 mile ultra. If you have followed my blog for any length of time you may know this is not out of the ordinary for me. I am always ready to run and explore a new race, and sometimes the inspiration to do so doesn't come until the last few days before I pull the trigger and hit that register button on UltraSignup. My mind works in weird ways. I am always watching the calendar and have my eye on one or two different ultras that I may or not enter. Of course every year my big races I have planned in advance and register early, but that is not the way I roll. 


Finishing up work Friday afternoon I took my Victory Sportdesign gear pack and headed out east towards Louisiana. Arriving in the cloak of darkness the temperature was already falling fast. I knew the forecast was to be a cold morning warming up throughout race day. Dirt bagging it by sleeping in my car proved to be a restless effort as the temperature dropped along with the slow passing of time. Eventually the 04:45 alarm went off and it was time to get up. The best part was that the volunteers had a nice bonfire going and coffee in a thermos to greet the runners as we checked in to get our bibs. I took a cup back to my car to enjoy as I got the remainder of my rabbit running gear on in the warmth of my car.

A few minutes before the start of the six o'clock hour and the courageous ultrarunners gathered around for a quick race briefing from Edie Couvillon, the race director. A few short minutes later we were off down the trail into the forest with headtorches on. I think it was around 36f at the start of the race if I recall correctly - either way it was a cold start to the race.

The course consisted of a giant loop through the Kisatchie National Forest on the sandstone multi-use trail. The trail was double track clearly used by ATVs and even some horse traffic was evident. The was a mix of some smooth sections, a few areas that was loose ground up fine sandstone, and then large section of hard sandstone itself with many embedded rocks and roots to make it the full trail running experience. The trail was fully immersed within the forest and the tall trees that guarded the trail itself. There was also quite a few short steep climbing sections that made the trail anything but flat. Red Dirt Ultra had 3 full loops of the Sandstone trail, plus an extra out & back that was on the first loop only. The loop was stated to be 31  miles however I tracked much less mileage, and also confirmed other runners did as well. Overall this made the mileage actually quite short overall. Every loop we got to cross over a few water crossings that were insignificant. However, there was 2 creek crossings each loop that required walking through the creek, and so in total I had to get my feet wet 6 times through the course of the race. 

One of the two creek crossings we encountered each loop.

Portion of the Sandstone trail we ran on.

I managed to run this ultra fairly uneventfully. The first 8 miles I ran beside someone as we had some small chit chat, but then the remainder of the run I was completely solo. My last loop was throughout the night hours where I tried to stay warm by moving as fast as I could at the time. I crossed the finish line in the middle of the morning clocking 20 hours and 36 minutes in 3rd place overall. This was my 86th ultramarathon run and my 27th finish of a 100 Mi or more - another buckle successfully earned!
Red Dirt Ultra 100 buckle.

Gear Used

  • Shirts: rabbit  LS & SS rabbitELITEtrail team kit
  • Shorts: rabbit 3" FKT, 5" shredders 2-in-1
  • Jackets: rabbit let ‘er zip hoodie, swish PRO (Hawks edition)
  • Shoes: HOKA Challenger ATR 7
  • Socks: Dry Max
  • Headwear: rabbit  (BOCO) rabbitELITEtrail cap & beenie
  • Gloves: rabbit  (BOCO
  • Sunglasses: goodr (Athletic Brewing Co. Run Wild edition)
  • Watch: Garmin fēnix® 6X - Pro Solar Edition
  • Lighting: kogalla RA Adventure Light (waistlamp) & Nathan Sports Halo Fire (headlamp)
  • Hydration: Nathan VaporKrar race vest 2.0 12L (purple)
  • Anti Friction lube: Trail Toes
  • Gear Bags: Victory Sportdesign 

Thank you for following along
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Next Up: The Game - Last Person Standing …maybe, have not registered yet (2022-Apr)
High Lonesome 100 (2022-Jul)
Barkley Fall Classic 50 km (2022-Sep)


Friday, January 21, 2022

Rose Pedals

Anatomy of A Rose

How My Crazy Analytical Mind Works Sometimes

Here I am two sleeps away from another ultramarathon...my 85th in fact. Just 100 km I say to myself, no sweat, I guess I better start worrying about what I might what to pack tomorrow since the race start is about 36 hours away. I just finished up my daily run this evening, a nice short 3.1 Mi (5 km) run around the neighborhood to loosen up my legs. While out on my run I my mind was wondering about what my game plan for the weekend. I have been through this 84 times before now, heading into my 85th ultramarathon, so I don’t sweat the small things. But as a data geek and a spreadsheet numbers guy I got to thinking how my time might stack up this year.

Now I don’t look ahead at the entrants list, I don’t know whom will be there (Note: Bryan McKenney & Matt Zmolek I know will make an appearance as we are the only 2 other people, besides me searching for the 5th and final white rose since TROT has been in charge of this race. Secondly, I did notice another ultra friend Brad Taylor mentioned something about the race as well on social media last week, so I guess I know 3 other names in total). Honestly though I don’t know the number or people nor anything else about the list.

Having run this race the last 4 years I know the course, I know the park and I know exactly how I need to execute the run itself. But what exactly can I do on the day? Will I be able to continue to improve my times? Can I set another course record or have I peaked out having run a great race last year? Has my build up over this holidays been enough? Did I get enough elevation in during my annual California holiday visit? These are all the thoughts running through my mind as I enjoyed my slow miles and then a post run warm shower. I do not think this is normal way of thinking, but to me this is how it is. My mind is always racing with numbers and ways of tracking things. It has served me well over the years as it is now a good portion of my day job in IT Project Management and the scheduling and active scheduling management of multiple global projects we have juggling right now.

Instead of just looking at my numbers and starring at my screen I thought I’d take the extra few minutes and compile them with this blog post in order to share my thought process. Maybe it will be helpful for some, maybe not….either way. Hopefully at least one person may get a nugget of information out of it. The process itself is more for myself, I just have never written it down per say in this format. But here we go…

In October 2017 I found Trail Racing Over Texas (TROT) in a small park known as Mission Tejas after moving to Texas for work. I became part of the TROT tribe right after that as an ambassador in 2018, and part of Team TROT elite for 2019, 2020, & 2021. Each of those 4 years I have kicked off the calendar year by running the first event: Running The Rose 108 km at Tyler State Park. I have improved my time every year as I have continued to get better overall as an ultrarunner. So here is my breakdown in all the numbers. The the tables and graphs below, I just spent 2 hours peering into my data and then organizing it as such. Why? Well this is how my mind works when I get fixated on something. It can be a curse and a blessing depending on the circumstance.


Breakdown of the 6 loops for each year of Running The Rose, 24 loops in total over the last 4 years.

Yearly Stat Summary

The 24 loops I have run out at Tyler State Park. MIN= 1:32:43, MAX= 2:22:13, AVG= 1:49:58.


Same data different way to visualize it. I often play around with visual representations and different graphs as I worked with infographics and find the visual stimulation of data a great way to represent your story if you can present it neatly and organized.


What about the buildup prior to the event? I wonder how may affect my performance. Lets examine this side of it:
The build up mileage & vertical gain in the prior 10 weeks to Running The Rose.

So as you can see I love to analyze and look over my data. This is just how my mind works. But what does it all mean? Not a a lot really. You can go over the trends and prior numbers which will give you a good idea of what you are capable of. With the sport of ultrarunning though there is so many variables and what happens on race day is a nice surprise mix of everything. So am I aiming for a specific time? Will I be going to lower my own course record again? Can I pull off the 4-peat win out there in Tyler, TX? These are all questions I ponder as I enjoy my warm shower after my short run.

I am heading to Tyler super late after my usual family Friday movie night and dinner with my wife & kids. I'll get a nice little nap, wake up and drive the 4 hours around midnight to the park out in Tyler and then get another short nap (hopefully). I will then be ready to roll nice and early in the Texas cold front winter air. Time to show up and see what I can do. I am there to improve on my own times, but as a competitive person I will be going for the podium spot as my goal. Lets get that sparkling white rose to complete the bouquet.

Hope to see you on the trails in Tyler, if not soon. Let's roll!


Time to get the 5th and final TROT rose: sparkling white.


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Thank you for following along.