Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Be warned, another long report:
Having skipped the John Bryan 50k 2 weeks after McNaughton this year, I felt fully recovered this time & prepared for DWD -- unlike last year. I had hopes of breaking 11 hours & chalking up another course PR. With rain in the days leading up to this race, I knew it would be muddy on the horse trails as I had run this race the last 3 years & pretty much knew what to expect. What I had learned & reinforced myself with each year too was that following course markings would be a top priority . . . well, I thought I had learned. That, plus an unlucky twist, made for an eventful race. The course studying & long thought out plans for hydration & fueling was all out the window starting an hour into the race . . .
It was a cool, partly cloudy morning with heavy dew in the fields around the start area. I got there an hour early for the 6:15 start after a 2 hour drive. There were a couple ACRES of vacant parking when I arrived, so why does the next car arriving park so close to my car that I can't even open my door halfway? One of my pet peeves, I guess, so I just pull out & re-park. A sign of things to come?
At the start line I position myself at the very back of the pack & notice Paul Owen, also from Louisville, standing right beside me. Hope you had a good run Paul!
Paul & I ran together for the 1st mile or so. According to my GPS, the first mile, mostly on gravel road was 11:33, much better than the 14 minute first mile of last year when I couldn't muster any leg turnover whatsoever. As expected, we ran into muck on the first hill, but after that it was mostly just wet ground with only a few real muddy sections (till it started raining).
aid station/drop bag blunder:
After we reached "Horse Trails", I was expecting an aid station, but never saw it. No problem though, my only drop bag (visited twice) was at the next scheduled aid station where the plan was to drink 20 oz & pick up 20 oz more in my water bottle & pick up some gels. I had not started the race with a water bottle as I knew I would pick it up at my drop bag at the 2nd aid station - WRONG! Arriving at the Raccoon Ridge aid station, there were NO drop bags to be found -- I was in a daze. I asked the volunteer where they were & she said they decided to move them to the next aid station & pointed down the road -- so I headed that way. I was so engrossed with the fact that the drop bag was not there that I failed to drink & fuel up!!! I didn't realize this till I was a half mile down the trail -- a HUGE blunder on my part, but felt like that blunder shouldn't have had the chance of happening in the first place . . .
back on track (for a while):
I tried to keep positive, even though my thoughts kept returning to the fact that I was burning up my energy reserves that I would need late in the race. The course was changed quite a bit thru here from last year, so I focused on that. There were numerous wide streams that kept your feet wet, but they were a good place to keep the mud washed off. The organizers also added probably the steepest hill on the course thru here & it would have to be done twice this day.
Finally arriving at the aid station at 9 miles, I got the first gels & drink at my drop bag. It wasn't hot & I wasn't dying of thirst, so I felt I wasn't set back too far . . . hydration wise at least. For the next 10 miles or so, my energy level felt OK & I was able to get all my mind into enjoying the run.
something is wrong here! :
Running on some real nice, well maintained bike trails coming up to the Hesitation Point aid station, I came even with a runner & he introduced himself as Rick Ferguson. I had passed by him on trails in Louisville but had never met him. He was running his first 50 miler, although at that point he was thinking about dropping down to 50k. We were having a good chat when all of a sudden we spot a gal with marking flags off trail to our right --- she says "You need to be over here!" What?? We get off the bike trail & head over to a lesser maintained trail that heads up the hill. I did not recognize this trail from previous years. On this trail, it was a straight shot (uphill) to the aid station & probably cut off at least one big switchback on the bike trail -- I knew something had to be wrong somewhere. I saw her continuing in a straight line down the hill behind us, bypassing all the bike trail we had just come up!! -- what gives??
Leaving the Hesitation Point aid station & the best scenic view on the course, I crossed the road & headed to the trailhead. I approached the end of a fence where some people were standing & I went on by them & down the trail. After a while I saw yellow flags but it didn't dawn on me I was on the wrong trail as my mind was still trying to figure out what had happened just before the last aid station. Then I heard the familiar "You're going the wrong way!" As I came back to the end of the fence, I realized there was also a trail on the other side of the fence! I was thinking the people standing there blocked the view of the pink flags, but when I came thru the 2nd time on the next loop, I could see that you had to really look to find the pink flagging on the other side of the fence. No big deal, it just reinforced the fact that I had to concentrate more on the task at hand.
The rest of the loop was familiar to me & had not changed (it was run in the opposite direction only the 1st year). On the way down the trail to Ogle Lake I ran into a family trekking up the muddy trail. One adult was carrying a little girl & there was one small boy crying, obviously very tired, literally being pulled up the hill. Really felt sorry for him as he had at least another mile uphill to go! After passing them I could see the mischief that they had gotten into earlier: pulling flags down -- some scattered, some in neat piles. I knew the way so it wasn't a problem. What surprised me though as I reached the Lake was that I couldn't find the aid station!! I knew there was a last minute call for volunteers on the website -- maybe they ran short?! Was it one of the cars parked in the lot with the trunk open?
Starting the 2nd loop, around the marathon distance, my legs started to give out. I stopped to take a stick out of the inside bottom of my shoe & wish I hadn't. The saturated shoe felt like 5 pounds in my hands! That probably worked on me mentally more than anything.
To keep everyone on their toes, or just keep it more interesting, the 2nd trip around the main loop had 2 major changes from the 1st time around. The loop would be 2 miles shorter, but they would also add an "off trail" section. Plenty of flags & signs thru these areas -- they did a great job marking here.
Part way thru this loop it started to rain. The forecast the entire week had NO mention of rain for the race -- even with the forecast as late as Friday night. It was a surprise to feel the 1st raindrops. When I heard thunder, I knew then we were in for a soaking. I didn't mind the rain itself at all, in fact it cooled me down. What had me thinking ahead though, was that I knew that the already mucky mud on the last few miles of horse trails on the course were going to be really nasty by the time I got there!
The bike trails were hardly affected by the rain, even when the rain became heavy. I could see where volunteers had opened up the sides of the trails so that all the puddles would drain. The trail itself had a good cross slope & was hard packed, so even at the wettest times, there were bikers on the course. One problem on the bike trails though, was amplified by the rain. It was impossible to hear the bikes approaching with the rain pelting the leaves.
something is wrong here! (part 2):
As I was heading up the bike trail up to Hesitation Point, I suddenly noticed a runner crossing the trail from left to right in front of me. It looked like a runner I had passed going thru the last aid station. I asked her if she was on the course. She said she's following the same trail she ran the 1st loop! Lo & behold I look directly to my left & then to the right & I see pink flags -- what's going on? Did I miss the turn twice now?! (I must have & so did others). Anyway, I made an abrupt right turn & headed up the hill after her & it led up to Hesitation Point quite quickly. I didn't realize how fortunate it was to see her at that one instant till I could see the GPS plot after I got home & see as to just what had happened. My GPS registered 50.83 miles for my race while the website said the course was 49.5 miles. My GPS always measures on the short side on courses, more so when the leaves are on the trees & there's loss of signal -- not sure how long the course actually was or how much I ran.
the final legs:
The horse trails didn't disappoint. Some of the mud pits were under water! Deep! Soup city! Fun?!
One of the last legs of the course was changed quite dramatically. I'm really surprised that DNR (Dept of Nat Resources) would approve off trail running in such wet conditions -- a big NO NO to get off trail anytime here in the Jefferson Memorial Forest. "Running" in a forested area across steep, slick cross slopes exposed alot of areas to erosion as runners battled to keep upright.
The snow ski slope at the end, well, that was a different story. It was already a developed, commercialized area, but the drainage was not being maintained. I guess I saw it at its worst, in the middle of a downpour. I had a choice of using my rear as a board & water skiing the stream right down the middle or sliding on the mud on either side or slipping on the flattened, soaked grass to the outside of that. I chose digging in my heels & zigzagging across these sections on the best path that would keep me upright -- succeeded!
At the finish, my timing chip didn't work, covered in mud. They really didn't have to show tenths of a second for my time when they guess-timated my finish time off their watch. 12:36.01.7
The organizers really did improve on their course marking over previous years with lots of flagging & signs -- in fact I was giving them high praise . . . until I reached Hesitation Point. They also did a SUPER job in separating the relay runners from the ultra runners. Not once did I see a relay runner on the same trail this year.
The barbecued pork at the finish was not in short supply this year & was real tasty!
Although I've attended DWD the last 4 years, I'm considering running in the Massanutten 100 in 2011 which is on or about the same date as DWD each year . . . will see how the training goes & if I can get entry thru the December lottery.
The race I'm training for right now is the Mohican 100 in mid June. The last 2 years there I've had trouble with the heat & had major problems with my back. I'm looking for a good prep race the 1st week of June. Another Dam 50k (AD50k) and the DINO 15k at Brown County appear as good options. I'm leaning towards AD50k at the moment. Although I wouldn't classify AD50k as a full trail race, it would help prepare me for all the sun & road that I'll be exposed to on the new Mohican course. The AD50k website says the course has been changed to provide more trail, but I don't see that on the park/course map & wouldn't expect anything different. The intense sun shut me down 4 years ago when I last run the race, so I know I have my work cut out for me if I choose the race.
If anyone can help me, I've been unable to hyperlink the main DWD web page on this blog: http://www.dwdgnawbone.com/. Maybe it's just the Firefox browser I'm using. Thanks!