Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dances With Dirt-Gnaw Bone 50k Race Report

Saturday at 3:30am, I packed up my Jeep and headed down to Brown County, Indiana to give the 50K another shot. I had attempted the distance at last year's Stump Jump 50k in Chattanooga but dropped out at mile 19 due lack of training. I had completed the Frozen Otter 32 mile ultra trek a couple years ago but always considered that more of a hike than a run. The DNF at Stump Jump has been bothering me ever since & I've been waiting for a shot at 50k redemption. The thing is that I wasn't anticipating getting that chance on Saturday. I was originally eyeing the half marathon as my race of choice but after some motivation from some online running friends, I decided to jump up to the 50k. My only reservation was that I have a marathon in 2 weeks. However my training had fizzled out over the last few weeks and I figured I could run an "easy" 50k and still go out and put in a decent effort at Bayshore knowing that I wasn't in the sub 3 hour shape that I had hoped.
I really didn't have any expectations at DWD other than finish & have a great time. I left my Garmin at home & opted for an old Timex Ironman watch so that I wouldn't be obsessing over pace & mileage. The weather was 60F at the start with the threat of rain looming. The race started with an easy mile or so on a gravel road before switching to muddy horse trails. The race director suggested putting an extra pair of shoes in the mile 10 drop bag & by time I arrived there, I was glad I did. My bright orange New Balance Minimus were now caked in dark brown mud and I'm assuming also some horse crap. I switched in to the MT101's and got back on the trail. I tried to judge my pace by perceived effort but I realized when I hit mile 10 at a 10:00/mile pace that I was going too fast. From that point on, I adopted a run 10 walk 2 policy in addition to walking the hills. I did allow myself to vary from this a bit if I was on one of the rare stretches of runnable trail. If I felt I was in a groove, I'd take advantage of it knowing that there would be a few areas with no discernible trail that would slow me down.
Around mile 18, I started to have some cramping issues in my lower legs. Climbing over downed trees resulted in a calf cramp that required a bit of walking to work it out. I had planned on packing some S! Caps but in my haste to make it out the door in the morning, I left them sitting on the kitchen counter. Luckily, Beau from Louisville, who I was running with at the time hooked me up with an Endurolyte. The cramping subsided until about mile 22 when another area of bushwhacking & tree hopping came about & the cramps returned. This time a couple from Akron who I was running with had an extra S! Cap to help me out. I have always thought that runners are one of the nicest segments of the population but ultra runners may take it to even a higher level. Everyone I met over the course of the race was wonderful. Here I am, in the middle of the woods, running with a bunch of people I had never met before but everyone was laughing and having a good time as if they'd been long time training partners. The only major hiccup of the day came around mile 23. I was running with 3 other people when I realized I couldn't hear anyone behind me anymore. About the same time, someone said what the rest of us were thinking, "I haven't seen any pink ribbons in a while." We were off course. By the time we made our way back to the course, we had gone about 1.5 miles out of the way. As if that wasn't enough to dampen the mood, once back on track, the course proceeded to head straight up hill. No groomed trail, no switchbacks, just some pink ribbons tied to some brush leading the way. I was a bit discouraged for about a mile after this but quickly got my my thoughts back on track & started focusing on finishing. My only concern now was the rumors of the ski hill at the finish. Everyone knew it was there but no one knew for sure if we went up it, down it or both. Much to my relief, we only went down. Not that a steep downhill was that enjoyable after the pounding my quads had already taken. There was a volunteer at the bottom of the hill to inform me that I was almost finished, just a bit of running through the river and I'd be done. Wait a minute, did he say through the river? Having run the Dances With Dirt relay in Hell, MI a few years back, it should have been perfectly clear to me that this was the case. This was my favorite part of the course. The depth of the water went from ankle to knee deep so running was difficult but it felt great. My legs couldn't have asked for anything better at the time.
At the end of the day I had accomplished both goals. I finished (7:01:21 50th/103) & had a blast.
Thanks to everyone at Running Fit & all the volunteers for putting on a great race & thank you to Upland Brewing Company for the keg of Upland Wheat at the finish line!