Friday, October 24, 2014

80 Miles at the Uwharrie 100 Race

Short version: I DNF'd! Yes, my first DNF in 2 years. But I'm okay with it.  The longer version:

Course Description:
The Uwharrie 100 is a figure 8 course. You first run the Dutchman's Creek Trail, which ends at the Uwharrie Trail. You run 1/2 mile up the Uwharrie Trail to the Dusty Level Road, where Kelly's Canteen Aid Station. Then you run the Uwharrie Trail back to the start/finish line.  You do this five times.

The course elevation:

 The loop is not so bad. There are many ups and downs. The problem is, you repeat these little ups and downs..five times over.  Think about this as "hill repeats".  Going up one of these little hills (or even one of the bigger) is not that big a deal. But repeat it four more times. Over the course of 30 to 36 hours of time on your feet. This course will beat you down.

The race started promptly at 6 am, and the runners headed down Dutchman's Creek Trail in the dark. I stepped off the course for a bio break, and found myself, alone, at the end of the pack, where I spent most of my race. The first four miles or so were in the dark.

 There were mile markers at each mile. This was very helpful to let you know where you where on the course.

This was an inaugural 100 mile race. The volunteers knew what they were doing. My first loop through the Crossroads Aid Station, I had bacon. My return trip on first loop, I was fed a grilled cheese-bacon-apple-Dijon mustard sandwich. Excellent guys!!

At mile 7.3, there is a little climb. It reminded me of climbing Short Mountain at MMT, except this little climb ends pretty quickly. (But remember, you repeat it four more times!)

Then there is "Soul Crusher" the next climb. This climb (according to my Garmin) is about 1.3 miles long. Just a long, uphill climb.

After you climb Soul Crusher, there is a nice long runnable descent, and then you are down by the creeks again. Although it's hot, I know these creek beds are going to be cold in the night. I have my breathing mask in my drop bags which I know I am going to incorporate.

At mile 10, I am surprised to see..tents on the trail. Right on the trail. There is an adult, eating breakfast, nearby, and he remarks " We didn't set up camp until 1 am."

The Uwharrie Trail is a bit runnable for the first three miles "back" to the start/finish line, then it turns into a bunch of undulating ups and downs.

I finish Loop One 20 minutes past my guesstimate time, no problem, and run Loop Two.  I ask for ice at each aid station, as it's getting warm for mid October.  Hydration and nutrition are going good.  I make sure I pick up my light at the second time through Crossroads AS. It's nowhere near dark, but in case something happens, I will have my light.

Loop Three-Enter Bea

Dan Paige, the Race Director, had posted that there were volunteer pacers available. I was lucky enough to meet up with Bea. Bea was knowledgeable and chatty, and we had fun as we started out Loop Three. I was actually surprised to find ourselves at Crossroads AS, 5 miles in. That's what a pacer can do for you!

Poor Campers at mile marker 10, Bea and I were still chatting as we hit them in the night.

Nutrition-I was eating well on Loops One and Two. Loop Three the stomach began to get a bit fussy. I was still eating, but the quantity was going down. I could only eat "so much" before I knew to stop nibbling.  I was also having major heartburn that the Tums was not helping. I had no Pepcid or Zantac with me (a ROOKIE mistake!!) either.

Loop 4-enter John

We get back to the start/finish line at 220 am, only twenty minutes off my estimated time. Allison is there, gets me ready, and Bea and I start walking to the Dutchman's Creek Trailhead.

"Hey are you going out there for another loop?" someone yells. Bea and I look at each other. I say " I don't have anything else to do, so yeah, we're doing another loop."

A male runner comes toward us and announces he is joining us, he doesn't want to run alone. He just had a two hour nap, woke up, vomited, and is now ready to go.

It was good to have John with us. Fresh conversation, a young little stud! runner with us. Lots of chatter to help us get through the toughest time of an ultra, the hours before dawn.

Loop 4 is tough. OMG is that mile marker ONE? How long did that take us? I don't look and I don't care. We muster on. We get to Crossroads. The notion of the Baby Ruth Bar in my drop bag has my attention. I carefully eat a small serving of chicken-rice soup (homemade) and we head out. We've got two climbs in front of us. I get two bites of the Baby Ruth in, becuz I know we are going to climb.

I send John ahead of us. I've been leading most of the loop, but John is climbing better than me, so he goes first. I have to stop at least twice on this little "Sasquatch Summit" climb just because I'm panting through my breathing mask.

My exercised induced asthma is still an issue with me and 100 mile races. I wore my mask from the moment the temperatures started to drop, about 7pm, and kept it on until I quit, 11 am the next day.
It's hot to wear, I pant when I climb, which dehydrates me, I usually wear it under my nose, which then rubs and chafes my nose. It's pretty uncomfortable. But it warms up the air enough that it kept my bronchioles happy when the temperature really dropped right before dawn.

I also have to stop several times on the "Soul Crusher" Climb. But on the downhills, I am still way ahead of John and Bea. My quads are pretty much fine still, and I can bound down the hills. I pause and wait for Bea, happy for an excuse to stop and breathe.

The worse time of day, is of course, the hour before dawn. We just keep moving forward.

It is 8 am and I am just getting to Kelly's Canteen on Loop 4. Crap.  I should be finishing the Loop by now.  Bea also stops at Kelly's, as she only had so much time to pace overnight.

Allison is here and I grab my hiking poles.  Uwharrie is not really suited for poles, but I know they will help me on all the climbs now.  John has pulled ahead of me, so I head out to the last aid station on Loop 4, Crossroads, then it's just 5 miles past that back to the Start/Finish.

Having mile markers each mile keeps one very honest, especially when you start timing yourself. I'm way behind where I want to be for this Loop.

I get through Crossroads AS, eat half a nice turkey/cheese panini sandwich and keep going. But two hundred calories or so isn't much to sustain energy for 4-5 hours.

The problem is,  I'm now "running" 21 or 22 minute miles.  While I am moving pretty well on flats and downhills-still shuffling in a running motion-I lose any momentum with the uphills.
In the last three miles, I'm trying to maintain a 20 minute mile. Nope. Every uphill sucks my time away.

Now I start thinking about Loop 5. If I could maintain 20 minute miles, it's going to take me 7 hours for the last loop. But I am not maintaining 20 minute miles. And, as I am on the last most tired loop, and calorie-deficit, those 20 minute miles are not happening.

Mind Attitude-this is where I quit. I simply didn't really care about finishing. And when that happens, you are done. I didn't feel like busting my ass-which it would have been a dig deep, focus, WORK-to get to 100 miles and be over the official time limit.  So I simply stopped. And I am okay with that. The winner, who took 30 hours on the course, ran his last loop in 6 hours and change.  I told Dan the RD, I wasn't having fun out there any longer, so I stopped.

What could I change?

Breathing mask-I'm going to look at different masks. I'm also thinking about not running 100 mile races where the temperatures are going to be cold in the overnights.

Nutrition-I am going to go back to trying liquid nutrition in the second half of a 100. I had thought about it for this race, but I didn't want to bring a white powder (maltodextrin) through security on an airplane.  I've also used Tailwind nutrition on short runs, which has been fine. (Note: I did try Gatorade on Loop 4, which gave me heartburn and some nasty burps.)

Uwharrie Thoughts-Dan and Amanda Paige did an exceptional job for a first year 100 mile race. The volunteers were great, food was varied and plentiful and GOOD.  I have no complaints about the race! The course is deviously hard.  One loop, okay, nice and fun to run.  Repeat that four more times?  Now that's tough!

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