So yep... last Saturday, September 12, I embarked on a quest to conquer 65.5 miles of trails just outside my small town of Woodland Park, CO at the Tommyknocker Ultramarathons 105 and 55K event put on by the Human Potential Running Series (for which I am a proud ambassador!).
My full race report follows, but as you have already guessed by the title of this post, I didn't quite make it to the finish. More on that below, but after 3 50K's, 1 50 miler, and 41 miles at Chase the Moon 12-hour, I finally experienced my first DNF (did not finish). Yes, it was a let down, but over the last week and a half I moved on from that to looking at it as the learning experience it was. Did I expect I would never have a DNF? No, not really, but I didn't think it would be at this race, but that just goes to show that you just never know whats going to happen... anyway.. here we go.
The festivities started with a pre-race dinner and runners meeting at Camp Elim Friday night. This gave an opportunity to deliver drop bags, packet pickup, and to enjoy the company of the other runners. This was terrific as I was able to meet a number of Facebook friends (including local ones) that I had not met in person before, as well as see a lot of familiar faces of friends I met from past races. Race Director Sherpa John treated us to a terrific dinner, and as always, gave us a detailed break down of the course, how it was marked, and what to be ready for. This was really helpful, especially for us 105K runners that would be starting at 2AM :-) Yes, I did try to sleep... but maybe got an hour.
Drop bags with extra Fuel-100 Electro bites, Switch Sunglasses etc, new Carson Footwear Stingers, Petzl NAO headlamp, and Orange Mud VP2... what else could I need? oh yeah... maybe some clothes :-)
So off we all went in the 2AM pitch dark... the loop starts with a pretty steady climb over the first 10 miles or so, but with enough downs mixed in to keep it interesting.. Aid stations along the loop were spread out with distances ranging from 3.25 miles up to 9 miles. 5 stations in all counting the start/finish, and hitting one aid station twice in each loop. Speaking of aid stations.... WOW is an understatement. If you have yet to run a HPRS race, you don't know what you are missing. Besides incredibly dedicated and caring volunteers, the selection of food was incredible... normal ultra aid station fair (chips, pop, candy, pb&j etc), but I also found BACON, TATER TOTS, BEER/Spirits, avocados, quesadillas, soup, BBQ, and a wide selection of amazing baked goods.... holy cow. It's hard to leave those stations!
What was so awesome during that first lap was the fact that it was a new moon, hence it was incredibly dark... I was having a hard time picking out common constellations because of the sheer number of stars I could see... so beautiful.. I really enjoyed it, except for those bits of getting freaked out by sounds in the woods and worrying about barking dogs at the various campsites out there... but no issues.. just a peaceful, cool and quiet pre-dawn morning... I was even staying well ahead of my "cutoff" pace. I went into this with a goal of making it in before the 18 hour cutoff and in one piece, so I had made a cheat sheet of check in times at aid stations at that cutoff pace. So during that first lap I was continuing to put a good buffer in front of that cutoff time... around mile 17 the sun started to come up, so I snapped the pic above... felt good to get some light and switch the headlamp off..
At mile 21 I passed by Signal Butte... didn't have to climb it this time, but I would be back around mile 40 to make the 1.3 mile steep trek to the top and back down from the main trail. At this point the temps were still nice and cool... maybe in the 50's, after starting the race in the low 40's..
From here, the next 10 miles went by pretty well... at the Hayman aid station I dropped my headlamp, swapped for sunglasses and sunscreen. At the Manchester Creek station, about 3.5 miles from the start finish I got a chance to chat with my friend Matt... he'd been up since 1AM working at the station and was just about done... then he was off for a quick nap and would meet me at the mile 45 Phantom Creek aid station and pace me for the last 21 or so.... or would he?
Ok... so I checked in at the start/finish, just under a 50K in 7:45... for me, that's pretty good, and I was 45 minutes ahead of my "cutoff" schedule which was great... however, leaving the start/finish meant another round of climbing to get back to the Manchester aid station, 3.5 miles out... and it was beginning to heat up quickly. I checked in there, reloaded on some good food, and started the climb back to the Hayman aid station... I was really looking forward to getting back there because they had tater tots!! Aside from a short downhill section, getting back to Hayman was just an upward grind.. it was really tough and even my uphill power hiking pace was beginning to wane, but I still had a buffer. I finally arrived at the aid station, but I really wasn't hungry... I tried to eat some fruit, and reloaded on Tailwind and dumped some water on my head... I knew Signal Butte was coming up, so I just wanted to get to it..
Ok.. Mile 40... here we go. I told myself, it's just a little over half a mile to the top, turn around come down, no problem... So, I started off the climb running into a few friends coming back down... wow.. it was getting hot and I was moving slow.... but I kept at it. Never has less than a mile ever felt so long!
|Top of Signal Butte... I took this pic a few days before when I did a preview hike...|
Finally, I felt like I could move again, so I texted my friend Matt at the aid station some 3.5-4 miles down the trail. I knew he would be waiting for me, and by that time I had drifted beyond my estimated time to arrive there, even at cutoff pace. I told him to please head back towards me while I worked my way that direction. I slowly made it back down and started to stumble back up the road towards the aid station. I found out later from another runner that it was 90F at the top of Signal Butte that afternoon!
Matt met up with me, brought me more water, and made sure I drank it, and that I continued to walk straight :-) That 3+ miles seemed to take forever, with short breaks in the shade and some slow walking. Finally made it the aid station, just short of 45 miles. Took a seat in the shade and let them know to put a fork in me, because I was done. The folks at the aid station were awesome... made sure I got ice and water and a place to sit... I hung out with them for a few hours, but I wasn't good company as I spent most of that time just trying not to hurl.
So.. the good news is that I DNF'd... Did Nothing Fatal thankfully.. AND I learned a lot.. looking back I realized my loss of appetite and other symptoms a good hour or more before hitting Signal Butte should have clued me in, and they will next time! Had I known, I would have taken more time at Hayman to cool down, loaded my hat with ice, and loaded at least one of my bottles with straight water (not sticky Tailwind), so that I could use it to soak my hat and shirt at the peak of the heat... but alas, hindsight right?
While my body survived, my favorite trail running shorts didn't do so well... after 1000+ miles they decided to blow out... nothing to do with the aid station food.. trust me.. :-)
On the other hand, my Carson Footwear Stingers performed flawlessly.... I had brought back up shoes, but didn't need them... even with the water crossings, and the steep ups and downs on some harsher terrain, my feet were still happy at 45 miles, which just added to the frustration of stopping... ah well... live to run another day..
Wow.. that was a lot of rambling...almost longer than the race! If you've stuck around this long, thanks..
What's next? Fall Series with the Pikes Peak Road Runners.... my favorite short trail series, so that should be fun.. and maybe a run at the Indian Creek Fifties 50K? We'll see....
Thanks for tuning in, and happy trails!