Tuesday, June 21, 2016

2016 Dizzy Goat 6 Hour | #BarelyUltra Race Report

When I got this wild idea in my head back in March to attempt a trail ultra, I thought maybe I'd keep it to myself. I imagined returning to run club the week after in some sort of glory of the fete. I don't know why. One of my run club teammates had just run her first marathon just ahead of her 65th birthday. One was preparing to run a marathon with the goal of qualifying for Boston. Three of them were preparing to do the Boulder Half-Ironman triathlon. There was no reason to keep it secret. It would be best to share the experience with the others training for their own epic events, and doing anything for the egotistic glory, like whatever was going through my brain, I know, ends up in disappointment. So I posted it in my blog. I shared it with my run club. I was very open and honest about my goal, the preparation, my doubts, and how I was otherwise feeling for the 3 months of training. It was a constant question of intention, ego and humility, strength and vulnerability. In the end, as I finished my final long training run short of the planned distance, I knew I was going forward with the right intention. I knew I had done what I could. I put in the effort I could have and prepared to the best of my ability at this time. I had no ideas of going out there to turn heads and impress people. I was going to be with other runners pounding the dirt for 6 hours, and to find out what I could do.
I got dropped off at Schramm State Recreation Area sometime around 8am. My race didn't start until 1pm. The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha opened at 9, and Kristina wanted to be there from open to close, so I got dropped off way early. It was fine, the runners competing in the 12 Hour race were around an hour in, and I got to sit and watch them as they finished laps and hit the aid station and make mental notes about how quickly these braver souls were turning laps, as well as their strategies for eating and hydrating and keeping cool as the miles added up and sun warmed the muddy ground.
It had rained overnight, raucous thunderstorms from 1:30 in the morning and still sprinkling as we drove down to Schramm. The 12 hour runners dealt with most of the mud long before my race started, but the morning was a bit chilly and the day wasn't going to get as warm as previously predicted. Still, with the humidity and mid-80s temperatures, it was going to be rough.
I set up my own personal rest area just off the start line, with a camp chair, duffle and cooler bag. I over-prepared: extra shoes and socks and tape and body glide and my mp3 player, charging options for my phone or watch. Being vegan and unsure what the aid station would have for me, I made a couple of wraps with baked tofu and guac and spinach, a couple of PB&Js, four bottles of green juice, Larabars, Dates, Vega hydrator packets, nuts, all stuff I had taken with me in training. I didn't want to leave anything to chance.

So I sat around for a few hours, under some trees, in the mud. I tried to go off and meditate, but that didn't last long because of bugs and I couldn't get far enough away from the music blaring at the start line. I had to change out of my socks and shoes early on because my feet were already soaked long before the race from loitering in the mud. I watched bugs flying around, talked to a 12 hour runner who made a valiant effort to race on an ankle the size of a softball he earned in a misstep earlier in the week.
I surprisingly never really got nervous. I've heard people say they can't sleep the night before a big race. Other than the thunderstorms occasionally rousing me, I slept pretty good, and I hung out at the race for a while and never felt uneasy about what I was about to do. I really think I was just resigned to my preparation and ready to face whatever was to happen. (Did I mention I was humble? Can you believe how humble I am?)
Finally it started getting toward 1. We were given some pre-race instruction. We were notified that the rain had caused a course change, and that it would now be a three mile circuit, losing a quarter of a mile. That changed calculations. It was now 7 laps to earn a medal instead of 6. That didn't faze me much, I really didn't doubt that I would break 21 miles. It did change my plans a little bit, but I wasn't going to let that stress me out. A few minutes later, we were counted down from 10 then released onto the course with a air horn.
Let's Get Dizzy -- Start area for the race
The first lap went clockwise, the easier start as you enter the forest with just a modest climb. When I'm trail running I often think of the Mark Twain quote "Golf is a good walk spoiled." I alter it: "Trail running is a waste of a perfectly good hike." You're in nature, rolling over hills on the single track and your either running right by it or struggling to regain some composure so you can run right by it again. You have to watch your step or you're going to take a spill, so you don't take in too much of the surroundings. Schramm is a gorgeous park. Heavily wooded, nice rolling trails, three bridges (one a suspension bridge) over trickling creeks that have carved their way through the hills. I was never really able to orient myself and get a feel for the park as much as I was just following the signs and markers.
Exiting the forest on the first lap, you are introduced to "What The Hill?" One of the signature features of the GOATz events in Schramm. 124' in elevation in just a quarter of a mile. Clockwise, you get to go down it. I'm pretty good at bombing hills. That was a strength in this race. Once at the bottom you're directed out into a grassy area with old fish hatchery ponds and that you wind through. This was the only area with real mud on it, even though it was all out in the sun. Then you hit the main road of the park and cruise back in to the start area. You're given a pink silicone bracelet on odd number laps, after the finish line, you toss it into a bucket of soapy water and put on a green one. The color corresponds to the trail markings for the direction you're going, the markings the color of your bracelet stay to your right.
Try running on a suspension bridge with 1-3-8 other people

So I put on a green bracelet, topped off the water bottle, then back the way I just came. Now I face climbing "What The Hill?" and the rest of the course the opposite direction.

Pictures can't do "What The Hill?" justice. This is a beast.

After lap two, I had my first food stop. The aid stations were incidentally friendly to the plant based athlete. I think I was the only one repping that lifestyle there, but the options were watermelon, PB&J wedges, raw potato, pretzels, potato chips, pickles, soda, cinnamon whiskey (for some reason I didn't figure out [It might have been for after, but the beer was for after and it didn't sit on the aid table all day. The whiskey did. Maybe it was for the volunteers.]) Tailwind: Fat, salt, water, simple carbs, complex carbs, sugar, empty calories, whatever to fuel the next few miles. (I've heard it said that ultra running is just an eating contest with some running around it.) I had some watermelon, and I stopped at my bag and had a quick gulp of green juice.
After the third lap I stopped for some of my tofu wrap, something more substantial, and a mess.
Fifth lap was right at halfway, the 3 hour race literally started as I was coming into the finish line. I sat then and had the most food of the day, assessed the legs, and feet. Despite wet socks, no blisters or hot spots felt like they were forming. I tightened up my shoes and shorts and went back out.

Overall, there was a lot of walking, plenty of power hiking. When I hit flat, I worked hard to talk myself into running, and, when I had downhills, I pushed it. That was my strategy as the miles passed and the laps turned.
I finished the medal goal of 7 laps with an hour and like twenty minutes to go. I grabbed a bunch of food at the aid station, grabbed my phone from my duffle to take some pictures on a lap I knew would be slow, and maybe my last, and I walked out of the starting area and started trotting on the road toward the bottom of "What The Hill?" one last time. I wound through the forest, fewer runners were out there with me. Some of the volunteers were already starting to clean up. I was still able to really push it on the downhill as I wound down out of the trees and onto the main stretch into the finish. I saw the clock still had plenty of time on it. I turned in my green bracelet and the volunteer scorekeeper asked if I was done. I said I wanted to go one more, and she kind of looked at me with surprise and looked at the tick marks on her clipboard. I got a pink bracelet and turned to see Kristina there trying to talk to me. I was a bit curt, because I knew I was going to be close on time, and I needed to go if I was going to get another lap in. I should have had her come up there with me and walk and talk with me as I got some food and water refill and went back out to the course. I think she understood.

The last lap started off strong. The weight of my phone in my pocket started pulling on my shorts, though, and I couldn't bring myself to lose time to stop to tighten them up. That's also the only lap I had a fall on, nothing major, caught a root or something, a couple little scrapes, but I got right back up. There were quite a few other runners out there, still some 12 hour racers even. We all cheered each other on as we passed as we had for the whole day up until then, but more meaningful at that time. When I fell, there was a guy a few steps ahead of me making sure I was OK right away. Real comradery out there. I came out of the trees to the top of "What The Hill?" and I just let it go as much as I had down the hill, water bottle in my left hand, waste band of my shorts wadded up in my right. When I reached the bottom and out on the grass between the hatchery ponds, I pushed and pushed, then slowed and then pushed, and fought with my mind to push a little more until I got out on the pavement and into the final straight into the finish, and put the pedal down, looking at my watch and the finish line clock and just giving every ounce I had to make sure I came in under the 6 hour mark.  And I did, with about 70 seconds to spare. A medal was put around my head and Kristina was able to snap a pic of me coming in, and I was done. I was fucking exhausted from that final push. I went back to the aid station to fill Kristina and my water bottles, and then over to my base camp to move to over where Kristina was only to sit down and kind of zone out for quite a while.

All said and done 
27 miles 
2,157 feet in climbing 
6th place overall for the 6 hour race, 
4th place men 
7th best mens performance on the 6 hour course in the 4 year history of the race, even with the altered course, which it sounds like will be the new normal course going forward.
Not bad for my first trail race and longest distance run to date. I'm so inspired and proud of myself. I keep learning how strong I am. I'm still going to chase down that 50k mark in the near future. I have some ideas of what I need to work on to do it and to get it done a little faster.

My name is going to be on that right hand side for at least a year! How awesome is that?

I owe a lot to my run club teammates, my Twitter friends especially in #VegRunChat and #RunChat. So much knowledge from podcasts Trail Runner Nation, Trail Talk with Rock Creek Runner, Rich Roll, and especially Ultra Ordinary, who are also all Twitter friends. Extra inspiration from great plant based runners David Clark, Scott Jurek, Catra Corbett, Sage Canaday and their books and YouTube videos, Instagram posts, and everything. So much love goes out to the GOATz and the race volunteers and Red Dirt Running Company and all the people cheering or tabling, and all those who made the Dizzy Goat run. I know that the support is why trail running is special, but to be there first hand, it means so much. 
Most importantly, thanks Kristina. I know the training time monopolized my free time for the past three months. I know there's some strain there. I also know you see what it means to me. I think you know that I've been a lot happier and focused and less aloof since I've been running. I love you and love having you by my side through all of this. We can focus now on having a summah.

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