We woke up early on Saturday and packed the rest of the car, stopped at Quick Chek for a few bags of ice and some (less than ideal) coffees, and drove approximately 45 minutes to the trail head where the race would take place. The ride was fine, a missed turn here or there and some general anxiety about the unknown, but largely uneventful. We park and hop out of the car and walk around a bit, trying to figure out exactly where we should set up. We see a few other groups already there, and realize we can move our car to a smaller parking lot that's much closer to where we'll set up camp.
A few back and forths from the car to our campsite and we have everything where it needs to be. Our pop-up tent and canopy goes up easily, about 10 minutes total. We set up our table and chairs and start to organize food and gear and etc with where we think it should be for ease of access and use. Camp is set up with almost two hours to go; perfect. K and I walk around and check out the scene. A general low-key anxiety stays with me no matter what I'm doing while I'm here. I'm nervous to start.
More and more people start coming in and setting up camp. I'm relieved to see that by no means do we have an overly-elaborate or excessive camp compared to everyone else. Everyone is relatively quiet while coming in and setting up. They're keeping to themselves mostly, it's early in the morning still, and maybe they had the same nervousness that I did. With about 45 minutes left before the race starts, I go to the bathroom to change into my running kit, and then head up to the pavilion area to check-in.
I stretch out a bit and move around to warm up.
Race director gives us a quick lesson on what turns and not-turns to make during the race, and then gives a countdown and the timer starts. Yard 1 is underway. I queued in the back of the pack of ~50 runners and we bottleneck as we get onto the trail and it drops down to single track. Pretty quickly though we make a hard left onto a road for about a tenth of a mile which then turns back onto trail. That road opening let the pack sort itself out, I ran hard and passed 10 or 15 people. I ran the entire course on this first loop, passing lots of folks on the uphills. I forced down a Clif bar, 3 electrolyte chews and 500ML of water throughout the loop. The course was fairly technical, lots of rocks and roots through the double and single track pathways. With a little less than a mile to go I realized I hadn't seen anyone on course for a bit, and a few moments later I got passed by a female runner looking very strong. She put about 50 feet of distance between us and we just locked into that amount of separation for the rest of the loop, all the way to the Start/Finish line.
When I got back to our camp, K told me that I was the second runner back, only being beaten by the girl who passed me. I ran that first yard in about 42 or 43 minutes. This is not good. The rough game plan that I had before the race was "run easy, save your legs." Since the race itself is singularly about how many consecutive laps you can run, time is not an issue other than making it back before cutoff. You don't get extra points for running the course with 18 minutes to spare.
K refilled my water and nutrition, I drank some more water. She asked me about the loop and we discussed how I was feeling. At that moment I felt great; the course itself was fun and I love trail running, so I just wanted to get back out there. I knew intellectually that I had run way too fast, but there was basically no higher-production going on in the ol' brain goop that took control of the situation and was ready for me to slow down my pace to like 12:30 or 13:00/mile. Just get me back out there to run more, dog.
Yard 2 went fine. Ate, drank, electro'd, etc. Ended up coming in 2nd or 3rd again (too damn fast) and walked over to camp to get everything back in order for another lap.
Yard 3 is when things started to come undone for me. Rolled my ankle stepping awkwardly on a rock, I was able to "catch it" and hop quickly off of my other foot and kind of prevent the ankle rolling down further, but it shook me up a bit. Reminded me of my old skateboarding days, to be honest. Kinda liked it a bit. When I realized I was fine and my adrenaline was pumping a little more, I laughed aloud while running on the trail and picked up the pace back to something closer to 9:30 or 10:00/mile.
Then maybe a mile later, I rolled the same ankle again. This time it was a full roll. I basically stopped in my tracks after it, slowed all the way down to a walk and could feel the damage. I walked for about a full minute and it sort of numbed out, so I started running carefully again. I cruised the rest of the course and got in once again around the 45 minute-ish mark. I think I was 3rd to return on this loop. Told K my ankle hurt, but that I was fine. I had stayed good about eating a Clif bar and eating electro chews and drinking my bottle of water on each loop so far, so we decided to keep that going.
Loop 4 is when my legs got a little tired and I stopped lifting my feet as high as I had on previous loops. As a result, my feet kept clipping rocks and roots on the trail. I think I fell 3 or 4 times, like full on eating shit, faceplant falling. I'd get back up real quick each time and get right back to running, but the run quickly turned from a fun, challenging trail run to something of a meat grinder that I was worried about surviving. When I wasn't falling completely, I'd clip something with my foot and I'd half-fall and my next foot strike would catch my fall. This would make my toes slam into the front of my shoes. After a few of these, my toes started to hurt. I grinded the loop out, still fast for some reason because I'm a fucking idiot, and got into camp. I told K that I couldn't eat any more Clif bars; we decided to just wrap a tortilla up and I'd eat that on the next loop.
Loop 5, more falling. Fell a lot. Was covered in dirt and grime and whatever. I was lucky nothing serious happened, but man I ate a ton of shit out there. I was still running fairly well, decided to slow down on the uphills and walk them, but otherwise just kept running everything; still too damn fast. Ate the tortilla, which was very dry and took like a mile and a half to eat. Drank my water, tried to eat my electro but the bag I was carrying them in had a hole in it so two of the three fell out, so I only ate one. No idea what time I finished this loop in, I think around 50 minutes. Still too fast, but ironically the best paced loop I had run at that point.
Get to camp and just sit there and contemplate my existence while K is asking about how I'm doing and what I ate. She gets me a new ziploc for my electro chews, and gets me another tortilla. I think I ate some Pringles in camp, but it didn't matter. I was real tired here and my brain was kinda just vibin in it's own hellish existence at this point.
Loop 6, basically a human crash test dummy. Loops 5, 6, and 7 all kinda blend in together but essentially all I did was roll my ankles, eat shit, and bash my toes through the course. At one point, I just yelled out to myself, "stop fucking tripping!" because even without a complete fall, just tripping on something and catching myself was hurting like hell and sapping my energy.
I didn't eat my tortilla on loop 6, I think I was just done eating. My legs had started cramping up, I walked them out and they'd find relief, but running the downhills started to really blast my quads and the uphills were draining me. Got into camp and I was a ghost of a human. I think my parents were here now, and I remember it was very quiet in camp, hah. I ate some Pringles and answered whatever questions K was asking me, but that was it. I sat in my chair, ate, drank, and existed in misery.
Loop 7 was a repeat of loop 6, only less running because my legs were in even worse shape. I was really watching the clock on this one, tracking each tenth of a mile on my watch and figuring out how much I could walk on the loop and still make the cut off. At one point, just walking uphill was firing up the leg factory, making them seize up something scary. With about a mile left I turned off my brain and engaged some kind of auto-jog mode in my body; managed to run out the rest of the loop.
I walked over to K and was just like, "I'm fucking done, I can't run at all anymore," and stood with her near the Start/Finish. She was trying to help me, get me food or whatever but I was done. She convinced me to go out for another loop, she handed me a new water and after a few minutes I headed out on Loop 8.
Legs wouldn't work here, fully seized up and locked, could only shuffle walk. Went about half a mile down the course before turning around and going back to camp. Took me 38 minutes to walk one mile total. Talked to the Race Director to let her know I was done and thank her for the event. We talked for a few minutes and she gave me my DNF medal.
Obviously the main take away from the run was that I started too fast. The course had significant vert to it and was technical, so even though a 10 minute mile isn't fast, it's fast for the course. Puts strain on your legs closer to a 7:00 or 8:00 minute mile. Next time, I'll start out with 12's or 13's and get in with only a few minutes before starting the next yard.
I didn't get enough electrolytes in me. I used Salt Stick Chews but I would've had to eat 8 per hour to be fully electro'd up. Instead of drinking water and eating electros, next time I'd just drink Tailwind the entire time, or Skratch or whatever electro drink is available.
We brought way more stuff than was needed. It was nice to have a good camp, but ultimately it didn't matter. We could've just brought the tent and two chairs, and relied on the very well-stocked and maintained aid station that the race organization operated.
I ran every single loop without headphones in. When I go for a normal run at home I'm always listening to a podcast or music, no exceptions. During the race though, I had no problem having nothing in my ears; my mind was firing a thousand things a minute and I never had an issue of needing that additional external stimulus. Plenty of stimuli bumping into my feet for 7 hours.
K absolutely crushed it as my crew. Forever grateful.
I need to run more trails to get better at footwork and to work on pacing myself on trails better. I'm looking at some local trail races that are occurring through the next few months, might sign up for some but that's still being ironed out.
Thanks for reading, feel free to drop a comment which I totally forgot I had the functionality to implement on my post last week.