Thoughts on fitness, health, good nutrition ... and running.

Welcome to Bald Man Running, a blog launched by Frank Murphy on January 1, 2015.

Many of the blog entries on this website predate 1/1/2015. Prior to BMR, I had written articles for various projects, and I have imported many of them into this blog (labeled "retro"). I will continue to add articles as I find them, polish them up and import them.

In March, 2013 I was selected as a contestant for the sixth season of Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner. Through this amazing program, I learned about good nutrition, sound exercise and accountability. By October, I would lose over 88 pounds (almost 37% of my original weight)! One of the many things I acquired through FWSW was a love for running. You can retrace my weight loss journey and discover how I became a runner by reading those entries labeled "fwsw" ...

Friday, October 6, 2017

Event Report Summary: No Way 200k Series

The following links are my event reports for each race in the ORRRC's 2017 "No Way 200k" Ultra Series.

#1 - Tie Dye 50k
#2 - Another Dam 50k
#3 - Dawg Gone Long Run 50k
#4 - Germantown 50k (includes additional thoughts on the series as a whole)

Additional information on the series can be found here:

Event Report: 2017 Germantown 50k

Event Report: 2017 Germantown 50k
Germantown MetroPark (Germantown, OH)

This is the fourth event in the Ohio River Road Runners Club (ORRRC) "No Way 200k" ultramarathon series. This report is not just a report on the Germantown 50k, but also a brief review of the series.

Information about the entire series can be found at:

Special notes about the “No Way” series: At one point, you had to complete a specific slate of four 50k races to complete the 200k challenge. Now, there are five 50k races, and you can run any four of the  five. It is a little confusing because some of the literature still refers to the series as four events. 200k finishers receive a special award, which varies year to year (in 2017, it will be a jacket). There is an additional award for those who complete all five events, but I have no idea what it is.

After completing all four races, I feel like part of the ORRRC family. The volunteers are top-notch and the Dayton running community is full of wonderful people. Each race presented unique challenges, and I enjoyed each event in it’s own way. It has been a rewarding summer-long experience, and I wholeheartedly recommend future ORRRC events.

The registration fee was $40, which is a great value. 50k was the only distance option for this event, so you don’t have to share the course with runners doing other races. It is a laid back atmosphere. There were only 64 runners to start the race, which I think was the smallest field of the series to date.

Travel Plans
I have seen Fort Wayne area runners at each of the other events. I enjoy seeing friendly faces at out-of-town events. But this race was a little different because Brad Compton and I traveled together. We left on Friday evening, stayed at a nearby hotel, ran the race on Saturday then drove home.

What a wonderful experience! Brad is an accomplished ultra runner and a fine, fine person. I really enjoyed our conversation. Surprisingly, we didn’t talk that much about running. I feel like I started this journey with an acquaintance, but finished it with a friend.

Having a travel buddy makes things so much more manageable. Brad ran a great race (winning his age group!) and finished about 90 minutes ahead of me. That gave him plenty of time to chat with friends and get cleaned up. He was also feeling far better than I felt, so he drove home. Brad was an answer to prayers that I hadn’t even thought to pray, and I am thankful for his company, encouragement and assistance.

The course is a 7.75 mile loop, which you run four times. There is no “finish by” cut-off time, but if you do not begin the fourth loop by 2:45 pm (6:45 of race time), then you were not permitted to continue.

Most of the course is a wide trail with some short paved sections. It is shaded most of the time, which was nice because the temperature reached the mid 90s. Fully-stocked aid stations are available at approximately mile 3.7, 5.2 and the start/finish.

I would divide the loop into three sections:

Section 1 (to mile 3.7) Prior to the first aid station, there are a few minor hills, but nothing too severe. There are several long stretches where you can build up some momentum and enjoy the slightly rolling terrain. The path is generally clear of roots and other obstacles. It’s very nice.

Section 2 (the middle 2.3 miles): After the first aid station there is a short dam crossing, and then the trail becomes more technical, narrower, and greater variety in elevation. The second aid station is in the middle of this section.

Section 3 (the remaining 1.75 miles): Here the course flattens out a bit as you complete the loop and return to the start/finish. I suspect this area would have been quite muddy (and more difficult to traverse) had there been some rain prior to or during the race. Of particular interest is a long wooden boardwalk. While it was not a problem on race day, it could be a different story if it were wet.

There is about 900 feet of accumulated elevation per loop (good for about 3600-ish for the whole course). There were no water crossings (at least not on race day).

My overall impression of the course? It was easily my favorite course of the No Way series. It reminded me of Chain O’ Lakes more than any of the other courses. Interestingly, what reminded me of home was not the scenery, elevation profile, etc. It was how well the trail was cared for. This was easily the most well maintained course of the series. I think it says something about the COL community that, at least to me, the chief trademark of the COL course is how carefully and lovingly maintained it is.

Aid Stations
Each of the previous events had a mix of unmanned/manned aid stations, but this race had full service at each stop. I know that is extra work for the volunteers, and I really appreciated their efforts.

I usually arrived at an aid station by myself, so I got the undivided attention of the volunteers. I felt like a NASCAR driver coming in for a pit stop … one guy would refill my water bottle, another guy would chop up fresh apple slices, etc. They were very proactive and encouraging. It was obvious that several of the volunteers were veteran ultra runners by the way they knew how to take care of us.

Fare included apples, bananas, oranges, pretzels, chips, PB&J quarters, pickles, cookies, Twizzlers, and more. Everything was available at each of the three stations. Drink options included water, gatorade and stale soda.

I know course layout dictates aid station placement. Having said that, it would have been nice if aid stations were more evenly spread out. It felt like it took a while to get to the first aid station, and then the second one was close to it. Again, there’s not much that can be done about where the pavilions are located. Still, it’s helpful to know that you have to run half of the loop before you hit the first aid station.

The race started at 8:00 a.m., which (in my humble opinion) is a little late for a 50k start. The metropark likely dictates the start time, but if we could have started earlier, it would have been helpful. I would prefer running with a headlamp in the morning if it meant running few hours in the heat.

Initially, humidity was high (over 85%) and temperature was in the mid  60s. As the race progressed, the humidity dropped while the temperature climbed. There was virtually no cloud cover throughout the day, and very little breeze. By the end of the day, the temperature on the course had hit 94 degrees. It was definitely a hot one!

My Performance
I wish I could tell you that I absolutely crushed it. My first lap went really well, and I felt good about my second lap as well. I was able to share a few miles with different folks, which was very pleasant.

By the time I started the third lap, the heat had climbed up enough to impact my performance. I was also by myself most of the final two laps, which is not unusual for me in a long race.

I knew the final lap would be difficult, but I was ahead of the cut-off by about 30 minutes, which meant I was okay. I changed shoes, removed my shirt and added a handheld water bottle (I had been using a water belt with a single 16 oz bottle). I think each of these things helped, and this is a fine example of implementing lessons learned from previous races. I’m finally starting to feel like a veteran!

Prior to beginning the last loop, I asked the race director where I was in the standings, and she estimated that about a dozen runners were still behind me. Knowing I wasn’t the last person took some pressure off of my shoulders.

I wound up walking most of that last lap. I just didn’t have much left in my tank. I had started struggling to put fuel into that tank as I was having a hard time eating. Over the last few hours of the race, I was reduced to eating apple slices almost exclusively. It wasn’t that I was struggling to keep food down (no nausea), but I would put something in my mouth and then have a hard time swallowing it. I can’t remember ever experiencing this kind of phenomenon before.

I do think I did an acceptable job of hydrating. I took a pee a few times during the race, and color/odor was never a cause for alarm. Having a second water bottle allowed me to “spritz” myself liberally, which felt really, really good.

When I made it the first aid station on the last loop, a volunteer told me just a few people were behind me as the field was thinning out. Eventually, two guys caught up to me … the dreaded course sweepers. I knew sweepers existed, but I had never seen them in action before. This is when I learned that I was officially the last person still on the course.

The sweepers never directly engaged me in conversation. I could overhear their conversation (most of which involved ultra horror stories). While they did their job, I feel like it was a missed opportunity. I imagine that if I were a sweeper, I’d try to use the opportunity to be an active encourager. As it turned out, even though they were behind me, I was still pretty much on my own. I simply pressed on and stayed in front of them all the way to the finish line.

After each loop, I had to adjust my estimated finish time. After loop 1, I thought 7:30 was possible. After loop 2, I thought 8:00 was realistic. By the end of loop 3, I thought 8:40 was likely. I didn’t hit any of those estimates. I wound up finishing with my slowest ever 50k finish time. I was this year’s official DFL.

Lap 1 > 1:45 (1:45 elapsed)
Lap 2 > 1:55 (3:40 elapsed)
Lap 3 > 2:32 (6:12 elapsed)
Lap 4 > 2:52 (9:04 elapsed)

For the record, I am completely cool with finishing last because I finished. Out of 64 people who started the race, I was #45. That means that, for whatever reason, almost one-third of the field did not finish. By the grace of God, I was not a DNF. I’m grateful that I was able to finish, and while I was completely spent, I was also quite satisfied. Despite the difficult conditions, this was my favorite race of the series.

You get a nice shirt at packet pickup. The finisher award is a beanie with an LED light in it. It’s a nice cap, but it’s not suitable for running. I sweat a lot when running in the cold, and this would be a pain to wash, so it has limited usefulness. There were no finisher medals, and the age group awards were inexpensive water bottles. Having said this, you know when you register that it is a low cost event.

I appreciate that the race directors found creative ways to reward finishers. The beanie is the first item of it’s kind I’ve ever got at a race, so kudos for thinking outside of the box. I suspect that next year they’ll find something else to offer.

Series swag (by event): #1 = very nice tech shirt at registration, ceramic vase for finishing, #2 = a cotton shirt at reg and a tech shirt at finish, #3 = buff at reg and a medal at finish, #4 = shirt at reg and a beanie at finish. (Based on what I've overheard at races, swag items vary a little each year.)

Series Final Thoughts
Each race gave me a gift:

#1 (Tie Dye) was incredibly difficult due to heavy flooding. I had never encountered such conditions, but I was able to persevere and finish. When I hear other runners share extreme “war stories” of difficult races, I can now contribute one of my own.

#2 (Another Dam) was my best effort, but unfortunately, I was heavily fatigued going into it. I have ran a lot of races this year, and Another Dam was so close to other events that I didn’t have a proper recovery/taper. I learned valuable lessons by running tired. I am pleased that I tackled this race with less than ideal conditioning and was still able to put forth a solid effort.

#3 (Dog Gone) was frustrating at first. There was so much mud! The first (of two) loop had me questioning my sanity. It was the closest I ever came to dropping a race simply because it sucked. I was not injured or ill. I was just upset. Fortunately, it dried out and I was able to enjoy the second loop. If I had quit, I would have failed to learn a valuable lesson in perseverance. This was the most mentally challenging race of the series.

#4 (Germantown) was my celebration race. The finish line was not just for a 50k, but for the 200k series as well. I had worked hard for months to complete a big goal, and it was cool to know what the finish line really meant. It didn’t hurt that the course was enjoyable and the company I kept was awesome. The heat took a lot out of me, but it didn’t diminish my determination to finish.

So … that’s the story of how I ran the No Way 200k series. Hopefully, you were able to finish reading my race reports in less time than it took me to run them.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Event Report: 2017 Anchor Down Ultra

Event Report: 2017 Anchor Down Ultra - 12 Hour Colt State Park, Narragansett Bay (Bristol, RI) 8/18-19/2017 https://www.anchordownultra.com/ Pre-Race I work for a company that sent me to a week long conference in Boston. When presented with such an opportunity, I try to find a nearby race before or after the work-related stuff. I found the Anchor Down Ultra, a 6/12/24 hour event in Rhode Island. I like new challenges, and this certainly qualified. I’d never done a timed race.I’d never flown to an ultra. I’d never done a race alongside the ocean. Lots of first on my horizon! Packing was difficult, as I had to prepare for the conference and the race. If this were the IT, I would have prepared multiple drop bags, each with a pair of fresh shoes/clothes, etc. In this case, I had to pack lighter than I preferred. Yes, I made a few mistakes, but at least I am now better equipped to do this in the future. One of the biggest challenges was trying to navigate a taper week while at a conference. I couldn’t eat the foods I normally eat, and sleeping in a hotel isn’t always restful. I’m a guy that likes to stick to a routine, and I was often out of my comfort zone. It worked out, but was a source of anxiety. The conference ended at 3 pm on Friday. I drove down to Rhode Island from the conference and got to Bristol by 5 pm. All three events started at 7 pm, so I had plenty of time to change and get acclimated before the race. I would have liked a little more “down time” so I could take a nap. I didn’t get a nap, and (spoiler alert) I think that would contribute to my lack of late-race oomph. The weather report all week predicted thunderstorms during the race. The weather report turned out to be (another spoiler alert) spot on. There was a ton of rain, especially early on. Check-In Swag-bag: The bibs are nice and specific to the event. The event shirt is a really nice tech shirt, and really nice cotton shirts were also available for an extra purchase (I got one of those too). Sponsors included North Face, Gu, and Hot Shot. What struck me as particularly cool was how the company reps worked the event as volunteers. They weren’t just selling stuff, but were actively staffing aid stations, etc. I can’t recall ever seeing an event where the sponsors were so involved in the event. This was really cool. I assumed there would be a place for drop bags at the start/finish. Pre-race communications mentioned that we’d have access to our gear, but I didn’t fully understand the logistics until I got there. There’s a designated “runner’s village” where you can set up a tent. They was not a generic tent for runners like myself that brought a simple drop bag. My plight was exacerbated by the rain, because I couldn’t just find a spot on the ground to leave my fabric drop bag. Fortunately, I met some very nice people from CT Trail Mixers, a local running club. They’d set up a large tent and welcomed me as an honorary member for the weekend. This was a tremendous blessing! They were very kind, supportive and generous. I would have had a far different experience without their hospitality, and I am in their debt. They are a perfect example of how cool the running community can be. There is a pacer policy (12 hour runners can have one after 6 hours, and 24 hour runners can pick up a pacer after 12 hours), but I did not have anyone to pace me. The Weather Poopy. There was a lot of rain for a lot of the race. They made sure to brief everyone on weather delay/cancellation policy, and fortunately, it never came to that. During the national anthem, it started a strong, steady downpour that lasted for a few hours. It let up for a little while, and then rained off/on throughout the night. By dawn, it had pretty much stopped raining. This was one of those events where you are soaked to bone before you even cross the first timing mat. The Course It’s a 2.45 mile loop. That little 0.05 kinda bugged me. Apparently, the first year of the event, it was announced as a 2.5 mile loop, but people complained it was short, so, they adjusted the distance for accuracy’s sake. Personally, I would have preferred lengthening the course. It’s a small thing, but when running a long distance, parts of my brain just shut down. Doing mental math on multiples of 2.45 got harder as the laps accumulated. About 1 mile of the loop is on (mostly) single-track trail and the rest is asphalt. Thus, about 60% of the race is paved. You can run on the grass next to the pavement at times, but that is not always an option. The asphalt/trail mix complicated selecting the right shoes. I knew the course was mostly paved, so I brought road-friendly trail shoes (Salomon Sense Pro Max) and road shoes (Saucony Ride 9). I planned to start in trail shoes and switch if conditions permitted. For what it’s worth, most of the runners wore road shoes. If I could have packed more gear, I would have included more shoes. As it turns out, the rain made the trail section quite difficult. In some places, it was ankle deep mud. For this, the Salomon’s were perfect, and they even worked out well on the paved portions … at least for the first few hours. As the race wore on, the soles of my feet started heating up. I would have liked to change shoes, but the road shoes were not suitable in for the mud, so I didn’t have a choice. Overall, the course is relatively flat. The trail portion has a fair amount of roots, but it’s otherwise free of obstacles. The paved portions are right next to the ocean. Even though it was dark for most of the race, it was serene and beautiful, even throughout the storms. The park is really well maintained, and the locals are justifiably proud of the course. If you run the 24 hour option, you’ll have even better views during the day, but beware because most of the paved sections are in the open (i.e., unshaded). If you’re wanting a trail ultra, the significant amount of road is probably going be a deal breaker for you. The Skunk Around 10pm, I caught up with a group of runners going real slow and oddly bunched up together. A skunk had entered the race (apparently as a bandit, because I didn’t see a bib). Eventually, the path widened out a bit and we were able to safely pass. The skunk didn’t let ‘er rip, so we lucked out, but he sure made it real interesting for a quarter mile. Aid Stations There are two stations: the main one at the start/finish, and the other one is about half way through the loop. An aid station is always less than 1.25 miles away. Initially, the halfway station was water only, but after a few hours they began serving hot Ramen noodles (one of my ultra favorites). The main station is full service, with a great spread of all the stuff you’d expect: PB&J, M&Ms, chips, pretzels, fruit, pizza, etc.The volunteers are great, and since you see them so often, they do a good job of remembering you. It’s cool to pull in and hear someone call out your name, especially when you’re 850 miles from home. Gu provided a Tailwind-like hydration drink, and I really liked it. I probably shouldn’t have tried it for the first time during a race, but it worked out. Over the course of the race, I think I nailed the nutrition. I never felt hungry or nauseous. I would eventually run out of steam, but it was not a fueling issue. The Race My “gold standard” goal was surpassing 50 miles (21 loops for 51.45 miles). I had finished the first two loops in less than an hour, at a comfortable effort level. The weather made it interesting, but I was moving well. I still felt good as I finished six loops in about three hours. But I could tell that I was getting tired, and I began to slow down. By the six hour mark, I was at 26 miles, and I knew that 50 miles was unlikely. The biggest problem of the night was my headlamp. I’d had problems with a cheap lamp during the 2016 Woodstock 100k, so I invested in a posh Petzl lamp with a sensor that adjusts brightness depending on the environment. This feature turned out to be a real big pain in the butt. When I was on the trail portion of the loop, my headlamp would automatically dim. I could turn it off and on to reset it, and it would work for a while, but then it would go dim again. There was a lot of mist and fog in the woods, and I think it caused my lamp to malfunction. I thought it might be damaged or a low battery, but whenever I got out of the woods, it worked correctly … until I went back into the woods, and then it would act up again. If I was next to someone with a powerful lamp, my lamp would stay on. It was when I was alone that it would do it’s weird dimming trick. This odd behavior became more pronounced as the night progressed. I was really blessed to fall in step with a young lady (also doing the 12 hour). She had decided to walk the trail portion and jog/run the paved sections until the sun came up. I shared almost three full loops with her, and without her strong headlamp and encouragement, I would have been in a jam. Again, I’m in debt to strangers within the running community. If I had brought my full drop bag kit, I would have had an extra headlamp, but I wound up leaving the extra lamp at home to save space. This wasn’t the smartest racing decision I’ve ever made. It’s amazing how a few hours of fidgeting with a stupid headlamp can drain you. I was already tired, but this sucked so much out of me. I wound up walking a lot more than I should have … or needed to. The Finish While this is a timed race, you don’t get a medal unless you cross a certain threshold (8 laps for 6 hour, 16 laps for 12 hour, 20 laps for 24 hour). For me, I began to think of it as a regular race with a cutoff. After I realized 50 miles was not going to happen, I kept making downwards adjustments to my goal. Eventually, I settled on completing the minimum number of laps to get that medal. I wound up completing my 16th lap at 10:41 (gun time) with 1:19 remaining. I could have done at least one more lap, but I was spent and sore. I was also dealing with the unpleasant reality that I had substantial chafing issues. It was perhaps the worst chafing I’ve ever experienced. I still had to drive back to Boston, so I chose to pull the plug and collect my medal. It is one of the nicest race medals I’ve ever got. It’s large, steel and has a unique design etched onto each side. It’s gorgeous. They did not have showers on site, so I wound up cleaning up as best as I could in the parking lot using a bottle of drinking water. I put on fresh clothes, shoved my muddy gear into plastic bags, and made it to the airport with some time to spare (I did stop twice to take a little nap). I didn't get a shower until I got back to Fort Wayne late that evening. What Did I Learn? If I do another event that I have to fly to, I’ll have a much better idea of what to pack. A spare headlamp is not a luxury, but a necessity. Don’t leave home without it. The running community is awesome. When using 2toms (for anti-chafing), if you’re already a little damp from rain and sweat, it’s important to dry off thoroughly before applying. Even the waterproof stuff doesn’t go on real well if it’s not applied under the right conditions. Would I recommend this event? I can say that I’d do it again if the opportunity presents itself. It’s a nice event with great folks on a beautiful course. If you’re a road runner looking to dip your toe into ultra events, this is a great place to start. However, if you’re a die-hard trail runner, you might not appreciate the amount of paved surfaces.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Event Report: 2017 Dawg Gone Long Run 50k

Event Report: 2017 Dawg Gone Long Run 50k
Caesar Creek State Park (Waynesville, OH)

This is the third event in the Ohio River Road Runners Club (ORRRC) "No Way 200k" ultramarathon series. Information about the entire series can be found at: http://orrrc.org/club-events-and-series/200k-no-way-trail-series.

As another ORRRC race, much about the other ORRRC events applies here as well. It’s a nice, inexpensive race. The volunteers do a fine job. The field is small (typically 100-ish or so runners), and everybody had a great attitude. This is a good event.

Unlike the other events in this series, DGLR featured two options: a 50k and a 50 miler. I chose the 50k. If you start the 50 miler, but do not finish, you don't get finisher’s credit, even if you pass 50k. I briefly considered the longer race, but my goal is to finish the series and I didn’t want to jeopardize that.

Packet pickup is “day of” only and starts an hour before the race. The 6:30 a.m. start is earlier than the other races in this series, and is much appreciated. This was likely because they needed to accommodate the 50 mile option.

I think they allow 50k runners the same amount of time to finish (cut-off of 13 hours), so if you’re looking for a first ultra with a generous cut-off time, this is one to consider.

The Weather
The day before the race it rained for about 12 hours. Fortunately, there was no rain on the day of the race, but it created a slick, mud-slathered course. Temperature-wise, race day was fairly comfortable. I was careful to maintain proper hydration.

The Course
The course is roughly a 16.5 mile loop. 50 milers run it three times and 50k runners do it twice. Notice that two-thirds of 50 miles is actually over 33 miles. Whenever you run a race like this (50mi and 50k share a course), the 50k course is usually longer than 50k. I was told the actual length of the loop was 16.3 miles, which means the 50 miler was a bit short.

The area around the start/finish line is paved. It helps to wear hybrid shoes that won’t hurt on hard surfaces. Overall, about 3-4 miles of the course is paved, which isn’t too bad. In some of the paved areas, you can run on a soft shoulder, which I did.

The loop is nearly split in half by the primary aid station. The first half of the loop was fairly easy terrain. While there was a lot of mud from the previous day's storms, it was generally flat and easy enough to navigate. I was able to run for extended periods of time.

There were a few wooden bridges, which were extra slick, so that warranted extra caution. One bridge had washed out, so there was an unplanned creek crossing, but it wasn’t too bad. For the most part, you could keep your feet dry if that was important to you.

The second half of the loop was a lot of rolling terrain. It was never very steep, but it was also never very flat. With the mud and my own timidity, it was extremely slow going. I had the stamina and energy to run, but wound up walking a lot between miles 10-15 simply because I never felt like I could safely build up momentum.

This was really frustrating. I’ve had to walk long stretches during other ultras, and I’m okay with that. It’s usually because I’m tired and trying to regroup. In this case, I was itching to run, but couldn’t.

The mud was the worst kind, in my opinion. It was a slimy thin layer that coated an otherwise hard trail surface. That made the path extra slick, which is far scarier to me than trying to slog through an ankle deep mud bog. I was afraid of a foot slipping out from under me and pulling a groin muscle, or falling hard on the trail and rolling down a hill, or worse.

Most of the course was single track. In many places, the grass on either side of the single track was really high (as in “armpit high”). I was warned about this by someone during the prior 50k in the series, so I decided to wear leggings instead of shorts. I’m glad that I did this. Getting this kind of insider information is a bonus benefit to doing a series of races.

One thing I noticed many times over was the sheer volume of natural debris on the trail: fallen trees, rocks, etc. I overheard several local runners say things like “remember when this tree fell across the path a few years ago?” Sometimes it’s hard to climb over big tree trunks, especially when you’re 28 miles into the race.

As a person who runs regularly at Chain O Lakes State Park (Albion, IN), I’m used to trails that are maintained year round by dedicated volunteers. I realize this is the exception and not the rule.

By the time I had finished the first loop, I had come to the conclusion that this was a stupid race. I hated the course. It wasn’t fun. I’ve ran courses with more hills, flooding, etc., but this course was probably the most difficult I’d ever attempted because of the patience required in dealing with the mud. Starting the second loop, I was low in spirit and dreading what was to come after passing the manned aid station. I was certain that I would become even more miserable.

I remember saying to myself that the course was “not unrelentless” (which I know is a triple negative … and I was feeling triply negative at the time, so it’s completely appropriate and accurate).

Imagine my surprise when I got into the sucky part of the course, yet it looked totally different to me. It had started drying out in several places and I was able to run more often. I had plenty of gas in my tank and it felt really good to really run again. There was still a fair amount of mud, but the course condition had noticeably improved.

By the time I finished the second loop, I was in much better spirits and the race didn’t seem quite so dumb anymore. Overall, this is a good race, and while I moved much slower than I had planned, I left with a good feeling. I had safely completed the challenge and was injury-free.

Aid Stations
Full service aid stations were at the start/finish line and about halfway into the loop. Two unmanned aid stations (with coolers containing water and Tailwind) were situated in between the full service stations. Fare was limited, but adequate: PBJ, chips, pretzels, some fruit, etc. I’ve experienced both better and worse at other ultra events.

You could leave a drop bag at the start/finish (which I did) and/or have a bag taken to the loop’s halfway point (which I did not do). I like having options with drop bags, even I don’t always use them.

I can say I’m not a huge fan of unmanned stations. When I got to the first station (about mile 4), the coolers looked like they hadn’t been filled yet. I was near the back of the pack, so this likely meant that nobody got aid from that stop.

Also, the unmanned stations did not have any cups until late in the day. I carried a water bottle, which was easy enough to refill at the coolers; however, getting Tailwind was another matter. I wound up on my hands and knees, squirting Tailwind directly into my mouth. It was needlessly awkward. Towards the end of the day, paper cups were available, so race officials addressed this concern mid-race. I like that kind of responsiveness.

I realize the logistical concerns that necessitate having aid stations unmanned. I’m sympathetic. I do think they’re better than nothing. Still, I’m still not a fan.

Post-race fare was pizza. Yawn. If that’s your thing, then you’re happy. I wound up getting something to eat afterwards on the drive home.

No shirt! Crazy, I know. You do get a “Dawg Gone” branded buff with your registration packet, and finishers receive a modest medal that looks like dog tags (but is not actual dog tags). This is the first race of the series that gives you a medal, so I was pleased to get that. I’m very happy with the bling.

Unforgettable Moment
Around mile 15, there was a steep downhill section with wooden steps layered into the hillside. Without even really thinking, I started down those slick steps at too fast of a pace. Sure enough, a foot slipped out from under me, and I started barreling down the hill completely out of control. My arms were flailing wildly, and there was nothing to grab. Neither could I see a safe place to fall. My life was repeatedly flashing before my eyes … well, not my whole life, just the part where I fell and broke my foot last year, I was genuinely terrified.

Do what you will with this paragraph… what happened next is something I’ll never forget. I could swear that someone steadied me. I could feel a hand in each armpit steering me through the last twenty feet of that terrifying free fall. I arrived at the bottom of the hill on two feet … and my heart rate at 300 bpm. If you’ve got an explanation for what I experienced, that’s fine. I’m convinced I was a split second from serious injury before a supernatural intervention. I can easily give God credit for this one. I’m very thankful.

Overall, I’m glad I did this race. It’s one step close to completing the No Way 200k series. It was also my tenth ultra finish (11th ultra start), so it was nice to hit a significant milestone at the finish line.

One race left in the No Way 200k series … watch out, Germantown 50k! I’m coming...

Friday, June 16, 2017

Event Report: 2017 Another Dam 50k

Event Report: Another Dam 50k
Englewood Metropark (Englewood, OH)

Yet another dam event report? Yep. Even if nobody reads it, I'll still write another dam event report.
This is the second event in the Ohio River Road Runners Club (ORRRC) "No Way 200k" ultramarathon series. Information about the entire series can be found at: http://orrrc.org/club-events-and-series/200k-no-way-trail-series.

To learn more about the first event in this series, see my blog entry at http://www.baldmanrunning.com/2017/05/event-report-2017-tie-dye-50k.html.

If I complete four of the races in this series, I win a special award (which appears to be jacket). I probably would not have signed up for another dam 50k if it wasn't part of the series. I love multi-event swag.

ORRRC puts on inexpensive events without sacrificing too much quality. Like the other events in this series, the registration fee was less than $50. I didn't get the "Early Bird" rate, but I think it was about $25.

Also, field size is limited to about 100 runners (as was Tie Dye). I'm glad that I didn't have to wait on another dam waiting list to get in to this event. If you want to run these events, sign up early. It's not a bad idea to start checking the ORRRC website in January/February if you want to run ORRRC events.

Tie Dye was 14 days prior to this event, so I was either in recovery mode or taper mode leading up to this event. I'm not sure which.

I did another dam carb load meal two days before the event. Fazoli's. I was underwhelmed. Why do I go there? I'm not sure any more.

I drove down the day before. I left Fort Wayne around 6:00 p.m. and ate my dinner on the drive to Dayton. On the evening before a race, I usually eat a PBJ, a piece of fruit and some Veggie Straws. I got to another dam hotel around 9:00 p.m. It was very inexpensive... and kind of scary. I was fortunate to get to sleep quickly and I woke up the next morning without any problems. I had packed my own breakfast (oatmeal), which I cooked using the in-room microwave. No fuss, no hassles.

Packet Pickup
They don't offer pre-race packet pickup, so you need to get there early; however the park didn't open until 7:00 a.m., so if you get there too early, you just sit there and wait.

The race started at 8:00 a.m. I wish it could have started an hour (or two) earlier. Before the race was over, temperatures would soar into the 90s and there was little cloud cover on significant parts of the course. An earlier start may be beyond the control of the race director, and if so, I understand; however, a couple of hours earlier would have allowed us to avoid another dam couple hours of heat.

At packet pickup, you get another dam bib and a cotton t-shirt with the event logo. It's not like I needed another dam shirt, but I'll wear it. I like the slightly naughty sound of the event name (perhaps you've noticed).

Pre-race announcements were short, sweet and to the point. Another dam race director actually started the race about 3 minutes early, which just might be unprecedented in the annals of trail races.

The Course
The course is a loop that is almost 8 miles long, which you run four times for a total of 31.7 miles. Several people finished with slightly less than that distance on their GPS devices, but the race director was repeatedly adamant that the course length was precisely 31.7 miles. I finished with just slightly less than 31 miles, but I do know my Garmin dropped signal a few times. I'll take his word for it.

The course is kind of shaped like a warped barbell. You run a mini-loop on the west side of the park for a few miles, cross the dam to the east side of the park to run a few more miles, then go back across the dam again to complete the eight mile loop. This means that the name of the event is misleading. There's no "another" dam... it's just the same dam over and over again. Without shade. It's about 6.5 total miles of running back and forth across that dam (eight times in total). Without shade (yes, I repeated that on purpose).

When you're not running on the dam, you get a decent amount of shade on a well-groomed course. It's quite pretty, and the weather of the prior week was cooperative (no heavy rainfall to muck up the course). The course is not very technical and there are no real hills to wear you out. I did find that the sunlight cast a lot of interesting shadows on the ground which resembled roots and other obstacles. I've not experienced much of this phenomenon, so it was mildly disorienting. I survived.

Course markings were more than adequate. I'm thankful that I didn't wind up making another dam excursion into the great unknown. Any races where I don't get lost multiple times is doing something right.

There is a partial aid station at the start/finish (water and Gatorade only). This is where you can leave a drop bag if you'd like. There is another dam aid station about 2.5 miles into the loop, which you'll hit again about 3 miles later. This is a full-service stop with liquids and food. You're never more than 3 miles from an aid station the entire day.

As far as fare goes, it's adequate. Pretzels, PBJ, fruit, chips, etc. If you're used to running with the IT crowd, you're spoiled (it's not as good as IT runners get during a training run), but it's sufficient. Overall, I'm not a big fan of the "liquids only" stops, but I understand the reasons to do it that way.

Post-race food is pizza, which is fine, I guess. I'm not a big pizza fan, and by the time I finish, it's cold pizza. I wound up getting another dam post-race meal at a nearby Waffle House (which included a little extra attitude from the waitress).

I don't think I wore the right shoes. I chose Salomon Sense Pro shoes, which I have worn in several ultra races. They're great when the ground is a little muddy or otherwise soft, but this was a lot of hard terrain. Perhaps a quarter of the race is on paved or gravel roads, which is a lot of time spent "off trail." By the end of the race, the soles of both feet were significantly more sore than they usually are after a comparable race. I imagine this is what it feels like to run a road marathon in minimalist shoes. Unpleasant.

In retrospect, I probably would have been better off to wear a pair of more heavily cushioned road shoes. Traction wouldn't have been a problem, and I could have avoided some sole-searing post-race discomfort. I need to find a pair of trail shoes that are more suited for this kind of surface.

I wore a belt with a pouch (for my phone) and a holster (for a water bottle). As I neared the end of the third loop, I dropped my water bottle and it broke. I am always breaking water bottles, but this was a bigger bummer because the water bottle is customized for the belt. Fortunately, I had a hand held in the drop bag. I felt pretty smart for bringing a backup.

Finisher Bling
Finishers get a tech shirt. It's different from the shirt you get at packet pickup. As far as bling goes, I was a little disappointed. Give me a coffee cup or a beanie or a medal or a coupon to a running store... but another dam shirt? I've got a ton of race shirts!

Having said that, it's a nice shirt. I'll wind up wearing it more frequently than I do most race shirts. It's the perfect shade of neon yellow to go along with my banana man tights. So, one day soon, you just might see me on the trail in my tight yellow tights while wearing another dam yellow shirt. Feel free to say hi!

The aid station volunteers were quite nice, and the course marshals were a hoot (perhaps the highlight of the event, as far as I'm concerned). I appreciated their encouragement and kindness. Most races brag about having great volunteers, and I think ORRRC is safe to add another dam notch in their belt in this department.

My Performance
The time limit for this event is 9 hours. My goal was to finish another dam race in 7 hours. I finished at 7:14. My splits (per lap) were 1:26, 1:31, 2:02, 2:14.

I felt great through the first two loops. I was moving well, and the heat was manageable. However, the temperature continued to climb and that's when the mind games started.

I had a few flashback memories of my first marathon: 2014 Sunburst (South Bend, IN). It was very hot and humid that day, and I had serious dehydration issues followed by the worst muscle spasms and cramps I've ever experienced. I wound up walking the last six miles of Sunburst simply because I couldn't run anymore. It was a miserable end to an otherwise glorious experience. For a while, I doubted I would be able to make it to the finish line. I did finish, but Sunburst left its mark on me. I didn't want another dam day of serious heat-related problems, so I chose to rein it in, play it safe, and walk a little more than I had initially planned.

I did pray for some cloud cover when not in the shady woods, and I'm thankful for the occasional relief that God provided.

(Random observation alert!) I often start an ultra race thinking that I could spend some of the solitary portions of the race in prayer. For whatever reason, it never really works out that way. I just get too distracted I guess. I wonder if other ultra runners talk to God a lot while running...

When I finished the third loop at 5:00, I knew that 7:00 was off the table, which took a lot of self-imposed pressure off of me. I just enjoyed the last loop and tried to take in some of the sights that I had missed on the previous three loops (except on the dam... there's not another dam thing to see when you're on it... just get to other side). For instance, there are a few waterfalls that I had missed. I am frequently surprised by how many new things there are to see on the last loop of an ultra ...

It was a little slower than I would have liked, but I'm happy with the day. This was my seventh marathon+ race since March 2017, and only two weeks after my previous 50k. I came out injury-free. I'll take it.

Would I be willing to run it again next year? Sure, I'm willing to give it another dam shot...