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

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

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" ...

Note: Many of the blog entries on this website predate 1/1/2015. Prior to launching BMR, I had written articles for various projects, and I have imported many of them into this blog (labeled "retro").

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 50 miler. 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...

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