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").

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. There 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.

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