Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Bethel Hill Moonlight Boogie. Well, half-Boogie, but solo.

I have talked about the Boogie before, and how important it is to me not to bollox it up. I have bolloxed it up before, and I don’t want to bollox it up again.

This is another one about how execution can make or break (bollox) the boogie. The stories about the heat, the hills, the pigeon sized deer fly, the snakes, drunk rednecks are all well documented, and the race waiver is still one of the best out there.

This year I was adding a a new dimension to my race. I was going to run it solo.

I was horrified to learn that I would be traveling for work on Boogie day! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! At May Madness, though, I talked to Doug “The Boogieman”, and asked him about the possibility of starting the race early. A week early. I also asked, if I could downgrade from the Full-Boogie (50 miles) to the Baby-Boogie (26.2). Doug very kindly agreed, and said he would recognize my finish and  record my finish time with an asterisk for the early start.

Of course I wasn’t going to be totally alone. Lady Sarah the UltraPup (who recovered within a day of Chatooga) was going to pace me again.

My plan was to start exactly 6pm, a week early. When I left Sanford the weather was true Boogie weather. The thermometer in my car read 92oF, and it was nice and humid. However, the temperature plummeted in the 75 minute drive to Bethel Hill Church, to a mere 84oF. WTF? This is very-unBoogie like. Oh well, cooler weather wouldn’t be a bad thing. On the way to the start, I hid a cooler at the Dog Pen which would serve as my mini aid station. My truck would be the “main aid station” at the start of each loop.

The course is basically a lollipop. A 6 mile loop, then a 4 mile out and back (down Bethel Hill then another 1/2 mile to a turn around and back). So, the marathon, is two full laps, plus the 6 mile loop. For the 0.2 , at the start you run a very short 0.1 mile out and a 0.1 mile back.

At 6pm on the nose, I started my 0.1 out, and just as I was wrapping up the 0.1 mile back, a car pulled into the church parking lot. It was Merrie, Doug’s wife who was going to keep me company for the first 6 miles! Wonderful, then I would only have 20 miles on my own. I have seen Merrie at the occasional race, but had never met her before. Somewhere between 1.5 miles and 2 miles, Doug also joined us. And he would stick with me for a full loop. The pace was as easy as the conversation. As promised, Merrie went home after 6 miles. Doug stuck with me down the out and back and back to his car. So basically I had company for the first 12 miles or so. That really helped. When we got back to his car, Doug very kindly offered me a beer. We chatted for a few minutes while enjoying the beverage, then I carried on the run.

This was right around dusk. It didn’t take long for the loneliness to kick in – about as quick as the darkness engulfed Lady Sarah and I. I made sure we were both lit up like Christmas trees, I had flashing red lights on my back, a head light, and Sarah had her flashing red and reflective collar on.

This was also when the head games started. Seriously – everything seriously screwed with my head! Every crack in the pavement became a rattle snake or a copperhead. Every noise in the woods was a pole cat, even the lightning bugs when they first fired up became the flashlights of stalkers in the woods, (later on though – the lightshow they gave me was incredibly impressive), and every pair of headlamps became a drunk redneck ready to throw beer cans and run us off the road.

Of course none of that was the case. Every car gave us a wide berth, the noises in the woods were probably rabbits (coulda been pole cats though, who knows?), and the cracks in the pavement, were just cracks in the pavement.

The mind games and the loneliness really just made me want to get it done, it was actually pretty scary despite the fact that there really was nothing to be scared about. I picked the pace up quite a bit once I was on my own (or maybe it was the beer), and even more so for the last 6 miles.

Sarah of course was simply awesome as always, and had a perfect rhythm going, and was probably the only thing that kept me from completely going nuts. I know that if there really was a polecat stalking us, she would of course alert me. I think. Probably. Hopefully, anyway.

So with nobody at the finish, I just stopped my watch, and wandered over to the truck, sat down, had a beer and celebrated my 4th Boogie (and 3rd finish).

Thank you Doug for letting me take part in one of my absolute favorite races, even though work got in the way

Boogie done. Not Bolloxed.

Chatooga 50k Executed

Chatooga 50k is a tough run that is all about the execution. If you manage things well, then the race will go well for you. (However you define “well” of course).

It seems that like many ultras, this one is totally capable of biting you in the ass. Quick summary of the course: 3.5 miles down (drop a 1000’ or so), 3.5 miles back up. Aid station. Then 10 miles without aid, rolling hills, quite a few of these miles by the Chatooga River (apparently, ‘Deliverance’ was filmed there). The trail is rocky with several roots, pretty technical. After 10 miles, the next aid station, followed by 2 miles out (mainly down), 2 miles back (mainly up – strangely), then back the way you came for 10 miles to the finish.

So, here is how I think you can screw this thing up. The first 3.5 miles, this is where you can start to bollox things up. It is fairly easy running, all down hill – none of it really steep though. You can really push the pace. You can get to the bottom of the trail, and feel great – so great that when you turn around at the bottom, with visions of perhaps a PR in mind, you start to climb back up the hill. If you really want to fuck things up, then you run it hard. So, the end result of the first 7 miles, the beginnings of southern fried quads with a side of trashed calf muscles. Add a touch of dehydration into the mix, and you have the potential for disaster. Now you have 10 miles to go with no way to refuel, and you can only rehydrate with what you can carry (supplemented by Chatooga-Mineral-Water), the heat picks up, by the time you get to the aid station at 17 miles or so, you are totally bolloxed. This is essentially what I did last year – sure I finished, but the last 5 miles were pretty bloody miserable – it was a pretty spectacular meltdown).

This year, not so. I have learned a lot about “trail miles”, and “mountain trail miles”, so I knew just how slow it could be, I had course knowledge. Also, this year, I had a wonderful pacer for the whole race – Lady Sarah The UltraPup. I left Wilbur at home this time, his paws were a little sore from running in sand at the May Madness 50K, plus there was not going to be nearly as much down time for him to cool off during this race. So just Sarah and I. And she truly was awesome.

So, running down the hill at the start, I felt myself going just a little faster than I wanted, I stood to the side of the trail and let everyone pass me by. I learned as I headed back up after the turnaround that I wasn’t quite DFL, but close, there was just one other person behind me and a couple who started 15 minutes late. I wasn’t bothered in the slightest. I was executing well.

At the aid station, the volunteers were simply wonderful. They pampered Sarah, offered her snacks and a bowl of water, which she gratefully accepted, they didn’t leave me to fend form myself either, they filled my bottle, fed me to get me ready for the next 10 mile stretch. Here is the trick here. Slam a couple of Gatorades while waiting, eat something (even though hunger is not yet an issue, fill up a water bottle, and make sure the hydration bladder is filled up, and you will get through the next 3 hours or so without aid. Again, this stretch is all about taking it easy. Dehydration can easily become a factor if the effort levels get too high. The aid station at 17 miles is such a wonderful sight when you eventually get there.

In my case, I felt very good at this point. Sarah was trotting along as graceful as she always is. But it was only just over the halfway point. The next 4 miles were uneventful, and to be honest fairly easy after the last 10 miles stretch. I enjoyed hanging out with Susan and Cliff. Turns out Susan and I have run many of the same races – I remember her from Javelina, and more recently from a brief conversation we had while I was pacing at Miwok a couple of weeks earlier. It the relative smallness of the UltraWorld always surprises me. You enjoy a few minutes chat with someone on the West Coast, and see them at a small race in the South.

After the 4 mile out and back,  back at the aid station, it is time to get ready for the 10 mile stretch back to the finish. Again both Sarah and I were pampered. After filling everything up, snacking up, it was time to head out for the last unaided 10 miles. This is where all my earlier caution paid off, I still felt good, even though the heat had picked up some. This is where I slowly move up the field (not that I really give a crap about exactly where I finish), but it was good to feel strong, knowing that it as because of all of my earlier decisions. Certainly there was a reasonable amount of carnage, that I passed!



One thing I noticed – Sarah is a bit of a racer. 99% of the time when we were running, she ran at whatever pace I was running at. Never pulling on the leash. That 1% of the time though, that was when she could sniff that someone was ahead of us. She pulled a bit at the leash, would get a bit of a serious look and put her head down. Oh, she absolutely wanted to go faster. Once we had gone past, she would relax.

At 28 miles, Sarah was in virgin territory. She had run 26.2 a couple of times, 27.43 at the NC Fat Ass, and 45k at May Madness. She took every opportunity to have drink when we crossed streams or passed the river. She was running a smart race too Smile

With three miles to go, you turn away from the river, and basically have a very gentle climb to the end of the trail. I was beginning to tire at this point – but hey, it’s a 5k, and any fool can run a 5k.

The road, and the place where the aid station was situated at 7 miles, signals the end of the 10 mile solo stretch and is the sign that you are about 1/2 mile from the finish.

Just before the line, I let Sarah’s leash go and let her sprint to the finish. She truly looked as fresh as when she had started.


Mind you, as soon as she got in the truck to head home, she was out like a light!

I would like to put a shout out to Terri Hayes, this is a wonderful race which is just funded with donations, terrific scenery, definitely challenging and staffed with wonderful volunteers.

Friday, June 1, 2012

It's madness I tells ya, madness


May Madness 50k

The brainchild of Doug “The Boogieman” Dawkins. Simple in concept, but the execution….. ugh!

Basically, the principle was 10 x 5k’s each 5k starts on the hour every hour. The times in each 5k are added and your accumulative time is your time for the 50k

You see, run it fast, you get a nice rest, and an opportunity to cool down. Run it slow, and perhaps you don’t overheat in the first place. Being as I knew I was never going to win (WTF? LOL! – No shit Sherlock), I elected to take something between the two. So an easy 5k, and aim for around 15-20 minute break.

The ultra-puppies came along for a run, so I obviously didn’t want those guys to overheat, but at the same time, I wanted them to cool off between loops,

The challenge of this was two-fold, the heat, and the course. It was going to be in the 90’s, and the course – oh my, the course. Sand. In some places, ankle deep. Not real hilly (although the small inclines that were there really did get steeper each loop). The lack of meaningful shade added to the difficulty.

But I liked it!

I have said before, that I like small loop ultras, you get to hang out with friends – some faster than me, some slower. And in this one, you also get to hang out with the REALLY fast people during the rests between loops.


Jimbo, Tim, and the Ultra-Puppies early on

So, I liked the format, and being honest, I liked my approach. I did see some carnage – mainly caused by overheating. My approach to remaining cool was to dress in Badwater gear – long sleeve white shirt and desert hat. Wilbur’s approach to remaining cool involved sitting in a tub of water. Sarah’s approach was to sleep in the shade under the car


Cooling off between laps

The 8th lap – Wilbur wanted to stop under the shade a couple of times. My rule when I run with the pups is that they must set the pace – especially in the heat. I made the decision to sit them out for the 9th lap, and I ran it on my own.

We did all come together for the “glory lap though”.  We walked the whole lap, and I came in DFL (YAY!!) for that last 5k.

So, final thoughts? I enjoyed the run – the format was challenging mentally, but once I locked it into my head that it was a 50k with extra long aid stops, rather than 10 x 5k’s it was not too bad to wrap my head around.

Here’s a thought – if somebody was particularly evil, they would come up with a similar concept for  a race, but perhaps reduce the time allowed for each lap by, ooooh, say a minute for a 1.6 mile trail loop in August………….