Thursday, January 19, 2012

Weymouth Woods 100km

This is a tough race – and another Mangum Track Club event with that feeling of a family reunion. It is extremely well directed by Marie Lewis and her husband Jamie. You really don’t want for anything.

14 loops, each about 4.5 miles, the course is something like this. The first mile, is mainly single track, with a sandy surface with plenty of roots to trip over. Seems as though it is mostly down hill. The roots make it hard to get any rhythm going. Mile two starts with some very narrow single track, more roots. As the mile continues, there are some boardwalks, and a few fairly decent climbs. And more roots.

The third mile is the easiest of the course. Mostly runnable early, wider trail, and not nearly as many roots. 1/4 mile up hill, then a nice descent into the second aid station – very ably run by Doug Dawkins (RD of the Boogie Races), and Jimmy Ballard. The Mocha they offer up is just wonderful, caffeine, sugar and chocolate is a tough combination to beat. After the aid station, mostly down hill, less technical trail (carefully attempting to avoid the “son of a ditch” – thanks Gene and Lauren for the name – definitely appropriate.

At mile 3.5, cross a bridge, make a right turn, and back on single track – not too rooty for half mile or so – ups and downs. With 1/2 mile left on the loop, the trail widens for 1/4 mile or so, with nicely rolling hills. The last 1/4 mile is tough – the loop ends with the toughest climb and the most roots – then over the timing mat and to the main aid station.

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As for my race – I didn’t really set out with too many goals in mind. Weymouth Woods is now a Western States qualifier, so many people went out with that in mind, and aimed for sub 14 hours. My two previous finish times were 17:57 (in the pouring rain), 17:24 (in the snow and ice covered trails), so I could see no way that I was going to trim about 3.5 hours off of my 2011 time. 14 hours was never a target. Beating my overall 100k PR was my “WTF? LOL” goal – 16 hours, my more realistic goal was to beat my previous best Weymouth Woods time. Finishing alive and with a smile was of course my primary target.

My friend, mentor, unpaid coach and occasional psycho analyst, Shannon wanted me to try an experiment. “Go out hard” she said, “50 minute loops and see what happens”. So I did.

I started the race pushing the pace, skipping over the roots with the finesse and grace of a three-legged elephant, but noting how my Jordan Lake trail running prepared me for just such an escapade. Course knowledge really helped – having done something like 30 laps of the park before (that said, I did manage to go off course on Lap 12 of last year’s race – DOH!)

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Early on (Picture Jim W)

Jimmy and Doug were cooking grits at the second aid station. I love Southern food, but grits is something I pass at. “Kinda like eating boiled sand” I tell people. Who then normally remind me that there is a ton of butter in there – but to me, it makes the grits taste like boiled sand with butter. I passed. (But appreciated the offer)

First three laps went well – 50 minute loop average. Half way around lap 4 – oh oh. Stomach cramps. And not the sort of stomach cramps that say “best go to the bathroom at the end of this loop” – no these stomach cramps were screaming “get your sorry butt into the woods NOW!” So I did. And lap 5 too.

Yes, we had “issues”

So with the fragile stomach, not many calories were being consumed and the pace inevitably eased off. No big deal – I was never going to be able to hang onto that pace anyway.

The half-way split was about 7:10, and I took a break, sat down for a few minutes and rested some.

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As the sun went down, I really was starting to feel tired. BUT, I was going to get to play with my new toy. A Super Dooper Fenix handheld flash light. It was bright. Really bright. And it made a phenomenal difference to running technical trails at night. Until the batteries died. And I didn’t have any spare. Idiot.

My friend Gene, definitely smarter than me had a spare pair of batteries. For the last half of the previous loop, running with just a headlight made me realize just how much of a difference a good light can make, especially on technical trails. My Fenix is a keeper. I will invest in batteries for my next run in the dark though.

It got cold after the sun set (No shit Sherlock – anybody would think it was January or something), but changing into dry clothing made me feel better. Still tired though.

Now that the stomach issues had rescinded into just being a memory. I felt that some soup would be the order of the day. Potato soup. Awesome potato soup. Super soup. Carbs, salt and warm. Just the perfect combination, and cup or two of that after laps 10 and 11 really gave me some energy back.

Around lap 10, I started figuring out when I would finish – looked to me like about 17 hours. I was going to be happy with that. I soon also started thinking that it would be nice to beat last year’s time by 30 minutes – so that became the goal. It required a little bit of pushing to make it, but eventually, I crossed the line in 16:49 – 35 minutes faster than last year. Yep, that’ll work.

Looking back, I have to say I really enjoyed this race for a number of reasons. The first of which is the race organization and the volunteers. Everyone goes so far out of their way to help, aid and support us crazy folk out there running.  As well as the people taking care of us, there are great aid stations, with a great selection of food. It is definitely a runners race – put on for runners, by runners, with wonderful volunteers, good schwag and all for a very reasonable price. Great job by everyone involved. And thank you to everyone involved.

The other reason this race is a good one – the distance. 100km is a good distance for me. It takes you into the same “pain cave” (thank you Linda for that expression) as a 100 mile run, you begin to get the same levels of fatigue, you get to question why you do this shit, your body hurts, you have to manage nutrition and hydration – you get all of that, but without the total annihilation of a 100 miler.

I will be back next year, and I am looking forward to the January heatwave that I just know that Marie will order up in advance

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Goofy grin just seconds after finishing (Picture: Jamie)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Freedom Park 12 hour run

I ended 2011 exactly the same way as I started it. Running at David Lee’s 12 hour Freedom Park Run.

I only decided to run it on the Thursday before.

I went with Chris Knodel, who put together BCRT – my local hometown Sanford running group. Chris has a couple of Ultras under his belt, Derby 50K, and something called a Boxing Day Mad Ass Fun Run. So, he has not yet gone beyond 50k.

We set goals – I needed 51.4 to get my total mileage for the year to be 2300, a pair of marathons would be a good target (52.4), but anything over 50 would be great.

David Lee puts on a great event, and the schwag is wonderful. Last year, there was a terrific fleece, this year a superb long sleeve tech shirt – definitely a shirt suitable enough to wear casually .

There is something about running at night – the fatigue is draining (but good practice for 100’s?). Plus, this time of year it is a long LONG night – basically 11.25 hours of the 12 were in darkness. Oh, and it was cold. I really, really don’t like the cold – so quite why I decided that a night time run over NYE would be a smart idea, I have no idea.

Anyway, to keep it short, Chris and I ran the whole 12 hours together, I enjoyed getting to know him and his philosophies behind his coaching and running business in Sanford. Some of the loops through the night became a real slog, but on the whole, it all went very smoothly – didn’t make it to 51.4, but we were both happy with 50.36 miles. We even had to push a bit in the last hour or so to make that – that said, I don’t think 50 was too much of a doubt.

Quite what 2012 holds for the year, I am not sure. New friends, new races, old friends and old races – plus I’m hoping I will put on another couple of races. Let’s make it a good one!

Becoming a Dumb Ass Fat Ass Race Director

 

I have long held this idea that I would be able to put a race on. Not sure what gave me that idea – other than the fact that I do a lot of races, and I think I know what makes a good race.

Wait a doggone minute – knowing what makes a good race, that’s a pretty good qualification, perhaps the best.

What makes a good race? Simply, putting the runners first. Yep, that’s the big secret. If you put the runners first, then your race is likely to be a good one.

Cost – yep the cost of entry is important, but again, I have no problem with runs making a profit, but if you put profits above the quality of your event from a runner’s point of view, then guess what? They won’t return.

Start putting the sponsors first, or the city, or the charity or whatever first, then from a runner’s perspective, it won’t be a 100% successful event.

So, knowing that I know what makes a good event – here was the idea; a timed race on a short loop. Why? Because that is the sort of race I like. What about charging an entrance fee? I decided not to, and follow Terri Hayes’ model (www.ultrasontrails.com), and ask for donations to cover my costs, but making it very clear that it was voluntary. Same for aid. One of the benefits of doing a freebie run is that I can basically invite who I want. Anything left over would go to CARA – Carolina Animal Rescue and Adoption (www.cara-nc.org)

Kiwanis Park in Sanford would work, a nice loop, Just One Hill™, running surface similar to Umstead, about a mile long, close to a picnic shelter with a grill. I picked December 26 as the date. Why? It is different, it was a day off for most people, and I think people may like the day after Christmas to get out of the house and get some fresh air. Selecting name was fairly easy too. December 26 back where I am from is “Boxing Day”. Jimbo’s Boxing Day Madness Fat Ass Fun Run had a nice ring to it. Just because I could, I added a few more words – “Dumb Ass” and “Mad Ass” sounded right.

Putting the word out was fairly easy –Facebook is a great tool for that. Plus, now that I am running with the “Brick City Running Tribe”, I was hoping to be able to recruit some locals to come out for a run. Then of course there are several runners in the Raleigh area, and the Mangum crowd not too far south of Sanford. Pretty soon I had over 20 people saying “yes” and another 20 or so as “maybe”. Game on.

I wrote my first check – just $95 to secure the picnic shelter. “You want to do what?” “Yes – a fun run. Yes, I know it is the day after Christmas”.

T-shirts – did I want to do t-shirts? This was the gamble. How many to order, what sizes etc. Initially, only about 6 or 7 people expressed an interest. Eeek. I ordered 20 – hoping that I wouldn’t end up out of pocket.

A couple of days before the race, I was contacted by the publisher of the Sanford Herald. He wanted to do a write up on the run. His son contacted me for an interview over the phone – and Christmas eve, the article was printed. Not a short paragraph in the middle of the paper somewhere – but in the Sport section – front page, above the fold. WTF? LOL.

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I was actually pretty nervous in the couple of days before. What would I do if nobody showed? Or the opposite, what would happen if hundreds did as a result of the newspaper article? As for aid – I decided to supply chipotle chicken thighs and bacon. 6lbs of bacon and 13lbs of chicken. No idea if it would be too much or not enough. There were promises of baked goods, and a load of Gatorade goodies too from Chris who is sponsored by them.

Race day – I arrived at a little after 8am, and 71 year old Dan Pieroni was already running laps, he had asked me if he could start early. Of course he could – I mean, why would it matter to me if he started early? Trever Schick was already there in his car waiting. So at least two  people showed. As I unloaded the charcoal, I realized, I had no means to light it! I sent a panicked text to Amy.  I also later asked Trever if he had anything. Thankfully they both came through for  me.

8:30, more people started rolling up. Yay… DOUBLE FIGURES! I explained the procedure for scoring – write your name on an index card and mark it each time you came around. I had no volunteers as lap counters (I hadn’t asked for any either).

More runners showing up, plus tons of baked goodies.

One other thing that scared the crap out of me – I only had my wrist watch as a stop watch. What would happen if it died, or I accidentally stopped it while timing the 6 hour run? Later I remembered my new Christmas toy – a Samsung Galaxy 5 had a count down timer (which instantly propelled my new toy into supreme awesomeness).

A 10 second explanation of the course, followed by the word “go”, and they were off.  When people were coming around after the first lap, I asked some of them what they thought of the course, and only received positive replies. This was when I relaxed. This was going to work.

From this point, almost everything went smoothly – the only thing that happened was when the wind picked up slightly and the index cards went flying – thankfully someone had brought a case of oranges and I weighed them down with those. I did a loop to get as many pictures as possible of the runners, and even ran a few miles myself.

As six hours approached – the runners set off on a 0.15mile baby-loop so I didn’t have to count partials.

Ben DIllon brought some goodies he had left over from a couple of races, so I gave out a couple of prizes.

And that was my day. I actually pulled this thing off. People surpassed their own expectations, first ultra, first marathon, first 50k, first time in double figures. Around 50 people ran some laps – and people had fun, they enjoyed themselves. New runners were inspired by the “seasoned” ultra folks, and in turn, those seasoned runners were inspired by the new runners beginning embracing the sport. I had many comments about how people were so friendly. Mission accomplished. I was impressed by how many people came from Sanford – I think we counted 20 or so who ran some loops (not everyone used a score card.) I even had at least one bandit running. Yay – when you get bandits, then you know you have hit the big time.

What would I do differently? Not a lot. Ben suggested I get a waiver signed and I should have started the food earlier. I agree on both counts. I also may make people sign up online for a t-shirt, I will have to look into that. I think I will have more interest next time too. I will keep it as a Fat Ass though, I do like the fact that it is a gathering of my friends and people that I know.

Other things to think about,  Boxing Day 2012 is not a holiday in the US. So my initial thoughts are to make it a New Year’s Day Resolution Run type thing, or maybe pick the Saturday between  Christmas and New Year’s…… which means I may have to pick another name……….. Hmmmmmm.

I have ideas for other races too – 12 hour night time run in the summer, and maybe something for Feb 29th. Then there is St George’s day too……..

Oh, and as a footnote – the costs were covered, and a $100 donation was made to CARA. Thank you to everyone ho came out, and thanks for donating.

 

another open letter to sponsors

 

Dear potential sponsors

I assume you have read this.

This blog has 108 followers and gets about 1800 page views per month.

Your ad could be right here instead of this picture of some beer.

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Just sayin’.

Respectfully

Jimbo

(Seriously, even though the post above was a blatant [fairly pathetic] attempt to get free stuff – to everyone of you who stumbles onto these pages and even stick around long enough to read something and even better, make comments, a genuine “Thank you”, and wishing you a great Twenty-Twelve)