Sunday, July 21, 2013

Running with the Devil, 6 Hour Mountain Race, Mt. Creek Resort, Vernon NJ

I might as well sit in bed and write up this race report, seeing that my quads and glutes are so beat up that walking is joke!  I will run at least one mile later, but for now I will enjoy what it feels like to be pain free by not moving.

Yesterday I competed in the 6 hour version of Running with the Devil. There is also a 12 hour as well as a 3 hour.  I always run the 6 hour and feel that the workout I get from 6 hours on that ski slope is more than enough.

Course Description
This race takes place in the hottest time of year.  Yesterday was the last day of a week long heat wave.  It is a 3 mile loop up a ski slope where we climb about 1000 ft per mile to the summit. The worst of the ups occurring in two steep ascents, one being about .3 miles long and straight up to a false summit, then a few tenths later we hit the next shorter but steep up hill to the summit at about 1.5 mile.

At the peak we are greeted with jugs of water, which despite the fact that they are sitting out all day and end up quiet warm, they are just such a happy site to see.  The descent is runnable for those who are not as chicken as I am to haul butt over sections of super steep loose gravel.  My descent speed is an embarrassment. I am sure I could improve my performance significantly if I could gain more confidence on my descent.

I did not upload my Garmin data from yesterday yet, but the course was similar to last year, especially the uphill segments.  The graphs (at least for now) are from last years data.
Multiple loops of the course from 2012. 
The race starts with us first running out of the ski lodge, off of the back deck and then up the first climb.  I tend to hike anything uphill because I know burning my quads/glutes/calves out early on in this race is a bad idea.  This race is an exercise in pain management.

Alanna and me with the first "warm up" up hill behind us
After the warm up hill, we get a short dirt trail break as we make our way over to the worst the course as to offer.  At about .7 miles into the race, we see this pictured below.  I found a two photos on the Running with the Devil FB page that shows the intensity and absurdity of this hill.

It may be hard to tell just how long and steep that hill is because you cant see the top of it from the photos.  Here is graph to help.

The steepest longest climb

After that stretch, we get a nice, but somewhat rocky dirt trail, that is runnable if your quads don't feel like chop meat and you arent afraid to lose your teeth.  After that reprieve, we hit the second shorter climb, possible steeper in some places, to the summit.  Finally we reach the ski lift where water awaits us.

The decline begins kindly with a nice grassy trail, that soon start to pitch steeper as we head down.  The very dry dirt paths were a bit precarious due to the the loose gravel.  I was able to run most of the decline straight through on my first lap (making sure to run a complete consecutive mile) and found that  about 1.3 miles of non-stop running was possible for me on fresh legs.  As the laps went on, I choose to hike over some of the loose gravel where the descent were very steep, and still had my feet slip out from under me a few time since my body was too tired to be very stable (I did not fall but it was still uncomfortably jarring).  This is where I lose a lot of time in comparison to my competition.

The final stretch of descent gave us a view of the lodge where spectators can cheer there runners in.  Crew can also begin prepping for their needs if necessary because it will take a few minutes for the runner to get down the hill, under the building's walkway, then up the last incline, onto the porch and into the building where Rick sits timing us.

We run past Rick, through the bar, which is now an aid station managed by Jennifer, and out to the porch before leaving again.

My Race:
I started out slow, because it was not like I actually had a choice.  I was pleased to be able to hike that steep hill non-stop the first 3 times I did it.  But, by lap two the heat was getting to me and I started with ice bandana, which helped.

I initially started with my 16 oz bottle, but I was not going through it all on lap one so I downsized to a 10 oz which was perfect for the first 5 laps. On lap 2 I would drink about almost 10 oz on the way up, but try to run hard down hill drinking less as I moved faster.  By lap 3 I was drinking about 10 oz at my aid station, then filling my bottle to empty on the incline, then drinking another 10 oz at the top, then filling my bottle to drink on the way down.  As you can see, I started with about 10 oz per loop, then as each lap progressed I was up to 40 oz per loop, which is by far the most I have every drank in a race.

The heat was getting to me.  My hands were swelling a lot and I assume it because I was consuming so much fluid that it was running out of places to go.  I did take some sodium (4 E-caps) before I started.  I had no cramping so I did not want to pump in more salt.  I did not see the need to add something to my body that it was not craving and if the salt causes my body to crave more fluid to balance it, then I just don't know where it would be stored.   I had not peed the entire race, despite drinking a ton.  I was sweating most of it out.  However, I did not feel like it was a good idea to drink more than I was since my rings were getting so tight it was uncomfortable.  I found that on the descent, when I drank less, the swelling decreased, while on the ascent when I drank more (almost mindlessly to help stay cooler) my hands would swell.  Had I felt crampy I would have then tried salt, but I prefer to not take it if I dont feel I need it.

Beside the fluids (Gatorade (24 oz total), a half bottle of Mt (6oz total) and the remainder just water), I also found myself feeling hungry twice.  I brought 100 calorie packs of pringles and twice I grabbed a few chips from the pack.  I had half of that pack left at the end of the race.  I find that in 6 hour races and even my last 50 miler, I eat very little as long as I am drinking calories.  I also find I am more likely to drop out of a race if I push in too much solid food.

Kathleen :)
On lap 4, I notice Kathleen W. heading up the first hill while I was refilling my bottle and while Alanna helped me refill my ice bandana.  I knew she was ahead of me, but I had time to reel her in.  Kathleen impresses me so much.  She is a nurse who works 12 hour shift and still finds the time to train when she can in such as way that she is just incredibly fit and strong. She is new to ultra running and will likely turn into a force in this sport if she makes it a priority.

On lap 4, I worked my way up to getting close enough to her on the steep part to wave, but I am not sure she saw me.  By then we were both reduced to the same technique.  Walk a few steps, turn around to face down hill, then turn back walk a few more.  It was a slow motion pursuit. We had hours left, so I didn't want to work too hard to try to pass her and get myself in a hole.  I started to plan out my strategy and hoped to catch and pass her on lap 5.

On lap 5, I headed out and it took half the loop for me to work my butt off to catch her. She asked me where everyone else was.  I just assumed most were done with the 3 hour race or dropped from the 6 hour.  This is a race of attrition.

Despite moving past her at the summit. I was concerned she might pass me back on the down, but I did work extra hard to move as fast as I could.  She did not reel me in and I wasn't sure how far behind me she was.  I found out at the finish that I was 2nd and was told first place was a full lap ahead of me.  I had one more lap in me and figured I could not catch first.  As long as stayed ahead of Kathleen, I would be able to hold second.  At this point, I was feeling like the heat was beating me up and this was now a race for placement.

I headed for the last lap, hoping to have time for a few short loops.  However, the mountain had other plans.  I was stuck on that mountainside like I was in quick sand.  I emptied my bottle very early in the hot sun. I was feeling odd, confused, not well.  I had gotten bit by some large insect on the lap before and started to wonder if that was impacting me.  With my view of the course, I could see not Kathleen.  At this point for me the race was just about finishing lap 6 and holding second.  There was a small chance Kathleen did not come out for her 6th.  There was a small chance that lap 6 could take us both so long that neither of us could do smalls.  As long as I complete 6 before her and neither of us do smalls (of if I do smalls faster than her, I hold my second place). However, I really did not want to head back out for smaller half mile loops.  I needed to stop moving.

After the slowest ascent of my life, feeling like it took me 30 minutes to get up just the .3 miles, I was in really bad shape.  I drank 10 oz od fluid, filled my bottle, and started my final descent.  I started to question whether or not I was on course (because I was feeling that confused). I worried that if I passed out, how long it would take someone to find me.  I slowed my ascent hoping it would keep up upright.

I came down to the finish with 12 minutes left.  I was asked if I wanted to do any short laps.  I tried to formulate a sentence and the unintelligible garbling left me realizing I was simply done for the day. . .  as long as Kathleen does not come in and head out for a short lap in the next few minutes, I will have 6 laps done, a great training run, and secured my 2nd place finish. People were running the loop in under 8 minutes.  It was possible but very unlikely she would have time for a final lap.

I got a cup of ice to help cool me down and clear my head. I sat down with a few friends, mindful of the time, watching the door, and waiting for the clock to tick down so low that I had secured my placement. Sitting just for a minute or so helped me feel a lot better. Then ice did good to cool me down.

Then, with about 9 minutes to spare, Kathleen runs past me, heading out the door for a short lap.  I believe after a string of profanities I cannot repeat here, I jumped up, yelled to Jennifer (one of the RDs) that I was going back out and I bolted out the door behind Kathleen.  This was now exciting!

I really like Kathleen but I didn't want to lose 2nd place b/c I chose to sit down and cool off rather than run the short loop.  As I run up to Kathleen, she was so sweet and said "Omg, I am so done with this."  I laughed and said, "No, you not... you are out here.  I WAS done with this, but now you are making work!" LOL! Clearly exhausted she said "No, I am not... Rick is making me run more!"  To which I countered, "If you are running then I have to run, so Rick is making us both run more! That jerk!" ;)

A few minutes of rejuvenation and the jolt of adrenaline helped to propel me past Kathleen and up the mountainside.  Once at the top, I looked back and knew I was going to beat her through the lap with less than 2 minutes until the end of the 6 hours.  It felt great to find a second wind in that final 9 minutes, I am grateful she gave me a reason to get back out there. I love a good competition!  Turns out that first place female slowed down a bit as well, and I ended up just one mile behind her at the end of the day.   I am not sure if I knew more about her during the race whether it would have mattered at all.  She was likely working strategy for placement like the rest of us.

18.5 miles in 6 hours
2nd place female
5th OA
Prize: Mt Bike passes to the same mountain...(for Sidney). I am done with that mountain until next year.
Weight loss: 5 lbs

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