DTR Endurance 50K: In Which Docket Finally Runs an Ultra
And apparently, because I need to keep my Bad Ass card, I decided to take on a very hard course, oops.
After DNS'ing my first ultra last year for asthma reasons and after having to DNS that same ultra again this year because I had a kitty in the hospital and very ill, I signed up for the DTR Endurance 50K, a tough trail race in Stuart, Florida. While the other ultras were road races, this one was going to be on a trail. A trail I had never seen until today (the park is 2 hours away from home). A trail that ended up being tougher than advertised, even though the RD did a great job warning us that it was a tough course and an adventure. It was both, alright.
As you know, I am going after more Maniac stars, so this race had to be official to count. The only issue was that the race had an 8 hour limit and I was not sure I could finish it within that time. The last trail HM I did was 2 years ago and I finished in 3:45 so I knew that if the race was too technical, I was toast. So, I emailed the RD who is an awesome guy, and he explained the course, and also said that any finishers after the 8 hour cutoff could retain the medals and the race shirt but would not appear in the official results. So, I assumed it would be enforced strictly.
I also asked about the course and I was told it was mostly packed sand with the worst part what he calls the Dunes from Heaven, and he said they were rolling hills. LOL. Dunes from hell are more likely and for 20 miles we had regular sand (meaning the one were your feet go into the sand 3-4 inches and cannot really run much) AND 10 of the miles were rolling hill sand dunes of up 5-6ft. Talk about challenging, but I was glad I didn't see the course before the race or I would've DNSd, LOL.
Due to all of that, I targeted a modest 7:30 as my goal, but I really wanted to break the cutoff.
So, I registered for it and hoped for the best, especially after I had to DNS the Paris Marathon due to DH's work. So, I needed a substitute race that could qualify and this was close enough to home for me to drive there.
The first thing I tried was to get the afternoon off with a plan of driving with DH who does not work Fridays or Saturdays and stay there the night before. I was very clear that my deposition availability was for 9am and 10am on Friday. So, they scheduled the deposition for 2:30pm and 3:30pm. Da Fuck! So, I knew I had to drive the morning of since I couldn't miss the deposition. And then on Friday, the attorney for the other side got stuck in court in Key West and we didn't have the deposition.
I went to the chiro to get an adjustment and massage and then bought the rest of the stuff I needed for the race (snacks and other things). My plan was to change shoes at the halfway point if the shoes I selected did not work out (this is important for later on). I went with the recommendations of my fellow ultra forumites and the normal convention that heavier shoes are better for grip and other reasons and wore gaiters (this is also important for later on). So, I put my lighter Pearl Izumi Peak IIs in the turnaround bag just in case, together with another set of compression socks and most important, Coppertone (remember this too!). I decided to use the Supernova Riots instead of my new Hokas because they got me through that trail HM so I knew how they feel for longer distances.
I went to bed at the ungodly early hour of 10pm (unheard of for me) and I was sleepy by that hour, which is also not normal. Instead of my usual carbo loading, I did a quick vegetable minestrone for dinner and drank my pre-race martini.
Fortunately, the RD had same day packet pickup, something our longer races do not have, so I didn't have to be there until 5:30am to pick my packet up. I got to the park at 5am (that does not sum to 2 hours of driving but I'm pleading the 5th as to how I achieved that), went to the restroom and picked my packet. They had breakfast ready and I ate 1/4 of a bagel with cream cheese and drank some Gatorade, my coffee and a banana. I really was not hungry. I am actually not hungry now.
The forecast went from nice earlier in the week to shit. From 80F as the high, the high now was expected to be 85F with a heat index of above 90F. Most of our races are shadeless so I expected to be cooked at some point in time. Hence the Coppertone at the turnaround point, which I estimated to be around at 10:30am, perfect for putting some Coppertone then instead of putting it at 6:30 and having it rub off during the first part of the race.
We started a bit late and we were off. Miles 1 and 2 were dry and green grass with packed sand. Very nice to run in it. Then, we arrive at Mile 3 with the first water crossing (it has rained a lot this week so part of the course was flooded). Small crossing, no issues. I caught up with 3 runners and I was not last, so everything was working well. Then I saw the older gentleman ahead of us come to a full stop to think. I was like what is that? Water? As far as the eye can see? Yikes. The guy apparently thought fuck it and went straight for the middle, getting wet up to his thighs. We went more conservative and got wet up to our shins on the side.
Mile 4 was the same. Lots of mud and water. By Mile 5 I said fuck it and was getting wet running side by side with the older guy. Since there was barely any sand here, the going was tough with the 11oz shoes I chose but not overly impossible. They now felt like 3lbs but I had the light ones at Mile 15ish in case.
At the water station at Mile 4, the HMers caught up to us (there was a 50K, HM, 10K, and 5K). After running by myself or with the older guy for 2 miles, it was nice to see other runners. We got to Mile 6 and there they were. Sand dunes. As far as the eye can see. That's when the walking started. The sand was so loose that it was close to impossible to run the uphills. You had to be careful running the downhills too since you would be risking a fall on your face (remember this for later). We got to the Mile 8 water station and I ate some M&Ms and filled my water bottle with a mixture similar to Gatorade. I took a gel at Mile 6 and was planning on eating another one at Mile 13, 20, and 27.
We continued tackling the dunes from hell and the going was rough. Fortunately the gaiters were working and I had no sand inside the shoe. I had mud all caked over the shoe topped with lots of sand and the shoes weighed 15lbs by now but other than that, I was fine. My legs started feeling super sore because of the weight of the shoe, so I knew it was a matter of time before I would change the shoes. The RD offered to bring them to Water Station 5 but I thanked him and told him I would wait. I wish I had taken his offer!
After the dunes from hell, came the dune hills. Hills covered with sand going up and somewhat down but mostly up. I tackled them by walking the uphills and running the downhills until I arrived at the Mile 11 water station. I took some water and the most delicious Mountain Dew. The sugar was welcome.
Miles 12-14 were a mixture of asphalt (yes!) and more loose sand. Miles 14-15 continued the uphill until you crested at the turnaround point where I was glad to see my bag and switched my shoes real quickly. Although I thought of switching the compression socks and gaiters, I decided to continue using the ones I had. My feet were soaking wet but I knew that after the sand from hell, I would get wet again, so I let it go. The other thing I did was to take off my top and ran the rest of the way in my bra. Best decision I made, except it would've nice had I use Coppertone on my back and belly! I got to the turnaround in 3:35 and spent 7-10 minutes there changing and , so let's say 3:45. Still within the cutoff. But by now my goal had changed to 8 hours since the dunes were horrible.
I started back and the gaiters said: oh, you changed shoes? Well, we don't work with Pearl Izumi. I didn't understand why I felt my feet swelling within 1 mile of putting the new shoes. The Peaks were awesome and weighed half of what the Supernova Riots felt like during the first half. So, I took off the shoe and discovered close to a lb of sand inside. Ugh. I had to stop at every mile to clear the sand out. The gaiters were working for the top and sides but the shoe is great because it breathes throughout the shoe. Unfortunately, the sand fit within the breathing portions. Having said that, they are awesome for wet trails.
At this point, I start getting attacked by horse flies or some other flies there (I was warned). They were all over me, my abs (or lack thereof), bra, skirt, everywhere, even my neck. I moved them out as they came in (just like the kamikaze bugs I get down here) but more would come. I didn't feel them biting me but I have more than 30 bites in me now. I had put bug spray before I started but I didn't retouch at the turnaround point. Bah.
So, I was running along downhill and tripped. Then said Phew, I didn't fall! Next thing I knew I was on the floor. I tripped again but it caught me off guard, and I went down. In the sand. Everything was covered in sand, the iPod, the waterbottle, the Docket. Since it took me a long time to do this section last time, I didn't want to use all my water cleaning up so I cleaned the best I could. I looked like I was covered in charcoal, LOL.
Anyway, I get back on the same sandy hills and then we go through a new part. Imagine one of those RW Magazine pictures of a wonderful trail full of little cactus and other fauna (short trees and bushes) and lots of sun. Add 100F and humidity and you got it. Well, I felt I was in one of those pictures. Gorgeous scenery. Unfortunately, it appeared as if it would rain but as soon as I thought it's nice and cloudy, the noon sun came out. I felt like I was in an oven getting burned to a crisp. And in part, I got a little bit too tanned.
It was around Mile 21-22 that I got lost. They told me at the water station at Mile 18 that the next one would be in 5 miles, so I drank my water by Mile 5. Except I had not gotten to the water station. Apparently, either the sign flew away or I didn't see it, so I ended up arriving to the water station from the other side and having done more sandy dunes that I should've. Bah. I was so thirsty, having gone 1-2 miles without water that when I saw the tent, I yelled, WATER! A guy came running to me with a bottle, LOL. I actually chugged a full 16oz water like it was a beer competition! The volunteers were amazing. I used Coppertone here although told them it might have been too late. And I grew up in sun and water. I know better!
So, now I'm still chugging Mountain Dew like there is no tomorrow and my last gel was at Mile 20. I felt I didn't need them and the sweet and cold Mountain Dew felt awesome! I don't even drink Mountain Dew! LOL.
They told me I had 2 more water stations (there were in fact 3) so I knew I would have enough water as we headed back, filled my bottle for the gazillionth time and went off to walk some more dunes. By the end of Mile 25 I was exhausted. I couldn't run those dunes for the life of me. Around that time, the guy at the water station told me, you only have 6.2 miles to go and I saw my Garmin and knew I would not be making the cut off. I was already at 7 hours. So, I took it easy and continued trailing along between sand and grass (getting back to those muddy areas) and got muddy and wet all over my legs. Then, I arrived at the next water station and she said, you are almost there. 2.5 miles to go and I went REALLY? Obviously the Garmin and the distance didn't match, but these are trails so it's understandable. I was at 7:30 so all of a sudden I thought getting within the cutoff would be possible. I proceeded to run like the devil was out to get me. I passed 3 ladies that were ahead of me by 0.50 miles. I did my fastest miles here. Miles 29, 30, and the rest as fast as I could. I saw some 11mm and I was like wow. I'm knee deep in water and racing this finish. I start seeing the camping area and the flags and I know I'm close and it's 7:58 and I thought, well, if I miss the cutoff I'll talk to the RD since I suspected the sign had blown off and would beg to let my time be official, especially if I came in within the next 3 minutes. The ladies caught up to me (just two of them) and all of a sudden, I made the wrong turn and they with me but they were ahead of me when we corrected. And off we see the finish line. Except they didn't step on the mat but I did so I came in ahead of them at 8:00:44, neener neener. Talk about barely making the cutoff!
I just checked and came in 4th in my AG. And I was not last either!
The RD was really nice and yelled my name as I was heading to finish (we were three running but he yelled mine, neener neener, LOL!) and there were still a lot of people there. I got my medal which is made of wood and handmade:
As soon as I got my medal, somebody said, would you like a massage? Hell yeah! I got a massage within 1 minute of finishing. That helped for the 2 hour drive back (well, 1.25 hours, haha). I am not really sore at all, so I guess walking the sand dunes and the different terrain (read that not asphalt) really helped.
I thought a lot about the Boston victims and of Jenny and carried her bracelet with me. I also thought of our forumite Katrina since she was running another 100 miler and I knew she would be thinking of me. You can see the Jenny bracelet in this pic. Forget the model, she just ran for 8 hours and is a little dirty.
So I finally ran an ultra. And I had fun every step of the way. It won't be the last. But next one will be an easier course, I can assure you.
And on to my next marathon....