Monday, November 24, 2014

Big Cedar Endurance Run 100 Miler (Race Recap)

Dallas, TX
Friday, November 21
Ultra Marathon #12
Weather - HUMID and overcast during the day. Slightly windy.

I have enjoyed the races I run put on by Libby Jones and the Active Joe. When she announced she was putting on her first trail race, including a 100 miler, I figured I would give Big Cedar a chance. Libby assigns bib numbers in the order of registration, so I waited for my lucky number 44, to come up and signed up (back in August). 


I got a heck of a deal on airfare ($144 RT), and flew in early Thursday morning to Love Field. Pretty thankful for the early arrival as my phone was having a hard time navigating me through the Dallas freeway system (trying to avoid the tollway). I got a bit lost, but still arrived around 2:00 pm at the host hotel in Duncanville. I unpacked and got my drop bag ready before heading to packet pick up at 3 pm. We got a ton of swag (coffee mug, towel, SWEET jacket, shirt and hat). 

I hadn't read close enough to realize the trail briefing wasn't until 5:30. I went back to the hotel to relax and get all my gear ready.

I went BACK for the trail briefing, and started to get mildly terrified. I still had not seen any of the course, but just from driving around I could tell that it was going to be much hillier than I anticipated. After the briefing I went to the grocery store to pick up some beer, then got dinner at the Mexican restaurant by the hotel. Food was good, service wasn't especially. Lights out early, and surprisingly, I slept.


The race didn't start until 9:00, but I didn't want to feel rushed, so I got up around 6:40 to shower and get my gear ready before heading out. I stopped to get a donut on the way to the start. It wasn't raining yet, but it was FOGGY.

Arrived with about an hour until the start, which gave me time to get all my crap ready and chat with Lesley.

So foggy there is no sky...
Pictures with Lesley are fun because I look like a midget
Spirits were high and I was getting a good vibe with the group of runners I would be spending the next billion miles with. There was a secondary trail briefing and we were again reminded that it WAS going to rain and that it WAS going to be slippery once it did. The question was, when was it going to rain, and HOW HARD?

Started at 9 am on the dot, gathered near the Powerline station and moved quickly onto the trail (a mountain bike trail maintained by the Dallas Off-Road Bike Association). It was immediately congested right from the beginning, which was fine by me. I started almost in the very back, I think there were maybe a half dozen people behind me.

Within about 10 minutes, I could tell something was wrong. The ball of my right foot hurt, like it was bruised, and my calves and quads were abnormally tight and "clenched" for as slow as I was moving. I figured I needed to take it pretty easy as I started, and kept my plan to walk most of the uphills in hopes of making up the time of flats and downhills.

Spoiler: NONE of that worked out.

I was initially pretty anxious about how confusing the course looked on the course maps, but Libby and her crew had marked it incredibly well. There were never times that I was wondering where I should be going.

The trail was gorgeous, especially since Texas is still experiencing fall colors. I took a lot of pictures in the first miles.

There were a lot more uphills and climbs than I was expecting
In order to make the cutoff of (I think 32 hours), I needed to maintain a 19:20 overall pace. I never had a single split under 14 minutes, which is super crazy slow, even for ME. The course was more than just "rolling" - it was either UP or DOWN, with VERY little areas that were "flat." I tried to run those, but with my legs already being tired and cramped, I wasn't able to run very fast, and the "flats" never lasted that long anyway. It was SO humid out, I finished my entire handheld before even getting to the first aid station, Copperhead, 5.3 miles in. I was in and out, just grabbing Nuun and a pickle. I was already concerned about pace.

Not sure where to go? Don't cross the spray painted log!
The second aid station, Truth Corner, kinda sneaked up on me. For some reason, I was expecting the two longest stretches (5.3 miles and 7.1 miles) to be back to back. It was a nice surprise to see it as I had emptied my bottle again. Grabbed Nuun and a PB&J and headed back out. I spent a lot of time on this bigger loop running with a retired man from Pennsylvania. He was pretty good at motivating me to run even though I just didn't feel like I had it in me.

O.M.G. This was taking FOREVER. The course was definitely more challenging than I had expected. There were SO many bridges. (Something like 87 over the whole course?) This long stretch was TOUGH to Twilight aid station was rough for me. It seemed like we weren't making any progress. We thought we were coming up on the aid station (turns out it was Powerline, and it was NOT the aid station we were going to), and it was another few minutes before we got there. Filled my bottle and headed out, truly surprised at how slow we were moving. Eventually got to Powerline where I used the bathroom and picked up my vest, I was drinking way too much to continue with just a handheld. We then did the "best" part of the course, the Ranger loop in reverse. I remember thinking, this part isn't too bad. Aid station were close, hit 2 more in the 6ish miles to finish my first "big loop" - which took me an HOUR longer than I expected/hoped, at just under 7 hours.


Well, this was not going as planned. I was hungry, I was tired. I was going way slower than I should be. The humidity was draining me. I was trying to the the math in my head, but I was getting slower and slower. I was now logging closer to 17 minute miles and not banking any time. I was struggling running even the flats. I was hurting. My body felt like I had already run well over 50 miles, and I had barely done half that. I was getting discouraged.

I managed to catch back up to Randy (the retired Pennsylvanian) at Copperhead, and we stuck together until we got to Truth Corner. He was friendly and chatty and tried to keep my spirits high. I was able to get to the aid station without needing my headlamp, although it was already dark (about 5:40 pm). They had grilled cheese sandwiches, which rejuvenated me (for a minute). I managed to stick with Randy for only about an hour after the aid station, and that is pretty much when I hit rock bottom. I was only at about mile 35, and I was already done. Both physically and mentally. I kept trying to tell myself that if I could just keep moving that I would make the cutoffs and I could probably get it done. Problem was, that even though I was moving, I wasn't moving fast enough. My trashed legs were no longer even posting pitiful 17 minute miles, they were already over 20 minutes. And I knew that there was no way I was going to be speeding up.

I texted L that I was going to be dropping but that I hoped to get 50 miles in. It was starting to mist and the bridges and downhills were already getting terrifying. By the time I got to Twilight (HOURS) after leaving the last aid station, I knew that I would not be getting 50 miles either. At some point, it just doesn't make sense to keep moving. I actually sat down at Twilight (something I absolutely NEVER do during ultras). I almost quit right there but decided stopping was ok, but that I at least needed to get back to Powerline.

I took this picture on my last climb up:

The last few miles were terrible. I was stumbling, having a hard time seeing and getting overall squirrely (which should NOT happen this early on). I was glad I had already made the decision to stop.

I pulled the plug at 44.5 miles. Getting to 50 miles would have put me at something crazy like 16+ hours, or more than FOUR HOURS slower than the slowest 50 I have ever run. It was a GOOD and SMART decision to stop.

I headed over to Lesley, and told her I was quitting. She briefly tried to talk me into continuing, and I explained to her that it just didn't make sense and that I could not maintain or OBTAIN the pace I needed to make the cutoffs. She said she didn't want to take my chip and I said "you're NOT taking it, I'm giving it to you." She gave me a hug and that was it. 100 attempt number three was a bust. Many, MANY hours and miles earlier than I thought. I went to my car to drop off my bag and get my sweatshirt and it started POURING. It was lightning and dumping insane amounts of rain. I was even MORE happy with my decision to stop.

I waited out the weather for about a half hour and then headed back to the aid station to chat and eat some ramen. Around 1 am, Libby had to call the 50 mile race. Conditions were terrible on the trail and she thought it would be very dangerous for someone who hadn't run the course to start in the middle of the night.

At that point I decided to head back to the hotel and get some rest. My roommate was supposed to be running the 50 mile and she hadn't yet responded to my text about the race being cancelled. When I finally got there at 2:25 am, she was just getting up.

We ended up staying up talking and drinking until almost 4 am.


We were woken up by housekeeping around 10 am. After getting dressed we went back over to the race to see how the 50K runners were handling the course and to pick up my drop bag. It was a MESS out there - this was after walking about 3 feet to Truth Corner to get my stuff:

We stuck around long enough to get some food and then went back to the hotel. Kerri needed to drive back to Austin and I needed to... START DAY ONE OF NO RUNNING FOR A LONG TIME. Over the course of the afternoon/evening I ate an entire pizza and watching hours of tv. Flew back very VERY early Sunday morning.

  • I am not a quitter. I do no like saying that I quit this race. But I did. The course was harder than I thought it was going to be. My body was too tired to be challenged.
  • DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THIS COURSE. This wasn't a mountain race or anything, but don't be fooled into thinking it is "flat" just because it is in Texas. It certainly wasn't!
  • I am SO happy that I quit before the rain and mud. I would likely have injured myself and I would have been moving way too slow for any of it to make sense or be worthwhile.
  • The course was VERY well marked. I am THAT person that can get lost doing anything. No confusion, well marked. At night, with the wind, some of the flags were a bit hard to see. My only suggestion for next time would be ground flags instead of ones in the trees. There was reflective tape on all markings, which helped.
  • I stuck around the start/finish for a long time, and while people were disappointed in DNFing, in general, people were pleased with the race and pleased with their decision to stop. Many had fallen on the course before the rain even started, so it's a HUGE success to me that I didn't fall at all the whole day (although came very close numerous times).
  • The aid stations were fantastic. I'm a huge fan of Nuun, so I was really happy that it was the electrolyte drink on the course. There were probably 4-6 volunteers at each aid station and they were happy to fill bottles, get food ready, and answer whatever questions we might have had. They were fantastic.
  • I fueled well. I drank enough, took enough salt and electrolytes and ate plenty.
  • There were no gels on the course (which Libby announced prior to the race), so it was not a surprise, just something to know if you were to run this. There was candy, chips, pretzels, pickles, cookies, jerky (YUM!) and PB&J. Not a super wide variety of food, but enough to get the job done.
  • The swag was amazing. Sad I won't wear the jacket and that I didn't get my first buckle. Oh wells.
  • Would I run this again? Probably, if I was closer. I won't travel for this one again (knowing that the 100 is out of reach, and probably the 50M too). 
  • I will say that if I didn't know this was an inaugural race, I wouldn't have known it from the organization. Libby is one hell of a race director, and anything that was within her control was taken care of. She is amazing!
I may add to this if I can think of anything else.

1 comment:

  1. You ran 44 miles - that's still an amazing accomplishment. At the end of the day, it's just running. Disappointing to not finish, but you were right to listen to your body. DNF also stands for "did nothing fatal." :)


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