Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Red Dirt Ultra (Race Recap)

Provencal, LA
Saturday, February 17
Weather - Overcast, breezy, cold

While I had seen this race in ultrasignup previously, I wasn't necessarily super interested in running it until I heard that it would be the last year they would be hosting the 100 mile distance. Less than a month out, Ben and I decided that it could be "fun" to go out to Louisiana to see where our long distance fitness was. We didn't tell anyone we were planning on going, which it made it even more fun since I knew multiple people that would be there. 

Race Day

I only woke up once during the night, so I think I actually slept pretty decent. I did wake up about 15 minutes before the 4 am alarm, but didn't get out of bed until I had to. Turns out the early wake up (I had wanted 4:10) was beneficial, because with everything we needed to do, we barely got out on time at 4:40 am.

It was a 35-40 minute drive to the start line. Most of it was on a two lane road, and I always get nervous when there is no actual address for a start line. We didn't have anything to worry about - we found the start with no problems.

We still had to get all our packs and drop bag ready. I figured I would use the bathroom and get our bibs, as well as ask about the hoodies they had for sale. It was WAY colder than I expected. I ended up buying hoodies for both of us - just in case our current layers weren't sufficient, at least we would have some back up clothes.

Before we knew it - people were hovering around the start and we did a quick pre-race selfie.
On paper, this didn't look like a tough race. 33.3 mile loops, with each loop having around 2,800' of gain. 

Loop 1

Within a few minutes, I became irritated with the chest strap. I had loosened the pack and somehow the extra slack of the strap was flapping around. It kept me occupied for a LONG time trying to figure out what was happening. I also think that I got hot and took of my R1 pretty early.

The trail was sandy at the start, the pic below is an example of what it looked like the first half of the loop, pic stolen from Steph. It almost looks like the trails are muddy, when in reality it is just light colored dirt. 
Weirdly, it also seemed like the climbs were really steep. I kept glancing at my "total ascent" field and thinking, wow, this isn't moving at all! Funny story though, I was looking at current elevation, not total ascent. Haha. 
I'm not sure where this was on the course, but a lot of the first half of the loop was this sand 
There were a decent number of people we were with for the first half. The "big" loop was for the 100 mile runners only though. I believe we met up with the 50k and 100k runners who were doing the "small" loop somewhere around 13 miles in. They started an hour after us and I think were 2 miles lower in mileage than we were.
The course was really pretty though, once we got away from some of the mud. Lots and lots of giant puddles (that were mostly avoidable) from all the rain that had fallen earlier in the week.l


The below water crossing was one of the widest on the course. There were some big rocks that we were going to try and use to get across so we wouldn't get our feet wet. Spoiler, even with Ben's help, I fell in. 
Finally arrived at the halfway aid station, Coyote Camp. I was pretty hungry at this point and I was mildly irritated with how many crew/family were there. There were also a lot of runners, so it was chaotic and crowded. I had to use the bathroom (and had to wait) - it was decorated both inside and out for Mardi Gras (I think) - but the streamers were really creepy while I was sitting.
Already irritated with lack of good food options, but I still grabbed a peanut butter and jelly and some other snacks and then we headed out. There was a bit of sand right after the aid station, but the second half of the course was a lot better! We had some leaf covered trails that were more packed down (although we were worried in some areas where the trail was hard to see and hoped we didn't roll an ankle somewhere). I don't remember a lot of the section to the next aid station which was on a dirt road. This aid station was run by high school age kids that had camped out overnight and had hammocks set up. We ran down the road for a bit, maybe 2/3 of a mile, then went more into the woods. Lots of leaves and views of the bayou here.
More water crossings, but pretty easy to keep feet dry for the most part. When we were moving near the bayou, Ben asked if there were alligators in there. I wasn't sure, so I asked Siri, and she did say that there are alligators in Louisiana, but that didn't mean they were in this area. Didn't stop us from looking.
I was feeling strangely exhausted and tired this whole loop. Why was I so tired so early? I had gotten a decent night's sleep, but I felt like I was already 60-70 miles in. This wasn't a good sign. There were some crossings where Ben claimed he could walk over a downed tree to stay dry. I told him there was no way he would do it, but he did.
My feet got wet, his didn't. Not a big deal, I don't usually have issues with wet feet, other than my feet were cold because the air was cold. More bridges.
The last aid station before start/finish was in a parking lot and they even had an espresso machine, which I gladly took coffee from. We had a decently long trek up another dirt road, about the same length as the last one.
Once we got back into the woods we had more of the same, but this time we had areas of chunky mud also. Later I was told that all the tire tracks were from ATVs (that ARE allowed on these trails). 
We had spent a long time talking about gators, but all we saw was a croc. We laughed way too hard about this.
Ben and I were having tough conversations about whether or not we wanted to drop down to the 100k - I said if I kept feeling this bad there was no way we would be able to finish the 100M. There were two pretty deep and mostly unavoidable water crossings just before getting back to the start/finish. For whatever reason, this loop seemed impossibly hard and totally kicked my ass. We had been dreaming of gumbo, and THANKFULLY they still had some left, because the aid stations hadn't been super interesting on loop one and we were starving. We also saw Elizabeth, who was very surprised to see us!


Loop 2

We talked to the race director and hypothetically asked about dropping down to 100k - whether it was an official finish, if we got an award, etc. We were told the cutoff trail was closed for the race and we would have to do a big loop again, regardless, so the minimum we would be doing would be a heavy 100k of at least 66.6 miles. 

We stayed MUCH longer at the start/finish than we probably should have, but I had been tired and while I was eating, I wasn't eating enough. So we both downed multiple bowls of gumbo (how have I never eaten this before?? It was SO GOOD.) By the time we were going back out, it was well over 10 hours into the race. We were definitely going to need a 180 to get this done!

We headed out a few minutes after our buddy we had chatted with a bit on the first loop (one of the only guys to bring poles) and caught him after a mile or so. He says "I'm so happy to see you guys!! I wish I would have stuck with you, I've been by myself forever and struggling." We stayed with him a bit, but I had taken one of my caffeine drinks and after a bit I felt a TON better and started running. And running. All of those hills that had seemed so big the first loop were nothing this time around. 

Before we knew it, we arrived at the first aid station. We went in the tent to get some food. One of the volunteers is signed up for Bigfoot and she was asking for tips. I told Ben we needed to get out of there because we were blowing time. Sun had gone down, so we needed to run with our headlamps (both of us had opted to leave the Kogallas at home).

We ran really well this whole section, although our headlamp batteries seemed to be dying really fast and we only had a few extra sets. When we arrived back at Coyote we got some food and I asked if they had any spare batteries (they did!) so we swapped out and headed out, already halfway done with the loop and still feeling good! Ben said it was time to throw in music, so that was a fun distraction. There was another girl aid Coyote who headed out right before us, but we passed her pretty early. I believe we passed another 2-3 people in this section!

Arrived at the kid's aid station on the road and had our first disappointing aid station in many hours. Asked "what hot food do you have?" Answered with "peanut butter and jelly?" Repeated the question and finally got a response that they had broth, but then it took a bit for them to bring it, and by then I was getting annoyed because I could tell we were getting closer to the loop cutoff.

We headed out and I was still feeling good and still running. Ben at one point waved at me (both of us still having music but we were running single file) and suggested I take it easy so I don't burn out. I'm still wanting to give this 100M a go, so I keep running.

We rolled into the last aid station before the start finish and and got food and asked for more espresso. It was going to be close, but with a good last section, we would have time to get this thing done! We took some food out with us, and somehow, my legs just stopped working. The temperature also seemingly dropped a good 20 degrees. Suddenly, we were freezing and now just walking. Time was slipping away, but we couldn't seem to fix it and I also was getting tired again. I pulled out my emergency rain jacket thinking the layer would help - and it unfortunately didn't. We had been using handwarmers most of the loop, and now I was up to four upper layers. We were both still wearing shorts. I had pants, but with the water crossings, I wasn't sure that would even help, so I didn't bother to put them on.

We were getting closer to the start/finish and knew we wouldn't have time to go back out for the last loop. Sigh. And we saw someone behind us with a headlamp running and we were wondering who it was - oh, the winner of the 100M. Thankfully he crossed right before us, so we didn't steal his glory.

Our race was over, coming in 11 minutes after the cutoff to leave for loop 3. Since we had already talked to the race director about dropping we were immediately handed our 100k medals.
Official Time - 21:11:54
Garmin Time - 21:11:47 (Run 7:08:56, Walk 12:27:40, Idle 1:35:18)
Garmin Distance - 67.69 miles
Elevation Gain - 6,361'
Miles 1-10 - 16:00, 13:53, 15:11, 15:15, 15:47, 15:36, 16:50, 16:15, 15:47, 16:54
Miles 11-20 - 16:27, 14:59, 15:51, 15:09, 15:53, 25:03, 16:19, 15:15, 14:50 , 14:59
Miles 21-30 - 14:54, 15:51, 20:03, 15:43, 19:41, 17:05, 20:40, 26:46, 17:33, 17:01
Miles 31-40 - 20:04, 19:46, 19:09, 52:05, 19:57, 16:48, 17:18, 16:46, 16:52, 17:16
Miles 41-50 - 28:03, 17:51, 16:48, 20:19, 17:39, 16:07, 17:14, 16:40, 17:37, 29:17
Miles 51-60 - 16:54, 15:07, 18:08, 16:31, 17:24, 18:38, 20:48, 16:53, 16:38, 16:46
Miles 61-67.69 - 20:04, 28:09, 18:57, 19:42, 25:08, 23:24, 24:35, 24:27

We sat down and had been hoping to get food, but it was really cold, so we accepted a few beers and then decided we should sit in the car and try to warm up.
We cranked the heat and ended up napping for a few hours. I got up around 8 because I was starving and had to pee. I don't think I did either of those things, but I did go and sit at the campfire to chat with the race director, volunteers and other runners. 
Am I disappointed? Sure. I would've been on the podium if I had finished - only one lady crossed the 100M finish line. I'm not sure what happened the first lap, but after having more than 3/4 of the second lap go well, it was frustrating to have a crappy last few miles into the start/finish and run out of time. But, it is what it is. Onto the next adventure!

Thoughts:
  • Course was very well marked. No a handful of times at night I had to look around a bit as sometimes the markers were behind a tree or something. But overall, good. All flags had reflectors.
  • Aid stations were meh the first loop, and all but the one run by the kids was good at night. I get why they don't want "interesting" things the first loop, I just always wish there were different calorically dense foods. But I digress.
  • Never ran out of water between aid, they were spaced really well.
  • Swag was good. We registered late, after the shirt deadline, and still got one! The hoodie was a nice, inexpensive ($35) add on. Medal is nice, and the buckle and AG awards were pretty sweet! 
  • Out in the middle of nowhere race. Shreveport is the closest airport, but as a regional airport flights were crazy, and no direct flights. Major airports "nearby" are Dallas, Houston and New Orleans - all over 3 hours away.
  • A good event, put on by good people. I won't run again because it was tough/expensive to get to. The race itself isn't expensive, so if I was closer, I would do it again.
  • Gear - CVG 5" shorts, Rabbit team tee (not EZ, not sure what line it is from), Patagonia Airshed Pro, Patagonia R1, and for the very end my Montbell rain jacket. One pair of Ultraventure 2's/gaiters. ZERO blisters or hot spots - yay! Zensah crew socks, Zensah high neck sports bra. During the day, my Tahoe 200 hat, at night my Bula fleece-lined hat. Gloves and switched to mittens for overnight. Handwarmers. Salomon vest. Hypothetically, if I could have checked a bag, I'd probably have brought my poles. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Week in Review (February 13 - February 19)

Tuesday (19,646 steps) - Peloton before going to work. 45 minutes of strength at lunch.
Wednesday (27,664 steps) - Work in the office. Actually went for my run at lunch since Ben and I had plans after work. I wore shorts and a long sleeve shirt - it ended up being much too warm for a speed workout in that. Not great, but I don't feel like running downtown is ever awesome.
I always have fun running in festive headbands, though. Met Ben at Parry's for a Valentine's Day dinner. Mmmm, mac n' cheese and beer. Can it be any better?
Thursday (22,348 steps) - Work from home. Took Olive for a walk and went for my run. I have virtually no recollection of it, but it was colder than I thought it would be. Spent the evening packing!
Friday (10,546 steps) - Up early to go to the airport. We had to be out the door by 5:40 am, and got out practically on time, even with the surprise overnight snowfall. Zero issues getting the car parked and even though the security line was long it didn't take too long to get through. Our plane was boarded on time and we pushed back on time, but then we had to de-ice. I was not sitting next to Ben, so I was reading my book and then when we finally took off I watched a movie - which ended right as we were landing in Dallas. Uneventful!
We had to take a shuttle to the car rental place, but once again - having status with Hertz means I can bypass the counter and just pick a car. It was slim pickings, but we selected a Hyndai Kona (that we affectionally named "Greg" for the trip). We were both hungry, but we wanted to get on the road (out of Dallas) before stopping. Traffic was horrible getting out of town - which we expected, but come on. I had found a BBQ/brewery - Q & Brew in Canton. We were starving by the time we got there.
The beer was barely marginal - but in my defense, they didn't have the beers listed on their website and we definitely took a gamble on it.
The food, however, was AMAZING. We got a HUGE serving of Queso and I got a delicious sandwich of chopped brisket and habanero garlic sausage. Delicious!!
We had a few random stops along the way, including getting coffee (for Ben) and a scoop of ice cream from the adjoining Baskin Robbins (for me).
We arrived at our hotel a bit later than we had initially planned. We had to go to the front desk to find out why I had been charged a second time when the room was prepaid back in January. (Spoiler, everything seems to have worked out just fine, even though I got a total of FIVE separate charges over the course of the weekend).
Steph and Rich were staying at a hotel down the street and we agreed to meet up at the Flying Heart Brewing Company for dinner and a beer. The brewery was located just over the railroad tracks in a somewhat industrial area - we weren't convinced that we would survive the evening, haha.
Brewery itself was quite nice! Large space, attentive service and a good menu of pizza and sandwiches. PLUS, the beer was good.

I opted to get a Stromboli - which I'm not sure I've had since I was in elementary school! It was delicious (and gigantic).
We had a good time, but it was already getting late and we still had stuff to do. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the store to get gas and pick up groceries for the morning (Gatorade, coffee, water). I hadn't hit my step goal for the day, so we had to walk around the hotel for about 20 minutes before we could go inside. By the time we got everything ready for the morning, it was definitely later than I wanted to be in bed.
Saturday (131,816 steps) - Red Dirt Ultra
Sunday (25,134 steps) - Woke up in the car after a few hours of sleeping (sort of) and I was starving. Since Ben was going to have to drive I figured I would let him sleep a bit and I could grab something from the finish line. I ended up staying much longer than I planned talking with everyone. Ben finally got up after I had been there over an hour and we chatted a bit before deciding we really needed to get out of there. I had to use the bathroom, and then we headed to Elizabeth's hotel so we could shower before getting on the road. We stopped at Whataburger and I got a delicious breakfast! Jalapeno biscuit with bacon, egg and sausage and hash browns. 
We arrived at her place just before 11 and had enough time for us both to shower and bet out just before noon. We walked over to a restaurant down the street to meet up for a lunch/snack and drink. It was good to visit with her, it's been a while. 

MATCHY MATCHY MATCHY
Then we had to start the long drive back to Dallas. I dozed on/off for most of the drive, which was probably not fun for Ben. We wanted to get as close as possible to the airport before stopping for food and dinner. When we had arrived I had seen "Community" - so we went there. The food and beer were BOTH amazing! 

We still had to pack our bags (poor planning on our part), which we did in the parking lot. Then we had to go and return the car. We got turned around quite a bit, so glad we had extra time. Our flight was on time (again). I watched a documentary miniseries, and only fell asleep on/off during the last part. We landed early, but then had to wait for a gate. All in all it took forever to get out of the airport, and the line for the shuttle to the lot was insane. At least we were the first people dropped off. By the time we were home it was almost 1 am. Oof.
Monday (13,231 steps) - Work from home. I didn't have that many emails from being off on Friday, and with it being a "holiday" it wasn't very busy. Since I didn't have to go for a run, Olive got a nice, long walk at lunch. Ariel and I went to Costco for our pizza lunch. After work I met up with Ben at Parry's for a beer. Ariel came down to meet us for dinner later, which was nice. We stayed up to watch "Thanksgiving" - which was actually pretty decent for a slasher movie.

Stats:
  • 250,385 steps
  • 78.54 miles run
  • 35 minutes of cardio
  • 45 minutes of strength

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Week in Review (February 6 - February 12)

Tuesday (19,459 steps) - Peloton before work in the office. Cross training at lunch. Took Olive for a walk when I got home.
Three years of showing up at least once a week for cross training!
Wednesday (28,102 steps) - Work in the office. Lots of miles on the treadmill desk and then headed to Green Mountain after work. I was really surprised that the Lakewood didn't close the trails. The bottom section was wet and muddy. As I got higher up the fire road it was slushy.
Getting to the top ridge line and it was narrow, packed down ice. It was a gorgeous night, but I didn't want to roll an ankle and it was slow going. It also got pretty windy.




Met Ben at Parry's for happy hour.
Thursday (22,942 steps) - Work from home. Took Olive for a walk at lunch on the mud route before going for my run. It was windy, but another day of being able to wear shorts! Met Ben at Parry's for dinner.
Friday (23,310 steps) I haven't been sleeping well so I skipped the morning walk. Work was crazy busy and I didn't get to sneak out early like I usually try to do. Ben was at Big O getting his new wheels and tires, so met up at Parry's. Again.
Saturday (24,634 steps) - Tried to sleep in and failed. It snowed overnight again, so we weren't sure what we were going to be able to do. We decided to go to North Table because we figured at least there wouldn't be any bikes if the weather wasn't amazing. There were a surprising number of cars in the lot and we headed up the fire road. It was snowy and felt much steeper than I remember.
We saw a gal at the top of the fire road snapping on a snowboard and also saw some people with a sled. SNOWED ON US THE WHOLE TIME. Because the snow is so wet, there were areas that were slushy, but a lot of the trail was just... snow.
Needless to say we didn't do a ton of running because we weren't sure what we were stepping on. Pretty though!

Took Olive for a walk - she loves this weather!
Sunday (10,440 steps) - We had to be up early to go to Runner's Roost in Denver for the team kickoff. After a few years off, Ben is back on the team. We took Olive with us and had plans to run with Maureen. The streets were really icy after all the snow, and I wasn't feeling great, so a 5k at dog pace was fine with me.
As always, great to see all our teammates! We went to Parry's on the way home for a quick snack. Then it was time to shower and go to Ben's house for his 50th birthday party / Super Bowl party. We didn't stay too long and then headed over to 4 Noses to watch the rest of the game. Looooong night.
Monday (18,560 steps) - Work from home. SUPER busy since I am on a short (maybe longer) term coverage assignment. I was slammed most of the day. Barely had time to take Olive for a short walk and I had to cut my run a bit short because I didn't get out until later in the afternoon. Ben and I went to Salsa's for dinner and then we watched a movie. Finally got in bed early for once.

Stats:
  • 147,447 steps
  • 27.28 miles run
  • 45 minutes of cardio
  • 60 minutes of strength

Week in Review (April 2 - April 8)

Tuesday  (17,510) - Peloton before work in the office. Did my short cross training and left at lunch since Joyce is on vacation. Finally sto...