Monday, May 21, 2018

Race Review: Knock On Wood Running Festival

My goal for this race was 50k.
The overall plan, which I made public, was to start with 100 Milers at 8pm, knock out my 50k, take a nap, then pace some clients who were doing their 50k or 100m.

What I really wanted to do though, was my 50k then sit around drinking, eating and cheering on clients from the comfort of my camp chair.

Neither of those scenarios really panned out...

Not really as bad as it looks.

Heather and I have done this race twice before. It was our first 100k back in 2016, then our first 100m in 2017. 

Our first year was just the two of us, somehow in 2017 we dragged up 20 something people to camp and race with us. This year we dragged up maybe 15 but also had a handful of clients there!

The quick takeaway here is that this is not only a great race, but a great social event. I'll be elaborating on that more over then next three million words...or you could just cut out now knowing this race is great. Your choice.

We were introduced to Upstate Ultras at Paris Mountain back in 2015. We've always had a great time at Upstates events, living four to five hours away makes it hard to get to all the Upstate events, but it's always worth it.

Here's my race story/review...whatever you want to call it:

Our buddy Paul picked us up in his kick-ass van (it's really great to have an adventurous bud with a van) and we were on the road by 8am. I spent a good amount of time on the ride studying for my upcoming Pharm Tech exam. In fact, I should be studying right now, not dicking around writing a blog nobody reads.

It only took us 4hrs to get to Conestee Nature Park, the venue for this event. To our surprise there was already a good amount of people there setting up. There's a HUGE amount of space to set up your camp, but there was a particular spot we wanted. We would ultimately end up with three pop-up canopies, four or five tents and a couple of cars. 

After finally getting all our shit set up we walked over to Rego to shoot the breeze with the RD. Not only is Matthew fast as hell, he's friendly as f*ck too.  I hope I have a picture of the kickass new hat we got from him.

I do, it's at the bottom of the blog.

The weather had been iffy, that's a word, most of the morning. Around 2pm got beautiful out. Hot and sunny! People were trickling into the venue and our camp grew throughout the afternoon, our clients came in, some local friends arrived and we made new friends. 

I'm not sure how/why we attract so many new friends at these events, but I'm really glad we do. John, if you happen to read this, here's a huge thanks for helping out the way you did man!
I would guess at this point, maybe four o'clock, there's about a dozen of us kicking around drinking cognac (thanks Paul!) and shooting the breeze. Our race doesn't start until 8pm, so what the hell else are we going to do? I would have busted out the hacky sack, but there were now enough folks around to make that dangerous (to them, not me). The RD hangs out with us a good bit and our buddy Eric drifts in and out of camp.
I'm telling you, Ultra camping is where it's at.

There were only brief periods of rain.

Let's get to the race details.
This race draws a super diverse crowd. I can't get into too many details, mostly as I don't know them, but RWB and Enduring Warrior have some affinity with this race.
It's not uncommon to see an athlete running in a gas mask and there will always be at least one American Flag on course. This year you would see athletes running with a mannequin leg which had an official bib and timing chip on it.
You would see a blind athlete complete a hundred miles.
You would also see a man, truly given a second chance, finish his 50k.
I can't give those stories the justice they deserve. But I recommend looking into them.

7:40 or so the RD gets all the 100 milers together for the race briefing. You know the normal stuff? Well, this wasn't the normal stuff. I've never been brought to tears during a race brief before. There's some real heavy shit here, heavy, but also amazing.

For some reason at the eight o'clock start time, Heather and I found ourselves towards the front of the starting pack. Maybe I look like I know what I'm doing?
I don't. I'm still learning. Every race I learn.

Lemme hashtag this   #myboausa

We start on the sidewalk just in front of the pavilion. A few hundred yards up we dip into the woods. This section is a bit technical. There's roots, rocks and re-bar. You need to watch your step as the trail winds up, down and left to right.

Trail spits us onto some pavement, right at a pretty major trail crossing, where we bang a right over a bridge. It's a pretty bridge. Hope I can find a picture.

It's only a short run down the road before slipping back into some singletrack. Ya know, I've run section thirty odd times and still can't think of anything remarkable about this quick section.

Back on to some pavement, again just for a short while before singletrack takes you up what I called the Green Hill. This was a really pretty area to run in. The trail was that neat upstate red clay type of terrain cutting through a field. There's trees at the summit with picnic tables circling them. The kind of place you just want to sling a hammock and have a beer.

After descending Green Hill a right hand turn brings you onto pavement to Aid Station II. This was an unmanned station of H20, Tailwind and some Fuel 100 Electro-bites, or as another runner called them "Shitty Teddy Grahams" (I like 'em, just needed lots of water to go with them).

A sharp left brings us into a slightly swampy area. There's a wooden bridge or two, some frogs and some ducks. It's nice.

Back on to pavement, up a little hill then back into the woods. This section was a little more swampy than the slightly swampy area. There's a good size observation post and several benches to sit on.

Sometime around 11pm on Saturday Heather and I took a break up there.

It's all still foggy. My memory is foggy. I never noticed fog on course.

Some boardwalk, which although feels a bit slick, makes for some really great running. The rebound and energy return is great. This boardwalk run is brief before taking a left into a swampier area that was even more swampy than the slightly more swampy area. But this isn't Low Country Swamp, so it's pretty run-able.

Damn this was a pretty course.

Back to pavement and across the bridge to the dreaded Lollipop section.
We called it a lollipop because this section was an out and back with a loop at the end.
We call it dreaded because the top of the loop can be balls hot, there's a climb, and as it's and out and back, there's a lot of traffic. Oh, it's also a climb out of the lollipop back to the paved walking path which brings you past a bunch of tents and into the finishing/timing chute.

Damn, that's a lot to read. Try typing that with a cat half on your keyboard.

Just a bit before the climb to "Balls Hot Field"

Now that I've gotten the course description out of the way, here's some other points.
The timing guy was spot on and very attentive. Hell, we even saw him chase down an 8k guy that did 2 extra loops for fun.
The Aid Station at the line was great. If it wasn't the RD himself, there was another friendly volunteer or two there to help you with anything you might need off the huge food table.
There's some really damn fast kids in Greenville.
I also need to mention again that this race attracts more than just the normal Ultra community. When was the last time you saw a blind dude knock out a hundred mile trail run?

There's a free One Mile Kids Run, an 8k, a 50k, a 24hr Relay and the 100 Miler. So take your pick. Rego for 2019 opens May 23rd.
Look for the big orange tent, the hot chick with blonde braids and the ugly skinhead with tattoos and a limp, because you know we're going to be there.

The pink one's mine.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Race Review: Swamp Stomp 50k

Eagle Endurance runs a $30 per month deal. You pay 30 bucks a month and you can run any and all of their local races. You save serious bank while giving the RD a semi-solid budget so he can bring you better and better races. It's a win win really.
Here's a link to that Thirty Dollar Club. 
I should also mention that active Hart Strength and Endurance clients get discounts off individual races. Message me on that.
The wife is probably going to say the same thing in her review, we spent a large portion of our Fall and Winter running Eagle Endurance races. In fact, that whole Francis Marion\Swam Fox\Palmetto Trail area became a 3rd home for us, the 2nd home being The Hulk, of course.

But this was our first time running the Wambaw Swamp Stomp!

She might be a dork, but she still snagged 3rd in the 50m

The start of this race is at Witherbee Ranger Station in Cordesville (or Huger) SC, just outside Monks Corner and Charleston SC. It's about 1:45 drive from Myrtle Beach. Not an awful drive, but it was very nice to have Friday night camping offered. We camped right across the street from the trail head where I had gotten SAG'd when I DNFd the Swamp Fox Ultra back in November.
I actually feel kind of weird doing races that don't have camping involved.
We had our tent up, there was an RV parked nearby and the RDs were set up at the trail head. Very nice quite evening. Not like Ragnar camping at all.
We sat in our hammock and had pizza for dinner. Gross, frozen pizza.

I keep trying to go Vegan.

We've done enough Eagle Endurance races to know, or at least recognize, 75% of the participants that show up regularly. It's really quite cool, you make friends, talk about past events, goof on the RD, compare injuries and that kind of thing.
This race though, had lots of new faces, shit, I probably only recognized 5 or 6 people. Not only was it a new crowd, it was a pretty big crowd too.
Don't ask me how many. I was there to run, not count how many people were gonna beat me...

For this event there were a few options. 50k, 50m, 50k Relay. 50m Relay.
I'd signed up for the 50k months back, but the crazy ass wife was rego'd for the 50m.
Gun time was the same for all the races, 7:00 am. (I've only been to one Eagle Endurance race that didn't start on time. So if you do one of Chad's races, don't dick around. Be on time.)
After the normal porta-jon queue, of which there were two, plenty for this field, I met the wife at the starting line. 6:59:45. Cool fifteen seconds to spare.

It was a gorgeous morning to run. I think it was low 60s to start? Mostly sunny. So nice. In fact, it's been pretty damn nice around here for a few days. All this nice weather led to nice dry trails.

Double Track, nice dry double track.

The trail we're racing on, Heather tells me, is called the Swamp Fox Passage portion of the Palmetto Trail. It's a pretty damn beautiful trail.

No caption. It's just a sign.

You may have already figured this, but we are in the Carolina Low Country. There are no hills. It's flat. but man, it's pretty. Here's another picture for you.

Most of the bridges on trail were very sturdy.

I typically don't write about how my personal race goes. Who really cares if I PR'd or ran 7min miles? I try to write more about the event than my own shenanigans.
But I am going to write about my race a bit today. Because today was yet another Ultra Epiphany!

I can no longer race with my wife.
She's too fast!

We start our race at a 3/1. Three minute Run, with a One minute Walk. It's a norm for us. It gives you a chance to recover while still keeping your overall pace decent. (Experiment to see if it may work for you.) This kind of pacing will typically get me through.
Today though, I only made it to Mile 20 before hitting the shit-wall. There wasn't really any lead up to the Wall. We hit the Aid Station at the 20m mark, I felt good enough. Then one mile down the road the Wall fell on me.
I haven't had good Ultra in....well, maybe I never have?

So anyway, at mile 21 I gave the wife a kiss goodbye and watched her run off into the distance.
I hate it when she leaves, but I love watching her go.

From mile 21 to 31 I went through all the damn issues you get when doing this stupid shit. I got dizzy spells. My feet hurt. I was cramping. My kidneys hurt (?). I was hungry, grumpy and now, without my wife chatting away at me, kind of bored. And to top it off, it's now in the low 80s and I'm on a wide open fire road.

Google said this picture was free to use.

Play me a little violin. 

I took this time to analyze what the hell might be going on with me. And I of course realized a couple things. I eat like shit and I don't take the time to train properly. It seems wifey has the ability to go Couch to 50m, but this guy needs to train to do this stuff. Ultra's hurt.

Gorgeous morning. May in South Carolina is pretty great.

Enough about me. Let's talk about the race itself.
1) Trail was marked very well. There were white blazes on the trees and the intersections had orange tape and/or paint on the ground.
2) Trail was a mix of easy single track, technical single track, double track and some pavement.
3) Fully stocked and manned Aid Stations every five miles, with 2 porta-jons on course.
4) The claimed distances were accurate to within .10 miles! 
5) The RD always does a great job explaining the potential danger of wild hogs, snakes and such on trail. I didn't see any wildlife today, just some birds. I like birds.

Pine Straw covered single track. So nice.

Other than getting my ass handed to me, again, I had a really great time this race. I always do though, huh? 
I like camping, I like being outside, I like trail running and the community it supports. So ya, I do always have a good time at these races. 

I should probably have some kind of rating system for the races I do. Something like 4 out of 5 stars or some shit.

So let's go with Mini-donuts.
I give this race 10.5oz of Mini Donuts out of 10.5oz of Mini Donuts.
Because it's not about me, it's about the race. Which actually didn't have mini-donuts, but was still very well run and really damn fun.

Thanks for reading.