by Jim Pugh
My, the weather forecast inaccurate! When the rain started I thought it might be a brief drizzle. As the drips in the forest became louder and water began to accumulate on the trail it became apparent this was the real thing. It poured for the last three hours of the run. For the most part the rain was cool and refreshing. The rain weighted down on low branches, requiring extra hand work to protect one’s face.
My goal was simple. I wanted to have enough gas in my engine to enjoy the second half of the run. So I went out slowly and easy-walked every uphill. “Save energy…save it for later…save the legs…listen to your body…ignore the other runners…save…stay rested…keep saving…” were variations on my mantra during the first half of the course. I arrived at
(9.0 miles) with legs feeling minimal wear and tear. I reached the Spruce Lake trail junction at 16.5 miles still running easy and relaxed. West Canada Lake
A secondary goal was to beat six hours. Simple arithmetic told me it should be possible to run 10-minute miles, with 40 minutes left over for walking hills, filling water bottles, and the miscellaneous break. My time at 16.5 miles was hours. I thought it unlikely I could keep the same pace for the second half of the run. Yet during the second half the trail turns out to be eminently runnable for long stretches. There are fewer of the hills and bogs that punctuate the first half. Miles passed by quickly and easily even as the trail slowly filled with rain water. I continued to walk the uphills.
Crossing the last bridge at hours (5.5 miles to go) I figured I had a shot at six hours. My spent legs kept up a steady pace. I reached the dirt road (1.3 miles from the finish) still 13 minutes and 45 seconds under six hours. I still can’t figure out why there is more uphill than downhill on this road, but eventually one makes it to the dam and the finish line.
I spent most of the run by myself. About 3-4 miles into the course most of the runners were positioned. I occasionally saw runners ahead of me on the hills. Franz was refilling his water holder when I arrived at the big stream at 16.7 miles. He departed first and that was the last I saw of him. I didn’t see another runner for about ten miles, until I passed Greg and Kerry during the last hour of the run.
I used a different strategy this year. While the backpack was comfortable last year, it required loosening straps and taking it off every time I wished to access a water bottle or food – this was tough to do on the run. This year I decided to keep everything around the waist for easy access. Four eight-ounce water bottles and two pouches hung on an Amphipod waist belt. The pouches held water purification tablets and bug spray (both held in a contact lens case), electrolyte tablets (hardly needed this year), and 2 gel packs. My shorts from RaceReady have seven pockets which held energy bars and gels, toilet paper, ERG/Gookinaid powder, and a tiny 1st aid kit. I carried six items to eat, and ate one every hour.
On the feet, the Inov8 MudRoc 280s were marvelous – with excellent control and grip. The trail was considerably rockier than I remembered it, and was largely under water for the last two hours. The shoes handled this with aplomb.
Streams for refilling the water bottles were plentiful. I drank 120 ounces of water, compared to 150 last year. This was probably due to the cooling effect of the rain.
According to the double-sided tape on the back of my hat, the black fly index this year was 14. Last year it was 6. They liked the wet shirt matted to one’s back.
Running strategy summary
It seems to me that miles 3-9 are the critical ones for the run. If a runner can get through its ups and downs and rough sections minimal drain on the legs, then there is the opportunity keep a good pace on miles 17-26 which are quite runnable. Miles 26-32 are the easiest in terms of trail difficulty, but inevitably one’s legs and mind are hanging on.
Again, a big round of thanks to RD Jim and the Wakely Dam support crew. The strong, waterproof tents at the finish were most appreciated. I don’t know if he played a role in getting someone to clean up the trail with a chainsaw, but I am happy to give him the credit. There were only 4 or 5 trees over the trail the whole day. Jim and his team did a superb job of organizing the run in every way.