Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Anchor Down Ultra 2017

Run 169 Town crew.
I've been waiting a few days to absorb and analyze my experiences at the Anchor Down Ultra this past weekend. This was my second year at the race. Last year I completed 51 miles which was actually a disappointment due to the fact I hoped to finish 100K. I wasn't going to enter this year but I needed to redeem myself. It was sold out but I signed up anyway. I was placed on the wait list and was eventually accepted in. That was the trigger to train harder and make this year much better than last. So as the summer started, so did my training.

First thing to do was review 2016 and determine what needed to be corrected. Looking at my stats last year it was apparent I really didn't train. Longest run was 14 miles and only one time. Most runs were 8,9,12 miles. This news shocked me. How did I not train? I know better! Therefore starting in June I was doing 20 mile runs almost every other week. Many 12-15 milers as well. I stayed off the trails and focused on a steady past while at the same time worked on fuel and nutrition.
Going into Anchor Down last Friday I was confident and ready. My goal was 72 miles. I tapered properly, drank plenty of fluids for two days prior, and ate relatively healthy with a higher percentage of carbs. I even slept later on Friday and tried to sleep Friday afternoon prior to the start. I setup my tent and supplies while greeting my friends especially from the Run 169 Towns group. Impressive to see so many attempt these longer races.

Tent city where runners have personal aid setups
As 7:00pm approached on Friday it was apparent we would see some rain. That rapidly changed to "expect downpours and lightening". In the 30 minutes before the start the usual greetings of old friends and group shots were taking place. At 6:50ish we started to line up and listen to last minute instructions. The RD had a lightening policy and it appeared he may need to use it. As the singer started the National Anthem the clouds opened up. It poured. Strangely enough many ran for cover under trees to avoid getting wet. What? Did they not realize they were minutes from starting an overnight race completely in the rain? After the anthem and a quick countdown we were off into the woods and massive muck. upon reaching harder trails the rain had built up enough to create small rivers. Then it happened. A quarter mile in the woods a loud crack of lightening came down. Then more after that. Were we gonna get struck? Were we going to die on the trail? Will they pause the race? Most expected the race to be paused. As we finished the first loop the RD decided to keep it going as the lightening moved away. After loop 1 it became dark fast and we settled into a messy, cold, and wet night of running. The rain continued for at least 4 hours and maybe more. Lightening came and went but without the intensity at the start.
Conditions early in the race. Photo credit to the official photographer Jon Packer
I was maintaining a 13:00/mile pace and running well. No tripping, sliding, or falls. I was on track through 12 miles. As the evening went on I started to weaken. My feet and ankles were very sore. Not normal and not expected. I was taking in fluids and nutrition just fine and started salt tabs and electrolytes(NUUN) as well. I could tell something wasn't right. Not critical but knew my pace would slow down. Then my mind starts over slow can I run to still reach 72 miles? Should I change my nutrition intake? Should I walk more? Should I stop for a long rest and regroup? I spent so much time thinking I hadn't noticed the time flying by. It was 2:00am.
My supplies for the race inside my tent to stay dry.
When back at the main aid station I asked for Ibuprofen. Thought that maybe my feet and ankles were swollen and it would help that and the pain. At 2:45 I could tell it was working! I felt better and had some good long fast paced miles. That got me through until the sun came up. The day was clearing up as I entered a "the worst was over" way of thinking. During the early morning I could feel the weakness coming back. Almost light headed but not faint. Odd. More over thinking started up again. On completion of the 16th loop I took a long break. Sat down and just relaxed. I needed 10 miles to reach 50 miles and the medal therefore the mission for the day was to take it easy and get to 50. Easy right? I did another loop and sat down again because I was definitely weak. After a long while I started loop #18. Only two more after that and I had my medal. I had 9 hours to do it. No big deal right? That 18th lap ended and I felt real weak. Couldn't figure it out. Drank plenty of fluids and ate a ton. Another long break then up for loop #19. I started into the woods and the mud, which had dried up a bit. After about 1/10th of a mile I stopped. Felt so weak I wondered if I was going to pass out. My inner self said to was OK. I turned and walked back to the start line. I sat down so my mind could have a cage match fight about stopping/not stopping. I needed only two more loops to have a respectable distance! Finally my common sense helped me come to the conclusion that my race was over. I got up and made my way to the time monitor. Quietly and sadly I told him I was stopping. It hurt to say it. It hurt bad. Especially after all my training and high expectations. Returning to my tent and chair I wondered if I did the right thing. I sat there in misery. Slowly I turned that sad and ugly moment into a positive. I am 63 years old and have run many races. This was another ultra. Maybe not the distance planned for but still a 44 mile ultra. I was satisfied and felt good. There is always next year.
Tired , dirty, and devastated
I had the most miles of any Grand Master in the race(only 2 of us in the 24 hour). But hey...that means I won! Lou Loban was the other Grand Master and he finished 36 miles. Not bad since he is within days of being 70 and has really bad knees. Always a great guy and inspiration. Within a 30 minute period I went from being completely devastated to feeling great. I headed out to the hotel to get cleaned up so I could return and watch the 100 milers finish up. Those runners completing 24 hours are amazing. Some completed 70 miles and other did more than 100. Many were in remarkable shape considering the conditions I knew too well. Congrats to all of them for an outstanding performance.
1st place for Grand Masters of the 24 hour race. Brought the smile back.
My final stats were: 18 loops completed. Total miles =  44.10. Average pace was 19:50

Is the 2018 Anchor Down on the radar? You bet it is!

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