Day at the Office

Day at the Office
All Terrain Vehicle
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. - Phillppians 3:14

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Grasslands 50 Mile Ultra Race Report

March 21, 2009 was a day that I committed to slaying a dragon on my back. Finishing the 50 mile distance was something that had loomed in my mind since my DNF at Palo Duro. Since then, I had learned so much in regards to running Ultras, from Dmitry pacing me at Bandera to Paul Tidmore letting me on what he thought would help and all the other ultra runners who were so unselfish in coaching and information. (Paul has only finished one 50 miler…but 2 time finisher of the Hardrock 100 and 7 other 100 mile Ultras)

The race is to take place in Decatur Texas at the LBJ Grasslands state park, which is about an hours drive from my house. I opted to sleep in my own bed, get up have a waffle and coffee, and then make the pilgrimage to the race. I arrive at about 6:20 AM and signed in, got my race packet, and staged my drop bag. I like to have a little more time to prep, but was rushed to get everything done before the 7:00 AM gun went off. I had no time to contemplate or think about the day ahead, which was probably for the better. I was confident. My training had being spot on. My running partner, Marshall King, who had finished the 3 Days of Syllamo stage race this past weekend, felt confident in my preparation as well and this a huge vote of confidence. So at 7:00AM, we were off.
The course utilizes the horse trails of the park and consists of 4 loops. You begin with a 4.8 mile out-and-back correction and then commence with the 4 color coded trails. The blue, yellow, white and red trails are 13.5, 10.4, 12.8, and 8.9 miles respectively. There is not a great deal of elevation change but there are more than enough gullies you run up and down. The trail for the most part was pretty “stirred up” due to the recent rains the passing horses and you had to pay attention not become a rolled ankle casualty. The most challenging part was the long stretches of deep, loose sand to traverse. Compare it to running on a really loose sandy beach. I poured a half of cup of sand out of my shoes at the finish…and I’m not joking.

The out and back and the 1st, blue loop, were uneventful. I immediately, out the gate, commenced with the 10 minute run/2 minute walk routine recommended to me by Paul Tidmore. I was eating early and often. I was staying hydrated and on top of my electrolytes. It was cool in the morning hours and things were going well. I come into the main aid station at the start/finish line (18.3 miles) and downed a cup of Antja’s potato soup….tons of calories, loaded with sodium and easy to down…Ultra runners rocket fuel. I took off to start the 2nd yellow loop. The marathon race had started at 7:30 and some of the marathoners were mingling in with the 50 milers. On of those was John Morelock-he ran gently out there. We ran about the last 4 to 5 miles together, encouraging each other. This was really enjoyable part of the run. He kept telling me that I was looking so smooth for going the 50 and to keep it up. This was great for my psyche and my body felt really good coming into the main aid station at 28.7 miles. I grabbed more soup…more potatoes, some crackers and refilled the hydration pack. While there I saw a marathoner that had finished, looking in a world of hurt. I asked if he was alright. He responded, “no, this was my first trail run and I’m hurting all over.” I told by this time tomorrow he will love it. As I was moving on to start the 3rd White loop, I heard him utter that he had no idea how we were going twice that far. I felt good, both mentally and physically…and had just less than a marathon to go.

The white loop was the first wall that I had to fight through. At about mile 35, I was feeling the pain in my legs. The legs seemed a little dead as well and my walk breaks were getting longer than I wanted. I remember pulling into Debra Sexton’s aid station in a fairly dark state of mind. I also had a hot spot developing on my foot. I stopped to apply some mole skin that I had precut and changed socks. The sand was beginning to take its toll. Three miles later, I had pulled out of the lull and the body and mind began to respond again. In the words of Olga, don’t think about the distance till your 2/3 done…I was thinking about the distance now…25K…and this thing was done. I pull into the main aid station for the last time. More soup…more food, although my stomach did not want to accept too much. Laura Underwood asked how I felt and told her, “Like a Rockstar.” My brother, Sammy, and his family was there at this point as they had made the 1 ½ hour drive. Sam told me that the time keepers table had me dropping from the race. WHAT??? I have been running my butt off and have only 9 miles to go. I hurried over to the time keeper to correct that…and all was good. I was talking to my brother and Matt Crownover, who had wrapped up his 50 miler in 8 ½ hours (2nd place)…exclaimed, “DAVE, GET OUT OF HERE!” I hear Antje, tell me to “quite making love to the aid station and to get going.” I look down and had spent 13 minutes at the station…way too long. I had done really well at not loitering at the aid stations…but blew it on this one. Off I run to finish the last 9 miles of the Red Loop.

At mile 43 or so, I was descending down a hill and started to feel the IT band scream at me. I tried to run on the level terrain but the pain only increased. Remembering an Indian trick from Rick Gaston, I pull a bandana out and tie it tightly above the knee putting the knot over the tendon. Relieved somewhat, I was able to commence running again. I pull in to Deborah Sexton’s aid station again and in good spirits especially compared to the previous time. Six miles to go and all was good. With 4 miles from the finish, I pull into the aid station manned by Lynn Ballard and Paul Tidmore. I had seen Paul around the course all day shooting pictures and always had some smart-aleck comment for him. Lynn made a comment about my bandana tied around my knee, followed by a comment from Paul and a retort by me. We all laughed heartily. That conversation will stay at that aid station and can not be repeated here. The last 4.2 miles were blissful. The legs hurt, the body ached, but the mind was euphoric. It hurt to run and I walked more than I wanted but also had good stretches of running. A pacer these last 9 miles would have taken 10 to 12 minutes off my time, I believe. But I didn’t have a pacer and I was getting closer to the finish as I could hear the commotion. I come out from the tree line and up to the finish line where Kevin Boudreaux awaited me with the finishers buckle. DONE. 11 hours 31 minutes. My wife, Brenda and my kids had made it to share the finish line with me. Mark the Naked Runner had waited around to celebrate my first 50 mile finish. He finished his 50 in plenty of time to eat, take a shower, and watch a sit com. What more could I want, friends and family there at the finish line.

Luke cheering me on at the finish line

Kevin the RD presenting me with my first 50 M finisher

Fifteen months ago I could not fathom running farther than a marathon. If someone asked me if I could run a marathon back to back…I would have responded, “Are you crazy?” I wanted to break 11 hours. I believe I can, but for my first 50 mile finish, I am happy with the results.

An endeavor cannot be accomplished alone! First, to my wife and kids, so supportive and although Bren doesn’t understand why anybody would want to run for that long; is proud of me. To Rick Gaston, the only guy who was with me from the start of my venturing into ultra running, whose advice I always take to heart. To Dimtry Rozinsky, who paced me at Bandera and taught me more about trail running in those 7 hours than I could have learned in 2 years on my own. To Marshall King, who makes me get my butt up at 4:00AM on Sunday to hammer out back to back long runs. To Kevin and Stacy Boudreaux and the North Texas Trail Runners, who made this event so enjoyable and whose encouragement was incredible….and last but not least, to all of my blog buddies who read this dribble…God bless’ya for reading such!

Bren and post race celebrations

My posse

My brother Sam and I...he's riding the Hotter N Hell 100 mile Bike ride this
year...who knows...may ride it with him.

My Niece and Nephew...Lauran and Jeffery

Mark the Naked heck of a guy


Mark "The Naked Runner" said...

Great report! It sounds like everything just fell into place for you! I was so proud to share your shining moment with you and your family. Congrats! Peace!

TRI-james said...

Congrats on a great race. I enjoyed reading about it!

Jeff said...

Nice Job!

I can't imagine running that far in all that sand - my feet would be hamburger! Great report and great race!

Missy said...

I especially like the fact that most of your pictures are sitting down;) When you've been on your feet that long, nothing like sitting down, I say (or laying down)!!!

Congratulations. You have to be thrilled with yourself. I would totally wear that belt buckle today!

Marcy said...

CONGRATS DAVE!! Dang you so crazy! LOL! That is absolutely AWESOME! How go have yourself a dozen or 2 moon pies, k? ;-)

John Shapiro said...

WAY TO GO DAVE! Thanks for sharing.

Brenda / Russ / Lance said...

YOU DID IT!!! CONGRATULATIONS DAVE - Your FIRST 50! Wow!! From your pictures you don't even look tired or hurting. You sure you're not fibbing about your leg? Hahaha!! Way to go! YEA!!!

olga said...

David, congratulations on getting monkey off your back! For awhile anyway, until you get another monkey jumping on it:) You did good, very good, and pictures of your supportive family at the finish line is really heartwarming. Awesome!

Jeff Coble said...

Way to go Dave! It was nice meeting you before the race and running little spell with you. That trail ate my feet up (more so than any other time I've run it). I think a bunch more sand must have blown in from Hurricane Ike last year!

Great job and welcome to the club!

Joe said...

Dave: it was good to meet you out there on the trails wearing your Aggie ring. Keep running strong, and gig'em!

Donald said...

Sweet! Congratulations on your first 50. What a great experience.

Chauncey Matthews said...

Congrats Dave! You are the man!
Sounds like you had great prep and made the smart choices out on the trail...and you didn't have to resort to Jedi mind tricks!
Wear that buckle with pride.

Rick Gaston said...

Whoa, you weren't kidding, that is a nice buckle. we don't have buckles that nice for our 50-milers here. In fact I only know of one 50-mile race that gives them out and I don't think that race is around anymore. That sand probably was what got your ITB's going. That bandana looks good on you though.

So 13 minutes at an aid station huh. We need to talk. Dave, sometimes Mark Tanaka has to call his wife at an aid station. I've seen him do it. I can tell you that even that doesn't take 10 minutes.

Dave you train and race like a veteran trail runner. You had your blister kit, you paid attention to your nutrition and hydration. You got your head straight with this whole ultra thing. Paced it just right too. Don't be in a rush to move up to the 100k and the 100-miler. Rest, recovery and also don't be in a hurry to get back into training. It's your longest race so far, resist the urge to go long the moment you start to feel better. Soak in it, enjoy it for awhile.


Rick Gaston said...


On my first trail race ever, a marathon about 10 years ago, I ran the half and could not believe that a select few were going back out. In fact I stared dumfounded at a runner as she left to go counter-clockwise on the loop, headed back up the hill we just came. Our eyes met, I was bug eyed, she was calmy chewing something. Back then the marathon was it for me. No crazy ultras for me I said. I can totally relate to the guys reaction.

Lynn B said...

Congrats SuperDave!!! Hey, what goes on in my aid station...STAYS in my aid station! Nice job on managing the race and getting through it with such strong spirits.

You are truly blessed!

Lynn B

Marshall said...

Great report, and great race, Dave! You did it, and you did it well! I'm glad you had a great time in the process and ran strong. I'm proud of you for slaying this dragon, and I can't wait to hear what you have planned next. Good job, brother!

olga said...

Don't listen to Rick, dive head first! I did, and I learned to swim:)
Ok, I am dumb sometimes, ha!

Andra W. H. said...

Congrats, Dave!
The farthest I even walk is 4 miles at one time...then I go home! You are too cool for words.

My brother is also an Aggie...starting to wonder if there is a connection! Paul used to run cross-country, but now just runs 5 miles every morning.

Good on ya! Oh, and you have a lovely family!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the race report! I ran across it looking for reports on Palo Duro. I am a few steps behind you--I ran the 25K at El Scorcho Dos and the marathon at Grasslands 2009. I sense a kindred spirit--you said you could not have imagined running a marathon 18 mos before Grasslands. My first race was the Zoo Run 10K; now I'm getting ready for El Scorcho 50K and Palo Duro 50M. I live in FW and would love to meet for a run sometime, if you're open (I'm a frequent night runner, too.) I'll look for you in the dark at Trinity Park!
Paul (