Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Red Dirt 50k Race Recap


Last Saturday was the Red Dirt Ultra, and the first year in the race's 7 year history that I arrived as a participant and not the race director.  After last year's race, it was time for me to hand it off to someone who would care about the legacy of the race, but who would also take the time to grow it and make it an even better event.  That person is Fawn Hernandez.  Fawn is a very experienced trail and ultra runner, and she has a love of the sport that I believe is necessary to have an event that is pure to the spirit of trail running.

Friday evening, Randy and I hung out at packet pickup for a bit, visiting with old friends and making new ones, then for the first time in the history of this race, we went to our hotel room (not a tent or box trailer) to sleep and get ready for the race.  I wanted to see all of my 100 mile friends, so we got to the race site early Saturday morning before the 100 mile and 100k started.  

Ten minutes before the 50k started, Fawn did her trail briefing, giving specific info on the trail and what to expect for the day. She also mentioned the passing of the RD torch and said a few sweet words to acknowledge the handover, and before you know it, the countdown was started and we were on our way.  

The first few miles of this race have a fair amount of climbing and loose sand, so I knew I would take it easy until I hit a runnable section.  Sarah LeBlanc and I ran / hiked together for much of the first 12 miles on the course.  Since my piriformis flared up earlier in the week, causing me to have to take a few days off of running, while taking anti-inflammatories and spending time with the percussion massager, I knew there was a chance that I may not be able to finish the race.  After all, this was just a training run for the Badger 100 coming up in July, and I didn't want to push a minor injury into a major one that may cause me to lose training time.

In the last couple of miles before we hit the MudnGuts aid station at mile 12, I started to notice a sharp pain in my left knee when we were climbing.  I was pretty sure it was just a result of a tight and angry piriformis, but I began to resign myself that I would stop at mile 12 to avoid potential damage.

When I arrived at MudnGuts, Randy was there with my nutrition (Skratch Super Fuel - 400 calories per bottle, 200 - 250 calories per hour), and the aid station was ready to help me and get me on my way.  If you haven't done one of my races, the MudnGuts aid stations are always a highlight of the race. This aid station is filled with experienced trail and ultra runners and they are as loving as they are tough.  They have saved many people's races when they thought they could no longer continue.  Great people.

So, I stopped my watch.  I told Randy about the knee pain and that I didn't want to take any chances.... then I started thinking about getting to see Shipley Cafe (the last aid station on the trail, and another truly phenomenal one - coffee or espresso to order, delicious burritos and more!) or the new section of the trail run on the Caroline Dorman trail that I had not seen yet, not to mention that this was the first year of Fawn being RD, and it was important to both of us that she would be able to put a medal around my neck. 

So I stretched, took a couple of ibuprofen (Not recommending this!  Do this at your own risk!  I take very small doses just to take the edge off when I am hurting.), restarted my watch, and headed back onto the trail. I asked Randy to try to meet me at the next aid station as well, just in case the pain got worse.  Yes, it was a no crew access station, but I claim Founder's Privilege on this one.

I started run / walking again, and no knee pain!  But in a few miles, my lower back started tightening up - what I am sure is all still related to my whole left side being tight from the piriformis flare up.  I ran when I could, walked when I needed to navigate around mud, or just needed a break, and made it to the next aid station where Randy was waiting. I knew if I made it there, I would make it to the end. After this is was just 5 or so miles to Shipley Cafe and 6 or so to the finish line.  Stupid mental games you play with yourself in an ultra.

Between the third aid station and Shipley Cafe laid the new section of trail that I was looking forward to.  Most of Red Dirt Ultra is run on the Sandstone trail which is also an ATV trail from May - December, so it is a wide, not very technical trail.  The main thing you have to navigate are ruts from the ATV tires now and then and a few rocky sections.  

The approach to the Caroline Dorman trail was a dirt road for about .8 miles which seemed longer as it was midday and the temps got up to 80.  Once on the trail, you went from running on packed sand to running on grass, and since this section is not heavily used, the trail was not always obvious.  After a few stops to look for trail markings, I made it to Bayou Kisatchie, where the trail skirted alongside for the last mile or so before Shipley Cafe. Here are a few pics from that section:

My feet were wet most of the day due to water crossings.  Between that and the sand, it wrecked havoc on runners feet.

The water on this trail is cold and clear.  Feels great on tired feet that are already wet from the trail.

Kisatchie Bayou

A washout on the trail. One of the many reasons I was happy I wouldn't have to run this section at night.

Once you finished this section, you found yourself on a cement sidewalk that led straight to Shipley Cafe, where I was happy to get a big hug from Jeff Shipley, the Aid Station Captain and an old friend.  Jeff is an aid station genius. His station was about 25 miles into a very hot loop, and the first thing he offered was a popsicle.  Perfect.  The next thing I wanted was a cold beer.  During a long race like this, about half of a cold beer if perfect - carbs for a quick pick me up, cold, and bubbly to refresh your mouth from the sugary sweet stuff you've been eating at the aid stations.  If you know Randy, you know that where he is, there is usually beer, so I met him at the car, drank my beer, refilled my pack and headed up the road.

This was by far my least favorite part of the race.  It was midday and hot, and this was 1.5 miles of dirt road until we could reenter the trail.  I told Randy at Shipley Cafe that I had decided to walk it in from this point.  I was 25 miles into a race that I was seriously undertrained for (longest run prior was 9 miles), and I really just wanted to enjoy the rest of the race.  

Once I entered the trail again, I played leap frog for a while with Scott - an active duty Air Force member, who was walk/running ahead of me.  He would jog a bit, then stop and walk and I would keep catching up with him.  Eventually, he decided just to walk it in as well and we walked the rest of the race together and visited the whole way.  

One of the beauties of these races is watching people who would never meet otherwise, or who may have nothing in common, become friends.  The trail is the great equalizer. It doesn't matter what you do, what your political beliefs are, or how much money you have in the bank.  On the trail, everyone is equal.

To wrap up a too long post, I finished at 8:40, I think. Nowhere near a pr, but that wasn't the goal, and this is a tough course - about 2300 feet of gain in 30 miles.  I got my medal and hug from Fawn, Georgie, an angel on earth cleaned and worked on my feet, I drank a couple of beers with friends, ate some of Darrins delicious gumbo, and headed back to the hotel to shower and rest so I could clear 9 miles of trails for Fawn the next day.

All in all a great weekend! 

Happy Running, y'all! 


1 comment:

  1. That was a lovely recap. I've never raced further than 20 miles (your race @ Loup Garou!) I never stop at the aid stations. You inspire me to try for the longer distances, and do it differently- better. Thanks for sharing!