Despite my best efforts, I appear to have survived and passed another Death Race. CDRX.
My big concern before this run was a possible injury in my IT-band. A week before the race, my hip started hurting after doing some stair training. It was persistent. A visit to a therapeutic massage helped quite a bit, and I had been taking ibuprofen to help reduce any inflammation that might have been happening.
But, let’s go through an analysis of my three attempts at this race. My results are this:
|In 2010, leg three was extended by two kilometres, and leg four was reduced by the same amount.
For each point on the race, the top number is the overall time to hit that course point, while the bottom number, in italics, is the time to reach that point since the start of the leg. For purposes of ranking (among other things) I am male and aged 30-39.
The rankings also don’t tell the whole story.
In 2008, there were 223 people signed up, but only 81 finished, and only 172 people got to the end of the first leg. That implies to me that only 172 people bothered to show up and attempt the run. The weather that year was good for running, with a high of 14 degrees. Nice and cool.
In 2009, there were 232 people signed up, but only 80 finished, and only 194 people got to the end of the first leg. I would say that 194 people showed up to run, but I remember seeing people dying on the first leg of that year. Almost literally; ambulances were involved. The temperature was 27 degrees that day which made it far too hot for most people. And as you can see, I was slower. I’m assuming the heat was the reason I got huge blisters all over my feet.
In 2010, there were 418 people signed up, but only 150 finished, and only 335 people got to the end of the first leg. Weather wise, I was thinking this year would be a lot cooler, but then looking at the predictions I found out that it was only two degrees cooler than last year. However, the clouds were much more forgiving. Annoyingly, the day before, and the day after, had great running weather; a day later, and I would have been running in clouds on Mount Grande. That would have been gorgeous.
I am consistently in the bottom half of people who finished. But considering that, on average, only 35% of people who sign up will finish, I’m okay with that. Heck, Jack Cook, running god that he is, who has won it three times, failed to finish it the past two years. I actually saw him throwing up on the top of Mount Hamel.
The first leg was the pretty much the same for every year. The goal is not to tire yourself out for the rest of the race. But because Grande Cache is so beautiful, I wanted to take pictures; I attached a camera bag to my waterbelt. Unfortunately, it slipped around my waist to position itself at my front, where it proceeded to bounce and hit parts of the anatomy that shouldn’t be hit. Eventually I got it to my side, where it still bounced. By the end of Leg 2 it was causing bruising, so I left it behind.
There was also a van “parked” in the middle of a creek bed on Leg 1. Someone was trying to use the ATV trails?
Leg 2 showed me the success of increasing the amount of stair training I had done. I found going up the mountains easier. And I never felt the need to stop and rest on the slugfest. At the rest station going up to Mount Grande, I was pulled aside and asked a few questions. A volunteer was concerned about me. I assured him I had been drinking lots of water. However I hadn’t been urinating, which is apparently an important procedure for continued health. I also told him I hadn’t been taking any ibuprofen. It would later occur to me that I had had some four days earlier and how would I know if it was out of my system. I would spend the rest of the run deeply concerned about any pains in my lower torso, sure that it was evidence my kidneys were failing.
I was trying a new strategy this year; eat more. In past years I would start losing energy in Leg 3, after covering 60km. From discussions, I figured it was because in the first leg I wasn’t eating anything (wasn’t hungry) and that was putting me in a deficit that I wasn’t getting out of. I figured out a way to make bottles of Boost much more convenient for drinking and was sucking them back for most of the course. However, the problem with eating more, is that you digest more. I should also have varied my food choices better (more protein). Leg 3 was where my body rebelled and I had to commune with nature.
Leg 3 was a very tough leg. It is often thought of being one of the easiest, because it is all downhill. But the footing can be treacherous, and due to the valley focusing the heat, and the time of day, it is hotter than it has any right to be. This year was especially bad, and lots of people dropped out after it. It was also two kilometres longer, and these kilometres were along a train track that seemed to radiate heat.
There was also administrative errors happening. Because Leg 3 was longer, the brochure stated that the cut-off time was extended by 15 minutes. That information didn’t get communicated to everyone, so some people got pulled off when they shouldn’t have.
According to the support team, many people came off Leg 3 looking terrible. I was not an exception. I needed quite some time in a chair to feel human again. But I knew that Leg 4 started with a long slow climb in the shade that would give me several hours to recover. The stair training made the climb easier than in past years. Don’t run the hills.
From the top down the sun started setting. (Wish I could have gotten a picture of it.) With foresight, I had taken my headlamp out early and was ready for it. It was still scary watching the person ahead of me NOT get their lamp out, despite going down “boulder alley” in increasing darkness. I had to tell him to let me pass because I didn’t want to be around when he injured himself.
When my lamp came on, I should have put my goggles on as well. But I quickly discovered that they were persistently foggy and impairing my vision too much. I decided to risk a branch in the eye just so I could see where I was going. Since I can still have both my eyes, it seems to have worked out.
The interesting thing about running in the dark is that it is so much harder to tell what slope the ground is at. There were many times that I was convinced that I was going uphill, albeit gently, and therefore an excuse to walk, when after looking at the elevation profile provided by my GPS unit proves I was level at worst.
By this time, last year, my feet were a mess of blisters. I had to stop off at one of the ambulances they had wandering around at Ambler and they put some protection over them, that really didn’t do anything. This year, I was mostly free of blisters. I had had a new strategy for them this year, which was: Don’t do anything. Previously I had used blister-proof socks, but I realized a few days before that I had not trained in them for many months. And the rule for races is to not experiment. I just used my regular socks, and didn’t worry about things. Now I only have blisters on my middle toes.
The run down Beaver Dam Road, all downhill, was not as fun as it sounds. I felt like I was going fast, but evidence proves otherwise. And at the end, my quads were in pain from all the braking. Lifting my legs was getting harder. But at the bottom, the start of Leg five, I was feeling much better than the start of Leg four. It was cool now.
While doing the fourth leg, I started to get a goal of finishing in under 22 hours. To do that, I would just have to shave fifteen minutes off my best time for Leg five; not outside the realm of possibility. While recovering at the transition station I figured I only needed to do 6km an hour.
Unfortunately, the first half of Leg five is brutal (brutal considering people have just run 100km.) It starts with a 100 metre climb followed by a long run through roots, rocks, and other tripping hazards that are hard to spot on a narrow path in the middle of the night. After an hour and a half, my GPS unit claimed I had only gone 6km. After the river crossing there is another steep hill, probably about 230 metres, followed by the “Root Route”, i.e. tripping hazards. But a funny thing happened; I found that if I actually ran, instead of shuffled along, it was easier on my quads and I didn’t seem to trip as much. I made excellent time, passing many other runners/walkers. It helped that I was convinced Mike would be right behind me; he always does better in the coolness of night.
I think the GPS was off, maybe it was only measuring horizontal distance? I crossed the finish line with thirteen minutes to spare. That got extended to eighteen minutes when they took into account the time it took to cross the river.
Go Death Racer!