Thursday, October 20, 2011

2011 Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd

After microdiscectomy surgery in February I said I would not run a 100 miler this year and give myself plenty of time to recover and then maybe run one next year if I made a full recovery.  My plan this year was to run an easy 50 miler or 100K this fall so I began searching for a race within driving distance.  I discovered the inaugural Pumpkin Holler 100K in Tahlequah, Oklahoma (less than 6 hours away) on an online race calendars.  The web site promoted a relatively flat course on a gravel road and had pretty pictures of the course. There was also a 50K and a 100 mile race.  The pumpkin medal they planned to award for the 100K was appealing since I am a Halloween baby and liked the pumpkin-theme of this race.  I have often received pumpkin-themed birthday cards.  They would award a pumpkin buckle for the 100 miler so that was kind of tempting, but I wasn't sure if I could be ready to run it and I was going to stick to my plan to wait until next year.  Also, I couldn't seem to get motivated to get my mileage out of the 40-something mile per week until after I ran the Psycho Wyco 50K in July.  I decided to motivate myself to increase my mileage by running every day for 30 days.  I made it 31 days and was feeling pretty good so started to have thoughts of running the 100 miler.  I waited until after the Heart of America Marathon to make a final decision and then signed up for the 100 miler.

I ran the Ozark Trail 100 mile last year in November and never completed a 50 miler before the race which I think made it a tough race for me.  For my first 100 miler (Kettle Morraine) in June 2010, I had completed a 100K six weeks before and my first 100 miler turned out very well for me and I felt good the entire race.  I couldn't find any 50 milers that I wanted to do before the Pumpkin so ran a 50 mile training run 4 weeks before the race on the MKT/Katy trail and then the 50K at Rock Bridge Revenge 2 weeks before.  About a week before the Pumpkin, I received a pre-race e-mail informing me the course was not flat and there were indeed hills.  I had trained on some hills but had not done hill repeats as I have done in the past to prepare for a hilly course.  I was hoping for a sub-20 hour race since I thought it might be an easier course than Kettle Moraine where I ran 21:21.  I still went into the race with the sub-20 hour plan and would make any adjustments on the day of the race as needed if it turned out to be a crazy idea.

I left Columbia on Friday morning and met Michael E. in Lebanon and we drove the rest of the way together.  He planned to run the 100K.  We camped at the Eagle Bluff Campground which was a beautiful setting along the Illinois River.  The race start and finish were just a few steps from our campsite so very convenient so we could sleep their after our races.  There was delicious a prerace pasta dinner catered by a local Italian restaurant and a meeting in Tahlequah that we attended as well as picked up our packets.  The race directors humorously answered any questions about the "relatively flat" course.  Some runners had completed a training run on the course and discovered that it was not "relatively flat" so I think that was the reason we were notified that the course was hilly.  We returned to the campground after the meeting, finished preparing our drop bags, and then to bed.  The campground was pretty noisy for awhile, but I managed to get some sleep.

I had set the alarm for 6:30 am but woke up 10 minutes early so got up.  It felt like it had gotten pretty cold overnight.  I had plenty of time to drink a shake, use the restroom several times, set drop bags out, and get dressed before the 8 am start.  It was cold so I kept my pants and jacket on until 5 minutes before the start.  Then Michael and I headed over to the start.  I turned on my 310XT GPS which I intended to wear most of the race due to the 19 or so hour battery life.  As soon as I turned it on, it said low battery.  It had failed to charge the last time I put on the charger.  I had my 610 GPS in my start line drop bag so quickly switched them out.  I was hoping I could run the 4 mile out and back, plus one complete loop so I would have the the entire course captured on GPS.  Also, I wanted to have it for the first part so I wouldn't go out too fast.  I must have been a bit nervous since I nearly forgot to pick up my bottle after I switched watches.

The race was chip timed and all distances started together.   We all lined up in the finishing shoot to start.  I stayed pretty far back so I wouldn't get run over by the fast 50K runners.  With over 150 runners, the course was kind of crowded until the hundred milers split off at about 1 mile to do our out and back which went through the center of the main course loop.  I was was pretty far back the hundred miler group.  I counted somewhere between 14 and 16th place and wondered if I was starting too slow or were they all starting too fast?  Anything can happen in a hundred miler so I decided to stick with my own plan and run my own race and did not run with anyone for this section.  During the start of a 100 miler you really can't get competitive or you might ruin your entire race so I remained patient.  My plan was to run about 10:30 pace (which included aid station stops) the first 50K (5 hr 30 min goal). There was a terrible hill in our out and back section which I mostly walked. The hundred milers had to return to the start after our out and back and I had just slightly over 8 miles at this point with a time of 1:22:56 (10:22 pace so close to my goal pace) and in 15th place.  There were 57 starters for the 100 miler.  I grabbed a Succeed packet from my drop bag and refilled my bottle, went to the bathroom and then was off to start my first of 3 loops for the complete 50K circuit.

I managed to maintain my goal pace for my first 50K and it felt easy. The plan later is that I would run each consecutive 50K one half hour slower, and then would have the extra 9.5 miles at the end.  The course would be a little long by my estimation since there was an extra mile in our out and back at the beginning and the loop was 31.5 miles.  No big deal since I don't mind a few bonus miles, but it might make my goal more difficult to obtain.  We were allowed 5 drop bags on the course and aid stations were  about 3 - 5 miles apart and drop bags 3 - 9 miles apart.  The drop bags were almost too frequent so if I had to do it over again, I might would not use all of them.  I did stop at each one to get either a bar, crackers, gel, and a Succeed Ultra powder for my bottle.  Also, I would try to grab something small from each aid station to eat such as peanut butter and jelly or some Pringles.  I took Succeed caps about every hour at least during the day.  The temp was warming up so I changed into my singlet in my drop bag at mile 20.  I planned to change back into the short sleeve on the next loop after it started to cool down for the evening.  At 50K, my GPS had me at 5:30:00 (10:39 overall pace) which was kind of scary since that was exactly where I wanted to be.  The 31 miles happened during a 3 mile section of the course that was paved and actually felt kind of good to run on after running on the gravel for so long.  The gravel was softer, but I had to be more careful where to run.  The paved section had some hills that I walked near the end before turning back to gravel.  At one house along the course a couple girls came out cheering very enthusiastically.  I passed a few people on this loop running other distances as well as some of the 100 milers that had slowed down.  My pace slowed which I expected since I think it is difficult to maintain the same pace in a 100 miler or at least on the little amount that I train.  Also, being out on the course so long you go through periods of feeling better or not so good.  It warmed up to 80F so that slowed me down a bit.

As I was about to make it back to the start/finish of the first loop, I got a low battery warning on the GPS.  It made it through the loop though and I planned to go to my car and retrieve a watch so I would at least know the time for the rest of the race.  My overall time when I arrived back at the start for the 39.6 miles was 7 hrs 5 min and I was now in 7th place. I did not know my placing at the time since I had lost track of the people I passed.   I ran the full 50K loop section (after the first 8 miles) in 5:42:21 (10:52 pace).  Michael was at the start/finish and about ready to start his next loop of the 100K.  I left my singlet in the car and decided to go shirtless until I got back to the shirt I left at mile 51 which would hopefully be early in the evening.  While at the car, I decided to have a Powerade that I had in the cooler.  I gulped down pretty quickly so must have really needed it since I felt like I was getting behind a bit on hydration.  I tend to not spend a lot of time in aid stations if I am feeling okay and I would guess I did not spend more than 2 or 3 minutes at most.  It I stop too long the muscles stiffen.  I like to keep the momentum going.

I started the second loop just after 3 pm.  Since I no longer had a GPS, I made time goals in my head to get to each aid station.  I had a general idea of my pace and kept it easy.  I was beginning to have a difficult time wanting to eat so forced down a few gels and something small plus an extra drink at aid stations.  After the Mad Dog station which was about 5 miles into the loop, a dog follows me for about 2 miles to the Out and Back aid station.  The owner soon came along in his truck and saw me running with his dog.  He asked if I had fed the dog and said if the dog continued to follow me I would have to take it home with me.  At the Out and Back station it stopped following me, but on the way back, I saw it following two other runners to the Out and Back turnaround.  Our complete loop had a short out and back section that went out almost 2 miles and then back where we continued our loop.  We had to cross an mat at the out turnaround which would prove we had been there.  They also checked us in and out of the aid stations just to keep track of all runners.  At 51 miles, I picked up my flash light and put on the shirt I had left there earlier.  It had finally cooled off just enough so worked out perfectly.  I carried the light in my pocket since I didn't need it yet.  I had a headlamp at the next station at 56 miles so the earlier light was just in case I didn't make it there before dark or if the headlamp stopped working for some reason, I would not be left in the dark.  I made it to the headlamp before dark and turned it on around 7:15 pm.  I had bats flying over my head a couple times.  The girls that cheered for me earlier were still outside.  I was sure I would not see them the final loop. Near the end of the loop there were quite a few cars passing me and kicking up dust.  Previously, I had seen very few cars on the course during the day. I couldn't avoid breathing quite a bit of the dust so figured I would have the brown boogers they warned us about at the meeting.

At the end of the second loop, I was told I was in 4th place and the overall time was 13:27:44 so I had just run the second 50K loop in 6:22:28 (12:08 pace), 40 minutes slower than the previous loop.  I was out in 2 minutes and started my 3rd loop.  I was ready to get it over before I changed my mind!  At this point I was unsure if I would run sub-20 hours but if I did, it would be close and I would have to run almost as fast as the  the previous loop so probably not realistic.  I decide that 20:30 would be my B goal and also a PR.  As it got cooler, it was easier to run, but food was still kind of blah for whatever they would offer me at aid stations.  At the Out and Back (~76 miles), I decided to try some broth of the Ramen Noodles.  I picked up my very light jacket since my arms were cold and figured it might help to keep them warm so my blood could work on digesting my food.  One of the hundred milers that was just behind me was coming back from his out and back so estimated he was about 40 min ahead of me.  Also, saw some other runners at the Out and Back that stayed awhile and were about 20 min behind me, but not sure what loop they were on at the time.  I started to feel better so decided on the way back I would have some more Ramen noodles. My headlamp flashed on me so when I got back to the Out and Back, they helped me change the batteries and I had some more noodles.

I took off feeling much better.  I encountered a bit of wildlife on the course.  There were cows along the course all day.  On this loop I there were more bats and felt like maybe one might have touched my arm, but I could have been imagining it.  I heard some rustling in the woods and saw several deer running away.  I heard barking dogs in the woods that kind of freaked me out and started wondering about coyotes since someone had mentioned them earlier.  Then I see a truck and am thinking I am already to the aid station but knew it was too soon.  There were 2 hunters with 2 dogs that I guess were hunting coyotes and just putting the dogs away.  They asked if I was running a race.  I told them 100 miles and they didn't seem too shocked.  Just before the East of Eden aid station at mile 87, I tried picking up the pace a bit and it felt good.  I had been thinking I might be finished in about 20:40 at this point, but maybe if I could keep this up I would be a bit faster.  I had to stop at the aid station to pick up some stuff from the drop bag.  I had some Ramen noodles which were a bit hot so put what I thought was water in them to cool off and it was Gatorade, but I went ahead and drank the Gatorade flavored broth.  I then started off again at what felt like a faster pace.  At 2:20 am I run past a house with people outside and next thing I know a girl (not a runner's build) is running with me and asking if I am running a race.  She admitted she was a little drunk.  She asked what place I am in and why I am running this race.  She picks up her pace and tells me to run faster.  Then we get to a hill and she stops to ask me my name, tells me her name is Janice, and I continue on.  The roads were covered with trees, but at one point where it was clear, I tried running without the light for awhile since the moon was pretty bright.  At the last drop bag station Hardup (~91 miles), I fill my pockets with the stuff in my drop bag.  I had been collecting it along the way so we wouldn't have to stay late to get them the next afternoon.  I had some more Ramen noodles which I had been doing every chance that I could get.  They seemed to work for my stomach queasiness.  Shortly after this aid station I am running on the pavement for the 3rd time and this time I notice it is hurting my feet a bit but it is tolerable.  I pass one of the hundred miler runners that is walking so assume at this point I am in 3rd place if I can keep it up and he doesn't start running again.  I was told back at the aid station that first and second place were close together, but about an hour ahead of me so no way I would catch them.  I often place 4th so was very happy to be in 3rd and maybe break the curse.

I was surprised I felt so good this final loop and reminded me of my first 100 at Kettle Morraine when I was feeling so good near the end and wanted to pick up the pace and get it done.  I made it to a point where I knew I only had about 10 minutes to go.  I decided at this point I would not look at my watch since I wanted to be surprised to see my time. As I arrived at the campground, someone blew the bullhorn, and I followed the road to the finish.  Overall time was 20:16:30 (11:52 overall pace) which was faster than I expected so I must have really picked up the pace the last 13 miles.  It was 4:16 am.  I ran that loop in 6:48:47 (12:59 pace) which was 26 minutes slower than the previous loop.  I must have really slowed down for awhile since those last 13 miles sure felt pretty "fast".  At the finish I asked someone what I should do with the chip and he found a lady who asked if I had just finished the 100 mile.  She gave me my buckle and someone suggested I sit down around the fire and I had another cup of Ramen noodles that took about 45 minutes to eat.  I talked to a few people that were either waiting on someone or had finished.  About 5 am, I decide it would be good to get up and take a shower.  It was difficult to walk, but not too painful unlike the almost screaming in after I tried to walk after the OT100.  When I took off my shoes, my feet looked really good and no blisters.

I headed to bed in my tent about 6 am and slept pretty good for about 2 hours and then got up.  I found Michael over by the start.  I had some brownies for breakfast and then we packed up our stuff and headed home.  I dropped Micheal off in Lebanon and decided to have Long John Silvers for lunch and then I headed back home.  I stopped about an hour from home to take a nap before driving the rest of the way since I was having trouble staying awake.

I really enjoyed this hundred miler and TATUR did a great job putting it on. It was definitely a first class event.  The course was a little challenging with the hills and the rocks.  Hopefully they have time to shave down some of the hills before next year so the course will be relatively flat.  I think with more training on hills I could have easily gone under 20 hours.  Also, considering I have done pretty well in 2 of my 3 hundred milers, I have to wonder with better and more focused training on the 100 miler what I might be able to accomplish for this distance.  I stay pretty focused and the entire run is kind of like a good meditation so I don't think about much other than how I am feeling and what I need next.  I was able to walk pretty well on Monday and have slept just fine too.  Overall, post race soreness isn't that much worse than a road marathon and in some ways not as bad.  I ran 7 miles today (Thursday) and ran a sub-8 pace so I am pleased that I am feeling good.  I don't think I would want to run a 100 miler more than 2 times per year right now since I enjoy running shorter distances as well.


Photo of some of us before the start.

I am to the right of the finish arch.

Photo at finish at 4:16 am holding my pumpkin buckle.

Loot plus pumpkin cookies Hugh made when I got back.
Close up of buckle which says "I smashed the pumpkin"
Front of shirt
Back of shirt
Logo on the fleece pullover.
This is the same race number that I had at Kettle Moraine 10in June 2010!
Pictures by Runners World Tulsa

A play by play live Twitter feeds by Endurance Buzz's David Hanenburg 
(I didn't know about this site ahead of time, but I got a mention a few times since I was running so well and some people at home were following his posts.)

EnduranceBuzz Report

Blog Post by Co RD Ken "Trail Zombie" Childress"

You Tube Video by Ron Ruhs

Picture Album by Bryan Moore

Picture Album by Deborah Sexton
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