I guess 1200 miles of training paid off on Saturday when I completed this years Autumn Leaves 50 mile ultramarathon. This was my first ultra and now thats it over with, I’m happy I did it :)
The race takes place in Champoeg State park in Oregon. It’s about 40 miles south of Portland airport. The park is really pretty. The race is basically 8 laps of a 6.25 mile circuit. Most of the lap is on an asphalt bike track, there is a little concrete too when you cross a bridge. 1.4 miles of it are on a single track trail. There are a couple of wooden bridges also which when wet were pretty slippery even when walking over them so care is needed on the bridges. It’s pretty flat from the start finish line until you get in to the trees after a mile or so and then it’s a little rolling but nothing serious hill wise. The 1.4 miles of trail got tricky enough because of the rain, it was pretty muddy and it’s basically single track. I’m pretty sure it’s here that I hurt my right knee some how.
The race started at 6am and about ten minutes before that the rain started and the rain basically stayed the whole day. It’s pretty dark in the early stages. The first lap is pitch black. Some runners did not have head lights and had to wait for other lit runners on the trail portion especially as they could not see where they were going. The second loop was pretty given it was raining and the sun was slowly coming up. The light changed subtly in the park and it was pretty to watch as the sun rose higher. Running in the dark was interesting as it’s like running looking through a helmet slot.
My first 4 laps (25 miles) went to plan and I was deliberately holding my pace back to about 9:40 or so a lap. Just keep remembering this is 50 miles… Four hours and four laps. Then I felt some blisters and had decided to change my shoes and socks at the half way mark. This took about ten minutes. I had some blisters on the tips of my third toes on each foot so I lanced them and they didn’t give any trouble for the rest of the race. The rest of my feet were dry and in great shape.
The last 4 laps were a slog. After I’d started my 5th lap with new shoes and socks, my right knee started hurting a lot while running. It was sore on the inside where the tendon attaches to my shin. While walking it was fine but when running it hurt a lot. So, I made a choice to walk the rest of the race and run when I could for as long as I could. Thus began the long haul. It took 5 hours fifty to cover the last 25 miles in the rain. It wasn’t so bad, mentally I was prepared for this and my mind just switched to counting laps rather than miles or time so it went by pretty fast. I didn’t use any music because the rain would probably have broken it. I didn’t miss music either. I just kept going in my own world and the time went by pretty fast.
I began to fear the trail section, with my bum knee, I was afraid of slipping and falling/straining something so I took a lot of care on the trail section and did not look forward to it every lap once my knee started hurting.
Aid stations were great. They had a good selection and even though I only used them at the end, I was glad of them at that time.
Shoes and socks
I used Brooks pureflow shoes and these worked very well. My socks were drymax thin ankle high socks. This combination worked very well. I used no lubricants on my feet. I had 3 blisters to talk off during the event, two on the tops of my third toes and one on the inside of my left big toe. I knew I’d get one on my big toe, the other two were a surprise. I think I’ll tape them next time. My feet were in great condition besides these, completely dry and no skin problems from moisture at all so all in all, these shoes and socks passed with flying colors. The shoes were very wet but the drymax socks kept the water/moisture away from my feet.
Here, I had a problem. I used Asics two in one compression shorts and these were a fail basically. The problem is the compression inner is too short. They kept riding up my legs and as a result I would get chafing starting on the inside of my thighs. I kept pulling them down again which gave relief but it was a major annoyance. I’ll definitely switch to shorts with bicycle like length compression shorts for ultras moving forward.
I used my Nike dryfit running top (115g weight) and a Brooks LSD II jacket. These were awesome and I wore the same set throughout the whole 10 hours. Great protection from the elements, no chafing and very comfortable/warm. Definitely a total win for these items.
I used a Brooks nightlife mesh hat which is treated with a DWR for water proofing and it also worked great and was very comfortable to wear. Head felt fine, no problems with water in my eyes given the rain or sweating problems.
I used sports slick lubricant and used a lot of it around the buttocks/groin areas before the race. I didn’t reapply it during the race and it worked very well all through the race. No chafing at all in those areas. I also used it on the edges of my shoulder blades and on the insides of my biceps where I’d seen chafing before. But again, except for where the asics shorts rode up, this was a chafing free event which is amazing given the conditions. I used band aids on the nips and made sure to put them on the night before as I’ve found they stick much better then.
I used Zensah calf sleeves and arm sleeves and they worked very well also. No problems given the constant rain, kept me warm and didn’t chafe at all. I did turn the sleeves so the seam was at a 45 degree angle rather than running straight down the back of my arms or calves. I also folded the bottom of the calf sleeves up about 1cm.
I used vitargo genr8 at my sole carb source. I mixed two scoops in a 20oz bottle with straight water. I ended up drinking about half bottle per lap. I followed the new Noakes advice of drink to thrist rather than some amount per hour. A bottle holds about 280 kcals so I drank about 140kcals/hour. I took an s-cap pill once per lap also for electrolytes (against Noakes advice). I did have two half glasses of cola, 10 grapes and a cookie on my last two laps at aid stations. Overall, the vitargo worked very well for me and I’d no GI issues etc at all.
I’m going to lose weight. I can lose another 25lbs easy. I’m 178lbs and 5 ft 9 (178cm) right now. I’d be comfortable at 150-155lbs. This would help a lot with pace and wear and tear. I’d also do more trail work and knee strengthening and similar weight exercises. Cardio wise, I was fine but my strengthening needs to be improved.
Overall, I’d a good time and enjoyed the experience despite the rain and injury. I was dressed in brooks clothing except for shorts and socks. Vitargo genr8 for carbs and finished in 9:53. The race was well organized and I’d happily run it again. My garmin 910xt data is here.