Sunday, October 06, 2013

2013 Devil Mountain Ultra 50k

One Hell of a Run!

I thought that tagline was just playing on the race name which is based on the location, but I found that it really describes the race all too perfectly. I will admit that the weather played a part in the difficulty of this years race. The weather was cool and clear for most of the race which was great, but it started below freezing and it had rained significantly the day before. The rain made the course very muddy on some sections and the freezing temps made that mud semi solid under the foot. Also, many parts of the course are in cattle ranges so the trails had been trampled by cow hooves leaving very uneven footing. Later in the day and at some of the lower elevations the mud had melted which made the course in those sections slippery and puddle ridden. All that is fine, but how did I do. Here's a hint.

Finishing with a smile, or is that a grimace?

The race started with a slight detour from the originally planned course due to mud. I had jogged what was supposed to be the first part of the course the evening prior and was very glad for that detour, the ground was very uneven with patches of grass and rocks and some large stretches of mud along the way. Instead they took us straight out to the road then down that for about a mile where we met up with a much more established, smooth, and dry trail to rejoin the original course. My legs were feeling a little flat at the start as I let a group of about four runners pull away into the lead. I wasn't expecting a top finish, but I also wasn't sure how much competition would be at this relatively small race, especially with so many other races the same weekend. I was glad to have the pressure off so I could run my own race with this being my first big race in quite a few years.
Shortly after hitting the first significant climb some runners came up behind me. I tried not to let them push me too much, but I think that I naturally pushed a little harder anytime somebody was behind me. That first climb went by quicker than I expected as I cruised down the gentle descent to the first aid station. I dropped my warm shirt at the first aid station and rolled on through. At the bottom of the descent I came across another guy stopped to take his shoes and socks off for the shallow river crossing. I don't mind getting my feet wet so I ran on through. It felt good at first, but then I realized how cold the water was. Luckily my SmartWool socks dried fast so it wasn't any problem. That crossing was the start of the biggest climb of the race, the one that I had been thinking about since first looking at the elevation profile. Approximately 3000 feet of climbing in about 6 miles.  It was not an even climb though. There were a couple of stretches of flat and the rest alternated between steep and very steep. I again blew through the aid station at the end of the first flat section and powered my way up the next very steep section with at least two other runners right behind me. They got by me on some open stretches, but I kept them near me for longer than I expected. I don't consider myself a good climber so I am alright with letting a few people by on these long climbs. Eventually the climb started to get to me and I was all alone hoping I was near the top. The climb appeared to top out at one point, but then kept going up along a ridge. I kind of knew about this section from looking at the map, but I was expecting it to be more run able than it was for me. A couple of others didn't seem to have a problem as they passed me. I was low on energy and my legs were trashed. I finally did reach the top as the trail started to descend, but I still couldn't move very fast. The cow trodden frozen mud made the ground very uneven and with my weary legs I found it very difficult to run at any speed. I had really hoped to make up some time and maybe even pass some runners on this downhill and the fact that I couldn't coupled with what was probably low blood sugar had me really down on myself. I consciously worked on having positive thoughts while I started to down SHOT BLOKS as fast as I could stomach them. By the time I made it to the third aid station I was starting to feel a little better. I also still had plenty of food and water so again I acknowledged the volunteers and kept right on running. Shortly after that aid station I came to a place where, as I found out the hard way, the mud had melted. My feet came right out from under me and I found myself on the ground. I found no injuries as I picked myself up and started moving again cursing into vast expanse of wilderness around me. I think that fall gave me a kick of adrenaline because things started to really pick up after that. I was on the third significant climb and didn't really notice it. I wasn't as steep as the others so that really helped too. I even passed a runner on this section and was coming down to the fourth and final aid station before I knew it. Kasey was waiting for me there and I started shedding all my warm clothing for her to take. I had a volunteer fill my water bottle and I was off again. Kasey had hiked in from the road about two and a half miles up the course so she was following me telling me where the other runners were. Nobody too close in front of me and the leader had come through long ago so no pressure to catch anyone and no podium place to chase, but I was feeling good and the trail was run able with a slight downhill so I really started to move. I made it to the road where Kasey had parked and I dropped my coat, that I had forgotten to give her, on the car. Another runner got out of a car that had just come down the road and he jumped on the trail in front of me. It turns out he had run at least a mile up that road after missing the trail on the other side. I followed him along the stream as two other runners came up behind me think this might be a race for the last few miles. Then I made my big mistake. I followed the runner in front of me under a tape marking the course. I thought it was just routing us around a downed tree, there had been many others on the course some we went over, but others we went around. After following him for a couple of minutes I realized that the two runners behind me were no longer there. I started looking for course flagging and didn't see any. I tried to yell up to him, but he was pulling away and just kept running. I turned around at what turned out to be almost 4 tenths of a mile off course. I made my way back to that tape that I had run under and after looking around realized that it was there to take us across the stream that we had been running along. I crossed the stream and followed the flags along the other embankment. I was mad at myself for making that mistake of following another runner instead of paying attention to the course and to follow a runner that had already been lost once before made it worse. Anger at myself soon turned against the race director as the trail along the embankment tapered out and the flagging took us straight up the incline with no trail at all. I made my way hand over hand scrambling to the top where they took us with occasional flags through an open forest across trail less, uneven ground. When I came to the barbed wire fence that had a log pressing one of the wires down to make room to duck under the top wire, I had had enough. I just kept moving hoping to get this over with and praying that this wasn't a sick joke by some local to get the racers lost. Eventually I got to some trails that resembled the start and knew I was getting close. That last section had really crushed my spirits and I was really getting tired, but trudged my way to the finish line. I finished in 6 hours 7 minutes and 46 seconds.

This is what it looked like


Breakfast -

  • Spoonful of Justin's Almond Butter (8g Carb, 65mg Sodium)
  • 1 5-hour Energy


  • 1 bottle Generation UCAN (28g Carb, 280mg Sodium)
  • ~20oz. Water
  • 1.5 sleeves of Clif SHOT BLOKS (72g Carb, 150mg Sodium)

I think that because it was cool weather that I had enough water. I wasn't very thirsty even after finishing. I was trying to finish the UCAN before starting the SHOT BLOKS, but because I wasn't drinking much I wasn't getting enough calories which hurt me at the top of the biggest climb of the day. I think that I had enough calories, they just weren't evenly spread across the run.

Overall I'm pretty happy with the day. I didn't get nearly as many training miles in as I would have liked, but enough long runs to survive. Calorie timing could use some work, but I was able to recover once I realized what was going on. I was not prepared for the off trail sections of the course, but looking back and hearing stories from past years it was better than the alternative which would have been boring road miles at the end of the race. I've got a lot of plans, all very tentative, for races in the next 12 months, but I think that I'd like to try the 50 mile course next year.