Monday, June 24, 2013

Trail Rail Run 2013 Review

Warning, this review contains explicit descriptions of how not to get chafed in places you really don’t want to get chafed in. Consider yourself warned. I’ve wanted to do a 50 mile event, but the only one in Montana is the Le Grizz 50 Mile, which is located roughly 60 miles, as the crow flies, from my place, and roughly 300 once all the travel is taken. I’ve been to Hungry Horse, and haven’t yet figured out how to get another 50 miles beyond the bad roads. On the other hand, the Trail Rail Run is located in St. Regis, which is down I-90 from Missoula. I know how to get to Missoula, and I know what an interstate highway does. So, I sign up early, for the lowest price, and spend the first half of 2013 thinking about an upcoming event. My semi-brilliant plan was to do the Governor's Cup Marathon as a training run. I think I managed to hold back some of my energy, although it went into two weeks of thunderstorms. So, it’s been a matter of running when able to get out, fitting in whatever seems possible. Head over to St. Regis for packets the day beforehand, along with milkshakes. Wanted to make sure I’d have the thing, and not mess around with it on race day. Everyone else just did morning of packet pickup, which seemed to work just as well. Set up Hammer Perpetuem for the drop bags, along with change of shirt, and the all important change of socks. Morning of race, try out fancy nipple pasties and Bag Balm for anyplace which has ever chafed. It’s an odd feeling placing a petroleum jelly product in places that Dan Savage would blush about, but the alternative is massive rubbing. For the record, no rubbing or chafing the entire event. Beats the hell out of bloody nipples from eight mile training runs. Get up super early from Missoula (which is a natural place to base out of), as in 2:45. So, I’m running on something like three hours of sleep for this thing. Get to St. Regis, get on school bus to Mullan, Idaho. I’m not sure if they recycled the bus for the 50k crowd, but I suspect so. Just once, I’d like to stay on a nice warm bus until the event actually begins, rather than freezing out for 30 minutes. Admire stacked wood in fire pit, which is not lit. Race director says, in pre-race instructions, that she actually has no idea how long the course is, since she odometered it. For the record, website stated that course was short, at 75k. At 7:00 Mountain time, a fairly nice stubby starter revolver is fired, and we start heading downhill for a kilck or two, before heading up toward Lookout. It’s actually a real easy grade the whole way. I’d checking on the Garmin, trying to keep a pace around eight minutes a klick. Get to the top of Lookout Pass, feeling nice and warmed up, and ready to go. We hit our first aid station, grab some pretzels, and some Jelly Bellys. Sun is out, and feels good, because the event started cold. We then get a good downhill section out to Brimstone, which is the second aid station. Brimstone is really well supplied, with amazing volunteers, easily the best crew of the whole race. We continue the downward trend to the third aid station, at Dominion. Unfortunately, I develop a nasty blister on the right heel, and a smaller one on the left. I get to the aid station expecting to have expert advice on how to handle such matters. Nope, the aid station volunteers have no clue how to handle blisters, and not a ton of supplies to do with. Another runner offers me duct tape, which does an alright job, although not as good as being able to just roll over the whole heel. I head out on, and get to start dealing with the painful process of blistering. The last event where I had real blistering problems was the Elkhorn 50k, where water and shoes on their last gasp created a disaster situation. In this case, it was due to the hammering of feet on uneven, pebble-filled, surface for long distances. Nonetheless, the inability to get proper treatment, along with inexperience to include blister kit in the drop bag, made for great and unnecessary misery. I’d fight the blisters the whole way. Likewise, foot swelling was a real problem. I’m going to have to consider drop bagging larger shoes for longer events. Nonetheless, I managed to enjoy going out over the trestle for the second time (we went out to the aid station, and back over). In fact, the course did that for most of the aid stations, which were in the small towns along the way. Unfortunately, the RD did not tell us so until after we were at the starting line, so I didn’t have money to visit the fine bars, which, along with a post office, comprise half the requirement for being a Montana town. I hit on through to the DeBorgia station, although everything for about thirty klicks is a blur. At one point, an unmarked ambulance comes roaring down the trail, which is annoying, since I cannot differentiate it from a normal truck with an oversized camper. Once it hits the siren, I do know to properly yield. At DeBorgia, I drop off the belt and water bottles, and go down to just the handheld. It was a gutsy move, because I was moving a lot better, but everyone was completely confused on distance. Under good circumstances, being 55 klicks into an 80 klick event means there are only 25 klicks left. However, along with my fellow runners, we had no idea how long the course was. Plus, 25 klicks is a lot faster when there aren’t 55 klicks under the belt. I meander to an aid station, where I am told that there are seven miles remaining, which is about two miles more than the Garmin predicts. Sure enough, three point eight miles later, I hit the last station, where we are told we have three point two miles remaining. That’s right, the course was long. When my Garmin hit 80 klicks, I check the time. I’m at 10:57. If the course were accurate (and listed as a qualifier), I would see the finish line, would have had enough to make it in a WS100 qualifying under 11 hours. But, it isn’t, so I get to do another 20 minutes of miserly. Fortunately, I’m moving along with Frank, from Spokane, who keeps me focused away from the pain. We get passed by two guys from Texas and Mississippi, who are flying by on a 25 minute run, 5 minute walk strategy. That’s more effective on courses like this than the ‘run the uphills strategy’ since the whole course is uphill. At least, I’m convinced it is. Andrea, from Missoula, joins us at the end, and the three of us finish a few minutes behind the amazing Southern duo. Garmin stats: 82.45km, 11:17:06.54, 3059m ascent, 3342m descent. For the record, that’s more ascent / descent (as measured with the Garmin) than the Elkhorn 50k. Overall thoughts: I survived this one, and my legs actually did fine, but the feet took a pounding. The 50 mile distance isn’t that much harder, but the suffering is for so much longer, as compared to finishing a 50k. Nonetheless, although there’s nothing official about it, there’s something real nice about knowing it’s reasonable to be able to crack a token qualifying time on a more accurately measured (and possibly easier) course.