Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Giant sized chairs at the start/finish line and fire pit and washroom area.
2017 Season – First Race
Hey there ultra friends. Here we are again. Another season about to unfold. New goals, new races and new friends and experiences along the way. My first race of the season kicks off in high gear with nothing so pesky as a 50km or 100km; but a full blown 24 hour! Boo Yaa. 
It’s location is Northeast of Cleveland, Ohio, at Kirtland, in a place called Lake Metroparks Chapin Forest Reservation and is a certified 1 mile looped course composed primarily of crushed gravel with one paved section beside the parking lot. There is a small hill of about 50 feet each loop and the start/finish and aid station greets you every mile. You are able to set up a tent and your own personal aid station at designated sections alongside the course. The race has existed for about 6 years now and my initial impressions based on videos, blogs and their website is that Race Director Zak Johnson is a really good guy, with huge attention to detail, and a genuine desire to help runners exceed their expectations. 
I’ve entered one 24 hour race previously which was an indoor 400m track in Ottawa, part of the Sri Chinmoy series. That was back in 2013 and it didn’t go so well and I ‘dropped’ after only 52 miles and 12 hours with spectacular blisters and a huge bonk brought partially on by poor hydration. 
Runners and non runners alike roll their eyes and exclaim, isn’t that totally boring! I’d have to say that I think it is a nice alternative to a straight race distance, going for a personal goal of distance based on time. How many of us ultra runners have been in races where we are alone for hours at a time during a 50km or 100km or 100 mile race as we spread ourselves out along the course?  Sure, that has its’ own appeal, enjoying the solace of the woods or the mountains or wherever, but it is also a very enjoyable experience being with all the runners in the race, being amazed by the speed demons and encouraging the runners new to the sport. It’s great for families, able to cheer their runner and others on a closed circuit, and everybody ‘wins’. There are no DNF’s here.
Medals are handed out for 50km, 100km and 100 mile buckles if you achieve those distances. 
Why this Race?
I didn’t know this race existed but entered Sulphur Springs 200 mile race in late May (Gulp!) and needed a long race that I could treat as a ‘training run’. I referred to the UltraResults.com website and looked for other runners entered for SS200 and found two others had entered O24 (or Outrun race). After researching I signed up.
There are 175 runners entered and of those, four are Canadians (Stephen Parke who held the course record here with 127 miles and was pipped last year for the course record which now stands at 129 (or 137 after this race now I'm updating this). Then there is Clay Williams, myself, and Iris Cooper, aka ‘Swiss Miss’, who is entered in the Tahoe 200 in August). 
Training to Date
So how am I feeling about my training so far with some epic races entered this year? Well, my last month of training has had weeks averaging 70-80 miles which is my highest mileage weeks ever. The trails have been boggy messes and I’ve been out in them but still feel I could use some longer single runs but time is up and the race is now 4 days away. I’ve got a few 50km and marathons and 20 milers under my belt in training. I’m not ‘worried’ about this race but would like to get a good distance tally and get used to the feeling of being on my feet for a very long time and running through the night which I’ll have to do at SS200 for, um, 3 nights in a row. So it’s all good practice for the ‘real’ race. Ha ha. 
Sun Issues
So last summer I noticed two small marks on my shoulder that were like small rashes and they would never really go away. I thought they may be friction burns or marks from my sleeveless shirts or rubbing from my hydro pack and then the Fall/Winter came and they still were there, never healing, never getting worse, sometimes slightly itchy and sometimes tender. 
So I finally went to my doctor who referred me to a dermatologist and it turns out it’s something called ‘Actinic Keritosis’, or fucked up cells which can mutate into SCC (sub cutaneous carcinoma – or skin cancer) if left. So first she whips out her trusty ‘blowtorch’ device and delivers a lovely dose of liquid nitrogen over both rashes which is rather painful. Then she tells you she needs to re-apply again two minutes later and I didn’t hit her but thought about it until I saw the paintings her children had done that she had posted on her walls. 
So I grinned through that and then she sent me on my way with a prescription for something called 5% Effudex which is a cream I was to apply 2x daily after the initial ‘burn’ healed from the cryosurgery, for a period of a month. So a week later, with pink skin showing, I began to apply this cream and for the first week or so no big deal but then it got rather unpleasant and is like having a really nasty sunburn and it’s pretty tender and sore but much better than the alternative. I was told to be liberal with the cream and go outside the area of the initial rash as you never know how many other cells might be changed too. So I’ve finished the treatment 3 days ago and hopefully things will heal up, I’ll go back to the dermatologist and she’ll give me a clean bill of health. 
I was told I was a ‘poster child’ for this; having fair skin and blue eyes and having exposed shoulders with sleeveless shirts and singlet during long hours of running training in the summer probably didn’t help either. The reason I’m mentioning it here in my blog is that all you runners out in the sun need to be vigilant and wear appropriate clothing and apply and reapply sun cream with a high UV factor. I’m going to be more careful about what I wear and reapply often. I’ve just purchased some arm sleeve UV protectors also. I’ll let you know what I think. So be careful out there and IF you find a mark or rash or something that is unusual or has been there for awhile, go check it out.

After liquid nitrogen and 2 weeks of cream (two more to go)
Race Kit
The race starts at 8am and weather forecasts change almost daily with rain forecast and cooler at night of course and during day possibly up to 28 degrees so hot, although today it shows 20 for the day so I’ll come prepared. I’m sleeping in a tent and will drive down on Friday. I got a new pair of Salomon Speedcross 4 (I had the model 3 last year) and I’m finding my baby toes are getting squished so I’ll pack them out with wet paper and stuff the toebox and hope that improves things but they have big lugs which may be overkill for the conditions. 
I’ll certainly take my well worn Speedcross 3’s which are battered but are comfortable. I also got a new, replacement pair of Innov Rocklite Shoes which are trail shoes but very light and for me don’t work on serious trail as I feel everything so I may go with them although with the high miles my Achilles tendons are tender. I also have a lovely pair of Altra shoes which are so comfortable, wide toe box, but the damn things give me shin splints. I think it is because most of my other shoes have a fairly large heel to toe drop and these are a 0 drop. It’s a real shame but I think they’ll come out to play at some point. 
I’ll take my new arm sleeves and LONGER sleeve shirts, my compression socks, hat and garbage bags for rain. 
I’ve tried Tailwind but it does not work for me so I’ll be sticking with salt tablets, water, maybe some Perpetuem and my Cliff Shot Gels. I’ll take orange slices, ginger ale to hopefully reduce stomach issues and try some form of caffeine at night. I’m not sure in what format because I don’t drink tea or coffee and it might make me feel crazed and elevate my heart rate too much. Hmmm, I should have tried this before. Ooops.
The aid station by all accounts has some delicious offerings through the race and I’m hoping noodles and broth and pizza are there and maybe perogies. I think those are things I would enjoy. 
Race Predictions
Well, looking at the results of past years and because of the nature of the race you’ll see the standard ‘pattern’ for a timed event. There will be those hoping to achieve their first 50km or 50 mile or 100km and those that will go for a few beyond those points, say 53 miles if they were going for 50 miles, to beat the ones that stop at 50 miles. Of the 175 entrants there seems to be between 13-17 that achieve 100 or greater mileage and that would place you pretty highly overall. I’m treating this as a long ‘training run’ but I really would personally like to get the 100 mile buckle but 100 miles is a very long way, as is 24 hours time-wise. I don’t know how I’ll hold up at this first seasonal challenge but that is the goal. 100 miles (yes, 102 if I get to 100 so I can get a few more places higher). So there you have it. I hope the training has paid off and I’ll update this race report once she’s all done. 
Enjoy your races and hope to see you out there. 
Alex, aka The Running Dude  
The Race
Welcome back. So my first race of 2017 is now consigned to the history books. I've been back 1.5 weeks and have had a 10, 20 and 17 mile run so I guess my legs are mine again after the race.
I drove down Friday morning with my GPS. At the border the only question I faced was why I had so many coats. Er, well, I'll be running 24 hours and the forecast looks cold and rainy. Off I go. The highway driving was pretty unexciting but it was sunny and nice and once I got off the highway the rest of the journey was pretty with some grand houses with well manicured grounds. The park was easy to get into and looked familiar thanks to my online researches and all Zak's great videos of the course on YouTube.
I pulled in around 1pm and had a quick reckie of the area and chose a spot to set up my tent and adjacent aid station. It was getting grey and I choose a spot with good drainage. After a number of hours of being set up I saw Steven Parke and Clay Williams and they set up their marquee next to mine which had 3 covered sides with one open side, inside which they set up their chairs and provisions. They were not staying and were going to a hotel for the night. Quite a few people did that and I probably would have got more sleep as it poured rain from about 8pm until midnight with sporadic rain during the night.
Tent with 'aid station' at start of trail
Aid station with food/clothing and supplies I brought
My aid station consisted of ginger ale and coke for when I wanted to settle my stomach, a Tupperware with 3 oranges sliced, another with peanuts and one other with salt and vinegar chips, lots of bottles of water, my hammer gels, bag balm for re-lubing and pickles with pickle juice (new for this race).
Steven Parke on left, me in middle and Clay Williams. All of us are entered in Sulphur Springs 200 mile in 3 weeks time
Once I got set up I wandered around and met some of the volunteers and chatted to some of the people setting up marquees for their club teammates. It was all friendly and I picked up my bib number, 268 which had my name on it which I thought was a nice touch.
The Course
I went for a walk of the course and it was finely crushed gravel with a short stretch on asphalt as you go through the parking lot. From my aid station there was an easy meandering trail through the trees. You cross over another trail and continue around until you eventually get to a gentle slope and here is the only hill of the course which is about 50 feet and is steep enough to walk but you are at the top quickly.
Then you have a short decent to a wood bridge, then another small incline with another short down, one more gentle up and then level for a 50 feet before a sharp left which takes you down and down and down until you level out and turn left up into the open field on your left with trees on your right. you cut right and you are at the 1 aid station with the toilet block and a sharp left puts you onto the pavement and over the timing mat. Immediately after the timing mat there was a big TV monitor which showed all the names/bib numbers and miles done for you which was really handy.
Start of trail from my aid station. Crushed gravel and very flat
Top of the hill looking down short decline to wood bridge
My sleep overnight was not great. It rained and was cool and I never felt I really fell asleep but no worries as I'd had plenty of restful nights the days leading up to the race. I got up and had time to have breakfast and say hello to some of my neighbors. Opposite me was a large marquee with a group of runners using it as a base. One couple I really liked. I'm terrible with names so they were 'hey you' for the purposes of this blog. Sorry!
She was really tall and on this occasion was supporting her husband and other runners. They set up a chalk board and were asking questions to runners every few laps like 'Star Wars' or Star Trek'. You'd yell out which and they'd take a tally. It was fun. She ran a few laps with her husband over the 24 hours and I joined them for a few when things were getting tough so they were good company and good neighbors to have.
Below is a photo of many of the runners and this was taken a few minutes before the start and within a few minutes of beginning the rain started.

Steven Parke at front in Green. Guy in front left is Troy who had the course record of 129 miles and killed it on this one, getting 137 miles! I'm in a blue top half way down the photo with Iris Cooper who got 104 miles.
The Race
My ‘A goal’ was 100 miles but I finished with 85, placing 19th of 156. I should be happy with that but the second half of the race I bled time. I went out at a stupid pace, maintaining 2nd until 35 miles. I reached 50km in 5:11 and from there slowed, reaching 60 miles in 12 hours. I got carried away with the ease of the course and the excitement and chasing down the runner ahead. Not the best strategy for a 24 hour race.

I certainly could have reached 100 miles if I hadn’t gone out like an ass and if I ‘cared’ more. What I mean by that is that this race was meant to be a long training run for my 200 mile race in three weeks and once I got tired I talked myself out of caring enough to reach my 100 mile goal. I also knew that for SS200 I need to maintain 67 miles a day for 3 days so I was content with 85 miles, knowing how it 'felt'.

After reaching 62 miles (100km) I thought, well, let’s get to 75 miles. Then I thought, well, 80 would be nice. I did the calculations and knew 100 was no longer possible and decided 85 would be a good figure to finish on as a long training run for Sulphur Springs 200. I could have gained two more places if I had just walked two more miles instead of taking down my tent and packing the car with 45 minutes left in the race. I could have placed higher if I didn’t keep taking 20 minute breaks every hour or so in the car to warm up. I hate being cold and it rained for the first 12 hours, sometimes hard, sometimes spitting. During the night hours it was cold, about 9-11 degrees and some of the momentum of the race can get lost when there are fewer people on the course and deep night creeps in.

I also took a 2.5 hour rest in the back of my car. I wasn’t able to sleep or get warm or comfortable and probably I should have just bundled up and kept at it but I didn’t. I wasn’t tired during the night hours at least, like wanting to fall asleep, although of course my body was tired from running.

At night there were far fewer runners than had started as many had reached their goals of 50km or 50 miles or 100km. It was more peaceful. I remember one tall guy was wearing a ‘viking’ hat that lit up. And I remember being bundled up with a ‘hoddie’ and long pants and seeing Troy (the race winner, beating his own course record with 137 miles! Impressive) lap me over and over and run the hill. I remembered hours earlier when I’d been maintaining his pace lap after lap but he was still killing it and hadn’t slowed at all.
The volunteers were lovely and always had a smile and waiting to help you with whatever you needed at the aid station. It was convenient having the washroom facilities readily available and the timing chip guy had a marquee and was there much of the race and often was very encouraging as you passed the mat and he could see your progress. He'd be like, 'you're doing great Alex'. It was nice encouragement.
There were all sorts of people at the race; shapes and sizes and ages. Some were alone, some had families supporting them at various points through the day and some couples had entered together. I really liked seeing them, lap after lap, sometimes holding hands in their ponchos as they walked the course, enjoying the experience and each other's company. Classy. There were 'gaggles' of girls in 3's or 4's chatting away. One was so oblivious about the race going on around her that as I came flying by on her left on the downhill, startling her, she screamed out loud. It's a race for many but also just a fun day out with friends to get in a good healthy long walk in together. It's nice being in a race which is unusual in this respect. 
The Food and my Aid Station
I most commonly snacked upon the orange slices and potato chips. I had a few cans of ginger ale and drank a lot of my water, filling up here rather than their aid station. I didn't have many Hammer Gels at all.
I was slightly disappointed overall but I think that's partially because when you run for so long your stomach gets very particular and some things become less palatable or the things that you crave and would like for hours end up being a limited time offer. Also, I'm not big into M&M's or 'little stuff' and I seem to recall trays of that kind of 'filler'.
While there was more on offer than what I'm mentioning here I had quite a few cups of ramen noodles which I enjoyed and which always went down well. I had a few slices of watermelon which I would have liked more of but I think they went fairly quickly. I loved the pizza when it came when it was hot but they cut it up into quite small 'pieces' but I guess that stopped too much greed but man I would have enjoyed more of that over the hours and when it got cold it wasn't palatable. They had just a broth separate from the ramen noodles. The other offering which everybody loved were the grilled cheese. I would have loved having a bowl of ketchup to dip them in but with double dipping it could have become gross. But grilled cheese is a winner and I'd even bring some with me I think seeing how well it went down.
Other Stuff I Recall
I did hear after the fact that they set up a 'bacon' tree which is hilarious. I saw some guys putting up string in a tree along the path and thought they were preparing to put up chemical sticks for the night segment. They had these but they were laid out along the path. After I got home I read that they put bacon attached to the string. That is funny. A bacon tree! Yum. Unfortunately when I passed all I saw were empty strings. It was a very popular tree.
Another funny thing was this model skeleton they put out which was at the final turn before getting back to the aid station. He/she was sitting there contentedly and the race organizers put different signs on it over the hours.
The night hours were lonely but quite novel. You don't run through the night that often and it's quite an experience seeing how your perspective changes and how your energy levels increase as the dawn creeps in. There was a nice band of lighting in the trees in the final approach.
I recall hearing the sounds of train whistles in the dawn in the distance. Cleveland is only a short distance away but it felt very peaceful and remote.
The rain sucked and while I prefer cooler temperatures I think the combination is tough in such a long race and over time the wet and cold seeped into me. But we all faced that and Troy seemed to be coping fine, blazing by me in skimpy shorts and a T-shirt through the night hours as well.
It was lovely to share some time with some of the other runners, or encourage them. Everybody was friendly and positive and the fire pit at the start encouraged people to hang around which made it nice, knowing warmth and companionship was only a mile away.
As I mentioned earlier, I was happy to pack up things before the official end and when you are really exhausted, pulling down a wet tent and cleaning up is no fun at all. I went in a chatted to Zak quickly and got my medal and mug and left him to prepare for the breakfast they were putting on for the runners still there. Here's a shot of me in the car shortly before heading home.

Ahhh, now I can sit down.
Why we do these crazy runs. It's all for 'The bling!'
The drive was long and twice I had to pull off to find a parking lot and try to have a nap as I was extremely tired and knew it was getting dangerous to carry on driving. My legs were extremely sore and uncomfortable and no position was comfortable for any period of time. I was very happy to get home and have a shower and sleep after taking two Advil to take the throbbing away.
The next day my feet felt ok, no chaffing or blisters but the following two nights were agony as every joint in my toes felt like they were on fire. I think this was the very lightweight Altra cross country shoes I wore and the pounding I put them through going down the last hill, hour after hour. The lack of support pounded them mercilessly I think. I've never had that type of pain in my feet before.
Below are the statistics Zak published a few days after the race which you might find interesting.
I think it was a great race and I'd definitely do it again. Zak is a great guy with a great team behind him. They are friendly and have a great venue and it's a race that can appeal to so many more than 'just' ultra runners. Everybody can try to exceed their expectations or just have a great fun day of walking. I hope some more Ontario runners will join us next year to support the O24 event.

Zak provided us with the statistics of the race which are interesting.
Thank you for reading my blog. I hope your running is going well and I look forward to catching up with you with my next race report which will be for the Sulphur Springs 200 mile in Ancaster. Send me your positive vibes because I'm going to need all of them. 200 miles! Holy Frick!
All the best.
Alex, aka 'The Running Dude'

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