Sometimes I Run
There aren’t many “Last One Standing” type races out there, and I don’t understand why.
For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, the idea is that runners start with a specific amount of time (generally an hour) to complete a particular distance (usually a loop between 3.5 and 4.5 miles). Runners who complete the distance within the specified time wait for that time period to end, then they do it again.
For example, a “last one standing” race beginning at 6:00 a.m. might have runners start by running a 4 mile loop. Then, at 7:00 a.m., those runners who completed the loop within that previous hour go out for another loop, again with the requirement that they complete the 4 mile loop within an hour (runners who didn’t finish the current loop within the hour are out of the race). Repeat the routine until there’s only one runner left.
The interesting (and compelling) feature of these types of races is that the pace required to perform well is likely to be much slower than in traditional races. It’s impossible for to build up a lead over other runners, since everyone starts the next lap at the beginning of the hour. Any significant “low point” during the race might spell the end of your day, because running the early laps quickly doesn’t allow you to build up a time cushion that you can draw upon later when you slow down. The advantage to finishing a lap quickly is that you get more time to rest before the next lap begins at the top of the hour — but once the next lap starts you’re at exactly the same point in the race as all the other remaining runners.
We trail and ultra runners are, arguably, an adventurous lot. But for all the different ways we’ve come up to challenge ourselves (and each other), there doesn’t seem to be a big following for the “last one standing” format. There are few that I managed to find that have had multiple runnings, but there also appears to be a number of one-and-done events. Some examples include:
- “Last One Standing” (http://www.atlasrunning.co.uk/page.html)
- “Big Dog Backyard Ultra” (http://www.ultramarathonrunning.com/races/backyardultra.html)
- “Last Man Standing” (http://runsignup.com/Race/Events/ME/NewGloucester/LastmanStandingUltra)
- “Little Woods” (https://sites.google.com/site/onepoorrunner/races)
- “The Asylum Ultra” (http://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=27498)
- “Last at the Lake” (https://lastatthelake2014.wordpress.com/)
- “Painful Elimination” (http://www.shtrs.org/#!painfull-elimination/c14ru)
I don’t think the “running laps” aspect of these races is necessarily a negative… standard ultra distance events and timed events that run loop courses (sometimes loops or a mile or shorter… or even on the track!) have large and loyal followings.
I suspect the lack of popularity might be due to the uncertain nature of these events. Not knowing exactly how long the race is going to go on for, and therefore not being able to plan on a certain level of effort, might simply be too foreign. Or perhaps not being able to compare a performance against other (more traditional) ultra-distances we’ve done before leaves us feeling empty. Or maybe it’s just the unfamiliarity with strategy; how much should you value getting a few extra minutes of rest at the end of a lap? If you try to run at an easy pace to save yourself for later, how close can you come to the lap cut-off time without missing it?
Does this type of race have any appeal to you? Or does it sound horrible?
I know that what follows is possibly the worst race report ever written. And it’s unfortunate, because the Run Rabbit Run 100 is a race that deserves a better chronicling than I’m able to give. I wish I could write something profound, or at least useful, about my experience at the 2015 Run Rabbit Run 100. But in thinking back about my race, I don’t have any feelings of regret, or accomplishment, or disappointment, or triumph.
In a weird way, it simply felt like I was out for a really long run, except that there were other runners on the trails, and every once a while there were some tents where I could get food and drink, and access the occasional drop bag.
I had no crew or pacers. Combine that with the fact that I’m not really a talkative person (and therefore not likely to strike up conversations with fellow runners), and my time on the course was remarkably quiet and calm.
Maybe that was part of the problem. I tried to keep everything fairly comfortable, out of fear of blowing up on the second half of the course. But instead, I felt like a balloon with a slow leak. Once the air was gone, there wasn’t anything left.
I made it to Dry Lake #1 (mile 64.7) a little after 5:00 am, and was done. Just done. No tortured self-reflection. No “do or die” pep talk to rally myself onward. It was the right decision and I knew it right away.
The 7.6 mile segment from Summit Lake #1 to Dry Lake #1 was mostly downhill, but I was unable to do anything more than a walk… very slowly. I tried to transition into a jog at least a couple dozen times, but my legs and hips weren’t having any of it.
It was chilly, but I don’t think the cold was the problem. I planned for the temps reasonably well, although the gear and clothing I chose was too bulky and heavy. So not only was I unable moving quickly, the bulk of all the layers made me FEEL un-fast, and I couldn’t get my mojo back.
Things I Learned:
- My first race on an unfamiliar course is always difficult. I think not knowing the trails I’m running on takes a lot of mental energy — energy that I could be better using elsewhere. Now that I’ve been on the course (at least through the first 65 miles), I’m sure I’ll feel more comfortable next time. (Yep, I’m already planning to sign up for next year’s event.)
- Running without my GPS watch was awesome. It was much easier to get into a groove and not be distracted about my pace.
Next Time I Do the Run Rabbit Run, I’ll Do the Following:
- Be quicker through Olympian Hall, in both directions. At Olympian Hall #1, I futzed around a little too much, pondering my food options. At Olympian #2, it took longer than it should have to change into tights and get my cold/night gear in place.
- Spend less time at Summit Lake #1. I sat down inside the tent because there were chairs and heaters, even though I wasn’t particularly cold. Maybe that’s a sign of being mentally tired, or perhaps not having a proper racing mentality. But now that I’ve done it wrong once, I’ll have a better idea on how to be more efficient through that station.
- Use a more appropriate pack. I ran with the Ultimate Direction AK vest, and found it to be a little too small for my needs. I think I’d either want to move up to the UD SJ vest, or perhaps use the AK vest together with a waist pack I have for certain sections of the race.
- Do a better job of eating real food. I probably fell behind a little bit in my calorie intake starting at Olympian #2. After taking a little too long to change clothes, I shortchanged myself on the food that was available. Next time: the FIRST order of business when entering an aid station is to eat, and eat a lot. Address the other aid station matters AFTER eating.
- Be better prepared for the back-of-pack realities. The water-only stop on Emerald Mountain was empty by the time I got back to it on the way down to Olympian Hall #2. It wasn’t far from the water jugs to Olympian Hall, but next time I’ll be sure to carry more liquid out of Cow Creek for the almost 12 miles from Cow Creek to Olympian Hall #2. And I shouldn’t get my heart set on particular items like grilled cheese at some of the cold nighttime aid stations, because the grilled cheese goes quickly!
Looking forward to next time!
My fourth time at the Breck Crest marathon might not have been a charm, but it gave me a great opportunity to learn something new.
I entered the race at the last minute, hoping to get in one final long training run for the Run Rabbit Run 100. The Breck Crest offers a course where I could get some time on my feet at elevation (higher even than what I’ll face at the RRR), and some practice on the steep technical descents that I’m rather bad at.
Last year’s Breck Crest was a blizzard-y mess, so I was relieved that this year’s conditions were nearly perfect. I was able to leave the rain jacket behind, and forego the vest/pack hydration system for a single handheld.
I learned a great lesson this year, namely that there are some advantages to running a race without a watch. Don’t get me wrong. I think having time and pace and HR data is often useful… but that’s not always the case.
I wanted to put forth a solid effort, but didn’t want to be distracted with thoughts of how my time would compare to prior years’ performances. (Sure, I could try to just not look at the watch during the run, and only analyze the data afterwards. But I know myself, and eventually I’m probably going to sneak a peek…)
Wearing a watch makes it likely that one of two not-so-awesome things will happen. First, if I’m on a pace that approaches a personal best, then there’s a risk I’ll take myself out of my groove and increase my effort to a level that I don’t want to be at (and which might ultimately end up leading to a much slower time if I crash and burn). On the other hand, if I’m running slower than past runs, I could be tempted to shut things down and just coast to the finish without giving it an honest training effort.
By not having any of that data, I was forced to look inward (and only inward), and stay more in tune with how I’m feeling, rather than the pace at which I was running. My body has a good understanding of how hard it’s working, and how good I’m taking care of it, but it doesn’t really care about (or understand) a particular pace.
My biggest challenge at the Run Rabbit Run is likely to be staying tuned in with how I’m feeling, and making decisions (fueling, hydration, clothing, walk vs. run, etc.) based on that feedback. Running the Breck Crest without a watch helped me get some practice at doing that.
My name is Jake, and sometimes I run. Sometimes I jog. Sometimes I power hike. And sometimes I walk with very little power whatsoever.
I don’t know if that makes me a “runner” or not, but I don’t think the classification matters much. Whenever I’m moving forward I’m happy.
This is a largely incomplete list. I did a fair amount of running in the pre-Internet era, but have no record of my times from races back then. The only forgotten race I’m curious about is the Mountain Masochist 50M – I ran it in the fall 1991.
I’ve done the Triple Bypass and the Copper Triangle, as well as a few bike races (including the Leadville 100 MTB and the Mount Evans ascent) in which I finished solidly near the very end of the field. I also did a couple adventure races in the late 1990’s, and DNF’d a few as well. (I really thought adventure racing would take off more than it did…)
• 12/8 – CMRA Cross Country State Championship 12K (55:59)
• 8/18 – CMRA Elk Meadow Trail Race 5.75M (46:56)
• 7/12 – Tahoe Rim Trail 50M (14:14:14)
• 6/30 – Rollinsville Rail Run 10M (1:21:13)
• 5/12 – Quad Rock 25M (5:09:32)
• 4/21 – Mt. Carbon Trail 1/2 Marathon (1:54:18)
• 3/24 – CMRA Spring Spree 10K (43:29)
• 1/7 – CMRA Lake Arbor 5K (20:59)
• 11/12 – CMRA Stone House (2x) Triple-Cross Trail 8.5M (1:06:58)
• 10/9 – CMRA Coal Creek XC Challenge 5.72M (43:01)
• 9/17 – CMRA Hildebrand Ranch 6.6M (50:14)
• 9/4 – Breck Crest Marathon (5:54:27)
• 8/10 – CMRA Fairmount 5K Trail (22:11)
• 7/16 – CMRA White Ranch Trail 10K (56:52)
• 6/18 – CMRA Sand Creek 5 Mile (39:17)
• 6/4 – Golden Gate Dirty Thirty 50k (8:03:47)
• 6/16 – Mt. Evans Ascent 14.5M (3:16:04)
• 4/29 – Boulder Distance Carnival 15K (1:20:11)
• 6/30 – Finger Lakes Fifties 50K (6:13:43)
• 10/26 – Marine Corps Marathon (4:56:13)
• 11/5 – ING New York City Marathon (3:57:37)