Thursday, October 8, 2009

2009 Grindstone 100 Race Report

Thought I'd post this race report forwarded from David Ruttum - Dave grew up in the area but has temporarily relocated to Pittsburg. He ran well at Kettle 100 this year and I have seen him out at Lapham cranking out loops on the black trail. Great showing at Grindstone and an entertaining race report too!...

The race started at 1800 on Friday, 3 October 2009 with the prerace meeting held at 1300. My crew, Jan, my best friend from growing-up in Milwaukee, arrived in Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon and we drove the 4.5 hours to spend the night in a hotel in Staunton, Virginia. We drove through Berkeley Springs, WV, home of the Cheat Mountain Moonshine 50m as well as Massanauten (sp), VA home of the eponymous spring 100m race.

I managed to sleep twelve hours overnight and we arrived in Swoope, VA at the Shenandoah Boy Scout camp about 1100. The camp was about 30min outside Staunton population 70k), but may as well have been a million miles away. In no time, you quickly move from a populated, confederate city to redneck, highly rural south. The boy scout camp had a nice setup with a large field for everyone to camp, a lake (will get to that), and a large meeting hall. As we arrived many others did too and I started introducing myself to the other racers. Most seemed to be from the east coast, but the race attracted people from the west too including Washington state, California, Utah (Karl), and Oregon. As I checked-in I met David Horton (vice director) and Clark Zealand (director). What a nice, welcoming duo. The two knew my name instantly and acted like we had been friends for ages. I have nothing but high regards for their hospitality and organisational skills. Lunch and the prerace meeting commenced promptly at 1300 and Horton regaled us with course stories and suggestions. He made the highly questionable statement that the outbound loop involved more climbing, steeper climbs, and was far more difficult than the return. At the end of the race on Sunday, the runners’ public

opinion was totally opposite! Clark also talked about minding the black bears on the course and recommended that Karl not have another incident with an animal a la the famous moose incident. The prerace meeting finished at 1400 and I retired to the tent for a wonderful, 2.5h nap. The pre-race pictures started at about 1745 so everyone moved to the starting line at that time. The starting weather was perfect, low sixties with no humidity and slightly overcast. I wore my headlamp and handheld flashlight in hand along with my Nathan race-pack. Everyone had the same idea as darkness ensued at 1900 and the aid stations were relatively far apart.

The race began at 1800 and we were off on approximately a one mile loop around the camp and then started climbing. Karl Meltzer took-off, like the Speedgoat that he is, and I stayed in the second pack of
about 6 runners. Little did I know, but the first 5m to the aid station were well representative of the rest of the course. The operative words are relentless, technical, and no quarter. The first five miles had
rock gardens on the flats, climbs, and descents. The rock gardens involved dolls-head, loosely packed rocks that fresh legs could traversed at a slow jog, but necessitated walking with tired (ie return legs). Many of the climbs were so steep that one had to use their hands. The no quarter meant the course had no recovery sections. Up was followed by technical descents and any flat was short lived and usually involved a technical rock garden.

One must look at the course elevation profile to see how in the first approximately ten miles one climbs from about sea level to 4800feet to the summit of Elliot Knob. We arrived to the base of the significant
part of the climb as darkness had firmly set-in. This was fortunate in that one could only see a few metres ahead and could not be intimated by the relentless nature of the climb. I gauged my progress by the density of the ascending fog. By the time I got to about 5min below the summit Karl was blasting his way down the mountain through those dolls-head rocks as if nothing was in his way. I summited with Mike Mason and we could barely find the glowstick-illuminated orienteering punch to prove that we had summited. The weather had changed rapidly with the climb as the summit was in the thirties and highly moist in the fog. We then descended for about 10min and then started another series of climbs and descents over numerous rock gardens. At this point I lost contact with Mike in that he too was Speedgoat like and descended the rock garden sections like a kamikaze. From here on I was alone and running solo for about 21h out of 23h was very difficult- especially when night encompassed about 12h of the race.

Until daylight the race unfolded in a predictable pattern. One would climb relentlessly up varying grades of steepness: from hands-climbing to somewhat “runnable” terrain, then run along a ridge line for a roller coaster effect of ups and downs, and then descend to a creek bed that would hold an aid station. Each aid station was about 1.5-2h apart for me and I would quickly replenish my food and drink and then take-off. I minimised my aid station time to perhaps 10-15min over the entire race. Apparently last years’ course was actually about 99m so Clark and David added a few climbs to increase the distance to 100.75m and approximately 25,200 feet of ascent and then 25,200 of descent. This required summiting another climb, Reddish Knob. This summit served as the West Virginia, Virginia state line and involved the only tarmac surface running on the course. This section was perhaps two miles in length-
otherwise the rest of the course was off road on trails. In general, the trail surface varied from the occasional soft grass single-track to short jeep trails, but was mostly dirt single-track with plenty of
rocks and roots! While I have never run Superior, I now understand the idea of a “runnable” and “non runnable” course. KM100 is entirely “runnable” and this course was 66pc “runnable” with the caveat that you must be in damn good shape to climb some of the sections (due to steepness, not
necessarily technical terrain). Just get on the eco-x blog site and watch some of the postrace videos'- even Karl talks about the technical and relentless nature of the course.

Anyway, I digress. My lowpoint in the race was between miles 35-43 where a series of "bebop" (Horton's words) climbs occur. These were rough climbs that seemed like forever and with relatively fresh legs I chose to run the majority of them. I continuously bonked and quickly ate through my bars, water, and electrolyte tabs. It did not help that I crossed paths with a black bear during this time and was scared silly (or was that the hypoglycaemia?) for the next few hours. I told the people at the next aid station and they just laughed off the idea of a bear eating a stinky, skeleton sized ultra runner. Whatever, my hypoglycaemic and tired brain definitely did not buy that line so I spent the next few hours yelling "Hey Bear" every few minutes. Whatever, it made me feel better.

Flash forward to about 0700 and the sun finally rose. As the temperature had dropped to the high thirties over 0200-0700,I had been wearing arm warmers, gloves, and a hat for the past five hours so I was relieved to feel the warmth and unload the lights. I had a wonderful breakfast burrito with
sausage, cheese, and egg at mile 60 and unloaded the lights. The daylight running was highly scenic and interesting in that I had run the sections the evening before, but had no idea what everything looked like. The back 50 involved more technical descents that oftentimes had to be walked, and consequently felt more difficult. As I said before, everyone agreed the back fifty was more challenging-
even if you were on fresh legs. The climbs may have been less steep on the return, but the descents were steeper and consequently involved more heel braking and less momentum-carrying.

Throughout the race I moved between eighth and sixth places and, in eighth place, at mile 88 I caught-up with two other runners. I saw them walking, smelled blood, and decided to run a few climbs to put
some distance on me. As I passed them I heard them say they were "done" and just wanted to finish. Music to my competitive ears. I ended up "killing" the last sections and in those twelve miles put
over 30min on them! I felt strong throughout the end and focused exclusively on a strong finish. You should look at the eco-x website, specifically the blog, and watch the youtube links- I think there are three or four videos of me finishing and talking at the end. By the way, at the end you must hug the boy scout totem pole and I did not even have to use it as a crutch! The website is:

At the expense of sounding like a jerk, yes I am competitive. Even so, I asked every runner I passed if they needed help and was impressed that most everyone else did the same. The travellers ethos of always helping those in need is something that I find distinguishes us as a group from the marathoners or ironman groups that only care about themselves.

After the race I took a nice, long, cold swim and my legs thanked me the next day. Whilst I have some lower extremity oedema, I am the least sore I have ever been after a 100. Moreover, the boy scout camp had very warm showers so I could do-it Finnish style and alternate between the hot and cold water.

One of the highlights of the post race was talking to Karl Meltzer. Before I proceed, what a humble, gracious, inviting rockstar! He managed to finish in 18:46 and minimised the significance of his time. I was honoured to hear him praise my time and be impressed that someone coming out of nowhere did so well. Yeh! We proceeded to talk for an hour or so about running, Utah, and the science of bonking. I feel like a little kid in that it was so cool to meet an idol and then have him confirm every positive thought you had about him. I look forward to meeting him at future races.

Well, what did I do right? Before the race I did plenty of leg-strength drills, hill repeats, and the occasional track work. I would add more leg-strength drills to be able to climb more of the steep sections and descend faster. I was also happy with my idea of using baby bottles to store gels so I did not have to tear open twenty sachets. As an aside, Karl does 48 gels over the race and keeps them
in his short pockets. He uses hiking shorts and keeps the full sachets on one side and the empties on another- interesting. Also, I was disappointed that I had to collect 10 or so items of rubbish along the course. As ultra runners, we should be more cognisant of rubbish disposal and carry everything with us.

I proved to myself that I can do the climbing, and difficult trails and now would like to add altitude to the mix. Perhaps Leadville or Wasatch next year? I need to talk to Geoff Hansen and see what we can work-out. We shall see.

In the end, I had a blast, met great people, and have nothing but good
things to say about Clark and David Horton- what an event!



1 comment:

  1. Way to go Dave!

    I know a lot of jerks, and I don't think you come even close to that category.

    I can just imagine a bear trying to feast on you, then stopping. And in a frustrated shout yells "Where's the beef?"

    I guess it was worth it to hang out with Karl.

    I can at least say I kept up with you for the first 3 miles of KM100