This race has been on my radar for 3 years. The prerequisite to get in used to be that you had to know someone who had partaken before. I love these type of races that have quirky conditions. It adds to the mystique and difficulty. The runner I knew was Ed, who holds the course record (CR) of 67 miles (108KM), which is a beast of a performance. He also provided me with his Bare Bear Butter Anti-Chafing cream. If you don’t know what that is, you haven’t run for hours on end. You’re nether regions will appreciate it!
|My trusty Altras with my daughter's and niece's initials|
I love timed events. No chance to DNF (Did Not Finish) and you can truly zone out and purely focus on putting one foot in front of the other. The course was set up to be a 3-point-something mile loop, but imagine a crooked figure 8.
Meaning, you’d run by the intersection twice per loop. That
was the Start/Finish line, as well as the single aid station on the course. You
really didn’t need to carry anything with you as you would pass the barn (aid
station) every 1.5 miles or so.
|The green dot indicates the Start/Finish line|
My alarm pissed me off at 3:15am, as that is an ungodly time to rise and go punish your body, but I was nevertheless excited for my impending adventure. I did snooze it to the limit and left knowing that when I get there, I’d only have 10 minutes to stretch and warm up (haha! An ultra is long enough that you don’t need that nonsense).
Our small group set off at 6am sharp crossing a water hose sprawled across the yard which doubled as Start/Finish line. By the way, the race was held at the organic farm Good Earth (hence the name; the Blood Run is a local landscape feature).
A truck guided us on the first loop so that we wouldn’t get lost in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota. Also, their little black dog Sydney joined us and led the way. I was wondering if she should need a Bib, but she would’ve been disqualified as she kept cutting the course. What a bi%&$.
|"Earned. Not Given."|
It took a couple of loops to get into a rhythm and I had to remind myself to slow down as this would be a long day out. My trusty Spheres Gears headlamp lid the way (2000 lumens and great battery life) and I studied each turn to make sure I run the tangents to minize the distance per loop. A foot here or there does add up over 12 hours!
After the sun came up, I came to a crucial decision. I had started the race in my Pearl Izumi Trail Shoes, which I won a year ago at the Lean Horse 100. During these long races, it is important for me to have some space in my shoes without them slipping. I developed blisters early on and knew this was going to be a real threat to my race if not mitigated. Thinking ahead, I brought a pair of my „solemates“ Altra’s! The extended toebox gave my toes the breathing room they needed and I didn’t have to worry about my feet for the rest of the day.
|7 Hour mark|
The sun came up and I could truly appreciate the beauty of this farm we were running on. A serene, calm and inspiring place to just let your mind wander. Loop after loop, another runner (Justin) and I circled the farm together. It was fun to have some company during such a long event. I slowed down a bit to take inventory of my body and let Justin go. Watching him closely, my competive spirit kicked in a few loops later when I saw him leaving the aid station into the opposite direction as me. He was a half lap ahead.
Trucking on, I fueled myself with Endurance Tap maple syrup gels and Arizona Sweet Tea (those that have been $0.99 since the ’70s! Sydney joined me here and there for a partial loop before going with another runner. At times I was glad she left, because she did try to „herd“ me and I didn’t appreciate the tripping. I tried telling her that I knew the way, but maybe my accent was too much for her to understand. Who knows?!
All day I was listening to podcasts, which did two things for me: Help me zone out AND help me catch up on hours of content that I hadn’t gotten to the last few weeks. Somewere between „Stuff You Should Know“ and „Myths and Legends“ I passed Justin as he was refueling at the aid station. We were somewhere in the later part of the first half. So only 5 hours in maybe.
The wind picked up and I didn’t mind. We were mostly sheltered by tall corn or running with the wind. The only place where the wind hit me head-on offered me a great excuse to take a 20s walk on every loop. I used those to text with my family. My wife and daughter were going to come towards the end of the race to cheer me on and I loved their encouragement throughout.
Many hours became a haze and we were somewhere between hour 9 and 10 (Don’t worry, it sounds crazy to me too when I read it out loud) when I saw my in-laws car cruising by on the highway and I waved them down from afar and pointed them in the right direction. The place was easy to miss. On the next loop I got some more encouragement from my regular crew-chief and father-in-law Bill. This type of race must’ve been different for him. He usually drives from aid station to aid station and preps the stuff I may need (guessing what a disillioned runner needs after hours of racing is an art in itself!). Today, he just needed to plop down in a chair and tell me to keep moving every 1.5 miles or so.
Seeing my wife and daughter was special too, even though it added a certain kind of pressure. Whenever I tell my 3-year old that I’m running a race she’s expecting a trophy and she won’t let up about it either! She’s actually claimed several of mine, since she keeps beating me during our „driveway sprints“ J.
I started calculating toward the last couple loops of the race. What pace would I need to run to get the course record? It seemed doable, but I also wanted to run well on the following weekend during the challenging Newton Hills 50K Ultra. At least that’s my excuse. Truth be told, Ed set the bar nicely at 67 miles (108KM).
|On the last couple of loops|
Coming into the aid station with maybe 12 minutes to spare, I went on the „short route“. It was a 0.15 mile (250 meters) out and back on the farm’s driveway. After doing those a couple of times, my daughter joined first at my hand and then as time expired she was on my shoulders as I was running towards the all-so-important garden hose J.
I was happy to finish first with 64.17 miles to my name, and a new motivation to come back next year to take down Ed’s record.
|This jar was filled with 1 marble per |
loop to keep track