Time: Just after 2 am. Place: Bush's Pasture Park, in Salem, Oregon. I had been in motion for 14 hrs. I was leaning on the aid station table, staring at the lap sheet. Or at least pretending to. I was really just trying to avoid going around the loop anymore. 50 miles is good enough, I was beginning to tell myself, already starting the "It's ok to quit" rationalization. Everything hurt, and I had long since lost my "100 mile" pace. Why keep going? There is a nice comfy bed over there in a nice comfy tent with my nice beautiful wife. I could just crawl in there, try to ignore the sweat stench, and go to sleep for a few days. Thankfully, my wife had other ideas...
I don't really even remember where I heard about the Angry Owl. Must have been Facebook. I do remember thinking that it was going to take far too long for December and the Across The Years 48 hr race to get here, so I needed a loop this summer. The first one I saw and wanted to do was the Elijah Bristow 24 hr in Eugene, Oregon- but I had a scheduling conflict. However, just a little farther up the freeway in Salem, Oregon, was the 1st 24 hr version of the Angry Owl Ultramarathons, which started as a 6 and 12 hr race last year. What's another hour's drive, once you have driven eight or nine? I signed up and started training up.
As usual, I obsessed over every detail of the race, from the course, to camping, the aid station. I read and re-read their webpage. I friended the Race Director, Josh, on Facebook and began pestering him with questions. I read the blog post from last year's 12 hour winner, Rachel.
Some key points:
- It's a minimalist race. So, the aid station is not the never-ending buffet that you will find at Across the Years. But, it has everything you need to survive if you had to: Tailwind, which is really all you need, Gels, PBJ, pickles, candy, cookies, and potato chips, the usual snacky stuff. And Josh makes amazing burritos on the George Foreman grill, and ordered pizza for everyone at dinnertime. It is cupless, so bring your own cup. May I recommend the collapsible silicone cup from Aravaipa? I just left mine in a pocket, and had it when I needed it.
- Since it's a minimalist race, there are no finisher's medals, no age group awards, no t-shirts. Just an awesome loop to run long, awesome chip timing, awesome volunteers to keep you moving, and an awesome RD who truly loves the race and his runners.
- 1st place male and female in each race gets a "functional" award. I won't spoil the surprise, but it was cool. And every runner gets a kickass Angry Owl Ultras hat. Which hasn't left my head all week.
Speaking of: I reserved a room for two nights at the Knights Inn in Salem. Don't do that. There was a woman who was clearly "living better through chemistry" in the parking lot in front of our room, who informed us that her kids were on weird schedules, and to "just knock" if they were too loud in the middle of the night. They were. On the sidewalk. Outside our window. All night. Mission Street=good. State Street=not so much. After the race, April had to do some negotiating to get us out of our second night, and we moved to the Hampton Inn on Hawthorne. They upgraded us to a suite, and gave us a discount. Heaven. I felt like a king. But, I digress...
The course was fantastic. Packed gravel, grass, a little asphalt, and some soft and springy dirt through the woods by the creek. Just watch the couple of root balls sticking up that I knew were there, but still managed to trip over every damn lap. Here is the nickel tour:
- More salt caps. I took a few during the heat of the day, and felt great. But at one point, around midnight, Rachel suggested I lay down and put my feet up on a chair. It felt great, but when I went to stand up, my hamstring tightened like a guitar string. I rolled around on the floor of my tent, screaming silently, trying to get the cramp to let go. I immediately ate a salt cap, and swished several mouthfuls of my homemade pickle juice, and felt better quickly.
- Shot bloks, Sport Beans- When my stomach quit wanting food, those would have been good. I will eat them pretty much anytime. But, they were not in plain sight, and I was not thinking very clearly. Next time, get them out on the table. I unpacked pounds of them, untouched, when we got home.
- DO NOT take your Injinji's off and go to regular socks because your toes are swollen. I ended up with blisters that I should not have, because my toes were rubbing on each other. Stick to the plan. Stick to what you trained in. I know this, yet in the pain of the moment, I chose to ignore it.
- Blister pads- I had amazing gel blister pads that I could have put on at the first hot spot. Instead I found them in my kit when we got to our hotel later. Take care of your feet. They are your lifeblood in an Ultra.
- Keep drinking Tailwind, even when nothing sounds good. At one point, I started alternating bottles of Nuun, and those tasted so good, that I stopped alternating Tailwind and went to straight Nuun. I needed the calories, as I wasn't eating. Stick to the plan. Your body needs calories. I burned 10,000 calories over the course of the race. I didn't eat anywhere near that.
- Compression sleeves when your legs get tired. I hate running in them, because I feel restricted. But I think the support might have helped when I was smoked. I had them. (I brought everything, remember?) I just didn't try them.