Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ozark Greenways Adventure Race

Yesterday was my first running of the Ozark Greenways Adventure Race. I had always harbored the desire to try this but they always required a four person team and one of the team had to be a female. I am not the best at planning and coordinating with other people so I never put forth the effort to develop or find a team to join. Fortunately for me, I was asked to join a team two weeks before the race as they had a teammate who had to dropout at the last minute. My friend Collin had been following some of my training posts and figured I might be in good enough shape to jump in at the last minute.

The team suffered another loss at the last minute as another member was having some medical issues that forced her dropout with only a few days left before the race. Finding another teammate fit enough to run at the last minute is difficult. Finding a female teammate is even more difficult. Luckily for us, and something I didn't know, was this was the first year they were allowing teams of 2 or a solo race. The 3 of us that were left, Mark, Collin and myself, decided to change to a solo and a duo and just run it together.

A race of this type is a true multisport challenge. There is generally running, cycling, floating, and orienteering. Orienteering is finding your way through the course via map and compass. This year however, the floating portion of the race was taken out due a river raging at flood stage from all of the spring rain we have had. In its place, they simply added more running to the course. The course in the past has taken most people some 7 to 14 hours to complete. It usually covers 45 to 50 miles total. All of the distances are kept a secret until an hour before the race. At this time, you are given a map, clue sheet, and sequence of check points that you must navigate to in order to complete the race.

Except for the bike portions when I rode in clipless pedals, I of course ran the race in my Five Fingers. I think they raised a little concern out of my team leader. He has ran the same race several times before and in his experience he thought the course might be a little rough for them. I explained that after so many training miles in them I felt I would be worse off to switch to normal shoes at this point. In the end, the shoes performed perfectly on the course and it was a good choice for me to wear them. They did provide some morning entertainment seeing the looks on other racers faces when they looked at my feet. They would quickly whisper to their other teammates who would then turn to look with raised eyebrows. There were the usual questions about lack of support and cushioning and one woman even went to get her husband to come see them. She then asked to take a picture of my feet which was a first for me.

The largest challenge for most teams turned out to be the heat. We hit a near record high of 85. Being spring, nobody had trained anywhere near this temperature and you could see the heat wreaking havoc on many of the racers. The heat was the eventual downfall of my own team's leader about 5 hours into the race. We had ran some 15 miles already and were just beginning the first bike portion. The course was following gravel roads up and out of a river valley and after 3 miles of uphill riding he was reduced to walking anything with an incline. Head throbbing and unable to summon energy, he decided to drop and let Collin and I continue on our own. In my opinion, it was a wise choice. He was close to heat exhaustion and we weren't even to the hottest part of the day yet We were falling to the rear of the pack which would make cutoff times difficult to make and we still had more than half of the course to cover.

Fortunately, the heat was not an issue for me. Ultra running has given me a great education in the nutritional demands of pushing in an all day long event. I think this is something severely lacking in a lot of peoples' race plans. There has been a great amount of research done in this field by Hammer Nutrition. If you are considering exerting yourself for more than a 3 hour period, I would highly recommend you head to their website and do some reading. I followed the nutrition and hydration strategy I have been practicing for the 100 miler. I drank around 20 ounces an hour of Hammer Perpetuem, a carbohydrate and protein energy drink, and took an Endurolyte electrolyte replacement every 30 minutes. Despite taking in over 2 gallons of fluid, I discovered I was still down about 5 pounds for the day when I weighed myself after returning home.

For the rest of the race, Collin and I were able to maintain a fairly strong pace. Luckily, Collin is a strong trail rider and we were able to pass many teams by riding some very technical and hilly sections of trail that many other teams were opting to leave bikes behind and hike. This combined with some good map reading allowed us to cover some serious ground. When we began the bike section we were only a couple of teams from last place. At this time, I am not sure of the final results but I believe we finished around 20th place out of 79 teams. Of the 79 teams to begin, only 58 finished the race. Our time was a little over 11 hours. I couldn't begin to give an accurate count on distance covered but my best guess would be 20 miles on foot and another 25 or so on the bikes.

I absolutely loved the experience. Next year I am thinking I will run the race as a solo participant.

Week of 5-10 - 30 on foot, 80 bike
Week of 5-17 - 10 on foot, 64 bike, and the race.

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