Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dances With Dirt - Ben's Perspective

Saturday was the Dances with Dirt races near Gnaw Bone, Indiana. Actually, it was mostly in Brown County State Park, but I guess Gnaw Bone sounded cooler. They advertised their 10K as the hardest 10K ever, plus they had a 50K and a 50M race. I didn't want to do anything crazy without having trained, so I signed up for their marathon. The race was all on trails and sounded like a great time. My goal was to finish, have a good time, and get better at running. We camped Friday night at Brown County. The weather that night was perfect, which boded well for Saturday. I carried a camera (plus cell phone, map, and water) with me, so this post will show the race from my (Ben's) perspective.

The start/finish line was at Mike's Dance Barn, just west of Nashville on SR46. The race started at 7:00 and headed up an old logging road/horse trail to the ridge line. There were several very wet/muddy patches to navigate through/around. Sometimes there was no choice. My decision from the start was to walk up the hills, and I kept to that the whole time. I do know that my definition of what a hill was got much more expansive as the race went along.

There were several miles of logging road along the ridge line heading towards the Brown County State Park campgrounds. This was a great surface for running and fairly level.

Once we got to the campground, we split off onto trail. We were on hiking trails from the campground to Ogle Lake and then onto Hesitation Point, then we were on mountain bike trails. Both kinds of trails were relatively easy on the legs, and I made decent time.

I passed by Ogle Lake pretty early in the morning.

The long stairway to Hesitation Point, on the road leading to/from the West Gate. Walking, the stairs this early on were no problem. A bag drop and checkpoint (mile 6.5) were at the top, plus Joy, Laney, and my dad were waiting to cheer me on. I stopped briefly to eat a burger and a bag of chips. I have come to think that Napolean's quote, "an army marches on its stomach" applies to me on long runs.

Finishing up the mountain bike trails by the time we got to the North Tower (mile 13.5) where my support crew was there to cheer me on, I descended into the 'adventure' part of the run. We hadn't had any off-trail sections yet, but that was soon to change. Usually, you could easily tell where the course went even without the pink flagging. Frequently, when the course went off trail, it also meant that it was going to go straight up or straight down.

After the North Tower, the next checkpoint was Hoosier's Nest. I first started to get quad charlie horses walking the hill to Hoosier's Nest, but I knew it wasn't from lack of fuel, just exertion. I got to see Joy, Laney, and dad there also. Plus, I ate a 1/4 of a pizza, and various other food. The 'trail' from here got really faint as it meandered its way generally downhill towards Stahl Lake.

The course managed to cut across several ridges, with some of the steepest sections of the course. Some places required hand holds. A fellow racer (Jeremy) volunteered to get my picture after one of these sections. It was work to get the legs in gear to make it up. Pictures don't do it justice. I broke out the bandana for my head around this point to keep the flies off.

Jeremy heading up the hill. Walking up the hills was actually when I most frequently passed folks.

From the last picture, the course hit Stahl Lake, and then head up the 'stairway to heaven' to the Nature Center. Joy, Laney, and dad had walked down towards Stahl Lake to see me. They turned around and went back up the stairs with me. Each stair step was a charlie horse, but the cramps worked their way out at the top. The course followed the ridge top and the road from the nature center to the campground. At the campground, I said goodbye to my support team and headed off on the logging roads. Overall, these roads were wonderful, level to gently downhill. Some mud pits added to the fun.

From the Nature Center on, I ran with a 50K racer named Eric. We were both walking the ascents and running all the rest. We weren't always talking, but we stayed in sight of each other, trading off the lead. He was a real encouragement. I had heard much about the finish of the race, and was prepared for the worst. From the ridge top, the course went straight down a black diamond ski slope to a creek, which it crossed several times, and eventually had you run right in it. It got up over my knees, but it felt very good. Coming out of the creek, the finish line was in sight. I was so happy to be running strong for all of the final miles. Praise God! What a fun way to spend the day. It was great to relax, eat, drink, and enjoy the camaraderie with fellow racers.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Looks like an interesting run!