Ultra Marathon, Devil Dog 100 was a well-organized race.
It was an outstandingly supported race.
It was a challenging race.
I’m not saying I’m an elite level 100-mile runner. I’ve started five 100-mile races finishing four in under 24-hours. My only DNF was at the Leadville Trail 100. I signed up for this race as a way to reconcile my disappointment in my performance at Leadville. I knew this race was going to be harder than my previous 100-mile finishes. Finishing was never a question.
Devil Dog 100, the course is primarily single-track trails, with occasional roots, rocks, and brief technical sections. There are also spurts of fire road and rolling hills but no substantial climbs. Run in Prince William Forest Park is a short hop off I-95 in Triangle, Virginia. The 100.75-mile distance runs over 5-loops, the first being 22.75 miles with the remaining four laps measuring in at 19.5-miles with 10,250 feet of gain. The field has 32-hours to complete the race.
On a good day, this course would be challenging. I ran a 12-hour race there a few years ago and at 9-hours I had had my fill. Although there are some runnable sections the majority of the course is bounding over rocks, boulders, tree stumps, and exposed roots. The climbs although short were steep and grew to be extremely challenging on tired legs as you climb up a substantial grade on nothing but exposed tree roots, rocks, and entrenched boulders. The course ran close to a small stream where ill-placed footing could leave you soaked in the chilly winter waters.
I felt well prepared and mentally strong going into this race. The biggest question of the day was centered on the weather. The forecast was for rain and cold. The extent of the rain depended on which local or national weather forecast you decided to believe. The forecasts varied from rain on all day or nearly not at all. In the end, we got something in between and that was enough to make this race a devil of a challenge. I would eventually fall victim to the conditions of the trails.
At the start of the race, the trail was wet, covered with leaves and showing the effects of the unseasonable damp conditions prior to race day. As the day wore on when the rain began to fall early and stick around for the majority of the race the condition of the trails deteriorated quickly. The unimproved trails became saturated and the field of runners pounded them into a mud-soaked mess. Where the trails remained runnable they became soft and slippery. Over the majority of the course, the trails converted into pits of shoe eating mud traps. The tree roots and ragged-edged rocks became very slippy and threatening. Parts of the trails were unpassable without cross-country navigation or mid-calf levels of mud.
Mile-23/100: 5hr 28m
I felt great all day, my pacing was on target, refueling was on point and my spirits were high. My only issues were that I kept slipping while on the trails. I nearly fell about 100 times but my quick reactions and cat-like instinct kept me on my feet. But it was taking a toll I wouldn’t realize until late into my fourth lap when my lower back began to get tight and sore.
Mile-50: 12hr 49m
Mile 60.7 16hr 07m (Garmin battery went dead)
I was still able to run the runnable sections of the course and power hiked the majority of the rest. By my calculations, I would finish 81 miles with approx ten-hours to cover the final 20-miles.
My day went as planned until it didn’t. As I was nearing the final miles of the forth loop I lost my footing on a swamped trail section and fell to the ground. In the mud and yuck, I knew that incident would cost me. I was able to get back on my feet partially mud-soaked and got moving again. Within ten yards I lost my footing again and went to the ground once more. I was done.
The 2-mile slow walk of the defeated seemed to take forever. My back was stiff, my spirit was broken and every little discomfort that had remained at bay for nearly 24-hours became painfully magnified.
Mile-81.25: 24hr 41m
I suffered my second 100-mile DNF. When all was said and done, I’m proud of my effort, I’m proud of the distance I covered and I’m proud that it took a devil of a course, deplorable weather conditions and swamped trails to defeat me.
Only 40% of the field completed the race and those people earned it. My hat goes off to those who finished 100.75 miles…job well done!