Monthly Archives: December 2018

Ultra Marathon – My Running of the Devil Dog 100

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!

Running – 10 Golden Rules For Not DNFing a Race- Marathon – Ultra Marathon

Running – 10 Golden Rules for not DNFing a race – Ultra Marathon – Marathon
(or any race for that matter.)

We hate it when it happens, but it happens to the best of us sooner or later.  After 18 years of running and racing varying distances from 5k to 100-miles, I’ve compiled a list of rules to limit the times I’ve ended a race early.  These Golden Rules have helped me stay in the game.

(in the wee hours of a 24-hour race….I just wanted to go home.
I finished with 95-miles in 24-hours)

10 Golden Rules for not DNFing.

10.  Run to the next one.  When the urge to drop out of a race hits, I hold myself accountable to make the next checkpoint, aid station, lap or timing mat.  It’s as simple as doing “just one more”…and one more, and one more after that.  When my son was little I tricked him into finishing his happy meal by eating just one more bite, and one more bite.  It works in a long race gone bad as well.

 (slice of pizza and a Slurpee saved the day)

9.  Get something to eat.  I will not drop from a race on an empty belly.  When you run out of fuel things look a lot different.  If the desire to quit is about to overcome your desire to finish keep running until you can fill up your tank.  With a full fuel supply, you just may find out your motor may have a few more miles in you.

8.  Realize no one died from a blister.  They suck, are uncomfortable and just plain hurt, but you can run with a blister.  Don’t give in to that little or big bubble of liquid.

[Tweet “Brian, @cledawgs uncovers the Ten Golden Rules For Not DNFing Your, Marathon, Ultramarathon, or Any Race For That Matter.”]

7.  We’re friends but.  I can’t allow the misfortune of another compromise my finish.  It’s hard to run a complete race with a friend.  No matter the intentions a race unfolds differently for each person.  Our running group understands, we all have to run our race.  Finish your race and be friends later.

6.  Brush your teeth.  I have not tried this, but I believe it.  This may apply more to longer races than a 5k.  Experienced ultra running friends tell me they feel 100% better after they brush their teeth or wash their face.  Fresh breath and a clean face might just give you the kick in the butt you need to bring home the bling.

Do you want to run your best MARATHON (or any race for that matter)?  CLICK HERE

5.  Beg for a pacer.  Again more aimed for the longer races that allow the use of pacers, do not drop from a race without begging someone to run a loop, a lap, or a few miles with you.  A little companionship at a low point in the race can save the day and propel you to a finish instead of a drop.

(I’ve had friends drag me around for a few laps)

4.  Find another runner and be the caboose.  If the race is falling away from you and the urge to give in is becoming overwhelming, seek out the security, and energy of a group of runners.  I’ve found that I’m the weakest when I’m alone…if I feel the dreaded DNF may be catching up with me I focus on catching up with the group in front of me or link up with a group at an aid station.  The energy of the pack can very well keep you in the game.

3.  Run when you can, hike if you got to, walk if you must, and crawl if its all you got.  I vow to continue moving forward at all cost.  No matter how slow, forward motion will eventually get you to the finish line.

2.  Do not feed the trolls.  It’s easy to begin to develop your exit plan when beaten up, tired, and on the far side of the course.  Do not feed the troll of self-doubt.  Use positive words, use positive imagery, and embrace victory before you write your own eulogy.

Now all of these tips are based on the fact that you, your crew or a good friend has determined that you are NOT doing real damage to yourself by running and/or continuing to finish the race.

 (My first buckle, Umstead 100 – 2014)

1.  You Can Do It.  I will never give up on me.  Never give up on you.

Even with all these rules and good intentions…you might find yourself wearing the uncomfortable badge of not finishing a race and that’s okay.  A DNF will not define you, it’s a snapshot in time, a single race that did not go as planned.  Nothing more and nothing less.

You got yourself to the starting line….you are awesome!

Running the TransRockies and it’s a small world we live in

It’s a small world we live in and surprisingly the running world (ultramarathon community especially) is even smaller.  Run a race or two, post about it on social media and sooner or later a new friendship will take root.

Once such friend took on the TransRockies 2018 adventure run and I wanted to know more.

Thank you, Joe, for agreeing to take part in my blog interview.

Let’s start off by providing my readers a small look at your running career.

I wasn’t a runner in high school or college.  Actually, my school was K-12 and only had about 600 students total, so we were too small for organized running sports.  When I joined the Air Force shortly after graduation, I ran just enough to meet my annual fitness standards.  I got serious about running late in life when I was about 48.  That may seem hard to believe, but that was when I finally had the time (and money) to get really serious about running.  Since that time, I’ve completed 32 marathons and 39 half marathons, including the 2015 and 2018 Boston Marathons and 2015 and 2017 TCS NYC Marathons.  With respect to ultra distances, I’ve completed the TransRockies Run, 120-mile, 6-day stage race four times, one 50-miler and four 50K races.

We connected somewhere along the Information Superhighway as I remember…Facebook, Twitter etc. and discovered we had something in common besides running, service to our country.  Could you tell us a little about your military career, and THANK YOU for your service.

(Joe and Margaret)

Thank you, Brian, and thank you for your service as well.  Honestly, I don’t recall exactly how I first connected with you.  I know we have mutual Air Force friends, so it’s likely that one of your posts caught my eye through one of them.  As you well know, through military service, we all become one huge family, so from the first time I met you, I felt as if we’d known each other all our lives.

I joined the Air Force right out of high school.  My wife and I were already married and I was still too young to get a decent job that would support a family.  The Air Force seemed like a logical choice.  For the next 20 years, we traveled the world stationed in some great locations, including more than 7 years overseas in Japan and England.  My Air Force career ended in 2000 while stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.  We’ve lived in Missouri ever since.

We crossed paths in the real world in of all places in Leadville, Co.  If I remember right it was at the packet pickup for the 10k race the Sunday before the 100-Miler.  Why were you in Leadville? 

(Leadville Trail 10k)

Yes, that’s correct.  You had posted on one of your blogs that you would be a packet pick-up, so I intentionally looked for you there. 

My wife and I were in Leadville for the week prior to the Leadville Trail 100 getting acclimated for the TransRockies Run (TRR) which kicked off in Buena Vista just south of Leadville on August 14.  I ran the Leadville 10K just for fun on that Sunday before TRR. 

[Tweet “TransRockies and Leadville, if you love mountain running you’ll want to read @cledawgs latest blog post”]

The Transrockies Run is one of those running adventures that I watch from afar.  It has been on my “list” for a while.  The whole concept sounds challenging and entertaining.  The TransRockies Run is a trail running stage race also known as “Summer Camp for Big Kids!”  A six-day stage race traversing the continental divide between Buena Vista and Beaver Creek, the route covers 120 miles through the spectacular Colorado Rockies with stunning fourteener views all along the route.  At the end of each stage, runners gather in camp to recover, socialize and celebrate.  Fully supported with tents, luggage service, mobile shower truck, catered meals, and massage.  TransRockies Run sounds like a running vacation where you will make memories and friendships that last a lifetime. 

Why did you decide to run this race?

(Not sure I’ve seen a better running picture)

I first ran TRR in 2014.  I registered shortly after completing my first (and only) 50-miler, the Bison 50, which ran from Topeka to Lawrence, Kansas, on a combination of paved and unpaved surfaces.  I had done a number of road races by then and was looking for something a little different.  I saw an advertisement for TRR and it looked like something I could handle since it was staged over six days.

What was your favorite part of the TransRockies run?

Having done the race four times now, both solo and as a team with my son in 2014, my favorite part of the race without a doubt is the people you meet during the week-long event.  We’ve got friends we met at TRR in 2014 who still return year after year.  TRR is like family.  It’s hard to understand unless you’ve actually been there.  TRR is a race, and there are stage winners, age-group winners, and overall winners, but at TRR, no one gets left behind.  Whether you’re the first one in for the day, or the last, your victory is celebrated by everyone.  I recall one year in particular at the end of Stage 3 from Leadville to Nova Guides at Camp Hale.  One couple was still out on the course and everyone else was finished, showered, and already eating dinner.  We got a heads up that the last couple was on their way in to the finish line and the entire catering tent emptied out.  Everyone lined both sides of the finish chute, arms raised high, and made a tunnel to welcome them in.  The cheering was so loud.  The entire experience was very emotional.  That’s what makes TransRockies special.

What stage did you find the hardest?

That’s a tough one.  There are two stages that I find harder than others.  Stage 1 runs from Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge and is just under 21 miles with 2,500 feet of elevation gain.  This stage is always hot with a lot of exposure to the sun.  Additionally, much of the trail is sandy with the final four miles on a false flat, gravel road.  Additionally, since it’s the first stage of the race, if you’re not properly acclimated, it can be rough.  Personally, I also find Stage 6 to be a little challenging.  This final stage from Vail to Beaver Creek runs about 22.4 miles with approximately 5,250 feet of elevation gain.  Although you know the celebration awaits you at the finish line, this stage is also typically warmer than other stages and includes a combination of some pretty significant climbs and descents as well as a good amount of paved road and trail.  Some might think that Stage 2 which takes you from Vicksburg to Twin Lakes up over Hope Pass at 12,500 feet would be the hardest, but it’s actually one of the easier (and shorter) days at just over 13 miles.  Additionally, the shorter day allows you to spend some time in the historical town of Leadville prior to the start of Stage 3 the following morning.

The good thing about this race though, is that it’s a race most everyone can handle, regardless of their trail running experience.  Don’t get me wrong, parts of the course are definitely challenging, but the time cutoffs are very generous and the stages are broken down where everyone can successfully finish the race.

As an outsider looking in, I’ve always believed the non-running gathering of the TransRockies event may be as entertaining as the run.  Can you give us a look into the experience at the camps?

There’s no doubt that the time spent with other runners at the end of each stage is what allows you to forge lifelong friendships.  The TRR staff and volunteer crew do everything they can to make it an unforgettable experience.  As you may know, the event is fully supported starting at the end of Stage 1.  When runners arrive at camp each day, tents are already set up and ready to go.  After a hot shower in the mobile shower truck, most people relax in “Chillville” with snacks and drinks until dinner time.  Meals, both breakfast and dinner, are fully catered and provide a great variety of options for almost every diet.  After dinner, runners get a quick course briefing for the following day, some photo highlights of that day’s stage, and then they’re off to get some rest.  Medical services are always available in camp and massages are available for a small fee.

Are there any negatives to running 120-miles over six days with a bunch of people you just met?

Absolutely not.  TRR runners come from all over the world.  Nearly every state and more than 20 foreign countries are typically represented.  Everyone is there for the same reason—to run some good trails through the mountains and have a good time.  There really are no strangers, just new friends you haven’t met yet.

Do you plan to run the event in the future?

There’s no doubt I’ll run TRR again, it’s just a matter of when.  There are a couple of races I’m looking at next summer, so we’ll see how the schedule works out.  I may very well be back in 2019!

To someone who is interested but may be sitting on the fence deciding to run TransRockies, what would say to them?

I’d say get signed up, start training, and stay healthy.  No one should ever think they can’t do it.  It’s just a matter of making the commitment and getting started.  TransRockies is like no other race I know.  Every runner should experience it at least once in their life.  If it’s a matter of cost that’s got you on the fence, TRR has recently announced a payment plan for the 2019 race.  To my knowledge, that’s the first time this has been offered.  It’ll definitely make it easier for those on a budget.

Thank you so much for taking time and sharing your experiences with my readers.


(photo credits to Sportograf)