Ultra #9- The Devil's in the Details

So Ultra number 9 is over and it was quite an adventure to say the least. The race was the Dances with Dirt in Hell, Mi….and yes, there is a city in Michigan named Hell. Going into the race, I felt pretty good. I went into it open-minded with little expectations about finishing times because I didn’t know that much about the course. The description given was full of sarcasm (which I can appreciate), but in terms of how best to prepare, I didn’t really have a good grasp on. I learned many races ago to have my gear ready at least two days in advance or at least know what you have and what you need, so you don’t run into any surprises on race day.

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Per usual, I laid my gear out the night before. I was fortunate enough to have a race that was close enough to home that I would be able to sleep in my own bed, which was nice considering the early start. My load out was similar to other races with a few exceptions. I thought that I had UCAN, which I have used in the past few races with a great deal of success and I didn’t have any pickles/pickle juice.

I didn’t have time to get more UCAN in time and I forgot that I had given my last lot to a coworker and most races have pickles so I thought that wouldn’t be a huge issue either. Everything else in my loadout was pretty much the same…about a dozen FBombs, a couple packs of Smart Sweet gummies, extra shoes, socks, battery pack, ziplock bags, and trekking poles. The last two things I would come to find were crucial to me finishing in one piece. In terms of race vest, I was going to wear the Ultimate Direction Race Vest 4.0 and Ultra Belt, but at the last minute, I ended up going with the old reliable, Salomon Vest courtesy of my friends at FBomb. I didn’t like the way the UD vest was riding and I didn’t trust the velcro on the belt, so instead of risking an equipment failure, I opted for something that I knew was a proven commodity. Plus, UD doesn’t really have “husky” runners in mind when they do their sizing.

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The race started well before sunrise and all of the pictures I got of that are pretty much look like nothing but darkness. What it lacked in quality pictures, it made up for with adventure though. It was really fun running just by headlamp…it was pretty challenging at times because there was no shortage of low hanging branches and ruts. Needless to say, I didn’t set any speed records. The course had a variety of terrain to offer and I’m extremely glad that I brought trekking poles with me. They definitely helped in sections of the course like “The Dirt Ladder” and “The Stripper Pole”, but they also were pretty helpful in the multiple river crossings and swampy areas. There was also a section where you ran in the river…This is where I was glad I packed the ziplock bags.

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Every race I do, I have learned some valuable lessons and this race was no different. The trekking poles did help me a lot, but I think they also slowed me down at times. I think I relied on them a little too much at the end and I wasn’t able to really ever get back on pace. I also learned the importance of preparation. You can physically prepare for races, but the psychological factors are the biggest in Ultra distance races. Having the little things to comfort you can make a difference. UCan would’ve definitely helped, but having a couple packs of pickles would’ve been better. There was only one aid station that had them…so lesson learned. Smiling and encouraging runners will only make your situation better, regardless of how fast or slow you’re going or how you feel.

Ultra running is more about a mindset than anything else. Going keto/lchf has, no doubt, changed my life, but having the right mindset will help you get through anything. During this race, I made a couple costly wrong turns. I added about 10 miles to my race. The first wrong turn was completely my fault and the second one was not so much. It really didn’t bother me that much when I realized the mistake on both occasions…do you want to know my secret?

Once the sun came up, I decided to listen to an audiobook, so for the better part of the race, I listened to Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I’ve read this book a few times and it does a great job of putting things in perspective for you…listening to it had the same effect. A few wrong turns and some extra miles don’t really seem to be a big deal in the grand scheme of things, especially when you are listening about a man surviving FOUR different concentration camps. You almost feel lucky to put in the extra miles.

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At the end of the day, I met some great people and I pushed myself through a little adversity and I came out the better for it. My knee was a little swollen at the end of the race, but overall, two days removed from it, I could go out and run a few miles…however I won’t today. I have some weight training and yoga planned for today. My next race is in two weeks, so I’m not in a huge hurry to put down a lot of miles between now and then.