Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dances With Dirt Gnaw Bone 50 miler Race Report.

Josh’s tips to DWD Gnaw Bone

If you find your self running in the middle of the forest, jumping over huge fallen trees and running directly through thorn bushes, with no semblance of a trail in sight, you are going the right way. If you are running on an actual trail for any more than a couple miles your lost. Find the nearest tree to climb and start looking for pink ribbons. Finishing time? No need to worry about finishing time. Running from the constant swarm of horse flies will keep you at a steady pace. The occasional hornet will give you that much needed boost.


This race is put on by a group of psychos from Michigan. Last year I ran the other DWD Event in Hell, Michigan so I knew the kind of insane things to expect. I met Rob about 30 minutes before the start and we talked a little bit about the races. He said the elevation gain was around 7200 feet. That’s a good amount of elevation, but I’ve handled more. I wasn’t too worried about it. The race began with some final words from RD Randy Step “The first five miles and the last five miles are easy, good luck with everything else.”

The race consisted of a 5.5 mile section that lead us to a 20 mile loop which the 50 milers completed twice then returned on the same 5.5 mile section to the finish. We started off running across a field and with ½ mile or so we hit the trail. Immediately we came to a huge hill, as we continued the climb I started to think, if this is the easy part I am in for a long day. After a mile or 2 the path straightened out and the running became easier. The DWD races are famous for getting runners lost due to questionable markings. This race was no different. Within a mile and a half I was running completely by my self, no one else in sight. Then I came around a corner and saw about 20 runners walking in circles franticly searching for pink ribbons (the course marking.) Right as I got there they found the ribbons and we were on our way. That was the first time I had ever been with the lead pack a mile into the race, it didn’t last long. I would guess about 75% of the runners got lost at some point during the race. I took about 4 wrong turns but never got lost for very long.

I reached the end of the out and back and began my first loop. As I ran for a couple of miles and saw no significant climbs (except for one giant staircase) I began to wonder where the 7200 feet of elevation was. At this point I was running way too fast, about 9:20 miles. The first 10 miles of the loop had few hills and were reasonably fast. As I ran down a dirt back, I came to a clearing. There was a trail to my left and a road up ahead. I didn’t see any markings. Then I saw four runners wandering around. They told me they had been there for about 30 minutes trying to find the ribbons. We decided to go back the way we came and saw 2 pink ribbons, indicating a turn right off of the path we came from.

This is where the course gets ridiculous. I took off into the woods, leading the pack of lost runners. There were no trails on this section, just forest floor covered with leaves making for very technical running because you had no idea what you could be stepping on. If there was a fallen tree or thorn bush the ribbons would lead directly through it. After about a half mile we were running down in a valley, I looked ahead but didn’t see any ribbons, then I looked to my right, straight up an 80 degree incline. Sure enough there were ribbons leading straight up the hill, right over a fallen tree. We made our way up the hill. It wasn’t quite steep enough to require getting on your hands and knees (not the first time around anyway.) The total climbs was just over half a mile. I couldn’t help but think that this is what Barkley must be like, except instead of a ½ mile it is 100 miles!

After that we got back on an actual dirt trail and ran for a little ways before vanishing into the woods again. The last 10 miles of the loop are extreme, with multiple hands and knees climbs. The most difficult running I have ever done. I came to the end of first loop, and the halfway point, feeling pretty good. I was just over a 10 hour pace, but after that last 10 miles I knew I had gone way to fast, and I was about the pay for it, and pay for it I did. The second time around the first 10 miles of the loop weren’t so easy. Its funny how in the first loop your not sure if you should walk some slight hills or not, but in the second loop there is no doubt. I walked every hill I could find. Be mile 30 I found my self wanting to get back to the hills of the last 10 miles of the loop. I thought that would give me time to walk the hills and take a rest, the running was killing me. Of course when I got to the hills They killed me too. As I climbed the half mile beast of a hill, I was spent. I became lazy in my climbing and almost rolled backwards down the hill a few times. By mile 40 my entire body ached. My legs, back, neck and shoulders were all screaming. This was new to me. I have never run a races where my back, neck and shoulders hurt like this. The pain I was feeling was the worst I have ever felt while running before. It hurt the most to walk, but at this point my legs weren’t moving very well so I couldn’t run for long periods without walking.

As I reached the end of the second loop and the final aid station, I caught up to the guy ahead of me. I put on a cheerfully deposition so he wouldn’t know how bad I was hurting, then I ran out of the aid station ahead of him, hoping I could hold him off (sure I may be a middle of the pack runner, but I have my competitive nature.) About a mile out of the aid station I couldn’t run anymore. As I walked down the trail it wasn’t long before the guy had passed me. As He ran passed I picked up the pace and followed him. He looked behind and saw me following, then he started jumping over the fallen tree limbs on the course, as to tell me that he still had something left, I didn’t buy it. I had blisters forming on my feet at this time. About a half mile down the trail he started walking and I passed him again. There were 3 miles to go from this point. I could feel the skin rip away from the bottom of my big toe as the blister broke open. I decided to lay down the hammer and use everything I had left (not much.) I ran up a hill, and never saw the guy again. I ended up finishing 15 minutes ahead of him.

The last mile and a half I could hear the crowd at the start finish line. I picked up the pace and ran as hard as I thought I could run for 1.5 miles. I ran the last couple miles at around 9:30 pace. I crossed the line in 11:40. By the time I reached the finish line I was totally spent. I haven’t felt that exhausted after a race in a long time. I was happy with my finishing time, but wasn’t too pleased with the effort I had to expend and how I felt. I couldn’t even imagine running another 50 miles after this.

I am going to have to run a very calculated race to finish Mohican, I can’t afford any mistakes and can’t go out to fast. I am not even going to try to break 24 hours. If I don’t finish because I can’t run 100 miles I can live with that and train harder. If I don’t finish because I tried going to fast, and blow up I’ll be pissed.

Check out Rob's report, I'm not the only one who found this race a wee bit challenging.

I am so sore today I can hardly walk. DWD Gnaw Bone Kicked my ass, and I loved every minute of it.


Running 2 Mohican said...

This is the only race I have ever ran that I loved to hate. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Nice report man! I didn't know you were going to run this...I have been out of touch a little bit. I will have to read Rob's report. Besides a marathon this weekend, whichever one you run....are you doing any other ultras before Mo? I am looking forward to seeing you there....I saw your name on the entrants list. I wish I was crazy enough to try Mo and year I will do both!

Kim said...

I'm just catching up now, very good run and great race report Josh.

Adelyn said...

Wow awesome job!!! That race sounds incredible :) Running with the no trails and the fallen trees (and the crazy hills) makes it seem like much more of an adventure, sort of closer to the true outdoorsy ultra spirit.

You're amazing for doing this!


Josh said...


who else can say they walked away from a race with an official 10 inch DWD bone!


I will most likley do one more 50k before Mo (June 2). I'm crazy enough to try both races. I hope I am crazy enough to finish both races!


Thanks, it was a tough one.


It was definitely and adventure! I couldn't help but laugh when I saw some of the section of the course.

Maria said...

You kick ass Josh! I love your race report :)

Trail Boy said...

I'm running this year next weekend (the relay) and was scouring the web for old reports. I read yours and now I'm completely freaking out. Thanks! And nice job.

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