2013 Graveyard 100

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I really like the Graveyard 100 logo, and it makes for a great finishers buckle.

Like the weather in the Outer Banks, the 2013 Graveyard 100 was unpredictable, with the final course being decided 5 hours into the race. The organizers and the runners both rose to the challenge, and the event was a success.

1 Race Overview

The Graveyard 100 is a point-to-point 100 mile and 100 Km race along North Carolina's Outer banks. The Outer Banks are series of narrow barrier islands, over 200 miles long. They are famous for being the site of the Wright Brothers first powered flight and for the 1,000+ shipwrecks that have occurred there. These shipwrecks gave the area the nickname 'the graveyard of the Atlantic', hence the name of the race and the race logo. The race is a flat asphalt course, but the weather at this time of year is unpredictable and can be severe, creating some unique challenges.

2 The Weather

Just before the 2013 race a winter storm hit the East Coast, causing flooding and storm damage. Even after the storm passed, high winds caused the sea to wash over the course route at high tides. The biggest problem was at Rodanthe (mile 60), which caused periodic road closures and stranded vehicles. Thankfully the race director had contingency plans in place so the race was not cancelled. The race started as planned at 5am, and at the 9am high tide the damaged area was evaluated. At that point the road was impassable and the course was changed to an out-and-back. The road closure posed a number of issues beyond the course change. For the race director, supplies and volunteers were staged on the southern part of the course and were cut off, so he had to buy new supplies at short notice. Everyone had to change hotel plans, but the local companies were extremely helpful and cooperative. For the runners, the biggest problem with the road closure was that the wind was blowing from the north, so the tail wind would become a head wind for the second half of the race. Thankfully there was no rain, and the clear skies made for sunburn during the day and a breathtaking night sky.

3 The Runners

The race director had invited some of the best ultrarunners to the 2013 race. He invited Mike Morton, the holder of the men's US 24 hour record and a number of course records. Mike won Badwater last year, but missed setting the course record by 90 seconds, so when the race director asked Mike who he'd most like to race, he said Valmir Nunes, the current Badwater record holder. Sadly Mike had a stress fracture in his foot and could not race, but I got to spend some time before the race with Valmir, who is a charming and softly spoken Brazilian. The Women's field included Connie Gardner, who is the women's US 24 record holder and is preparing for the 24 hour world championships in May. It was also great to see the ultrarunning Icon Fred "Doom" Dummar back after he injured his knee landing badly on a parachute jump.

4 My Race

The first 20 miles of the race went well, with my pace a little faster than I expected, partly due to the tail wind. For the next few miles the route went through streets that were flooded. The ankle deep cold water was not fun, but not much of a problem. However, the ankle deep quicksand was a problem, filling your Shoes with sharp stones and sand, and it slowed progress down to a crawl. The race director had said at the race briefing that it was okay to go around the flooding if we wanted to. It added a few blocks of extra distance, but that was well worth it for the time saved. At about mile 28 I found out we would have to turn around, which was bad news as the wind had been rising from 8 MPH at the start to 14 MPH with 21 MPH gusts by 9am. At the turn around on Bodie Island the wind was strong enough to make running difficult and my pace declined. 3.5 miles after the turn around we got back off Bodie Island and the wind was not so bad, but my pace never picked back up again. I finished in 17:41 as third male, fourth overall (provisional results).

5 What worked

  • No nausea. My last few races I've been plagued by severe nausea, so I'm happy that this did not occur again. I think that I avoided the nausea by drinking more. I drank about 2 gallons (8 liters) over the course of the race, which is far more than I was sweating out. I needed to urinate every 2-3 miles, which was annoying, but I wanted to err on the side of drinking more to see if this would fix the nausea issue. I had no concerns about Hyponatremia as I got a lot of salt from my drink.
  • Fuel. I got a good number of calories from my Go Juice (~4,500), and I experimented with drinking Ensure as well. In training I've been putting flax oil into my Go Juice, but this requires a blender so it was not practical during the race. The 6 bottles of ensure provided some extra fat as well as 1,500 calories. I also ate about a dozen small soft cookies, which went down well and gave me an extra ~900 calories. Soft cookies are better than hard ones as they have a higher fat content and are also a lot quicker to eat. I probably ate too many at once, which was a mistake I won't repeat. I also had a couple of gels, so that's about 7,000 calories in total.
  • Desitin. I was recommended Desitin for preventing the dreaded 'monkey butt' when I put together my list of solutions to common ultrarunning problems. This is the first 100 miler that I've tried this approach and I didn't have any problems at all, though this was not a hot, sweaty race.
  • Sunglasses. I recently swapped from Oakley sunglasses to Tifosi Tyrant because I wanted a photochromic lens that would go clear for running at dawn and dusk. I've found the Tifosi 'Night Light' to work well and I find them just as comfortable as my Oakley's.
  • Morton's Stretch. This stretch didn't fix my dead legs, but it did help a little.
  • Hokas. This is the longest race I've run in the Hokas, and I appreciated the extra padding on the asphalt. I had remarkably little foot soreness after the race, but overall I'm not happy with the design of their Shoes as they have a tiny toebox. I think we will see far more Shoes like the Hokas that are 'maximum cushioning, minimum drop'. Already there are Shoes like the Altra Torin and the Mizuno Wave Evo Cursoris that provide about 2/3rds the cushioning of the Hokas, but designed for a human foot.

6 What didn't work

  • Dead legs. My legs got weaker faster than I anticipated, especially my quads. There may be several reasons for this.
    • My taper for the race was just a week, which is not long enough.
    • I have not been doing as much downhill training as I'd like. I'm planning on getting a treadmill that will do decline so that I can get in the long steady downhill runs.
    • I didn't take any walking breaks for the first 40 miles. I'm not sure if this is why my legs got so weak, but the lack of Walking Breaks did hurt my time.
  • Radiation burns. The Graveyard course has little shade once the sun comes up, and I didn't think about sunburn until it was way too late. It's quite possible that the sunburn impacted my race, as sunburn has been shown to impact the ability to exercise in the heat and the cold.