Under New Management (Pre-Race)
Devil Dog had new RDs this year. I ran this race a couple years ago and was happy to see that it was just as well run. There were a couple of changes this year though. The first is that they added a 50K option (more like 33 miles according to rumor) for those runners who like to be home by dinner and sleep in a warm bed. Another was the morning shuttle service where out went the school buses and in came luxury tour buses. It was a little humorous to see them try and get down the little park road to the start/finish. I learned during the ride that the cost of a tow if they got stuck was going to be $1,000. Turns out there was nothing to fear as there was plenty of room for them to maneuver around.
A quick digression on the shuttle buses. A large turnoff for me initially was the fact that you can’t park at the start/finish, which caused me to keep this race off my race calendar. I’m a little particular about my pre-race routine and don’t want to have to rush due to a late ride. I also don’t want to get stuck afterwards waiting around forever for a ride back to the shuttle lot. My worries were completely overblown. The morning drop off is quick and efficient and I’ve never had to wait longer than a couple minutes for a ride back to my truck.
The other change I noticed was the record finish rate this year. Although maybe you could call this more a continuation of a trend. Honestly, I was a little surprised to see how high it was considering the weather. . . But I’m getting ahead of myself.
“Hey, running hundreds are fun!” (Loop 1)
The race starts at 6am, which means you’ll need a headlamp for the first hour or so. Since the hundred milers start with the 100K runners, the trails are a little clogged for the beginning. This is far from a bad thing since it forces you to go out more conservatively than you want. The first loop includes a bonus 3 mile mini-loop before the first aid station. I was kinda surprised by how much of the course looked familiar from two years ago. I spent a decent amount of this loop running and chatting with Walt who’s now finished 86 hundreds. It was really cool to talk to him about all his adventures. Definitely helped make the miles go by quicker. I finished the loop quicker than my prior race, however was trying not to think to far ahead.
“This could be my day.” (Loop 2)
I was pretty locked in during this loop, just chilling. I was happy to be moving faster than my prior race, however not trying to push the pace. Well, not until I fell in running with Meg who was doing the 100K. We were having a great conversation about all things running and I ended up running a bit faster than I really wanted, but it made the time go by fast and I was having fun. I tripped and fell a couple times during this loop. The first time was a gentle slide on my backside down a hill, but the second time I caught a toe and went down pretty hard. Thankfully that was for the last time.
I ended up finishing this loop much faster than my last race. I’ve now got tons of time in the bank and I’m starting to wonder if sub-24 hours is possible (spoiler: it’s not).
“Halfway Home.” (Loop 3)
This is the transition loop in many different ways. The obvious is that you move from the first half to the second half of the race. You also tend to shift from running with/near other runners to completely by yourself as the 50K and 100K runners begin exiting the course and everyone else gets spread out. The light slowly fades away and you start running in the dark. The easy miles fall away with only the hard ones left. Happy thoughts to dark thoughts. Runnable trails to “runnable” trails. You get the picture.
“Uh-oh, the wheels are starting to wobble.” (Loop 4)
Right at 9pm the rain began. It would continue pretty much non-stop until 7am the next day. Cold weather and rain is my kryptonite, but I’ve figured out how to dress appropriately for it. I’ve got a solid waterproof raincoat. The knit gloves given out as swag for the race were awesome. Buff, long sleeve shirt; it all worked well to keep me warm. Unfortunately, no matter how good your gear, it’s typically only going to work for four to five hours before things start to get miserable. Thankfully, the top end of this range is when I was able to get back to the start/finish for my last transition.
The bigger issue for me on this loop was this was when I started to get behind on my calories. I like to get as many calories as possible via fluids, however I’m drinking less as the temperatures drop. Compounding this is that the rain makes it very awkward to eat solid food. You’ve got to take your gloves off, open your pack, shove some food in your mouth, then get your gloves back on. Or if you leave your gloves on, it takes 10x the time to work zippers if you’re even able to retain that much coordination 15 hours into your run. Best case scenario I’m able to fight through all this and still keep a steady stream of calories down my throat. Worst case scenarios I stop eating entirely. I was waffling between these two extremes as I made my way around the course.
“Screw it. Let’s just get this thing done.” (Loop 5)
At some point during a hundred, you’ll change your focus from a finishing time to just finishing. I hit this point at the start of loop 5. I was borderline cold so spent extra time changing into dry shirt, buff, gloves, and a new raincoat. My headlamp had been bothering me so I also swapped it for my backup. I then took a couple extra minutes in front of the portable heaters. It’s a race so I want a good time. But more importantly I want to have a good time. And while this was far and away the slowest of the 10 loops I’ve done at DD100, I had fun doing it.
I mentioned before how the rain will tend to make eating more challenging. More generally, it’s just a huge time suck. Everything takes longer in the rain. The trails are slower. Which tires you out faster. You loiter in aid stations getting dry and/or warm. You spend a ridiculous amount of time messing with your gear or fixing your clothes. A quick example. Some time during the last loop a branch knocked my headlamp off (don’t ask). Normally, you scoop it up while you’re walking and put it back on without missing a beat. In the rain, I stopped to grab it. Then grabbed it again because it slipped out of my gloved hands. Finally got it on my head. Upside down. Or is it? Take it off, yup, upside down. Back on. Wait, it’s not fitting right. Now the gloves come off. Where do I put them? Shorts pockets are good. Now the headlamp is back on. Yay. Dig the gloves out of my pockets. Why won’t they come out?!?! There they are, gloves are back on. And now I can continue down the trail. Ninety seconds doesn’t sound like much time, but it multiplies over and over again for every little thing.
I had been running near Walt and Greg pretty much the entire race and we came into the last aid station together. After a short stay, I was out. I had places to be. The sun came up about half to the finish. Or more accurately, it got light out. And the rain stopped. Things were finally looking up. Eventually, I reached the random handrail in the middle of the trail, which is about a mile out from the finish. A short walk later and I was being handed my second Devil Dog buckle.
Sneaky hard. (Final Thoughts)
I’ve thought of this race as sneaky hard since running it and that’s how the new RDs are advertising it. The truth is all hundreds are sneaky hard. Mostly because the hard part ends up being different than we think it’s going to be. Typically, we get no further than elevation gain/loss when determining what’s hard or easy. At 10,000 feet of gain/loss, DD100 is about middle of the pack. The trails are mildly technical. In my opinion, the sneaky parts come in the weather (typically cold and/or rainy) and the loop format that makes quitting easier. Regardless of whether you’re looking for an easy hundred or a hard one, this is definitely a race you should put on your calendar.