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Ryan's First Solo Unsupported Ultra!

10/27/2019 | 12HR Trail | 80.53M 

Ryan took his first ever unsupported ultra in stride, having achieved first overall, and losing his soul along the way. 


The premise of the many 6.2 mile loops can you do in 12 hours....So before starting this race, I had a few goals in mind. The first was to see if I could complete an ultra-marathon without any support. The next was to fix the nutritional issues that I had happen to me in the last ultra. And the final goal was to get a new PR for the longest distance I ran. I knew that I wanted to try for around 75 miles which would be averaging about 1 loop per hour. A reasonable goal, but still a lofty goal. This tale actually begins a few months prior. I knew that I wanted to test my limits and do something outrageous in North Dakota. Upon research, it became clear that the one organization that put the most amount of endurance events in North Dakota was Extreme North Dakota Racing. I looked at a few of the races which they were offering, and the one that stood out to me, with the weather not being too unbearable was the END Trails 12 hour run.


It seemed like a legit challenge, and I decided to sign up at the end of September before the next price increase. Flash forward to this past weekend, it was the NSIC Conference championships for Minot’s Men’s and Women’s Cross Country in Wayne, Nebraska. Looking at the travel that the team was going to do, I knew it was going to be a squeeze to get enough hours of sleep leading up to this event. We actually ended up driving 10 hours + on Saturday and got back to Minot 30 minutes after midnight. Luckily, I was able to get about 4 hours of total sleep on the bus, even though it was broken off in shorter increments. Turtle River State Park, where the event is located, is about 3 hours from Minot. Since the race started at 8AM, I knew that meant I had to leave by 4:20 in the morning. Which after packing up and loading everything in the car in the early morning hours, led to me getting about 2.5 hours of sleep, and of course getting up around 4AM.


The 3-hour drive in the dark was nothing special, but I was relieved to not be driving anymore when I got to the park. Picked up my packet and started organizing the back of my car for quick transitions of food and racing supplies. The transition area for getting my supplies ended up being a mile into the course. I then used the bathroom, and before I knew it, the race director was explaining the course. As you can see by the map, this was not a very easy to follow course (at least for the first loop). Started the race around 8:03AM and tried to just follow people and have them show me the course. That worked out for about 5 minutes until a member of a 12-hour team made the wrong turn. I followed her and let her know. She didn’t have a map on her, so we ended up figuring out the first loop together. There were essentially 4 loops with a series of out and backs on a few sections. Amanda from the team, a nurse from MN ended up running the first 2 loops with me. When she switched off to her teammate Amy, I continued on. Amy from ND, and the connection between these 4 women ran the next 2 loops with me. The contingent of women decided to run with me to keep me company, and to make sure I was doing ok. It was super nice of them.


Laps 5 and 6 were run with Kristen from Thompson, ND. She owns her own PT business and is the distance coach for Thompson HS in North Dakota. We chatted a lot about her endeavors with her business, and it turns out I am recruiting two of her athletes! That was a nice connection for sure. The 7th loop, I ran the first 2 miles of the course with Leslie. She was the last member of the team “Boom shaka-laka.” The pace I was keeping, which was around 8:30, was a bit quick for her, so I ended up dropping her. Flash forward to the 6-hour mark, and I actually saw Amanda catching on me. I use this as a reference point because even though I was in the 12-hour race, there was a 6-hour race that started at 8AM, a 10K race/one loop that started at 2PM, along with the 12-hour team race. In 5 hours and 50 minutes I was able to cover 7 loops, or 43.4 miles. I knew 13 loops were attainable. On the 8th loop going into the 7th hour, I got passed by Amanda, and 2 other guys who were doing the 10K trail race. This was the only time I was passed, until the relay team passed me again 4 hours later. Up to this point, I was taking in about 16-20 ounces of water per hour, and about 250 calories an hour. Liquid was a 50/50 H20 Gatorade mix, adding in soda 4 hours in. Food consisted of pretzels, vanilla Oreos, peanuts, smarties, fruit bars, bananas, grapes, mini cinnamon raisin bagels, and oatmeal cream pies.


Surprisingly everything was all nice and dandy. But as most things go in Ultras, when everything seems going your way, something bad has to happen. Nope, it was not with my legs and actually those bad boys were hanging in there just fine. I also wasn’t feeling drowsy. You guessed it; my stomach started to poop the bed. This probably was what did me in for not finishing all 13 loops in 12 hours. I grabbed Mike & Ikes on the transitions of loop 10. Figured some sugar would do me some good. Nope, it did me dirty. Ended up dropping them off in my car mid loop, and my stomach and eating was messed up for the rest of the race. This is about 9 hours in. Luckily, I always carry Tums with me. The bag I had it in was with me the whole time, so it looked a lot like crack (not that I know what that looks like) being all crushed up and such. In a moment of desperation, I popped three of them down. Waited for about 20 minutes and not much happened. I tried having a bagel, which should be light on the stomach, but I didn’t even want to eat it. I also was struggling consuming water because my stomach was getting sloshy from the liquid. After using the bathroom, it was clear I was starting to get dehydrated.


On the 11th loop, I made it a mission to consume a cups worth of grapes, and both 10-ounce water bottles I had on me. I did just that, but the effects were not noticeable. Loop 12 comes around, and I am starting to get a bit delusional, my focus is poor, so I fill one bottle with a Bang, and another with straight water. A few miles during the loop I decide I am going to walk until I can actually finish all the liquid on me. I also was seeing double at this point. So, I walked about 2 miles (mile 72 and 73) to accomplish this task. This is also where I see my newfound friends for the final time until the end. I finish this loop, and in the pitch-black dark in an hour 23 minutes. This was my slowest loop for the entire day. With an hour and 2 minutes to go, I go out for the last loop. Earlier in the day I was cranking away at 8-minute miles, but now my 10-minute mile started to feel like the earlier 8-minute mile. I was determined to run to get to 76 miles. After I got to 76 miles, I decided to walk to 77.


My hands were getting cold from walking so after I got done with that mile, I was like screw my hands being cold I need to warm up. With only 3 miles to go I just started to run. I cranked away and looked at my watch knowing I wasn’t going to be able to officially finish the loop before the time ran out. I was ok with that. I thought to myself, let’s just run to 12 hours. When I got to that point, I was so far into the loop, I said let’s just finish the loop. Sure enough I finished the loop in an hour and 12 minutes, the second slowest loop of the day. I walked inside the staging area, and everyone was gone, except the team of women that helped me during the race. I couldn’t thank them enough for their support. I was then greeted by the race director who congratulated me on being the winner, and said they typically give a $100 gift certificate to the local running store (Grand Forks, ND) but sees I am not from around here and asked if $100 cash would work. I said of course, and Benjamin Franklin went into my pocket. Some volunteers cooked some rice and chicken and offered me some. I took 2 servings of that. I also at half a can of lays chips. Now that I was able to sit down, I could finally stomach larger amounts of food. Left the race around 9PM and went over to the hotel in Grand Forks, ND. Went in the hot tub, ate a minimal amount of pizza, and passed out for 9 hours! Overall, after looking at this race, I can say with 100% certainty that I was able to accomplish all of the goals that I set out for myself.


Even though I technically did 12 loops, I really finished 13 with and extra 10 minutes added on to the clock. Take a few miles of walking away, a box of Mike & Ikes, or a hill or two, I may have been able to get 13 loops in. Regardless, I did this self-supported and mostly everything worked out well. Chewing Extra mint gum, the last 2 loops helped ease my appetite, and the energy drink helped keep me alert. Used the bathroom twice in the race (expected that with it being such a long time). I also managed not to listen to music (the Mountaineer playlist) until the 7-hour mark. Had only 5 Advil throughout the race as well. Some stats from the race. Burned 10,000 calories, while completing 115,000 steps for the day. I finished each loop which was 6.2 miles in order as follows. 49:00, 47:00, 47:00, 49:00, 50:00, 52:00, 52:00, 51:00, 59:00, 55:00, 59:00, 01:22:00, 01:12:00. That’s an average of 56:09 per loop. Some of these loops included filling up my fuel pack, and I would attribute about 20 minutes for this throughout the race. With 80 miles of running, and the elevation being 2900 feet of change overall, it is safe to say the elevation change per mile averaged out to 36.25 feet. Only 7 miles were slower than 10-minute pace, because of walking/bathroom breaks. This didn’t happen until mile 65.


Mile 2 at 7:07 was my fastest mile and mile 73 at 19:25 (included a fuel up, bathroom break, and walking) was the slowest. I kept saying to myself that I have to keep moving and followed through with that mantra. While the course was repetitive, and I was tired after the fact, I would certainly do a race like this again. Got a nice blister on the inside of my left foot, and one under the toe of my right foot. I am going to do some research to see if I can fix that problem as this is the second time this has happened to me. A day after, my legs are tired, but not dead. They don’t feel as bad as they did after the Cayuga 50, but that is probably because of the lack of elevation change. Right foot is the worst, but I think that is just the muscle that I twisted when previewing the 8K course on Friday, and then running around during the race on Saturday. For my next Ultra, I want to focus on the 100K distance, as this seems to be my new breaking point. Race temps started at a real feel of 22, raised slightly during the latter part of the day, and dropped to a real feel of 18 by nightfall. Should be able to run tomorrow, but stay tuned.

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