Tag Archives: Hell Creek Ranch

Woodstock Warmup!

FRIDAY’S FORECAST FOR HELL: HOT, with rain showers likely, then cooling off on Saturday. Trail conditions: 200 yards of campground road followed by 61.9 miles of slippery, shoe-eating mud.

Just hours now to Run Woodstock and my first-ever 100K trail race, starting at 4:00 Friday afternoon, and crossing the finish line somewhere between 4:00-6:00 a.m. Saturday. The rain is also supposed to start around 4:00 Friday afternoon, and end somewhere around 6:00 a.m. Saturday. Rain, dude, we’re good buddies and all, but why couldn’t you have signed up for a different event? Not that a little rain bothers me, of course. Not at all. Won’t even notice. Yeah.

Woodstock - Making Sandwiches

Three hours making sandwiches! It’s comforting to know I have skills like this to fall back on if I ever lose my job.

At least the weather forecast made my preparation simple. Pack everything! That done, I went over to Hell Creek Ranch to help set up, making PB&J sandwiches and unpacking medals for the 1,600 people running this weekend. Mother Nature was there too, dumping about fifteen minutes of light rain on us. Just warming up for the races, you know.

I saw Randy, the race organizer there, and asked him about the quality of the trails. “Oh, they’re fine from the campground to the woods,” he said. Oh well, at least only the “hundies” (100K and 100-mile runners) will be out there Friday night. I can only imagine what the trails will be like Saturday morning when the other races start. Might need to call in the kayakers from the summer triathlons.

Super cool, right? Isn't it worth an all-night run on muddy trails in the rain to  get one of these? Sure, I'll wait while you think about it.

Super cool, right? Isn’t it worth an all-night mud run in the rain to get one of these? Sure, I’ll wait while you think about it.

Full weekend report to follow. For now, gotta finish my pre-race training regimen: carbo-loading and rest. Let me tell you, sitting around watching TV and eating pie isn’t easy. Seriously. I am not used to this. But I’m doing my best.

Run Woodstock: The Big Five-O! (Miles)

I CROSSED THE FINISH LINE AT RUN WOODSTOCK around 4:30 p.m. Saturday (thrilling photo on order). After ten and a half hours on the trails I was tired, sore, and thoroughly sick of looking at trees and dirt. But when I emerged from the woods the campers lining the road cheered me on, and a burst of energy carried me across at a full sprint. My first 50-miler was in the books!

Stylin' it.

Stylin’ it!

Woodstock happens every September at Hell Creek Ranch in Pinckney, where runners take over the campground on Friday and run, hang out, and get their hippie on until Sunday. It’s a fascinating mix of hardcore effort, laid back attitude, live music, camping, and tie-dyed spectators clapping and yelling encouragement for every runner that passes.

At the center of it all, however, is the running – lots of running. While there are fun runs and short events throughout the weekend, the main events are the ultramarathons Friday and Saturday, ranging from 50K to 100 miles on the set of singletrack trails and gravel roads around Hell (MI) and Hell Creek Ranch. Although 50 miles would be 16 miles longer than I’d ever run before (the 50K in 2012), I was ready. More than ready. Nervous? Hell, no. Sound that horn!

Saturday, 6:00 a.m. Hard to complain considering the 100-milers have been out for 14 hours already.

Saturday, 6:00 a.m. Hard to complain considering the 100-milers have been on the trails for 14 hours already.

The horn sounded Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m., after the traditional Hendrix-style national anthem from local rocker Lemon James. As it was still pitch dark, I donned my headlamp. My backpack held a jacket, energy bars, camera, and the mandatory cell phone (on the trails you can “fall and not get up” a long way from help).

At first there was some serious congestion, as several hundred runners squeezed into single file on the narrow trail. But after just a few miles we’d spread out enough that I was able to run my chosen pace the rest of the way. And by the final few miles, with the shorter races done, it got downright lonely out there.

I followed a 16-mile loop on the trails, marked with flags and signs, that all the ultra races used. The 50K runners did two loops, 50-milers three, 100K four, and the 100-milers six. Aid stations were set up every four miles, fully stocked with sugary and salty snacks, sandwiches, drinks, soup, and coffee. 

Rather than go into a lot of narrative on the race itself, here are a few photos with highlights – some good, some less so.

One loop down! Change shirt, ditch headlamp - good to go.

One loop down! Change shirt, ditch headlamp – good to go.

At the halfway mark with my "shadow" Carolyn. (More about that in my next post.)

At the halfway mark with my “shadow”, Carolyn. (More about her in my next post.)

Oh, look, some mountain bikers. Cool! What's that - there's 200 MORE COMING? Oh, @&$@*!

Oh, look, some mountain bikers. Cool! What’s that – there’s 200 MORE COMING? Oh, @&$@*! (Unfortunately true – there was a scheduling conflict that never got fixed.)

At the finish, with medal and age group award. (After 50 miles this was as close as I could get to a smile. Sorry.)

At the finish, with medal and age group award. (After 50 miles this was as close as I could get to a smile. Sorry.)

All good things...(sigh). Helping with takedown on Sunday.

All good things…(sigh). Helping with takedown on Sunday.

Next up: Lessons learned, some tricks I used to stay mentally focused, and what’s next on the agenda.

Run Woodstock: The Naked Truth

RUN WOODSTOCK OFFERS A “NATURAL” OPTION for its Friday and Saturday night runs that, as far as I know, is unique to running events open to the general public. And the term “natural miles” means exactly what it implies. You are allowed a headlamp, socks, and running shoes; everything else is free and open to the evening breezes.

So, did I, Mr. Straightlaced Uptight White Collar Guy, take advantage of it?

********** NOTE: If either of my daughters is reading this, stop here and go read your Bible like you were brought up to do. **********

So, did I, Mr. Straightlaced Uptight White Collar Guy, take advantage of it?

In a word . . . Yes, I did.

Now there was nothing in particular that titillated me (*) about nude trail running, but it was required to complete the Weekend Challenge. And besides, how many chances do you get to try it without getting arrested? I decided if I felt good enough after the 50K, it would be my “what the hell” event – and I’d be too sore to be self-conscious. “It’s awkward for about 30 seconds,” someone told me, “and then it’s no big deal.”

The 50K went really well, so Saturday night around 7:30, after collecting my costume award, off I went into the woods with the evening fun run crowd. For about one mile we all ran together, and then the trail forked at this sign:

Sorry, the camera was put away at this point. Come run it yourself next year if you’re that curious.

To the left I went, grateful that I was far from alone. I’d heard the group on Friday was fairly small (in number), although there’d been some excitement when several people lost their way and wound up on the same trail as the clothed runners.

A half mile deeper into the woods the trail opened into a clearing, where a small bar had been set up, with race organizers serving beer and wine.  Were they “natural” too? Naturally! After laying my clothes on a nearby tarp, I joined the group – and then stood around waiting for people to run with. Most of them were more interested in drinking and talking, but having gotten lost 300 yards from the starting gate that morning, no way was I going out solo at night in the buff. Finally, a group of about five or six people headed down the trail, and I joined them for a loop of about one mile. With one difference (see “what I learned” below) it felt much like any other trail run – even better, as the evening was warm and there weren’t any clothes to get all sweaty.

Imagine a makeshift bar in the background, and all the people here without any clothes on. That’s pretty much what it was like. (And it was darker out.)

Back at the bar, I had half a beer and hung out  made small talk  chit-chatted a while, but soon called it quits, got back into my tie-dye, and headed back to camp. Along the way I passed three women who recognized my outfit. “Did you run naked?” they asked me.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I told them. But I showed them the button I’d earned. There was much giggling, and one of them described her husband and asked if I’d seen him there (I had). She said he had a cute butt. I took her word for it.

So what did I learn? One, that not only women have issues with bouncing. (That bit in the Bible about “gird up thy loins before battle” is actually very practical advice.) And you really want to stay on the path when running through thistles.

“Did it feel liberating?” someone asked me later, obviously expecting an affirmative response. No. It felt really awkward, and for a lot more than 30 seconds. I’m not the most outgoing person even in normal situations.

Would I do it again? Sure. The run itself was actually kind of fun. But I’m not counting the days or anything.

I heard the next morning that the bar had stayed open fairly late, and that a group of inebriated nudists had staggered out of the woods and gathered around the campfire by the pavilion for awhile. Sigh…I miss all the excitement.


(*) I just had to get the word “titillated” in there somehow.

Woodstock, continued – A Fall, A Call, and A Stall

AM I IN TROUBLE WITH GOD? Today was my first run since completing the Run Woodstock Weekend Challenge last Sunday. Kept it short at 8.7 miles, which felt good but enough, plus I needed to save energy for an Aikido clinic this afternoon. Anyway, it put my running distance for the year at exactly 666 miles. Ummm…look, Lord, if this is about what I did last Saturday night, it’s all a big misunderstanding.

Speaking of, back to what I did last weekend. I’d completed one loop of the 50K course, feeling good. With the trail drying out, I figured the second loop would be easy – but Saturday’s surprises were far from over. It started with the loss of my face plant virginity.

Sorry, there are no photos of the actual event, but click here for a reasonable re-creation.

Anyone who runs trails knows about the obstacles that require an eye be kept on the path at all times. I’ve tripped during trail runs many times, but had always recovered without falling. And then, just a few miles from the 50K finish, I was blithely cruising along when a tree root jumped up from the ground and grabbed my foot. The resulting crash was not pretty, but I was unhurt; even my pride was okay, as there were no witnesses. After a quick dust-off I was running again, and finished the race without any trouble.

At the finish line I collected my medal and reached for my phone to text my family – only it wasn’t there. What happened? I knew I’d put it in my belt pouch. Then I remembered the fall; it must have popped out of the pouch when I hit the ground. Over to the pavilion to report the loss, feeling oddly calm; I had the feeling I would get the phone back soon, and that someone else would benefit from it.

I was far from the only casualty of the trail that day.

I went home to rest, and  while talking with my wife (she was trying to talk me into buying a smartphone) her phone rang. My low-tech, Luddite flip phone had been found! “My wife found it in the mud,” the guy on the line explained. “She was grateful to find it, because she was an hour and a half overdue, and she used it to call me.” So like the late start on my August bike trip where I found someone’s wallet in the road, a seemingly bad event had turned into a blessing.

Me with Jason, showing off our award-winning costumes.

I dressed for the occasion that evening, digging into our old clothes bin for a matching set of tie-dye shirt and shorts. This drew enough attention at the evening festivities to get me one of the “Dressed Most Like a Hippie” awards. Here is where I met Jason, the tie-dye superhero in the previous post’s photo. All that remained was to complete the evening run, and after some initial complaints from my quads and knees, I was off into the woods once more.

So what’s the bit that’s causing signs and wonders to appear in my running logs (666 running miles and 2,222 combined running/cycling miles)? It has to do with whether I actually earned this button right here:

Full story in the next post. I promise. No more stalling.

Coming up: Did he, or didn’t he? And does he have the balls to tell the tale?