Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Naked Bavarian 40 Miler - A Conflicted "Race" Report

March 6, 2016 Leesport, PA
The Naked Bavarian in its second year bills itself as "A back to the basics low fee trail run". With a registration fee of $30/$35, I think you'll be hard pressed to find another ultra with such a low rate per mile. I ran the 40 mile race, but 20 mile and Trail Marathon options are available as well. The event is put on by Überendurancesports (Stephan Weiss). I've run his Blues Cruise 50k, The Dirty German 50k and now The Naked Bavarian. Yes, Stephan is from Bavaria and his events are guaranteed to be fun and you're assured they're well run. Stephan is more of an event host than typical Race Director. He's quite approachable and present throughout the events. You can expect fun German music playing, good German food afterwards and if you get swag or any type of award, they're also all German themed.
Naked Bavarian, don't Google it at work...

The Naked Bavarian, like The Blues Cruise takes place at Blue Marsh Lake near Leesport, just outside of Reading Pennsylvania. Blue Marsh (actually Blue Marsh National Recreation Area)is a man made lake as a result of the damming of the Tulpehocken Creek. Blue Marsh was the name of the little town that existed there before eminent domain took it and flooded it in the interest of flood control. As you circumnavigate the lake, you see remnants of the old civilization; like abandoned roads and ruins of old structures. The place is hugely popular in the summer for swimming and sunbathing on the beaches and boating and fishing on the 1100 acre lake. Thirty-six miles of trails are popular as well, attracting hikers, runners and folks on horse back.
Forty miles seemed like a logical progression for me in my ramp up to running the C&O Canal 100 in a few weeks. The Naked Bavarian is a 20 mile lollipop course so for 40 miles, you get to enjoy it twice. I've run two other shorter trail races at Blue Marsh along with the Blues Cruise, so I remembered that the trails were pretty mellow/extremely runnable and elevation gain was just enough to keep you honest on pacing.
The weekend before the event, I came away from my Sunday run with a sore right knee. I tried running Tuesday and it was still pretty bad so I did the unthinkable and took time off. The day before the event I took Mollie and Mojo for a 6 mile jaunt on Blue Mountain, just to assess the state of my knee. My two four legged doctors deemed me fit to race. Had a nice 92nd birthday dinner with my Mom (Dad's 93rd is coming up in a few days) and went home to mix Tailwind bottles and that's when the wheels came off my planning...Janice got sick as hell.

As Saturday evening went on, her sniffing and coughing became non-stop. All night she coughed and sneezed. I can't remember the last time I saw her this sick. When I woke up to eat breakfast, I could feel the heat coming off of her, she had a pretty good fever. There was no way I was expecting her to come with me. She seemed so sick, I wondered even if I should go at all. I kissed Janice goodbye and left her in bed with Mojo and Mollie to hopefully sleep off the crud that had taken control. I've never run an ultra without support. Janice is my crew and she's the best. In the 40 miles, you pass through 10 aid stations and they were all accessible to crew. I had mixed enough bottles that if I needed, I could get a new one each time I saw her. That plan was now out the window.

Early morning at Blue Marsh, overcast and chilly.

I got to Blue Marsh nice and early and got a parking space very near the start/finish. One of the volunteers at registration confirmed that 40 mile runners did need to come completely to the start area before starting their second lap so I set up my Jeep as a drop bag/aid station. I would carry one bottle of Tailwind and revert back to relying heavily on ClifBar gels to get the calories I would need. In the handheld, I also carried ClifShot Electrolyte Hydration mix in handy single serving packets they gave me. I knew there would be water at the aid stations so I could mix my own and not rely on whatever they had. I could visit my Jeep after 20 miles to reload and do it all again.

It was pretty chilly at start time, my dashboard thermometer read 34°. I had on warm gloves and a long sleeve 2XU compression shirt on under my Clifbar t-shirt. With the temps expected to climb to the 40's, shorts were fine for the day. In between every thought, I was wondering how Janice was. I was hoping she was sleeping soundly and getting better. I saw speedy Clayton Bouchard at registration and I saw that his Wife and dogs were with him and again my thoughts went immediately to Janice sick at home. I ran into Tim Nash and Rick Martin, which was cool; they accused me of taking PEDs as I chomped down a salt tablet. Then I saw David and Ashley Lister and their dog and my thoughts went right back home to Janice and our dogs. I realized then that it was really bugging me that I was there without her. I had to keep telling myself that she'd be fine and that this was good practice as I was running the C&O Canal 100 crewless.

Thankfully I didn't have much time to dwell on it and after a brief welcome from Stephan, we were off. The first miles passed quickly and it really wasn't until after the climb at 10 miles that I settled into a comfortable sustainable pace. While the early (and late) miles in the stem of the lollipop have numerous nagging hills, the course offers one sizable climb up the back side of what used to be the Mt. Heidelberg Ski Slope. I ran through the initial two aid stations, but stopped at the third to top off my Tailwind with clear water and I ate an orange slice. I forced myself to drink most of it before reaching the next aid station so I got clear water and mixed ClifShot Hydration in my bottle and repeated that at the aid station 3.5 miles from the start/finish. Staying disciplined with taking in salt, GU Electrolyte Capsules and ClifShot gels my nutrition went pretty well on the first lap.

I was running up the road towards the start/finish and I heard my name and I turned to see Leon Lutz and his daughters out "cheering on the tribe" as he says. Just a kind exchange with the likes of Leon was the perfect thing to lift my spirits. Seeing him also changed my mind about missing my best friend who was home coughing and wheezing. From that point forward, if I had a thought about her I wondered what she would be doing if she were with me. When I saw friends along the way, like Clayton, Tim, David, Ashley and Rick, I used it as a positive lift. Thankfully my brain had turned around.

Moving along on lap #2*

When I run an ultra, I do exactly that; I run it and I don't consider it a race. Sure, afterwards I'll look to see how I shook out amongst the other runners, but to me an ultra is really nothing more than an extremely long training run with clock timing. This time was different for a couple reasons. First, the race director had sent an email that said to check the ultrasignup.com list to make sure we were on it. I checked and I noticed something on the page I had never seen before; ultrasignup assigns a "Target" finishing time for each registered runner and I got 9:05. I thought, wait a minute I can cover 40 miles in less than 9 hours so I left the start with a chip on my shoulder. Second, throughout the first lap and into the second, I noticed I was basically running with the same runners. This happens at every event, but as the second visit to the climb at 30 miles drew closer I began to wonder if I could go faster and get away from them. So now I had my second motivation to go faster. There was a climb in a farmer's field just before the ski slope and I decided to see if I could open a gap on them. I did and I was able to maintain it. I actually felt like I was racing. As I got closer to the finish, fatigue was taking it's toll and I consciously thought about doing just enough to maintain the gap, but not too much to implode. I beat the hell out of that 9:05 projected target and I outran some folks who I'm sure didn't even notice, much less care. (I hope they didn't notice anyway as I probably looked pretty foolish racing for 50somethingth place)

41.4 miles...ya' gotta' keep smiling*

All in all it was a good day on the trails for me. It took 10 miles, but I eventually slipped into a pace I could maintain and even though I slowed toward the finish, I escaped without a catastrophic visit from the pain monster. The hills just before and after the start/finish seemed to take a bigger toll than the bigger climb at the ski slope. The rest of the course is a pleasant site seeing trip around the lake with well stocked aid stations manned by worthy volunteers. Like at The Dirty German and The Blues Cruise, the majority of the volunteers are from the Reading based Pagoda Pacers Running Club. They're definitely a class act. My Plan B nutrition plan went well until I realized on the second lap that I had no more ClifShot electrolyte mix in my handheld (I found it later on the ground behind the Jeep, right where I had dropped it). I drank Gatorade the rest of the way and ate orange slices at the aid stations and I was fine. (Note: I also resisted the yummy Great Lakes Brewing Sampler at the aid station at the base of the ski slope descent.)

That magical aid station at the base of the ski slope*

The temperature got up in the 40's and when the sun was shining it was a beautiful day to be on the trail and it was pretty cool to see so many members of the "tribe" out enjoying it too.  I highly recommend this low/no frills race, I give it an A+ the whole way around.

Other stuff I used:

Pearl Izumi running shorts
ClifBar Trucker Hat & HeadSweats ClifBar Visor - thanks for the cool stuff ClifBar
SportHill lightweight gloves (2nd lap)

Stephan said, "ya ya and it really works! When the weather's nice the
pretty lady comes out and when the weather's bad the man comes out."

For those wondering, I got home and even though the dogs kept a close eye on her, Janice wasn't any better; in fact she missed work Monday. As I write this she's starting to feel better.

Next up for me on my Ultra of the Month membership is the C&O Canal 100 in Knoxville Maryland. I'm returning to avenge my 2014 DNF.

*Photo note: No Janice not only meant no crew, it meant no fun photos, as she's our family photographer. Huge thank you to Christopher Hand and Caroline for kindly lending their photographs.

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