Devil Dog 100K at Prince William Forest Park, Triangle, Virginia
Elevation Gain: 6250' ..................... Results
December 2, 2017 - A race run outside the gates at Quantico by Marines, for Marines and trail dawgs like us.... I had to be there. No stranger to PW Forest Park, I had run there dozens of times when I lived in Woodbridge. The trails are woodsy and runnable. Not too much climbing, but just enough to keep you honest. I needed this kind of race to wrap up the year to regain confidence after much of the year had to be scuttled to heal and rehab an injured knee.
After two fifty-mile efforts in October I felt ready to push it out a bit. While I signed up for the hundred mile race, I dropped it down before arriving so that a finish was within reach. With a plan to take off serious running and racing until spring, I could run with abandon without trying to protect injuries.
Wrapping my left knee well, both above and below, I felt I had no excuses. I was still running a low grade fever from an infection I had been miserable with for a week, but that was not going to slow me down. From the off-site parking lot I rode over to the start in the pre-dawn hours with Bryan Slotterbach. It was good to get jazzed up with someone you knew. The start temperature was right about freezing; it felt good. A couple hundred of us channeled immediately onto single track down the hill and across the bridge to begin the first of either three or five loops through the park. With an hour of darkness after the 0600 start I was content to get into queue and follow the line of lights ahead of me. My vision at night is becoming problematic; more and more I need company with additional lighting to see where I am going.
The trail is rather tight for the most part and the group that I was following lost contact with the field ahead. The conga line seemed to be too slow for too long and walking far too much after two and a half miles, so I broke out and forged ahead with several people in tow. With the increased light of early twilight it was enough to give me confidence in my foot placement and pick up the tempo. I did lose footing and hyper-extended my bad knee (of course) on the icy surface of a boardwalk early on, which would bother me through the first lap, but not thereafter. Once I found my rhythm I could relax and engage in conversation while at the same time focusing on my game plan for the day.
There were Marines everywhere - active Marines, retired Marines, spouses and girlfriends of Marines, Marines at the aid stations, and then there were the SIGNS (see at right) - very motivating. At times it felt very much like being back in the Corps for one of those early morning 0400 runs in darkenss in formation. Thoroughly enjoyable.
The single track trail meandered back and forth through the park, down to and along streams, climbing up to higher ground before once again returning to and across the streams on several bridges. Yellow oak leaves still clung to their branches giving the entire day the feel of an extended cross country meet. While there were some technical sections with rocky outcrops to slow you down, it wasn't necessary to walk very often, even on some of the longish climbs. It was just a good day for a long run and I could find little reason to walk just because I became fatigued.
stream photos courtesy George Hollerbach
Ran with Julius Garcia and George Hollerbach a couple of times each during the course of the day, but never bumped into Ron Ross who I must have been ahead of me the entire time.
The first lap of 22.75 miles ticked off in just shy of 5 hours which surprised me because of the slowish early miles. The next time around seemed to be at a quicker tempo, but still it took shy of 5 hours to round the second loop of 19.5 miles. I was attempting to cover as much ground as I could before dark, so didn't linger at any of the three main aid stations Camps Remi, Gunny, and Toofy. Gotta love the names. Made it about to mile 46 before I had to turn on my flashlight. After my third visit to Camp Gunny there was still some good running on an open thoroughfare so that I hit 50 miles almost exactly at 12 hours. That was alright, considering I still had a lot of run left in my legs.
But darkness has become my nemesis, even with a near full moon to help light our way under the leafy trees. I was forced to slow over the final 12 miles of single track, with some of it being technical. Temps must have topped 50 degrees during the day, but dropped quickly after the sun set back into the thirties. With the dampness along the streams it was too chilly to walk much. So I kept up an eternal ultra shuffle, plodding toward the finish at a literal blind pace. Maybe 15 people passed me, seemingly zooming past with little effort, even at 3 mph. My legs and feet had a lot of life in them, so it was regrettable that I had to give up probably an hour to compensate on the final lap, finishing the 19.5 miles in 6 hours and 20 minutes, for an overall finish time of 16:18:30 for 38th place of 83 finishers. I'll take it. My knee was swollen some, but feeling absolutely no pain. I had an enjoyable day and am encouraged to continue dreaming of long miles on trails.
The finisher's award was a 50 caliber cartridge (at right) made into a bottle opener. Outstanding. A real keeper. I appreciated Kevin and Dan Ravasio cheering me on at multiple points of the course. They were there in support of Kevin's sister Jenny. The social aspect of these things is still very important to me. I hung around eating some yummy lentil soup at the finish for an hour and enjoyed a big shot of Jim Beam to ease any post-race pain. By the time I took the shuttle back to my car it was midnight. Warming up the car, I stripped and crawled into my sleeping back for a comfortable night's sleep under a full moon, dreaming about the next one!