Apples Anyone? 2013 Bad Apple Ultra Race Recap

Alarm set for 3am on a Saturday morning?  Yup, must mean that the morning will unfold to another adventurous run.   A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a Facebook post by a fellow trail running friend that mentioned how excited they where for the Bad Apple Ultra.  I remembered hearing about this race a year ago as it definitely sounded interesting.  Basically the event is a timed event; 3, 6 or 12 hours and you can do this either with a team relay or solo.  The course is a 4 mile loop around an apple orchard.  Crazy huh?  So when I seen this race mentioned and cleared it with my wife….I was registered for the 12 hour solo division.  BOOM!

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Leading up to the weekend I was thinking that I’d like to target 60 miles as I know that would be a solid day of effort to achieve but also if the day turned out to be perfect I’d aim for the 70+ club (any one that runs 18 laps are added to the 70+ club crew in which no one yet had completed that achievement).  While 70 seemed impossible I broke down the splits and thought that I could be close to do it.  Overall though I was really looking forward to another small organized event with fellow trail runners plus this would be my first timed event vs a set distance.

October 24th and snow? Only in Michigan.

October 24th and snow? Only in Michigan.

Oh dark 3:00 AM the iPhone alarm sounded off.  Time to roll out of bed and start the normal long run morning routine.  Bonus about today’s run was that it started at 6am AND I got to ride shotgun thus I could consume my breakfast on the way up.  Gear packed and breakfast in hand, off we rolled to Klackle Orchards in Greenville, MI.  The weather leading into the weekend wasn’t the perfect scenario though.  Towards the end of last week we had an incredible dusty of snow in the Mattawan area.  Then on Friday another front was coming through with wind.  20+ mph gusty winds that is.  I definitely backed gear for any occasion but was truly hoping that the weather come start time was at least close to ideal.  Positive thinking, right?

Upon arrival at probably the largest apple orchards I’ve ever seen, it was starting to rain and the wind was stupid strong.  There was an old, old school windmill right by the start/finish line and there were times I’d though that it was going to collapse from the wind.  I kept watching my phone and scanning every weather app I had as I must have thought that if one of them showed signs of good weather that I’d be set with the gear I was planning to race in.  So Accuweather.com was my deciding factor to go with no rain gear.  Found out later that Accuweather.com was NOT accurate.

After a quick race director talk at the pre-race runner meeting, we toed the line (of shall I say lined up under the end of the tent canopy) with our headlamps a blazing and “GO” was shouted and away we went.  Into the dark, windy, raining, windy, cold, windy (did I mention windy) morning.  The course was well-marked with reflective flags along with pumpkins and apple pie plates.  The course basically winds through an apple/pumpkin orchard that crosses a main road twice.  There are a couple of sections of true switch back style of single track trails.

I basically geared up with my INKnBURN Zombie short sleeve shirt, INKnBURN Skull 4Arms, Salomon tight shorts, Saucony gloves and a hat.  Yup, not really great wind chill/rain weather gear but I was optimistic the rain would stop at least.  About the end of lap two I needed to warm up.  My gloves and shirt were soaked from the horizontal rain and my fingers where frozen.  So I quickly threw on my old trusty Salomon jacket to make sure my core would warm up and also switched to some Saucony gloves that have a wind fabric material that I thought would work better.  This would be the best move all day as soon as I was half way around lap three my core was warming back up and more importantly my hands were too.  Oh yeah shoes….I was decided to roll with my old trusty Salomon SpeedCross 3 CS as I knew they would be perfect for at least a marathon’s distance in the muddy conditions that the course might provide.  And there were some muddy sections on the course but I never had a problem with them in regards to traction.  Bonus too is that these shoes have the CS (Climashield) that basically makes them water-resistant thus dry feet + warm feet = happy feet.

As the morning continued on and the sun was starting to rise, the rain stopped and we started to see the surroundings of what we’ve already spent running in for a couple of hours in the dark.  Apples, apples, apples, apples…..quickly learned that this orchard was HUUUUUGE!  They had a covered outdoor merry-go-round.  Didn’t see that in the dark.  Well as we continued on our run the morning’s weather was starting to shed light to a better day.  I was feeling pretty good but started finding myself not liking the feel of my shoes as the surface of the course was starting to dry out and harden up.  I told myself that when I knocked out 28 miles I’d roll in for a shoe change and a new pair of gloves.

After a lacing up a new pair of kicks, mittens and ditching the jacket it was time to get back into the race.  My splits where still on but I needed to be more efficient in the aid stations AND only stop when I needed too.  This race has aid stations setup every 2 miles which is great as I didn’t need to carry anything with me but then you depend on the aid stations thus you need to be quick.  I think I might have done better if I did carry at least a smaller handheld…just another lesson learned in the long races.  As I crossed for my 9 lap (36 miles) it was just before noon thus I knew I was still in sight of a possible 72 mile completion but I knew I had to either step up the pace as I was shifting off pace as I rolled in.  Throughout the day my buddy Peter and I would meet up and would knock out some laps together.  Noon also brought out new faces on the course as the 6 hour runners started.

Bathroom? Just use the pallet.

Bathroom?  Yup

Mile 46 trickled bye and BOOM, all of a sudden an internal second wind appear and away I went.  Wasn’t sure if was the tunes I had on (pretty it might have been a little since I replayed a song for like 8 miles worth of time and yes it was a song from an 80s movie – RAD) or it was the caffeine from a couple early aid stations I took in from some sweet tea.  That little push was great as it sent me onto a PR for the fastest 50 miles I’ve ever run.  Yes this course is no Yankee Springs nor North Country but I was ecstatic as I ran 50 miles in 8 hours and 50 minutes.  Yes, I pulled a Zach Baker and threw my hands up in the air when I seen that on my Garmin.

Well the day’s pace did get slower and I did fall off from hitting the 18 laps.  This event does allow you to finish another lap if you do come in before the 12 hour mark.  So I was attempting to do some mental math in the afternoon based on where I was and the time I would need to stick to in order to get in a bonus lap.  Problem was that time was getting harder and harder to hit.  When the 3 hour crew set foot on the course I knew then that 60 miles was definitely in sight but I just didn’t have enough to push to hammer out to get in a bonus lap to get 72.  The next 3 hours were pretty tough as I was getting that bone chilling cold feeling.  When my pace shifted down I wasn’t generating enough body heat to keep my core warm.  Should I’ve layered back up?  Probably would have been a good idea.

With another change in shoes as I was getting cramping in my right foot by my toes, I ended up rolling on the last two laps with Peter as he wanted two more to give him a double marathon distance (52) and then those two laps would get me 60 miles.  Sounded like a good plan!  As we rolled across the finish at 11 hours and 25 minutes we told the volunteers that we were done.  I know I could have gone out for another loop to give me 64 miles but honestly the thought of warm, dry clothes helped make the decision.  Final results of the day ended up with myself running 4th overall.  I might have moved up in place if I did head back out for the final loop but again the dry/warm clothes was sounding much, much better than possibly placing in the top 3.  🙂

Done! 15 laps = 60 miles in 11:25 and some change

Done! 15 laps = 60 miles in 11:25 and some change

With dry clothes on and a beer....this camp fire was a piece of heaven!

With dry clothes on and a beer….this camp fire was a piece of heaven!

Overall thoughts on the race…incredibly well organized event!!!  The volunteers were great, the aid stations were well stocked with the right food for trail running.  The venue was amazingly cool too as who would have thought running through and around an apple orchard would be fun.  This is definitely an event that I’ll look into again for next year and you should too.  Check it out – WEBSITEFACEBOOK Page

Medal Finish

Lessons learned from the day….have a crew for you on these long, long runs.  I definitely could have knocked down some transition time when I was changing gear.  Cold hands are almost impossible to lace up shoes.  Pure Leaf Sweet Tea is my Popeye spinach!  Layer up earlier in the run and shed as your go.

Next up…relax for a bit.  I’m taking the month of November off from racing any marathon+ distances but will keep the training in check.  I’m thinking of hitting up The Huff before year ends to end out the 2013 ultra races.

Gear on the Run

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