The Surf the Murph is composed of three 17 mile laps with each loop being about 2000 feet of climbing and about 2000 feet of descent. Here is an excerpt from the 2010 description in UltraRunner Magazine:
Much of the 16.8 mile loop race is held on double track trail, but the RDs like to challenge the quickest by adding several off-trail sections. Off-trail, that is, until today. A half-mile of the race was marked straight through 8-foot prairie grass. Also, near the end of each loop runners encounter what is signed as the "Fun Zone" which includes another half-mile of sketchy animal trail and the accent of "Pikes Peak", where using tree branches as climbing aids is not prohibited.
The first 6 and last 4 miles of each lap are very short steep climbs. In between these sections it's mainly gradual climbs - not too bad. During these hilly sections there are trees everywhere. This time of the year with all the leaves on the ground the roots and rocks were hidden very well. I believe one person twisted his ankle three times before he DNFed, and I may have heard someone actually broke a bone. I caught a rock or root while running down a hill and was air born for a bit. Luckily some of the trail is sand, which I was fortunate enough to land in.
Much in the middle section of each loop is made of two to four narrow horse trails, which makes for a very uneven running surface and acts a bit like single track. My right ankle hurt for the majority of the race and the inside of my ankles are scrapped up pretty bad from my shoes brushing this area. I am used to running on a sturdy road, not sand, straw, rocks, etc.
Other sections of the course include animal trails, a river crossing, running over a...dried up marsh with lots of very long tall stiff weeds. There was also a short section of dried up long grass. Under the grass there were tons of holes large enough to easily swallow up the front of your shoe and break your ankle. Needless to say I walked this section. It was a very diverse trail overall.
The lead up for this race went well. I rested after my 100 and had a few weeks of good running, then went back into taper mode. However I became very worried when three days before the Surf I woke up and I believe I had a pinched nerve in my neck! Wednesday I had a very limited range of motion with my neck. It improved slightly over Thursday and Friday. Race day I had mild discomfort for the race but nothing that hindered me. Writing this now it still hurts a bit, but should be relieved by the end of the week.
Desi and I camped at the middle of figure 8 course with some other runners and crew. It dipped to about 26 degrees that night/morning but we were comfortable inside the tent.
The 6am start was cold and dark. Everyone had extra layers and headlamps on. I had little idea of the course so was just going to take my time and go with the flow. I was going to do this lap with only my hydration pack instead of bottles so I would not have to stop at the stations to refill. I used this little guy that I found on clearance for $4 at Walmart! I loaded it with 2 liters of agua and about 800 calories of maltodextrin. During this lap I believe I had a Hammer gel from an aid station and one of my Clif Shots. At the start I had a Lara Bar and Clif Bar, totalling about 1100 calories for lap 1.
My hair and the straw for my hydration pack both actually froze. I had to run for about 5 minutes with the straw in my mouth thawing it out! Yes that is a Bubba Gump Shrimping hat.
There is a bit of resemblance, he has...a bit more facial hair than myself.
With only a few miles left of lap 1 I ran past a giant pile of cut up wood. Maybe they were clearing the area to build something? Anyway a few miles later I run past a very similar looking giant pile of cut up wood. I then catch up to a lady running much lower than myself, and start to get worried. I told her I promise I have already passed that pile of wood before and continue on. I start to get passed by people running the 50k. Luckily one of the guys passing me sees the turn that I (and many others) missed and we take that. Turns out I added a few miles on to the ultra, more miles for my dollar I suppose. Desi later told me about a guy who apparently yelled at the race director at the end of the loop and quit the race out of anger/frustration/being an a-hole.
Lap 2 warmed up a bit where I eventually took my jacket off. I went through the second half of my hydration backpack, two Amphipod bottles with Running Food Chia, and maybe another Clif Shot along with a pack of Bloks as well.
It was during this lap that things started to get a little sour. I was tired of running around horse crap and kicking roots and rocks that I never saw under the leaves. The uneven-ness of the narrow trails was getting to my right ankle as well.
I never really felt like quitting, but I did think to myself that if I would happen to trip and twist my ankle and be forced to DNF, I would not terrible mind. However, I also thought about how I could make a crutch out of a thick long branch with a towel or sweater wrapped around the top. I figured it would probably take me six hours to walk a lap with a crutch.
Since there are not years of a solid base under my feet, I am still not a fast ultra runner. The two that I have done both have been back of the pack finishes. I am half the age of probably 1/3rd of the finishers and most of those have been running for many many years longer than I have. So I'll take what I can get. However, of the 7 ultra distance runs I have done, not once have I felt like quitting. When I DNFed at Lean Horse in 2010 it was due to injury, otherwise I would have kept going. So far I have shown a great resilience to the desire to drop out of a race, and that is something I am proud of.
Sketchy creek crossing
Literally the only time we spent on a road was when crossing one twice a lap.
This was a pretty good lap. I made it through the tough first 6 miles and realized I had less than a half marathon to go! Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I kept saying to myself, "Embrace the Suck". There's nothing I can do about how I'm feeling, so I may as well make the best of it. I was lucky to be running with so many cool people on such a beautiful course. My nutrition was pretty much the same as the previous lap. Chia and some Clif stuff. At the beginning of the lap I broke the #1 rule of running: Never try something new on race day. But I had a little bottle of Guayaki Herba Mate's Organic Shot
At the finish you are awarded with a block of wood as your medal. It was cool because I got to brand it with 50m myself.
They claim it is a person "surfing". I told them it looked more like a person catching their foot on a hidden root and falling down a hill.
Pretty gnarly. My left little toe nail is black now. My left big toe nail is missing a piece. And both big toe nails hurt if pressed on, and are turning darker by the day. There is a saying in ultra running. "Toe nails are nature's way of telling you that you are not running enough." So apparently I ran enough on Saturday. Actually the cause is from the downhill running, and my nails that I neglected to trim repeatedly hitting the front of the shoe. Same with the blisters, my fault.
Overall, I am very happy with how the ultra went, ending up 32nd out of 72 who signed up.I mentioned to another runner that if it were a flatter course I'd like sub 9 hours. If the total miles for the Surf was 50 and not 53 I would have finished under 11 hours. Taking into account the amount of hills, walking up many of these hills, and my severe lack of trail running skill, I am very happy with 13 minutes per mile!
- What Worked
- Maltodextrin, Chia Seeds, Clif Shots, Clif Bloks
- Not supplementing with massive amounts of electrolytes.
- My only sources were the gels I had and the chia seeds, a rather low amount compared to what most athletes take during an endurance event. I figure I probably had less than 500mg salt and less than 600mg potassium during the event. If I were to follow Hammer Nutrition's average guidelines for taking their Endurolyte capsules plus my regular nutrition I would have consumed about 2000mg of sodium and about 1500mg of potassium.
- Drinking to thirst.
- Injinji socks, Skora shoes.
- After I switched socked, there were no issues with my feet from socks or shoes.
- Newton Natural Running
- I recently purchased Natural Running by Danny Abshire. The book does a really great job of laying out and explaining good running form. My favorite section is the walk through of different form drills.
- The majority of lap 3 was spent simply working on my running form. It just so happened that it was taking place during the final miles of an ultra marathon. This gave my mind something to focus on and kept me moving forward.
- What Did Not Work
- CW-X tights.
- I wore these to hopefully deal with (or not have to deal with) the chaffing issues I have had in the past. Well instead of light chaffing spread out over my inside thighs, I had one long line of super bad chaffing from the single seam in the crotch of the tights.
- The course
- I realized at about, mile 22 of the 53 that I dislike trail running. Obviously not the optimal moment to come to this realization.
- When I am out training or racing and I can look up and see the next few miles that I am going to run I get this rush of energy and can feel the thrill of running. When I run I enjoy what I call Meditative Running. Basically meditation for people that can't sit still. When meditating it is common to count breaths, when I run I count each time my right foot makes contact with the ground. Others feel it when they are out in the wild running animal trails and doing massive ascents and descents over crappy rocky terrain, being "one with nature" as some say. However due to the terrain I was simply unable to relax at all during the race like I prefer to. Instead always having to focus on not tripping or not stepping in horse crap. Give me the open road any day!
- The Temperature
- Not the fact that it was cold. There's no such thing as bad weather, or bad clothing. I never really felt particularly cold. What bothered me about it was that it forced me to simply wear more, and that's something I dislike to do when running. Look at the photos from my last race. During the day I had three things on. Shorts, socks, shoes. That's how I like to race and train. I apologize to those who have to see my stretch marks and ugly extra skin from being fat on my lower stomach, but it's how I'm the most comfortable. Being as minimalist as possible works for me. I may be cooler if I wore some type of heat gear, but I simply do not want to have to deal with that.
- First and foremost to my beautiful fiance, Desi. She was out there in the cold cheering others on and helping me at some of the aid stations for 11.5 hours. Thanks to all my family and friends for your support as always :)
- To my sponsors, who help make this possible. Skora for providing me with the best pair of shoes I've ever ran in and Running Food Chia for my favorite endurance fuel, their micro milled chia seeds.
- And of course, all the volunteers at the great aid stations and everyone who put on the race who made the event so much fun! What a great time :)
- Also thanks to you for reading this race report. Whether you were at Savage that day running along side me, planning on participating in the race in the future, another athlete, a friend peeking into my life, or a stranger who ran across this blog, this is for all of you.