If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I’d like to run a 1-mile loop for 12 hours” then Doggettville 12 is the relay and ultra race for you. Whether you convince yourself or five of your friends to run in circles for the duration you’re sure to enjoy this well-organized and very challenging run.
The course is a mile long and transitions from paved road to gravel to grass to pine needles to gravel to grass before turning back to gravel as you cross the start/finish line. There are just enough downhills and uphills to trick your brain into thinking 12 hours won’t be so bad. And there is more than enough support from the organizers to make you believe you can do it.
Just remember that 12 hours, in the day, means Ra will most likely be calling the shots from 11AM to 4PM.
The week prior to Doggettville I ran the Blue Ridge Relay, logging about 25 miles through the mountains. Between that race and this one I ran a couple of easy runs to give my legs some rest. Guess what? It worked. On race day I felt great. Fresh legs. Great outlook. I was the spokesperson for happiness.
Come race day I arrived just before 7AM, pinned on my race bib, and waited around with the rest of the pack for the race director (my buddy John who ran BRR with me the previous week) to count us down. He did and the lot of us took off.
Being relatively new to the absurdity that is ultra running I stuck with Chad, an experienced ultra runner (and the dude in the photo above). If there is ever anyone with a better outlook on running for long distances over long periods of time it’s Chad.
As we ran he said he had two goals for the day: 1) Have fun, and 2) Don’t get injured. I adopted them as my own and always kept them on the forefront of my mind as I ran.
The 1-mile loop goes something like this:
- From the start line go ~30′ on a gravel driveway
- Left onto a .20 mile stretch of paved road; slight uphill for the first .15 followed by a steeper downhill for the remaining .05 mile.
- Right onto a .12 mile stretch of gravel road; downhill for half then uphill for the other half.
- Right onto a .1 mile stretch of gravel and grass; Flat gravel, 20′ uphill, flat grass, steep 20′ downhill on grass.
- Curve left on grass for .05 mile
- Curve right on grass for .05 mile
- Left into pine forest for .08 mile
- Right onto .20 gravel road/hill; half of the hill is shaded the other half is exposed to the sun.
- Right onto a .05 stretch of gravel
- Left onto a .15 bit of flat grass to the start/finish line.
And the loop post-run from Garmin’s point of view looks like this:
My first run with Chad was the Triple Lakes 40-miler. It was at that race I learned the importance of patience and setting aside the road racer mentality. And by that I mean if you want to finish an ultra you have to suck it up and walk the hills, regardless of size. I know there are people out there who run everything, hills, downhills, on water, up buildings (ahem Jody), but I am not one of them.
When Chad and I came up on the first hill, two tenths of a mile from the start, we walked. In fact, we walked ’em all. Big hills, small hills, hills that climbed on rocks. Had there been hills with chicken pox we would’ve walked them as well. Using this approach to ultra running I felt great for the first 19 miles. Sure I was passed by the two leaders 5 and 6 times respectively, but my legs felt all Tony the Tiger.
And then Ra, god of the sun and an all around butthole, came out.
It got hot quickly and I got thirsty even more quickly. Thankfully, Chad took a pitstop allowing me to pull in for one as well. When I did, instead of heading to the water I went to my bag for something that I still can’t recall. John took notice and asked me if I wanted a refill (at least that’s what he said happened).
JOHN: Gatorade or water?
JOHN: Gatorade or water?
JOHN: Chris, Gatorade or water?
JOHN: Ga-tor-ade or wa-ter?
ME: Sorry, my brain isn’t quite processing your question. Can I have some water?
JOHN: Are you OK?
ME: Yeah, totally. Just tired. Thanks for the water!
Only I wasn’t just tired. The heat was starting to get to me. As a result I totally missed the fact that Chad was back on the course. For whatever reason, I thought it a good idea to push myself to 7:40 pace in order to catch up with Chad.
When I caught up with him he was straightforward in saying, “Next time. Don’t try to catch up. You will get tired and you won’t last.” I didn’t listen. I did it again on the next loop after I stopped to send my wife a proof of life photo.
Again, Chad reiterated the obvious. “Slow down.” This time I did. But he didn’t. Because I was tired and he’s a superhumanoid.
By 11:30 I was on my 23rd lap. The stretch of paved road was plenty sunny as was the hill just beyond the halfway point. At the hill I was passed by a co-worker running her third lap as part of a relay. It took a short bit to process who she was. If my memory serves me (and my recollection is probably wholly inaccurate) the inner dialog went something like:
ME: Face looks familiar.
BRAIN: Sure is sunny.
ME: Name! I need a name!
BRAIN: Clouds are fluffy.
ME: Pay attention!
ME: I need words to say to work person there on hill.
My brain delievered, “Hey” and “It’s hot.” Seriously brain? That’s all you’ve got? Clearly my processing power had dropped well below that of an early 90s CPU.
I stumbled through a few more laps before pulling in for a longer pitstop following Lap 27. When I did I took advantage of the cold water tub and sponged my head for a bit. After 10 times or so the sponging became involuntary. I only recall being there for a few seconds, but since John sent his brother-in-law, Brook, to check on me I’m guessing I was there for a few minutes more than that. Once cooled down, I sat on a bench in the shade with Brook who talked to me for a bit before I got back out on the course (Thanks Brook!).
The 28th lap was a doozy. And by doozy I mean I was no longer sweating even though I had been drinking a bottle of liquid almost every lap for the last 5 laps. Maybe a cold front had moved in and killed off the noonday heat? To confirm my well being and ability to formulate reasonable hypotheses I attempted to complete a simple math problem in my head. Something I do on my long runs to ensure my brain is functioning properly.
I thought to myself. If I run 12 minute pace for the next two miles I will have run, uh. OK. One mile at 12 minutes. Then another at 12 minutes. Then I would run, 2 miles! No. I need minutes. How many minutes? 12 + 12 carry the, wait, no carrying. Maybe I should switch to Common Core math? That’s a good, wait, no, I got this. 2 tens and 2 twos gives me 4 on the right and 2 on the other right. 24! While I was thrilled that I had solved such a complicated problem I recognized that I was in trouble.
It wasn’t until my 29th lap that I became fully aware of the fact that I was done for. In addition to my lack of sweat I was getting cold. Not, brr-will-someone-please-close-the-freezer cold, but I-don’t-think-I-should-be-shivering-in-an-oven cold. And if that didn’t trigger a visit from Captain Obvious, when I completed my 30th lap I was feeling flush and nauseous. Now, I’m no doctor, but I believe I was experiencing what medical professionals call symptoms.
After crossing the start/finish line for the 30th time, I took off my shoes, and told John I wasn’t going to finish. Then quietly, and a bit embarrassed, I packed my bag, tucked my tail, and left.
Later in the evening, after my fever subsided, I checked in on the race via Facebook. Surely I wasn’t the only one to quit. Scroll…scroll…nice pictures…scroll…scroll…63 miles!…59 miles!…scroll…scroll…OH COME ON! Only one other runner pulled out of the race (or perhaps they just took their time). All other male and female runners, individual and relay, pushed through 80 degree temperatures and 88% humidity to log between 37 and 63 miles for the individuals and between 59 and 89 miles for the relay teams. Props to you all!
Feeling a bit bummed I asked myself: Did I have fun? Yes. Did I avoid injury? Yes. Do I feel like the kind of person Ricky Bobby’s dad talks about? Yes. Could I have finished the 12-hour day? Perhaps, but I would’ve walked 85% of the time, or passed out, or died, but I probably would’ve just walked, though maybe a little death, and possibly some vomit. Should I have finished the 12-hour day? Not according to the great Kenny Rogers who says…
Thank you Kenny.
Take it from someone who ran half the race, Doggettville 12 is awesome! Except for the almost dying part. That, I could’ve done without. But, if you put that aside, it really is an awesome race. John is a great director and host, the volunteers were all very cheerful, and there was plenty of food and drink. Will I try this race again? Yes. Will I finish? I’ll get back to you on that one.