Post Race Report:
Race Date: Saturday, June 2nd – Sunday, June 3rd
Race Name: Bad Rock 720
Location: Uwharrie National Forest
Race Length: 12 Hour Timed Race (4.5 mile loops)
Finishing Time/Distance: 40.5 miles in 11:06 (9 loops)
Mile Split: 16:26/Mile
Place: 3rd/32 Overall
Special thank you to the Race Director Richard and the other small contingent of volunteers/staff members at the race. There is a lot of dedication in planning a 12 hour event and being present and energetic after each loop at the start/finish line. The staff was encouraging and positive throughout the entire event. Sad to say this is the last Bad Rock 720, but hopefully another race will take over this niche in the Carolinas.
Unique and challenging.
Those are the best two words I have come up with to describe the Bad Rock 720…and I’ve now had two full days to contemplate. Maybe there’s still some mental fatigue in my brain, or maybe those are simply the best two words for this event
This race was unlike any I have previously experienced. The 12-hour time limit, night time racing, head lamps, repeating the same loop 9 times, bug bites, a personal aid station, trying to figure out how many portable chargers it would take to keep my phone alive, and remembering to pack everything except my running shoes were just some of the new obstacles I encountered.
Overall, I am extremely happy with the result, and even happier that I escaped injury during the run. Though I did not reach my 50 mile goal, that dream was largely squashed midway through loop #1 as I discovered just how technical and slow-going this trail would be. Rocks, roots, logs, mud, holes, and a lake to fall into from relatively dangerous banks required full focus on the placement of each step to avoid falling flat on my ass or twisting a lower extremity into a race-ending position.
My first 4.5-mile loop took 1:06 to complete (14:40/mile)…a far cry from the 12:00/mile strategy I had before seeing the terrain. Oh yeah…and that was in the daylight. Once the sun went down, laps were even slower as my eyes refrained from glancing away from the six-by-six foot beam of light from my headlamp stationed on the next potential foot-trapping obstacle in my path.
My view for 10+ hours of the race.
Other than the trek up the steepest damn hill in the park to the start/finish line, the rest of the path primarily bordered the edge of Badin Lake…including traveling through three different campsites with very confused campers who probably mentioned the sweaty miners tramping 10 feet from their tents all night long in their post-stay Yelp reviews.
The laps began to tick off in the same routine for the next few hours. Start down the hill to the lake, run around the lake in the dark, watch out for snakes and spider, curse the race director and park planners while walking up the steep hill to the finish, smile at the race staff at the top of the hill like the hill was the best part of your evening so far, scarf down food and drinks (lots of water and a few Mountain Dew splurges), apply bug spray, pee if needed in the restroom, smile at the staff, head down the hill.
I knew I must be toward the top of the leaders as I would catch up to a handful of fellow racers each lap and only saw one person pass by me through the first eight laps. About six or seven laps into the race, I began planning out how many laps I would realistically complete. Only completed laps in the 12-hour time limit would count…and no way in hell did anyone plan on extending their deja-vu tour of Badin Lake for longer than 12 hours to add on a few extra uncounted “fun” miles.
With about 3:40 to go (i.e. about 4:20 a.m. prior to the 8:00 a.m. race finish), I had finished seven laps (31.5 miles) and my legs were making that fact well known in my pain receptors. While sitting in my directors chair next to my personal Nissan Versa aid station, I tabulated that three more laps would be very difficult in that time frame and decided to focus on finishing nine laps by 8:00 a.m.
During the eighth lap, my legs were throbbing in most places and I took my sweet ass time walking and lightly trotting through the loop. At this point, finishing on the podium or placing high on the final leaderboard had not crossed my mind. Other than a brief top-ten whimsical idea that left me lying butt-down on the trail in my first ever race, I had never been remotely close to finishing in the top-anything.
I completed the lap and took a long break at the Versa lounge…complete with Oreos and Lunchables. Once I was ready to take on the culmination lap of my Bad Rock experience, I waddled over to the start line and chatted with the race staff where they informed me I was currently in second place…and apparently completion time was the tiebreaker in placing.
Oh…and the third place person happened to be standing right next to me.
With two hours even remaining on the clock, my original plan to take a nice leisurely stroll around the lake turned into a frantic finishing lap trying to hold onto the second place spot.
Funny thing about adrenaline and competition…they tend to trump pain. I took off down the hill and ran harder through the first half of the lap than I had on any previous lap.
Funny thing about racing…there are faster and slower people. I am the latter.
With the daylight now on us, I saw him trailing me just as we passed the unmanned aid station nearly halfway through the course (outfitted with water and lawn chairs). At this point, he must have realized our roles in this tortoise and hare reprisal and took a nice long catnap in a chair before returning to the chase. I lost sight of him for about another mile…and then watched him breeze on by with about two miles to go. What the hell are we teaching our kids with these fairy tales? A tortoise is not going to beat a hare in race…unless it has a shotgun.
I quickly gave up the thought of attempting a last-second comeback to steal the silver (i.e. the modest gift card to a store 2.5 hours away from me) and reserved myself to the bronze. I finished the last lap in 1:06…tied for the fastest lap of my race with the first loop. Though I didn’t win the dual, I was very happy with my body’s ability to manage pain and compete hard late in a race with 35+ miles on it.
There were a lot of lessons learned from this experience, some technical, some strategic, and some just unexpected. I will save those thoughts for another post…anything to drag out content from the race into multiple blog posts.
The question I’ve been asked the most so far…would you ever do it again?
Absolutely. So…onto the next adventure.