By Jason Boyle
The Danimal 50k is hosted by Team ASAP in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The race takes place on the trails of Sam Houston Jones State Park and are surprisingly more technical that anticipated. The race directors also offer race distances of 10k and 25k.
The 50k course consist of four, 8 mile loops on the trails in the park. The elevation gain was only 700 feet or so for all four loops; however, the course is extremely technical because of the number of tree roots. The forest consists of mixed trees including cypress trees, which put roots or knees everywhere which makes picking up your feet very important. Other than the roots, the trails were covered with leaves, sand and dirt. There are a few road sections as the course combines trails but the majority of the course is single track. The trails are also open to mountain bikes so there are some ups and downs and banked turns, but they did not detract from the experience.
Temperatures for the race were in the 60s to start the race but quickly climbed into the 80s by the end of the first lap. Also there were intermittent thunderstorms in the middle afternoon, but the rain was as welcome reprieve from the heat even if it only lasted several minutes at a time.
This was my third 50k of the year, having ran the Mississippi 50 in the early spring, and the Hotter than Hell, Dusk to Dawn in July in Mandeville Louisiana. My goal was to run a 6 hour or so race. I felt that this was conservative based on the other 50k’s I have run this year and the numerous marathons. This meant I needed to run 90 minute laps. I ran the first lap conservatively, or so I felt that it was, and made it in 94 minutes. The second lap was around 100 minutes, and then the course became more difficult. My third lap was around 110 minutes with the last lap at 120 minutes or so for a finish time of 7:30 and a respectable 7th place finish. Of course there were only 8 finishers! The roots really took a toll on my pace and lack of speedwork showed as it became harder and harder to do anything other than shuffle.
My kit was pretty similar to past races. I wore Nike Pro Combat compression shorts, and Nike Dri Fit shorts. I started the race with a lightweight race shirt, but after one lap the shirt came off and I ran shirtless. This was a good idea until the last lap when I realized I didn’t apply body glide to my underarms or side that chaffed significantly. For socks I wore Injinji Ultra Compression Socks and my shoes were Altra Olympus 2’s. I used body glide on my toes and that sufficed to keep blisters away except on my big toes. I think the shoes were tied too loose so my feet shifted a bit. I also kicked the crap out of a root and severely bruised my right big toe. It is black and the nail is already coming off.
There were two manned aide stations and two water only aide stations on the course so I started the race with only a hand bottle. I ate a honey stinger waffle just before the race, as is my normal procedure. I have recently started using Tailwind for my liquid nutrition, so I started the race with that in my bottle. The course is a loop so I have three more bottles with Tailwind prepared so I could quickly fill each time I came through. For the most part the Tailwind did the trick. I took one Gu gel on the third lap which was the only time I took a gel. The Tailwind was good nutritionally, but I got tired of the flavors because I was used several different flavors from their mixed single serving kit. In the future, I would alternate with CarboPro or something flavorless. I only had one bottle so I always had flavor and craved just plain water.
I did make a couple of mistakes. The first was I did not have any SCaps! and I had the early stages of cramping in hamstrings in the third lap. I chugged a full bottle of water and this helped. I also battled feeling slightly nauseous on the last two laps. I have found that running in the heat really saps me so that’s what I attribute it too. I would walk for a few minutes and the feeling would subside.
I also had a gear issue. I have been using the same Ultimate Direction hand bottle for years and it has served me in dozens of races and probably over a thousand miles of trails and training. However about 6.5 miles into my first lap the bite valve broke off. Now I had no way to access my nutrition and water. That sucked. Fortunately, I had the Ultimate Direction Access 600 in my gear bag at the start finish line and was able to drop my hand bottle and begin using the belt. This is a good reminder to me to have a backup for everything.
Overall, the Danimal 50k was a great race. I would say that this was the first “trail” that I have ran in Louisiana that felt like a real “trail” race. The single track was awesome and the loops were big enough that I felt like I was “in the wilderness.” I highly recommend this race!