Yesterday I won the Durty B-ee-rr-un 6 Hour Race for the 5th time, tying my course record from last year of 39.6 miles with 20 minutes left on the clock. This was the last year the race directors Sean & Tracey Connolly were holding this race but hopefully someone will pick it up. This was my first ultra back in 2015 after reading Chris McDougal’s Born to Run and Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run captivated me to push to see what my body and mind would be capable of. After my first marathon in 2013 my hip, which I had replaced just over 2 year earlier, was screaming at me and I was unable to run more than a mile for a year so I had no interest in ever running that distance again, let alone further. I learned of this free “Fat Ass” race and decided this was a perfect opportunity to see if I could run that long without damaging my hip again and being injured. Fortunately I did very well and finished second and although my hip was sore it recovered quickly enough for me to run the Pinellas Trail Challenge 46 mile race 3 weeks later with the same outcome. The race directors, Sean, Michael and Susan Anger for this Grand Slam series have opened the door for me and many others to dip their toes into the world of ultras without any cost, and over the years I’ve introduced these races to many others to come down to try. Their commitment to putting on these exceptional races have helped and inspired runners to achieve levels they never would have attempted if it wasn’t for them.
For me the Durty Beer Run is the best format of the 3 for new runners. It’s a timed race, so you can run whatever distance you want. The course is a loop, anywhere from 3 to 3.6 miles, easily allowing the runner to self crew with a cooler at the start/finish line, it runs along the water edge for much of the race, and now runs around the pier. There’s some shade on the course, but what I like best is that for about half the loop you actually run past other runs on the way out to the pier and back. It’s great to see where the competition is, but more importantly is the encouragement you receive from fellow runners, always cheering you on, giving you praise and it drives me to run hard and do my best. Then after the race as we all finish at the same time, with different distances, we go to 3 bars to talk about the race and get to know the runners better. Each year I try to take time to talk to people I don’t know and try to catch up with others I haven’t seen for a while. The social aspect of this race is just as big as the actual run.
It was going to be a tough race, before the start there was talk of potential 12 laps and confidence of 11 laps. The competition started very strong, Andy Sholly jumped into an early lead and was then caught and passed by Michael Stork, who was again was looking strong after beating me at the first of the Grand Slam races in Lake Baldwin 4 weeks earlier. I was running with Jeff Iosa and Dariusz Wezowczyk, who finished second at last years Pinellas Trail Challenge, close behind was Tyler whom had beat me in a 12 hour race a couple of years earlier and I think someone called Brad. The pace was fast right around an 8 minute mile and there was a nice breeze coming off the water with some cloud cover, a nice welcome given that the race started an hour later than normal at 7am.
My hip has been niggling me for several months and I’ve adjusted my training a few times to manage the pain and continue to train. It was very sore after the Bryce Canyon 60K at the end of May and heading into the Lake Baldwin 50K it had been flaring up a few times. Since then I’ve been riding my ElliptiGo stand-up bike more often and reduced my weekly mileage to help it. Fortunately I was able to put in a couple of strong training runs over the bridge with some faster miles and 1 on the road without any issue and heading into this race it’s the best it had been for a while. I messed up my nutrition at Lake Baldwin and didn’t consume enough fluids or calories and started cramping at mile 20, so for this race I planned to drink more and consume more gels than I normally would. Last week I trained in a new pair of Adidas shoes and I had planned to race in those, but they felt tight when I tried them on the night before so I switched to a new pair of Altra Escalante’s that I had never put on. I wasn’t too concerned as they felt better, have a wide toe box and I try to run in different shoe brands each day I run, Newton’s, Salming, Adidas, On and Merrell.
The first loop I didn’t have anything and when we came in I grabbed my smaller hand help which had Tailwind in it and set off again. The lead group was still pretty close as we started the second loop and I tried to settle into a 8:10 pace. It’s a long race and it doesn’t really start until the 7th loop so I need to run my own race and be willing to let the leaders go ahead. During the second loop I could feel my hip getting tight and a little pain radiating down my leg giving me some concern on how it would hold up but I tried to put that thought out of my mind on concentrate on the task at hand. The next couple of loops pretty much stayed the same, with Stork pulling further away and as we started approach the end of the pier, his lead was opening and he was passing us further down each time, Jeff & Dariusz had pulled away from me and I was running comfortably in 5th place with a couple of runners close behind. I had a couple more hand holds and took my first gel at the start of lap 4. I passed Andy on this loop and moved into 4th place, now I noticed Jennie was closing in, luckily she was only running for 3 hours training for Boston as she passed me on the 6th loop looking very strong as she always does before calling it a day. I think this lap was also when Jeff and Dariusz took the lead from Michael and I would also pass him later that lap. By now I was switching between Tailwind and Re-Ltye, an electrolyte and took another gel. I use Sports In Science gels, I find they are not as thick and sickly as some of the others and I’ve never had any issues with them. I did try eating one of their nutrition bars but today it just felt dry and difficult to eat so I threw it out and ate a Stinger Waffle for the first time.
The 6th loop was also when my hip started to complain a little more. I’ve learned that during these races you will have issues and it’s important how you deal with them. For me I first accept it, you’re running fast and long on a hip replacement and you’re old, what do you expect. Then you have to throw the negative thought out of your mind and move on, for me I try to empty my mind and stay focused on the race, so this is what I did and my hip didn’t really come back into play until the end of the race. Dariusz had dropped somewhere and now I was in second chasing down Jeff. I think I caught sight of him in the 7th lap and started to close in on him as we went around the end of the pier. It was one of the funniest moments of the race, I was pretty close behind and I hear Jeff shout to Raphael who was coming the opposite way “Do you know where Whiteside is”, to which Raphael replied “he’s about 10 yards behind you”, later he told me in the bar the look on Jeff’s face was priceless. By the end of the pier I had passed Jeff and pushed hard so he didn’t hang on to me.
The 8th loop was pretty much the same but by then Tyler had moved into second position and was about ¾ length of the pier behind me so I knew I couldn’t ease up any. I had to keep my aid station breaks to a minimum, grabbing either a salt cap or a pickle every other lap and a gel on the alternate lap for a total of 4 for the race. The last 3 laps I also drank some water and pured cold water over my head as the wind had died and sun had come out and got a lot hotter around lap 8. I finished the 8th lap in 3:57 something and knew hat a 12th lap was out of the question, my pace had now slowed to low 8’s and I knew the 9’s would be coming soon. On the 9th loop I could feel some slight cramping coming on in my right hamstring so I now had to manage that by easing of the pace a little until it eased and then tried to pick it up again. In my mind I kind of wanted to stop and walk but knew Tyler was too close to ease up and also the support from all the runners “you’ve got this, great job” wouldn’t allow me to let them down so I kept moving forward.
My plan for loops 9 and 10 was to maintain the pace and then be prepared to push hard on lap 11 to make sure no one could close me down. I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade on the 10th lap as I was out of Tailwind but don’t like running with that bottle. On the last lap I ran with the water bottle with the Re-Lyte in it, knowing I would finish it within a mile and be able to run in hard if I had to hands free. Tyler didn’t show up, the heat and the pace of the race got to him as it did with Jeff and Michael but I still wanted to finish strong with a sub 9 minute last mile. I crossed the finish line in 5 hours, 39 minutes, 43 seconds, for a total of 39.6 miles and an average pace of 8:35 a mile. I needed about 28 minutes to go out and try another lap but I was happy to tie my “non existent” course record from last years covid race. What amazes me is how I can finish a race looking strong and then within a minute of finishing I can hardly walk, my hip was now screaming at me and I had very little flexibility in it. Brian offer me an Advil and I wish I had taken it as I was in quite a bit of pain for the next several hours and overnight. My main concern now is resting it and trying to recover in time for the PTC race in 3 weeks’ time. Last year we had 4 weeks in-between and I think the extra week of rest helped me achieve my PR on that course. It is what it is and just as I do during the race, I need to throw the negative thoughts out and work on my plan to recover and maintain my fitness and get my hip ready. Today I started with a 4 mile walk, it was slow and a limpy at the beginning but got easier.
It was great to be joined at the race with Brian who ran this as his first ultra last year, Jiri whom has ran this 3 or 4 times now, Andy his third DBR, and Devlin and Allison for their first ultra adventure. It’s also great to see many friends at the finish line, especially Barbara who is full of energy as always. It’s also great to have so many people come up to me after the race and tell me how great I looked during the race and how they knew I was going to catch the leaders and win the race. As well as my competitive nature I always run to try to help motivate and encourage others, I want to give back what people have given my on this adventure. I run for the older runners, I run for those with replacements, I run for others that just want to run their first marathon or to improve their health. What ever I can do to motivate others to keep coming out and trying is so rewarding. I’ve been very fortunate with a gift, sure I train very hard and long, but I’m able to compete against others and their competition is what drives my success, without them I couldn’t achieve this. Unfortunately there can only be one winner in a race, but we’re all winners when we cross that start line and push ourselves to whatever we’re capable of. Keep training hard and set goals and go out and try to achieve them, there will be setbacks but that’s what makes us stronger. Keep coming back and love what you’re doing.
I had a great time in the bar talking to many, Allyson, Michelle, Mellissa, it was great to catch up with her adventures in New Mexico and now Arizona, she’s so nice to talk to, Benny, Jeremy, too many to name and a few I talked to and didn’t catch their names. This is where we solidify the friendships we make on the course and have time to unwind and talk about the day. Several people asked me if I would be having an ice bath when I got home to help my hip, I don’t as after a few hours I believe it’s too late and I want to let my body do what it does naturally to try to protect the injured area. As I type this I do feel a lot better and hope that I get a decent nights sleep. For me Keto has also helped me, it’s easy to cook, is something that my wife can easily share which is important, and the real benefit is it’s anti-inflammatory and helps me naturally maintain a good weight for racing. People may carb load the day before a race but for me I do the opposite keeping my daily carbs to probably less that 50 calories a day for the days before the race and no alcohol. My pre-race meal the night before is a prime rib steak, cauliflower cheese and butternut squash. That’s not to say that if you all did the same it would work for you, we’re individuals and you have to experiment and have an open mind and unlock your potential. The same goes with my training, I often run fasted, sometimes without water on my long runs, sometimes I eat lunch and then go for a run. I want to train my body to handle different situations so that no matter what comes up in a race, I’m confident that I can move forward.
I know it was a long race recap, I had a fantastic time as I always do. The race will always hold a special place in my heart and I cannot thank Sean and Tracey enough for all the time and energy they put into the race. It’s been a pleasure running this every year and I hope it continues so that others can experience this. I think this year was probably the largest field I’ve seen with probably over 80 runners of different capabilities and goals all sharing the experience. May we all continue to be fit and pursue what we love doing and to do it with others that share our passion and offer the support and encouragement along the way.