Monday, October 26, 2009

Dogwood Canyon 25K Trail Race Report

This is the 2nd year for Bass Pro's Dogwood Canyon Trail race. The trail is located a little over an hour SW of Springfield, MO and dips into Arkansas a bit as well. This part of the Mark Twain National Forest is actually private land of the owner of Bass Pro Shop.
The Web site for this race completely sucked. Maps were promised and never posted. In fact, the forest was easy to get to using my iPhone GPS but we only found the entrance to the Dogwood Canyon park because of 5 cars turning there in a row. Had we been on our own a few minutes before, we would have certainly driven right by. Additionally, more race info should have been posted to the site. Since I am not from this area, I had no idea about the terrain. All I knew to train for was the mileage and "trails." The obvious. Well, trails can certainly vary in description... city/park trails, bridal paths, cut grass paths, single track, double track, paved.... How easy would it have been to post some pictures and/or post a more descriptive review of the challenges? Challenging it was and a few words about what to train for would have certainly focused my training runs to hills, hills and more hills! And I know true trail races might factor in hills but an elevation map was promised and in this race, the elevation change was the most significant factor in the race and they should have posted it. I need to send an email with that suggestion to the race director for next year.
There are two options for this race, the 25K (which I did) and the 50K. Weather: Although it had been freezing and winter-like all week, we woke up to temps in the 50s and a race day ending in the 60s although, it rained alot during the race.
We took off from the Springfield area about 6am and got to the park a little after 7am. Everything was easy at this point... parking was close and organized, finding the bib table was a short walk from the car and there were no lines, ... within minutes we had our stuff and went back the car to get ready. I would guess there was a 150 runner turn-out so it's quiet small and I loved that! Lining up right before 8am the race director had a LONG winded talk, introducing some famous runners and explaining the rules. We were off and running on time however.
The race starts out on the parks' paved path and within a mile or so starts going off-road. The most significant thing about the first 4 miles of this race are the 14 water crossings. We think there were probably at least 15 total in the race, with almost all of them being in the first quarter. Some are shallow and narrow and some go up to your knees and are very wide for a creek. Either way, your shoes are wet and muddy this entire section. Also starting a couple miles into the race are the hills. We counted about 9 hills throughout the race which doesn't sound like a lot at first but considering a 15.6 mile race, you are pretty much going up or coming down at any given point. You'll feel some fire in the quads, calves and glutes! We read afterward that the hills ascend around 400 feet and my Garmin 405 gave me an elevation gain of over 4500 feet! The hills were steep, muddy & rocky. It rained for 3-4 miles straight, adding to the mud fest especially around the water and really making the downhill sections a slip-in-slide except in the grown-up version if you slip, the rocks are gonna tear you up. The one thing we kept saying about the rain though was that it could have really made for a freezing cold day - but luckily the temps held and somehow I had dressed just right so that I never felt too hot or too cold! My race outfit was: wicking long black pants, short sleeved shirt, Nike wicking light jacket w/fleece outside, and a ball cap.
The course was very well marked. They used pink ribbon tape that was easy to see and marked off areas to not go and marked other ares to make sure you were still on the path. Additionally they had some signs up as well. Another nice thing was the mobile aid stations on jeeps. We heard them and saw them throughout the race and I really felt like if something happened, help would not be too long or too far away. They also were constantly joking with us and checking in to make sure we were still having fun - nice! The aid stations were also wonderful. I didn't really pay attention but I want to say they were every 3-4 miles. I don't use aid stations much due to my food allergies so I'm not sure what all they had but I did eye the gummy bears for a few seconds until my friend slapped me out of it. We did however, take advantage of the steamed new potatoes! They left the salt off and I THANKED them profusely because had they pre-salted them I would not have been able to eat it due to my corn allergy (a corn derivative binds iodine to the salt in regular table salt). This made me overly happy and gave me such a boost to be able to eat something new. Otherwise, I munched on a couple of my Yummy Earth organic candy (the only candy I've found that i can eat), a half a ginger larabar (before I knew I could have the potatoes), and one packet of maple-almond butter. I had my Nathan filled with coconut water (natures Gatorade folks, try it) and Smart Water. I had zero cramps, good energy the whole time and only a little nausea towards the end after trying to eat a 2nd potato. In my training I hadn't had any nausea since going all natural and eating less and I used to SUFFER from it constantly back in my days of Gatorade and GU products. Yuck.
Best news for last: The swag. Wow. Entrants receive a New Balance long sleeved tech tshirt (in white - bad news for girls - totally see through) and finishers received a workout towel w/race logo and a NORTH FACE TKA Glacier pull over fleece jacket!! Yes, it says North Face. Yes, it feels great. Yes, it's worth $50 which is more than the race itself cost ($45). The womens jackets were black and the men's were a mossy green. Wow.
Overall the race was a lot of fun. Beautiful scenery with numerous waterfalls towards the end of the race. The hills totally killed my legs at about halfway through the race but if I ever do this race again I'll train for the hills and take 'em on a lot stronger! Don't expect to PR here -- my time was not quite, but almost double of my normal half marathon time. But, I should add though, we also didn't go all out - not that we didn't run or try but just that the hills really made us hang back for safety and to conserve energy and we also stopped to take pictures of ourselves and the views. I don't regret that either - - I'm running to enjoy the ride. Some racers have a problem with that but I'm not a racer, I'm a trail runner and I'm out there to experience it all, not just let it whiz by unnoticed.

Link: Trail Runner Magazine review of the race.
Link: Anton Krupicka's review of the race from 2008


  1. Can I steal this whole thing and post it as mine? I love it you tell the story so well!

  2. Anonymous3:12 PM

    You couldn't have described the run better. I ran the 50K and it was my first ultra. What you portrayed was double for me. I will be back but since we don't have hills in Illinois, I'll probably be just as prepared as I was this year.
    Gary Fruland
    Newark, Illinois

  3. Wow - Way to go Gary! I've been wanting to get into ultrarunning!