Surf The Murph 25K – 2019 Pacer Report

This race took place on October 19th, 2019.  I ran the 50 mile version 4 years ago.  My son decided to run the 25K version this year as his first trail race.  It’s really 16.7 miles long which is more like 27 kilometers.  Since he’s still young and didn’t want to run it alone, I went along as his pacer.  It’s not a very difficult race as far as trail races go and a great option as a first race.  Since they don’t make any race vests, etc for children, I got permission to carry water for him.  It’s not that far between aid stations so you could go without carrying anything at all if you wanted to.  With us going so slow I still thought it prudent to bring some.

The race started at 8AM which meant we had to get up early to drive there but that was still better than getting a hotel room the night before.  It also meant our entire race would be during daylight.  He decided he didn’t want to dress up at all even though there is a costume contest.

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Pre-Race Photo

We hung out under the eave of a building to get out of the sprinkling rain before the race.  We didn’t have to wait too long until the start.  We started off running and kept up with most of the people until he wanted to start walking a couple miles into the race.  I taught him a little on how to run downhill.  We’ve gone hiking quite a bit and he was just getting over the falling down while hiking stage so I wasn’t sure how it’d go running downhill.  I’m happy to say he never fell once the entire race!

It wasn’t raining hard enough to put on a poncho but it was cold enough for him to have to put on gloves and arm sleeves.  We hit the first aid station at 2.9 miles into the race.  A couple of the fast 50K runners passed us there.  Alex had a few snacks and then continued on.

The next section of the course is the hilliest section.  I remembered it was close to 4 miles into the race that you hit the biggest hill.  Alex kept asking at every hill if it was the big one.  I kept telling him he’d know it when he got there.  Finally we got to it.  Really, it’s more like 3 hills in 1 since you go up a steep section, then turn a little and go up another and then another.  Finally we got to the top and he realized it really wasn’t all that bad.

As we were getting close to the next aid station at 5.5 miles we heard some people coming up behind us.  We had pretty much been alone by this time since everyone ran away from us.  As their voices got louder, we heard one scream.  I assumed she had slipped but later found out she got scared by another runner passing her.  I introduced Alex to the concept of “making them work for it” meaning making the other racers work to pass you.  Not by blocking the way of course, but by speeding up.  We didn’t really have any reason to try to beat anyone, but honestly I was kind of tired of walking and wanted to run a little.  It worked and he got this smile on his face as he started running to keep them from catching us.

We finally got to the second aid station and I had Alex change his shoes here since we had a drop bag at this aid station.  It had finally stopped sprinkling.  The new shoes had better tread on them and would help him with the mud to come.  I had him eat something and we reloaded with water.  It took a little while at this aid station due to the shoe change and such.

The next couple sections are mostly along and in the prairies with some shorter sections in trees.  It’s not very hilly and I planned on running a fair amount of it with Alex.  We still walked a bunch of it.

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The 2nd to 3rd aid station is the longest section.  Alex was starting to get tired now.  I showed him on the map that we were as far as we could get from the start/finish line so there was nothing to do but keep going.  We got to the 3rd aid station at 9.9 miles.  Over half way done!  There was some running on the road that we did which quickened up our pace.  I started to go in front of him and sang really bad, dumb dad songs.  The only way I would quit was if he caught up to me and slapped my butt.  After a few rounds of that game my butt was getting sore so I stopped.

There were some big muddy areas that we made it through without falling.  We met a woman who recognized me from my blog.  That was pretty cool.  It used to be people would recognize me from showing cows.  Now it’s always from previous races, or my blog.

We ran down the big hill to the 4th aid station at mile 12.8 which is the same aid station as the 2nd one, just from the other side.  The last 4 miles or so, Alex said he wished he could take a break like at the 12 hour race.  I told him this was the spot to take a break if he wanted one.  Now he didn’t, so after a short break for food we continued.

The last section is in the trees again and hilly again.  Here we were getting passed by a lot of runners from other races.  I was expecting this and told him not to be discouraged.  We walked the hills and ran the downhills and flat portions again as best he could.  We talked to a few people along the way.  There is a part where when I did it 4 years ago, we had to go across a log and wet area.  Now the water had risen at least a couple feet and the trail went around that area completely.  It was a pretty spot.  Bryan Cochran got some great photos there that I made a slide show of.

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A short while later, we started catching up to the 2 women that were close to passing us back at aid station #2 that we heard scream.  They must’ve passed us while we were there changing shoes.  Another woman was in between us and them.  We were all going up a long straight hill.  When the woman in between us passed the other 2, Alex said we should try to scare them.  I agreed for several reasons.  1: This is a Halloween based race.  2:  I saw them turn towards us to see the other woman pass them so I assumed they knew we were there.  3:  I didn’t think it would work because of reason #2 and how loud the 2 of us were running together.

I told him we’d have to be quiet and not talk.  He wanted to run up to them and say “Boo”.  I said we’d say “boo” on the count of three with my fingers.  Mind you, we were already running slowly at this point and the women were walking.  When we got about 30 feet away I decided it was close enough.  I made the hand signals and on 2 he started sprinting towards them.  Apparently our plans weren’t the same and by running he meant sprinting.  I starting running faster to keep up with him, but still behind him.  Neither of us had said a word yet.

This is my recollection of what happened next.  Alex full on sprints in between the 2 women without a peep, almost grazing them as he flew past.  They both are startled a bit and slightly jump back while turning towards each other slightly.  In their minds I imagine they are just starting to realize it was just a little boy and not a lion that ran past them and so they start to calm down.  This is just the moment when I got within a couple feet of them and yelled “Boo!”.  Man did one of them scream!

Since they didn’t scream when he went past them, I assumed they did indeed know we were there.  Apparently not.  I immediately apologized a bunch of times.  I think I even threw Alex under the bus and said it was his idea.  What a great dad.  They said they’d been getting startled a bunch of times.  That made me feel a little better.  Alex was like 50 feet ahead already now, so I apologized once more and caught up to him.

It was clear we’d be able to finish under 5 hours if we kept up the pace the last couple miles.  We were averaging just under 18 minute miles.  We walked fast so that we could run the last part in.  We could hear the finish line long before we got there.  He wanted to finish together so we ran it in together once we could see the finish line.  He finished in 4:57:50 for 89/93 finishers.  I don’t know how many started but I assume everyone who did finished the race.

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First Trail Race Finish

I had told him about getting the finishing woodallion branded with the race distance, but they had lost the 25K and 50K brands so he didn’t get to have his branded.  I don’t think he was too disappointed.  He got lots of congratulations from the runners at the finish line that we had talked to along the way.  When he was asked if he would do it again, he said “no”.  I told him everyone says that right after a race and not to make up his mind until next year.

I told him that people were really impressed with him finishing the race.  He just looked at me with his sarcastic “really?” face.  He wasn’t impressed with himself since “it’s not 100 miles” (his words) so he doesn’t understand that it’s a really big deal for his age.  His comment during the race when we were about 5k into it was “a 5k is a baby race”.  Not in a jerk kind of tone, just matter of fact, like running ultras is just a normal thing and we weren’t even doing an ultra today.  I guess that’s what happens when you grow up with an ultrarunner for a dad.

Since we had been up for quite a while, he was tired.  We met a few more people we saw during the race in the parking lot and talked to them.  He laid in the grass for a couple minutes and then he was recharged I guess.  We drove to the aid station to pick up his drop bag.  Well I did, he stayed in the truck.  He said he had a fun “dude day” hanging out with just me.

We ate and then went to his cousins’ house.  I fully expected him to just lay around on the couch there all afternoon, but he was soon jumping on a trampoline and running around.

Once I got home I looked to see how much we actually ran based on the GPS watch data.  We ran about 8.5 miles of the distance and walked the rest.  Basically we ran half the distance but of course not half the time.  That was better than I thought it would be.  I was expecting 6 miles of running going into the race with a finish time of around 5:30.  I don’t plan on ever encouraging him to go faster in a race until he’s a teenager but clearly he could’ve run a lot more of the race if he wanted to based on his running around after the race like he hadn’t just gone almost 17 miles.  He was never breathing hard during the race either.  I think I would’ve had a very difficult time running that far at that age.  There just weren’t those opportunities when I was his age.  I loved to run at that age but no one ever encouraged me to pursue it.  Plus I had never heard of an ultrarunner until I was an adult.

The end.

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