In this race report, runner Nathan McBride shares his experience of the Anchor Down Ultra – 24 Hour race. Read his review for what you need to know about the course and his tips for finishing the race.

Race: Anchor Down Ultra 24 Hour

Runner: Nathan McBride

Race Date: 8/13/2021

Location: Bristol, RI

Results: DNF @ 41

3 Bests – What aspects of the Anchor Down Ultra race did you like the most?

The race director does an amazing job and really puts his heart and soul into this race. The volunteers are stellar and it’s such a great race environment. I also love that everyone is supportive of everyone else through this one.

Not so much – Aspects of the Anchor Down Ultra that didn’t do it for you

Heat…once again heat did me in. Well, heat and chafing. It gets so hot there, and its really hard to train for both mid 90 temps and mid 90 humidity. The pros can handle it quite well it seems, but that’s not me unfortunately. Beyond the heat though, it’s pretty much a great race (if you are into the 24 hour thing).

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about Anchor Down Ultra?

7pm start on a Friday night. It’s hard to think about, but after a week of working 7 to 7 and then having to try and shift out of work mode for a Friday night race start is difficult. It’s just very weird to try and drop life all of a sudden.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I really didn’t do anything well. I trained for 16+ months…pretty much thought about this race every day, trained in blazing heat, got my diet dialed in for this…did all of THOSE things. Then on race day, that guy did not show up. My only redeeming moment was after a few hours laying under an ice blanket I was able to get up at 3:30 in the morning and pump out another 25 hard miles before I succumbed to terrible chafing, which I didn’t notice until it was too late. Plain and simple rookie gear mistake did me in!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the Anchor Down Ultra race to help the next runner

  1. Spend as much time as you can emulating the TRUE course conditions in your training. This race is very well known to be dangerously hot and every year they carry people off to emergency rooms from this race. I trained in heat but it was dry heat or like low-80’s heat…so manageable.
  2.  If you feel your body breaking down from heat, don’t keep going and hope you will get past it. Stop and cool down and don’t move again until you are back to normal. Had I stopped after mile 9 and fixed it, I probably would not have spent 3.5 hours under an ice blanket being monitored by my wife. It happened that fast.
  3. Bring ALL of the gear you might need. Don’t neglect to bring that thing you need only like twice a year. Bring it anyway! I needed it and it would have been a game changer for me.
  4. If you get the stomach sloshiness, your body is not processing liquids. You need to stop and resolve that issue whether through cooling down, salt balance change or basic rest.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

  1. Keep one pair of training boxer briefs in my summer 100 miler kit.
  2. Don’t pick a race for which I can not properly emulate heat conditions.
  3. Start slower.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Next year the Anchor Down Ultra is changing to a qualifier and lottery. Racers will need a qualifying race to get in, and it will be a lottery. The area where you can set up your own crew station doesn’t open until 1pm on race day, and everyone jockeys for the best spots. It’s tough to set up a race site when it’s over 100 degrees out 6 hours before your race so plan accordingly.

Aesthetics – Is the Anchor Down Ultra a pretty course?

The first .9 miles or so are very difficult. You are running through double-track with neverending roots. There are one or two brief patches where you can jog but so many runners go down on this section constantly. Then you have about a mile of running along a beautiful bay…literally about 15 yards from the bay. Then you go into a bit of an oven running across an exposed field.

Difficulty – Is the Anchor Down Ultra a tough course?

The loop is short but it is anything but easy. At sunup, the park fills with families and tons of people all playing and camping and hanging out at the beach ledge and you have to block it all out and run through it. There is very little elevation. I would say it is a very tough course for that time of year.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

One of the best run and best organized races I have ever been to. It is why I keep coming back!

Competition – Is there a strong field?

There are 3 or 4 elite runners in each of the 3 divisions (6 hour, 12 hour and 24 hour). Then it sort of drops way off for times and distances. I think the same person keeps winning the 24 hour every year.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

The Anchor Down Ultra 24 hour sold out in 26 seconds this year. Like I said, next year it is going to require qualifying and it will be a lottery. Only runners who finished this year will get an automatic pass if they want it. Very difficult to get into.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

The aid station is very well stocked and there is a water station about 1.5 miles into the loop. Otherwise, it’s whatever you bring yourself.

Weather and typical race conditions

This was my fourth year, and this was the second hottest year I have done it. The first time, I did the 100 miles in 21 hours, and it was close to 100 all day on the second day. For whatever reason, it just happens to always be on the hottest day of the summer in Rhode Island. Race conditions are brutal, even for those who trained properly.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Gaiters…the first .9 miles of trail is very dusty and dirty and your calves will be black after a few hours with tons of grit in your shoes. Simple gaiters will do ya right.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Very friendly course for all spectators.

How’s the Swag?

Cool technical t-shirt (SS) and finisher’s medal for anyone who does 100k or more.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

I give it 5 stars out of 5. Sheer toughness. It requires a literally perfect set of circumstances to get it done. You have to be 100% dialed in across the board. That’s pretty freaking hard to do. I probably won’t be going back again, at least not for the 24 hour. The 12 hour people looked much happier when they were all done. 🙂

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