As my 50-states-marathon goal draws nearer (46 by this years end), I have wanted to try longer races to see if that was my ‘next step’, Why not do it in style, and enter the 2010 US Track and Field 100 mile trail championship. Bragging rights could ensue.
I ran a 24 hour race (~4mile loop, see how many times you can run it in 24 hours) in April as a prep to see if I could even run 100 miles in 24 hours. I was successful in that little jaunt, so I signed up for the Burning River 100. Since this was the USTAF 100 mile trail championship, the big dogs were out for this race, people whose names are very well known amongst the ultra running community. I figured If I finished strong here, that would be a sign. Since it is a USATF championship, it meant tighter rules, including no headphones and no pacers. That little rule stinks, so I had a lot of time to ponder while running…
BR100 in only its 4th year now, and is ‘huge’ (4th largest 100 mile race in the country with only ~250 entrants) and very well respected and for good reason. The whole thing was awesome, every detail seemed to have been accounted for, and it started many months before runners toed the line. The official race website was loaded with information, including detailed maps and even video highlights of every single segment of the course. Instead of a runner’s meeting the night before to go over important stuff, they made videos of those presentations too. Even before I came to the area, I knew this was going to be a well run race.
Course was very well marked, all 100 mile except for one section between mile 85 and 90. That was a little sucky, but I managed to not get lost. The aid stations were absolutely amazing. Granted, I was near the lead, and this was the national championship, but still. As soon as they saw me coming near the aid station, a person would run towards me (up stream) and ask me what I needed, as I came closer to the huge layout of food and drink (lots of choices!) that forward runner would yell to the aid station workers what I needed and they would get it ready for me. They filled my bottle at each aid station, I had to do nothing but eat. And this happened and every single aid station, all 20 of them. Did I mention they people are each station were also really friendly and encouraging? A better set of aid station volunteers could not be found.
Misty and I came down two weeks beforehand to scout out the course and mark the aid stations she would meet me as my crew. She is such a sweetheart. During the 18.5 hours of the race she saw me for a total of 15 minutes all day. I tried hard to make her life as easy as possible, so she just had to show up at an aid station, hold out my support bag, I rummage through it for what I wanted, and then I took off not to be seen again by here for maybe hours. I learned from my 24 hr race that I wanted to minimize the time spent standing still and she helped me keep moving and focused. I sat down exactly twice during the race, both times only to change socks and shoes.
The night before the race I met up with two running friends, Ryan Miller and Kevin Green, two other ultra runners who I have found on facebook. They are really great guys with happy thoughts of the race. They both started strong, and Kevin finished with a great 26:31 finish, but Ryan had to bail at mile 80 due to a lot of pain, and bumping up against the time limit.
Way back in Nov of 2009 I met Gary Krugger at the Mississippi Space Coast marathon. It was a small race and he passed me at mile 22 taking away a 2nd place finish. I had run a marathon 2 days earlier so I was quite happy with my 3rd place (and sub 3) performance that day. Turns out Gary is way more of a marathon freak than I am. In his mid-20’s, he is trying to run all 50 states, in one year, all under 3 hrs. He is a running machine and a really great guy. According to his girlfriend, he signed up for this 100 miler only because he saw my name on the entrants list. I found him at the starting line and we decided (since we both run very similar pace for marathons) that we should run together for as long as we could.
Gary had no ‘crew’ per se so he started the race with a 2L Camelbak water container. It didn’t take long ( a few miles) for him to curse that decision, so he gave it to Misty, my wonderful and beautiful crew chief, at mile 18, which was the first spot we saw her. Sure enough we stayed together, walking through aid stations and up any reasonable size hill (my strategy all day long). We would come upon people every once and a while and run with them, chatting about the race and our running histories, and had some fun, with sometime personal and graphic conversations. There seems to be no rules as to what is allowed conversation in distance races.
After about 30 miles, I could tell Gary was starting to drag. I was ‘leading’ him and he kept dropping farther back and I kept slowing. I had originally told him that I wanted to stay with him until mile 60, but I realized that he was going to slow me down too much. I was feeling great and wanted to take off. We were sitting in the high 30’s in place when we hit the mile 39 aid station. With a short ‘Dude, I’m gonna take off’, I flew out of there, picking my pace up considerably. I passed 10 people in the next 10 miles. At mile 54.5, I had managed to move up to 20th place. I was feeling awesome. The pains in my feet and legs (most of which appeared before mile 20) were all still there, but more importantly, were not getting worse. My body was strong, but I was starting to get weak, and I knew it was probably due to a lack of food.
The miles plugged along and I was tiring. Between mile 74 and 81, I dropped 3 spots (at that point I was in ~12th place) I had no energy left, and it was the roughest section all day. I simply had nothing left and still one more marathons distance to go. I sent Misty on a run to find me some Monster Energy drink which I got at mile 90 but only helped my spirits, not my energy. At the mile 81 aid station I decided I needed to stay for a little while and eat something. 2 bowls of ramen noodles not only tasted faboo, but it gave me a jolt of energy that helped for at least the next 8 miles. 81 miles into a 100 mile race is a good time to get 10 miles worth of energy.
The toughest part of this race is section R which contains the dreaded ‘Perkins Trail’ which has lots of roots and mud and steep climbs, all between miles 81 and 86. And of course, for most runners this section would be done at night. I had a goal of reaching it before sunset (8:40pm local) and was tickled when I hit that section at 7pm. No headlamp needed, and it made a huge difference. It would have taken twice as long had I had to do it at night.
By mile 90, I was spent, but near the end of the race which had lots of roads and wide bike paths for running on. I had started to walk pretty much full time by then, and lost a few places. My legs were now starting to complain and my energy was toast. I was walking strong, but simply could not run. Mental toughness is still not something I have a lot of. I need to work on that, somehow. USATF has cash money prizes for the first 6 places, and knowing I was out of contention, I just decided to relax and ride it in. I was walking fast (15 min miles still) which is pretty good after I had been moving for 17+ hours. My mantra was ‘keep moving and you’ll finish just fine’.
I knew I was in 10th place when I took the last turn about 1.5 miles from the finish. That last stretch is up a long steady hill on city street. After I made the turn I looked behind me and there, not more than 600m behind me was someone’s headlamp, and it was bouncing. He was running. I was not. Poop. In my only real case of mental toughness, I told myself I was NOT going to lose that 10th place finish. I started running and ran up that entire freaking hill and all the way to the finish line. I kept checking and I am prety sure that my chaser had walked up the hill. I even turned off my headlamp as I did not want him to see how close he was, lest he get ideas of trying to catch me.
I crossed the finish line just under 18.5 hours to a small but loud-cheering crowd. Misty was there and I did my traditional handstand. In fact I did three handstands. My camera that she was using did not like the lighting, so none of them were captured on film. You’ll just have to trust me on this one. I have witnesses.
It was 11:30pm local and there was a bar right near the finish. Misty and I walked (slowly) there afterwards and I tried to enjoy a tall Blue Moon. I had a hard time drinking it as my body was starting to totally shut down. I was shivering pretty bad and felt horrible. I finished the beer and we headed to the car. I didn’t have any food at the race end because I had no appetite whatsoever. That was good, because we headed back to the hotel (about a 20 min trip, and I felt nauseous for most of if. Literally 2 minutes away from our hotel, I told Misty she needed to pull over. Quick. With seconds to spare, she stopped, and I got the door open before I puked. It was the cleanest puke I have ever had. It contained only water and beer, nothing else.
After we sat there for a little bit we finally got to the hotel. I very slowly got out of my running stuff, did a quick check of my toes (only 2 are in bad shape, but they are pretty bad) took a quick shower and was in bed by 1 am.
After only about 6 hours of sleep, I got up and was just happy to be alive. I could walk and my legs weren’t that bad. I predict my gait will be ‘normal’ in only a few days. My body seemed to be just fine with racing this distance. My legs are strong enough to complete it without too many problems, but I really need to figure out the fueling problem. I had it at my 24 hr run as well, I just need to get more food in me, not just more liquids. Other than the ramen noodles at mile 81, nothing tasted good, which is what sucks. I need to find food that my stomach will handle. Of course, I didn’t need any real food until after mile 50, so how do youtrain for that without doing 50 mile training runs? Haa zaa! I am going to do 20 milers without having eaten much the 12 or so hours before. Just some Gatorade and water. Go out the run knowing full well that my body with get tired very quickly, then try ‘new’ things. Room-temp cooked Raman? Do I have to break down and start using gel packs (which I hate by the way)? Something more creative? If I want to do these well, that’s one of the last hurdles to overcome. Compared to the actual running training (which I seemed to have conquered), it should be an easy problem to fix. Of course, I was not 100% healthy either, getting over a sinus infection as well…
The immediate aftermath of the race was quite compelling. In my first 100 mile race, which happened to be the national championship, I finished in 10th place. So according to the US Track and Field, I am the 10th fastest 100 mile racer in the country for 2010. Could I have found my niche? Marathons in general are now almost cliché, being huge and to the point where ‘anyone could do one’, especially if you don’t care about how fast you run it. The crazies have been pushed out to the 50 and 100 mile distances. Could I have found my forte? Could I have found my home? Where I need to be? I am now in very elite company.
I am so glad that that I have Misty there for me. She is so supportive of this psychosis, even now that it has taken me to the point where I run for 18.5 hours straight. I am so blessed to have her in my life. I could not do this without her. She is an incredible life partner and I thank her every day for her presence in my life.
Other Runners Blogs of this race:
9th Place Finisher
Back of the pack video entry part 1 part 2