I run because I learn…. boy did I learn a lot last week! Twenty four hours after finishing the race I find myself rolling out of our SUV thinking of how I am going to manage to get into the hotel and up to our room for the night. Brooklyn ( my 5 yr old daughter) hops out of her seat and says,”I’ll help Daddy walk since he is walking so slow.” I tell you what, that type of kindness is what inspired me throughout the entire weekend.
I want to start with mile 91. Don’t worry I’lll give you the whole run down but I feel this was a huge learning point in the race. I had ran through snow, ice, and at this point in the race tons of mud. Not just a little bit but the kind that sucks your shoe off your foot every step. My left knee was hurting a bit a this moment, due to a fall on the ice in the middle of night. Bam, I hit the lowest point of the race. I sat on a rock questioning if I had it in me to go those last 9 miles. I mean, come on! Who makes it that far and doesn’t finish? Well, almost me. My sister and brother were amazing at keeping me positive but I had enough and felt that the mountains got the best of me. If I had a towel and enough energy to throw it in I would have. All of a sudden standing above me was another runner and her husband as pacer. She crouched down and checked in on me. She said here take these salt tabs and tums. She remarked that tums had calcium and that would help and if it didn’t, I should just pretend it did. GENIUS!!! Within seconds I felt enough energy to press on. I was upright and moving forward. It wasn’t the salt tabs nor the tums; rather, it was the kind gesture that this complete stranger took time to make sure I was okay. She did more than ask if I was okay she did something, whether it was truly what needed to be done. Kindness truly healed me…
Let’s back up a few thousand steps here… 6am, Friday morning at some park located in the foothills of the Logan Mountains. Dark and cold. Temp at race start was a balmy 40. That was as warm as it got that day. This race was pretty serious about starting on time…. So, we sprinted from the start. Actually, we did the 100 mile shuffle off the start and we were quickly greeted with the start of a 10 mile stretch of climbing (about 5,000 +ft).
With 300 runners on single track trail at the beginning of a 100 it was pretty slow. So, I just chatted with Dale and took plenty of pictures. At this point in the race it is more about staying calm and getting into a good nutrition routine (i.e. eating 60-90 min. and drinking 20min). The 1st aid station (mile 10) came more quickly than I thought. I clearly was not pushing it and felt like I had just been on a gentle walk, which is a good thing at this point in the race! After all, we were about 30 min. ahead of our race plan time.
Snow was falling as we started to descend. The next 10 miles was a little up and then down. We hit the most beautiful single track trail from miles 16-20. It was gradual, colorful, and soft. I kept checking in with myself to make sure I was not pushing down too hard and being nice enough to my quads for later. Sure enough, I felt fantastic! We arrived about 40 min. ahead of schedule. In fact, we beat my crew there! That was a nice feeling but at the same time we thought it would be prudent to simply power hike the next 3 miles up a gradual gravel/dirt road. Staying ahead of pace we took in the beautiful canyon and 3 lost sheep. Maybe they thought we were lost, but either way they were not settled with us in their territory!
Up it went for about 2,800 ft to Cowley Canyon. It was a nice push up the mountain, actually a bit steep for a bit. Snow slowed down and it was just perfect running temps. As we got to the top of the climb and had some rolling traverse I noticed a difference in Dale. You see, Dale is not typically the one slacking. In fact, he is an incredibly strong runner with about as much grit as I have seen in any athlete. However, he was lagging a bit. I made him take some of my electrolyte powder and drink it down… then I couldn’t get him to slow down and shut up :) Finally, mile 30 came and I got to see my family and crew = REFRESHING!!!
Raamen noodles are fantastic when running 100 miles!! Typically, I don’t start drinking/eating broth until nighttime, but with the temps in the 30′s it was time to begin fueling on Raamen! I felt fantastic at this point… I was warm from running around all morning long and still did not feel as though I had ran several thousand feet of vertical and descent.
Cowley Canyon to Right Hand Fork was about 7 miles, which included 4 miles up and 3 miles down. Up on top of the summit of whatever mountain we were on got a bit windy. I then noticed it was not going to warm at all that day. In fact, as I came down into Right Hand Fork (mile 37) it started snowing harder than it did all day and the temps dropped. Late afternoon had came upon us quickly and it was only going to get colder.
Still feeling pretty decent I did not take a seat, instead I picked up my first pacer,Michael, and we headed out for a rather easy 8 miles. The uphill was about 4 miles of gradual climbing followed by 4 miles of easy downhill. Michael is pretty much a stud who is about ready to bust on to the 100 mile scene!!! Talking with a pacer like him is very helpful, as I feel like I am just hanging out with a buddy and forget I am actually racing! Mile 45 snuck up on us!
Dinner time! Again, I had not taken a seat the entire race at any aide station, so I took the opportunity to sit down and eat some dinner before taking off. I was still about 30 minutes ahead of my goal pace, which would have had me finishing at 27 hours. The sun was actually peaking out a little at this point. Michael and I had 6 miles to go straight up to reach mile 51 on top of the mountain. About three miles into the climb we hit some deep mud that was adventurous at first but became discouraging. I was slipping all over, however, I found great help in grabbing on to trees and bushes to pull me up the mountain. There were about 3 false summits and I felt that I was significantly slowed down. Really, I thought the slow pace through the deep mud would be fine because the back half of the race included some climbs but also some runable descents…
Up on top of the mountain at mile 50 the sun went down and I went by natural light as long as a I could. I knew I would have to have a light on my head and chest for 10+ hours, so I was a bit stubborn to get the light on. Mile 50-51 was theoretically a nice downhill into the Tony Grove aide station, but the trail was starting to get icy so there was some tip toeing.
Layers and layers. Mile 51 aide station was 16 degrees with the wind chill. I was a bit chilly from all the accumulated sweat emitted through the day. So, I peeled off 3 top layers and put on 4 new layers. Thanks to Dana and Michael for getting me dry and comfy so quickly!! I was warm again and quickly on my feet. I was still on track for a 27 hourish finish and feeling really well! I was ready to run some downhills and enjoy night running!! I truly love running through the night.
Heidi, my sis, was the new pacer. She was pretty stoked and ready to rock it. We took off up a 2 mile climb then planned to run the downhills at a strong pace. Well, those plans changed as we noticed the trail was iced over. I fell a couple of times, as did Heidi. At one point I buckled my knee. This is a point where trying to stay out of my head was challenging. I had anticipated this being a point in the race to surge and push; instead, I was creeping very slowly down some big descents trying not too fall. What else could I do? I didn’t think to bring my spikes to a September race. The only solution was to keep moving forward and stay upright. Mostly upright that is… I actually did sit and slide down some icy sections :)
Mile 61 came (Franklin Trailhead) and I was behind schedule but I still physically felt fresh! I was optimistic that I was going to hit my goals. We had some climbing to do and some fairly nice downhills. I found myself getting to a negative place mentally when we were lost for a good 20 minutes. Our hunter friends were so kind to take down the trail markers, which caused some confusion. I can choose to think they are punks or than them for the challenge and making me stronger! I choose to thank them for their obstacle!! :)
Getting lost and fumbling down some icy trails left me a bit discouraged going into mile 75. My knee was hurting a bit but still I felt good overall. I mean come on I only had 25 miles to go and still was on track for a fantastic finish on a super hard course! Heidi and I headed up a nice gradual climb and enjoyed the sunrise. I was reminded of the beauty in which we were running! Crossing the Idaho state line brought joy, as I was now in the state in which I would finish the race!
My goal was to run at a strong pace the entire stretch from mile 81-85 (Gibson Basin to Beaver Creek CG). We were able to jog the first mile but miles 82-84 were slippery and footing was not ideal, so we really slowed down. The last mile into Beaver Creek CG was gorgeous but full of mud. However, I could smell the pancakes!!
My cheerful Dad (who by the way was an amazing runner in his day… and still has it in him) met me with my next pacer Nate ( my bro). Heidi was feeling good so she wanted to keep going and enjoy the course!! Physically, I was feeling awesome other than my knee was very tight and achy. I had been slowed down from my goal but still thought I could possibly hit a sub 30 if I kept strong.
Miles 85-92 was about digging down and walking through my own personal hell and coming back. I felt pretty okay at first but the sun was out and the snow was causing a lot of thick mud. The mud actually would have been fun to run in but it was deep and slowing me down. My footing was awful and my knee was really bothering me. Instead of turning to my mental skills, I got negative and when that happens one starts to feel every little pain in the body. I had never been so close to dropping a 100 miler. This is what running is about… a new experience, fighting with every step, tenacity, and not stopping when everything sensible is telling you to stop. Bag that… my kids and family deserve a father who starts hard things and finishes hard things. I didn’t run 92 miles to quit because I felt like crap. People fighting illnesses cannot quit because they feel crappy. Soldiers cannot back down because they feel a lot of heat in battle. So, why was I any different?
I stood at the last aide station of the race. My incredible family was there. I knew they were worried. They could see the pain in my face. They saw me in my worst moment, yet they still believed in me. Well, I am sure they thought I was quiet ridiculous but they put their judgement to the side and gave me moral support. My mother-in-law is a wonderful massage therapist and she was quick to attend to my knee and help me along. I still was convinced in my own mind that I was dropping out and I was a fool for doing so at mile 92. Then the thought came to my mind– just keep moving. I stood up and before checking out of the aide station I heard the profile… 1 mile straight up and 7 miles down a steep decline. Right when I wanted to say okay I am done I called my number out loud and announced I am continuing on! NO TURNING BACK!!!
That 1 mile climb was muddy but I no longer cared. I made the decision to be a little tougher. I made the decision that I was going to run and who cared if I fell down some more. That last 8 miles took right about 90ish minutes!
About 2 miles from the finish I came across my fellow runner who had picked me up right before mile 92. She and her husband were so kind and happy to see me still moving!
The last 3/4 mile of the race hits pavement= OUCH!!! I could not stop smiling. Though my knee was hurting, I felt superb! I was so excited to see my hot wife and family at the finish so they could see that their positive energy had helped me dig deep and finish in a good spot!
My pacers were rock stars…. Michael, Heidi, and Nate are amazing! Sounds like Michael will do his first 100 this spring and Heidi will run her first 50 (well at her own pace because she has now paced me two times for 50+ miles each time).
Congrats to my good buddy Dale! Rocked it for his Grizzly Bear Belt Buckle!!
And yes, I am already looking forward to planning my next 100…happy trails!