Close your eyes and imagine this (well maybe keep your eyes open so you can read what I want you to imagine)… You are running a marathon and about mile 20 you are told, “the course is actually going to be about 36-39 miles in length, instead of the standard 26.2.” Most might respond with a big ole, “Whattttttt?” Okay, good… Now, imagine running a 100 mile race and noticing that each segment is actually 1-2 miles longer than noted. Then think about getting to what is mile 100 and realizing you still have another 10-13 miles to go, and this is after already having run for a good 28+ hours. So, you get the picture? What would you think? Frankly, my thought was something along these lines… What will getting upset do? After all, I am the one who signed up to run the race. The race director was awesome and not to blame for the longer course, so I could not get mad at him. So, my thought was simple… there is no end to this race… I will keep moving until told otherwise. That is just what I did, and I feel I am improved as a person and athlete for not giving in!
Here is how it went down.
There were 100ish (something like that) amateur starters (aka Tortoises) and 60ish elites (aka Hares) who started the 110 mile run. There were only 48 tortoise finishes and 16 hare finishes. I finished 34th at a time of 33 hours 33 minutes.
Quitting was never an option. Seriously, the thought came just as quick as I let it go. People often ask something like this, ” How do you fight off the negative/ quitting thoughts?” Actually, I do not fight them… I let them go. I cannot lie that the thought of being inadequate and unable to finish surely came to my mind… I took it for what it was worth, which is a worthless thought!
I felt pretty good in my Skechers during the race!!! I cannot wait for the trail shoe to be released and see how they feel on the trai!
Up, Down, Up, Down
The first 5 miles were up, up, up, up a good 4,000+ feet. There was not much trail on this section; rather, it was climbing up very steep black diamond ski slopes to the summit. My goal was to summit this segment by 9:38 and I reached summit at 9:28. Not too concerned at this point with moving quicker than planned but did note the pace. Next 8-10ish miles was sweeeet rolling trail to Long Lake on the Continental Divide. Much chit chatting with other runners and admiring the beautiful landscape. Arriving at Long Lake I was now 20+ minutes ahead of my projected pace… still not too worried. The next 8-10ish miles was down the gorgeous Fish Creek Falls… steep and technical. I was excited to get through this section as I would get to see my crew (friends and family) at the bottom of the mountain.
Running With Old Guys
Running down Fish Creek Falls I met a 52-yr-old guy name Richard (who finished right before me). Richard was strong and spoke highly of his children and grandchild! This dude was a grandpa… seriously, that is cool! Daily, I hear about how people are getting old and blaming so much on age, which this race taught me age is only what one makes it out to be. I was the youngest amateur in this race. Yes, as a 28-yr-old I was truly the youngest 100 mile amateur runner! This difficult race was chuck full of older men and women. In fact, the overall winner is 40 something years old! Looks like I have many great races to come and it is not too late to run, be healthy, and take control over life, instead of life taking control of you!
A Little Bit Longer
After seeing my family at the bottom of the hill I headed through the town of Steamboat and up a 40% grade to a trail to head up Emerald Mountain. This section was supposed to be 20 miles and ended up being a lot longer than that. The afternoon came and went and it go hottttttt!!! I realized at about mile 26ish that I was pushing too fast in the first quarter of this race. A 100 mile race is not decided in the first 70 miles… rather, the first 70 miles are a grind and the last 30 can be pushed. If I wanted to finish it was time to play smart and turn it down. I saw runners already starting to pull out, vomit, and fall apart. The longer section really messed with people. I ran this entire section on my own with no one around to chat, which was very positive for me. Then came the big 40% grade hill… I had a decision to stumble down and kill my quads more or simply sit on my butt and slide down…. yes you guessed it… I slid most the way down.
Those Around Make Me Strong
Kind of funny that I write this section while my 3 yr old and 4 yr old both have their heads on my laps trying to awake early in the morning. They really do inspire me to be my best… seeing my family at aid stations is better than any food or drink built to give me a boost!
At this point in the race (somewhere around mile 40ish) I began picking up pacers! Michael, Bill, and Dale divided up the last 60-70 miles. This is something I love about our sport…. the friendships are authentic. These guys (who all have families) came out through the night and day to make sure I reached the finish. Even if they were not running with me they were are aid stations making sure I was on track and not being stupid with my pace or nutrition. My pacers really were perfect… keeping me moving, nourished, reaching goals, and grounding me when I thought rocks were turtles after running for 24 hours (Yes… my thinking became a bit distorted). My pacers reminded me when we saw a bear that its no big deal and when we had a momma moose with her baby coming down the trail towards us that all is well. When I looked, and felt, like trash they told me I was looking good and encouraged me to keep moving.
My wife, brothers, and brother’s girlfriend were there from start to finish. My brother (Lonnie) came out from Ohio to support me during the race. Not only did he pace the last 6 miles, he was at every accessible aid station. When my other brother (Ben) arrived he also came to ever aid. They seemed more excited than I was at times!!!! Shayna (my wife) allowed me all the time to train and prepare for the race and then was out there at every point of the race with true excitement. That is a perfect spouse… someone who supports another in goals… even if they might seem senseless to most 🙂 Seriously, she rocks and makes this world just that much better!
I have to say it was a very tender surprise to see my parents at the finish line!!! I had no idea they were going to show up to the race. They drove 10 hours at night to get there in time to rest a bit, hang with the kids, shop, cook an amazing post race Lasagna, help me recover, sleep a bit and then do the 10 hour drive back home. They rock and I am very blessed that they are my parents!
Preparing for the Worst
Being an optimistic thinker is not just having wonderful, unrealistic, fluffy thoughts. Really it is about thinking through situations before they happen, working through them mentally, and having confidence you are prepared. I had prepared physically for miles 1-60, but the rest of the race was mental. So, weeks leading up to the race I did a lot of visualization work. Meaning, I would take 5 minutes to close my eyes and think of the worst possible situations that could occur and then work through the in my mind. Doing this allowed me to gain confidence that I needed in adversity. It would have been easy, and ridiculous, to hope for the best environmental and physical conditions, but this would have been a recipe for disaster. You see, I had imagined in my mind a few different times that I got lost on the course and found my way back resulting in extra miles. So, when we noticed the course was actually longer on many segments and total miles were over 110 I was actually okay with it. I had prepared for this to happen! You cannot imagine all that could go wrong in a race like this but you can come close 😉
It’s All Down Hill Usually Sounds Good
I am sure the thought of finishing the last 6.5 miles of a race going downhill sounds fantastic…. well, maybe on a 50K or 50 miler but not on a 110 miler!!! We arrived the summit of Mt. Werner at about 3pm and already ran about 105ish miles. The finish was literally 6.5 miles down the mountain.. .about a 4,000 ft decent. This would typically take less than 50 minutes (at most) to run. Instead, this turned into about 2.5 hour crawl down the mountain. My quads were done and my right Achilles was on fire (since about mile 70). Lonnie and Dale ventured down the mountain keeping me in great spirits. The 50 milers were coming down the mountain greeting me with very encouraging words. Finally, 1 mile left… ahhhhhhh! I saw my wife with about quarter mile left… tears quickly flooded my eyes as I realized I had made it and I recognized how much support I had as my 2 brothers, wife, and great friend were running me to the finish. There it was … the finish!!! I thought for sure I was hallucinating when I saw my Mom and Dad at the finish with my crew… but it was real!!! How awesome is that? My parents came out during the race and showed at the finish. Nothing like a homemade plate of Mama’s lasagna after a 33 hour run through the mountains!
Well, last Wednesday we took of to Hawaii for a family reunion. Just returned today. It has been awesome focusing on my wife and kiddos for several days! The waves have been nice and boogy boarding has been fun. I ran three times out there and feel super slow but healthy. Next year is going to be a fun season…. maybe Ironman, a 100… not yet for sure! I have plenty of ideas… just gotta see what works! Any suggestions?
For now, up for some adventure runs and most importantly focusing on Shayna and the kiddos… and maybe some work (well actually a lot of work). There are certain things that are important to remember in my life but I hope I always remember that Shayna is incredible and I have amazing kiddos, siblings, parents, in laws, and friends supporting me!