Me with my sister who got me into this mess…
I have conflicted feelings about my first 100k. It was by far the hardest run I’ve ever done. I only got through the last 30 miles through force of will and an unhealthy inability to call it quits. Most of the time I finish this sort of thing with a sense of euphoria and excitement for whats next. This time I finished physically shattered and I just wanted to go home. Absolutely no desire to hang out after and feel the vibe or cheer on other finishers. No desire to stick around and commiserate with those who had also been through this special form of self inflicted suffering. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
So I’m interested in how this affects my relationship with running long term – have I met my match? Am I done looking for the next level? Am I ready to tone it down? A lot to think about in the next few weeks. I will admit that it’s only been 8 days later as I write this post and I’ve started to furtively go to the White River 50 home page and made some travel itineraries in my mind – so maybe I’m not ready to hang up my ultra shoes quite yet.
So what made it so hard? This was my “A” race for the summer – the race that I was building up for and had geared a lot of my training schedule for. I went into the race feeling like I was in the best shape of my life. I recently set a new course record in the Hong Family Challenge fitness test – a 1.35 mile loop with 280 feet of gain outside my front door that I often run to test my fitness. I lowered the record from 9:53 to 9:30. I had done a lot of race specific training – really hitting the trails and hills hard leading up to the event. I had a decent taper and had done some good cross training. I felt unbreakable. I felt stronger than I ever have before. This pride was probably the problem. I had put together a plan to aim at a 11:30 pace for the 100k. This would put me in at 11:54. This was 10 seconds slower per mile than what I ran the White River 50. I thought that my superior fitness and experience of running another ultra would make this a realistic goal even though the race was significantly longer. Although I kept finding myself foolishly thinking that 62.5 miles isn’t that much longer than 50 miles – it’s nearly a full half marathon – after you have already run nearly 2 marathons. It made a big difference.
I may have been OK if I went with my pace goal – but once the race started I went out like superman. I saw one of the best female ultra runners in America Darcy Africa and decided to follow her. We were in a pack of about five people – a secondary group behind the lead pack of six people who went out significantly faster than the rest of us. I kept telling myself that following a multiple Hardrock 100 winner is probably not the right thing to do at my level – but I was feeling great. About six miles in the real stupidity set in. Darcy pulled aside for a pit stop and I passed her. That’s right – I brazenly pushed on and picked up the pace with a crowd of four similarly foolish men after we passed the person I already thought I was stupid for even following.
But I was feeling great and my splits show it. The first 25 miles of this race are very runnable and probably the easiest stretch of the course. I used flawed logic like I’m just putting some time in the bank for when it gets hard. I have 9 sub 10 minute miles in the first 12 miles – including a ridiculous 7:17 split. Although it was probably right to run the first part of the course faster when it is easier I took it too far. All this exertion early on caught up to me in a serious way later in the race.
I also had a few falls at the start that didn’t hurt when I was feeling good but probably contributed to the cumulative damage later on in the race. In one I got distracted by the sunrise views and stumbled right off the trail into the bushes and cut my legs up pretty good. The other was just a dumb fall when I caught a rock on the trail. The views were spectacular on the first 25 miles. Some really wide open big sky views with great sunrise colors.
The crux of the race was at mile 31, which has 1000 feet of gain. This comes after five more miles of significant climbing. That single mile took me nearly a half hour and I was never the same after it. I just lost my climbing gear – it was very painful to run anything with a incline after that. I did make it down from that climb into the next aid station though – and as I fueled up Darcy Africa passed me looking like she was out for an afternoon stroll. She ended up beating me by 45 minutes. I only had 5 sub 10 minute miles in the 31 miles after mile 31.
The sun was a big factor in the race for me. I was not used to racing in such an exposed environment. We actually have trees in the cascades. It really sucked the energy out of me. I should have worn more sun screen. I put some on at an aid station but with that much exposure I needed more. It’s harder to quantify but I also think that the elevation was a problem I did feel a bit light headed when we got over 6000 ft.
The last half of the race is a bit of a blur. I didn’t really enjoy the course that much as I worked to manage my pain – even though I’m sure I covered some amazing views as we went up the mountain. A guy I had passed earlier, Mike caught up to me after the West Fork aid station and I started rubber banding off him – working to not let him get too far ahead of me and using him as an anchor to keep me moving. I knew that if he got too far ahead of me I would lose motivation. At first we were somewhat competitive about it. He was pushing ahead and I kept working to pull him back in. After a while though we started talking each other through it and it was more cooperative. We helped each other up the Scout Mountain climb. I’m not sure if we would have pushed harder if we didn’t decide to be friends but it made the journey much more pleasant to have someone to work with up the mountain.
On the decent down the mountain Mike was not doing so well. Whereas I was struggling finding my climbing gear he had significant pain going down hill. So we separated on the decent as I was in a state where I could either shuffle slowly downhill with great pain or shuffle quickly downhill with great pain. I decided that going quickly would get this whole ordeal over faster and left Mike behind. I finished about seven minutes ahead of him and thanked him for pushing me up the mountain.
The last 6.2 miles were pretty rough. There were some significant climbs and I just power walked up them. I gutted it out to the finish line and was excited to see several of my family members there to cheer me on – my Mom, my Sister Mindy, her kids Kaya and Lander, and my super aunt Jenny. It almost made it worth it to have such a great crew. I finished in 12:35 – 11th place overall. Results Course Map My Garmin Data
Gear Used: SRC Brooks Singlet last 52 miles. SRC long sleeve first 10 miles. Nike Shorts. Solomon Wings 2 first 40 miles. Solomon Crossmax 2 last 22 miles. I actually wish I had not changed shoes it was a crampy chore to do it and it didn’t help – not even psychologically. Pearl Izumi vizor and shades were very important due to the sun.
Nutrition: They provided EFS electrolyte drink and gel. The gel came in this little 5 oz bottle. I went through about 10 oz of the gel. I used two hand bottles – 1 for electrolyte drink and 1 for water. There were 8 aid stations and I had 80% drained both bottles for 7 of them. Both bottles were 22 oz so I probably went through 260 oz of fluid over the course of the race. I also feasted at the aid stations – mostly fruit, potato chips, otter pops, pb&j, and Coke. Even with all the hydration I was dehydrated at the end. I didn’t realize how dehydrated until I tried to sleep. I was up all night getting drinks until my body got some sort of equilibrium.
Recovery Status: It’s eight days later and I’m feeling better but still significantly hobbled. I ran about five miles yesterday as part of my effort to have an active recovery and I still have pain that prevents me from going much more than 10 min a mile. I was able to keep up with 8 year old Danny who was running his first 5k – luckily it turned out to only be 2.1 miles since the course was much shorter than advertised. I did ride my bike in and get a swim in last week. I think I should be back to 100% after 1 more week. I will also post some more photos when I get them.
Here’s some race photos:
A few random bullets from my notes:
- Had a tough night of sleep at the camp ground
- Rushed early start – took longer to get ready than I thought – woke up at 4:30 for the 5:00 AM start
- Amazing views at sunrise. Beautiful colors and big Idaho skies.
- Crappy headlamp with broken loop didn’t use it and left it in Idaho. Good riddance.
- Good first drop bag – shades and singlet
- Starting next to Darcy Africa. Foolishly passing her. Her passing me at mile 36
- Couple of spills. One nasty fall into the bushes when I got distracted by the views.
- Starting out way too fast.
- The pain of the climb out of city creek
- Running the downhills and just trying to manage the pain.
- Hitting the west fork aid station in rough shape wondering how to go 20+ more miles.
- When I got really loopy and started singing children’s songs and repeating mantras in my head after mile 31
- Willaby Wallaby Woo
- James Taylor
- Just praying
- The brutal last 10k
- Could not even jog the hills
- Running with partners that help.
- My buddy Mike rubber banding me up scout mountain
- All that gel and chomps and Gu
- Aid station food
- Getting the aid station folks to sing happy birthday to me
- Foolishness of shoe change + exploding calf
- Dehydration later that night despite 250 or so oz of fluid
- Tiny gnomes attacking all the joints in my lower extremities with ball peen hammers for 25 miles.
- Did I look at the garmin too much? Watched pot does not boil. I liked knowing how far we had to go and the mile count. It probably contributed to some negative head space.
- Overall the 910xt worked really well. Tracked the whole 12:37 without a hitch.
- Loopy after the race. Just wanted to get away from there. Didn’t feel like hanging out and cheering for people.
- I was crying heading into the finish – just happy to have it over. It was not very joyous.
- I think if I would have run the first 30 miles 30 minutes slower I would have finished 30 minutes faster. And felt better overall
- I should have let that secondary pack go – I would have caught them later.
- I met the winner walking around the night before 18 year old Andrew Miller from Corvallas, OR. That’s a super tough kid.