Well my season is finally over, and I am so relieved. It feels like a huge weight has lifted off of my shoulders.
On August 28th at 5:30AM 250 runners met up outside the Mueller Building in Hot Springs SD. We all kind of just stood around the outside chatting with family and friends, there was no real starting line, which was actually really cool. Jerry Dunn simply did a count down and we were off. 159 of us were doing the hundred miler, 67 the half hundred, and 24 the 50k.
Desi ran into a friend, Rachel, who's boyfriend Andrew was also doing the 100 miler. I do not believe they had any idea each other's boyfriends were doing the event so that was really helpful. Plus they could hang out a bit during the race.
Temps were good and I was in a T-Shirt with arm warmers. I should have gone w/o the shirt and simply started in my running top but it was not too big of a deal.
The run did not start on the Mickelson trail but goes over gravel roads to reach it. I have done gravel roads before, and the Mickelson Trail is crushed stone, so I was not concerned about doing the entire race in Vibrams. Unfortuantely the gravel we ran on was far different then what I am used to. This had many many 1 inch sharp rocks everywhere on the road. Instead of the super fine soft dirt roads where I am from I had to deal with this for 16 or so miles. This section was also very "hilly". Now I do almost no real hill work since there simply are not any real hills to train on in Brookings. Even though these were shorter, they eventually got to me. Towards the end of this hilly section my Bicep Femoris really started to hurt.
A vast majority of the runners had covers over the top of their shoes to prevent rocks from getting inside. Through the entire ultra I probably only had 5 very small pebbles get into my Vibrams. And not one got all the way in, the seam prevented them from doing so. I would simply stop running for a second, peel the top back and remove the pebble. I suspect from running so smoothly I kicked up less of the road compared to shod runners.
Once we were through the Coldbrook and Morph aid stations which crews were not allowed to drive to we got off the gravel section and closer to the trail the rocks slowly got smaller and the hills lessoned. Mile 16.1 was the Argyle Road station. Desi and her mother Cammy met me there to replace my Running Food Chia Seeds and Larabars.
My nutrition plan for the event was to have my Amphipod bottle with 120 or 180 calories of Running Food Chia Seeds and water in it refilled at every aid station with the supplies Desi had. Also my goal was to eat a Larabar between each station and maybe a honey packet or two. For the honey packets, each time I would go into a cafe that has them I would grab one or two and store them. There was about 60 or 70 calories per packet. They tasted just like GU but I have been moving away from non natural fuel this summer.
I talked with a guy for a while about salt supplementation. He was telling me about a race he did with another guy we were running with and how he DNFed there (and another time or two) because he was experimenting with his sodium intakes. He said he has an alarm set on his watch and every time it goes off, no matter what he is doing, he takes a salt pill while running. So far so good he said with the last ultra and this one. I commented how I have been through an Ironman and so far on the Lean Horse without any salt supplementation and have never had a cramp. I think this guy was really sucking down the water so he was probably really messing with his sodium balance in his body. Because I drink less water, while I loose salt through sweat my balance may remain relatively the same. It's also interesting to note that when you use glycogen as a fuel source you actually gain water since the glycogen is stored with water in your muscles. Also because of the taper your body actually begins the race in a hyperhydrated state. So a loss of water weight is normal, and frankly a necessity. If your weight remains the same that means you are drinking too much. Also all that sodium people are taking in, is likely making them more thirsty. Which in turn makes them drink more water, which makes them need more sodium, etc etc.
After Argyle the roads slowly leveled out and the ground became much cleaner. My leg felt much better without the short and more steep hills. I do not remember much about where stuff took place, it really blended together.
When the temperature started to rise Desi brought me a gas station slushie and I sat and drank that at a couple aid stations. The temp was in the 80's but it was much more dry compared to the super humid air from where I am from, so the entire run was very comfortable. I actually ended up putting my arm warmers back on since the breeze was a bit chilly at times.
While running I got the usual, "do you like running in those?" as they look down at the Vibrams. "Yeah of course I do!" I responded. We would chat about them and I am always more then happy to answer any questions about the Five Fingers. I ran a good chunk of the race with a super cool lady from Chicago named Louise. She has been doing marathons and ultras for a very long time. We talked about running form, gear, and she gave me LOTS of pointers for my next race. Her alone made the race really worth it. She taught me a great deal and kept me moving forward.
The Vibrams were a huge success. If you look down at a previous post you will see a picture of the two holes on my right big toe from even before the Ironman. I was worried about them making it to the ultra but even afterwards, they are still totally fine. I believe that since the entire event was on gravel roads there was less friction and wear then there would have been on pavement, since the gravel shifts under your feet. One whole got a little larger, but the other one remained relatively the same size. There's over 850 miles on them as of writing this. Little guys make me proud :)
I would not call it a mistake, but I spent a great deal of time at a few aid stations. Maybe at mile 24, 40, and 60 I spent more time then I needed to with Desi. I sat and took in the slushy while Desi made sure I ate, drank, checked Body Glide, and my bandanna for sweat. It was hard to get back up and going but I think the stops were for the better. They took up more time then I probably should have spent, but the rest also allowed me to continue running farther.
Desi's mother Cammy helped crew for a bit and some horses got in the way!
The 12oz Amphipod was a bit too little water for roughly 5.5 mile increments between aid stations. I have never been a big drinker but the 20oz would have been a better option. I never found myself thirsty, but I had to make sure I took many smaller sips instead of larger gulps.
Another error made was when I decided to not have drop bags and leave every thing with Desi. This gave us an advantage in that we would always have access to everything, except when....oh I don't know the aid station guys tell Desi I have already passed through so she goes to the next one when in fact I have yet to arrive at that first one. That actually happened at the worst time possible. The aid station was something like three miles past where it was supposed to be. So I had to run about 8 miles to the aid station to find Desi not there, since they told her I had already been through. So I went to the turn around station and she was not there. Rachel was there and happened to be talking to Desi as I ran by. This aid station was not exactly at the turn around, but .8 mile away. I told Rachel I would run the .8 to the turn around and .8 back and stop for aid then. That gave Desi plenty of time to get to this station where we took care of everything.
My left Biceps Femoris started to really hurt again around mile 55 and 60 and continued to get worse as i went on. Instead of short steep climbs the Mickelson consists of longer gradual ascents.This is tricky in that you do not feel like you are going up hill, but over a longer distance you get that elevation increase.
I finally got to the Harbach aid station at mile 64.5 in Custer with something like 20 minutes to spare before the cut off. I sat and Desi refills my bottle, makes me take some honey, I eat some grapes, and get back on my way. I have an hour and fifty minutes to run 5.5 miles to Carroll Creek. I run/walk/hobble the first two miles at the correct pace. Mile three comes along and my leg is really starting to hurt so I did a lot more hobbling during this mile and I get it done a few minutes slower then the pace I need. During mile 3 I decided that I was definitely not going to continue after this aid station so may as well just take my time and walk. My leg was pretty bad, there was a short climb out of the ditch where the trail goes over a paved road. It went up really steep and I almost fell over because my leg could not do it. However for some reason during this mile I told myself even if I would not finish the 100 I did want to make this cut off and DNF on my own terms. I finished mile 3 and began mile 4 with 25 minutes to maybe make the cut off if I could HTFU and run the remainder of this leg. I turned on Bleed It Out by Linkin Park and got going.
No sooner did I began, I see the light. Johney's head lamp actually. He looked so bad ass. Headlamp, bright yellow gloves, a couple water bottles, glow stick bracelets. The works. He stops ahead and I yell at him to keep running and tell him I am on a time crunch to make it back to the aid station before the cut off.
He had to work Saturday afternoon but was able to leave Brookings and make it to the hills in time to start pacing me around midnight or one. I was hoping to be around mile 80 or at least in better shape to continue though.
We get moving and I'm going pretty fast for having just ran 68.5 miles. I have on my Cannondale jacket since at the slower pace I had been moving at I was not building up a great deal of body heat. However now I was really starting to sweat.
While running I updated Johney on the state of things, but then start to worry. The nightmare of that aid station being 3 miles off creeps into my mind and I hope that this one is in the right spot. I am not sprinting but going about as fast as I can sustain, despritely waiting for the lights of the aid station.
Finally we turn a corner and there it is! A group of people have a large camper parked along side the road and I get their with three whole minutes to spare :) I check in and start getting ready for the next aid station. Desi refills my bottle with chia and water and I drink a little warm tomato soup. I tell Desi and Johney that I do not know if I can run to the next one, and that my left leg is hurting pretty bad. Johney and I get ready to go and I think this over a bit. My leg is in pretty bad shape and I am gaining nothing from continueing. My main concern is that if I keep pushing it I am risking injury and with that in mind I tell the aid station that I'd like to drop.
So my first real ultra attempt comes to an end. Even though it resulted in a DNF I could not be happier. I learned so much I would rather have finished like this then made it the entire way in ignorance.
When you read ultra marathon books or talk to people images come to mind of hallucinations, zombie runners, hitting the wall, giant blisters, etc etc. Well maybe it was unfortunately I never got to experience anything cool like that. It would make for a better story. However that means I ran a smart race I suppose. I peed multiple times, so my hydration was right on. I was doing my best to take in 250-300 calories an hour while running and never felt like I was hungry or low on nutrition. Not at all during the event was I tired from over exerting myself with too fast of a pace. I think I ran a very smart race. I saw people even at very early aid stations having their feet worked on with blisters. I finished the run without a single blister. Desi said people would come through and look like they were on the brink of death. And here I was, having fun and feeling great. Other then the leg pain from a massive lack of hill training I felt 100% fine and in control.
Looking at the results only 94 people finished under the cut off. There were 159 runners signed up. This 60% finish rate seems low for a 100 miler, especially considering this is an easy race. It was amazing and inspiring seeing the older people and having them give me tips, tricks, and telling me about what they've done. One guy from New Zealand who ran with his wife were 61 and 58 years old and he was telling me about his Ironman races from when they first started and all the ultras he has done. If I did the math correctly the average finisher age for the 100 miler was 50 years old! It takes roughly 10 years to reach your peak, but it could be 30 or 40 years until you fall back to wear you started. Speed really decreases with age, but endurance just goes up.I can't wait until I'm 30 or 40 years old!
The Larabars worked amazingly during the Ironman triathlon when I ate them hourly on the bike. Man those things taste amazing. However while running I found them a bit too dry. Towards the end I was forced to take a small bite and then a sip of water, chew, swallow. It became a hassle and hindered my caloric intake. They were simply too much work to eat. Perhaps if I would only eat them at aid stations with Desi forcing them into my hands it would have been better. But while on the run they were too much work.
However the Running Food chia seeds were perfect. Every aid station Desi would put two or three scoops ( 120 to 180 cals) in my bottle. Looking back I would have liked to purchase a second Amphipod before the event so she would have been able to get the extra bottle ready for me while I was out on the course. For future events this will make the stations much more efficient.
It has been a week since the run and I have not allowed myself to run again until this upcoming Tuesday and I cannot wait! Overall I feel really good. I would guess my body is 90% healed up. Nothing really hurts but I can still feel a lingering stiffness in the mornings.
This event will be something I never forget and I am so happy about how it ended. I met many amazing people, learned a great deal about myself and ultra marathons, and cannot wait for the next one!
Speaking of the next one....just wait until my next post :) Big things planned for next season already!