Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Laramie 100 Race Report

Place - 1st Overall
Time - 23:21:00 Vertical gain - 13,000 ft.

I chose this race because it was cheap and I could run it and another 24 hour race in September (that I've now decided not to race) for the same cost that was refunded to me for not getting into Wasatch. I knew nothing about the race other than it is on a loop course and it is in the middle of Wyoming. I made Matt and my 13 year old son, Tyler, come along with me as crew and pacers.

Gear for the race:
Altra Instinct shoes - the best shoe ever. I had never done more than 36 miles in a single shot in them, but was confident that they would be the best shoe for the race. They were better than I could have imagined. If you haven't checked out Altra yet, do it now. They are more than just another shoe company, they are redefining what shoes are meant to do to enhance running altogether.
Life Is Like a Run shirt - my friend creates these amazing shirts. His phylosophy is in the name. Life really is like a run and was very much like this race.
Ultimate Direction water bottles - UD makes the best handhelds in the business!
Wasatch Running Center - for all my other running gear and needs. These guys are the BEST!

The drive out is actually worth noting. First, it's a long drive. Second, it's even longer because we got stuck for an hour and a half in stand-still traffic because the freeway was closed due to a diesel truck that caught on fire. We spent our time throwing the football and playing sudoku on our phones (I really, really suck at it). We then stopped at a Pizza Hut in Laramie for dinner and received a full-on redneck welcome. Scary. We didn't get to the start/finish campsite until 10ish, quickly set up camp and settled in. The race wasn't supposed to start until 9am so I was looking at a really good night's sleep.

The Laramie 100 is actually four different races; a 100 miler (there were 9 registered and we were considered the 'hardcore' dudes), a 24 hour solo, a 24 hour relay, and a 12 hour solo. All four events were to start at the same time and run the same course - a 5.6 mile loop up through the mountains in the Happy Jack recreation area. I was excited because while the overall elevation profile was pretty good at 13,000 ft of climbing total, the description said that in each 800 ft of elevation gain each lap, 700 ft came in a single climb that lasted 2 miles. 350 ft/mile sounded cruiser. I would soon learn that like much in this race, that was not accurate.

I woke early, about 6:30am and we were all up and moving around by 7am. It didn't take long to realize that the biggest challenge of the race would be the mosquitoes, at least for Matt and T. After a short pre-race meeting the gun went off and we were rolling right into a short section of single-track. I was in 4th behind a 24 hr guy and two relay dudes. After only 200 yards I passed the 24 hour guy (Jay) and the two fasty relay guys took off at a sprint. I was in the lead for the 100 milers.

So here's what I really found out about the course. It's about a half mile of single-track to another half mile of dirt road. Then finally another .6 miles of double-track until you cross two streams. This is all very mildly downhill. At that point you start "the climb". As it turned out it wasn't a single climb for 2 miles, but a series of short, steep climbs that crest, then drop, then rise again. The actual profile would look more like a roller coaster than a long, easy climb. While runnable on fresh legs they were brutal on tired ones. After the last steep climbs (the last three and hardest climbs I named "the switch backs", "the bitch", and "the whore" - sorry for my swearing) we rolled over to the top little aid station then cruised downhill through a few easy rollers and then a steep plunge back to the start/finish. Each lap we'd alternate directions, which is great because you can always see how close you are to those behind and in front. It's also a wonderful way to cheer on people and make friends.

I came into my first aid stop about 5 min ahead of 2nd place. From then on that lead would continue to grow. He (Jeremy) pushed me for about 10 hours, always staying within 20 - 30 min, but then he kind of crashed for a while and I knew I had it in the bag at that point. Let me just hit on a few of the interesting points and shorten this thing up.

I had my usual "doubt myself and want to quit" at mile 20 like I always do. Once I put my headphones on that went away though.

My quads were wrecked by mile 30. Seriously, dead tired. I just figured that the pain couldn't get any worse and I might as well keep running hard. I attribute the fatigue and pain to moving my home earlier in the week.

Matt and T could start pacing at 8pm, 11 hours after the start. When they started their first lap with me I was on mile 56 and was having some cramping in my diaphragm. I felt good and wanted to push hard, but I just couldn't with the cramping. I was really grumpy and this was my lowest point of the race. I knew that if I could get it to go away I could go strong again. The boys tolerated me for that lap and then forced some real food in me and I was immediately fixed. T ran one more lap and then settled in for a few hours around the fire, hoping to run the last two laps with me at the end for a total of 22 miles and 3200 ft of vert. On that 2nd lap with the boys I told them that things slow way down during the night in a 100 miler. But, looking at Matt, we had spent all winter running in the dark and we were going to 'own the night'. And own it we did. After Tyler took his rest Matt and I really began to push. Within two laps we saw the lead on Jeremy (2nd) go from 25 min to 40. I don't know if it was demoralizing to him or if he just bonked, but he disappeared soon after and we thought he dropped.

This was at about 3am. Matt and I were a barrel of laughs. We'd stop at the top little aid station and joke with everyone and then cruise down and do the same with the RDs and the relay people who were still awake. They loved us. Tyler was always around and was the most popular person at the race. Everyone was blown away by how cool this 13 year old was.

With 5 laps left I was asking about the "short out and back" we'd have to do at the end to get our full 100 in. Once they did a little math they realized that with this slightly shorter course (by .2) this year we needed to run a full additional lap. Sheesh. That was a blow. Oh well, we just kept pushing. It got very cold at the start/finish and the lower sections of trail in the early morning, but up high it was very nice all night long. When the sun came up just after 5am Tyler jumped back in for the last two laps. Matt was looking at a full 45 miler, 13 miles farther than he had ever run before. Tyler was looking at 22 miles; his previous long run had been 6 miles on flat ground. As we started into my very last lap Jeremy reappeared and started racing again, now almost 4 laps back, but still in 2nd place. Two other people we thought dropped also miraculously appeared and were moving strong again. Tons of respect to those dudes.

I really pushed the last lap. In fact, I think it was almost 10 min faster than my previous 6 laps. Matt and Tyler were having a hard time keeping up. I finished to subdued cheers and lack-luster fanfare by the organizers. Instead of a trophy I got a 1st Place medal, which was to take the place of my finisher medal. Not even a belt buckle. Oh well, I don't really care. We hung around for another hour or so to cheer on a few people I wanted to see before leaving and then took off. The drive home gave me a lot of time to think about the race and the experience. Here's what I walked away with.

1. My win means much less to me than seeing my son Tyler go 22 miles with 3200 ft of vert. He blew me away. I get emotional thinking about how incredible he was the entire weekend.
2. Matt is, hands down, the best crew and pacer ever. Not only is he a machine, but he always knew just what to do. I owe this race to him and Tyler.
3. While it may not seem as cool that I won against a small field, it is worth noting that I was the least experienced of all the 100 milers (by quite a bit). Apparently, people were approaching Matt and Tyler the whole race asking who that guy in orange was and saying how strong I looked. I guess other racers would come in talking about how fast I was. I never felt fast, but I always felt consistent.
4. Goeff Roes has been loosely quoted as saying, "being successful in a race isn't as much about pushing hard when you are feeling good, but being able to push hard through your low points". I found that to be completely true and a huge part of my success. When I was feeling slow and tired I'd just push harder and it really made a huge difference off my time.

Finally, win or not it was an awesome experience. The course was great. The format was really fun. The people I was able to associate with made the whole thing amazing for me. By far my biggest success of the whole experience were the relationships I made. What a pleasure it was to associate with such amazing people. I love running ultras!

Photos and video later in the week.


Enoch Davies said...

Well done! Way to finally get the big W. Congrats to Tyler too. That kid is capable of doing anything he wants.

Cory Reese said...

Awesome! I went to school in Laramie and was very curious about this race. Way to go!

Josh said...

All the hard work you've put in totally paid off! Great job out there. And Tyler is going to be an animal, just like his dad.

Hone said...

Nice! Good job out there. Way to tough it out and get the win.

Leslie said...

Congrats Craig! Great post and great win! Very inspiring

Jeremy said...

You were the guy to beat out there for sure. I remember seeing you go out for your 2nd or 3rd lap and you hurdled over the split rail fence. I thought to myself "that guy is going to crash hard later" but you proved me wrong. Really amazing that you were able to keep your energy up so high for so long. Great performance! Hope we get a chance to race each other again soon.