The race started at noon and within a few minutes I settled into a comfortable quick pace with Craig Lloyd and Robert Mueller. The run up the hill was very easy and we chatted all the way up. Over the hill and on the flatter trail, Aaron Spurlcok caught up and the four of us ran to Elephant Head junction together. At the aid tent we all continued without stopping, the others went right to do the out-and-back, and I opted to do the loop first. I prefer to do the loop first becuase it is less crowded. There were only 3 runners ahead of me, including Karl, Nick and another runner. The switchbacks are easily run and go quickly. The climb felt good on my legs. I returned to the junction and did the 3 mile out-and-back, and ran into the crowds. At the junction for the third time I saw that the three other guys had already headed down the hill so I turned on some speed to catch them. I was enjoying the pace they ran and the company. The four of us ran the remainder of the loop together at a fairly easy pace. We could have gone much faster but for my part I was playing it somewhat conservatively. This was only my third 100 mile attempt and I was being very careful about everything. The theme for me that day was Run Conservatively.
Back at the Start/Finish tent at 19 miles, my wife met me on the road and handed me some re-fills. If I could do it over again I would have kept running at pace and let her run beside me until the handoff was complete. Still, I am happy withe the execution. So far I had avoided all aid stops and kept the momentum. Robert had put a small gap on me, and Aaron too. I ran behind them all the way to the the Ranch until I finally caught up with Robert as he stopped for a drink. Craig was a short way behind me and I was expecting him to catch up at some point, which he did at about mile 43. The three of us - Craig, Robert and I - finished the first 50 miles together at sunset. We pulled into the tent at about 7:50 PM. It was so nice to be there before dark.
Craig had set a very solid, and fast pace that last 7 miles. I was working hard to stay behind him, but grateful to have been able to make a strong finish to the first half. I came into the tent feeling dizzy but otherwise very good. I planned to sit down for a while and ponder if I wanted to continue. But I had not time to just sit and think. People were swirling around me, getting me ready to go back out. With a change of shirt, a jacket for the cold, and a full bottle of UltraGen, I set out at 8PM for the seconf fifty miles. My wife walked out with me and down the road. I made a last minute request for an extra shirt and she ran back for it, then caught up with me just before I turned onto the trail. About that time Craig ran past with his pacer and they moved up the hill quickly and disappeared into the darkness. With the drink going into my belly, which I sipped, I had slowed to a walk/run pattern. I was able to run up about half the hill, which to me indicated I was going to have a good night. Last year my back 50 had been a mess. This time I was running consistently and feeling very good. I opted to do the out-and-back first this time, and passed Craig and his pacer about a half-mile out from the turn-around as he was heading back. I saw only one other runner on that section, and learned later that he had dropped shortly after I saw him. I was cold and windy but I stayed toasty warm in my layers and hooded jacket. On my iPod I had loaded several Cheech & Chong albums so I was having a great time laughing out loud, chewing up the miles.
At the aid station at Elephant junction I stopped for a can of Coke. I sat in the chair, drank the soda, got up and left after a few minutes. This became a pattern for each of the three times I came through there during that 19 mile section. I was getting tired of gel so Coke was a terrific alternative to keep me going. Plus, the caffeine kick came at just the right time. At the base of the switchbacks I saw Craig's light nearing the top. He was moving well. It wasn't until later I learned he was struggling with side pains through a lot of the race.
The last 5 miles back to the Start/Finish area was another solid run. I was moving at the same pace, or even faster, than earlier in the day. At the tent my wife told me she found someone to run with me the remaining 31 miles. I made the decision weeks before to go without pacers for the Buffalo Run, and so far I had no problems. However, having Steve Newman along for the last 50K was a blessing. I welcomed his company. I was more fired up now to get out of the tent than I was at 50 miles. We left walking swiftly, then running up the hill toward the Mountainview trail. I had left the tent before Craig, therefore he caught up with me on the short out-and-back on the MV trail. We ran lockstep for a mile toward the Ranch, but then he dropped back. Steve and I moved very well down to Lower Frary aid. Again, I did not stop as my wife handed me some supplies. The 6 mile run down to the Ranch turn-around was also a solid run. I was feeling very good, but my knees were beginning to be a problem. At the Ranch I walked up to the fire, turned around, and began the run back. I saw Craig about a mile out from the Ranch, which meant I was about 2 miles ahead. He indicated he was having problems, embraced me and said some nice things. I was about 5 minutes behind the 4th place runner at this point. Without the pain developing in my knees I would have made a very good play at hunting him down. At Lower Frary again, I was told he was still only 5 minutes ahead. He knew that also, and must have turned on his race reserve because he took of and I never saw his light again. The 4th place runner eventually made up a lot of time on the 3rd place runner, and came in a good 45 minutes ahead of me. I was fading.
We reached the Mountainview trail aid at about 5 in the morning. If I wanted to finish at 18 hours or less I was going to have to move fast. Unfortunately, my knees were hammered. Still, I had momentum and Steve and I moved well the last 6 miles. Running wasn't so consistent anymore, but there was no stopping and no sitting. We weaved around the rocks along the point trail and just slowly moved closer to the finish. Around a corner the glowing tent of race headquarters came into view. At 6AM I watched from a distance as the 50 mile racers formed a line of glowing headlamps up the hillside. About a mile out I hallucinated and thought I saw a herd of buffalo crossing the road. Then I thought I saw a deer wearing a headlamp running toward me. It was actually a runner going out to find Craig, who was running the last 11 miles alone after his pacer dropped out with a problem knee.
Although I missed my target time of 18 hours, I wasn't too far off with a finish of 18:29. A hundred mile run is much more enjoyable when I can finish as early as possible. That should be the motivation to move as quickly, as cleanly as possible. Overall, this my third 100 mile race, was the most enjoyable race I have had at that distance.