Craig and I drove to the start together and we decided to stop and get some breakfast on the way to the island and my goal was to get as many calories as possible to help sustain me during the day and into the night. I ordered a large orange juice and didn't even think that I never drink OJ before a race or a long run and I think that would come back to haunt me later in the day. I never do anything new on race day that I haven't been doing in my training and I'm still not sure what I was thinking.
We had been watching the weather reports for race day for the past several days and as the race approached the forecast got worse each day. We were driving out to the island in a snow storm and it really wasn't helping us build any pre-race stoke. As we approached the island it was clear that it wasn't snowing, so that was good, but we noticed that the wind was blowing pretty hard and that was by far my biggest concern. We parked and started to get ready for the day and it was windy and very cold, so both of us decided to change our race day apparel and I put on my tights and a light windstopper top along with a hat, long sleeve shirt and gloves. It was very hard to predict what the weather would do, so I made my best guess and went with it.
|With Craig before the start|
On the way back to Elephant Head aid my stomach was in knots and Kristel dropped me. I caught back up at the aid station (mile 9), but she stopped briefly and I had to stop to remove my windstopper top because I was getting hot. I hoped to catch back up, but I never did. My stomach was in knots as I ran down into the Split Rock valley and if there had been any cover at all I would have stopped for a bathroom break, but there really wasn't anywhere to go, but right off the trail. All of the sudden Davy Crockett flies by at what looked like a 6:00 mm pace and he seemed to be enjoying himself. Awesome. I eventually caught up to him as we approached the switchbacks and we both ran every step up to the top and then ran together for a few minutes before my stomach finally wasn't going to be denied and I barely made it off the trail behind the slight cover of a rock. It felt like a Mack truck was plowing through my innards and I was just relieved that only two other runners witnessed the carnage. The joys of ultra running.
After my pit stop I felt slightly better although the bad stomach would haunt me for the next 30 miles and cause me to stop a few more times. I'll spare the additional horrific details. I reached the Elephant Head aid at mile 13 feeling ok and I stopped quick to grab a gel and then I ran the 6 miles back to the start/finish by myself for the most part. The wind picked back up on the way back and blasted me hard for about a mile and a half. I was starting to wonder how much of that I could take and hoping that it would settle down and give us some reprieve. As I came around the bend and the start/finish aid station came into view the sun came out and the wind settled and I actually started to warm up, so I decided to change into shorts when I hit the aid. I came in at 3:20 (mile 19) and ended up staying far too long in there messing with my clothes and gear for about 15 minutes. When I finally got out of the tent it was cold, but I warmed up in a few minutes after I started running again.
There was still a steady wind, but the sun was out and helped to keep me from getting cold as I made my way down to the Mountain View trail where we run a long 12 mile out and 12 back to the ranch along the eastern shore of the island. I was feeling pretty good at this point and got into a really good groove/pace as my stomach finally started to settle and I had the wind at my back. At the Lower Frary aid I stopped to eat some salted potatoes, grab some more gels and then I had a solid run out to the ranch. I passed Craig, MattVH, Kristel, Crockett and others on their way back from the turnaround and they all looked really good. I took a few minutes at the ranch (mile 34) to eat some cookies, more potatoes, half a Mountain Dew and I was feeling really good until I started running back into the wind. The sun started to fade behind Frary Peak and the wind seemed to get stronger as I ran north and it became much harder to keep up a solid pace. Over the next 5 miles the wind punished me relentlessly and started sucking my drive to run fast. I got cold and it became very difficult to sustain any sort of decent pace. On top of that my left knee was now hurting which is odd because I haven't had any knee pain in over 2 years. Low point.
When I arrived at the Lower Frary aid (mile 38.7) my first pacer Nate was there waiting for me to come in. I wouldn't pick him up until mile 50, but he wanted to see how I was doing and it was good to see him. I was cold and decided to change my clothes again, but I was getting stiff and my hands were cold, making it much harder to change. By time I got into my warmer gear I was shivering and couldn't even tie my shoes because my hands were numb. Sarah McCloskey was there and I can't thank her enough for taking care of me. She was grabbing me things I needed and helping me get squared away and then she suggested that I get into the tent to warm up because I was shivering uncontrollably now. There was another guy there too that told me I had to get in there, so I went in the tent and sat by the heater. They put a blanket on me and grabbed me some hot soup. I didn't want to take the break, but I had to get my core temperature back up. I was in there for about 10 minutes and then I felt better and told them I needed to get back out and start running again. That was a 20-25 minute stop that really hurt my time and as I left I picked up my headlamp because I knew it would be dark by time I hit the Mountain View aid station.
The run back to the Mountain View aid station was tough. There was a strong headwind the entire way and the 5 miles seemed like 15 and now my right knee was bothering me too and both knees were sore until the finish. I finally made it and both of my pacers, Nate and Rob were waiting there for me. I grabbed two cookies, some mountain Dew and a few gels and then they walked with me to the top of the hill. It was still breezy and cold, but nowhere near as bad as down by the shore of the lake. At the top of the hill the guys went back down and I got back into a running pace and made my way over to the Lakeside aid station. It was now dark and as I approached it the wind really picked up and there was an incredible amount of smoke in the air from all of the camp fires at the campground. It was making me gag and it also started snowing sideways. I didn't stay long at the aid and I started feeling pretty good as I made my way around Buffalo Point, but the wind was really strong here and again I was chilled. I thought for sure that the wind would be at my back as I went around the point, but as soon as I rounded the point I was blasted by another stiff headwind? Headwind you Eff%$#! Unbelievable.
Some really good music and motivation to pick up my pacers got me back to the start/finish in 10:10 which is actually a 50 mile PR for me, but would have been much faster without all of the stops. I was happy to see my friends and I took longer than I should have in the tent drinking broth and eating and I finally knew I had to get out of there, so I stood up and told Nate we needed to move. Nate was great company over the next 19 miles. We hiked most of the steeper hills and ran everything else, but I was slowing down. We ran into MattVH and he didn't notice it was me because he was in a 'groove', but he finally did and we chatted for a few minutes and it was great to see him moving well. When we came to the Elephant Head aid station it was again cold and windy and it was nice to get some broth and eat more cookies and potatoes. Bart Greenwell and another guy I know Jason were running the aid and they did a fantastic job up there in those conditions. I actually felt worse for them than I did for myself because they couldn't really move around to stay warm. It was awesome hitting that aid 3 times in 13 miles and definitely helped to get me through that section. Thanks guys, you were incredible.
As we made our way into the Split Rock Valley we could see some massive storms moving across the lake and I was terrified that they would nail us, but they all seemed to be going just south of the island. Those storms dumped about 4-8 inches of snow into some of the nearby valleys and would have been a disaster if they had hit us. It was a pretty surreal feeling though as we only saw a few other headlamps within several miles of us. After our final stop at the Elephant aid we got into a running pace all the way back to the start/finish. We weren't fast, but we kept moving and finally made it back to the tent where Rob was waiting for me to pace the final 31 miles. I went into the tent for about 10 minutes to eat and warm up and then Nate decided to run down to the Mountain View trail with us because he wasn't tired. Other than my aching knees my legs were feeling good and I had plenty of energy, but the next 31 miles would be the most challenging of the day as the temperature dropped into the teens and the winds picked back up.
Down on the Mountain View trail my friend Mark was running the aid station and we had a few laughs with him before doing the mile out and back to the causeway turnaround. When we got back to the aid station Mark told us that MattVH had just gone through looking good. We didn't stay there long and within about 5 minutes we ran into Craig who was now running by himself because his pacer, Jennilyn had to drop because of knee issues. It was awesome to see him and definitely lifted my spirits, but I could tell that he was having issues and not feeling great. We talked for a few minutes, wished each other luck and went our separate ways. It was a total slog to the Lower Frary aid stop and both of us were quite cold. Rob would insist that I run whenever I got started walking too much. He was very good at keeping me going and trotting along. When we reached the aid I was now extremely cold and we took about 10 minutes to sit next to the heater to try and warm up. It took everything I had to pull myself away from that heater knowing we had 6 more brutally cold miles to the ranch, but I knew I had to get moving, so we got up and got out of there.
The 6 miles to the ranch were very hard. It was cold and breezy and my knees were really aching, making every running step painful. Rob told me several stories and we had a lot of laughs that kept my mind off of the suffering. These are the moments that I truly love about ultra-running. Here we were in miserable conditions with a lot of miles on our legs, and pretty uncomfortable in almost every way, but we were laughing our asses off. Okay, maybe the laughing only lasted a few seconds here and there, but I still loved every second of those jokes and stories. The sun finally came up and gave us a little relief, but it was still pretty darn cold out there. Finally we hit the ranch and we stopped for at least 10 minutes to get some much needed calories. I think I ate 4-5 quesadillas and had some Mountain Dew and I could feel the energy coming back almost instantly. Even though I felt like taking a nap we pulled ourselves out the chairs and got back on the trail. Rob would continue to get me to run and after about a mile we passed the first runner that was behind me. So far only 3 runners had passed me since the 50 mile mark and none since mile 70 and I didn't want anyone else passing me the rest of the way, so I tried to keep the pace going. About a mile from the Frary aid we also passed the first 50 mile runner and would continually pass them the rest of the way on the Mountain View trail. We were now running back into the wind again and although it wasn't as bad as it had been earlier it still wasn't awesome.
|Me at mile 94|
After what seemed like hours from the last aid (it probably was) we finally finished the Mountain View trail and at that point I knew I had this one in the bag. I fully respect 100 miles and there is never a guarantee of a finish at this distance, but at that point I was pretty sure I would finish, so now I just wanted to get it done.
We made our way over to the Lakeside aid and as we hit the pavement at the top of the hill I saw my Wife's Honda Pilot driving toward me and it gave me such a boost of energy as my kids all jumped out and ran over to hug me. They were all cheering me on and it really was a boost. They watched as we made our way back onto the trail and then down toward the Lakeside aid. When we hit the aid I told Rob to grab me a few gels because I didn't want to stop, so I kept going and just as I got back onto the trail I heard my kids yelling at me to "Run faster" and "We love you". It was a high point.
Rob cracked the whip on me as we made our way around Buffalo point. It seemed so weird that the night before I was in the same place and that I had made it back. It seemed like several days had passed. We saw someone coming from behind and at first I thought it was one of the hundred milers, but he was moving way too fast. From that point to the finish 4 of the 50 mile runners passed me and all of them looked so fresh. Rob and I got into a very solid running pace and pushed it into the finish. I was still a bit worried that someone was going to pass me, but I found out later that the nearest person was about an 45 min back. I was pretty happy that I had gone 30 miles without anyone passing me, but I was kind of cranky that my 23 hour goal was now out of reach.
|Crossing the finish in 25:25|
|All smiles after I got the buckle.|