Little late on this post — almost a month. Came back to a slammed 2 weeks at work, multiple consulting deadlines, coaching Little Foot Running Club and deep in kids soccer season — with 3 kids, blogging sometimes gets knocked to the bottom of the list. So it goes.
This was the deepest field I’ve come up against in a 100. Solid field of experienced 100 mile runners. I was excited to see where the chips would fall going into this. I’ve had some success at 100s, 10 for 15 going into this race. Even with that record, I still feel like I’m still a bit under the radar. Mainly due to seeking out some not as well know 100s based on my own personal bucket list based on good things I’ve heard about a particular race and not necessarily chasing competition. I was looking forward to throwing down against a strong field.
This is a particularly unique race in that they divide the competitors into two groups: Tortoise and Hares. The Hares division is a small, elite field that starts 4 hours after the Tortoise division and is going after a cash purse of $10,000 for first, $2,500 for second, $1,500 for 3rd, $1,000 for 4th and $750 for 5th. Plus, a Master’s Premium for the first person, age 40+ to finish ($1,000 which can be added on top of a top 5 earnings finish). Being a Masters runner, I was wanting a top 5 and knew I’d have to have an “A” race to knock off Karl or Paul Terrenova (or up and comer Jess Haynes) for the Master’s prem. Plus, a cool fact about the race — the Tortoise division is going for their own cash purse, albeit smaller. It’s cool, as it gives that division a chance at cash when they normally wouldn’t have such an opportunity.
I flew into Denver on Wednesday to massive flooding on the front range. My buddy, Fred would be crewing and taking some photos. He lives in the foothills of Boulder and I spent Wednesday night at his place. It was raining like crazy all night and we woke Thursday of news that every canyon (besides his) was closed. Roads fully washed out, flash flooding everywhere and only one highway out of Boulder was open (the one we needed to take to Golden and our access to I-70. We barely made it out around noon with rain still coming down hard. Our only hiccup was a 1/2 hour wait for crews to clear a gigantic tree from a bridge we had to cross at the base of his canyon as it enters town.
Once we got over the divide, there was only isolated thunderstorms in the area. W arrived in Steamboat Springs, checked in and got settled in at our condo I was sharing with Roch Horton and Karl Meltzer and his wife Cheryl. We all go way back, so it’s nice catching up with old friends. Speedgoat Karl was the defending champ from last year and was definitely one of the main favorites for this year. We had a group dinner with Roch, Karl, Cheryl, Fred, me and Dakota (Jones) at the condo and hung out for a while before hitting the sack about 11pm.
Race morning was slow going, since we had a noon start for the Hares division. On one hand it’s nice to sleep in and have a good breakfast and not be rushed like typical early morning starts. However, on the other hand, it’s a waiting game when you just want to get running.
Soon enough though, we were standing at the starting line a few minutes from the start. I gave Meltzer a little low five and said good luck and “let’s show these younger boys how to run a 100,” to which he replies, “Let’s show them how to finish.” Giddyup, goat, indeed.
After a countdown, we were off from Steamboat Village and starting up the ski runs climb to the top of the gondola. I settled in about 9th or 10th and watched a small group of runners pull away (Mackey, Louttit, Schlarb and Dave James), with the two Tarahumara runners not far back. We soon were heading up and traversing the high singletrack from Mt. Werner over to Long Lake aid station. I ran this section relaxed and on the 1/2 mile out and back section to Long Lake, I ran into Schlarb and Louttit running together, Dave and the two Tarahumara all within a minute of each other. I was probably 2-3 minutes back and soon found out Mackey was leading about 7 minutes up. On my way back on the short out and back I found Meltzer and Josh Arthur were right behind me, less than a minute.
On the upper basin descent of Fish Creek Falls trail Karl and Josh caught up to me and we ran together all the way to the trailhead and then down the road section back into Steamboat and through town. Josh, Karl and I were making good time down the road and soon reeled in the Tarahumaras. When we arrived at Olympian Hall aid station at 21 miles, Karl and Josh were in and out. I grabbed my new bottles from Fred and asked him for my gel refills (in my drop bag). He had forgotten to get my drop bag, so I ran into the building, unzipped it, grabbed my gel refills and ran out of there. Karl and Josh were a good 200-300 yards up a climb and were just rounding a corner out of sight.
I spent the next 3 miles pushing a bit harder than I wanted in order to reel them in on the climb and finally caught back up to them toward the top. Not ideal to be pushing like that at mile 20-something. I ran with Karl along the top and soon Josh passed me. I was feeling a little bonky from the effort to make contact with them, so I decided to take an almond butter packet (NOTE: big mistake, I later found out, based on the empty wrapper, than I had accidentally picked up a Peanut Butter packet at the store and took that instead) Big mistake. Peanut butter sits in my gut like a rock. Why I don’t do PB&J at aid stations. And this influx of hard to digest crap had my stomach in knots for the next 5 miles. I got into Cow Creek feeling mighty low. My gut was bothering me and I had lost contact with Josh and Karl. But, Dave James was there and clothed. Not sure where he dropped, but he was out.
I was in and out and up the dirt road to pick up the singletrack. I was really creeping through here and feeling really low both physically and mentally. After a mile or so on the trail I passed Jason Louttit who was walking and said he was worked. Within another mile I was starting to feel better. I kept plugging away on the long climb back up to the ridge, when I rounded a corner and saw Mackey walking. I passed him too, which now put me in 4th place. But it was early. I kept concentrating on efficient forward progress.
Once I gained the ridge double track, I ran out of water and went without for about 15 minutes. I finally made it to the unmanned water only table and chugged a half bottle and got running the gravel road down to Olympian Hall. I got in and out and was soon making my way up the road to Fish Creek Falls at ~46 miles.
My stomach was still little squirrely from time to time, so I made it there right about dark and hit the restrooms. Feeling much better after a bathroom break, I came out to find Cheryl and Fred ready with my bottle refills and some soup. When I was leaving the aid station, I noticed Jesse Haynes had just come in and quickly got moving out ahead of him. I was across the footbridge and heading up the first switchback fumbling with turning on my ipod when I accidentally dropped one of my water bottles smack on top of the lid/nipple and it hit right on a granite slab of rock in the middle of the trail. Crack!! The impact broke the entire nipple and little bit of plastic encasing it into my bottle! No freakin’ way! Really?! That’s a new one.
I fished out the nipple with the broken, jagged plastic housing still surrounding it from my water and ended up drinking it first and rather quickly over the next 30 minutes as I ran with the bottle held out away from me and with limited arm swing holding the bottle upright to keep the water from splashing out all over the place. Not fun. Not efficient. Not ideal. So 100s go — gotta roll with the punches. Once I finished off that bottle I started thinking of what I was going to do. My best solution was to ask the volunteers at the next aid station (Long Lake) if anyone had a bottle lid and started devising a plan to give someone something in return if they were so willing to aid in my delimma.
I arrived into Long Lake very animated as I told the quick tale of what had happened. At first no one had a lid. Finally a guy stepped up from the shadows and said, I might have one in my truck. He went to check. In the meantime, I whoofed down some mash potatoes and got my other bottle filled. He came back with a lid and I practically kissed the dude I was so happy. I told him my name and said find me after the race and I’d give him a Black Diamond headlamp as thanks for his kindness.
As I left, I asked the aid station staff how far up 3rd was and they said Josh was 13 minutes in front of me. I said, “Rock ‘n Roll” and was out of there, feeling good. The next two sections were pretty uneventful. I just kept plugging away through the high country and occasionally passing Tortoise division runners. It’s always nice to have such a set up (normally in an out and back course), because encouragement abounds from both sides as we see each other in our little bubble of light in the dark.
I was soon through Summit Lake, got in my drop bags for gel refills and warmer gloves and was off heading down the 13-mile downhill to the turnaround. I arrived at Dry Lake aid station to find out from Bryon Powell that Mackey was closing on me. I was in and out and down the singletrack descent to the turnaround. I looked back a few times to see a light gaining on me after a few miles Dave flew by me near the bottom. We were both in the aid station at the same time and he quickly got in and out, while I took the time to get some food and drop bag stuff. Soon after leaving, it started to rain and I was soon pulling up my arm warmers and Patagonia Houdini jacket with the hood up to keep warm. It was very wet and that portion of the course has some pretty overgrown underbrush. So, by the time I got back up to Dry Lake aid station I was soaked, but the rain had stopped.
I got in to find my crewman, Fred, had soup ready to drink. I asked him how far in front of me Mackey was and he and Bryon, to my surprise, informed me that Dave was still in the aid station tent. Really?! I immediately said, “I’m out of here” and took off up the 8-mile gravel road climb to Summit Lake.
I kept looking over my should for lights but never saw them and kept running and hiking and running all the way to Summit Lake. I was in and out of my drop bag at Summit (mile 82) and off on the Wyoming trail with 21 miles to go (yes, this race is 103 miles — at least). About halfway across the section to Long Lake, I was having some gut rot issues. Stuff just not feeling right and felt like I had a bad mix of calories not digesting. I had a little hacking cough to get up some gunk in my lungs (common from pushing at altitude) and I gagged and everything came up in 3 fast puke bouts. After the purge was complete, I got running again, sipping water and in about 5 minutes, I felt much better. Sour stomach was cleared up and I took a gel and a salt and was all good.
I got into Long Lake, in and out and was on my way to Mt. Werner aid — the final aid station at the top of the ski resort. I got into Werner with just the first hint of light in the morning sky. I was in and out quickly and heading down the gravel, muddy ski access road. After 3 or 4 switchbacks I saw a runner ahead. I thought it was a front of the pack Tortoise runner. However, as I approached I noticed his stride was short and looked like his quads were wiped. I soon could see visor, long hair pulled into a bun and Altra shoes, that meant only one thing — Josh Arthur — 3rd place! Sweet. I still had quads and was ready to throw down for the $500 difference between our two positions. As I came by I asked how he was doing and he didn’t even try to run with me and just asked, “how far back is the next guy?” I replied, “your all good, bro.” And he stated his quads were shot and I told him to hang in there. I kept pushing just in case, but after a few turns I looked back and he was nowhere in sight. Phew.
After that, I kept pushing and soon was off the gravel road section and into the bushwhack ski run section and meeting the early morning 50 mile race starters. This section is crazy to come down, at least a 45-50 degree slope in wet grass with a faint patches of dirt. It was hard on the old quads at mile 100, but I just bit the bullet and ran it. My Patagonia Everlongs were holding tight traction and I had no slippage going on so I just trusted it and kept the wheels turning.
The final couple of miles meander over to the north of the village square and finally I was coming into sight of the finish line. I crossed the finish line in 18 hours, 52 minutes flat for 3rd place. Karl was 2nd (and 1st Masters) in 18:32 and Jason Schlarb rocked the course for a new course record of 17:15:20. He had a stellar, nearly flawless race. Much respect, Jason. Josh held onto 4th place and Tim Olsen rounded out the top 5 for men only 2 weeks off a 4th place Tour de Mont Blanc finish in Europe. Impressive.
Thanks to my wife and kiddos for their constant prayers and support through all this crazy running I do. Thanks to my sponsors and their staff that support me. Patagonia for the loyal support and trusting and allowing me to help design a shoe that I absolutely love and listening to feedback from our ultrarunning team and constantly evolving and improving their outwear for us specifically — namely pocketed Strider Pro shorts and bringing back the duckbill cap. Money. And, for making such a light jacket for running — the Houdini was perfect when that rain hit in the middle of the night. At only 7 ounces, it’s stupid to not have one around your waist if there is even a chance of weather in a race. No brainer. Shout out to Ultraspire for the awesome handhelds that help me stay hydrated. Look for their cool new handheld design in ’14 as well as a cool new race bottle lid (which I wish I would have been using when I dropped my bottle, it would not have broken). Also, thanks to Rudy Project for the kick butt Rx glasses that allow me to see the intricacies of those tricky mountain trails at night. Roch at Black Diamond for the blinding bright lights and FootZone of Bend for their nutritional support and putting up with my manic, constant tinkering of nutrition and testing stuff. And Barleans for their awesome supplements that I take religiously to recover and stay healthy at the ripe old age of 42. And finally, the Big Man upstairs for keeping me safe through the gnarly night in Colorado’s stellar Rocky mountains. What a blessing it is to run in such beautiful places. Giddyup.