Incredible. Painful. Fun.
That pretty much sums up my first 100 mile run. The challenge certainly falls into the category of things you need to do to truly understand.
Driving to the start line with Gunner and Keith was weird, I was predictably tired because it was so early but I didn't really have any nervousness, just calm. We had some good times as always making jokes (many that will not be repeated here) and staying loose. Not long after I was poking fun and taking jabs at my fellow running friends there at the start line.
Stay calm, stay relaxed, don't do anything stupid. I stopped to pee on the side of the boulevard which helped calm me down and ran with Brendan through to the mini powerline cut where I hiked and ate the remains of a clif bar. I was taking the advice of Lucho and running without a watch, running easy, and eating like mad. I was a bit worried with all the people ahead of me, but trusted that it was ridiculous to worry about placing in the first 13 miles of a 100 mile race. I ran with my Nathan race pack so I cruised right through May Queen and heard someone mention that we'd hit near 1:52 for the spit. A bit too fast in regards to my plan but it felt incredibly slow.
I tucked in behind Mark Mobley through the CT section and focused on just taking it easy. The trek up the backside of Sugarloaf was a section that I knew was critical. Almost anyone can run this, but it's too early to hunt for time, so I forced myself to hike 90% of the climb. At the top of Powerline on the initial downhill, Tim Long caught me and made a joking pass at top speed. We chatted a bit, and continued to move towards Fish with Tim taking the lead down into the aid. This essentially happened over and over throughout the race.
Fish Hatchery brought my crew access and I was pumped to see them, but focused too. I swapped my long sleeves, pack, and headlamp for a bottle and my vest and was gone without missing a stride. It was seamless and continued this way all day, probably saved a minimum of 30 minutes over the course of the race.
Onto the road section I was feeling confident and calm, running easy as ever with 1/4 of the race done but the meat ahead of me.
I passed a few folks and made my way through Treeline, swapping a bottle on the fly and continuing through. The trail from here up through the new Mt. Elbert aid station is fairly monotonous, and I wasn't working to keep a decent pace. Down the single-track to Twin Lakes, I was confident and happy to have 40 miles out of the way.
Again, my crew was flawless, swapping my bottle for a pack mid stride and I was off to tackle the beast of Hope Pass. Across the river I was feeling good, and began grinding my way up over the 12,600' frontside. I knew I'd get passed so I tried to take it in stride when it happened. Arriving at Hopeless aid I got my super hike on and finally made it over. I love downhills, but I hate running down the backside of Hope. I simply made sure to stay on my feet and make way for the leaders. Sandes came through first looking amazing, then Dylan hot on his heels. It was pretty awesome seeing just how close the top 8 or 9 guys were.
On the way into Winfield I yelled a few profane remarks at Brooks and tried to take him out, but he was on to me. I had to settle for a run up to the aid station. I had aid workers fill my pack as I weighed in (only down a pound) and then I was back off to cheers from some friendly faces.
I felt great all the way until I had to hit Hope again, and it sucked. I slowly made my way up to the top all the while feeling worse and worse, getting passed at steady intervals and overall not enjoying my decision to do this run. Somewhere near treeline, Brian and Todd caught me and pushed me to the top. Their familiar faces were just what I needed to push a bit harder and get over that damn pass. I grabbed a cup of coke and headed out down to Twin Lakes. As we got back to more normal elevation I rebounded a bit and ran well into the aid station to change my shoes and head out with Jaime.
This was the only time I would stop at an aid station all day, and the only time I sat down. I spent all of a minute changing my shoes as everything was set and ready to rock. Jaime had all my stuff so I just focused on hiking out of the wall at Twin Lakes. The climb is steady, but I was feeling good and we made decent work out and when the trail flattened I was running strong. I felt great all the way until Half Pipe aid station where I spoke some famous last words. I asked Jaime for the time, and concluded, "I think we've got a shot," in reference to going sub 20 hours. Immediately my legs began to seize and I became a hobbling mess. I put on a brave face for my family at Treeline, gave my son a hug and kept moving through.
Once I hit the pavement I was quickly becoming a train wreck. I have never been in such pain in my entire life. I wish I was more coherent and fun, but I was just reeling. Jaime got me into the telephone pole game, walk one, run two, repeat. It was killer, but it kept me moving and then he made it 3 poles. By the time we got to Fish I was still horrifically catatonic, but I was moving. Jaime's job was done, he kept me moving in the deep dark place where you learn just how idiotic and tough you can be.
Gunner picked up the pacing duties at Fish, some 77 miles into the race and we made our way out to the base of the infamous Powerline climb. To put it mildly, I was just ecstatic to have him with me. Gunner is my best friend in the world, and is moving in a month to Chicago, so this was a sort of capstone to our current era. We did some life recounting while grinding up the climb and the I slowly began to rally, running sections of the uphills.
Once we crested the summit (it had just become dark enough to use a headlamp), we almost immediately began to reel back the time I had lost and we made excellent time down to the CT where I knew I needed to be careful and not end my race with a broken leg. To my surprise, we did really well here, Gunner was able to find a solid running cadence which allowed me to stay on his heels and follow his line. By the end of the CT we had caught and passed a runner and through May Queen we did not stop, passing at least one more.
From May Queen to Tabor boat ramp we continued the same agonizingly painful cadence, Jon staying just far enough ahead so that I could follow, fast enough that I needed to run. I always hate running this section because Tabor seems to take forever no matter how fast you run, this was no exception. Again through the boat ramp we did not stop, Jon having gone ahead to refill my bottles. Keith told us that there was a runner just up ahead that had been in rough shape and was walking so we kept pace, determined to catch him before the mini powerline. Just before matchless we found Brooks and heard about his unfortunate GI revolt and subsequent body malfunction. All in all, he seemed in good spirits considering and wished us well as we continued on.
After getting through matchless we pretty well nailed the remainder of the Turquoise Lake trail until the damn mini powerline descent. My legs revolted again, but all I could do was laugh as we began to recount all of the ridiculous situations we'd gotten ourselves into. I hobbled down CR-4, after getting passed, to the dirt road to the base of the Boulevard and tried to run again. After a few tries we got the wheels turning and I started running hard about 2.5 miles from the finish. I passed the guy who got me a few miles earlier and got a gap just as we hit pavement. I knew it would be close to sneak in under 21 hours and we picked up Keith to run the final mile. Conveniently, there was a plot to keep me moving by lying to me about what time it was, so I kept running as hard as I could.
A few hundred yards before the finish, I was greeted by Todd and JT, and then I saw the red carpet. I ran through the line to my waiting wife and son... Amazing. I felt awesome, mostly, and I tried to soak in what had just happened. After a quick weigh in (down just 3 pounds), I called my parents who'd been up waiting for me to finish. Incredible.
I can't say thank you enough for my crew. Keith had everything ready and done, I never had to stop for a single thing (added benefit for him, he didn't have to hear me bitch and complain!).
Jaime got me through the darkest of dark patches, 7 miles of hellish pain, thanks dude, you're amazing!
Gunner, well, this was something wasn't it? Some day we'll be all old and fat, fishing somewhere and you'll make a joke about this day and I'll spew some Deisel out of my nose.
To my wife and son. Thank you for putting up with me. Thank you for supporting me, and thank you for being there at the finish line! I love you!
Now, on to the next adventure, kid number two!
Again, thanks to Drymax and theAidStation.com for your support. I was as comfortable as 100 miles can be!