I was very disappointed with my last 24 hours leading up to this race. I didn't eat enough Thursday night or Friday morning and I didn't sleep all that well Thursday night. I actually felt pretty crappy for most of the last 3 hours leading up to the 3pm start time. I felt hungry but had no appetite and I had a constant headache most of that day. This is not the way you want to start a 100 mile race but I knew I'd be running a slow enough pace that it would be possible for me to eat well, hydrate well, and maybe feel better as I went. Luckily this was exactly what happened.
There were only 5 of us who toed the line for this one. This is a very informal race so I wasn't too surprised at the small turnout but it would have been nice to have a few more people to run with.
Luckily the group we had were all really fun people to run with and all looking for a similar pace at the start, except for Elisio Marquez (former course record holder who I think has finished this race every year it has been held) who I learned always likes to go out really fast, which is just what he did. I fell into a rhythm running with Jeff Ardnt (last year's winner and course record holder), Dave Johnston (very experienced marathoner and ultra marathoner up to 100k, looking to complete his first 100 mile), and Evan Hone (also experienced at shorter ultras/marathons, and also looking for his first 100 mile finish).
Jeff and Dave had run the first half of this race a few weeks back as a training run in 9 hours. They both felt great on that run and thought they'd try to do the first half in about 9 hours again and then see what they could do coming back. That sounded perfect to me so I did my best to stay with them, even though I felt at times like I really was not going to be able to keep going that slow for too much longer. I did my best though to stay disciplined about a conservative pace and tried to focus on my nutrition/hydration.
At about 3.5 hours things really started to click. I finally was getting enough food in me that my headaches and hunger went away. Right around this time I also began to feel more comfortable with such a slow pace. I actually began to think that just maybe I could continue to run this conservative for the whole race. And all the while I kept eating (at least 300 calories per hour) really well (mostly perpetuem and powergel, but also some solid foods), and hydrating really well. At about 4 hours I began to pull away from the other 4 runners (we had all caught up to Elisio at about mile 20). I don't think I sped up at that time, perhaps a bit, but I think they slowed down a little bit, because as I learned later none of them were feeling very good.
Just before the pass I came upon Anne Ver Hoef who had come up the shorter Devil's Pass Trail and filtered a bunch of water which she was then providing us as we came through. All told she must have put in about a 40 mile day and then only had a few hours to sleep before needing to get back up to run the aid station at mile 88. She's running the Bear 100 next month so this was just another day of training for her. It was nice to talk to a familiar face for a bit because I knew this would likely be the last person I'd see out on the trail for the rest of the race. Those of you who don't know Anne may remember her as the "woman who got frostbite on her eyes in the Ultrasport." The crazy thing though is that she's planning to go back out there again this winter. In my book that's really bad ass. I don't know if I'd be tough enough to head back out there if I'd been through a similar experience.
Anyway, back to my race. I crossed over the actual pass (about mile 32) in about 5:15. From here it was mostly downhill to the mile 50 turnaround. This was the worst part of the race for me. My lower legs had been kind of achy all day and on the downhills the fatigue began to get much more noticeable. Nightfall was also setting in and I was just kind of bored and in a rut for most of that stretch from the pass down to Cooper Landing. There was even a moment in there when I was thinking I'd just call it a day at the mile 50 aid station. I knew I could turn back and retrace my steps fairly comfortably but I was doubting for awhile whether I wanted to or not. It's always harder to stay motivated in a "training" race and this was simply a low point for me that I seemed to snap out of almost immediately when I got to the aid station.
I rolled in there at 8hrs 30mins, a bit faster than I'd planned but still very much a conservative time for me. I was in no hurry so I ate some soup, a piece of pizza, filled up my water, and gathered up the things I'd need to head back out for 38 miles until the next aid station.
As I headed back uphill and back into the wilderness I began to find my groove again. Here was the point one always likes to come to in a long race when time seemed to float by almost instantly. I would check my watch expecting to find 20 minutes gone by, but in fact it was an hour or more. I maintained this well beyond the pass and beginning back down the other side.
There were a few lowpoints in there but for the most part the second half of the race went pretty smoothly.
The toughest stretch of this course is a 4 mile steady uphill which begins with only 8 miles to go in the race. Last year in the 50 mile race this hill felt like hell. This weekend though it didn't even really feel like I was going uphill. I'm sure my pace slowed down a lot on this hill, but it didn't really feel like it.
When it was all said and done I had run the second half 10 minutes faster than the first half, had kept a very steady and conservative pace throughout the race, had eaten about 6,000 calories (a little more than 300 per hour), and had remained very well hydrated throughout. These were my primary goals on this run. The fact that I had also won by about 4 hours and broken the course record by over 3 hours, well those were just nice little side notes to a very successful run.
My recovery has also gone amazingly well. I ran 6 miles today and felt almost no lingering effects (a little bit of general fatigue but nothing too significant). I'm still planning to take a pretty mellow week, but I suspect I'll be feeling very fresh in just another day or two.
This all bodes very well for Wasatch which is now less than 4 weeks away. Time to get a little rest and then start getting some serious climbing mixed into my training.