When I first heard there was going to be a 100k in November out on the island, I couldn't get it out of mind. I knew I probably shouldn't sign up for it. Who jumps from the 50k distance to a 100k without doing anything in between? My thoughts went back to this past spring when I ran my first 50k on the island and then ran my first marathon a month later. It worked out ok then, so I figured why not, I'll do it. The best way to get my feet wet is to just jump right in, so I signed up.
My training went very well leading into the race despite it maybe being a bit unorthodox for ultra running with my longest run only being 22 miles. The last time I ran more than 22 miles was the Logan Peak race at 28ish miles and that was back in June. But I felt fit and my mind and body felt right to run a good race.
The morning of the race I almost didn't make the starting line. I set my alarm the night before the race and went to bed. Somehow I set my time back an hour. So, when my clock said 3:30, it was actually 4:30 and I was still in bed. My wife happened to wake up and realized I was wasn't gone and woke me up. I jumped out of bed so fast and got dressed and grabbed all my gear, my breakfast shake and was out the door in less than 5 minutes.
I drove the 45 minutes to the island from Salt Lake City a bit stressed I wouldn't make packet pick up. I made it to the packet pickup just in time and had a few minutes to get everything in order before the race was started.
With it being dark, I couldn't really make too many folks out. The race plan was to not lead the first couple miles to get a feel for what paces everyone was willing to run and then adjust from there. I had an idea of what I wanted to do being somewhat familiar to the course, so with my plan in place all I had to do is start running.
Jim Skaggs (race director) sent us off and immediately an older gentleman, who I learned was named Davy Crocket, took the early lead going into the first climb. I settled in my own pace with Brian Beckstead.
As we crested up and over the first big hill, I found myself in the lead. My body felt good after the first couple miles and fell into its own rhythm rather quickly. I led the way up to the first aid station with Tim Long in tow who was running without a headlamp, he forgot it. After the first aid station a few of the other runners caught back up to me and we ran as a group down towards the Death Valley aid station. Davy retook the lead on the downhill section at this point and he was the first to arrive to the aid station.
I re-filled my bottle with water and followed Davy onto the beach . Getting to the beach we had to run through some fine sand that my shoes kicked up all over my legs and got down into my shoes a bit. I didn't wear my Dirty Girls and for a moment I regretted it. But there wasn't anything I could do about it now, so I just trudged onto the beach. I quickly caught back up with Davy and just followed him for a bit. It was rather hard to tell where to go. The beach had flags marking the course, but was hard to make out the next one due to it being dark still. At this point several other runners caught up to us and we ran as a group until we came up to a rocky part of the beach and we lost track of where the trail was supposed to go. We took a left when we should have taken a right and ran ourselves right into a bog with stinky, cold, wet mud. So much for dry feet.
We eventually made our way out of there and just ran along the beach the best we could until we found another flag and continued along the course.
The sun was starting to rise as we made our way off the beach and it was gorgeous. The terrain looked surreal and the colors of the sunrise made it feel like I was on mars or some other unearthly place. It may have been the best sunrise I have ever seen.
As we made our way south along a road, I looked ahead and saw the 1000 foot climb we had to do next. I was in the lead again and decided to push it a bit up the hill to find out who the players for the race were. I quickly was alone and would be for the next 50 miles.
I didn't push it too hard up the hill but ran where I could and that created the distance I was looking for. By the time I arrived to the North Sentry aid station I had a decent lead. I quickly filled my water bottle and continued down the other side of the island. As I ran south just before we headed east and down the hill, some antelope ran out in front of me for a bit along the trail then darted of into the distance.
I held back on this downhill section. I often times do this to recover and conserve energy instead of expending too much trying to run fast. I cruised along at 7:30 min pace until I reached the bottom. I half expected the others to catch me on this downhill section. At the bottom I looked back and could see them coming, but Tim and Brian were a fair distance behind me.
The next section of the course was really flat, 12 miles all the way back to the finish/start line. I put my body on autopilot and cruised at or around 8:00 mile pace. I could feel the other guys behind me so I kept the pressure on. As I ran along, I did worry a biy about the pace being too fast and that I would fade on the second lap but I decided just to roll with it. I really did feel comfortable and I just had to trust my body and my training.
Almost back to the start/finish line, I had climb a small hill. At the top there was a
big buffalo standing near a watering trough just to the right of the road. On the left hand side there was a fence. I stopped and really didn't see a good way around it, so I just walked slowly along the fence trying not to make eye contact with it. As I neared it, it quickly turned and fronted me and gave me a snort. I about crapped myself. But it held its ground as I continued to walk by. When I felt I was clear I hauled butt down to the start line area full of adrenaline.
I quickly restocked my supplies from my drop bag. As I was leaving the aid station, Brian was coming in with Tim not too far behind him. I told Brian good luck and started my second loop. I was now in un-charted territory for me. After 32 miles, every step will take me further than I have ran before. So I had no idea how my body was going to react. At this point, all I could do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other and eat and drink as much as I could.
As I made my way to the next aid station it became clear I was starting to distance myself from the rest of the field. I didn't try to pick it up at this point, I just kept running the same rhythm. I was starting to get some aches in the calves but nothing serious. My lungs felt great and my breathing was relaxed. As I ran down to the Death Valley aid station I realized for the first time that I had a good chance to win the race, if my body didn't have a meltdown of some sort. My mind felt fresh, excited, motivated and strong.
I made it to the Death Valley aid station (40 miles) at 12:02 pm, 6 hours into the race. I looked up and could see Brian making his way down the switch backs so I re-filled my bottle and headed out to the beach once more. This time being able to see the flags and not lose my way.
At this point I might have gotten just a bit excited. When I got down to the beach I pushed the pace a bit harder than I should have. The sand was very draining on the quads. Near the end of the beach section I had to stop for about 30 seconds to get them to calm down, they were just about to cramp up on me. I thought I just made a big mistake. I was also running out of water and had a few miles to go to the next aid station with a 1000 foot climb in the way. The next couple of miles would make or break my race and I knew it and there might be
nothing I could do about it.
So I just kept on running and ignored my screaming quads. Out of the blue there was Greg Norrander taking photos! Funny how he pops up like that. After being alone on the trail for so long, he actually energized me and put a bounce back into my step as I headed towards the climb.
One thing I love about a two lap course, is that I know exactly what's coming and it makes it easier to gage my efforts. I took a deep breath and started to work my up the hill. I knew I had to be careful with the climb. I decided it would be ok if I lost a little bit of ground here because I knew I could make up for it on the other side once it flattened out again. I just had to make it over in one piece. So I walked more of the hill than I normally would have liked. It ended up being a great decision because this was also the warmest part of the day and I could feel my heart rate getting higher as I climbed. If I would have pushed it too hard, it may have been the end of me.
I ate a gel, popped two SCaps and drank the last of my water about half way up the hill, my quads were burning now and they continued to twinge, not quite going into a full cramp as I climbed. I was really wishing there would have been a water station at the bottom of the hill.
As I neared the top, I took a look back and couldn't see anyone behind me. It was my race to win or lose.
I pushed my way up the last bit of hill and saw the Sentry Aid Station. It couldn't have come at a better time for me. I drank a couple cups of coke, downed a banana, 3 Scaps and a couple cups of water. That was my favorite aid station in the race. The view up there was awesome.
I didn't stay long knowing I may have lost a bit of ground on the climb. I ran down the hill, letting it go a bit more this time around and pushed 7 min miles down to mile 50. At the bottom of the hill I crossed 50 miles in 7:38. I was hoping to be a bit quicker, but I was pleased with my efforts so far. I knew I had a shot at breaking 9:30.
With 9 miles to go my parents and couple siblings found me on the trails and started to cheer and follow me along the last part of the race. It
was a big help. I got to the Nine Mile aid station and drank as much coke as I could. I couldn't muster the thought of another gel or anything else other than coke for the rest of the race. I should have forced myself to eat more gels though. Coke is good, but it isn't nearly as good as a gel and I would pay for it a bit later.
I ran to the next aid station where I was greeted with cheers from family members once again. Only 10k to go and I knew it was going miserable. I stayed a bit longer at this aid station drinking coke and downing a couple more Scaps. Chatted with everyone a bit and realized I started feeling worse the longer I stayed there. So I knew I had to get moving. I had been able to run out of every aid station, until now. I had to walk about 30 yards to get the legs working again.
I just kept moving along as quick as I could. I was still able to maintain the 8 min miles until the last few where I slowed down to 9 min miles. I had to stop and walk 3 times. Not keeping up with the gels the last 8 miles was really catching up to me now. I could tell my energy stores were all used up and I was close to running on empty.
I finally came to the last short, steep hill and cruised my way down the finish line. I was experiencing so many emotions as the finish line got closer, it was almost overwhelming. Satisfaction was the one that stood out the most, knowing all the work I had been doing was finally paying off. I bested my own expectations and ran an almost perfect race for me and happened to win the race at the same time.
I crossed the finish line in 9:28:37, 55 minutes in front of second place finisher Tim. I don't think things could have gone any better for me. It was the perfect course on a perfect day.