Where to start? A year ago I ventured into the unknown by signing up for and successfully completing my first ultramarathon, the 2012 Dances With Dirt – Gnaw Bone 50 miler. After a consistent and conservative 8 hours and 17 minutes I finished with a renewed interest in running and the hope for future possibilities spent on the trails. I also finished with a qualifying time good enough to enter the lottery for the 2013 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run… many in the BARA group had already shown their excitement of the possibility by urging me to enter. So I did. And on a day in December, with an 8% chance, my name was drawn for the event. I was truly taken back because I didn’t think “the odds would be ever in my favor.” Actually, I figured I’d just enter and hope to increase my odds the following year because you get an extra ticket in the drawing each year you are denied. Not to be the case, instead I should be toeing the line in Squaw Valley in 44 days!
What does this mean? This means that the 2013 Dances With Dirt – Gnaw Bone 50 miler would be a good barometer for my progress and preparation over the past year – mentally and physically. I went into the event with a large variety of possible outcomes determined by my current training load, weather, how I felt on race day, competition in the race, and what I felt would be best for training for WS100. Come race day I was on pace for over 100 miles for the week, but felt strong. The weather had been pretty rainy the days prior, but was cool, overcast, and dry on race day. I wasn’t sure of the competition until the race started – the biggest unknown. And I felt that 50 miles was the best thing for my training – also wearing/using what I thought I would at Western States. I decided to start the race within myself (under control) and assess where I was with my competition once we settled in on the Brown County State Park trails around mile 4…
From the gun one runner (John Nay) took off and was out of my sight by the first mile. I decided that I wouldn’t spend time worrying about him because he was either going to destroy me, destroy himself, or drop down to the 50k. At the end of the first mile I was in about 8thplace and after the sloppy second mile I was in second (way behind John). It was in the second mile that I discovered that it could be a good day to come… I came through that mile in 9:08 chopping 2:41 off of my split on that mile from the previous year (and passing the other 6 people)! And it was arguably muddier than 2012 – controlled breathing? Yes. Sweet!
I continued to stay in my own head managing my breathing and pace to insure I wasn’t getting too excited… just 10 days prior I had run the 50k route and had a harder time with the pace (it was also over 80 degrees that day). Onward I go, passing early starters (most all of which ask if I’m running the 50k or 50 mile), and occasionally seeing two runners behind me on switchbacks chatting about a minute back – I wish I was chatting… should I slow down? Nah. I reach Hesitation Point (11 miles) and see a familiar face, Rachel Mosley, crewing the aid station! She gives me the low down on John Nay which only confirms my prior thinking to just let him go.
Mountain bike trails, aid station, off-trails, crazy hike hill, hiking trails, aid station, off-trails, jumping logs, slipping on log, falling, knocking the wind out of me for a few seconds (learning later I bruised a few ribs – luckily it didn’t tighten up until after the race), regrouping, continuing off-trails, horse trails, up a mud wall off trail, then down and up another mud wall, back onto hiking trails around a lake, up a long stairway, then onto the roads to decision point – no decision necessary today, what did Nay do? 50k. Sweet, I’m the leader on the course… onward!
So, lap one was pretty uneventful aside from the fall, lap two would provide most of the stories for the day. First, the paranoia sets in almost immediately after the fist pump of knowing I’ve taken over the lead of the 50 mile race. I’m usually the one doing the catching the last half of a race, but there’s nobody to catch – therefore I’m the one being caught, right?… that’s not cool!
Just after decision point I could still hear the volunteer calling out bib numbers and I thought I heard him call one out that matched the 50 mile bib range about 10 seconds after mine… I look back to see a guy that appears to be hauling ass! Shit, this lead was short lived…we get onto the trails and after a minute or so I don’t hear or see him anymore, but I don’t dare to look back – that just shows your vulnerability! Soon after the course coincides with the Half Marathon (for about a mile) and I catch sight of Chris Banul! We exchange hellos, he explains that he’s thrown out the heart rate running and that Erin won’t be surprised, then we work on catching a large pack of Half-ers (the most traffic I saw all day). It was truly one of the highlights of my day as we weaved through the runners, Chris right on my tail, charging up a hill on Trail 9. I start to gap him a bit and ask him to give a shout if/when second place passes him so I know if I’ve put more time back on the guy from just a mile or two earlier – a shout I never heard.
Back around to Hesitation Point, Rachel excitedly relays that I’m in first and that I had at least 15 minutes on third (now second) last time I came through 19 miles earlier. This only confuses me because that either means this guy I saw a while back had made up 15 minutes or he wasn’t a 50 miler – but I swear he was, right?
She also tells me Stephanie (my wife), Erin Hazler (Chris’ wife), and Christy Victor had safely made it through earlier – oh yeah, that’s right, I get to see Erin and Christy soon!
Back to the same mountain bike trails only this time with the paranoia around every switchback that I might be getting caught. I decided to get my mp3 player out about halfway on this stretch and after about 3-5 frustrating minutes of trying to run and untangle the headphones (because I don’t want to get caught while just standing there), the music helps me relax and get back into a groove. This 6.5 mile stretch from 31-37.5 miles is definitely the hardest in (for) my mind. It’s a lot of twists and turns, no aid stations, no other runners, 4.5 hours of running already, and pressure of being in first – just get to the North Tower, Christy and Erin should be soon.
After the North Tower the off trail sections begin and even though they’re harder, in my mind they are harder for everyone, so I don’t feel like I’m vulnerable. And at this point I’m under half marathon to go, so its only a matter of time – could it really be this “easy” to win? Finally, the moment arrives and they see me before I see them. I was busy dreading the impending hand-on-knee hill ahead and they’re halfway up hooting and hollering – Erin and Christy! Fortunately, we had a nice little hike to chat for a moment and wish each other luck (much better than on some downhill) – I also asked them to give a shout for second, which I never heard. A bit before Erin and Christy I had begun catching the back end of the 50k race which gave me people to catch and something other than my thoughts to focus on. This continued on the off trail, mud wall, lake, staircase, road and all the way to the finish… the last key catch of the day came on the roads for the final time. Pre-race it was determined that Maria Kaylen and I were to have a runner’s duel to the finish (right?). If all went well, I would probably get there first, if not it would be close. All was going well for me and Maria had gotten a bit off track, so the catch came sooner than we both thought – about 5.5 miles to go – Hey! Good job, see you soon! Unfortunately for both of us, we were on the roads and I was running about 7-flat pace, so not much more was spoken in passing. [These ladies might not think it meant a lot to me to see them in the race, but I considered it truly a blessing to have the opportunity to see them in their BIG race and I greatly appreciated the motivation it gave me to drive forward to find them.]
>To the finish! Back on horse trails, I found it interesting that the 50k-ers I was passing were still dancing around the mud… I was already covered with mud and wet feet, so I went straight through it. Also interesting, I felt that straight through the mud often times was less shoe-sucking than where everyone else had already trampled – remember to tell others for next time! After a while we dumped out on Ski World, abandoned ski slopes… last year I thought it was a terrible ending, but this year I had been running my hilly runs in preparation for Western States out on the slopes, so I knew what to expect – convenient training! Then through a creek where I tripped on a stick and went hands first into a mud mound… then onto the finish line! I always pride myself in looking “fresh” and being excited at the finish, it’s supposed to be fun, right?! To help me bring it home I was met with a long BARA line of high fives in the chute as I charged through the line – woohoo-ing all the way. First place! Course record! Awesome day!
The course record was an added bonus that I thought I was capable of doing if all things went well on the day. At about 35 miles I thought it was going to fall out of reach, so I put it out of my mind and just focused on finishing strong. In the end, a strong finish is all I needed to cut about 6.5 minutes off of the record set last year (in a race that I ran 50 minutes slower for 5th place). And as for the guy right behind me? Second place comes in 66 minutes later!?! I heard something about a few people getting lost and I know some people dropped down to the 50k, so I’m not sure how much that 66 minutes truly reflects the competitors in the race, but it is what it is – a great confidence builder in preparation for the big one on June 29th.
Below are some of the more geeky stats and details of my race for those curious or planning their own and interested in what others have done. If you have questions as to why I chose to wear or eat or drink whatever, please don’t hesitate to ask… I know that before a race I’m looking at other reports to figure out what I might do, so I would expect the same to happen with this report. We all have something we can learn from each other, right?
26.2 – 3:49 (4:19)
50k – 4:32 (5:08)
First 25.15 – 3:42 (4:11)
Second 25.15 – 3:46 (4:06)
Stopped Time – 6:01 (17:13)
More Race Data & Splits: http://app.strava.com/activities/53705158
Official Results: http://www.timing.runningfitsites.com/raceresults.php?RaceID=319
Breakfast (starting at 4:30am):
– Peanut butter, banana, Bakehouse granola, and orange blossom honey sandwich on multigrain
– Handful of dark chocolate covered almonds, 2 hard-boiled eggs, apple, and water
– 3 x Hammer Race Caps and Vespa Jr.In-Race:
– Start w/2x8oz Softflasks of H2O sipping along the way
– Endurolytes @ 9mi – just before Hoosiers Nest West (1:12),
– 4oz of Caffé Latte Perpetuem (mixed at 4 scoops per 20oz) @ 11mi – Hesitation Point (1:31),
– Endurolytes & Cherry Lime Roctane GU w/ 4oz cup of water, refill 8oz of H20 @ 18mi – North Tower (2:32),
– 8oz of Caffé Latte Perpetuem w/4oz cup of coke, pick up Vespa Jr. @ 20.5mi – Hoosiers Nest East (3:06)
– Endurolytes @ 24mi – stairs before Nature Center (3:34),
– Vespa Jr. @ 26mi – road before Trail 9 (3:48)
– Endurolytes & 8oz of Caffé Latte Perpetuem, refill 8oz of H2O & 8oz of Coke @ 30.5mi – Hesitation Point (4:27),
– 2 pieces of Clif Black Cherry Shot Bloks @ 34mi – North Tower Trail (5:00)
– Endurolytes & Cherry Lime Roctane GU, refill 8oz of H20 @ 37mi – North Tower (5:27),
– 8oz of Caffé Latte Perpetuem, refill 8oz of H2O & 8oz of Coke @ 41mi – Hoosiers Nest East (6:02)
– Endurolytes @ 44mi – stairs before Nature Center (6:32)
Total: 12 Endurolytes, 28oz of Caffé Latte Perpetuem, 2 Cherry Lime Roctane GUs, 2 Black Cherry Shot Bloks, 40oz of H2O, and about 15oz of Coke (about 1200 calories)
– Salomon Exo S-Lab Short
– Nike BARA Singlet
– Injinji Lightweight No-Show toe socks
– CEP Socks over the toe socks
– Salomon Speedcross (because of muddy terrain, without insoles because of toe rubbing from previous runs)
– Head Buff
– Salomon Sense Hydro S-Lab gloves with 2x8oz Softflasks
– Plastic bag of 20 Endurolytes (front pocket of shorts)
– 2 packages of Clif Black Cherry Shot Blocks (one back pocket of shorts)
– Mp3 player (other back pocket of shorts)
– Garmin 910XT
– Altra Lone Peak
– Injinji Midweight No-Show toe socks
– CEP Calf Sleeves
– spare 16oz Softflask
– 20oz. of Caffé Latte Perpetuem
– Panforte Clif Bar, 5hr energy, and a package of Clif Black Cherry Shot BlocksDrop Bag 2(aside from Perpetuem & vespa Jr., all else is only used in unforeseen circumstances):
– Injinji Midweight Mini-Crew toe socks
– Vespa Jr.
– spare 16oz Softflask
– 20oz. of Caffé Latte Perpetuem
– Panforte Clif Bar, 5hr energy, and a package of Clif Black Cherry Shot Blocks