Let me first say that the race was difficult, even with all the training. It was much harder than I anticipated. I figured since I had done the training, and did it to the "T", then the 100 miles wouldn't be that difficult, but was I ever wrong. I didn't really train for my first attempt, so I chalked up all the pain and agony I went through to my lack of training. Now that I was trained, I certainly didn't expect to go through any hard times, and for the most part, things would be failry easy, but was I ever wrong. I totally under-estimated what 100 miles is and can do to the body, whether you're trained or not. I tell you what, a 100 miles will humble the strongest of people.
The weather was damn cold. With the wind chill, the weather never got over the mid 30's, and it finally dropped into the 20's. They were calling for a chance of rain or snow, but thankfully it never hit.
What got me early on was the mental side of things, and stayed with me the whole time. This race was a mental battle like I've never experienced before, and I wasn't sure I could pull it off. I don't think there's any real way to train for it, other than to keep doing these races. See, during training, the longest you go is 50 miles. Well, when you do this run, somewhere in between mile 30 - 40, you're getting tired and ready for the run to be over with, and you realize you only have 10 - 20 miles left, and that's fine, and they tick off pretty easy. But, during a 100, when you start getting tired, you realize you still have another 60 - 70 miles! Uugghhhhhh!!!
I tried breaking the race into 4 chuncks, but I just couldn't shake the fact of all the miles I still had left to do. Although I was physically feeling fine at mile 30, I was a little tired, but feeling good, the thought of another 70 miles and it was freezing was just consuming me. This caused me to sink into sort of a depression. I just couldn't shake it and I wasn't sure I could make it. I thought of all the time I've spent training, all the hours my family sacrificed so I could be here, and now I'm not going to be able to finish. This just kept swirling in my head and tearing me down further, but I did keep going.
Let me say that my wonderful wife and fantastic 10 year old daughter met me at every aid station they could be at, and they were ready to do anything I needed, although I'm a pretty low maintenance runner. Them just being there made all the difference. If they weren't there, I wouldn't have been able to finish. Most of the time, I was just running from aid station to aid station so I could see them. When it was going to get dark, they were going to go back to the hotel room and get sleep and I'd call them later on when I was several hours from finishing so they would come back. Thankfully, they decided to stay and not leave. I needed them during the day, but they were my lifeline at night. They would basically just sit in the car and have the heater cranking. My wife knew how fast I was going so they would sleep and she'd wake up about when she expected me to roll on in, and there I'd be.
My wife could see that I was mentally going downhill, and she kept urging me to get my head right about this. She also wouldn't let me sit long or stay at an aid station. When a couple minutes had gone by and I wasn't really doing anything, she'd be pushing me off.
When I got to the mile 36 aid station, I asked what place I was in. I was currently in 42 place, out of 61 starters. This really upset me because I was much further toward the back than I thought I'd be, although I hadn't been racing this yet. I had walked most of the uphills. I was always watching my heart rate and my goal was to not let my heart rate get passed zone 2 like Eric mentioned. I also would walk anytime I felt like I was working hard.
Since this was a 50 mile out and back, once I hit the mile 50 turn around, my spirits immediately lifted. I was heading back and I now felt like I was knocking off the miles. I next saw my wife at the mile 58 aid station, and I was smiling and she knew I was happy now. I told her that I have good news, and some bad news. The good news is that I'm mentally feeling better. She asked what changed, and I said, I only have 42 more miles to go. She looked at me like I was a little crazy, like why is this guy happy about that, but having 42 miles left didn't seem like a lot. My bad news was I was starting to feel some small aches in my body. Nothing major, just aches from going for 12 hours now, but you never know what's going to turn into something worse later down the trail.
From mile 58 to the end was all done in the dark. The rest of the race to mile 82 was pretty much me running whenever I felt like I could run and for as long as I could hold it, and take 5 to 10 minute walking breaks in between. I was easily coming up on people and passing them. Everytime I was able to come up on someone and pass them, gave me a bigger boost and made me feel better. I said, this is what Eric's training had done for me. In between all this, I kept seeing my wife, and daughter and I was having a good time with the aid station people. There would be people in the aid stations hurting with stomach issues, or whatever, and I was pretty much feeling really good. I started feeling like I was going to finish this thing, although there still was a long time left, and the temperature was dropping, and that was sucking the life out of everyone.
By mile 82, I developed pretty severe shin pains in my left leg. I don't know if they were shin splints or what, or what I could have done to avoid them. I could feel something coming on with my left leg around mile 70, and it just kept getting worse. I had to alter my running gait to avoid putting too much weight on my left foot, and because of this, my right calf ended up cramping up, so at mile 82, my left leg hurt pretty bad, my right calf was killing me, and all I was able to do from this point to the end was walk. I couldn't even get into a run to run through the finish. Oh well, I did finish. From mile 82 to the finish, because I couldn't do any running, time felt like it stood still and this was a really long way to go in the cold.
Here's some stats and highlights: 61 racers started, 41 finished, and I finished 20th place in 25:27. From mile 36 to the end, I was able to move up to 20th place. From mile 16 to the end, I was never passed by a single runner, not even during the 18 miles to the finish where all I could do was walk. While I tried eating things, nothing ever really sounded good to me or that I wanted to have. I ate a couple quarters of PB&J, but I was forcing myself, so I stopped trying. I would get a cup of soup here and there, but it was so hot and I didn't want to take the time to finish it, so I never did. I could have carried it with me, but they didn't have trash cans on the trail, so I would have had to carry that cup to the next aid station, and I wasn't going to do that. I pretty much lived off Hammer gel and Honey Stinger gels. I would also drink a cup of Coke at every aid station, and I had some Starbucks double shots in my drop bags, so I drank 4 of them during the 100 miler, and I also drank 4 ensures. I would take 2 or 3 Saltsticks every hour. My feet were perfect. I never developed one blister, had any toe nail problems, and actually my feet didn't even swell up. After I finished and took off my shoes and socks, my feet pretty much looked like they didn't even run. I did tape the bottom of my feet as mentioned here, http://www.backcountryrunner.com/articles/blister-free-running.phtml, and I reapplied Hydropel at mile 42 and put on a new pair of Injinjies, which is what I run in. I did the first 25 miles in trail shoes, but then switched to my road shoes for the next 75 miles and I felt that was fine. The finishers buckle is amazing. It is very big and beautiful.
The majority of the race wasn't very enjoyable to me, and I think basically because I put so much pressure on myself to finish it. I dreaded another DNF, and the thought of not finishing just wasn't an option for me. On the upside, what I did enjoy was the other runners that I met, some that I got to run with. The people are what made this race such a special thing. Also, the race directors were amazing. Great people that really cared about putting on a great race. They also had amazing volunteers at the aid stations and had great food. This is the best ultra I've been to and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
I have created a gallery of this race at http://www.runners4jesus.org/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=945 if you wanted to see some pictures.
In summary, there's so many people that were key to getting me to that start line, and to that finish line. I'd also like to add that I truly believe that 100 miles is possible for anyone, I mean anyone, to do, if they really have this as a goal, and if their committed and dedicated to reaching this goal. Let me remind everyone that I just started running two years ago, and 11 months ago, I completed my first marathon. From the time I finished my marathon, the thought of completing a 100 mile race burned through me, and I worked hard for it. I didn't really feel like a different person after this race, like I thought I would, but about 4 days after the race, when it really sunk in, what I accomplished, I started feeling "it". My life suddenly feels different. I truly feel that I conquered one of the hardest things, and everything else around me seems small in comparison. I feel I can be up to any task, regardless of the size, and I'll do just fine.
It's been a week since my race. During the race, and for about 4 or 5 days afterwards, I swore I'd never do another one of these. For the past couple days, I've been trying to think of when my next one will be. :) What can I say, I'm hooked, and I can't wait for my next one. By the way, since I finished this, I qualified to enter the Western States 100 lottery, which I did. Who knows, maybe I'll get picked and I'll get to run that one in July.