I ran my first 100 Kilometer race (62 miles) on Saturday near Lawrence, KS.
The day was perfect and as far as I am concerned, I experienced pure victory! The race began at 7am with brisk temperatures (upper 30s). I just wore my short-sleeved t-shirt however and kept my hands warm by blowing hot air into them for the first 30 minutes. The race began and we followed the single track trail single file into the woods for a nearly 21-mile loop. After about an hour of “warming up” running, I began to pick up the pace to a run that I was pretty much able to sustain for the next 13 hours or so!
My running friend, Allen Smelser (north-east KS) ran with me the whole way, every step from beginning to end. We talked, joked, laughed, and learned about running the whole way. We completed the first loop in about 4 hours and 30 min. Half waythrough the second loop (the half way point) we started getting really excited about our great pace and were predicting finishing times. I thought aloud that if I’ve made it this far in this time that certainly I could break 16 hours. 18 hours was the cut-off time and I wasn’t even worried about that by this point.
I experienced my first low point somewhere between mile 31 and 35 where I just lacked energy and needed to down more calories to regain momentum. This began to make me question myself a bit and my ability to finish. But we kept going, pushed through this time and after no more than 20 minutes of this, it all came back! We finished the second loop in 4:40 and set off for the third round trip with a head lamp even though darkness was several hours away. I was consuming hourly electrolyte replacement capsules, lots of GU (energy gel) sometimes 1 – 2 per hour and other foods like boiled potatoes with salt, brownies (made by Allen’s wife Nancy), and pretzels. I also had consumed literally gallons of sports drink by this time in a water-bottle I carried with me. The heat wasn’t too much of a factor in mid-afternoon, maybe around 65, but the trees helped to keep us shaded a lot of the time.
The third loop was the hardest, of course, but also the most exciting. The first half of the last loop passed so well that I figured that I had beat my previous 50 miles times by over an hour and a half – I couldn’t believe it! Between mile 40 and 50 we were still running great mile splits, often as fast as 11 minute miles. Remember that these trails are single-track technical trails with rocks, roots, mud, hills and constant twists and turns and switchbacks. About mile 55 or so a light rain fell and cooled us off but slicked up the rocks and trees. About this time we turned on our flashlights to help us to see and twilight. We arrived at the final aid station, about mile 58.5 in great spirits, turned on our headlamps as well, drank some Mt. Dew for the sugar and caffeine, and set out over the last little stretch with great confidence and excitement and eagerness to cross the finish line. Here is a link to what some of the trails looked like (but these were the good parts): http://www.ultrastory.com/photos.htm.
As pitch blackness set in the course rendered us power-walkers (but as the end approached we found more and more occasion to run slowly, awkwardly, and painfully) due to the slick rocks and technical trail. Those last dark miles really seemed to drag on and on but finally we came out of the trail and had a 200 yard jog up a steep hill and then across a field where we ran (yes, definitely running at the end!) between two cones and that was it! The end of the ultra 62 mile run was so humbling it was hilarious. Literally the only guy there was the race director with a clip board and flash light. We crossed the line, very happy, and he said, “What’s your name and bib number?” This made me laugh. I remember lots of marathons with spectacular finish line celebrations and cheering crowds. We had gone twice and half times as far as a marathon and the only thing the guy at the end could say is, “What’s your name?” Anyway, Allen’s wife was asleep in the van nearby but had no clue when we would finish so didn’t know when to stand near the “finish line”. The third loop was only 5 hours and 20 minutes, which we were very pleased with how we only were 40 minutes slower which ends up at 2 minutes per mile off our pace of loop 2. I crossed the finish line in 14 hours and 28 minutes. I was so thrilled with that finish time!
The prize for the race is a really cool belt buckle that I wore proudly all day Sunday. I’m not the belt-buckle type but I couldn’t help but wearing it. Someone at church on Sunday asked me “did it hurt?” The honest answer is that the worse pain was felt only after stopping at the end and sitting down in a chair for a few minutes when all the muscles begin to crap up and chills came over the body. Sunday and Monday I limped around a bit but slowly things healed. Tuesday I was able to go for a 3 mile run straight up and down a mountain here in Estes Park, CO. I feel fine!