2017 has been an exceptional year with quite a bit of learning about myself and abilities at the hundred mile distance. I waited until February to finalize my plans for the year as I was holding out until the entry process took place for Badwater -135, World’s Toughest Footrace. Once I found out I wasn’t eligible to be selected into the 45th race, due to not meeting the qualifications to apply, I decided to focus on a race schedule. I was a little bummed at first, but with only 100 invites into the race (half rookies/half veterans), I realize I didn’t have the resume or experience as some of the other applicants.
In 2015 I had one of the top-10 hundred mile times in the country for a hundred miles with a 14:15. I thought it would be a good challenge to get my name on the top-10 list again, but multiple times. It would also serve as a way to meet the prerequisite for entry into Badwater. I looked for certain races that are flatter and faster courses which suit my strengths and style of running. The unknown was how I would do with racing this distance and having quite a few of them so close together. I completed Brazos Bend-100 in December 2016, and the first race of the year was Rocky Raccoon-100, eight weeks later. Then eight weeks after that would be Umstead-100 and another seven weeks to Keys-100. Then for the summer I would take off some time to rest and finish the second half of the year with Habanero-100, Javelina-100, and Brazos Bend-100 with those being six weeks apart. Here is a short recap on the races for 2017.
Rocky Raccoon 02/04/17 was a successful day as I came away with the title of USATF 100-mile Trail Champion and a PR of 13:44. I was up against a highly competitive field of really strong runners from all over the country. Fortunately, the home course advantage and consistent and solid training I had leading up to this point paid off. I was actually 2nd overall, behind James Stewart (24-hour runner) from the UK. The US Championship Race is a race within a race essentially and since James is an international runner, I took the title. I experienced some complications in this race primarily between 50-60 miles. This was the 5th fastest hundred miler in the country for 2017. Read about it here.
Umstead Endurance Run 04/01/17 is also known to be a fast course. The main thing that attracted me to this race is that it brought me back to my roots, literally. I lived in Raleigh, NC until I was about ten years old and this is where I first started running. I was excited to run my first ultra-marathon in NC and have my family be a part of the experience. My father, mother, sister, brother-in-law all came out and were my official support crew for the day. It was extra special having them there to share this moment with them. I was doing quite well most of the day, but found a rough patch around 50-60 mile mark that I seemed to struggle with before. At the end of the day I was outrunned by Olivier Leblond who was selected as the 2017 Ultra Road Runner of the Year, and also the 2016 US 24-hour Champion. I was beginning to find out that these 24-hour guys are tough and solid runners. Finished 2nd overall in 14:43. This was the 19th fastest hundred mile in the country for 2017. Read about it here.
Keys-100 05/20/17 was another race I was looking forward to and hoping for a sub-15 hour time. It’s also directed by a Badwater veteran, Bob Becker, and known to be a good race to do in preparation for the World’s Toughest Foot Race. Someone told me Keys 100 is like the oven and Badwater is the fire. Well the humidity and heat got to me much sooner than I expected as I had a taste of heat exhaustion by mile 20. It became a long day after that and was a complete sufferfest for the next 80 miles. I fought my way to the finish for my slowest time of the year with a 17:53 overall time and fifth place finish. I learned quite a bit about pushing through discomfort and enduring through some very difficult moments. I’ll be able to tap into that mental strength in future races. However, at the time it zapped quite a bit out of me mentally and made me want to reevaluate the rest of the year.
I decided to pass on Habanero-100 in August and focus my attention on getting my speed back. I noticed that having these hundred mile races 7-8 weeks a part was resulting in too much time off from training due to recovery and tapering. My overall fitness was decreasing and I felt like I needed to get that sharpness back to finish off the year. I have run 214 fewer miles in 2017 than I did in 2016. I decided to register for a fall marathon as something fun and to keep things interesting with focusing solely on the marathon. I looked for a fast course that I could do well on and also PR and BQ for Boston 2018. I chose Tunnel Light Marathon outside of Seattle, WA in September. I quickly realized that training for a fall marathon in Texas during the summer is quite challenging. Initially I had a higher finishing time goal when I registered, and had to change my expectations about 4-6 weeks out from the race. It’s extremely difficult to get in high quality workouts with the humidity and temps in July/August. None the less I put in the work and showed up to race day with confidence.
Tunnel Light Marathon 09/17/17 was during the enormous Pacific Northwest wildfires. There were several out of control fires blazing due to an unusually dry summer in a region known for rain. There was quite a bit of uncertainty whether the race would go on due to air quality and unhealthy conditions. It turned out that the winds were blowing in the right direction the day of the race and the race would go on. I ran very smart from the gun and pretty much negative split the entire race. It was a well-executed race that resulted in an overall win. I was pleased to come away with a personal best of 2:34 and a course record. Read about it here.
Shortly after this race there was talks of a highly competitive field shaping up for Brazos Bend-100. That made me rethink my plans for the remainder of the year as I found out Ian Sharman and Calum Neff were going to be running. Ian was talking about going after the 100 mile Trail World Record. Anytime there is an opportunity to race against talent like these two guys I want to be on my A-game. Also knowing what I had learned the first half of the year I didn’t think I would be in top shape with races six weeks apart.
Good thing I did not register for Javelina-100 because at work we went through a computer software integration which turned into a nightmare. My days turned into 12 hours of dealing with problem after problem and putting out fires at work. It was one of the most difficult experiences of my career and it impacted training quite a bit. Usually running for me is an outlet to relieve stress, but it was a constant thing on my mind and overwhelming at times. I was letting it get to me where I couldn’t sleep some nights. I got up many mornings at 4 a.m. to run, but that would catch up with me as I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I would have one good week of mileage in the mid to upper-80’s followed by a week in the mid-40’s. That was pretty much how it was from the middle of October to November until my immune system got compromised and I caught the flu. Catching the flu was a wakeup call that I couldn’t continue on that path and had to stop letting it affect me. At the same time period I got news that race favorite, Ian Sharman, announced he was not going to run Brazos as his training had been flat and he wasn’t recovering from harder races earlier in the year. The same week Cal Neff got hit by a truck during a run one morning and fractured his Fibula and therefore he would be out. Fortunately, Cal is okay and his injuries were not life threatening. I thought for a moment that I might have to drop out as I didn’t run for about a week as I had very little energy. I eventually was able to resume training and was got in some good mileage two weeks leading up to the race.
Brazos Bend 12/09/17 was an amazing day. I kept quiet and remained poised leading all the way up to the start. I was optimistic with how things would go and knew I could have a good day if I believed in my abilities and stayed in control and in the moment throughout the day. This is actually my first win at the hundred mile distance and doing it on this course means a lot. It was a PR of 13:40 on a slightly longer course and also course record by over an hour. Read about it here. This was the 4th fastest hundred miler in the country for 2017. Although that was my best performance on that day, I know it’s not my best day of running and what I’m capable of. It gives me the aspiration to keep perusing these longer distances and knowing I’m on the right path.
THANK YOU TO ALL THAT HAVE SUPPORTED ME AND BEEN BEHIND ME THIS YEAR!!! The successes I’ve had this year would not be possible without the care and attention I received from my sponsors. Without a doubt I’m able to perform at this level thanks to them. The more consistent I can be with the training the better I’m going to evolve. Thank you Klean Athlete, Drymax Socks, Alternative Health Center of The Woodlands. I also want to thank Tim Floyd with Magnolia Masters. Tim is a Swim Coach that works with many athletes including top triathletes in the world. We spent the second half of the year working on mindfulness and training my brain. A lot of this long endurance racing and quality training is in your head. Let’s go 2018!
Brazos Bend 100 12-09-17
My alarm went off at a 4 a.m. and I felt rested as I was able to get a good night’s sleep. It was a cold morning with temps in the 30’s so I layered up with warm clothes and made some coffee for the road. Also ate a small breakfast along with a Klean Athlete BCAA drink. I headed to the park at 4:20 a.m. to hopefully beat the mad rush of runners arriving at 5 a.m.
The race began at 6 a.m. and I started in control at a comfortable pace. I typically go out faster than I did, but I wanted to keep the effort from the beginning very relaxed. The trails were also muddy in this first section as it snowed the day before. It turned what is usually solid ground into a sticky paste of mud that caked to your shoes and added extra weight of what felt like an additional pound or two. It was like clay and didn’t come off easily, unless you scraped your shoes across rocks or branches. A little over a mile from the start there is an out and back section with a turnaround point about 3/10 of a mile or so. One runner was ahead of us at the time and he was out of site by this point. He didn’t turn and it created some confusion as what to do. I remember the race director mention in the race briefing the day before that 50/100 mile runners would turn there. I shined my head lamp on the cones with a sign and it said NO / Turn Around. It was a split second decision and I decided to not turn around. I’ve ran this section of the trail before and was familiar with it so I knew it looped around. I could also see the footsteps in the frosted grass of the runner ahead so I knew for sure he went this way. I didn’t feel great about the situation and went a while without seeing any course markings except for some reflective tape every so often on branches (not part of the race markers). I didn’t want to turn around and cut the course so I proceeded to continue on this trail. I was hoping someone behind would shout to turn around. There was also lots of water covering the trails on this section and it was challenging getting though without getting wet. I did pretty good avoiding it for the most part, but one section I had no choice and had to be light on my feet as possible. Fortunately, I had two pairs of Drymax socks on so only felt a little wetness at first and my feet actually stayed warm which I was concerned about. This additional section added somewhere between .7 to a mile and I was thinking maybe there is a change somewhere else along the course.
At mile seven I met Michael Goodwin who came out to crew for me and I ditched my headlamp with him and picked up a bottle with Klean Athlete Hydration. I kept a comfortable effort for the first lap and just listened to all the sounds of nature around me. I saw deer, wild hogs, raccoons and pretty sure I heard alligators splashing in the water. By the turnaround point at Sawmill aid station (mile 12) I had a couple minute lead on second place and four minute or so lead on the next group. While running I’m constantly staying in tuned with my body and trying to move as efficiently as possible with very little wasted energy. I noticed some tightness in my hamstring and felt a little stiffness in my glute and hip flexor on my right side. It didn’t feel like I was getting a full range of motion on that side and I figured maybe it had something to do with the cold temps or the mud we ran through earlier. I stretched and tried some things that have worked this year and it eventually went away.
At the completion of the first lap I got my copy of the race course map and showed the Race Director what we had done, missing the turnaround. He assured me that it was definitely a turnaround point and we should not have gone straight. He sent two guys ahead on a utility vehicle to check it out as the sign was a bit confusing. They moved more cones across the trail so that it was obvious not to pass. I certainly was happy as I didn’t want to run 105 miles or run through water again. Second place, Wade Barrett, started to catch me at mile 25 and positioned himself behind me. I could hear him and was hoping he would go ahead and pass. It went on for a few minutes or more so I stopped and stretched my hamstring, and allowed him to pass. Then I proceeded about forty yards back. He started walking to take in some nutrition and I took over the lead again. We leapfrogged like this for most of the back half of the course. I asked what his name was and started to chit chat which was nice to break the ice. We came into the start/finish area almost at the same time. I told my support crew to have new shoes and socks ready in about two miles where I could get through the muddy section and make a quick shoe/sock change.
Wade made his way to the aid station and I took the opportunity to make a move and try to open a gap between us. It worked and I was able to put a three minute lead on him and change into Nike Vaporfly 4%. I noticed an immediate difference with the cushion and it was also nice to put on a fresh pair of Drymax socks. I was running well for a few miles and then I began to feel some stiffness with my legs and my stride length didn’t feel the same as it had for the first 37 miles. I don’t usually go through issues this early into a race but I began having some doubts about things if this was going to continue and get worse. I met up with my crew before heading out to the back half of the course and asked Kyle to get some Excedrin ready at the next aid station (mile 43). I had to get out of this funk I was in and was hoping that would help with the pain. On the way out Tim Floyd told me to concentrate on being in the moment and not get caught up on the lows. I’ve been working with Tim Floyd for six months on training the brain to get into a flow state (in the zone). I’ve seen huge improvements with my training and heart rate during higher intensity runs. It’s helped with my performance and something I was looking forward to trying out during the race.
I fell off pace between miles 38 and 46 and this was the first time I was running above 8-minute miles. It took a little time for the Excedrin to kick in and for me to get my mind right. I took a minute or so break at the Sawmill aid station (mile 46) which is the mid-way point of a 2.7 mile out and back section. I drank some pickles and stretched really well before heading back. When I started to go I felt great again and I was able to open up my stride and pick up the pace. I found myself running a good rhythm and started knocking out 7:30 miles again. I had increased my lead on Wade by eight minutes and my confidence was up. I didn’t feel like I was exerting anymore effort so I was going to ride this wave as long as I could and that was my mindset all the way back to the start/finish area. I came through 50 miles at 6:40. I stopped for a couple minutes to use the foam roller on my glutes, hamstring, and hip flexors. Then rubbed Topical Edge all over my legs to help my muscles. I also put on some sunglasses and went out for the fourth lap. I held that sub-8 pace for another nine miles. The pain and stiffness was starting to set in again. I figured it would after a couple hours so I took another Excedrin to hopefully get ahead of it. I’m very cautious about taking this and not overdoing it as I have found myself with Rhabdomyolysis before after taking ibuprofen during a race. I had a few mile over an 8 minute pace, but then got back into a good rhythm on the out and back section at Sawmill. The lead on Wade now grew to 35 minutes and my spirits were high. I knew I had to just keep moving at a steady effort and things were shaping up to be an awesome day.
I picked up my first pacer, Zach Miller at mile 72 and we ran well together for the back 11 miles. It’s good to have company on the out and back section to Sawmill for the 4th and 5th loop as it always seems longer later in the race. We kept it between a 7:40 and 8:20 pace with me stopping and stretching every couple miles. When we saw Wade he looked good and like he was starting to bounce back. I only added about three minutes to my lead in 16 miles. When we completed the fifth lap I stopped to foam roll again, apply some more Topical Edge on my legs, put on some arm sleeves, a VPE hat, and headlamp.
I began the sixth and final lap with Michael Goodwin. We were moving along nicely for a couple miles, but then got into a bit of a slower pace as the sun went down. I think my mind was starting to go. I was looking at the scenery at 40 Acre Lake and I also thinking about having some warm food at the next aid station. After about 12 hours and 24 gels you begin to get sick of those and want some real food. We stopped at the next aid station and I got a warm cup of Ramen noodles and walked for a bit to get that down. I wasn’t too overly concerned with time as I knew I could make it up on the back half. This section of the course (40 Acre Lake ) is my favorite and I was content with slowing down and seeing it for one last time.
We made it to mile 90 and I picked up Kyle Rodemacher as a pacer to run the last part. On the way out Tim told me to just observe. At first I wasn’t quite sure what he meant. We maintained the same pace I had been running with Michael. The pain and stiffness was setting in and I knew I just needed to keep it together until the last out and back section to Sawmill. Once we did I asked for my phone and headphones. I had been looking forward to the playlist I made and had a feeling it would help tune out the pain for what was about to come on this last part. My thought process is that the effort already hurts so go faster and get it over with sooner. I was in enough pain already that it couldn’t hurt much more. Kyle has paced for me before and we did something similar to finish last year’s race. He was up ahead of me about 15 feet and I remembered what Tim said about observing. I found myself staring at Kyle’s shoes and whatever it was on the back of his shoes that were reflecting from the light of my headlamp. That’s all I kept my focus on for the last seven miles. We were running stride for stride and I tuned out all the discomfort and just observed his cadence. Our pace went from 9:30 per mile to low-7. It’s very cool when you don’t have to tell your pacer what to do and he just takes over. I’m pretty sure he knew all along what we needed to run for me to get a PR. My fastest split of the day was the last two miles with a 7:07 and 7:09.
Before approaching the finish line I ditched the headlamp and phone. I met up with my kids Miles and Kaitlin and we ran the last stretch together to the finish line. My son Miles told me earlier in the week that he was looking forward to seeing me run. That was the first time he has expressed that leading up to a race. It was very special to be able to share that moment and experience with them.
My overall time was 13:40:57 for a new course record and personal best. It was great to see Rob Goyen (Race Director) at the finish and receive a sub-16 hour belt buckle from him. We had a rough first year in 2014 at this same race and I believe it was a relief for both of us with this result. I was on pace to win this race in 2014 and some unforeseen circumstances changed the outcome. Then again I was on pace in 2016 to win and I screwed it up by going out way too fast for 50 miles. This day was extra special as it is my first overall win for the 100 miler. I felt like I finally got it right and executed a really solid race. It was truly a special moment celebrating with my crew and friends at the finish. I feel so much gratitude for the friendships we have.
Video of Finish: https://www.facebook.com/VPEndurance/videos/550882301926178/
Strava Activity file with splits: https://www.strava.com/activities/1308905336
Lap 1: 2:12:38 (.7 miles extra) 7:36 pace
Lap 2: 2:09:45 7:44 pace
Lap 3: 2:17:51 8:16
Lap 4: 2:15:35 8:08
Lap 5: 2:22:31 8:32
Lap 6: 2:23:37 8:37
Average moving pace: 8:00 per mile
Total Stoppage time: 19 minutes 36 seconds
Average HR: 159 bpm
Total Steps: 134,112
Average Cadence: 164
Elevation Gain: 594’
Minimum Temp: 34F
Max Temp: 70F
Nike Zoom Fly: miles 1-36
Nike Vapor Fly 4%: miles 36-100 *These shoes were awesome and the first time I’ve completed a hundred miles without losing a toenail. Could have used a bit more traction in the muddy areas but in the end they did the job.
Drymax – I used their tri sock with a crew sock to begin the race, and then lite-mesh for the middle, and changed to the hyper thin for the last portion. Best socks on the market!! No blisters and feet are in great condition.
Shorts: Salomon EXO TwinSkin
Hydration: Mainly water with Klean Hydration which was legit and settled well on my stomach. I was able to mix this with gels and not have any issues.
Nutrition: 25+ Huma Gels and a bottle of Tailwind occasionally. A small cup of gummy bears, pickles, ramen noodles, and cup of mashed potatoes.
Other: Run Gum for some extra caffeine and mental alertness.
Watch: Gamin Fenix 3
23rd Annual Umstead 100 – April 1, 2017
Finished 2nd overall: 14:43:38
Lap 1: 6 a.m. start time
Decent morning in the lower to mid-50’s and low humidity at William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh, NC. It was a pretty chill start for me and I followed another runner, Owen Bradley, as I wasn’t familiar with the start of the course. I actually got to the starting line 30 seconds before the race began. The race started the opposite direction than I thought and I was positioned in the very back. All good though as I was warmed up and ready to go.
We had a lead-out cyclist riding with us and he was very courteous, letting us choose the best path to run.
He sat back for the most part, but made sure to ride one full loop so we knew the course. It would be very difficult to get lost on this course as it’s basically around the perimeter of the park. The effort was definitely controlled and felt fine. I was a little surprised nobody else ran with us. I figured it made more sense to run the first half a little quicker and back off the pace on the back half of the course with the majority of the hills.
My family crewed for me at this race which was a lot of fun. My father and sister were stationed just before Aid Station 2 (~mile 6.5). Just as I have done in other races, I exchanged my handheld bottle with them. They would hand me another bottle including my nutrition of Huma Gels, which allowed me to pass through the main aid stations without stopping or wasting much time. There were other water stations every couple miles on the course, but it was cool enough in the morning to pass these up and make it to the main aid stations. I settled down on the back half of the course where the steepest climbs were. I did a mix of power-hiking and running on some sections to keep the legs as fresh as possible for later. Owen pulled away and opened up a 90 second gap on the hills. At the end of the lap I would come by mom and wife and do a turnaround at the start/finish line. I finished each lap drinking coconut water and exchanging my handheld bottle with them.
12.50 miles 1:34:02 (7:31 pace)
Owen took a little longer than me refueling and I ended up beginning the second lap ahead of him. He and another runner, Greg Jones eventually caught up with me. We ran a few miles together before they picked up the pace. I felt like the right thing to do was back off and run my own race. Plus, they were most likely going for the 50 miles. I kept my attention on taking care of myself with hydration and nutrition. Greg wasn’t carrying a water bottle so he was relying heavily on the unmanned aid stations. I had a feeling I would be seeing him sooner than later.
I was able to use the bathroom every 14 miles or so. I monitored fluid this way and tried getting in more as it was going to be a warm day with highs in the upper 70’s. I passed my dad and sister again and was surprised to see an old friend, Brian Clark, from my childhood that I probably haven’t seen in 15-20 years. He lives outside the park and was checking out the race. Pretty cool to see him out there.
I caught up with Owen and Greg as they stopped at AS-2 and Greg took a bathroom break. It was Owen and I again on the back half and this time I stayed with him, or he stayed with me. As we were a mile out from the start/finish area I had a boost of energy likely from the caffeine in my Huma Gel. I pulled away and had a really quick in-and-out transition that put a few minutes gap on him. It was always fun running into the start/finish area as the crowd was very energetic and cheering for all the runners coming through.
25 miles 3:09:46 (7:39 pace/lap)
It was beginning to warm up, but still manageable. I had a four-minute lead at this point on second place and ten-minute lead on the top five. I backed off a bit on the pace from earlier and kept up with my nutrition plan. Don’t remember much of anything crazy or exciting about this lap. Trails were getting busier with pedestrians, and I was beginning to lap runners. It wasn’t a problem as there was plenty of trail to share.
Coming into the start/finish I got rid of my shirt and refueled with coconut water. I also began taking a few Klean Athlete Electrolytes pills per aid station so about every hour. Each pill contains Vitamin B-6, Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, and Sodium Chloride.
At this point I now had a four-minute lead going out on the fourth lap and that grew to eight minutes as the other runners were taking longer in transition. On this course, it is easy to monitor others and know how far ahead or behind they are as there is a total of five miles of out and back trails.
37.50 miles 4:50:00 (8:01 pace/lap)
Lap 4: I was content with my effort up to this point and knew there was a lot of running left to do. It was also beginning to warm up which would result in me slowing down a bit. I tried to run the sections that had the most shade to keep cool, even if it meant not running the tangents. I adjusted my pace accordingly and felt good overall with the warmer temperatures. It felt like I did the right amount of heat acclimation leading up to this day, and it was playing to my favor. I was finishing a full bottle of fluids by five miles and was now beginning to use the unmanned aid stations located every couple miles. I would top off the bottle and had plenty to keep me hydrated before switching bottles with my crew at 44-1/2 miles.
50 miles 6:36:45 (8:33 pace/lap)
Four down and happy to be halfway done. My legs were definitely feeling it more and running another seven hours was going to be a daunting task. The halfway point for me is where I have my low points in a race so I knew it was going to be a tough lap. I noticed one guy, #5 Olivier Leblond, was starting to gain on me as I was leaving the start/finish area and he was just a few minutes behind by the turnaround point. It was another 3-1/2 miles before he would catch and pass me on an uphill section. I wasn’t too concerned as there is a lot of racing to do and I felt like I had plenty in the tank for later.
I was dealing with more pain now and starting to back off quite a bit. My watch died at 53 miles which was frustrating because I wasn’t able to check pace and other information. It was helpful knowing when to take gels. Fortunately, they had the course marked for the first 12 miles and I could tell by distance and estimated pace how often to take my nutrition. Olivier put a two-minute gap on me over the next couple miles so he was holding a steady pace. He had a really good turnover and was clipping along quite effortlessly. It was the first time I stopped at an aid station (mile 57) and asked for Aleve or Excedrin. I was trying to go as long as I could without taking anything, but figured it wasn’t going to get any better and may get worse. I took a couple and went on my way. My legs were taking a beating on the hills on the back half.
62.50 miles 8:32:58 (9:17 pace/lap)
Olivier’s lead grew to 9 minutes so he was basically a minute per mile faster. I took a little extra time at the start/finish aid station to make sure I was still getting plenty of fluids and asked for my iPod. Poured a cup of ice in my shorts to get my core temperature down. I left with a little bit of frustration as I faded quite a bit that previous lap and things were getting tougher. I knew the next 38 miles were about to hurt so I pulled the visor down low, cranked up the music, and ran a brisk pace. I got into a good rhythm and tried to make up some of the time I lost. I did the best I could to tune out the discomfort I had been feeling and it seemed to be working. I didn’t know how fast I was running and it would have been nice to see my splits. At the halfway point, I made up some time on Olivier, but didn’t seem like much.
My niece was at the AS-2 crew spot so it was good to see her. She cheered me up and ran a little bit with me. I kept going and went pretty hard on the back half. The leg pain was starting to come back and it was primarily the quads from the steeper descents. I was still behind about nine minutes or so going into the start/finish aid station and Olivier was looking good leaving. My legs were toast and feeling it from that hard effort on the hills. It was like it hit me out of nowhere and I was dreading another four hours of running. I asked for another Excedrin at the aid station and started walking back to where my crew was. This was the lowest point of the day as there was an overwhelming amount of emotions going through my head. It’s hard to control the negativity during these times and stay focused on what your main goals are. I knew I needed to take a break before going out on the next loop. I had to focus on the big picture and what I wanted to achieve this year as well as future races like Badwater-135. It helped knowing third place was close to 40 minutes behind so I could relax a bit and take care of myself. I laid down and elevated my legs while talking things over with my wife and mom. My quads were shot and it was going to be about finishing on the podium and hopefully not getting bumped off. My wife had been in touch with my friends that crewed the last couple races and they were offering some good advice. She also spoke to a guy across from them that was available to pace me due to his runner dropping out. I knew right away I was going to need additional support to get through this. I chilled out for a couple more minutes and took him up on his offer. I put on a white shirt and a buff that we soaked with cold water to keep me cool. I changed my crew socks and put on the Drymax Thin Mesh socks. My feet were doing great with no blisters, but felt it was a good plan to put on a fresh pair for the last 25 miles.
75 miles 10:26:29 (9:04 pace/lap)
Carter (pacer) and I went on our way and it was nice to run with someone I’ve never met before. He was from Norfolk, VA area and had quite a bit of ultra-experience. We shared stories and kept plugging away on the first half of the course. It was helpful to take mind off the monotony of running. I saw family again at AS-2 and we stopped to get more food this time at the main aid station. I’m not one for trying new things during a race, but felt like I had nothing to lose at this point and would be better off getting in more calories. I drank some chicken broth and Carter took a bag of pickles and another with cantaloupe. My plan was to power-hike the hills and run the flats and downhills. I ate the solid food (pickles and cantaloupe) during the slower pace on the uphills. We eventually completed this loop and I was in much better spirits. I took some more solid food at the start/finish AS, had some more broth, and drank a cup of pickle juice. Also ditched the shirt and buff and went out for the final loop.
87.50 miles 12:40:03 (10:41 pace/lap)
We were behind about 40 minutes on the leader and I had probably that much time over third place. Our goal was to complete this last lap in two hours or less which would be a minute faster per mile than the last. We didn’t focus a whole lot on the actual pace but kept moving in an urgent manner. I wanted to make up as much time in the front half because I knew the hills were going to be rough. I was having to stop and stretch every mile as my legs were getting too tight and aching. We made a quick stop at AS-2 and refilled bottles with cold water. It was a relief knowing there was five miles remaining. I ran the hills this time and blocked out the pain as much as I could. I would spray down my head, face, and upper body with the ice-cold water to keep my alertness high. I now had to stop about every half mile to stretch my quads, but it was helping and I was able to run better this way. The uphills were more of a relief than the long downhills. I was running about 90 seconds per mile going up than on flatter sections. With two miles to go we picked up the pace and kicked it in. Carter pushed me the last mile and it was all I could do to keep up. It was a huge help and I’m glad he was around to help me fight through those last 25 miles.
100 miles 14:43:38 (9:53 pace/lap) 8:50 overall pace
Overall, I think I had a good performance, but definitely have some takeaways which is what I try do work on and improve.
Race Day Gear:
Shoes: Hoka Claytons
Shorts: Salomon S-Lab EXO twinskin
Socks: Drymax Trail Crew and Lite Mesh
Water Bottle: Handheld Ultimate Direction
Watch: Garmin Fenix 3
This was a very well put on race and the entire staff and volunteers did an amazing job. Rhonda Hampton, the Race Director provided a first-class event, and it was evident that she was focused on making sure all the runners needs were met. I will definitely recommend this race to others and hope to come back some point in the future to race again.
My crowd support was growing throughout the day. These two munchkins are the kids of my brother-in-law’s family.
Best Crew Chief! #TeamDelzer
Discussing the race with the overall winner Olivier Leblond. He won the USATF 24 Hour Championships last year, which earned him a spot on the US Team. The World Championships are this summer in Ireland.
Always time for selfies with these pretty ladies. My sister on the left, and my wife on the right.
My father and I. He was past-President of The North Carolina Road Runners Club in the mid-80’s.
It was very comforting having my family involved and supporting me all day. They did a really great job keeping me on the go and making it easier for me.
Leading up to Race Day:I had planned to run Rocky Raccoon 100 for a while as it’s a special race
I had planned to run Rocky Raccoon 100 for a while as it’s a special race to me. I ran in 2015 which was my first hundred and finished third that year in the championship race (report). This would be my third one hundred miler which would allow me to meet the qualifying standards to apply for Badwater 135. Unfortunately, this year the application process closed two days before this race. I waited until Friday afternoon before the pre-race meeting to register in person. The main reason for that is I didn’t want to be on the radar and felt an advantage going into the race if my competition wasn’t aware I was running. I laid low for a couple weeks prior and went stealth on Strava and quiet on social media. Since I’m active on Strava and keep a blog with race reports someone could easily see my fitness and learn about my racing tactics. Not sure if it made a difference or not, but I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself and it was nice to keep my focus on other things. The week of the race I heard from a couple friends that Zach Bitter and Mario Mendoza were running. Then on Thursday I found out both Paul Terranova and Mario Macias were running. I confirmed on Friday that all four guys were signed up.
Following Brazos Bend 100 in December I managed to get in some decent training. I would have preferred a couple higher volume weeks, but I wanted to make sure I allowed my body a chance to recover. I was dealing with a few aches and pains so I wanted to make sure I didn’t overdo it. For the most part I was able to manage it with frequent visits to my sports doctor, Dr. Clouthier at Alternative Health Center of The Woodlands (http://stephenclouthier.com). I had some really good runs leading up to the taper so I was getting my confidence back about my overall fitness. Things were shaping up nicely for race day. The weather was looking more favorable each day leading up to race day. About ten days out the forecast was showing temperatures in the mid to high 70’s so we were blessed with the conditions we had. It was mid-40’s at the start and mid-50’s for the high with an overcast. I chose to wear my Salomon EXO S-lab twinskin shorts and matching half zip shirt, arm warmers, gloves, toboggan (beanie), and Hoka Challenger ATR 3 shoes.
Loop 1: 2:33:26
The race began at 6 a.m. and I positioned myself to front of the starting line and off to the side. It was a chill start for about five seconds and then Zach Bitter bolts off the front with an immediate reaction by Mario Macias in a hot pursuit. It was very similar to the start at Brazos Bend and these two were on a mission to run it fast. A few others took off into the dark, but I wasn’t able to recognize who they were. I held back at a comfortable pace with a plan to run 7:40 – 8 minute miles per loop. In this first section the trails are covered in roots as you run through the forest. I was most comfortable at a low 8-minute pace and able to choose the best part of the trails to run on. I wasn’t chasing the American Record so I held back hoping to run with a few people and relax for the first half of the race. There were a couple guys 10 meters up on me and maybe one or two behind me. I caught up with those two around the fifth mile and ran close enough to hear them talking. I heard one of the guys, Matt Urbanski, talk about taking a more conservative approach this year and running even splits. That was a similar plan I had so I made a mental note of that and saved it for later.
I started to pull away on the jeep road leading to Dam Nation (mile 6). On the out and back section I could see a headlamp and eventually caught up with the female leader Sabrina Little. We chatted for a bit and were both wondering where Paul Terranova was as we were expecting him to be running this pace. By the time I got back to Dam Nation (mile 12) I ditched my headlamp with Kyle and traded my water for a bottle of Tailwind. Kyle stated that Mario Mendoza was ahead about a minute and I was in sixth place overall. I wasn’t expecting to see Mario this soon as I figured he would be running a lot faster. For him to back off the lead pack meant he was running a smart race and planning to conserve energy early on. I never met Mario before or raced against him, but I knew he was running the race and was aware of his abilities. He has quite a few podium finishes at these USATF championship races. However, this is his longest race ever so I felt comfortable racing him with my experience. I opened up my stride on the jeep road and ran a few miles at 7 flat which felt really good and a nice change of pace. This section is a smoother with very few roots and has a mix of sand and some compact surfaces. Mario was also running a similar pace. If I got too close to him I backed off or stopped to use the bathroom and stretch a little to allow him to stay further ahead. I didn’t want to run with him which allowed me to remain calm and focus on my race. I ended up getting another bottle of Tailwind from Peter at Park Rd. aid station (mile 16). This last four miles of the loop has a lot of roots and the last two miles of it is the same trails as the first part of the course. I focused on my footing and backed off the pace to 8 minute miles. The leaders came blazing through as we were approaching a mile remaining to the start/finish area and they were up by 10 minutes. It was Zach Bitter, followed by Mario Macias, and James Stewart. During this time, I stopped focusing on the trails as much and jabbed my left foot into a decent size root which resulted in a quick blow to the ground. My toe took a beating on that and it lit me up. I was upset with myself as I was limping a bit and hoping the pain would wear off. In a minute or two I didn’t notice it as much and was in the start/finish area for a quick transition.
Loop 2: 2:34:24
My goal for the second loop was to try and run a similar pace and effort as the first. I went with feel and didn’t pay too much attention to what my splits were. Mario seemed to be running a little quicker in the first section of trails to the Nature Center aid station (23 miles) so I let him go and stayed a minute or two back. It felt more comfortable to sit back and run my own race. When I came into Dam Nation aid station I dropped off my arm sleeves and gloves with Kyle and switched bottles. I stuck with my nutrition plan of consuming a Huma Gel every 30 minutes and Tailwind as needed to get extra calories. I also took some Klean Electrolyte pills at mile 36 going into Park Rd. aid station. Klean Athlete has an assortment of supplements that are safe and free of banned substances. I started the day with their BCAA +ATP drink which provides a good boost of energy. While at Park Rd. I found out that someone dropped and I figured it was Zach Bitter as I heard he rolled his ankle on a root. I was able to confirm that on the out and back section when I saw the leaders going out on their second loop. It was Mario Macias and James Stewart at the front. This was a smooth second loop for me and my overall time was two seconds faster than my first loop. Mentally I felt great and thought it would be incredible if I could pull this off the entire run. My goal was to keep the difference between loops within 10 minutes. At the start/finish area Mendoza was a minute ahead.Loop 3: 2:51:20
Loop 3: 2:51:20
Going out for the third loop I was 11 minutes up on Urbanski and feeling good. My watch started showing my pace at 3-4 minutes per mile and I couldn’t figure out what was going. I figured it was a weak GPS signal and not sure what to do for it to record accurately. I didn’t have any good splits for a few miles and went off feel. My big toe was starting to hurt from the fall earlier and I was feeling some knee pain. As I approached Dam Nation (mile 46) I got a new bottle with Kyle and told him to have my Hoka Clayton’s ready to change into the next time I came around. I was wearing the Hoka Challenger ATR 3’s which gave me plenty of traction, but I wanted to see if the Claytons would feel different with my toe hurting more. On this out and back section I was losing energy and my mental strength was beginning to fade quickly. The pain really kicked in with my knee and I wasn’t running with an efficient stride or pep in my step as I had before. I was dealing with some low points and was even questioning myself if this is what I want to be doing and trying to make sense of why I choose to run hundred milers.
I had a bracelet on that I wore to bring me strength when I needed it the most. It’s an awareness bracelet for a young boy in our community, Will Herndon, that was diagnosed with Juvenile Batten Disease at the age of six. This is a rare, fatal, inherited disorder of the nervous system that usually begins in childhood. It’s a disease that affects kids and is usually fatal at the teenage years and into their 20’s. Click here for more information. Will just turned 14 and has to fight every day to stay strong and I knew this bracelet would remind me of Will’s fight. It brought me strength to keep pushing when I needed it the most. I was also talking to the man upstairs to keep me safe and strong and praying to get through this rough patch.
I eventually completed that miserable seven miles and made it back to Dam Nation (mile 53) where I was able to change shoes. I told Kyle I needed something for the pain, but to find something other than Advil or Ibuprofen as that messed me up in 2015. He came back with Tylenol and Aleve so I went with Aleve. I was nine minutes behind Mendoza and I asked Kyle to find out how far Urbanski was and to let Peter know so he could pass it on to me. On the jeep road after Dam Nation I was starting to get my second wind again. Jason Bryant who was doing some videos and tracking for USA Trail Running was on this section and did a short interview with me (click to watch video). This was about the time I was running normal again and able to open my stride. The pain went away and I was in good spirits again. At Park Road aid station Peter said I was eight minutes back on Mendoza, and Urbanski was five minutes behind me. I was moving at a solid pace again and hoping I could make up some of the time I lost so I ran through this wooded area with a sense of urgency. I saw Macias come by and he looked fine and had something close to 24 minutes up on me. I somehow missed James when going to the start line. I found out he had changed shirts and that’s how I didn’t notice him. I was gaining on Mendoza and now only six minutes back.
Loop 4: 2:44:41
Click here for footage of my transition and start of fourth loop. I managed to put some time between myself and Urbanski. My lead was now about 11 minutes as he was headed into the
start/finish area. I entered the Nature Center aid station (mile 63) and Peter gave me an update on the field. I was 10-1/2 minutes behind James, 4-1/2 minutes behind Mendoza, and Macias dropped. I was shocked and couldn’t believe it as this moved me into third overall. Peter yelled at me “Run Your Race” as I was going into the woods. Apparently, he had been telling me this all day, but this time it stuck and I decided it might be wise to back down a bit as there was still a lot racing to do. I had another conversation with God and it was reassurance to ease the pace and be patient.
Somewhere between the Nature Center and Dam Nation my watch battery died. Fortunately, I was very close to Dam Nation (mile 66) and I met my first Safety Runner, Ken Rieger. He stayed behind me which allowed me to choose the best part of the trail and move around as needed. I was only a couple minutes behind Mendoza so knew it was a matter of time before we would catch him. I enjoy running with Ken because we’ve done a lot of running together over the years, and he always amazes me with being able to identify birds. I learned about the Belly Warbler, Chickadee, and some woodpecker (cannot remember the name). It’s a nice break to get your mind on something else when you have been going at it for this long. We caught up with Mario at mile 68 and I waited for an open area to pass him. I told Ken I was going to make a move and to tell me when it had been five minutes. We surged by Mendoza until we had a comfortable margin ahead of him. I looked back and didn’t see any sign so felt comfortable backing it down to a more sustainable effort. Ken was keeping track of time now so I would remember to take a gel every half hour and not go too long without fuel. After this wooded section my legs were starting to ache again. I told Kyle at Dam Nation (mile 73) to tell Peter to have some Aleve ready for me to take at Park Road. I was also beginning to chafe and knew I needed to do something to prevent some serious problems later. I took a gob of Vaseline and robbed it all in my shorts. It was quite messy and felt disgusting.
Peter told me that we were 9 minutes back on James. I wasn’t really chasing him because my motto all day was “let them come to me”. I had the mindset that if things continued to work out the way they had been that I might be in a good position towards the end to make a move. I was feeling good and quickly moved through the four-mile section to the start/finish area. We saw James blow by us in the opposite direction and he was probably about 7 minutes ahead of me on the final loop. When I was in the start/finish area I found out he took a two-minute break so I was doing the math and figured we were running a similar pace. I had heard earlier in the day about him running 160 miles in 24 hours so I knew he wasn’t going to fade much.
Loop 5: 3:01:37
I picked up a new runner, Michael Young, who has done some crewing for me before. I was trying to run at a comfortable effort for the first few miles to stay safe on this section of trails. A couple miles in I realized I didn’t grab my headlamp. Fortunately, Kyle was meeting me at the Nature Center (mile 83) and he had my headlamp as he would be running with me for the last 16 miles. At Dam Nation (mile 68) I was six minutes back on James so things were headed in the right direction. I felt like I was moving good headed out to the turnaround point, but once it got dark I had to slow it down. Kyle was keeping track of time and it seemed like we had been on this out and back stretch for the longest time. I swear the roots were growing and the trail was getting longer. Knowing that Bitter’s race was ended by a root, I didn’t want to risk too much as I was leading the championship race. I had something get in my shoe so as we approached Dam Nation (mile 93) I told Kyle I was going to stop to take off it off and get the pine straw or whatever it was out. I was also craving real food. I got some Ramen noodles and mashed potatoes and spent the most amount of time at this aid station. I found out I was five minutes behind James, but I wasn’t sure how far back Urbanski was so I wanted to keep moving.
With five miles to go I dropped the hammer and started to chase after first place. I blew through the trails with a sense of urgency and felt really strong. I was pouring water from my bottle all over me to keep my mind alert and body cool. I figured that maybe I could put a minute per mile on him and hopefully catch him for a fight to the finish. We blew through Dam Nation (mile 96) and grabbed another bottle of water from Peter. The water was cold and felt amazing to spray on my head and neck. I was running strong and going faster through this section than I had all day. With a few miles to go we were back on the heavily rooted trails and I took a hard fall. I didn’t get up so quick from that one and it stung. I tried to pick it up again and fell a couple more times. I was now starting to get annoyed by the roots and frustrated. I wasn’t seeing them maybe due to running too fast and apparently not getting my feet high enough off the ground to avoid them. We decided it was best to take it easy and get to the finish line safely. Kyle did a great job calling out the roots and encouraging me to keep going. He knows these trails better than anyone I know so he knew exactly where we were and when there were climbs coming up. It was nice to have him there calling this stuff out to me. With ¾ of a mile to go we looked at each other with the biggest grins on our faces. We did it! Coming into the last stretch to the finish line I changed into a fresh shirt, removed my head lamp, and ran to the finish line holding my kiddos hands. I was tickled and a memory I’ll never forget.
Many thanks to everyone who cheered me on and for all your comments during and after the race. I want to give a special shout out to Peter Bardenhagen and Kyle Rodemacher for being a pivotal part of this special day. Without their support this would not have been possible. We were all pretty beat up about my last race and made sure the outcome of this one would be successful. These guys handled it amazingly and made sure I was taken care of and stuck to my plan. It also helped tremendous amount having pacers (“safety runners”) the last 40 miles with Ken Reiger and Michael Young to give me company and make sure I stayed on top of my nutrition. I love having my wife Stefanie and kiddos out there supporting me and cheering me on. It was a very special moment to be able to cross the finish line holding Miles and Kaitlin’s hands and a dream come true. Kaitlin ran the kids trail race that day as well.
Thank you to my coach, Ian Sharman for all the wisdom going into this and believing in me. Thank you to my teammates at Finish Strong Racing. Thank you, Klean Athlete for amazing product to keep me healthy and strong. Thank you, Dr. Clouthier, at Alternative Health Center of the Woodlands for accelerating my recovery and keeping me healthy. Thank you, Huma Gels for my main source of fuel on both training and race days. I had a lovely bagel race morning with cream cheese and a mango gel on top. Yummy! Thank you, Joe Kirk, for the Hoka Challenger shoes to try out. Love them!
Thank you to Chris’ team at Tejas Trails and all the volunteers for putting on an excellent race as usual. I thought it was really cool to choose one of the original belt buckles from back in the day.
Race Day Gear:
Shoes: Hoka Challenger ATR 3 & Hoka Claytons
Shorts: Salomon S-Lab EXO twinskin
Shirt: Matching Salomon top
Water Bottle: Handheld Ultimate Direction
Headlamp: Petzl NAO
Arm Sleeves: Nike
Watch: Garmin Fenix 3
Race Reports and Articles:
I Run Far Review: http://www.irunfar.com/2017/02/this-week-in-running-february-6-2017.html
James Stewart Race Report (1st overall male): https://jamesstewart13.com/2017/02/06/race-report-rocky-raccoon-100/
Sabrina Little Race Report (1st overall female): http://sabrinalittleruns.blogspot.com/?m=1
Do you have what it takes? I’m here to tell you that you’re capable of more than you think. I’m going to share information and my experiences with what it’s like to train for an ultra. My objective is to hopefully scratch a bit more than the surface and give you some good tips and insight into training and preparation.
I’ve been running ultras since 2014 and I refuse to do anything else as this has been a very rewarding and life changing experience. Training and competing in ultras becomes more about the journey and experiences along the way. It’s an opportunity to explore what your body and mind is capable of. It takes a lot of hard work and commitment, and usually the end result is highly rewarding. It doesn’t always go as planned, but the more you prepare up front the higher chances of success you will encounter.
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Brazos Bend 100 Race Report: Dec. 10, 2016.
Not sure you could ask for better weather conditions and a faster course than what we had this weekend at Brazos Bend. It was 38° for the start and the high was upper 50’s. The course was changed to six 16.67 mile loops due to some rain earlier in the week which flooded some sections of the course. I was prepared to go for a course record and also had the hopes of setting an American Record for the fastest 100 miles on a trail. I felt confident going into this race that I would have a good shot at it. My fitness was there, taper was on point, and my body felt extremely well.
I stayed the night at the park with a buddy who was also part of my crew support team, Peter Bardenhagen. It is a relief not having to worry about logistics the morning of the race. I loaded up on carbs the night before and relaxed with my feet up. The alarm was set for 4:30 a.m. and I felt fresh and ready to go race morning. Had some coffee to get the buzz going, ate a banana and half of a bagel to get in a few more calories. I also drank a serving of Klean Athlete BCAA +ATP pre-workout drink and Beet Elite NeoShot.
Once we got all our gear together Peter, Kyle Rodemacher (other crew member/pacer) headed to the start area and got setup. I did an easy warm-up to loosen up and rolled to the start line ready to go. We took off and I quickly settled into a nice effort with Mario Macias, who I did not know at the time. I ran close behind him for a couple miles and then I felt like my effort stayed the same and he dropped back. I was paying attention to my splits and it felt very comfortable so I stayed at that pace.
The first aid station is 40 Acre Lake (4.1 miles) and I blew through there without stopping as I had plenty of fluid and was carrying my nutrition. There is a wooded area just after this aid station so I wanted to get in there quickly and then hopefully be out of sight of the others. I preferred running alone so I could focus on my race and not have to think about what others are doing. It seemed to be working as planned and I was building a gap and running fine. My mantra for the beginning that I repeated to myself was “don’t go fast, don’t give up”. My son came up with this a couple months ago, and it stuck in my head so I used it early on to not go out too quick.
At twelve miles, I had about a three-minute lead over second place and I was in good spirits. My crew had my hydration and nutrition with them so I didn’t have to stop long in the aid stations and waste time. I primarily drank water and was taking about three Huma gels an hour. Towards the end of the first lap I switched to a bottle of Tailwind to get in a few more calories. I went through a half a bottle pretty quick which allowed me to get in 100 additional calories. I took breaks occasionally to use the bathroom and that was also when I would walk for a bit and do some light stretching.
I was wearing a newer pair of Hoka Clayton’s which I absolute love. I was starting to realize they weren’t quite broken in as my feet were sliding in them and I could feel the friction. At the Windmill Aid Station (mile 14.8) I told my Crew to get my other Clayton’s ready for a quick change. I came strolling into the start/finish area (mile 16.67) and was able to quickly change shoes. We had it dialed in and I didn’t waste any time as I was probably out of there within 30 seconds. There was a lot of energy there as a couple hundred half marathoners were about to start. I took off and settled back into my comfortable pace. My feet felt much better in these shoes as they had already formed into the shoe from the additional miles I had on them. I completed the first lap in 1:57:07 (7:01 pace). My goal was to run a 7:10 pace for the first 20 miles and then settle into a slower pace that I could maintain for the middle portion of the race.
At an out and back section of the course around mile 18 I saw Mario and he was now 2:40 behind me. This is where I completely lost focus on my own race and started wondering who this guy was. I was flawless up to this point and he looked great and was moving quick. His stride was clean and he had a fast turnover. I’m thinking to myself that he isn’t stopping either at the aid stations or maybe he is and he is just running faster now. Later I found out from my crew he wasn’t stopping. Instead of slowing down I kept running low 7’s. I wasn’t really checking my pace but I was going on how I felt.
The half marathoners didn’t have to do this out and back section so probably half of them got ahead of us on the course. It wasn’t too bad as the trails were wide enough there and majority of the runners stayed to the right allowing a clear path to run by. I never looked back to see where Mario was and tried to stay comfortable and running as efficiently as possible. The pace still felt effortless and I was staying on top of my nutrition and hydration.
The back half of the course (last 8 miles of the lap) is a long out and back section. This is part of the course that was changed due to some flooding on a couple trails. At the turnaround, I would check my watch so I could know how much time separated us. Mario was now 2 minutes behind and still looking just as good as before. I was now getting irritated. I knew there were a handful of guys with solid results but I didn’t expect anyone to go this quick. It was just us at the front and nobody close behind.
At Windmill aid station (31.5 miles), I told my crew I needed some Vaseline as my toes were bothering me from earlier, and also to get some thinner gloves as it was beginning to warm up a bit. They went ahead and got that ready. I went through the start/finish area (mile 33.34) without stopping and met with them about a half mile afterwards so I could sit at a bench along the trails and take my shoes and socks off. My toes were already blistered so we lubed them up pretty good with Trail Toes (anti blister cream) and I went on my way. I completed lap two in 1:58:15 (7:05 pace).
I was headed back on the out and back section and there was Mario chasing me down and about 1:30 behind. At this point it finally registered in my head to let him catch me so I could focus on something more sustainable. He eventually did around 38 miles and I was relieved to let him go. I began to settle into a 7:30 to 7:45 pace and hung there for the second half of the lap. He put about 3 minutes on me within 8 miles. I was just hoping I would see him later in the race, and if not then be able to congratulate him for one heck of a record breaking run.
On the way back I started getting this burning sensation in my quads (between miles 46-48). It was a feeling I haven’t experienced before and felt like they were on fire. I looked at my legs and my knees were bright red. I just figured it had something to do with the colder temps at the start. It was warming up enough that I wanted to put on a short sleeve shirt so at the Windmill aid station (48 miles) I stopped to change and took some time to walk and stretch a little. I asked my crew to get my foam roller ready at the start/finish area. Now that Mario was ahead I wasn’t as focused on time and rushing. I knew I needed to take care of myself and as long as I kept around 7:30-7:45 pace I would be good. I completed the third lap in 2:07:22 (7:38 pace). 50 miles at 6:02:44
I didn’t stop there and had Kyle meet me just beyond the start/finish area where I stopped the last lap. I took my time and rolled my quads and glutes for a couple minutes. Started walking for a bit and then back to running. After this I never got back into a rhythm I once had and things unraveled very quickly. I was able to run a low 8-minute mile but had to stop due to them aching. I walked a little more to hopefully allow my legs to loosen up. It felt like I blew my quads and I was unable to run without pain. I couldn’t figure out what was going on and wasn’t able to make any sense of it. It’s not a hilly course which is usually where you’ll experience this. It was frustrating and very disappointing. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run decent the second half and that I had did too much damage. All I could think about was how much time I would be on my feet for another 48 miles. I knew I wouldn’t want to walk that long which is likely another 10-12 hours.
I walked the next few miles to mile 56 where the start/finish area is and called it a day. Kyle gave me the phone to speak to my wife and she was just as upset. She knows how much I put into this race and that I wanted this so bad. I felt worse about staying on the course and having the family waiting for me all night. I tossed the bib in a trash bag and waited for my friends doing their first 50 milers to come in. They had about ten miles to go so another 1-1/2 to 2 hours remaining. While waiting around I propped my legs up to elevate them for a while and had some time to reflect on the day. I was really bothered with the fact that this is my second DNF at this race.
Seeing my friends finish and persevere through their first 50-mile race and another in good spirits going out for his final loop made me regret my decision to quit. There were others on the course dealing with more challenges than me. Just a few out there grinding it out that resonated with me was an Air Force Veteran with an above the knee running prosthesis, a guy dragging a tire behind him on a rope, and a guy in a wheel chair.
I recognized a guy, Patrick Sweeney, who I met at the Badwater-135 race this year. We talked about Badwater and it made me realize how bad I wanted to do that race. That was the moment I started thinking about the possibility of finishing. My legs actually felt decent and not as stiff as they did earlier. I went to the parking lot to try a test run and there was no pain. I wasn’t as fresh as earlier but I could run which made me feel much more optimistic. I did the math on some scenarios and thought if I came back out at night I could run and try to finish under 24 hours. I spoke to Rob the RD about restarting later and he was totally cool with it as long as I checked in with him and continued where I stopped. I’m now thinking how I’m going to explain this to my wife and was very nervous about her reaction. I grabbed both of her hands, looked her in the eyes like I was about to propose to her, and told her my idea of coming back out after the kids went to bed. She was super supportive and was all for it. She knows how hard I worked for this and how bad I wanted it.
The plan was to pack up and head back to the camper and then come back out at 9 or 10 p.m. when the kids were ready for bed. The kids had fun at the camp site and we took them to the Nature Center and around Elm Lake to look for alligators. We went back to the camper and started making dinner. I cleaned up, ate a light dinner, and then kicked my feet up and rested. I laid in my NormaTec Compression boots and closed my eyes for about 20-30 minutes. At that time, I spoke to Kyle who was going to pace me and we decided to start sooner so that we could get back an hour or two earlier than expected and hopefully get some sleep before having to drive home. We got everything together that we thought we would need for the night. I had to tape my toes because of the blisters and wore a more cushioned shoe. I chose the Hoka Mafate Speed which I figured would be better for more time on my feet and not being able to see as easy what I would be stepping on in the dark. I also had quite a bit of chafing from earlier so lubed up pretty good before going.
Once we packed up we went back out to the start/finish area a little after 8 p.m. Kyle checked in and picked up his pacer bib and I gave a heads up to the RD that we were about to continue. We had 44 miles to go and had to first complete 10 miles of the fourth lap which is my least favorite. It’s mentally tough because the majority of this section is a long out and back. You expect the turnaround to be a lot closer than it is. At about 2.5 miles in you make a hard-left turn onto another trail and you think it’s a mile until the turn around and it’s closer to two miles. It’s pitch black and seems never ending. This is the part in the first lap where my feet were rubbing in my shoes wrong. When we made it to the first aid station, Windmill (mile 59.4), I took my shoes and socks off and rubbed some more Trail Toes on my feet for extra protection. I had not tried this product before this day, but it seemed to work well.
We cruised along at an 8:30 pace which felt quick and I was not sure if it would be sustainable. The aid stations are just under a few miles apart on the back half so we took time at those to rest and eat before going again. I was ok with the quicker pace at first because I wanted to get back to the start/finish area before it got too late so I could text my wife and catch her before she went to sleep wouldn’t have to worry.
There is something more special about running at night. It’s the experience of being in the middle of nowhere and you are surrounded by the wild. We saw alligators (in the water), armadillos, and heard quite a few noises from birds and other animals. It also helps because you are usually running slower and the focus is on finishing rather than running a certain time. I paced Kyle eleven months’ prior at Rocky Raccoon 100 in Huntsville Texas for his final lap and it was in the middle of the night. He ended up destroying his quads in that race and walked the last 50 miles to finish sub 24. It was ironic that we were in a similar situation. For me (pacing him) it was a blast although he was in a lot of pain at the time. You really get to see how tough the other person is and how determined they are to conquer their goals. This time he was returning the favor and it’s amazing having someone there to help you get through it.
It felt like it had warmed up so after completing the lap I got rid of my arm sleeves and gloves. It was a lot warmer at 10 p.m. then it was when I was running earlier in the day. We looked at the time completed and it was close to 10 hours for the fourth lap (mile 66.68). It was amusing because I had the fastest lap of the day and the slowest lap of the day. Now we settled into a slower pace between 9-10 minute miles for the fourth lap. Kyle used his headlamp and I turned mine off because we still weren’t sure how long we would be out there and unsure how long the batteries would last.
We made it to 40 Acre Lake aid station (mile 70.78) and I chowed down on some Ramen noodles, gummy bears, and M&M’s. It was good to get some solid food in and switch it up a bit as I cannot eat much other than gels when I’m running fast. I was still taking two Huma Gels (with Caffeine) an hour to make sure I had enough calories. After stopping for a bit I was noticing things were starting to get stiff so we kept on moving. We maintained that pace for the first six miles of the fifth loop and then picked it up for the back half. My legs were getting tired and I was having some discomfort along the outer part of my calves. It was a good thing we turned off one headlamp because Kyle’s was already flashing which means the battery is low. His light wasn’t bright but it was enough to complete the fifth loop. We talked about him stopping after this loop since that was a marathon for him and he had not planned to do more than 16 miles. He had his bike in his truck so he got it while I continued and was going to ride out on the course and meet me out there. I completed the fifth loop (mile 83.35) in 2:55:42 (10:36 pace).
Since I was running solo I took my iPod with me and listened to music. I started out easy around a ten minute mile and then gradually got quicker the second mile. Kyle found a massive turtle shell that he wanted to show the kids so he took it bike back to his truck and said he would meet up with me. I thought it would be fun to pick up the pace and see how long it would take for him to catch up with me. I started to get into a rhythm and was able to hold 8-1/2 to 9-minute pace for the next five miles. Kyle finally caught me before going out for the final 10 miles. That hard effort really took a toll on my legs and things were beginning to hurt a lot more. I started to walk again and my legs felt like they did earlier in the day when I stopped. I tried to run but I was really stiff and it was painful to my quads. I was doing the math in my head and figuring that walking would be around 16 minutes a mile. At that pace it would be another hour and I was tired and ready to get it over with. I tried to change up my form and run differently to hopefully relieve some of the pressure on the quads but it didn’t do much.
We made it to Windmill aid station (mile 92.71) and I sat in a chair and massaged my legs. It hurt to start going again and reminded me of the discomfort I felt during the 12 hour treadmill run when I stopped and started again. I walked for a mile with Kyle and noticed quite a few head lamps coming back in. Not sure how many of these runners were on their final lap with four miles to go, but I thought if I could run again I could potentially catch them as they were walking. Throughout the night we were paying attention to my overall ranking and asking race staff what place I was in. When I started that evening, I was around 65th and now I was probably close to 30th.
It took me everything I had to get moving again but I was determined to run. It reminded me of the scene in Forrest Gump when he is a kid and being chased by bullies. He has leg braces on and has to run with his legs locked and then finally breaks out of the braces. It felt just like that. I was going to do whatever it took to get to the finish as quick as I could and catch as many people over the last seven miles. I was only able to run 9:30 to 10-minute pace for the first four miles and it seemed like I was sprinting. My mantra was “don’t stop, don’t give up” and I had to say that a few times in my head. I also had the music replaying on certain songs that allowed me to tune out the discomfort. I was sweating like crazy as it warmed up quite a bit since we started so I took off my shirt to stay cool. I would often spray my face, head, and back with cold water to keep me more alert. My headlamp also started flashing with about five miles to go and the light began to dim so it was harder to see the trails.
We made it to Sawmill aid station (mile 95.41) to refill bottles really quick and off I went. I had to run a ten-minute mile to break 22 hours. I picked up the pace to a little over an eight-minute mile pace and gutted it out to the finish. I’m glad I pushed it and was able to gain some more mental strength from this effort. I caught quite a few people on the way back in and didn’t slow down until I crossed the finish line. Total finish time was 21:56:07 and finished 29th overall. Sixth lap was 2:52:01 (10:19 pace).
Unfortunately, this wasn’t my day but I accomplished one of my goals which was to finish. I put it out there and paid the consequences for not sticking to my race plan. I’ve learned a lot in this hundred and fortunately I have a pretty good short term memory that will allow me to put this behind and move on to the next one.
First half splits and data on STRAVA (click here)
This is the Race Director Rob Goyen and me with my sub 22-hour belt buckle. He did a fabulous job managing the race and catering to the runners. The dude stayed out there from start to finish (30+ hours) and put on one heck of a race for us. He has an awesome team and some amazing volunteers working to ensure these races are a success. I look forward to doing more TROT racing in the future.
I am so thankful for having a supportive wife that believes in my dreams and encourages me along the way. She is my biggest cheerleader and wanted to be out there so bad to watch me run at night. This is moments before going back out that evening to complete the race. Best friends for life!
Special thanks to both Peter Bardenhagen and Kyle Rodemacher for supporting me. They did a lot of planning before this race which made my job easy. We had this thing figured out and it went so smooth it really was incredible. I have since given them permission to yell at me or stop me next time I pull a stunt like that in the first half of a race. Glad to have these guys crewing for me.
My quest to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest distance run on a treadmill in 12 hours began in April. That month I didn’t get the result I needed at a race for an automatic qualifier into Western States. Approaching summer and not having any races on the schedule, I decided this was the right time to go for the treadmill record. The current record is 84 miles, with a pending record of 86.49 miles. It was mid-July when I received confirmation from GWR that my application had been accepted. After a tough first half of summer during which I had I really struggled with the Texas heat, I was newly motivated by the notification, and I immediately began planning with my coach, Ian Sharman.
Greatest Distance Run On a Treadmill In 12 Hrs: 08/20/16
Total Miles: 89.56
The record I attempted is for the greatest distance covered on a treadmill within 12 hours. This record is measured in kilometers to the nearest 0.001 km, with the equivalent imperial measurement also given in miles.
The morning of, I woke up just before my alarm went off (~5:30ish) and felt rested and fresh. Already had bags packed and ready to go which allowed me to take my time and not feel rushed. Got dressed, applied some Second Skin and Band-Aids to areas of my feet where I’ve got blisters before, and also applied body glide to any areas that will likely have some friction during the run. Body glide provides a smooth barrier to protect skin against hot-spots and chafing. Before heading out the door I had a light breakfast consisting of a couple mini white powdered donuts, banana, Huma Chia Energy Gel (mango flavor), coffee, one serving of BeetElite Neoshot, and a serving of Klean Athlete BCAA +ATP.
I arrived to Luke’s Locker (local running store) around 6 a.m. and got situated and ready to go for 7 a.m. start time. I chose 7 a.m. because I didn’t want to wake up much earlier than I did which likely would catch up to me towards the end of the run, and also meant I would finish with there still being one or two hours of daylight remaining. The room I was running in at Luke’s Locker is a 10’ x 13’ Gait Lab where customers can come into the store to try on shoes and also have their running gait evaluated. Inside the room we had two decent size (3’x7’) Life Fitness commercial treadmills donated by ExerciseHouston.com, a one-ton portable AC unit that had a spot cool feature which could blow air at 32 degrees donated by DesertAire Portable, timer clock, and all my nutrition/hydration supplies plus extra clothes or shoes needed for the day. We took a group picture with Luke’s staff, which has been so generous and open to this event, did my required introduction for the video evidence, and got ready to go. >>> click here for video <<<
The rules require two Independent Witnesses and two Time Keepers be present at all times. Two ‘master’ stopwatches must be started by the Witnesses at the beginning of the event. Kyle Rodemacher, an ultra-runner and close friend of mine, was my Crew Chief for the day. He set the desired starting speed as I could not make contact with the treadmill per the rules. We started at 7 a.m. and I settled into a 7:30 pace (8 mph). Knowing what speed to begin at was up in the air until I started running. A couple days before, my coach (Ian Sharman) and I talked about strategy for this attempt. We figured it would be best to start out running a quicker pace then needed (to allow for flexibility later if problems occurred) and allow for a slower pace the last few hours. I know from experience and performance testing results that I can run 7:20 -7:40 minutes per mile comfortably without exerting too much energy. Therefore, my goal was 90 miles at a 7:48 per mile pace and allowing for 15 minutes of breaks.
I took my first Huma Gel (Raspberries flavor) at 4 -1/2 minutes and chased it with some water. One serving contains 100 calories and 22g of carbs, 105mg of sodium, 40mg potassium. There are also Huma Gels (Huma Plus) with extra electrolytes and a couple flavors that contain caffeine. On the treadmill I had one bottle of ALKALINE88 water and a bottle of Tailwind Endurance Fuel (Mandarin Orange flavor). ALKALINE88 is produced at an 8.8 pH, designed to obtain optimum body balance. Ronny Taylor, part owner of Alkaline Water Corp, donated enough water for this attempt. Tailwind Endurance Fuel contains 100 calories, 25g of carbs, 303mg sodium, 88mg potassium per serving and has always been easy on my stomach in ultra-distance events. My nutrition plan is pretty simple and highly effective. I take one Huma Gel every half hour, and sip on water and Tailwind as needed to stay hydrated. I was probably drinking close to a bottle of water and one serving of Tailwind every hour. I also took a few Klean Athlete Electrolytes pills every hour or two as needed and occasionally drank coconut water every so often.
It didn’t take long for my body temperature to rise and for me to break a sweat. The reason for the portable AC unit was to keep the air temperature inside the room as cool as possible. When I train at the gym, I sweat like crazy! I knew if we kept the temperature low (ideally 55-60 degrees), I could keep my body temp and heart rate lower and ultimately perform better. We had a back-up AC unit in case something happened to the primary unit, and decided to bring it into the room and position it behind me. It made a huge difference and created a nice cold air pocket for me to run in. I was sweating, but I felt comfortable and was a lot happier with this setup. Doing these things on the fly helped to eat up time and that was what I was hoping for during the morning hours. I didn’t want to be so strict with setting up that it got boring, so as things came up, we dealt with them. Little did we know there were more unexpected events.
At 35 minutes, I was getting the urge to pee, which I wasn’t thrilled about stopping that soon, but at least I knew I was well hydrated. We planned to stop the treadmill at 8 miles and then I would use the restroom and hop back on. Eight miles was going to be around 1 hour and 27 seconds. Kyle was standing next to the treadmill with the Time Keepers and Witnesses. At exactly one hour the treadmill automatically went into a cool down mode (7.94 miles). We didn’t expect that and I’m fortunate everyone was there to witness and document it. I got off and went to the restroom and then did some light stretching and foam rolled the glutes and hip flexors. I took a 1 minute 41 second break and the treadmill restarted at zero. We didn’t realize this but when we powered off the treadmill the night before, it didn’t save the marathon mode that we had programmed. At that point, I figured I would have to start taking breaks every hour, which again wasn’t part of the plan. I just went with it and didn’t worry too much about it.
The next hour I picked up the pace to 7:14 per mile (8.3 mph). I cruised there, thinking I would run quicker now that I would be taking more breaks. It was much cooler in the room with the air flow from the two AC units. This hour I decided to listen to music and let time go by. Music allows me to get into a rhythm and distract my mind from the effort of running faster. I can focus on staying relaxed and running as efficient as possible. Luke’s Locker has running groups that meet at their store on Saturday mornings, so there was plenty of traffic coming in and out of the store. As the runners finished up with their training runs, they would come inside the store to stretch or use their facilities. It was entertaining for me to observe and distracted my mind. I also had posters on the glass wall in front of me. Most of them were from my kids and the kids I had an opportunity to coach this summer at Finish Strong’s youth running camp.
Exactly one hour later (2 hr. mark), the treadmill went into its cool down mode again and I headed off to the bathroom. During this break I changed socks and shoes because I was getting a hot-spot on the inside of my left foot. I had a couple Band-Aids on this spot already and put on a couple more for extra protection. This is one of the nice things about running in a controlled environment as opposed to a trail race. It’s more convenient to address things as they happen and you don’t have to wait until the next aid station or stopping point. I took about a 2 minute 40 second break and then got back on the treadmill and had the pace set to 7:19 (8.2 mph) which felt effortless. Went that hour running comfortably and watched the Woman’s Olympic Triathlon race. We then scheduled another break and had a couple new Time Keepers and Witnesses change shifts around three hours. My wife also showed up around this time so it was good to see her and other new faces visiting the store. Everyone has their own way of handling mental barriers and for me it’s breaking down the event into smaller goals. I knew I had to get to 12 hours, but I viewed it differently and didn’t get caught up with the total time. Getting to 10 a.m. was a small victory for me. I visualized my long training runs I did leading up to this which usually started at 7 a.m. and finished up around 10 -11 a.m. Plus, having my wife show up at this time allowed me something to look forward to. It was good for me knowing she was able to rest and take care of the kids in the morning and then be there to support me. The next victory would be reaching 6 hours, seeing my kids, and getting some adjustments from my Chiropractor.
At 3:07:44 the treadmill stopped automatically and a message displayed “Replace Emergency Stop Switch”. Here come the unexpected events. The emergency switch was duct taped in place so I wouldn’t accidently knock it off. Fortunately, Kyle was in the room and the Time Keepers were standing right beside me. It was a little more work on their part to make sure everything was documented accurately. I tried to keep my cool and not get worked up over this. Wasn’t in my control anyway so we just dealt with it and kept going. The same thing happened again at 3:25:10 so I took a rest break this time while they tried to figure out what may have been causing it. During that break I did some stretching and light foam rolling of my glutes, calves, and hip flexors. Some friends were there and I chatted with them during this time which was nice to keep my mind off of worrying about the treadmill issues. I got back on after a 3 minute 5 second break and put music on to hopefully zone out and not stress or think too much about these challenges. Good thing because at 3:39:47 the power circuit tripped and the treadmill lost power.
That’s the first time I lost my cool and started to get irritated with the situation. It seemed chaotic for a while but it only took 23 seconds to change over to the secondary treadmill and start running. This treadmill is also a Life Fitness treadmill but the Club Series, so pretty much had the same setup. I still preferred the other one because of the air flow and it was setup the way I wanted it. We transferred my gels and bottles to this treadmill and pointed the AC units and fans in my direction.
The rules state in the event of a mechanical failure the attempt may transfer to a second machine. Because there was no power to the treadmill or the front AC unit, we changed over to the other treadmill. There is a little more involved logistically when doing this. The entire 12 hours of the attempt has to be videoed and you must be able to see me in the video at all times while running. You could see the second treadmill in the mirror but it doesn’t show my entire body. So my wife had to video from her phone while we changed the position of the main video recorder. This way the GWR Review Team can see I’m following the rules and not making contact with the treadmill at any time.
Four hours in, we did a live feed which was fun and took my mind off the technical difficulties. >>> Click here to view <<< I took my fifth break at 4:38:46 (36.36 miles). We planned for the breaks about five minutes ahead of time to make sure nobody was using the bathrooms. It was pretty much the same routine every time I took a break. While I was in the bathroom I’d monitor my urine color to make sure I was staying hydrated. During this particular break I changed into a dry shirt and this time was wearing another sponsors shirt, SROSM. Wrapped up the break in 2-1/2 minutes and got back on the treadmill. Kyle was good about keeping me honest with nutrition and stayed on me to make sure I was fueling properly and often. As an ultra-runner he gets it, and knows how important it is not to fall behind on nutrition. I’m burning over 800 calories an hour and consuming between 300-400 calories per hour. I tried a few orange slices and managed to get down half a banana at one point, but that was all I could handle of solid food. I didn’t want to upset my stomach, so I took what I was comfortable with and stayed primarily with gels and liquids.
At about five hours my handheld towel that I was wiping sweat off fell on the ground to the side of the treadmill (between treadmill and wall). We were planning for another break and I asked that someone pick up my towel and refill my bottles. During this break as the hand towel was picked up from the floor the cord accidently got stepped on bending the prongs and pulling it out of the wall. We didn’t realize the treadmill was unplugged so when I got back on to start we weren’t sure what was happening as there was no power. To avoid wasting time we switched back to the original treadmill that I had started on. Total break time was 3 minutes 26 seconds. Again we had to reposition the camera, but became pretty good at it by now. I was actually happy moving back over to this treadmill because I had better air flow and had a better view of the running store.
I settled into a comfortable pace (7:30/mile) and concentrated on conserving energy. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to reach the six-hour mark which was a mental victory for me. I knew if I could get to the halfway point, then I could break the remaining six hours into parts and make it seem more endurable. I pulled my visor down so it was covering my eyes which allowed me to check out for a while and rest my mind.
At 50 miles and 6:25:24 I decided to take another break to change into dry running shorts to prevent chafing. I kept the same style shorts, Salomon Twin Skin. Also during this break my Chiropractor, Dr. Stephen Clouthier, set up a table in the store to do neck and lumbar spine adjustments as well as help address any other issues my body may be dealing with. It was part of the plan we had discussed leading up to the event. Dr. Clouthier has been my Chiropractor this year, helping me stay injury free and feeling better than ever. I visit his practice, Alternative Health Center of The Woodlands, frequently and he was here to support me for this attempt. He’s also an endurance athlete, so he understands the demands on the body, especially something like this which is a constant repetitive motion. This break was just under five minutes. It didn’t bother me that the breaks were this long because I had been running strong and I wanted to make sure I could maintain an efficient and proper running gait.
I started back on the treadmill and complicated things with the Time Keepers when I asked Kyle to press pause so I could retie my shoelaces. When I changed shorts I tied my laces too tight on one shoe and it was bothering me. The treadmill had only been running for about 18 seconds but everything had to be documented. I started back up but a little slower this time at 7:48 pace (7.7 mph). It took me a couple miles to get comfortable and feel like I could run a little quicker pace of 7:36 (7.9 mph). The kiddos showed up at 6:57, so it was nice to have them visit for a while and see what daddy was up to. They were excited to see me and show me the posters they made. I started to plan another break as I was approaching an hour on the treadmill. My glutes and hamstring were beginning to tighten up, so I planned for Dr. Clouthier to do some Active Release Therapy during this break. I stopped at 7:24:24 (57 miles) for another 5-minute break. It helped what he was doing, but it took a while to get going again after stopping for this much time. At this point my knees were beginning to ache and I figured it probably wasn’t good to have cold air blowing on my lower body. We redirected both ducts from the front unit to point at my upper body and the two ducts from the AC unit behind me to point into the air.
My next break was at 8:23:31 (64 miles) and I changed into another dry shirt. I was looking forward to my visits with Dr. Clouthier as I was beginning to experience more discomfort and muscle fatigue. He massaged my quads with some type of soothing lotion and then I got back on the treadmill after a 3-1/2-minute break. I was experiencing the same thing (knee stiffness) as I did the last time I took a break. I found myself going through the same discomfort for a couple miles until I could get into a rhythm and pick up the pace to around 8 mph. I would focus on one hour at a time by breaking it up into two to three miles of running easy, two miles with music on completely zoned out, and then a couple miles of cruising until taking another break. Those miles in the middle I would pull down the visor again and space out. There is not a whole lot going on in my mind other than thinking about moving efficiently and just moving my feet to the beat of the music. If you noticed me touching my visor a bunch of times I was changing songs to something fast and sometimes would replay songs over and over if I liked it (should have had a larger playlist).
The next break was at 9:20 (71 miles) and pretty much the same thing as before. This is where I began to fade. I started walking and it was the first time I had slowed down to more than 8 minutes per mile. I hung around there for about 30 minutes realizing my body wasn’t feeling any better at a slower effort. I thought to myself it probably wouldn’t hurt much more to increase the speed so I had Kyle change it to a 7:30 pace. The crowd was increasing in numbers and it really helped to have that support, boosting my morale. Instead of taking a break at an hour, I resorted to walking for a couple minutes at mile 78 and not getting off the treadmill. I took this time to get in more nutrition and keep the legs moving.
I was able to stretch out my next break to 10:58:51 (82 miles) and decided to make a quick pit stop and change into dry shorts and get a new shirt. Right before this break, I totally missed my mouth with a gel and it was all over my shirt. I had no idea until Dana Lyons, time keeper, pointed it out. By now the store was full of people and there was a lot of energy on display. The crowd was getting into it and there was some ear piercing whistling happening from a couple rowdy ones. Even some shirts came off since I didn’t have one on. It was a lot of fun and I needed this energy in a big way. I didn’t realize it until I put the new shirt on that my nipples were raw. I had Band-Aids on before but they came off at some point and I was bleeding. Ouch! I had 4.5 miles to go to break the current record (86.49 miles). I wanted to get there sooner than later, so I had the speed set 7:19 (8.2 mph) until I broke it at 11:33:43. >>Video of final minutes<< I waited until mile 87 and then stopped for a short break so I could join the crowd to celebrate. There was a group of probably 20 kids at the front watching and then maybe 100 or more of my friends and visitors in the store cheering. I wasn’t in much of a hurry to get back on, but I did to finish the remaining 20 minutes. We talked about what it would take to get to 90 miles. I would have had to run three miles at a sub-7 pace and I wasn’t willing to go there and didn’t want to ignore the crowd. I would have had to go back to the visor covering my face and enter a very dark place to do it. I was content at a steady effort until the finish where I ended up at 89.56 miles. *corrected total miles (see below for explanation)
Below are splits and time for completing various distances:
Overall pace without breaks: 7:38 min/ mile (Total breaks = 37:13 minutes)
Marathon: 3:22:42 (7:44 pace including breaks)
50 km: 3:59:34 (7:43 pace including breaks)
50 miles: 6:25:24 (7:42 pace including breaks)
100 km: 8:09:00 (7:52 pace including breaks)
86.50 miles: 11:33:43 (8:01 pace including breaks)
Thank you everyone for making this attempt one for the record books. I’ll never forget this day and it means the world to me to have so many friends around to share this experience with. I’m so grateful and blessed to be surrounded by amazing people and a wonderful athletic community that comes together to support our athletic events and local athletes. A special thank you to Luke’s Locker and their amazing staff for hosting the event and allowing us to be in your way during normal business hours.
A very special thank you to Kyle Rodemacher and his wife Maria Bergh for their guidance and doing a huge part of the planning. Also thank you to my incredible wife Stefanie Delzer for helping us organize for the event and allowing me to focus on the running which was the easy part of this whole thing. Also thank you Steve Hardy for overseeing the video and photo requirements for the attempt, and to his genius wife Ana Hardy for her support and arranging donations of food and beverages for the volunteers.
Thanks again to all my Sponsors and Contributors towards the Event
–Alternative Health Center of The Woodlands –Sterling Ridge Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine –Klean Athlete –Huma Gel –DesertAire Portable LLC, –Alkaline Water Corp –Hoka One One for Clayton’s –Exercise Houston –Starbucks –Potbelly –Corner Bakery –Finish Strong Coaching –Lukes Locker
Klean Athlete Article
(*while reviewing Time Keeper logs and pictures of the Treadmill during the second break we realized .29 miles did not get logged. The actual distance of the treadmill was 8.29 miles and the TM speed during this set was 8.3 mph. We also had a typo with distance logged during the second TM malfunction and corrected the distance from .44 to .34 miles)
Gorge Waterfalls 100k Race Report: 04/02/16
Columbia River Gorge, OR
9th overall 10:25
I arrived to Portland mid-day Thursday and headed to the race site to check out a few portions of the course and get in a little running on the trails. I made an effort to visit the aid stations so I could better visualize what I would need to do and where to go on race day. This also allowed me an opportunity to try out a couple different pairs of Hoka’s to determine which one I would feel the most comfortable with based on the terrain. This is my first trip to OR and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. That along with the scenery of waterfalls, rolling hills everywhere, trees everywhere, and green moss growing on just about everything made this by far the most enjoyable and beautiful place I’ve ever ran.
I’m not going to bore you with everything I did from the time I woke up so I’ll skip the pre-race rituals and begin at the starting line. This is the start of the Gorge Waterfalls 100k. Can you find me?
I’m in the neon green outfit towards the right of the start. I positioned myself at the front so I could get ahead early and not have to worry about position going into the first climb. It’s actually flat for the first mile and half so it was comfortable running and allowed the group to spread out before we started the first major climb. We went over a few quick rollers which started to separate the front pack, and then began the longest climb of the day. It’s roughly two miles and the elevation gain is 1500’. The leaders went off the front and I stuck with what I felt like was the most sustainable for me. Being a flatlander from TX I don’t have the legs to climb like most of these guys on the west coast. I’m at a disadvantage but I have to conserve as much energy as I can early on and rely on my endurance to catch as many as I can towards the end of the race. My comfortable pace up this hill was alternating between power-hiking and running. If I felt like my effort was too high or heart rate spiking from running, then I would power-hike. I was probably in the top 15 and there were three or four of us sticking together. It actually didn’t seem that bad going up and before I knew it we were at the top. I took a Hüma Gel 30 minutes and then every half hour on the dot which made it very easy to stay on top of nutrition and ensure I was getting a constant flow of fuel. Coming down on the other side I had a close call with my ankle. About 4.5 miles in I stepped on a rock and my foot landed wrong which caused it to roll towards the outside. This is the same ankle that I sprained in January and forced me to take off five weeks to let it heal. (Blog on Ankle Injury) It was a sharp pain and enough discomfort that I had to hobble for a while and try to shift more of the load onto my left foot. After about five minutes the pain went away and I was running normal again. The trails were covered in rocks ranging in all sizes and there were some sections were completely covered in rocks which was difficult to run and meant I had to slow down enough to not take a chance of getting beat up too bad.
No Name Aid Station #1: 6 miles
I wasn’t completely out of fluids, but running low so made a quick pit stop to fill up my handheld bottle, knowing it is another seven miles until the next aid station. I was surprised nobody else in the group stopped to refill their bottles. Most of them were wearing hydration vests or had more than one bottle. I have used a vest before on training runs but it’s uncomfortable, and leaves bruises on my rib cage from the bottles bouncing. I made notes of what others were wearing as I may try some other kinds in the future.
I was now behind a group of five runners, the top two females and three other guys. They were strong climbers and seemed to move up the hills with little effort. I felt content where I was until the trails started to flatten out and then I was more comfortable pushing harder. I had another close call around 9.5 miles with my foot as I landed on it wrong again. It was the same sharp pain at the ligaments and I was getting more upset because I knew I didn’t have a chance of running well if I jacked it up. An issue with running behind the group is that I wasn’t able to focus as well on the trail and choose the best path. The next time the trail opened up I took the opportunity to get around them.
I noticed another group of five or so runners up ahead that were initially with the front group. I and one other guy Andy Lefriec, gradually caught up to them and went by without a lot of effort. We approached a section of road that was two miles to the next aid station at Yeon State Park. This was a nice change and a chance for me to open up my stride and pick up the pace. Andy was obviously a good runner so I maintained a relaxed effort about 15 yards behind and we opened up a nice gap from the pack behind us. We averaged a 6:45 pace and came into the next aid station with a sense of urgency to keep the distance between us and the group behind.
Yeon Aid Station #2: 13 miles
I could hear Corey (my one and only support crew) up ahead hollering my name so knew exactly where I needed to meet him for a quick exchange. I already had my visor, headlamp, and handheld bottle in my hands ready to unload those and takeoff with a new bottle. It went very smooth and I didn’t lose a step other than not thinking about removing my gloves. So I stopped for a few seconds to take them off and kept going up a short climb. It wasn’t cold enough for gloves but I had them on in case I fell earlier in the race and could protect my hands from the rocks. (Video)
Mile 13 – 22
For the next nine miles there was more rollers but it was runnable for the most part. I adjusted my pace to what felt the most sustainable and kept pushing forward. I got passed by a couple guys who put some distance on me, and also the first place female, Jodee Moore, was making up some time. I went through most of my fluids pretty quick in the first half of this section and had another five miles at least to the next aid station. Most of the aid station after the first two are spread out about nine miles. I had to manage what I had left so I would have enough water to continue to take my Hüma gels and make it to the next aid station. It made me little nervous because I knew I was going to get behind with fluids and could end up a little dehydrated if not careful. I limited my intake to small sips of water every mile which was enough to keep my mouth from getting too dry. With about a mile to go I was completely out.
Cascade Locks Aid Station #3: 22 miles
I came into Cascade Locks and Corey had everything laid out for me. Before switching with him I refilled my bottle with water to chug really quick. I took off with a new handheld bottle that had Tailwind, a bottle of coconut water which I knew would help me out, and a small flask with water. I carried the small flask in my shorts and held the other two bottles. I told Corey to have the Hoka Claytons ready for me at the turn around, and that I had gotten a little behind on fluids, hoping he would read my mind and have more ready to go at the next aid station. As I left the aid station a volunteer said you’re doing great, but there is still 40 miles of racing to do. (Video)
I was a little tired mentally at this point and starting to struggle. I thought about what the volunteer said and decided it was best for me to slow down and focus on getting in more fluids and taking care of my body. I was good on time and figured it made much more sense to take care of hydration and nutrition for this next section. Andy and one other runner went ahead and I let them go, hoping I would see them later. Another runner Pat came up and we hung together and chatted for a while. He was going through a low point as well and we joked around how crazy ultra-running is. Just 10 minutes ago he wanted to quit and now he was in good spirits and happy. Pat is a local runner and trains quite a bit on these trails so he’s familiar with the course. He gave me a quick overview of the next section which involved climbing for a while, before descending for a couple miles to the turnaround point. The first place male, Rui Ueda, came zooming by and I looked at my watch to see how far he was up on us. We were both shocked as we were still two miles from the turnaround. The guy is apparently Japan’s number one ultra-runner and was crushing it. Not too far behind were the top four guys. I had been running a pace that was faster than last year’s overall time, and now thinking there was no chance I would catch these guys. Andy was ahead about a mile and half and another guy was maybe a mile up. I was surprised he put that much time on me but I was okay.
Wyeth Aid Station #4: Mile 31
We made it to Wyeth Campground Aid Station around 4 hours and 48 minutes, which is the turnaround point. Corey had the Clayton’s ready, another bottle of Tailwind mixed with water, Klean Athlete Electrolytes, Beet Elite mixed and ready to chug, and the dude even had another bottle of coconut water. I decided to change shoes to the Hoka Clayton’s which are a lighter shoe that breaths well and overall have a better fit and noticeable difference to my gait. The only downside is that it’s a road shoe so there’s less grip and will be less traction than the Challenger. I knew the terrain now and felt like I could switch shoes and be fine. As I changed into new socks and shoes Corey gave me my stats and told me some guys are obviously looking good, but a couple were looking rough. (Video)
Mile 31 – 40:
I continued on at about the same effort that I had ran for the last nine miles and continued focusing on my nutrition and hydration. I ran a smart race up to this point and was in good spirits, and pleased with my overall position. If you pushed too hard early on or didn’t stay on top of nutrition, then there is higher chance for something to go wrong during the back half. Those that don’t stick to a plan will likely struggle. I never noticed what others were doing for fuel other than taking in fluids which doesn’t seem like enough. The Hüma Energy Gel is my main source of fuel and then the Tailwind allows me to increase my intake of carbs and sodium. This has always worked well in training and hasn’t backfired on me. Within a few miles I caught one of the guys ahead who was walking at this point. Somewhere around 34-35 miles I had another close call with my ankle, stepping on a rock wrong, and went through some discomfort like I did earlier. I felt like I ran better back to Cascade Locks Aid Station #5 even though there was more oncoming traffic with runners coming into the turnaround. Most everyone moved to the side or stepped off the trail and let me by which was nice to not have to slow down or guess what they were doing.
Cascade Locks Aid Station #5: Mile 40
At Cascade Locks I poured water on my head to cool off and picked up pretty much the same stuff I had for the previous two aid stations. I was in good spirits and told Corey I was feeling good. It was a quick transition and I went on my way. (Video)
Mile 40 – 49:
The female leader had been on my tail since the turnaround and was with me out of the aid station. We ran close together for a couple miles on a climb and then she eventually got away from me on a descent. I was experiencing some pain and discomfort in my abs on the descents, and my knees were starting to ache a bit from the rocky terrain. It was the extra pounding and shock to my core which was beating me up pretty good. I experienced this at The North Face Challenge and did a little more core work leading up to this, but it was apparent I should have done more. In addition to the pounding I was starting to get tired of the Tailwind and coconut water. After drinking about half of the coconut water I would pour it into the handheld with the Tailwind. I think the combination was too much for my stomach and it was beginning to get a little upset. It wasn’t a good combination and also left my mouth really dry. I got tired of it really quick and used the water I had in a flask to chase down the gels and keep my mouth wet. The way things were going I decided it would be best to change it up and go back to water and gels for the last 13 miles
Yeon Aid Station #6: 49 miles
As I approached Yeon Aid Station I quickly told Corey to dump the Tailwind and fill it up with water. I had another volunteer help me refill my handheld bottle with water. I chugged that and poured the last bit on my head. Corey had extra ice cold water bottles so I took one in place of the coconut water. (no video because I bossed Corey around)
Mile 49 – 56: 10th place
The next two miles are back on the road where I was cruising earlier on the way out. I was a lot slower and averaging around a 9:30 pace and was ready to get back on the trails as my knees were hurting on the asphalt. Also without the shade of the trees it was warmer on the road. I placed the cold water bottle on my neck and wrist to help cool down my body temperature. That along with a slight head wind did the trick.
I could see the female leader about a quarter mile up. Occasionally she would stop and walk and then go back to running, but I never felt like I was gaining on her. She must have stopped for a bathroom break because I was on her heels as I entered the trails. I went by her pretty quick and she seemed to be struggling on some of the climbs. The next person I came up to was Andy and he was bent over and had been throwing up. I was just a couple seconds late from seeing some projectile vomiting. Apparently he drank some coke at the last aid station and it really messed with his stomach. I asked him if he was ok and needed anything but he didn’t say much so I went on. Had he said he needed something I would have stopped and helped. I seized the opportunity and began running the hills with a sense of urgency to try and put time between us. I’m aware how well both Andy and Jodee can run on the flatter sections, and knowing the last mile and a half of the course is flat I wanted to avoid having to race them at the end.
There are lots of tourist on the trails the last 10 miles so some sections got congested and made it more challenging to navigate. I just made sure they were alerted or heard me coming so I could get by quickly and not have to slow down too much. There are quite a few more waterfalls and bridges to run over and everyone is out sightseeing. I missed a lot of this on the way out because it was dark. It was beautiful and there were waterfalls everywhere. There were also smaller ones right off the trails that I would stop for a few seconds to get under and take a quick shower. The water was cold and felt refreshing. It was nice to rinse off and get the salty sweat out of my eyes.
No Name Aid Station #7: 56 miles
I made it to the last aid station and filled up my handheld, and refilled my small flask. Crew are not allowed at this aid station so you’re on your own to get what you need. The spread of food looked tempting and I was searching for something to munch on. I grabbed a handful of gummy bears and went on my way. My watch battery was drained and turned off so I no longer had the ability to see my pace or distance.
Mile 56 – 62: 8th place
There’s one last climb which is the longest of the day. It’s a fun 19% incline for about a mile and a half which is basically 1500’ of climbing. It starts out with a steady incline which isn’t that bad but then starts to get steeper. There is a paved section of switchbacks that are crazy steep and probably 40-50 yards in length. I was unable to sustain a run for these so power-hiked as fast as I could. By the fourth one I noticed a sign that said 4 of 11 switchbacks. I wish I would have never seen that sign as I didn’t care knowing how much more I had to suffer. I could see someone closing in on me quick and eventually passed me on about the sixth or seventh one. I had not seen this guy all day but he was looking strong and had a faster cadence than me and longer stride. I tried to stay close to him but I was fighting my own beast in my head with this stupid hill. There was a false summit at the top and we had another 500’ or so to go. I tried the best to tune it out and kept telling myself what goes up must come down. I didn’t notice anyone else behind me so felt safe once we reached the top. I wasn’t too concerned about getting caught at this point and ran as fast as I could down the other side. There was a bit more weaving in and out of traffic and a few photo bombs as groups were taking family pictures with the waterfalls in the background. My legs were pretty much shot at the bottom and my body was done. There were a few shorter sections with a little climbing and when I started walking I felt zapped and wanted to literally stop and close my eyes. It felt like I was going to fall asleep and I desperately needed some caffeine. It took a few slaps to my face to get a rush and some adrenaline flowing. I just tried to keep moving forward and not go down before the finish line. The last mile was rough and probably as slow as I could possibly go without walking, but I eventually crossed the finish line and thrilled the race was over.
I’m extremely pleased with how well I ran. I was shooting for a sub 10-hour finish but considering my circumstances with the limited training, and the amount of climbing (12,000’) I’m completely satisfied with the result. I ran smart by running my own race and dug deep at the end to make it across the finish line. The Gorge Waterfalls 100k has a spectacular course with some very rugged and technical sections that make for an epic trail race. I’m glad I chose this as my first 100k race.
10 hours 25 minutes
4th M 30-39 AG
Check out my run on Strava. Click here
I could not have done it without Corey Oliver’s help as my support crew. He had everything ready for me and it was one less thing to have to worry about, and nice not having any stress going into the race. He also gets some huge bonus points for keeping everyone in the loop with live updates on Facebook. Corey and Brittani were awesome to open their doors for me to stay with them in Portland. I enjoyed hanging out with them and the kiddos for a few days. Corey works for Nike and gave me a tour of Nike’s headquarters. I know it breaks his heart that I am a huge Hoka fan, but I did go home with some Nike swag for the entire family.
Sterling Ridge Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine for helping me rehab from my ankle sprain and allowing me to train on the Alter-G.
Stephen Clouthier at Alternative Health Center of The Woodlands for the treatments and accelerating my ankle heal in time to still get in some decent training and the maintenance my body needed before the race.
Klean Athlete for supplying athletes with the best and safest nutritional supplements. Can’t go wrong with the Endurance and Electrolytes followed up with a great tasting Recovery drink.
Hüma Gels for making some amazing tasting and 100% all natural energy gels that are easy to go down and settle well on my stomach. Took about 20 during the race.
Click HERE for more about how my sponsors help me stay fit and perform at my peak