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
I went off the side of the road to remove my shoe, knowing I was probably done with the run. It looked like my foot was already starting to swell and it also hurt to put weight on it so I had a good feeling I had done some damage. Kyle, a close friend and training buddy, was with me at the time and pacing me on his bike. We were two miles from his house so he rode back to get his vehicle to give me a ride back. I hobbled off the road, out of sight, and laid on the ground with my foot elevated on a picnic table, in disbelief with what just happened. I was in pain and doing my best to hold back the tears as I was extremely upset. At this time, I’m three weeks out from my first race of the season which is a Western States 100 qualifier. Qualifying for WS100 is my main goal for the first half of the year and certainly no easy feat. Up to this point my training was going very well and this was my last week before I began to taper for the race.
Saturday, December 05, 2015
37th Overall 7:32:16
Checking out the course:
Since this is the first ultra-trail race outside of Texas for me and in a hillier part of the country I allowed some time to do some course planning with my crew. My support team happens to be my wife Stefanie, Michael Young, and his wife Stephanie. Michael and I both wanted to see the aid stations that the support crews are allowed to be at (8.7 miles, 27.7 miles, 44 miles) to assist runners during the race. We brought the wives along to see the beautiful pacific coast and hopefully receive good feedback (never happened) on our driving ability through the never ending turns up and down the mountains (I call these hills, mountains). Once we figured out where exactly the aid stations were located Michael and I went for an easy run on the hillier part of the course at those areas. Since I don’t have hills like this to train on and most of my vertical training was on a treadmill, it was very important for me to actually run up some of the trails to get a better feel for effort required and mentally prepare for the day ahead. It was good to be on the course at pretty much the same time of the day that I would be out there during the race so I could determine if I needed any changes to my running attire as this is just a little over half way through the race. We went over a few logistics and pretty much had a plan for me getting into and out of this aid station quickly with everything I may need. The other aid station that the crew team is allowed is at Tennessee Valley. This happens to be the first and last aid stations for crewing. Coming into this aid station at miles 8.7 is going to be quick but also be dark since it will still be 6 a.m. We figured out where our exchange point would be and then ran most of the last climb of the course. It was important to see what I would be facing for the last hill so I could mentally prepare myself. Knowing the splits of elite runners from last year (thanks to Strava), helped me have a better gauge for the level of effort needed to run this hill. The last portion of the course we checked out was the start/finish area. It would have been stressful waiting until the morning of the race figuring out where to go. We worked out the potential logistical challenges with race morning parking and adjusted our wake up time as well as travel arrangements to the race.
I didn’t feel like I had the greatest night sleep but who does when the alarm is set for 3 a.m. My body was still on central time so it didn’t feel that early. I had my stuff ready to go so I got dressed, made some coffee, and we met Michael and Stephanie in the lobby. It was nice they were staying at the same hotel as he generously offered to drive us to the race. It was one less thing to worry about and I was able to relax and not have to think about a whole lot other than eat a little food. We were only a 20 minute drive from the park and I don’t particularly care to show up to a race this early, but we didn’t want to risk not being able to park close or take a chance with slow traffic entering the park. Once we arrived I did my normal pre-race rituals, had a little warm-up stroll, and drank a BeetElite Neo Shot. As I was sitting around waiting and studying the course map and elevation chart I decided to trace a copy of the elevation chart on my left arm, identifying miles for the peaks of the climbs. I’ve seen guys before with temporary tattoos on their arm which was basically what I was trying to do. It was nice to have so I wouldn’t have to guess where the hills were or how many there were in case I got confused or forgot.
Start – Tennessee Valley Aid Station (mi 8.7)
It was time to line up at the starting line and I hung off to the side talking to Michael while everyone came into the Elite coral. It was cool seeing some of the biggest names in the sport at the front and the comradery these guys shared. My plan for the day was to let the lead pack of runners go off the front and stay within myself for the majority of the race. Somewhere towards 35-40 miles I would push the pace and hopefully race hard until the end. The ideal scenario would be to catch and pass some of the front pack that went out too hard. I would need a perfectly executed race to attain my goal of sub-7 hours.
I started exactly as I had planned which was an easy effort as I just sat at the back of the pack of about 50 runners. The first mile is a slight downhill (6:37 pace) and then begins the first climb of the day. It wasn’t that steep and seemed to be a runnable hill. I was probably the first to walk but that was what I had prepared to do. If I didn’t feel like the effort was sustainable for 50 miles then I would adjust my pace to whatever it needed to be. I had enough power-hiking experience from my training that I could do so at a decent pace and could conserve more energy if I alternated power-hiking and running. The main group got ahead of me early, but I was still with a good number of guys. Once we reached the top of the hill we really started to cruise going down. It was already 4 miles and time to take a gel. I had two gels in my handheld bottle pouch and as I unzipped and went to pull one out I tripped on a rock and was on the ground before I knew it. My hands made contact first with the ground but my chest took a lot of the impact as well. I checked to make sure my head lamp was still on my head and immediately got back up and kept going. I was more embarrassed about the situation because I couldn’t believe I made a mistake this early on. I was carrying plenty of gels on my waist and could have easily grabbed one of those, but lesson learned. I felt a little discomfort on my left big toe which is what made contact with the rock, and my palms were a bit sore. Anyways we made it to the bottom (5:45 pace) and started the second climb. I did the same as the first hill and power-hiked with portions of easy running. This is where the main pack got out of sight and only one or two of us were together. The pace of these guys running wasn’t much faster than me walking and I was happy saving energy. We again cruised downhill (6:25 pace) for a couple miles into Tennessee Valley which is the first aid station with crew support. That seemed to go flawless and I was in and out of there with a new bottle and more gels. Average pace 7:18/mile for first nine miles.
Tennessee Valley- Stinson Beach (mi 27.7)
About a half mile after this I missed one of the turns and went right by a “wrong way” sign. Fortunately the guy behind me was close and got my attention otherwise it would have been a disaster. We introduced ourselves and started running together. There were a few guys about 100 yards further ahead so I picked up the pace to bridge the gap to make it a little easier running just behind them and not having to rely on course markings. There was a short steep climb at mile 11 and when I got to the top I felt a drop in energy and was trying to figure out what was happening. I was shocked that I was feeling this way and decided to take a gel with caffeine. It was definitely a sign of needing some fuel and immediately went away. We were able to catch the group ahead surprisingly on a more technical downhill trail. We stayed together and it was Mike Wardian (team Hoka) and a couple others. We began a long 5-6 miles climb to Cardiac (~1800’ vertical). Since I had embraced myself for this I actually enjoyed the climbing and the scenery as the sun was rising. It was a pleasant mix of switch back, single track trails, some rolling trails, and long steady sections. These guys were obviously stronger climbers than me, but I stayed focused and kept them within reach.
We made it to the out and back section (miles 21-25) and started seeing the lead runners (~25-30 minutes ahead) make their way back. It was a tight trail for two way traffic but we cleared the path and let them blaze on by. As we started to come back on the same trail there were quite a few more people to share the trail with which was nerve racking. This was a very uncomfortable section for me as I had to run on the edge of the trail and the wind would occasionally blow hard enough that I would lose my balance quite a few times. After a few guys passed me (and female leaders) I noticed they were leaning more into the wind so I tried that and it seemed to work. They were taking advantage of the downhill and running more aggressive than I was. I just couldn’t find my rhythm. After the two-way trail began a quick descend into Stinson Beach. At first I felt like I could run faster again, but the challenge was that this was a wetter section of the course with a lot switch backs going down. I took some of the early turns too fast and had a couple nasty falls, banging up my legs and hands trying to keep my body from hitting to hard. I intentionally slowed it down again and just ran it safely until the bottom. At Stinson Beach aid station which is the next spot for crew support, I ditched the arm sleeves, head lamp, changed shirts, and picked up a new bottle with Tailwind and more gels. I had been taking gels every 3-4 miles as needed and was feeling spot on with nutrition and hydration. 8:41/mile average pace for last 17 miles
Stinson Beach – Tennessee Valley (mi 44)
As you exit the aid station onto Dipsea Trail you begin climbing what seemed like an endless number of steps. There are some parts of the trail to the side that are runnable, but for the most part the steps were unavoidable. I dealt with it the best I could but it was a challenging section. Once off the steps there was still another 1200’ of climbing. My quads were on fire so for me power-hiking was the better option. I would walk up the hills as fast as I could until my hamstrings would burn for a while and then jog a little to give them a break. My pace was much slower (11-15 min pace) than I had anticipated but there was nothing I could do without blowing up. I knew what others ran last year in sloppier conditions so it was a little demoralizing not being able to get up this climb quicker. When you think you are at the top, you make a turn and realize you are only half way there. It was the toughest part of the day for me and I really struggled getting back up Cardiac. One consequence of walking so much was that my upper body got stiff and I was feeling a lot more of the pain from the earlier falls. It was more noticeable on the flat and downhill sections when I started to run. I tried my best to keep my mind off of the discomfort and focus on moving.
Once at the top we were merging with the 50k runners and the trails were getting more congested. My legs had not bounced back and I found myself in a funky spell of being comfortable with the pace of others and unable to increase the effort. I didn’t pick it up or attempt to pass anyone for a few miles as I was trying to get my head back into it. My average pace for miles 28 -36 was 12:10/mile.
My race plan for the last 10-15 miles was to increase the effort and pick up the pace. I had head phones with me that I planned to wear during this last part so I could crank up the volume to numb the pain and get into a fast rhythm. I had no idea how it would go but I gave it a try anyways. My first mile was 8 flat and next mile was 7:44. I had a great turnover and a lot of frustration to burn so it made for a more enjoyable experience. I kept up the effort and had a couple more climbs before getting to the next aid station with crew support. My attitude changed completely and I ran more determined than I had all day. I was beginning to catch guys ahead of me and on the uphill sections I alternated between power-hiking and running with more emphasis on getting up it the quickest. We had a quick descent into Tennessee Valley and I had another good exchange with Michael to get a new bottle.
Tennessee Valley – Finish
There is one last climb that is 1.75 miles with 800’ of vertical. If I was going to pass anyone it was going to probably be on this climb as the last few miles is pretty much downhill. I think I went by a couple guys in the aid station and at least two more on the climb. I was willing to hurt a little more as it was the last climb and I was feeling much more confident at this point. I tried to put as much distance on these guys before the top to make sure they weren’t going to be close for the chase into the finish. The last few miles went by fast as I was able to cruise at a seven flat and knew it was about over. Average pace for last 14 miles was 9:04.
Overall time: 7:32:16
Check out TNFEC 50 mile race data on Strava
I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to pull off a spectacular race and go sub 7 hours, but I think I ran an overall smart race and had the right intentions. There were a few of elites I would have loved to beat, but I did make it in before a couple strong runners. This is an extremely tough course if you don’t live in an area with hills to train. Pretty much everyone in the top 50 is from an area with plenty of elevation so they definitely had the advantage. Considering all my vertical training was done on a treadmill at 12% I’m in good spirits with my performance. The low point between miles 28-36 sucked, but honestly it wasn’t worth the risk for me to push harder as I wanted to finish. I will be able to recover much sooner and will be a lot stronger for my upcoming race schedule as I attempt to get a Western States 100 golden ticket. I know what I need to do and came away with plenty of takeaways. I will be back next year much stronger and ready to fight and make others hurt just as much as I plan to.
Special thanks to Michael Young for coming out on his time to support me and make my weekend and race day a success. It was great having the extra support and I’m sure Stefanie appreciated not having to drive to the aid stations. Michael is actually the first person to introduce me to Hoka’s and he also ran in the same race when I ran my first ultra-trail race.
I also have to thank my coach Ian Sharman for getting me fit for this race. There was a purpose for every workout and I definitely learned a great deal in the short time he has been coaching me. I came into the weekend fit and prepared to face the challenges I was going to have to deal with.
Thanks to Sterling Ridge Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine for providing me with unlimited use of their Anti-Gravity treadmill so I could do my recovery runs. Early on in my training I definitely benefited from having less impact on my legs during recovery days. I was able to get fitter quicker and also push hard on my more demanding workouts. As an Ironman athlete himself, Keith understands what endurance athletes go through and he cares for the athletes in our community.
Klean Athlete is another sponsor that has done wonders to my overall health and performance. They are committed to keeping all athletes clean from banned and unsafe substances. I have seen noticeable changes in my health and body from being committed to taking their supplements on a regular basis. It seems like there are more and more doping scandals making the news recently. There was actually some controversy before our race with allowing an athlete, who has failed a drug test in 2009, to compete in the elite wave. I like that more attention is being brought to this matter, but we have to continue to make it a topic if we want to see less of it in the future. Without a zero tolerance policy towards PED’s certain athletes will continue to cheat. If you have any races in 2016 and want to do your best I would encourage you to check out Klean Athlete’s website and learn more. If you need a recommendation on what to take send me a private message and I will be more than happy to help.
The North Face Endurance Challenge is a spectacular race and they could not have picked a better place to have a championship event. I have fallen in love with this part of the country and wish I had the opportunity to spend more time here. The views were amazing and weather was awesome! I met some great people from around the area involved with the running community and they were wonderful and very welcoming which is another reason why I will be back.
Shoes: Hoka One One Stinson ATR Trail
Shorts: Salamon S-Lab Exo Twinskin
Watch: Garmin Forerunner 220
Handheld Bottle: Ultimate Direction
Nutrition: Power Gels and Huma Energy Gels. Tailwind Endurance Fuel for extra calories
Prerace Drink: Beet Elite Neo Shot
Postrace Recovery: Klean Athlete Recovery
More vertical to the final touches
The focus for November is to continue getting stronger by climbing more and also adding more speed work to help with cruising pace. I started the month coming off a solid week of 87 miles (longest to date for this race) so the first week was treated more as a rest week. I had a few active recovery days scheduled into the week which was basically power-hiking at 12% on the treadmill. I was able to get close to 2000’ of vertical in each session and also allow my legs to bounce back from the prior week’s volume.
As I’m writing this I’m 9 weeks into training for my first 50 mile trail race, The North Face Endurance Challenge. So far it’s been very rewarding as I’m in great shape and getting stronger each week under the guidance of my coach, Ian Sharman. I have 5 weeks remaining until the big day and I’m determined to make the most of these next few weeks, to be in my best shape to compete with the top ultra-runners in the sport, and hopefully finish somewhere in the mix. This course will be challenging for me as there will be repeated elevation gains and losses of several hundred feet and a total gain of 9,237’. In The Woodlands I’m lucky to get 400’ of elevation gain in a 25 mile run. Therefore, we have to be specific with my training plan to ensure I am focusing on what I will experience on race day. Not having run this course before I am at a disadvantage so everything I have been doing has been preparing me to what could come on race day.
Back on My Feet Austin 50K Trail Race: 09/26/2015
1st Overall 4:17:38 *CR
I had planned for this to be a quick trip to Austin to get in a 50k training run and also have a course with some elevation, which has been tough for me to get at home. This race was at Flat Creek Ranch in Johnson City, about 45 miles west of Austin, TX. There is a 10k, 30k, and 50k race with the 30k and 50k starting at 6 a.m. I showed up to the race site at 5:20 a.m. to have time to pick up my race bib and get ready. The temperature was either high 60’s or low 70’s with medium humidity, and forecast to be above 80 by 10 a.m.
The 50k is a four looped course through the central Texas Hill Country. My goal for the first loop was to run it at an easy pace and focus on getting familiar with the course. My challenge was being able to see the course markings which were green ribbons along the trail and also some signs with arrows. They seemed to be spread too far apart so it was a little nerve racking being out there and unsure if I was on the right trail. A couple times I had to stop as there were a few paths to choose from and I didn’t see any arrows or signs with directions to go. Each time the front pack would catch up and we would decide together which way to go. At about 3 miles into it we missed a trail off to the right and we ran along a dried up creek for 3/10 of a mile before we realized we weren’t on the course. We turned back and finally saw a green ribbon and where we should have turned. It was frustrating because I still had a goal time that I wanted to run and we were wasting a lot of time. The main group had got ahead of us at this point and we then got turned around at one of the aid stations. One of the volunteers was there and called to get directions on which way we were supposed to go. There was a lot of uncertainty and I took my chances and went on. I figured I was going to run 50k regardless so if I got lost or way off course then I would still get my mileage. Luckily I stayed on the right trails and eventually made it around for one loop. My watch showed 8.62 miles instead of 8 miles and the time was 1:14. I’m doing the math in my head and realize I’m way off with where I wanted to be. Last year’s winning time was 4:17:53. For me that is doable but not sure I could make up that much time without having to run it at a hard effort.
The second loop I began to pick up the pace as I didn’t need a head lamp and could see the trails. I still had to pay close attention to the course to make sure I didn’t get on the wrong path. I got into a good rhythm at a mid to upper 7 minute pace and figured I could make up a lot of time now that I could see where I was going. The first three miles are pretty much at an elevation loss which made it comfortable to pick up the pace. There were still parts that had quite a few turns and decent size rocks so you had to concentrate on foot placement and avoid turning an ankle or wiping out. I had one close call and decided to back off the tempo and chill out. The middle portion of the loop is where there was a bit more climbing and rocky trails. I felt comfortable running the inclines and practiced power hiking the steep sections. The course was nice and we got to run on a variety of surfaces which kept it interesting. The second loop was definitely the most comfortable and my overall time was around 2:09. I was feeling good with my time and where I wanted to be.
By the third loop I easily knew which parts of the trail to run. I picked up the pace a little more and had a couple miles that were probably too quick. I backed it off as I didn’t want to run into trouble later and regret going too fast. I kept a steady pace for the most part and just focused on running smart and not getting injured. I had to remind myself this is still a training run and it’s not worth damaging my body. It was beginning to warm up quick so I starting getting in more fluids at the aid stations and filled up my handheld bottle with Gatorade at a couple of the stations. About mile 22 I was beginning to feel a little weak. I usually take a gel every four miles so figured I would take half of one to see if it would help give me a little more energy. I made it through the third loop around 3:05.
I did the math on my projected finish time and knew I could pretty much take it easy on the fourth loop. I started getting an upset stomach which was most likely the Gatorade and gels mixing together. It was worse on the downhill sections because it would slosh around and then I would burp up some foam or a little bit of fluid. I wasn’t overly concerned, but just had to deal with a little discomfort and keep taking in fluids. It did get warm and I won’t lie, my legs were getting tired. I began to pretty much power hike all hills even the ones I ran before, picked up the pace on the flat sections, and took it easy on the descents to stay as comfortable as possible. I was averaging around 9-10 minute miles. At the aid stations I chilled out for a minute or two and then went on. I thought I had a pretty good cushion on the overall course record but then realized I stopped my watch earlier in the race when we thought we were lost, and also a few times at aid stations. When I looked at the actual time with a quarter mile to the finish line it was 10:15 a.m. I still had one hill to run up and then a short stretch to the finish line. I could see the clock was 4:17 at as I was approaching the finish line and thought I missed beating last year’s winning time. Luckily for me I was 15 second faster.
This was definitely a good training run for me and had some challenges that I had to overcome. I know what I should focus on the next couple months leading up to The North Face 50 Mile Endurance Challenge. I took care of my body and will be stronger as a result and now ready to put in some more solid training. The race was put on by Luke’s Locker and Back on My Feet Austin. Overall, they did a very good job with the race and I would definitely run it again as it was a nice scenic course and Austin is an awesome city to visit. 100% proceeds directly support Back on My Feet Austin and its mission that uses running to create self-sufficiency in the lives of individuals experiencing homelessness.
Shoes: Hoka One One Stinson ATR Trail
Watch: Garmin Forerunner 220
Handheld Bottle: Ultimate Direction
Nutrition: Power Gels and Gu
Prerace Drink: Beet Elite Neo Shot
Postrace Recovery: Klean Athlete Recovery