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