Thursday, January 1, 2015

Race Report: 2014-15 Across the Years 48-Hour Run

On December 30 at 9:00 AM, I started running the Across the Years 48-Hour Run.  I had until 9:00 AM on January 1 to run as far as I could.  This was one of many races going on at the same time at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ.  There was also a 24-hour race, a 72-hour race and a 6-day race.

Since the 6-day race is going on all week anyway, the organizers give runners in the other races the option of which day to start.  I could have started as early as December 28 or as late as January 1.  I opted for the December 30 start, so I would finish on New Year’s Day.  After all, that's why they call it "Across the Years."

I had a wide range of goals, but my top end mileage goal was to run 200 miles.  I didn’t get that far.  In fact, I didn’t even run for the whole 48 hours.  I ran 100.78 miles in just over 25 hours.

I can’t remember when I’ve had so much trouble writing a race report.  There are lots of questions to answer.  What worked?  What didn’t?  What went wrong?  I have a wide range of emotions associated with this race, so it was hard to organize my thoughts.  Immediately after the race, I was too tired.  I needed to get some sleep before I could write anything coherent.  Now I’ve had some sleep, but more time has passed, making it difficult to remember some of the details.  I’ve done my best to recall how events unfolded and what I was thinking at the time.

I wrote three posts about my plans for this race.  Some of my plans worked.  Some blew up in my face.  Some were rendered almost useless by changes in circumstances.  Races like this are as much psychological as they are physical.  You go through a lot of emotional ups and downs.  To understand what I was thinking and feeling at any point during the race, you need to understand what I was thinking and feeling in the preceding hours.  I’ll try to go through the race chronologically.  Then I’ll go back and review how different parts of my race plan worked.

To do well in a race like this, you need to do four things.  First, you have to do enough training to get in shape for it.  Second, you have to have a good plan.  Third, you have to get to the starting line healthy.  Finally, you need to be able to adapt your plan to changes in circumstances.  A lot can go wrong in 48 hours.  You need to keep the parts of your plan that are working and change the parts that no longer fit the circumstances.

I felt I was well-trained.  I ran far more mileage in training than I ever have before.  Well over half of that mileage came in races that were 26.2 miles or farther.  In my day-to-day training runs, I went out of my way to emphasize brisk walking, since I expected to spend as much time walking as running during the race.

I also felt I had a good plan.  At least it seemed good based on the information I had at the time.  Having done this race last year with less-than-stellar results, I took a long hard look at last year’s plan to figure out what worked and what didn’t.  I came into this year’s race with a revised plan.  I didn’t know if I was ready for every obstacle, but I felt I was better prepared than I was last year.

I wasn’t so sure I would make it to the starting line healthy, and this is where things started to go wrong.  Ever since the Seattle Quadzilla, my left hamstring and glutes were feeling tight.  They seemed to improve over the next two weeks.  Then I tripped on a speed bump during the Rocket City Marathon.  That didn’t help.

With no more races before Across the Years, I assumed my leg would gradually get better.  I had the opportunity to taper for this race, but I didn’t cut back quickly enough.  I didn’t have a race the next weekend, but my day-to-day training was about the same as in preceding weeks.  My left leg wasn’t getting better.  If anything, it got worse.

Increasingly, my leg felt uncomfortable when I ran and worse when I walked at a brisk pace.  A week before the race, I finally realized that I needed to rest, so my leg could heal.  I had six more days before the race.  I rested for the next three days.  Then I tried running.  It didn’t feel much better.  I stopped after just over a mile of running at a slow pace.  I didn’t try any brisk walking.  I had two more days to rest my leg.  I felt better each day, but it seemed doubtful that I would be up to running for 48 hours.  At this point, I was too invested in this race to give up.  I kept resting and hoped for the best.

Aside from not getting to the starting line healthy, I also wasn’t doing a good job of adapting to changing circumstances.  For too long I was in denial about my leg.  I was clinging to the hope that by race day I would somehow be ready to go.

Although I listed several goals for this race, my pacing plan was based on giving myself the best chance to get to 200 miles.  This was an ambitious goal to begin with.  Everything had to go right.  I should have revised both my goals and my pacing plan.  Instead, I remained in denial.

Besides my leg, I had another problem.  The weather was going to be a challenge.  I knew it would get cold during the night.  I was prepared for that, but I took for granted that it would be dry.  If there was one thing I didn’t have to plan for, it was rain.  The Phoenix area never gets rain.  So I thought.

Three days before the race, I noticed the forecast for December 31 included showers.  A day later, the forecast was revised to “periods of rain.”  With a high in the low 50s and an overnight low in the 30s, rain is a big deal.

At the slow pace I would be running (or walking), I wouldn’t have an easy time staying warm if I got wet.  I had to try to find rain gear that I could run in for hours at a time in cold temperatures.  The jacket I was planning to wear during the night was one I had never worn in rain before.  I didn’t know if it was waterproof or not.

I was already packed, but I made some additions.  I packed two types of rain poncho.  I added another long sleeve polypro shirt and a fleece vest.  Finally, I packed a pair of Gore-Tex mittens.  I just bought these a week before the race.  I didn’t think I’d need them for this race, but I was glad I had them.

I flew to Phoenix on Monday.  I was already at the airport when I saw another revision to the forecast.  The National Weather Service was now calling it a “Major Winter Storm.”

I had four bags, plus a backpack for my laptop.  I organized them so one bag plus the backpack had things I would only need at the hotel, and the other three bags all had things I would need at the race.  It wasn’t easy to carry them all.  It didn’t help that I was afraid of straining my left leg.

I stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn that was near Camelback Ranch.  After checking in, I drove to Camelback Ranch.  I couldn’t check in for the race until Tuesday morning, but I still wanted to get reacquainted with the race venue.  It also gave me a chance to watch the runners who were doing the 6-day and 72-hour races.  I also saw some 24-hour and 48-hour runners who chose to start on earlier days.

While I was there, I was asked if I wanted to pick out my tent.  “Yes, please!”  I would still need to pick up my race bib and timing chip in the morning, but I was able to choose a tent and move most of my gear.  Luckily, the bags with my race gear were still in the car.  That saved me time in the morning.

I had an early dinner and got to bed as early as I could.  There’s a one hour time difference between Minnesota and Arizona.  That made it easier to get to sleep early.  I was able to get to sleep at 8:00, but I woke up at midnight.  After that, I was awake more than I was asleep.  My alarm was set for 6:15, but I gave up on sleeping at 5:45.  Altogether, I think I got about 5½ hours of sleep.  That’s not good when you’re hoping to go without sleep for the next two nights.

I was able to get a free breakfast at the hotel, so I took some time to eat before driving to Camelback Ranch.  Since I planned to eat solid food throughout the race, it made sense to top off my tank before starting.  I didn’t stuff myself, but I took the opportunity to eat some easy-to-digest foods like oatmeal and juice.

The race started at 9:00.  Check in started at 7:00.  Since most of my gear was already in my tent, I didn’t need to be there as early.  I arrived at 8:00, which gave me enough time to get my race packet and organize all my gear before the race.  Once the race started, I didn’t want to waste any time.  Clothes I expected to wear during the night were laid out on top of my sleeping bag.

Race numbers are assigned permanently.  Last year I was assigned number 1239, so this year I got 1239 again.

The overnight low was 35 degrees.  By the time the race started, it had warmed up to 40.  I considered starting the race wearing my new warm-up pants.  I was nervous about my leg.  I didn’t want the muscles to tighten up in the cold morning air.  Instead, I opted to start in shorts, knowing it would warm up quickly.  I also wore a pair of gloves that I could put in my fanny pack as it got warmer.

I trained for months to be able to walk at a fast pace.  Unfortunately, that means walking with a long stride that puts more tension on the muscles in the back of my legs.  To protect my leg, I walked at a cautious pace.  I kept my stride short.  Walking slowly meant I couldn’t cover as much ground on my walking breaks.  That, in turn, meant I would have to spend more time running.

I started the race at the same pace I planned, but I was doing more running and less walking.  In training, with a fast walking pace, I could maintain 12-minute laps with five minutes of running and seven minutes of walking.  In the early hours of the race, I was doing nine minutes of running and only three minutes of walking.

The pace was supposed to be effortless.  It was easy, but it wasn’t effortless.  After about two hours, I made my first bathroom stop.  Stops of any kind come out of my walking breaks.  My walking breaks were already so short that after a bathroom stop I had little time left for walking.

Early in the race, while it was still cool, I was only drinking every other lap.  As it warmed up, I started to get thirsty.  For the rest of the daytime hours, I drank every lap.

Once per hour, I ate some type of solid food.  At different times, different hot foods were available.  Certain cold foods, such as PBJs, were always available.  Through the race, I ate a variety of hot foods.  When they didn’t have anything that looked appealing, my default was a PBJ.

I had originally planned to eat GU packets every two hours.  That didn’t seem like much, so I revised my plan to take them every 90 minutes.  That went fine.  I never had trouble getting them down like I sometimes have in races where I ate them every hour.

Because I was doing more running than I had originally planned, my muscles gradually became fatigued.  My stride became less efficient, and my pace slowed.  Because I wasn’t running as fast, I found my walking breaks getting shorter.  I stuck to 12 minute laps for the first six hours.  After that, I could slow to 13 minute laps and still meet my mileage goal for the first 12 hours.

At 5:30, the sun went down.  I enjoyed the sunset, but I knew it was going to be a long night.  In the early afternoon, it had been as warm as 65 degrees.  In the later afternoon, it started to cool down, but it was still comfortable.  After sunset, it felt cold almost immediately.  I still had a pair of gloves in my fanny pack, so I was able to put them on without having to stop.

By now, I realized 13 minute laps were no longer tenable.  My walking breaks were getting as short as 80 seconds.  I could have slowed to 14 minute laps, but it was getting difficult to read my watch in the dark.  There were lamps around the course, but I could only read my watch if I was near one.  I decided to walk a section of the course that I knew took about two minutes. I always resumed running in the same spot.

From that point on, my lap times varied.  I could easily check my lap times by looking at the display in the start area.  Every time a runner crossed the chip mat, their name would appear at the top of the display.  There was also other information, including their number of laps, total distance and their last lap time.  The display was color coded to distinguish between the 24-hour, 48-hour, 72-hour and 6-day races.

For the next two hours, my lap times bounced around.  I think the fastest was 13:49 and the slowest was 14:51.  Then I had three straight laps that were 16 minutes or slower.

By the 12 hour mark, I completed 56 laps, for a total of 58.79 miles.  My goal for the first 12 hours had been to run 60 miles.  I was only about a mile below plan, but my recent laps times told a different story.  To meet my goal for the next 12 hours, I needed to average 13:45 per lap.  I had already been running slower than that for the past few hours.  Worse yet, my last three laps were all slower than the pace I was hoping to run in hours 24-36.  That’s also the pace I needed to average for the whole race if I was going to run 200 miles.

Clearly, 200 miles was no longer a realistic goal.  It actually never was. At first, my thinking was that I would keep chipping away at whatever pace I could.  I’d keep piling up miles and wait until later in the race to figure out what type of mileage goal was realistic.  Then I noticed something.

Another piece of information on the display was what place you were in.  I was currently the 23rd male in the 48 hour race.  That included all the other runners who started on the 28th or 29th.  What caught my attention was that I had moved up in the standings.  For as long as I could remember, I had been in 24th place.

There was another display were you could look up the current standings in any race.  I looked at the 48-hour leader board.  The leader had 136.47 miles.  The next runner had 114.43.  Then there were a bunch of runners with 100.78.  All of those runners started on the 28th and were now finished.  I could move ahead of those runners just by outlasting them.

A few of the runners ahead of me had started on the 29th.  They were already 33 hours into their race, and hadn’t reached 100 miles yet.  It seemed unlikely that any of them would put up numbers that I couldn’t reach.  Only one of the runners ahead of me started on the 30th.  That was Kelly Agnew.  I had noticed Kelly during the day.  He always looked strong.  I didn’t expect to catch Kelly, but it seemed likely that I could place as high as second if I could run at least 137 miles.  That was still well within my reach.

Before the race, I had chance to look at the awards, so I knew there were awards for the top three men and women in each race.  Almost instantly, I had a new goal.  I was no longer focused primarily on mileage.  I was now working on placing in the top three men.

Since sunset, I had been wearing the same clothes I wore during the day, including a pair of polypro gloves.  That was no longer enough.  I went to my tent to get a jacket and my Gore-Tex mittens.  That was supposed to be a quick stop, but it turned into a comedy of errors.  It was dark, so I needed a flashlight to see anything inside the tent.  At first, I couldn’t find the flashlight.  I reached into the tent and grabbed my jacket.  Then I found the flashlight and used it to look for my mittens.

I looked through all the clothes that were laid out on my sleeping bag.  The mittens weren’t there.  I opened my suitcase to see if they were in there.  I didn’t have time to dig through it.  When they weren’t right on top, I had to give up.  I also had a second pair of gloves that I could wear over my polypro gloves.  I grabbed them instead.  I wanted the mittens because they’re waterproof.  I anticipated needing them on Wednesday, but for now the gloves would do.  In the short term, they were better, because it was easier to use my fingers.

As I went to put on my jacket, I realized that I had grabbed my warm-up pants by mistake.  I had grabbed them before I found the flashlight.  The fabric is similar, so in the dark they feel about the same.  I threw the pants back into the tent and grabbed the jacket.  I pulled on the jacket and gloves as I started my next lap.

Between 9:00 PM and midnight, my pace slowed.  Running so much of the lap was getting too tiring.  I changed the spot where I was ending my walking break.  Now I was walking for about three minutes at the beginning of each lap.

I also had more down time.  My bathroom stops became more frequent, even though I cut back on my fluid intake.  I’ve always had more frequent bathroom stops during the nighttime hours of an ultra.  At first I thought it was because I was overhydrating.  Now I wonder if my kidneys are more active during the night.  At home, I pee much more during the night than I do during the day.

Shortly before midnight, I had another stop at the tent.  I realized I needed something warmer on my legs, so I put on the all-weather warm-ups that I bought recently.  I had never run in them before, but my only other warm pants were Zubaz.  I also had never run in them.

One of the cardinal rules of racing is that you don’t try something new on race day.  I’m happy to say that the pants are great for running.  They’re lightweight, they’re warm, and they don’t restrict the motion of my legs.  Best of all, I didn’t have any trouble getting them on over my shoes.

So far, I wasn’t having any major problems with my shoes.  The duct tape over the toe box eventually came off, but my gaiters were keeping dust from getting in around my ankles.

I always record my daily mileage, so I made a point of estimating how far I ran before midnight, even though it was in the middle of a lap.  I ran 69.75 miles on Tuesday.  When I wrote that in my notebook, I noticed that I had only run 11 miles since 9 PM.  That included two stops to get warmer clothes, but it was still discouraging.  At that rate, I would run an additional 33 miles by 9 AM.  That would give me 102 miles in the first 24 hours.

During the night, the miles came slowly.  My legs continued to get sore and tired.  I’ve done a number of 24-hour races, but I’ve never done such a high proportion of running in the early hours.  I finally made another adjustment to where I was ending my walking breaks.  It more closely approximated the ratio of walking and running I would have had if I had been able to walk faster without putting my leg at risk.

It was frustrating how slowly the miles were adding up.  I was only running about three miles per hour, including the occasional bathroom stop.  Running was getting extremely tiring, and it wasn’t that much faster than I could walk.  I increased my walking to more than half of the loop.  That helped … for one or two laps.

Finally, I tried walking an entire lap to see how long it would take.  It was only one minute slower than a lap that was half walking and half running.  Running seemed to take about three times as much energy.  It made much more sense to walk.  I was reluctant to give up on running.  If you stop running for too long, it can be tough to start again.  I had to be willing to walk the rest of the race.

At 5AM, I needed 14 more laps to reach 100 miles.  All night I was trying to maintain a pace that would get me to 100 miles before the 24 hour mark.  That was no longer possible.  That made the decision to switch to walking much easier.

Kelly had lapped me several times during the night.  He was still going strong and was clearly running away with the race.  I didn’t know how far the runners who started on the 29th were doing.  I could wait until 9 AM and then see their final totals.  I also didn’t know if any of the other runners who started on the 30th were going to pass me.  I saw one runner who was still doing a fair amount of running, but I didn’t know how many miles he had.  All I knew for sure was that I would need at least 115 to have a shot at the top three.

At this point, my first goal was to get to 100 miles.  One additional lap would lift me several places in the standings.  I was mentally dividing the rest of the race into three pieces.  I needed at least 115 miles to have any chance of placing in the top three.  I might need more depending on what other runners were doing.  Next, I would need 10 more miles to set a distance PR.  After that, I would need 13 miles to get to 137.  That might get me into the top two.

Because I was completing fewer than three laps per hour, each 10 laps took about four hours.  Four hours can seem like forever when you’re moving slowly and your legs are sore.  At this point, even walking was getting painful.

I still had two major obstacles looming ahead of me.  The first obstacle was the weather.  The second day was going to include periods of rain during the day and freezing temperatures at night.  I also didn’t know how sleep deprivation would affect me during the second night.  I might need to sleep.  How many hours would that cost me?

It had been cold all night, but it was gradually getting colder.  The coldest temperatures of the night wouldn’t come until just before sunrise.  As I got increasingly uncomfortable, I considered stopping at the tent to add an extra layer.  If I took the time to go into the tent, I also wanted to replace my outer pair of gloves with the Gore-Tex mittens.  I would need them if it rained.

I held out for sunrise.  It would be easier to find my mittens in daylight.  In the meantime, I tried to tough out the cold.  Three times, I felt a little bit of light rain.  Each time, it stopped after a minute or two.  The last forecast I saw before the race called for scattered showers in the morning and periods of rain in the afternoon.  For now, I was crossing my fingers that no serious rain was imminent.

Around 6 AM, it seemed to get much colder.  Then I realized the wind was picking up.  During the night, winds were calm.  Now there was enough wind to make it feel colder.  I continued to hold out for daylight before getting warmer clothes.  I was taking it one lap at a time.  I drew motivation from knowing I was getting closer to 100 miles.

It’s funny how your goals can change during a race.  When I wrote up my goals, 100 miles was almost an afterthought.  Perhaps that’s because I took it for granted.  Before this race, I had never run for 24 continuous hours without running 100 miles.  It had surprised me to see how many runners went to 100.78 (the first complete lap over 100) and then stopped.  I had seen this in 24-hour races, but it didn’t occur to me that this would be such a common goal in 48-hour races.  Having run 100 miles in 24 hours several times, I looked at 48-hour races as vehicles for reaching higher.  Now, suddenly reaching 100 was my most important goal.

As I finished my 92nd lap, I paid more attention to the display in the start area.  That was the last lap I would complete before 24 hours, so I wanted to note my mileage.  I noticed something else.  I dropped one spot in the standings.  I assumed at the time that another of the runners who started when I did was now ahead of me.  Assuming he stayed ahead of me, that meant I would need 137 miles to get into the top three.  I could still do that, but it might take most of the second night to get there.  I failed to take something important into account.  The runners who started on the 29th weren’t done yet.  Some of them were trying to reach 100 miles in the last hour, but wouldn’t get much farther.  One of them might have passed me.

Something else happened at about the same time.  The wind suddenly got much stronger.  It was ridiculous.  The trees were swaying.  Branches and tumbleweeds were blowing across the course.  A storm system was moving in.  It was suddenly much colder.

Every four hours we switched directions.  At 24 hours, we switched back to running clockwise.  That meant I was now going into the wind on the side of the course that was most exposed.  Each lap was difficult.  There was a warming tent in the start/finish area.  After finishing my 95th lap, I stopped for a few minutes between to warm up.  I needed one lap to get to 100 and then another to pass the runners who stopped at 100.  After that, I could refocus on goals for the rest of the race.

I made it as far as the first turn before the rain started.  It was a light rain at first.  I crossed my fingers that I could get through one lap before getting too wet.  About halfway through the lap it turned into a steady rain.  I was already freezing.  Now I was caught in the rain without the right clothes.

I was wearing a jacket that I had never worn in rain before.  I didn’t know if it was waterproof.  My pants were supposed to be waterproof, but my legs were starting to feel wet.  I never switched from cotton gloves to Gore-Tex mittens.  If I continued beyond this lap, I would need time to regroup.

During this lap, I lost motivation to continue.  It’s possible that I miscalculated, but as far as I knew, I would need most of the remaining time to accumulate enough miles to get into the top three.  In the short term, I would need to endure rain and strong winds, possibly for hours.  I had appropriate clothes, but I was already wet.  Once I get cold, I don’t warm up easily.  It didn’t help that most of my body’s quick energy sources were depleted.  In the long term, I would need to face another long cold night.  It was supposed to get down to 32 degrees.  It would also be my second night without sleep.

As soon as I finished the lap, I would have my 100 mile buckle.  Doing an extra lap to move up in the standings didn’t seem that important.  The next intermediate goal was a distance PR.  That would take 23 more laps.  I’d be lucky to get there before sunset.

Earlier, I discovered that getting to 100 miles was much more important to me than I realized before the race.  Now, I was starting to realize that setting a distance PR wasn’t important enough.  It wouldn’t give me enough motivation to endure that many more hours of slowly grinding out laps in ugly weather with sore legs.  It just wasn’t worth it.

The moment I entertained thoughts of stopping at 100 miles, I thought about what I needed to do after the race.  I had three bags of gear inside my tent.  For now, they were dry.  I had the tent zipped shut.  To get everything to my car, I would need to open the tent, slip inside, roll up my sleeping bags, and stuff everything back into the suitcases.  I also had a small folding chair outside the tent that had to be stuffed back into a bag.  It wouldn’t be easy to carry all that gear in one trip, but I didn’t relish the thought of making multiple trips to the parking lot.  I would also need to rush, so things didn’t get too wet.  I didn’t have much rush left in me.

All of this went through my head in the last few minutes of my last lap.  I don’t usually make quick decisions about quitting, but the rain gave me a sense of urgency.  As I crossed the timing mat, I looked at the display.  I had 100.78 miles.  Based on how long it took me to get there, I moved up 11 spots in the standings.  I could’ve moved up further with another lap, but I didn’t care.

I walked over to the timing tent and turned in my chip.  I immediately received my mug and my 100 mile buckle.  This was the tenth time I’ve run 100 miles or farther.

I didn’t realize it until after the race, but changing clothes during a rain storm was never an option.  There are two types of tents you can rent.  I rented a small one, which is basically a pup tent.  It had enough room for my gear and a sleeping bag.  If I had to, I could climb inside to sleep.  It’s not designed for changing clothes during a storm.

The side of the tent is slanted.  As soon as I unzipped the flap, it fell inward.  Water clinging to the outside of the tent all rolled down the flap and into the tent.  It ran across the floor of the tent and pooled in the center.  Within seconds of unzipping the tent, my sleeping bag was soaked.

With my wet gloves and cold hands, I couldn’t zip the flap shut from the inside.  Changing into dry clothes wasn’t an option.  I needed to pack up as quickly as I could and get everything to the car.

Last year, I ran 121.78 miles in this race.  I was disappointed with that.  I was so disappointed that I needed to comeback to redeem myself.  This year, I only ran 100.78 miles.  Ironically, I’m not disappointed with my result.

What was different this year?  For starters, I discovered that for most of the runners in this race, 100 miles is THE goal.  I did that.  Most runners who do the 48-hour race do it so they have more time to reach their goals.  They look at the extra 24 hours as an opportunity, not an obligation. I get that now.

There was another big difference.  Three days before the race, I didn’t know if I’d be able to run 15 miles, much less 100.  My left leg was a serious concern.  I felt like I had no business attempting this race.  All I was going to do was make my leg worse.  I might be putting all my future races in jeopardy.  I actually considered cancelling the trip.  I NEVER cancel races.

Guess what.  I was able to run 100 miles.  My leg doesn’t feel any worse for wear.  I’ll need to take it easy for a while, but I’m going to be OK.  I’m pretty happy with that.

If I’m disappointed with anything it’s that I still don’t know what it’s like to run through that second day and night.  I don’t regret that I didn’t do it this year, because the weather was miserable.  It would not have been a fun experience.

Races like this are always learning experiences.  It’s time to review my race plan and figure out what worked and what didn’t.  The first thing that didn’t work was my goal-setting.  If I ever do another 48-hour race, I’m going to look at it differently.  Instead of picking a mileage goal first, I should set a goal of running for 48 hours.  My pacing should be based on going for 48 hours without wearing myself out.  Until I actually run for 48 hours, I’m not in a position to set realistic mileage goals.

Keeping my stride short and my walking slow was something I improvised, and it worked surprisingly well.  My left leg held up fine.  In fact, it felt better the day after the race than it did the day before the race.  What didn’t work about my pacing was trying to do such a large proportion of running.  That wasn’t sustainable.  I did it to keep alive the hope of running 200 miles, but that wasn’t realistic under the circumstances.

My nutrition plan mostly worked.  I ate lots of solid food with no problems.  I also ate gels more often than my original plan.  The only problem with that is the amount of caffeine I took in.  After the race I was jittery.  There was no way I was sleeping until the caffeine was out of my system.  It might have helped me stay awake for another night, but I would have been a wreck afterwards.  From now on, I’ll mostly buy gel flavors that don’t have caffeine.

It’s hard to tell if I was hydrating properly.  During the day I was.  At night I wasn’t sure.  I cut back on fluids, because I thought my bathroom stops were too frequent.  After the race, I was thirsty all day.  I have trouble gauging this at night.

My footwear strategy mostly worked.  The gaiters did a good job of keeping dust out of my shoes.  Wearing pants at night probably helped too, because they covered my ankles.  The duct tape didn’t stay on my shoes, but I probably didn’t need it.  I was surprised how little dust worked its way through my shoes.  I never needed to change shoes or socks.  After the race, my socks were fairly clean.  Here’s the before and after photos of my shoes.  Now they’re going in the trash.

For the record, I did have blisters, but they weren’t anywhere near as bad as last year.  I was able to ignore them during the race.  I didn’t have any blisters on my toes, nor did I get blisters around the backs of my heels.  Those were my big problem areas last year.  The blisters I do have will heal before my next race.

My only issue with clothes is that I didn’t originally plan for rain.  I’m continually reminded that I need to pack clothes for any kind of conditions, regardless of where I’m traveling.  In general, I have problems with combinations of cold, rain and wind.  I need to work on that.

My travel plans turned out to be a mixed bag.  I don’t fly home until Saturday.  As it turns out, I could easily be ready to fly home tomorrow.  I actually could have flown home today if it wasn’t an early flight.  I’m glad, however, that I kept the hotel room for the nights I expected to be running.  I had a place to go Wednesday morning when I was cold, wet and tired.

There’s one other thing that I would definitely do differently.  There are two sizes of tents.  If I do this race again, I’ll get a large tent.

A month ago, I expected to come into this race healthy and run something close to 200 miles.  I have four races scheduled in January, and I didn’t know how that would go.  I was afraid this race would wreck me.  As it turns out, I came into the race with a minor injury, ran 100 miles, and came away feeling OK.  I’m pretty happy about that.

For the record, Kelly Agnew went on the win the race with 202.61 miles!  I didn't know if I'd make it to the award ceremony, so I made a point of congratulating him before I left the race.  He wasn’t done yet, but I already knew he was going to win.  The top woman was Karen Bonnet with 143.82 miles.  The next two men had 140.67 and 136.47 miles, respectively.  I had accessed correctly that I would need 137 miles to make the top three.  Could I have done that?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Do I regret that I didn’t try?  No.


  1. David,
    I'm sorry your race didn't go as planned, but still, it is an amazing accomplishment! Congratulations on your 100.78 miles! (BTW, I stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago while searching for race reviews, and I've truly enjoyed reading about your experiences. Thanks for sharing such detailed race recaps and race planning notes!)

    1. Thanks, Katie. I was reaching for a goal so huge that it made me forget how big a deal it is to get to 100. I also forgot how tough it is to catch up on sleep, even after just one night of running all night.