Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bryce 100 Race Report

At the first of the year I signed up for the Buffalo Run 100, Zion 100, and Bryce 100 - three 100 milers in the span of 14 weeks. I knew that might be biting off more than I could chew, but there was only one way to find out. I truly wanted to understand 100 milers better, and there is no way to understand them without running them. NOTHING in training can come close to simulating what you will feel after 60+ miles. The Buffalo Run went great. Zion went pretty good. This weekend it was time for Bryce. I'd like to present some awards:

And the award for Most Gnarly, Difficult Race I've Ever Run goes to......The Bryce 100.
Nestled on the outskirts of Bryce Canyon National Park, this race would be my hardest ever - somewhere between 18,000 - 20,000 feet of climbing. This, my friend, is the Big Leagues.

And the award for Most Unique 100 Mile Stunt Prop goes to........The Glow In The Dark Batman Mask. I started the run with my friends Jared, Lucas, and Josh. I always knew when I was behind Josh. Most people (correction: no people) are man enough to attach a glow in the dark Batman mask to their pack except Josh.

And the award for Most Scenic Congo Line goes to.........The First Four Miles Of The Race. (I also made an ENORMOUS, ENORMOUS mistake thinking the whole race would be lovely, rolling, non-technical single track like this. I couldn't have been more wrong.)

And the award for Best Female Runners Across A Beautiful Red Ridge goes to........The Two Girls In This Picture. I'm sorry, I don't know their names. Lets call them Michelle and Stephanie. Congrats Michelle and Stephanie!

And the award for Best 1,000 Year Old Rock Stars goes to..........The Rolling Stones. Closely followed by these cool rock star formations.

And the award for Most Likely To Make You Feel Like You're Breathing Through A Straw goes to.......The Bryce 100. I live around 3,000 feet altitude and the race was around 9,000 feet I believe. (In the end, this had nothing to do with my finish. I just needed to stop being a pansy and put my big boy pants on.)

And the award for Person Who Most Looks Like A Kid In A Candy Store During The First 5 Miles Goes to..........ah, shucks. Despite the straw breathing, I was in heaven.

And the award for Best Looking Ants During An Ultramarathon goes to........All Those Ant-Like Runners Down Below. All those runners strung out below was definitely one of the cooler things I've seen in a race.

And the award for Most Scenic Race In North America goes to..........The Bryce 100. Since the race I've talked with lots of runners who have run all over the country. Every one of them said Bryce was the most beautiful race they have ever run. I concur.

And the award for Most Likely To Cause Goosebumps Even Though You're Sweating Like A Dog goes to..........well, the whole course. But I really loved this section toward the first of the race.

And the award for Race Course That Will Make You Suck Your Thumb And Cry For Your Mother goes to.........you guessed it, The Bryce 100. Around mile 15 the real race started. The trails became technical and steep. Relentless climbing or descending. In all my years I have never seen a course so punishing and humbling.

And the award for Greatest Race Crew Ever goes to.........Mel and Jackson. I can't describe how thankful I was to have my wife and son join me at some of the aid stations to help out and give moral support. They drove some hideous dirt roads to meet me at Blubber Creek, mile 26. The high altitude and constant climbing had my stomach in knots. Thankfully once I slowed down a bit, my stomach caught up and I felt much better. I used Tailwind for my fuel, and other than the short bout with altitude sickness it worked great. Seeing my family during this low point gave me a much needed boost.

And the award for Best Pacer Who Was Actually Not A Pacer But A Runner goes to.........My Friend Jared. Along the way, Josh and Luke dropped off the back of our little train. Now it was just me and Jared. We weren't going tremendously fast but we were steady. I had this pesky knee that started bothering me around mile 20 but I was hopeful that it wouldn't be too much of a burden.

And the award for Pictures That Don't Do Justice To Completely Incredible Scenery goes to........My Pictures. Take the beauty of my pictures and multiply them by 847. Then you'll be getting close to how beautiful it was. This is around mile 30.

And the award for Most Frustrating Body Part goes to.........All the gray hair popping up on my head. And also my right knee starting around mile 20ish. The downhill sections were so steep and I could feel my knees taking the brunt of the shock, but I couldn't seem to do anything differently. Admittedly, I was nervous about how this would affect the race. I made sure to try and stay positive and not get frustrated with the things I couldn't control.

And the award for Person You Want With You When You're Struggling goes to........Jared. I was so thankful to be spending those miles with Jared. This was his first 100 miler and he didn't show the slightest sign of weakness. Jared took the lead and I don't think we were passed by another runner for 40+ miles. It meant so much to me that he helped guide me through some dark places (and I don't mean night time) when he could have gone ahead.

And the award for Best Example Of Optimism goes to........Ultrarunners. In our pressing forward we came across other runners who were going through some pretty dark places too. One of the reasons I love this sport is the grit and determination of these runners. When you see someone struggling and ask how they are doing, they will smile and say "Good." They're not lying. Despite those dark places, there is nowhere they would rather be. I. Love. This. Sport.

And the award for Most Inspirational Moment Of The Race goes to........Passing The Lady With One Leg. We neared the next aid station at mile 34. The knee, well, it wasn't good. I knew a 100 mile finish was in jeopardy. I was feeling frustrated and discouraged. And then when we got to the aid station there was a lady standing there with crutches cheering. And she only had one leg. It really touched me and I got emotional. I thought about how much she would love to be out running on that trail. My bum knee was nothing to whine about, and I was so amazingly blessed to be out running. It renewed my determination. I really wanted to finish the 100 miler for that lady.

And the award for Best Looking Tree goes to.........This Aspen. While we continued to soldier on.

And the award for Nobody Else I'd Rather See at Mile 39 goes to.........Mel and Jackson. I confided that things weren't looking great and that I might have to stop at 100k. From past races where I have pushed through hard things, Mel knew I would not come to this decision lightly. I was so thankful knowing that they would still love me no matter what choice I made.

And the award for Best Place To See A Sunset goes to........Pink Cliffs. We made it to the Pink Cliffs aid station at mile 45 right in time for an amazing sunset. My friend Jeff happened to be there. He helped me doctor my blistered feet (these were the worst blisters I've had but for some reason didn't hurt). He also supplied me with a big, delicious piece of fried chicken. Dear Sports Nutrition Products: I have your next gel or bar flavor!

I saw Mel and Jackson again at the 50 mile point and told them I had decided to drop at the 100k mark. With my knee feeling the way it did, it just wouldn't have been smart to keep going further than that. But that decision burned at me with every step I took. It felt like quitting and I'm not a quitter. I have always lived by the belief that I can do anything I put my mind to. And then to have this course beat me, I just didn't like that feeling. But facts is facts. A wise man once said "You've got to know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em." I'm not a fan of folding 'em.

At mile 50 Jared was still feeling good and planned to go for 100m. Then at mile 52 we were on what I'll call The Never Ending Hill Of Death. Jared stopped. He hunched over. He started staggering. Jared reached his dark place. It came on fast and hit him hard. By the time we reached the top of The Never Ending Hill Of Death it was pitch black, cold, and insanely windy. And with that, Jared decided on the same fate. It was my turn to help guide and support Jared for the next handful of hours and help him like he helped me. We reached the 100k mark after 19 hours and our race was done.

And the award for Happiest Finish Line Moment goes to.........Eric Schranz completing his first 100. Saturday morning we went to the finish line to watch runners come in. Soon after we arrived I caught this finish with Eric from www.ultrarunnerpodcast.com. I enjoyed talking with him and his family after the race.

And the award for Coolest 100k Bling goes to.........This Cool Welded Metal Award. I gave it to Jackson to thank him for his help over the weekend.

I talked to lots of experienced runners who said this course was extremely difficult, much harder than they expected. Lots of people got some altitude sickness. Lots of people dropped out or dropped to the 100k. It makes those 100 mile finishers all the more impressive.

So......it's not exactly the outcome I hoped for. Even though in my heart I know it was the right decision to drop down, it still stings. And yet if you take out the whole knee issue, this was the greatest race ever! I got to run 62 miles around the most beautiful spot on earth. I had the support of my awesome family out on the course. I spent 62 miles with a great friend. I met amazing aid station volunteers. I was inspired by all the other runners I shared the trails with. I am a very lucky guy.

If you're interested, I made a video with my favorite pictures from the race. There are lots more that I didn't have space for in the race report. Here is a taste of that amazing experience at the Bryce 100.


  1. Your pictures are amazing. I've been to Bryce (and left some of my skin in the ground) and know how beautiful it is. Your pictures do a wonderful job of capturing that.

    Attempting three 100 milers so close together takes some pretty amazing chutzpah, and the fact that you finished two plus an additional 100k on an uber-tough course is so impressive. You seriously rock. And at the same time, I can totally see how the decision to cut back at Bryce stings...but probably not as much as being sidelined due to injury would. Tough AND smart...pretty good combo.

  2. So impressive, all around. The course, your photos and your efforts. I can imagine how difficult the 100k was, let alone the 100 miles!

  3. Wow. just wow.

    Such a beautiful course.

  4. I think the altitude sickness may have played a major role in your thinking that chicken nutrition products would sound good. I mean haven't you ever tried the "thanksgiving dinner" baby food? Gross.

    I can't get over how gorgeous these pictures are. I can't believe I wasted so many years in Utah without seeing these beautiful sights. I need to go visit.

    Great job on finishing the 100k! Making those choices are hard, but a healthy body sometimes means stopping when you want to keep going. You are incredible and your feats are mind blowing.

  5. What you do leaves me speechless. And what you saw - even more so.

  6. WHAT?? This post is over already?? I want to keep reading more. Your stories leave me on the edge of my seat and I just want to keep reading. Even if you had only run a 50K you are still inspiring and amazing. (So is Holly-must run in the family) So does this mean you are ready to tackle the Corner Canyon again?

  7. Wow. This is amazing. Your pics are stunning. Congrats on such an epic adventure!

  8. SO much good stuff in here. The pics are amazing as usual. The pictures of the sunset are just insanely beautiful. I can't imagine seeing that in person. The race bling...just pretty much totally awesome. Great job. I can't imagine how tough, but awesome this race was!

  9. You ran a gutsy race. You were certainly hurting when I saw you out there and you went a long, long way from there. Well done.

  10. Beautiful report. Excellent job of giving it a-go. Cory, you have come a long way.

    BTW, your lady with one leg is Dan Brendan's girlfriend. I am guilty of not remembering her name. Dan is a 7 time (going for #8) Grand Slam finisher! Dan and his girlfriend are wonderful, gracious people that again prove the ultra community is special! I had the privilege of having Dan's girlfriend cheer me one for almost 20 hours of my 45 hour run at Beyond Limits Ultra. Dan also carries her across the finish line when he finishes. This is the cutest thing to see.

    1. Huguette is Dan's girlfriend. You won't meet a nicer or more optimistic person than Huguette.

  11. Aww Cory, I so could feel the disappointment in your finish, but yet I also heard the pride. The fact you attempted to raced 3 100-milers in a 14 week period has to be some sort of world record, at least in my book, and I couldn't be more stinking proud of you. Well done!! As a geologist (well, I teach geology :)), I am engrossed in your pics and though I've never been to Bryce NP, I would concur that the scenery there, at least from a geology perspective, is bar none. Not even Zion compares (and, btw, that rock formation is >1000 years old :).

    Congratulations, Cory. Your astonishing accomplishments in this ultra world are super impressive.

  12. Great post! I like the all the awards, except the pesky knee that made you have to stop. You obviously have some great support and an amazing place to train. I still think you had a great race!

  13. WOW. You never cease to amaze me. I agree with Jill, I think you're setting some sort of record. You're fearless and take life head on! Congrats on a great 100K finish! You're our running idol!

  14. Great report and pictures as always Cory. Huge congrats on your race. It was nice seeing familiar faces out there and certainly lifted the mood during my rough patches. Thank Mel for helping me out at Blubber Aid. Look forward to hearing about your next adventure.

  15. Unbelievable scenery! Another race in the US on my list now. Well done and definitely the right choice to do the 100k "only". Rest well!

  16. Awesome write up Cory! Good work.

  17. "Around mile 15 the real race started. The trails became technical and steep. Relentless climbing or descending. In all my years I have never seen a course so punishing and humbling." Couldn't agree more with you. Congrats on a strong race. Heal well!

  18. You amaze me! Congratulations on the 100K. I'm equally impressed with the running and pictures!

  19. Awesome pics as usual! Congrats on the 100K, that is awesome, that is an insane amount of climbing. 18-20K?!?

    Also, I appreciate the comment - PT is a solo world to go. Likely I'll be back out there running sometime, I just hope it's sooner rather than later.

  20. Congrats to you, Cory. Great photos and attitude. I hope our paths cross on a trail again sometime soon.

  21. Great report with pics and cudo's to such a humorous and crazy ultra mo*o. Putting it together - you rock! I laughed intensely at your captions and pics, great pic to say it the 2nd time. I am envious that you got to Pink Cliffs - what a beauty. The course was much tougher than many had wished for and had possibly thinned out Matt's evening party with planned pizza party for the 100k's. Running the dirt road in the dark without a headlamp made me wish I was born a mole - the best award for hitting the plant roots without eyes :)