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.