The race started Friday at noon. My eight year old daughter Kylee asked if I'd bring her sock monkey hat to wear. That sock monkey hat stayed with me for all 100 miles. (Although a few people didn't know what it was and called me "Mighty Mouse".)
There are 500+ head of buffalo on Antelope Island but our closest encounter was in the first half mile of the race when the trail took us past this little fella. It would be a shame to need a clean pair of shorts in the first half mile of a race.
I'm always a bit anxious before these long races, not knowing what the next 25-30 hours will hold. But once the race starts, all that worry goes away because you need to put all your focus into figuring out how to get to the finish line. It was pretty chilly as we started our journey.
Right from the beginning I started running with my friend Christy who I met at last year's Buffalo Run when she was running her first 100. (Her race report is HERE, one of the best I've read.) She is always so happy and positive, and she helped the miles fly by.
My goal was to be very conservative in the first half of the race. We made sure to not burn all our energy on the steep hills.
The first 20ish miles of the race have some big, big climbs and some fairly technical trails. But there are also stretches of trail that are just pristine and smooth as Twinkie filling. I LOVE trails like this. LOVE.
Within the first hour we got our first punch of snow. With the wind, it was bitter cold but thankfully the snow wasn't heavy enough to stick on the ground. I'm happy as long as I can see dirt.
One of my favorite things about these ultras is talking with other runners along the way. I talked with a guy who said the younger runner with him was his son. And then he said "My dad is running the race also." His 81 YEAR OLD father Grant was running the 100 miler!!! I said "Wow, I would love to meet him!" He told me that I would. Grant was approved for an early start so he said we'd come upon him eventually. After a while I met this incredible runner on the trail:
The extreme weather forced Grant to stop after 50 miles, nothing short of spectacular. But to fathom that an 81 year old would click "Register" for a 100 mile race?!??!? This should be a motivation for runners everywhere.
Another cool part of my race was being able to watch elite runner Karl Meltzer completely dominate the race. Karl has won more 100 mile races than anyone in history so I loved watching him add another win to the list. I got lucky to catch this shot of him cruising down the trail:
Around mile 30 I hit a bit of a rough patch. It was getting dark, I was starting to feel tired, and I was in no-man's land for a while where there wasn't another runner I could see ahead or behind me. I felt better when I got to an aid station at mile 33 and had this little slice of heaven waiting: a quesadilla and a slice of bacon. Yep. Heaven.
Somewhere along the way I hooked up with a runner named Marty who I had ran most of the first 20 miles with. We kept plugging away in the cold and helped each other get to the 50 mile mark at about 12:45am.
Can I tell you a little secret about that happy, smiling picture of me and Marty? We were miserable. Positively miserable. Tired. Sore. Frozen solid. But what I find so inspiring at these ultramarathons is the mentality of the runners. Despite the adversity and exhaustion, everyone is amazingly positive. I would see runners truly suffering and ask how they were doing. It was always "Good!" or "Great!". They didn't focus on everything going wrong, only on what was going right. And sometimes the only thing going right is that we're still upright. Another reason I love this sport.
At mile 50 I picked up my first pacer, my sister Hollie. You can see some pictures of her in yesterday's post. The next 18 miles she ran with me were incredibly challenging. I heard that with the bitter wind blowing across the island, the windchill was 8 degrees. I didn't take any pictures during that time because we were so focused. Hollie did a miraculous job of plowing ahead of me and I worked to keep up with her over those technical, hilly trails. I can't imagine doing that by myself.
My wife has told me that my race reports sometimes minimize the dark spots. And not the kind of "dark" like at night. The kind of mental darkness where you think about quitting. The darkness where you don't know how you can keep going. The incredible discouragement when you realize that you are beyond exhausted and still have 50 (fifty!) more miles to go. I definitely had some of those dark moments. Those moments are hard to describe in words. It's like someone is holding a blanket over you, smothering and suffocating. I tried to have faith that if I could make it through the night, I would get new life with the sunrise.
At mile 68 I met my second pacer, my friend Jared Thorley. Sunrise was coming soon, but I apologized to Jared saying that my legs were fried and I might not be able to run at all for the last 30 miles. I was so thankful to see the sun starting to rise over the Great Salt Lake.
I told my pacers that I'd prefer to have them go ahead of me and keep a steady pace that I would try to hold on to. Jared was so patient, understanding, and supportive when I started to fall behind.
I was still able to get some stretches of running in. From this point on, my mom and Hollie served as my crew. They drove from aid station to aid station and helped get my supplies ready. I used Tailwind drink mix which worked like a charm and my stomach never went bad. (Another huge reason my race went so well.) So when I'd pull into an aid station, they would fill my hydration pack and I'd get out of there as fast as possible. My crew helped make sure I didn't waste time at aid stations. I got a little chuckle out of this Wall of Shame at one aid station - bibs from runners who had dropped out. (I heard that around 56% of people finished the race.)
We had fun running with Christy and her pacer Derek (who has a killer Jim Carrey impression). Christy went through some very dark times herself, and yet she was always so happy and positive. Her spirit was infectious.
Somewhere around this time I had a breakthrough. My knees were crazy sore and my feet felt like I was walking on hot coals. It hurt to walk each step. But I realized that it only hurt a little more to run. So why not run and get this over with? So I would mutter to Jared "Okay, lets run for a bit." I'd go as long as my legs could bear and then cry Uncle and he would go back to a fast power walk. We kept doing that and the miles ticked by.
Around mile 90 my suffering was still at a tolerable level. I told Jared that if we kept up this pace I could beat my PR (29 hours and 22 minutes). I told him I would love to see a PR that started with 28. Jared said "If you stick with me, I can get you a PR that starts with 27!"
That lit a fire in me. I really wanted that. I wasn't sure it was possible, but I was willing to try. I tried to turn off all the complaining in my brain and just run like a mad man. At mile 96 we passed some athletic looking guys who were running the 50 miler. They were so encouraging and told me to keep it up because I was finishing so strong. That felt good.
It wasn't until mile 99 that I knew I would indeed have a new PR that started with 27. I can't tell you how happy I was. But I can show you how happy I was. This was my jump across the 100 mile finish line:
My finish time was 27 hours and 44 minutes, an hour and 38 minutes faster than my previous PR. I figured out that I ran the first half in around 13 hours and the second half around 14:44. I feel so blessed that everything seemed to fall right into place for this race.
I was so excited to take my shoes off. My feet were throbbing but thankfully I had hardly any blisters.
Thanks to you guys and amazing friends and amazing family, dreams came true this weekend.
"Your biggest challenge isn't someone else. It's the ache in your lungs and the burning in your legs, and the voice inside you that yells 'CAN'T', but you don't listen. You just push harder. And then you hear the voice whisper 'can'. And you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are." ~ Unknown