I have a brilliant strategy that will guarantee a win at your next race:
1) Create your own 100 miler.
2) Be the only person to run the 100 miles.
(The fine print in this race strategy is that while you finish in first place, you're also last place.)
Recently I ran a 100 miler on the More Cowbell Trail in southern Utah. It's a 3.5ish mile loop in southern Utah. Part of the reason I wanted to run a 100 here is because of the sheer beauty of the trail. I mean....it's basically incredible.
But the other reason I wanted to do a 100 here is because the trail is called the More Cowbell Trail. Seriously. With a name that awesome, this trail NEEDED to be an ultramarathon!
The great thing about the trail is that there is an actual cowbell you pass! If you don't ring the bell when you pass, you invite bad karma. You immediately bonk and your toenails turn black. Please, friends. RING THE BELL WHEN YOU PASS.
A few days before the run, I posted on Facebook that I was going to try to run 100 miles on the trail. I was honored when a bunch of friends came out to join for some miles. My first companion was Tia Astle.
It was SO, SO cold the weekend I chose to run. Temps were in the 30's and low 40's but the kicker was the high wind advisory which said gusts would be up to 50 miles per hour. I'm just going to say it - it was miserable. Miserable. And yet any ultrarunner will attest to the fact that it is possible to be absolutely miserable and be having fun at the same time. This 100 miler was completely miserable and fun at the same time.
This amazing trail is right on the outskirts of Zion National Park. You can see the towering cliffs of Zion on the horizon.
Late in the afternoon I was joined for some miles by Jesse Zitting and renowned photographer and videographer Derrick Lytle.
As a photography nerd, I noticed that there were some cool clouds brewing in the sky. I was hopeful that we would be treated to an awesome sunset.
Much of the More Cowbell Trail runs along the edges of incredibly beautiful mesas. Case in point:
As sunset was nearing, I was still feeling fairly good. I was certainly starting to feel the toll of miles from earlier in the day, but I was able to keep a decent pace. In the last light of day, Gooseberry Mesa glowed like it had been lit on fire.
I then witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen from a trail. The cold, bitter wind had made the entire day dreadful. But as I watched the sunset, I was yet again reminded that if you persevere and don't give up when times get tough, you will be rewarded. This sunset was my reward for not giving up.
The legend of the More Cowbell Trail is that when the trail was being designed, people found a dead cow in the area with the cowbell still around it's neck. (Not coincidentally, the More Cowbell Trail also connects to a trail called Dead Ringer. So great!)
I was hopeful that after the sun went down, the wind would mellow out. It didn't. Mel must have sensed that my body needed something warm. She drove up to the trailhead and brought a Wendy's Baconator hamburger, fries, and a Coke. They were delicious. And within ten minutes I realized that eating something called a "Baconator" in the middle of a 100 mile run is basically the worst idea ever. Ever.
Mel brought our Great Dane, Little Debbie. The only thing that Little Debbie loves more than stealing food off the counters is trail running. It was so cold that Mel thought she may need a sweatshirt.
Mel joined me for the next 3.5 miles. I kindly asked her to PLEASE ignore me next time I suggest that I would like to eat a mid-run Baconator.
Shortly after Mel left, I was joined for some miles by my brother-in-law Matt Anderson and his friend Jed.
And then I was paid a visit by my friends Jeff and Carol Manwaring. Jeff has been my Trail Savior many times throughout the years. Take, for example, the 2014 Zion 100 where he had a steak and cheese sandwich for me. (And then we hugged. And then we danced. HERE are the photos.) On this night they brought me hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll. Then I ran a bunch of miles with Carol.
The night was a significant challenge for me. It continued to be super windy and temps were below freezing. I was SO cold. At two points during the night when I was frozen solid and sleep walking, I got in the back of my car to sleep and thaw out for 20-30 minutes.
Very early in the morning I was joined for a lap by my friend Dave Stephenson. I was thankful for his company because, despite a few short naps, I was still battling the sleep monster.
Mercifully the wind began to die down. The cold was tolerable without the soul-sucking wind. I was thankful for company on the second day when my legs were sore and tired and my pace had slowed down. I enjoyed some miles with Chris and Maria Bradley.
Then Justin Robins who brought along a cinnamon roll and hot chocolate. (I'm a little embarrassed at how quickly I inhaled that cinnamon roll. Imagine your vacuum cleaner sucking up dust bunnies. It was kind of like that.)
When the wind finally stopped I had 75 miles behind me. I was ecstatic to begin peeling off some of my multiple layers of clothing.
Melissa Young and her son came out to enjoy some beautiful miles from the trail.
And then for a while I was down to shorts and a short-sleeved shirt! For as terrible as the first day was, the weather on the second day of the run was absolutely perfect.
The last 20 miles were tough for me. I assume this won't be much of a shock. The last 20 miles of ANY 100 mile run are always really tough. My legs were sore and stiff and it seemed like the miles were ticking by so slowly.
As I finished the final few loops of the 100 miler I came across a rock that perfectly summarized how I feel about this awesome trail:
I was thankful to share the last few miles with my friend Cherie Santiago. I've shared many adventures with her over the years and she is one of the nicest humans on the planet.
A little more than 33 hours after I started the adventure, I finished the More Cowbell 100! And I won first place! (Okay, and last place.) If my math is right, that was my 25th 100+ mile run. Thanks to the miracle of Amazon, you can purchase a More Cowbell belt buckle!
I've never found anything as humbling, demanding, demoralizing, energizing, and truly, truly rewarding as running. Running is about not curling up on the side of the trail when a Baconator socks you in the stomach. It's about not crying when the wind nearly blows your trucker hat off the mesa for the nine millionth time. It's about laughing with friends. It's about vacuuming up cinnamon rolls. It's about sunsets and hypothermia and mesas that look like they are on fire. It's about taking a jumping picture to try to convince your grumpy legs that you are having fun. Running is about Great Danes in sweaters. And supportive spouses. And it's about not listening to the voices in your head that tell you to quit. Running is about knowing where your limits are. And then pushing past them.