“But we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” – Romans 5: 3-5
Last weekend I ran my first 100 Miler ultra marathon in California and it was the hardest thing I have ever signed up for. There is so much to tell and if you are interested in reading the full account and seeing more pictures, PLEASE CLICK ON THIS LINK. I am providing a basic overview here as I was told that a typical blog post should be around 500 words and this will clearly exceed that limit. The following are the cliff notes version:
This 100 mile race takes place in southern California and has over 22,000′ of elevation gain. It is rated as one of the toughest trail races in the country and lived up to this based on my limited experience. I arrived at the start in the early hours of Saturday morning when it was dark, cool, and the sky was filled with stars. Fortunately the race director had us wait until there was enough light for us to take off without our headlamps.
The race provided everything I had hoped for and so much more. It had beautiful single track trails, long climbs with incredible views, descents that you could run (at times) and terrain that challenged the feet of most runners, regardless of their shoe selection. Steve Harvey, the race director, and all the volunteers were incredible and reinforced why I love the ultra community. They were so kind and helpful in offering me advice, continual encouragement, and more food that my stomach wanted to experiment with. My fellow runners lived up to my past experience as well in that the camaraderie and support offered to everyone, regardless of where we were in the race, made you realize this wasn’t a road race. I think what makes these runners different is that we were all suffering together at one point or another and respect each other all the more as a result.
Given the challenging weather this course has had in its first few years, none of us could complain in 2012. We enjoyed great running weather throughout the day. However the temperatures dipped as night approached along with clouds that brought a continual mist and fog throughout the night and into the next morning. This made for an interesting challenge with visibility but the real problem was whether my body would hold up.
I had started at a conservative pace for the first 20 miles but the elevation was slowly taking its toll. By the aid station at mile 33, I had been humbled several times and the delusions of finishing under 24 hours quickly disappeared. After climbing and descending close to 10,000’, I was running in the dark when I had arrived at the Silverado aid station (mile 56). My departure from here also signaled the departure of whatever confidence I had in completing this race in less than 30 hours. The next 20 miles were ugly as my mind was playing tricks on me and I desperately wanted to stop and take a nap. Texts from my wife, my crew and good friend Bobby Goat, and music all played a key role in getting me to the Indian Truck Trail Aid Station at mile 75 where the entire race changed for me.
Bobby Goat surprised me by being there to pace me from this point. This was a shock as he had been in a boot for the previous 2 weeks due to a strange tibial fasciitis and had been my crew throughout the day. Fortunately he thought he might be needed and signed up as a pacer the day before. He could tell I was struggling as I told him I might be walking most of the course when we exchanged texts at around mile 65.
What was just as surprising for him was that after he joined me, I began to pick up the pace. We went from calculating how fast I would need to go to break 30 hours then 29, then 28, and finally 27 hours. I was moving and we were having fun passing other runners while offering encouragement at the same time.
I was giving it everything I had and the Goat knew it! Despite the all pain and my previous doubt, the last 3-5 miles were probably some of my fastest ones of the entire 100 miles. I was flying as I hit the road for the last mile into the finish and couldn’t believe it had been over a day ago that I had started on this same road.
I had beaten the demons, I had broken 27 hours (26 hours, 11 minutes) and earned my first 100 mile buckle that was presented to me by Steve the RD.
It was by far the most challenging thing I had ever put my body through yet also the most rewarding. Running continues to be a blessing in my life that teaches me a great deal. It helps me to strengthen my faith, improve my fitness, while also helping me to meet many wonderful people and see amazing places.
While there are many people I thank in the extended race report, I want to thank the Lord for all of the blessings in my life. I must thank Him for directing my paths and in getting me to this point, a place I could never have imaged only a couple of years ago!
More to Come
There are many more thoughts and reflections I will have over time as a result of this race. I am sure that many of my future posts will be influenced by this amazing experience. Ultimately I hope by sharing this experience here and in future posts that I may intrigue some of my road running friends to get out and experience the beauty and challenges of running on trails… maybe even an ultra!