The basics. This did not go as planned. I finished in 27:07. I’m not happy with my performance but I’m proud of my effort.
The details. This course is stunning. As someone who grew up and lives in Illinois, I was in awe of the scenery the entire race. When everything was going south I could always look in any direction and be inspired by the views around me. This course is hard, no doubt. It averages over 8,000 feet above sea level and there is 20K+ of climbing that has to be done.
As far as fitness goes, I was/am in the best shape I have ever been in. Even with feeling low at the higher altitudes and hiking the climbs I was moving as well as I could have hoped. I hit the 30 mile mark in under 5 and 1/2 hours and felt amazing. Things started to go south from there. Once you leave the Diamond Peak Ski Lodge at mile 30, the course shoots up a ski run. I believe the stat was 1800 feet of climb in 2 miles. 1 mile of that is at a 40% grade. Of course my heart rate was high though here so eating was hard. Then you tend to hang out at the higher altitudes of the course where it reaches 9200 at Snow Peak in the 43 mile range. This whole section was tough. Not because of fitness but because food was not digesting. I kept kicking along until finally I had a good old dry heave. I actually felt better after this. That plus I was descending down to the Start/Finish at 7200 feet.
Things seemed to have turned around when all of a sudden my right abdominal muscles seized up. It made breathing hard so I hiked it into the start/finish. My time was still in good shape as I hit the 50 mark just under 10:30. My thought was to hit the massage table and have them work this out then get back out there. When I showed the people at the massage table my stomach and how it was cramped up on the right side there was a uniform “WHOA!” from those around. Another problem was I was down weight so the aid station folks made me hang around until I could get back up a few pounds. And here is where I made a huge mistake. I was in a hurry and thirsty so I chugged an entire can of coke then left the aid station with my pacer John just over the 11 hour mark. We did not get a mile before I had a sugar crash of epic proportion. Of course I did not realize what was happening in the moment only now that my head is clear can I see what I did wrong.
This was rough, I just shuffled along, foggy and slow for about 7 miles. We hit an aid station and I ate as much food as I could then walked out hoping that things would turn around. If they hadn’t I was fairly certain I was going to drop. They did turn around and we just started moving a little faster and a little faster. After 3+ hours of walking (slow walking) I was finally moving again. However this was short lived as my heart rate would get really high and I’d dry heave again.
I pretty much played this game of run a bit, dry heave, go back to walking before I finally settled with the fact that today was a “I’m going to finish and not hate myself” day. I just told John, “this is going to take a little longer than planned” He as good with it and just kept motivating me as needed. John and I talked and power hiked for a long time and we’d try to squeeze in a little running here and there before I’d pull to the side of the trail and wretch a bit. Ah the life of an ultrarunner. It was super dusty with all the runners and lack of rain out there so on top of dry heaves from altitude, I also had a few brought on by the dust.
Some where when the mileage hit the mid-upper 80′s the sun starting coming up. This was something I’d hope to avoid. We hit the high point of the course at Snow Peak and the sun was coming up over our left shoulders casting a shadow of the mountain on Lake Tahoe. This is quite possibly the most beautiful scene I have witness personally. That could be mixed with the fact that I had about 7 miles of mostly downhill or flat miles left to go too. Either way, I was glad to have seen it.
I just did my best to keep plodding along and even fit in a few stretches of running here and in the final time on the course. As we rounded the flat area around Spooner Lake before reaching the finish I heard my daughter yell for me and I just smiled. Not the day I wanted but having my family awake and waiting at the end was a very good ending to a tough day.
This was a really nice race. Well organized and very good aid. I never came into an aid station and did not have someone there waiting on me. In some cases an individual would just stay with me and help me exclusively until I left the aid station. How’s that for service?! My crew of my wife, Jan and Dave (in-laws) were great! Very inspiring, had food ready and always there to help in any way they could. My biggest thanks goes out to my pacer John Cash. Along with crewing during the day he stuck it out with me for 16 hours on the trail. Pacing sucks and it’s hard, especially when you’re not running.
What now? I’m not satisfied with this one at all. I’m always going to be hindered by altitude until I move somewhere where the air is a little thinner but I made some mistakes that could have been avoided. I’m signed up for the Ozark Trail 100 in November. Time to put this fitness and leanings to the test again and see what happens.