At Noon on a Friday the 13th, one of the most competitive US 100 mile fields started up Mt Warner from the base of Steamboat Ski Resort. I had the pleasure of being part of it, and like everyone else, was after a piece of the $35,000 prize purse. The money was spread 5 deep, but my pre-race goal was a podium finish, a top 3. Training was good leading up to the race, a solid 9 month of consistency, the last 3 of them without racing, and mentally I felt prepared to run at the front. Through mile 75 it seemed as if I would reach my goal, but in the end I fell just short. That's not to say I was disappointed though, quite the contrary. I gave it everything I had and for that I am content with the result. Now for the details...
The race started out with a 4.4 mile climb up the ski resort to the Mt Werner aid station. I followed the advice of a few close ultra running friends and hung back, taking notes and keying off the professor himself, Karl Meltzer. I also got to spend a good amount of time in the early miles with a local training buddy of mine, Jesse Rickert. After Mt Werner, the trail to the Long Lake Aid (11.2 Mi) was a fun rolling singletrack through a cool section of forest. I left Jesse half way though this section, swapped spots with Karl (this would become an ongoing thing), and caught up to Jeff Browning at the Long Lake Aid. After capping off my Ultimate Direction handheld, I was on my way again.
At the bottom of the Fish Creek Falls trail I got to see my crew for the first time. It consisting of Jeremy Howlet, Jeremy Nef, & Caitlyn Anderson from Altra, my friend Jessica Hamel, who was running the 50 the following day, and 3 camera guys (Dave Neyman, David Aller, & Andrew Hancock) who were shooting a video for Altra. Needless to say, I had quite the entourage. With a quick bottle swap, and a couple more VFuel gels to eat on the run, I was out without stopping. The next 4 miles were much of the same. Jeff, Karl, & I were separated by mere inches as we cruised down the road towards downtown Steamboat.
The three of us reached the Olympia Hall Aid (Mile 21.3) together, passing the two Tarahumara runners and closing in on the Jasons in the process. There was a small hitch in the plan here as the majority of my crew was MIA. Instead of getting a fresh water bottle, more gels, and my rain coat since some weather appeared to be moving in, I ended up with next to nothing. Jess happened to be there with one of my light (not waterproof) coats so I grabbed that as I passed, but, without thinking forgot to fill my nearly empty water bottle. I would kick myself for that later. Over the next section we climbed for 4 miles, where luckily there was a water only station, followed by the descent to the Cow Creek Aid (Mile 29.9). Jason Schlarb, Karl, & I were all close together at Cow Creek. After getting a second water bottle and some extra VFuel gels from my crew I was the first out (now in 3rd overall). The three of us would remain close throughout the climb and descent back to Olympia Hall (Mile 42.1). During that section, a lot happened. We passed Dave Mackey who was dealing with stomach issues and Jason Loutitt was now somehow behind us. I didn't realize we passed him until the top of the climb when someone told me I was leading. The top of the climb was also where I started to feel the effects of missing that water. When we got back to the water only station, I took an extra minute making sure to get some extra fluids in me ASAP.
Heading back up Fish Creek Falls rd, the slight dehydration from the back loop became apparent once more. It caused me to slow a bit and in doing so I lost a few minutes to Jason & Karl. That was my first low point of the race, but luckily I was able to mitigate it, only losing a few minutes. A slightly longer stop to change into compression socks and my night gear gave me a chance to sit and rest for a minute. Taking that quick break definitely helped. My energy levels rose, my legs felt springy once again and running felt really good during the climb up Fish Creek. I glanced down at my watch just as I reached the 50 mile mark and it read 8:25:27. "Nearly" half way and at a good pace! Darkness had now fallen, and when I reached Long Lake Aid (Mile 52.2) the stars were out and the air felt fresh and cool.
Leaving Dry Lake I decided to take advantage of the descent and try to close the gap that Jason & Karl had on me. I felt good and wanted to try and re-gain contact. The trail down to Spring Creek Ponds Aid (Mile 69.8) was wide, smooth, and great for cruising. As I was getting close, I saw Jason, then Karl, then around a couple more corners the aid station. They were close, and it got me fired up. The lively aid station crew headed up by Nick Clark helped to fire me up even more and with a quick splash of water in my bottle, I was charging back up the trail in high spirits. That only lasted for a few minutes though. Before I could make it back to Dry Lake Aid (Mile 74.3) the skies opened up and a cold, soaking rain came down. When I got to Dry Lake, Karl was there getting some dry cloths and I quickly followed suit. A full change of cloths, my rain coat, enough food to last to the finish, and a bottle of water. That would be the last time I saw my crew until the finish and at that point I was still feeling solid.
Over the next 8 miles back up to Summit Lake Aid (Mile 81.9), my legs began to deteriorate. Somewhere around the 80 mile mark my quads began to feel sore. Instead of running up the entire climb like I should have been doing, I spent a lot of it power hiking. The section from Summit Lake to Long Lake Aid (Mile 90.1) continued to break down my quads. The rain left a lot of mud puddles and with treadless road shoes and trashed legs they became quite a nusense. Hopping puddles hurt, and slipping didn't feel good very good either. I was ready to get this race over with. The aid station crew at Long Lake reported that I "looked fresh" but that was far from the truth. Mentally I was fine, but physically I was cooked. Still in 3rd place, and with a half marathon yet to go, there was only one thing to do.. keep moving.
After what seemed like eternity, I was within a couple miles of the finish. The sun was on its way up and I was able to turn off my fading headlamp just in time to see the 50 milers starting their day. I saw a lot of familiar faces (Marry who would end up 2nd, Liz who I coach, would finish 8th, and Jess who would push through ligament trouble and finish her first 50 - huge congrats to all of you!) and received a TON of encouragement which helped keep me moving. Those final miles were the toughest miles I have ever ran, and when I saw the finish I couldn't have been more happy just to get there and sit down. A hug from the official "hugger" stopped the clock at 19:06:00. Good enough for 4th place, and a $1,000 pay day (now I can pay rent next month!).
My quads have never been so destroyed. As I write this, a week later, I have only ran 1.5 miles total since the race. Being just my second 100, I learned a lot and gained a lot of confidence for the next one. It was an honor to get to run with the "big dogs" and finish amongst them.
Huge thanks to my crew, you guys were great! It's not very often that the co-founder of a shoe company fills your water bottles and helps you change your dirty socks! Thanks Jeremy. Fred, you put on one hell of a race. The course markings were flawless, the aid station crews helpful, and the competition was great. I look forward to returning in the near future. My Altra Torrins held up to the challenge of 105 trail miles, not bad for a road shoe! Thanks Altra! VFuel supplied me with all the calories I needed, and for those who are wondering, I took one 100 calorie gel nearly every 20 minutes for the duration of the race. So about 55 gels in all, give or take. The stomach felt great the whole time too! My Ultimate Direction handhelds and Essential belt kept me light and efficient, and Swiftwick socks kept my feet feeling great! Griggs Orthopedics helps get me into these races, I can't forget to thank DR G for that. Finally, congrats to Jason for a flawless day and a well deserved win! You crushed it! It was great running with you as always. (Check out Jason's race report here!)
- Altra Zero Drop
- VFuel Endurance Gel (20% Off - JCA20)
- Griggs Orthopedics
- Ultimate Direction
- Swiftwick Socks
- Luna Sandals
Some links that may be of interest: