2:30 AM wake up. Way too early! Some last minute details to go, a quick bite to eat and we’re out the door. About a ½ mile to the start we decide to have Julia drive myself, Joe Carrara, Mike Weigand & Charlie Cowan to the start. Sounds kind of lame to be driven ½ mile but it’s chilly out, high 30’s and we are wearing extra layers to keep warm until the 4:00 AM gun start. Once we are there, we all sign in and back head back to the car to stay warm. What to wear? Mike Arnstein says we have to go shirtless, right from the start. I don’t think so. Maybe later but not right now. So I decide to wear a singlet figuring we will be warming up with a fast pace right from the start. With about 5 minutes to go, we get ready at the start. No signs of bare chested Mike Arnstein, not even Anton is shirtless. I’m glad today I listened to myself and at least wore a singlet. Forgot an extra pair of gloves to wear though, that would have been nice.
4:00 AM Finally the gun goes off and so do 643 runners in all shapes and sizes. The first leg is about a 5 mile non-technical run slightly downhill to Turquoise Lake. I head out with the lead pack which is probably 20 or so runners. Soon I settle into a comfortable pace, running in the dark with headlamp on. I look over and who do I see but Mike Arnstein with a winter hat, tights and long sleeve shirt. I run along side to say high, “What’s with the winter clothing?”. Mike replies, “It’s cold out”. It’s kind of quiet out and not much noise from any of the runners. I don’t recognize many but I see Anton just in front of me and someone else points out Hal Koerner. Still, no one is pushing the pace and we go onward in sort of a quiet mode heading towards the lake. Just before the lake there is a short uphill climb along a power line. At this point the pack seems to spread out a bit, which is good as the trail along the lake is a narrow single track that winds along the shore line for 6 or 7 miles. On the trail, the pack seems to spread out even more. I settle in behind Mike. Almost immediately I trip and go down hard, landing on my hands. The trail is not very technical but has its share of rocks and roots. I figure I always fall at some point so hopefully this is it. I quickly get up and keep on running. The rest of the run is uneventful and kind of quiet. Soon we arrive at the May Queen aid station, mile 13.5 at about 5:45 AM. Wow, really close to my planned time. The night before I had come up with a race plan. I looked at AJW’s split times from last year and figured that was a reasonable place to start finishing just under 20 hours. If it was a good day maybe I would be faster, if not, slower but it was a place to start. Joe, Mike, Charlie and Nate all had done the same with varying times to shoot for. And Mike had made up some pace cards for all of us to carry along too. At May Queen I had a drop bag but didn’t need anything so I quickly topped off one of my water bottles, grabbed a ¼ p b&j and back out on the trail I went. So far so good but I wasn’t feeling 100%. Not sure but it just seemed like it was taking more effort today and my body was achy, sort of like a low grade fever.
The next 10 mile leg consisted of a short section on the Colorado Trail gradually climbing to Hagerman Rd., then it was an uphill climb on Sugarloaf Mtn. getting to an elevation of 11,100, the second highest part of the course. So far so good, and daylight was starting to appear as well as some warming temps. Once at top of Sugarloaf, it was a 4-5 mile decent along the power line. The trail was more like a jeep trail with decent footing but it kept going and going. Luckily we had run this section days earlier but from the opposite direction so I was somewhat familiar with it. I tried to conserve a bit knowing that it was way early in the race and hammering down would not be a good thing for the hammies. I was running mostly alone but never far from other runners. Soon I arrived on a paved road which was about a mile from the next aid station. I looked at my watch and again, right on schedule as planned. When I arrived at the Fish Hatchery Aid Station, friends Aliza & Chad where there to greet me. They were running the TransRockies Stage Race starting on Sunday so came by to cheer us on and help where needed. Also there was Julia, our shared crew for the early stages of the race and then she would pace for Mike. A quick stop to drop off the headlamp, top off the fluids, grab a quick bite to eat and back out on the trail, or for this section, the road.
For the next 4 miles, it was road, wide open prairie type landscape with surrounding mountains. Lots of crew vehicles driving along at this point getting ready for their runners. This was a section where you could make up some time if you were a road runner. Then there was the Treeline area, another power line but mostly flat and straight. There were some runners ahead and many behind all just cruising along. At one point, I could hear a bunch of runners yelling and finally looked back. Apparently I had missed a turn along with another runner ahead of me. I quickly whistled up and got his attention and flagged him down. Nice thing about these ultra’s, most of the runners are very friendly and helpful. A little more flagging would have been helpful as when we are running along, we sometimes have a hard time seeing and the more obvious the better. Now it would be another 4 miles to the next aid station. This part was mostly jeep type trails, nothing too difficult skirting along the foothills of the larger mountains. At the next aid station, Half Moon, the volunteers where happy to see us and offered the usual snacks and fluids. I grabbed my drop bag for a quick refill of my drink mix and gel, grabbed a pb&j and onward. The next section was about 9 miles or so with a combination of jeep trails and then nice single track. I came across Jason Lantz along this section and we chatted a bit. Jason and I spent a lot of time running together at the VT 100 last year. Soon the jeep trail turned to the Colorado Trail which was really nice single track through the trees with the last part a long downhill to the next aid station. On one the sections I was cruising downhill and tripped on a log. Good thing as this was the wrong way, again. Back track and back on the trail. The rest of the downhill was fun, mostly soft footing until closer to the end where it was more loose rock but still fun right up to the Twin Lakes Aid Station. Julia was there to greet me with my drop bag. I quickly grabbed a new supply of electrolyte pills, fluids, had a quick snack and out the door. My time was still on track but I was still feeling achy and every time I took a sip from the bottle my arms hurt. Maybe that fall earlier was harder than I thought.
|Jack at the 1st stream crossing|
Next up, the stream crossing and other water before Hope Pass. There were some other water holes most of which you could get around. Then the bigger stream. Aliza and Chad were there to cheer me on as I waded through. The cold water felt good until I was almost at the other side and then the numbness and pain sunk in. The water was really cold! It took a little while for the feet to warm and now they were soaked too. I slowly worked my way to the trail going up Hope Pass and was chatting with Thomas, from California. He had some poles for the hike up which he was adjusting for the climb. This section for the next 4 miles or so was fairly steep and I power hiked most of it. Finally I broke out of the trees and could see the top of Hope Pass and the Hopeless Aid Station. Once I arrived at Hopeless, I had a quick cup of soup, said hi to Vicky (one of the Lama owners), saw my favorite lama, Corky and continued on. Lot of switchbacks to the top but once there the views were spectacular. The elevation at 12,600 didn't seem to be a problem, especially doing more power hiking. Next was the long downhill to the road. Again, I took it conservatively knowing there would be a lot more downhill hammy trashing to go later on. It was fun going though. Soon I was back in the trees heading steeply down and finally to the road. Another 2.5 miles to the next aid station where there would also be a weigh-in. Weigh-ins get me nervous as I always lose a lot of weight initially to the point of almost getting pulled out, but then I level off for the rest of the day. But today I felt different. I felt fat midway through where I usually have lost 6-10 pounds. Today I even had to loosen my waist pack, not good. At Winfield I arrived again on schedule and was greeted again by Aliza. I got on the scale and was only off my pre-race weight by 1/10 of a lb. Something was wrong, I was retaining fluids and even my fingers looked swollen, never seen that before. Aliza suggested I cut back on the electrolytes even though I had taken less than usual already but I listened to her advice. A quick bite to eat, replenish fluids and back on the road for another 2.5 miles with Aliza running along side until the uphill climb back up Hope Pass. After leaving Winfield's I also developed a strong stomach ache. No bathrooms around and no leaves worthy in the woods. I quess I'll have to wait to Hopeless.
|Glen Redpath, my Hope Pass pacer|
On the road from Winfield's I passed by Joe Carrara and Nate Sanel as they were running up to Winfield's, part of our Eastern crew. They were both looking strong and were not that far behind. While on the road, I also came across Glen Redpath driving with Chad. I didn't know it but Glen was also running the TransRockies race the next day. I jokingly told Glen he had to pace me up Hope Pass and when I got to the trail, there he was waiting to go, excellent! Glen and I have spent many hours on the trails running together.
|Joe heading up the backside of Hope Pass|
The climb up was slow and steady going up and up and up. Not too far up, Mike Weigand passed by as he was heading down and then Charlie Cowan too. They were looking great and this was their first hundred. Soon we were out of the trees and could see the steep ascent with switchbacks to the top of the pass. Glen was great, telling me when to drink on schedule and to swing my arms. Then he had me eating too. GU time he said so I grabbed a GU. Not good. It went in, it came out. Then I got into a heaving session but nothing else was coming out. I don't mind purging if it's going to be productive but this was only hurting my belly more. After about 4 attempts, I sucked it up and continued on. I had a little bit to drink and felt better. Onward ho. Soon we reached the summit and ran down to Hopeless where I found the temporary facilities behind the tarp. Much, much better meanwhile Glen is yelling at me to hurry up. I thought for time savings but no, he needed to use the facilities. A quick drink, food, replenishing of fluids and down we went. We were off to a slow trot. My body was aching and I was doing all I could to run. Usually this would be the fun part as I really enjoy the hills. We came across Hal Koerner, I guess he wasn't having a great day either. Then I came across Sherpa John. He still had to go up and over and back. He was looking a bit tired and I hi 5'd him as I went by. John was attempting the Grand Slam this year. Hopefully he would make it in time. Glen and I continued on with Glen pushing me to run. I was having difficulties but still able to run most of it with the occasional walk thrown in. Finally we were out of there and now had the final mile or so to cross the stream and then to the Twin Lakes Aid Station. Glen had all he could do to keep me running as my body was not happy. While crossing the stream I had an extended stay. The water felt great this time through and I got my head wet and got in deeper to fully immerse the quads. The final slog to the aid station and Glen was done. At Twin Lakes, Julia was there with my bag and helped me change my shoes and socks. She even arranged for a pacer for me. I thought that would help me get going. I refueled, ate, grabbed more electrolytes but had a hard time getting out of the chair. Meanwhile, friend Joe Carrara came in. Even with his not so good knee, he was able to catch me on the downhill. Joe was looking strong and pumped to keep going. I met my pacer, Greg, from Lincoln, Nebraska and off we went. Joe was right there too.
|Hal after Hope Pass|
And up we went, and up and up on the Colorado Trail. It was slow and steady but I was still passing some other runners. Joe had moved ahead and was doing great. He hadn't run a hundred since 2005 so I was hoping he would be able to hold it together. He was in the best shape of his life and had trained really hard this year so I was confident he could pull it off in style. Meanwhile, my pace was not getting any faster. Greg would try to pull me along and I ran some sections, slowly. We even caught up to Mike Arnstein, to my surprise and his. I guess he was not doing so good either. He would run for a while, then walk. We kept this up for a short time, then my body just wouldn't run any more. I had no energy and my body ached. And I still felt like I was retaining fluids. It was a slow walk to Half Moon and not much different up to the Treeline crew access. There Greg was to be replaced with another friend of his. At that point I didn't see any reason to have a pacer walk with me. I even thought of DNFing...but no, I couldn't do that. I came all this way, damn it, I'm going to enjoy the night even if I have to walk all the way to the finish. I was trying to figure in my head when I might arrive at the finish if I could average 3 miles/hour. I could possibly still get in under 25 hours, not plan A but I could live with that. Could that be possible? It was starting to get dark now as I was leaving Treeline heading off to the road section towards Fish Hatchery. The road was long and unforgiving. I tried to run, but no going. The body was not following. I arrived at Fish Hatchery as darkness set in. I enjoyed my stay there, grabbed some warmer clothing, a second headlamp, ate some wonderful potato soup while chatting with other folks and off I went. Next up, Sugarloaf Mtn.
The climb up Sugarloaf was slow and quiet except for the buzzing sound of the power line overhead. I could see a light up ahead and one below but no one was making it any faster. Finally up on the top I came across another runner bent over, purging. At a low point. We chatted while we were walking along and he was attempting 100 # 3 of the Grand Slam. I told him DNFing was not an option and that he was going to finish. Soon he was feeling better and took off. After Sugarloaf, it was down the Colorado Trail and off to the final aid station, May Queen. May Queen had a nice warm inviting tent set up with food and drink and chairs. A dangerous place to get too comfortable. I grabbed more potato soup and was trying to figure out in my head where I was at with time. I can walk quite fast and was now looking like I could possibly break 24 hours, amazing. I grabbed some chocolate cookies and stored those in my pocket for later on and out I went into the cold.
The almost full moon was shining on Turquoise Lake and it even kept it somewhat bright in the woods. About halfway around the lake I came across another runner going slower than me. I laughed as it was Mike Arnstein again. He thought I was stalking him. We chatted and then I passed him as I was walking faster than him. Not far from there I could hear another runner approaching. It was Nate Sanel, a running client of mine. I was getting worried that he had fallen back but no, he was in great spirits and really enjoying the run. We chatted for a short time and then I told him he had to get going. He hooked up his tunes and happily ran off with his pacer Jeff, tryng now to break 23 hours to the finish. While we were chatting, Mike Arnstein had another surge of energy and ran by again. Will I see him before the finish? From there it was out of the woods and onto the road for the long slog uphill to Leadville. This seemed to take forever. With about 2 miles to go on this long uphill dirt road I could see a light in the distance up front and one way behind. Up front it could be Mike or Nate, behind it could be anyone. I kept tripping on some loose rocks and was getting annoyed. I wanted this over. Believe it or not, I found just a little bit on energy to do a run walk combo for a while and all the way to the final 1/2 mile to the finish. I was along the road and turned off my light as there was enough light to see without it. Suddenly I realized it was Nate just ahead of me and slowly caught up. He had no idea until he looked back and saw me. He freaked when he saw me and took off in a fast sprint to the finish. I told him he better run and laughed all the way to the finish. I finished in 23 hours and 7 minutes, about a minute behind Nate. Not that far behind, Charlie Cowan finished in 24 hours and 24 minutes while Mike Weigand with Julia Lewis pacing him, finished in 27 hours and 36 minutes. Joe Carrara had a great race, even though he slowed down near the end too, finishing in 21 hours and 50 minutes. So we flatlanders from the East all made it in, finishing in respectable times.
|Mike, Charlie, Jack & Joe|
THE GEAR: For the first 60 miles I ran in the new Mizuno Wave Cabrakan 2's which were fabulous. After the second stream crossing I changed over to the original florescent orange Cabrakan's opting for dry feet and fresh socks. I wore the Mizuno shorts and singlet most of the race but at nightfall as temps were dropping I put on a fresh Mizuno tech T and used the Cabrakan shell which is the ultimate lightweight shell and it was awesome. Thanks Colin!
Although this turned out to not be my day it still was a great experience. We've had a great time training hard for the past 6 months, had a spectacular week in Leadville leading up to the race and are now looking forward to next year. Hardrock?? We will see. As I look back I try to find where I lost time. Not every day can be right on. The fall I had early on may have been more serious than I thought as 5 days later, my wrists are still swollen and ache and I have lost some motion. Was my nutrition off too, why was I retaining water? And was this too close to the Burning River 100, only 3 weeks prior to Leadville.