This one is a long time coming and I almost just threw some photos up along with a short description. However, when I look at site statistics I can see that people search out race reports so I will add a little more context that originally planned. (All images from one of my pacers, Steven Mortinson)
This was my second time running Rio Del Lago 100. Both times it was a bit of an addition to the race schedule later in the year vs a planned race from the beginning. The first time we had just moved to Oregon after a hectic year of selling our home and everything that comes from getting settled into a new place. Rio was late in the year and about an 8 hour drive away so I threw in last minute. It was a less than stellar race but I kept my 100 mile race a year streak going.
This time was similar. After a DNF at Big Horn 100 I wanted to get in 100 to land my 10th completed 100 and keep the streak rolling. After analyzing what 100 mile races were left in the season, which qualified for a WS ticket, and was feasible with work and life I chose to go back to Rio. Luckily, my buddies Jordan and Steven said they'd crew and pace for me again so we hopped in the truck and headed south for Folsom, CA.
The course was different in this 2017 iteration. These first 20 miles were a loop that came back to the start/finish. This section was all paved save for a few short stints of single track and mostly flat. I undoubtedly went out too hard for a 100. "This pace feels easy" was the wrong thing to tell myself regardless of terrain. I jumped into that sugar burning zone too soon and would come to regret it later.
The next 20 or so miles hopped on some jeep type roads, single track, and a few hilly paved sections. There were various places along the course with inconsistent marking that were a problem for me throughout the day. Apparently there was some course vandalism as well. Multiple times I would see a bunch of markers then nothing for a long stretch. I'd turn around to see where I may have messed up only to find another runner asking the same question. We'd figure it out and get to the next place. Overall this inconsistent flagging didn't have that big of an impact on my time, it was just frustrating to keep encountering almost the entire race.
A not frustrating part of the course was how easy crew access was. There were huge parking lots right off the road with close access to a town. This made for straightforward crewing and access which is nice because it rained all day. Crewing in less than ideal weather is not fun so making the logistics a easier and simple makes the day a little easier for those waiting around. On top of that the aid stations were great. Very helpful, fun, and loaded with food options.
The course shares a few spots with the Western States 100 but stays out of the big stuff. There is only about 10k feet of gain for this whole thing. It comes at you weird though. The front 20 are pretty flat. The next 25 or so rolls with a pop here and there. The middle 30 have most of the meat. The last 25 roll as well. That faster running early along with a lack of taking care of myself properly hit me pretty hard around the 100k mark and I never really got it back. There was a whole lot of walking on the back half that probably could have been avoided with a little more care up front.
The last 25 were a mix of low energy and some puking here and there. Looking back, I really let my electrolytes get low and just couldn't really get it back together. Regardless, I finished 100 miler number 10 in 21:33. I checked a lot of the "standard issues 100 miler". I ran too fast, I got turned around a few times, it rained all day, vomiting, I walked way more than I wanted, I recieved great help from friends getting me through it. Looking forward to #11.
Goals for Mountain Lakes.
- Knock out another 100 miler to keep my streak at least one 100 every year going.
- Get in under 20 hours
- Enjoy this cool race with great scenery supported by my community of friends
The gun went off at 8 and myself and 100 plus crew of like minded folks started ready to take on the day and everything that was thrown at us. I settled into a sustainable pace and let 20 plus people pass me in the first few miles. I was probably a bit fast too but if there is one thing I have learned over the years doing these is that these events are so long that, within reason, you almost can't go slow enough.
I ran with a few folks early on in the first 26 or so making sure not to take on anyone else's pace and just keep doing my thing. I played the course and ran the flats and downs and power walked the hills. There was not a ton of climb on this course so I really made sure to pay attention to my perceived effort on even small climbs and if it felt like my HR was getting high I backed off and let things calm down.
I had some great friends helping me along the way too that I always looked forward to seeing as the day went on. Brian Donnelly crewed me early then paced and crewed me later. I didn't give him a ton of instructions because I hate to be a pain in the ass with tons of specific requests. It's enough to dedicate a weekend to helping someone run one of these things, it's another to stress them out with all these demands so I just like to keep it laid back. Again, there is a ton of time out here and I'd rather take an extra minute and keep it relaxed then create a feeling of panic every time I see these people. With that said he was on point. He gave me full bottles of Tailwind and had a few solid food snacks ready when I saw him at crew stops. No wasted time or effort. It was about as efficient I could have hoped.
My buddy Jordan came out to help as well and run the 17 mile section around Timothy Lake. He also did double duty by running the last 30 with another racer Robbie O'Grady later on. We've spent a lot of miles together but none like this in this race setting. It felt just like any other run though. We chatted, kept moving, sang a little and kept it light. My goal was sub 20 hours. I was ahead of that pace the first 55 and the goal through this section with Jordan was the same. Keep the pace under 12 minute miles and keep building the buffer. Success. Jordan dropped me off back at the aid station after a few hours together where I fueled up on some solids, threw on a slightly warmer layer then headed out into the night with Brian to finish this thing off.
My left quad had started barking on the lake loop and was getting progressively worse. I could still move but running and especially maintaining much was becoming a problem. "Luckily" a lot of this back portion of the course is climbing back up to the start and my power walk was working for the most part. I settled in and just kept hiking and hiking. This wasn't the finish I was hoping for. I really wanted to push on this back section but the body was not having it so I just kept to task. Brian and I would talk for a bit then he'd stop and check on keeping me fueled up. I'd drink or eat a little something and keep leaning into knocking this thing out. We'd move in and out of aid stations making sure not to waste too much time and just kept moving forward as slowing down had made sub 20 a little harder than expected. There was no magic to be had, no sprint finish here, just stubborn forward motion and I was lucky to have Brian there to provide some extra motivation and the occasional push. We finally popped off the trail and back to the finish in 19 hours and 47 minutes. Good enough for 6th overall.
I checked all the boxes for my goals on this one. Another year another 100 - check (8 years). Go sub 20 - check. Enjoy the race - check. What more can you ask for on 100 mile finish number 9? Not much really. Would I have liked a better time? Sure. Does this race let me know I could go faster? Yes. Ultimately that is what these things are all about. Can you ever put all the puzzle pieces together at an exact point in time and walk away 100% satisfied? I doubt it. So, I'll do another one and keep trying.
Lastly, GoBeyond nails it. They put on great races with a excellent vibe throughout. The views are killer and the aid is top notch. This course is tough enough to be interesting but not so hard that it is unapproachable to the first timer or perhaps the slower runner and gives plenty of chances for those looking to "lay one down."
"Persist. Resist." "The Obstacle is the Way." "I can make this good." "You knew this would happen now react to it and don't let it get you down." These along with a few other little sayings rattled around in my head during my 8th 100 mile finish at the Chimera 100.
I'm not normally one to get into the philosophical side of racing. I've always felt like I could just dig deep and keep going because that is mostly how I am wired for life in general. No need for me to train my brain for anything. However I noticed something about myself over the last year. I lost my edge. I know a ton of factors played into it. The stress of moving the entire family across the country and everything that comes from effectively having to start fresh in both my work and personal life was a huge weight on my mind. There are so many little things that I didn't account for. Before I moved I knew the all the routines because I'd been doing them for years. Now everything is new. Where to get groceries? What routes to run? Who do I call when issues XYZ comes up? How do I drive from point A to point B? It just took time to figure these things out and because of that everything seemed a little unknown and frankly I didn't feel settled.
I also have been in this sport a while. This is my 10th season running ultras. They became part of the routine. In contrast to the above this comfort level was hurting me. I know I can complete about anything I am thrown into. I've done it enough that even my bad days are good enough to land me above the midline. I noticed that when I'd get uncomfortable in a race, I'd back off. I'd tell myself "take it easy, you'll finish. no reason to get bent out of shape." While that sort of attitude has its place it doesn't line up with my goals. I'd finish a race and think that I didn't run the race that I wanted or that I was physically capable of. After I finished Waldo 100k back in August, I put my foot down. I'm done with this half assed approach it is time for a change and that change has nothing to do with running.
I started trying to really concentrate while training. Thinking about how I felt, concentrating on understanding the moment. No headphones, no disconnecting, no zoning out. I knew I needed this mental conditioning. In parallel the Sport Psychologist from the Seattle Seahawks, Dr. Michael Gervais, came and spoke at work. I am as anti Seahawks as it gets but the timing could not have been better. It was all about being present, about practicing excellence in the moment. It clicked. That was it. Don't think about the big picture. Think about the now and be in the now. On top of this I was talking with a training buddy Bill and he mentioned the book "The Obstacle is the Way" by Ryan Holiday. I immediately got the audio book and started listening. This book focused on how to deal with situations. Don't put a label of good or bad on something. Accept that it is a thing that is happening and deal with it. A flood of information came at me at the exact right time and I used these strategies to mentally prepare for this last race of the year as well as try to snap this streak of so-so races.
Usually I would go into a lot of details about this race and walk through it all from start to finish but not for this report. I am going to call out a few situations where this new mindset and mental training paid off big time. If you are curious about the course you can see the RD's provided GPX file that I uploaded on Strava for logging purposes below. Know that this course is riddled with big climbs of 3000+ feet, technical rocky footing, long quad crushing down hills, was very lightly marked, required constant review of a turn by turn sheet that I just happened to print the night before, and I went at it solo with no crew or pacers as it seemed too much of a pain in the ass to drag my friends or family around this remote location.
Start Line - This race is loosely organized and just know that theme is felt throughout. It is not bad by any stretch as the aid stations were excellent but packet pickup, course markings, race information leading up to race day, even the pre race briefing were all lacking for those who really want a lot of details. The race was supposed to start at 6am. The RD decided to let the sun come out a little more so we did not have to wear our headlamps on some of the early technical sections. He even said "the race will start in 15 minutes!" through his megaphone. I decided to run back to my car and drop off my long sleeve shirt and headlamp as I didn't need them anymore. My car could not have been more than .2 of a mile from the start so getting there and back in just a few minutes was going to be pretty easy. No sooner did I throw my stuff in the back seat and shut the door did I see everyone running towards me. "What happened to 15 minutes?" I asked. A few runners said that the group convinced the RD that it was light enough and to start the race. I ran back to the Start so my chip would register then worked my way back toward the pack.
In the past this would have really weighed on me. Not today. This thing happened and now I deal with it. There is no reason to sprint to the front as it is just a waste of energy. I had many miles and hours ahead so I relaxed and just did exactly what I would of had I done had I been at the normal start. This was such a freeing feeling. I immediately forgot about what happened and just executed on the present. The start was not ideal but it was out of my control and that moment was gone. I worked on this moment at hand. I found a couple of other guys that were about my pace, Paublo and Shannon, and just cruised and talked with them the first 12 miles. I was relaxed, fueling and feeling great. That missed start was all but forgotten.
Heat of the day - There was not a cloud in the sky and my softening to heat since moving to Portland was definitely felt. It was just before the middle of the race where I tend to have a slump anyway. I was a little behind on calories and fluids and could tell. In the past I may have just tried to muscle though it and ultimately pay for it later with having to dig myself out of a massive hole. Today I was listening to my body thinking about the right now and how I can practice excellence in the moment. To be excellent right now for this situation I needed to get back on track with the fuel and slow down. My brain and body were anxious. I had been moving up in the standings all day and was now running close to the top 10. I didn't want to slow down. I pushed those thoughts to the side and worked on the now. Any exposed section that trended uphill, I power hiked. I drank and drank Tailwind until I had 400 calories in me over the course of 90 minutes and suddenly things changed. I was getting stronger, feeling less fatigued at just the perfect time. The heat of the day was passing and I was ready to move. A passage from The Obstacle is the Way popped into my head. "Sometimes we must slow down to speed up."
Mile 90 - The day progressed without many other issues. I was playing the course. Running anything down or flat and hiking all the uphills. I had found a running partner in Nikki Kimball, yes that Nikki Kimball. I was a bit star stuck at first. This is someone I knew through her amazing running talents and now I was running with her through the night. We stuck close as our paces matched up. We helped each other navigate the course when ribbons were lacking and directions were questionable. We swore, laughed, complained about course markings, and talked about life all while making our way up and down the mountains. It was an amazing experience to spend time with such a talented runner and caring person.
Close to 81 miles the wheels started to come off. I was eating solid foods and drinking coke but something wasn't right. I assumed it to just be a low spot and kept moving forward. Nikki was moving better than I so we parted ways while I tried to get myself together after the aid station. I had a long 7 mile down hill that I kept moving on. Using gravity to pull me along as I knew I needed to keep moving here as I had to turn right back around and go up this 7 mile climb plus another few after the aid station before the course would trend down to the finish.
I hit the aid station at mile 88 and just stood there. Usually I am talking to the volunteers, but today I was that weirdo guy out of it barely talking. I didn't want to make these guys nervous so I just sat down for a few and tried to eat and collect myself. I didn't stay long as there was only 12 or so miles from here and I wanted to be done. I knew the next 8 miles were uphill so I took some food and just started walking. I was out of it big time and after about 3 miles of slow walking, I sat down and put my head on my knees to take a nap.
I knew this was bad news so I got up and tried to eat something and ended up puking it back up. That puking helped. I felt a little better and marched along for a bit until I was getting dizzy and sleepy again. I sat down again until another runner heading down into the AS talked to me a bit. I got back up until a 3rd time where I laid down. I decided I was just going to nap for a minute so I could get back to the AS. Then I'd sleep there for a bit until I could get myself together. Just as I started nodding off, another runner asked if I was ok. I told him no and that I was having trouble staying awake. He handed me a caffeinated gel and gave some encouraging words. My stomach was weird so I stared at this gel for a few seconds not wanting to eat it. Then my mental training kicked in. "The Obstacle is the Way!!!" my inner voice shouted. This gel was my obstacle, not the race, not getting to the aid station, not breaking 24 hours. This once ounce packet of sugary, goopy, hell was going to do one of two things. It was going to make me sick or get me out of this dizzy funk I was in. There was no option to avoid it as something had to change. I ate the it and immediately felt better. I was low blood sugar and that gel turned it all around. Thanks to that runner for helping me out!
The Finish - I was back in it and still had time after this massive blowup to get under 24 hours but I had to work. I charged hard to the aid station. No time to waste, I grabbed a few more gels and flew out of there. My mind was focused on the task at hand. Anything remotely runnable I had to run. I had to own the down hills and be relentless the last 8 miles to get there before that clock flipped past 24.
I blew though the last two aid stations just yelling my bib number and thanking the aid stations volunteers for their help. Still unsure if I could break 24 hours or not I pounded the 3 miles down hill until I hit the entrance to the campground roughly a 1/2 mile before the race finish. I then looked at my watch. Just like always my math brain failed me. I had plenty of time to make it under 24 and crossed in 23:32. Good enough for 6th overall.
I rallied through a missed start, a bad patch during the heat of the day, countlessly questioning if I was on course, a little puking, and even a few micro naps all by removing the label from the situation. It was not a good saturation or a bad situation it was just a thing that was happening. I removed emotion from these detours and took them head on. I pushed through what appeared to be a negative situation until it became a positive. Each time becoming mentally stronger and more confident.
Wrapping up - I possessed the physical tools already to complete a 100. I trained hard in the months leading up to this race. I ran lots of miles and put in a ton of vert. However In these closing moments of this race I knew it was this time spent on the mental side that paid the biggest dividend.
As always I have to thank my family for putting up with this silliness of a sport. Thank you to the other runners that supported me and helped me out when I was feeling rough. A giant thank you to the aid stations that were out of sight good. You gave up your weekend to help a bunch of runners achieve their goals and your contribution to our success is not small.
The last few months have been a whirlwind. I've ran a race, worked a bunch, signed up and have been training for another race, and directed a race. I'm not even sure where to start on this post which means I need to do a better job of keeping it up to date.
Let's start with Waldo 100K. I was really trying to key in on this race but those two ankle sprains from July really pushed my specific training back and I ended up concentrating on just getting healthy. I avoided a lot of the technical stuff and big down hills which were the major irritant to my ankle. Waldo does not have much from a technical trail standpoint but does have a few long descents that I'd of liked to attack a little harder but played it safe. Overall everything held up and I landed right around where I thought I would which was between 12 and 13 hours. My time was 12:15:44 good enough for 19th overall. I know that I left some time out there by not having that "killer instinct." I didn't push too hard when things were uncomfortable and they were given this thing took place above 5k. However, given that I had been dealing with some injuries coming in I wanted to get though this thing in one piece and just enjoy the day on a killer, well organized course. Mission accomplished.
So..... what happens when a race does not go as well as you would have liked? You sign up for another one of course! I took a hard 2 weeks off after Waldo to recover and let that big effort soak in knowing full and well that I was going to get in one more big effort before the year closed out. I went back and forth on a few things. Attempted to find a 100 that would get me a lotto ticket for Hard Rock but ultimately determined that nothing out there fit into my schedule. My RD duties at the Mark Twain Endurance Runs take a lot of time and effort, not to mention toll on my body from a rest standpoint. I end up taking off almost a week of work to put the event on so to even attempt to travel somewhere else in the month of September to get in that Hardrock qualifier was just not happening. I settled on Chimera 100. It looks to be a tough one with lots of climb and technical trail. I am a fan of these because it means I get walking breaks on the climbs! (We'll see if I am still a fan 70 miles in) This will probably be one of my last big efforts for a while with the new baby on the way. I figured I might as well go big.
It is really simple from here. Run and climb a bunch. So far I am on track.