"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Friday, November 1, 2013

Flagstaff to Grand Canyon - Stagecoach Line 100 Race Report

While I've ran several hundreds, this race definitely had the longest name.  Its a mouthful.

I was in the Mood for a hundred.  I think running 1 or 2 a year is a good number for me, also I feel that as long as you're running fairly consistently, 1 or 2 hundreds a year is all that is required to maintain 100 mile fitness.  Just a guess though.

So before I knew it, I had registered for the inagural F2G 100.  I registered several weeks before running UROC, so I had it in the back of my mind that recovery from UROC was going to be key in getting ready for a 100 miler only 3 weeks after a very difficult 100K.  

I think I showed more restraint than usual, although I probably threw in a few too many hard efforts on the treadmill in week 2.  I did really show taper discipline and only ran once in the 4 days leading up to the race.  Furthermore, my roomate Katie was kind enough to stretch my legs out for me occasionally, even if I did complain the entire time.  

Several things appealed to me about F2G.  First, the late start on Saturday (2pm).  I knew the drive to flagstaff was a doozy, having done a similar road trip to the Grand Canyon a few months earlier.  Thinking I could stretch the trip into a nice long leisurely drive, poor planning and life got in the way.

First problem, I ended having a very important, can't miss, meeting on Friday afternoon in Boulder.  Secondly, both the folks who generously volunteered to crew/pace with me couldn't leave until Friday after-work.  Oh well, and thank god it was a late start.

Somehow, someway, we had no traffic down I-70 on the way to Moab.  Driving through Monument Valley under a full moon with no other cars in sight was a treat.  The guys were great, and insisted I catch some zzz's while they drove.

Sunset in the mtns driving down I-70

Polar bear express under a full moon

Look ma, no flash!

Long story short, we arrived in Flagstaff around 6:30am.  I think.  I can't really remember.  We ate breakfast at a diner featured in Diners Drive-ins and Dives which was a total let down.  You suck Guy Feiri.  

Then we drove to the race start, found the gate locked and decided we were early.  Time for a nap!

Woke up after about 45 minutes of sleep and decided to double check all my drop bags etc.  Got everything squared away and tried to go to the race start again.  This time, success!

This being a fairly small race it was a very relaxed atmosphere. I kind of felt like the odd man out as it seemed all the runners knew each other.  Def a locals event.  We took some pictures, Ian Torrence, the RD gave us a short speech, we clapped for some volunteers who were critical in making the race happen.  And then we lined up for gun and then we ran.

Pre-race words

Inaugural hundred milers

Sure, maybe I got a little caught up in the excitement of the race.  Maybe the fact that I was running next to ultralegend Eric Clifton also played a role in my early race excitability.  Regardless, I found myself throwing out the race plan early and shooting for the moon!

Honestly, the first 20 miles of this course is incredibly, undeniably, ultrarunnery, special.  A nice long gradual climb to seperate out the field, then a quick downhill, a brief stint on some county roads, and then my favorite part of the day.  A long but quick and smooth descent on buttery soft singletrack through aspen groves full of golden majesty.  Yeah, that good.

Glorious singletrack for miles (Photo by David Blanchard)

More Aspen Groves (Photo from F2G website)

Unfortunately during this section my nipples started to chafe.  Oye.  Coming into the aid station at mile 21, Andrew was quick to act and smartly taped my nips right up.  Now thats crewing!  I grabbed my headlamp and was back on the trail.

My initial race plan was to come into the mile 21.5 aid station at 3.5 hours.  Whelp, here am I running into the aid station at 2 hours and 53 minutes.  Crap thats way too fast.  At this point a lead pack had formed consisting of myself, Michael Versteeg and Brian Tinder.  We all agreed we were going out too hard.  And no one slowed down a step.  I should point out around this part of the story that both these guys beat me quite handily at UROC (by hours in fact) and I was well aware of this.  We continued our downhill gallop, occasionally a member of the pack would stop for a bathroom break or what-not but not much separation was gained.

Aid stations came and went, chicken broth was consumed, and darkness became the predominant theme.  Around mile 40 aid station, I pulled ahead of Brian who was struggling with some back spasms and found myself jogging along a dirt road all alone.  I tried to find a comfortable pace and decided to turn on a podcast to help keep me company.  Speedgoat Karl reminded me that "100 miles is not that far" and I kept moving along.  Sometime during this section three things happened 1) Mike caught up and passed me 2) I got really cold 3) I ran out of water. 

Slightly discouraged by Michael's easy pass, I tried to keep on motoring, but found myself floundering a little bit.  No biggie, I've run a long ways already today I reminded myself, just focus on maintaining your momentum.

Then a long dirt road section, and lights ahead, this must be a major aid station, where I knew my crew was waiting with warmer clothes, new shoes, etc.  I ran at a decent clip along the dirt road and too my surprise found Michael, who must have been having his own low spot, jogging down the road. Greetings, and rhythm were shared and we ran it into the aid station.  

My awesome crew was waiting, I put on my Sugoi Firewall tights (which I expected to be overkill but were perfect), and fixed some other things.  I think I ate some pizza too.  In a hurry to get out of the aid station and get moving again, I took off.  In retrospect I wish I had stayed at the aid station and fueled a little bit more.  I'm rusty at hundreds.

The next section was very challenging for me.  I could not stay on the trail for the life of me.  It wound in and out of scraggly juniper trees and the occasional wash-out would lead me astray.  Running down the path the water had carved all of a sudden my trail would dissapere under a tree or off a ledge and I'd realize I'd gone the wrong way and backtrack.  This theme continued for a while.

Michael soon caught up to me as a bumbled about in the woods, and I gladly let him guide me through this section.  Somewhere around mile 65 I felt fatigue hit me like a hammer and Michael ran on without me.  It was the last I'd see of him.  I bumbled around looking for trail a few more times but eventually found my way to the next aid station.  It was around then that my right eye started to bother me.  It became hazy.  Like looking through a glass of watered-down milk.  It only got worse as the night progressed, not helping my navigating skills.

Soon I found myself at mile 67 and picking up my pacer Mark.  Excited to gain some company and also wanting to try to catch up to Michael I did not stay at this aid station very long either.  Stupid.  Should have ate and drank, especially when I was starting to fight the sleep demon.  I wanted a nap damnit.

I don't remember many details from this section, except Mark kept me entertained with stories and did his best to keep me eating.  It seemed to go on forever and I felt like I was running in circles as we ran through an endless series of small descents and ascents.  My right hip flexor was starting to really bother me and I kept catching my right toe, as I couldn't lift the leg very well.  At least once we came to a few not-so-great marked junctions of trail and luckily always chose the correct path.  I also seem to recall attempting to show Mark my layup form while we were talking about basketball.  That ended poorly and the scabs from my crash are still healing.  I also started to think that my headlamp was getting dimmer and dimmer, but that seemed unlikely as I most lamps these days have regulators that maintain a constant brightness.  Some post-race reading informed me that the Petzl Myo does not have this feature.  Good to know.  Always use the Fenix from now on. 

Still in 2nd, Mark and I came running into the Hull cabin aid station where Andrew was waiting to pace me for the last 19.5.  Again I sat down and had some snacks, but probably not enough.  Then the unthinkable - 3rd place came running into the aid station, and he looked FRESH.  I hurried out, a mistake, wanting to put some distance between myself and 3rd.  A long climb after Hull and then back onto to trail, Andrew had to remind me occasionally where the trail was.  I swear, it was my dimming headlamp...  3rd place, Bret Sarnquist soon came jogging on by, looking very strong, man that guy ran a well paced race, big congrats to him.  I removed my contact thinking that was what was causing the problems with my eye, and my vision did not improve at all.  Needless to say I was quite worried, but there wasn't anything I could do about it at this point.

The sun was up, I felt maybe a little revitalized, but not much.  I was blown up and I knew it, things hurt, but the sleepiness and fatigue was the worst I've ever dealt with.  I could barely lift my right leg because my hip flexor hurt so badly.  So, I went into survival mode.  Quiet, trying to keep moving.  Andrew kept me company and kept me eating, but I knew that there was nothing left in the tank.  I went out too hard, went for the big W, and now I was suffering the consequences.  In retrospect, still totally worth it.  The first 60ish miles were so fun.  

A few more aid stations and then only 2.5 miles left!  I was so tired.  It was going to be over soon

Across the finish line and found a chair.  In typical fashion, I was not feeling so good.  Andrew and Mark got my cot set up for me and then I'm asleep.  When I woke up my eye was already feeling better.  Fatigue/cold/altitude/dry air, I'm still not sure the cause.  It was very weird. 

Ian hooked me up with my belt-buckle, the real prize for running a hundred, and we piled into the car for the drive back to Colorado.  With a quick stop at the Grand Canyon of course.

We got back to Denver at 4:30 am on Monday.  Wow.  What an insane series of events.  Would I do it again?  Yes.  Would I be able to talk Andrew and Mark into 72 hours of sleepless driving/running, I doubt it?  Thanks a ton to those guys for helping with the adventure. 

Final Thoughts
Ill try to remember to eat more at aid stations in the future and be in less of a hurry.  A hurry is fine for a 50 mile race, but 100 miles requires so much more attention to the little things.  My quads handled the run very well, it was my hip flexor that bothered me so much, I'm not used to running so much flat I think.  Perhaps running in a pair of Salomon Senses was too little shoe for that long of an event.  Going for it is fun, just be willing to suffer the consequences if you blow up.  The second half of the race course seemed much rockier and more technical than the first half.  Perhaps that is a good tidbit of advice for anyone racing this one in the future.  I suspect that this will become a very popular race down the road, and my pedestrian 19:30 won't even land in the top ten.

1 comment:

  1. Great Race report. It really gives good insight into how you were mentaly and physicaly. I have ran a marathon and 13 half marathons. I can't imagine how it would be to run for 19 hours plus.