My 1st 100 miles Ultra – Umstead 100
Yesterday morning I completed my 1st 100 miles race. What an amazing experience it was. All the training, paying attention to the minor details paid off in big time. I was able to come in well under my number one goal of finishing in under 24 hours, with a finish time of 22:36:52. The weather was great for most of the day and the event, coordinator, volunteers, crew and my pacers were outstanding. I could not have such a great race without them. Thank you all for the support, words of encouragement during training, during the event, and after the event. Special thanks for those texts, audio and video files that provided me with extra encouragement at the different point of the event.
But most importantly, huge thanks to my wife and daughter for all your patience during all the training, help with crewing me and for being there for me at the event, LOVE YOU BOTH!
Below is the race recap,
Loop 1: Weather was great, fresh legs this morning and feeling excited. I slept well for the past few days and that helped me feel good for this. We started on time at 6:00 AM. I was amazed to see, especially in the long stretch of the initial 2 miles the river of headlamps ahead and behind. Like looking at white fireflies bouncing in groups. I held back a bit with few runners and talked and enjoyed their company. As I planned, I stopped briefly at each water station and aid station to take water and Gatorade. I took one of my gels about three-quarters of the way. Also drinking my energy drink between stations since I knew hydration and calorie intake was key for these long events. I tackle the up-hills with no problem and that gave me confidence.
John and Mike were able to come around with the bikes and tagged along for a few miles. We talked and shared ideas and plan for the event. Both of them are accomplished runners and the conversation allowed me to keep an easy pace and my mind away from thinking about what was ahead.
Loop 2: I was very fortunate to get Lot A for the assigned parking lot. Since that lot was the closest to the start/finish area, about 200 meters and along the course. That allowed me to quickly crossed the start/finish and get to the home base where I had all my supplies. I replace my energy drink bottle, grabbed my snack of choice for this loop and energy chews. And lube all the areas that could cause chafing problem in the future. This was key for me as I want it to prevent and address issues early rather than later.
Headed out fairly quick for my second loop, grabbed my phone and send out a couple of messages as I was walking the first uphill after the start/finish which I was going to use to eat, message and sanity check. On the way out came across with John and Mike again, they asked me about the transition and wished me good luck with the event. Also after the turnaround, I was able to see Edwin and his wife looking strong during their adventure.
By this time I was finding my self in a good decent but solid pace. A few miles in the loop I tried to turn the I-pod shuffle that I had for this segment but it won’t turn on. I tried a different thing but apparently, it lost all the charge or something from last night. All is well, things happen and I continue without the audio for this loop. Same plan for the stations, this time enjoying some Shortbread Girls Scout cookies I brought with me. The weather was still perfect for running with somewhat overcast skies.
Loop 3: At the home base, another quick turnaround, more lube, replenishing fuel and off I go. It was great to receive a few texts of encouragement that I was able to read on my watch. Since the event set up a notification system for people to follow their favorite participant by texting them every time we crossed a checkpoint with some stats.
I am still feeling really good, taking in fluids and food. This loop I opted to grab some Cameos (a sweet cream-filled cookie, similar to Vienna Fingers) and an Almond Butter sandwich. They settle pretty well, especially the sandwich as I was taking my time eating it. By this time I grabbed my other headset that works with my phone for audio. I used it a bit halfway in this loop. The temperature started to rise, still comfortable but I knew what was coming for later in the day. In the latter part of this loop, I notice that when I was taking water (cold water) my stomach was taking some time to feel ok with it. So It quick took smaller sips to let the water to warm up. I also started to walk some of the more challenging hills.
Loop 4: I grabbed my last pre-filled energy drink and some more gels, and clementines, but forgot to take my electrolyte tablet that I was planning to use later in this loop. Even with having well-marked Zip-Lock bags for each loop. I ate some more as I went out, but notice that my in my stomach food was not settling as smooth as I want it. I knew that fuel is key for this event and that needed to take control of the situation if I want it to meet my goals. I slowed down a bit and took longer, but smaller bites to what I was carrying to minimize any irritation and allow for the digestion to happen.
During the last 3-4 miles of this loop, I met Jimmy and we talked about the experience so far and previous events. We ran together to the finish really strong, as we were getting close I saw my Wife, Daugther, my sister and brother in law cheering for me. It was thrilling and I felt a burst of energy that allowed me to finish really good.
I was feeling good still and I was running just a bit faster than the target pace. Not too much, just a few seconds faster, but in 100 miles, those seconds accumulate and that was a good thing for me. Although still managing my fuel intake I was really happy at this time how well I was feeling. Yes, I was tired and by the end of this loop, I had completed my longest consecutive run, by crossing the 47 miles mark and finishing the loop at 50 miles completed. In this event, there is an option to stop and count the event as a 50 miles race, since I was feeling good and I felt I was going to be able to finish I decided to continue to complete the 100.
Loop 5: At the home base I happy to see my wife and daughter that there were there to crew me. Ready there to help was Brian Eller, who was going to help pace me in this loop. Also to my surprise, my sister and brother in law were there with a huge smile and ready to jump in to help.
I decided to change shoes and socks, get a clean shirt on. More lube, more fuel and this time my daughter brought me some additional options for snacks. I opted for Cheezits and they were perfect, salty and delicious snack food. This transition took a little bit longer but that was ok. Brian kept reminding me that I was well ahead of schedule and in a good shape. We headed out, always walking that 1st up-hill while I ate something. Stomach was still not great and took a little bit longer to settle still we opted to start jogging a bit to make some time.
Between mile 54-55 you will encounter the 1-mile long hill, at that time I started to listen to some of the audio that friend and families shared with me in preparation for the event. I really brought memories from childhood when I was reminded to the long bicycle road trips with two of my best friends in middle school, where we went out for multi-town cruising. Every time looking to see how far we could go and find the limits of our endurance. Those memories helped me out forget about the hill and the many miles to come as I was already in uncharted endurance territory.
Having Brian as the 1st pacer was great. We talked almost the whole way about many things, including his experience last year when he tackled this event with horrendous weather conditions. That kept my mind away from the miles and any discomfort since even tho it was warm I was having a great day and good weather conditions. At this time I was still stopping at every water and aid station for a quick short drink. By this time temperatures were hitting the 70s and very humid. You could feel the humidity very dense in the air.
With about one and a half miles to go, as planned, I took a caffeinated gel with plenty of water in preparation for the next loop. The reasoning was to stay awake and alert since the following loops were going to be in the dark. We shugged along the miles and we made it safely back to the Start/Finish area. I was so surprised that we did not need to use the headlamp, my original time plan included using it halfway during this loop. That by itself gave me a huge shot of confidence that I was doing great.
Loop 6: Chad, my second pacer, was there waiting for me. I changed my running shirt, reloaded fuel and drink and headed out. Both of them kept telling me that I was doing great and well ahead of my A goal for the event. I believe them and relaxed a bit while walking the 1st uphill. Sugars were doing great, sometimes a tad on the high side, sometimes a tad low but within the healthy range that I want it to be. As we continued in loop 6, Chad was also great in keeping my mind away from the distance. We talked about everything we could imagine and he brought tons of humor to the lap. We talked about previous events, some we ran together and other big events that he ran and enjoyed. After mile 70 and now in the cover of darkness, I notice a little bit of wobbling in my run. Chad asked how I was doing, I think he noticed that as well, I said “ok”. My sugars were good, my legs although sore and tired were holding up fine but the transition from sunlight to nighttime got me a little bit sleepy. I remember closing my eyes once in a while and feeling good. But I knew I could not continue to do that, so I turned my music on soft in the background while we continue to talk for the rest of the loop.
Loop 7: Jonathan was ready for me. Both, Jon and Chad, helped me get ready, going thru the checklist I prepared. I am glad they were there because at this time I was forgetting a few things and they kept me on track. Once again they kept reminding me that I was doing great, looking strong and well ahead of schedule. Said goodbye to Chad and we headed out to second to the last loop. Once again we talked about tons of topics. Jon asked how I was doing, I responded I was doing ok, my stomach had not recovered that great yet. I was still holding fuel and fluids which is key for a successful ultra but was not feeling 100% there. Pain wise I was doing great, during the runs as soon as I notice a little bit of discomfort, I will adjust my pace accordingly. There were times that walking was painful, so I ran. Sometimes running was giving some trouble on my right foot, I adjusted the pace a bit or increased the cadence or adjusted how I was landing on my feet. One thing I was doing once in a while through the whole event was checking my form, where I was landing, my head and neck position, my back and how I was leaning and whether or not I was activating my glutes. I would imagine my form as an elite runner, knowingly that I probably was looking more like a twisted mess for running form. It kept my mind away once again from the distance. Jon reminded me that at that time I had less than a marathon away from the finish. It was good to hear that.
By this time in the dark, there was a lot of pollen in the air. Having the headlamp you could see it just in front of you, like snow falling and I was just thinking about the runners that suffered from allergies and how that would affect their performance. It lasted for a while, not too thick but enough to be noticeable.
About a mile away from the mid-loop aid station, we passed some runners that were talking about what they want it to get at the mid-aid station. I overheard the conversation about the soup and quickly remember during my research that at this event they had a lean mean potato soup that every runner said it was great. Since my stomach was not 100% there, I decided to have soup, it was a risk, since I had not had soup during my training runs, but I had a loop and a half to go and perhaps had time on my side. I think that was one of the best decisions I made. It was like magic, my stomach quickly started to feel great, it settled perfectly and was like another shot of energy.
We continued to the second half of the loop when Jon showed me a video of his youngest daughter wishing me good luck and encouraging me to continue. Also, a message from his older daughter also encouraging me to finish strong. It was great and really appreciated it. It touched me and gave me extra energy to continue and make progress to complete this event.
Also during this segment, there is a 2 miles section that has tons of short hills, with three of them being very steep. We walked the really steep ones but were able to jog the rest, but that came to a cost. As I was feeling really good, from the soup, I increased my pace and believe to burned some of my glycogen reserves faster than I was disgesting the food. I started to feel low sugar coming. Jon noticed I was wobbling and also slowed down a bit. He asked me about it and responded that sugars were dropping and needed some time to recover. I took an energy gel ahead of schedule and as I was finishing it, my pump low sugar alarm went off. I then ate some more Cameos and drank more energy drink. I was not worried about the time, but I needed to get it under control fast. About 3-4 minutes later they level off, we walked a bit more. I was bummed since at this time we were on the 3/4 mile downhill portion of the loop and I was not taking advantage of it.
A few minutes later the sugars started once again to approach the normal level and we started to jog a little bit more. Feeling better we continue to walk fast the uphills and run the rest. We were passing a few runners and that gave me more confidence that I was once again in good shape. We continued strongly to the start/finish area where Luis, final pacer, was waiting and eager to pace me during the last loop. As we got close, Jon told me, less than a half marathon now. “Indeed, less than a half,” I said to myself as I cracked a huge smile.
Loop 8: As we departed the Start/Finish area, I asked Jon and Luis to find some more miracle Potato soup. I continue to run, to my home base, about 200 meters from the start/finish to start replenishing when suddenly I tripped on a small stump and came tumbling down.
I saw myself in slow motion coming down to the ground, extending my foot, hitting my left shin and ankle while finish by hitting the front and side of my face with an empty foldable chair. You do not have any idea how many things came to my mind at that moment. Was this the end of the event for me? Can I recover from the fall and still run? Was I bleeding? Broken something? Strain something? As I lay on my back for a few seconds I quickly did a self-check, legs were in pain, left leg in even more pain and flexing my foot was a little bit painful. The side of the head not feeling great but I was pretty sure was not bleeding. But I am not going to lie, laying down in the ground, even with the pain, felt soooooooo good. But quickly I started to think that I needed to get up and fast, as I did not want it for my legs to lock up and feel heavy after this. Fortunately, a spectator was nearby and asked me if I needed help, I said: “yes, please I need to get up.” He helped me, I thanked him for the help and continue walking towards my truck. As I was moving away, another person asked him if I was ok, I was glad to hear that he said, “He is fine, he is moving fine”
Luis and Jon met with me at the home base, brought me soup and quickly helped to get ready. I asked them how much time I have, they said you have plenty. I asked them for a few things as I was changing and lubing again. We went over the checklist, had a bit of the miracle potato soup and Jon told me I had more than 5 hours to finish my last loop. I open my eyes very wide and shouted back “5 HOURS?!!!” I ask for the minimal pace and he responded that if I kept 2.5 miles per hours I was going to finish under 24. I was soooo, relieved like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Luis and I knew now what we needed to do.
We headed out and walked the first hill as planned. After that, I had a new burst of energy and continue to jog, very easy jog. My left foot and ankle started to give me some sharp pain, but again I was finding the running form and cadence that allowed me to continue at a decent speed. Luis was fantastic, keeping the conversation going and keeping my mind away from the pain and discomfort. Like we the other pacers we were having a blast. After three miles into the loop, I asked him, “you know we just passed the three-mile mark for this loop, you know what that means?” It was funny because he threw a bunch on answers before he said, “we have less than 10 miles to go” As I responded “bingo, this morning was triple digit start, the whole day has been in double-digit miles, now I was in the single digit realm” and that made me happy.
We continued chugging along the miles and convince him to have some of the miracle soup with me at the aid station. He did and he liked it. I had some more and I felt great. Every mile mark I asked Luis for the splits, I did not want it to look at my watch. Every time well under 20 minutes mile, with some close to the 14-minute pace. That made me feel great. There was a dense fog/mist that in combination with the headlamp it made it hard to follow the trail. We knew the trail, but still, there were sections that I was even wondering if I was too close to the edge. The fog came and went at different portions of the trail.
At the last aid/water station I knew now that in less than 3 miles the finish line was waiting for. I could of walk the rest of the way, but we were determined and continue to run as much as possible. We came past the last water fountain, I stopped to get some water and started to reflect a bit. Then the fog/mist came in again, it was hard to see with the light of our headlamps. As we were approaching the last segment, I realized that the trail terrain was not the same as before, fortunately, there were some people coming our way and we asked. Yes, we missed the turn and we had to go back a bit. No issue, plenty of time and I was with good company. We cover the little segment, got back in route to the finish line, no problem.
Finish Line: As I kept running the small uphill towards the finish line, I could hear the people cheering and I saw my wife and daughter waiting for me at the finish. I was so happy to see them there. It was an awesome feeling, 100 miles of adventure and physical and mental endurance. Thank you, Brian Eller, Chad Richards, Jonathan Felten and Luis Morales for being outstanding pacers. You guys were phenomenal.
Even after this long-running hours, I had some energy left in the tank to stay standing, hugging my family and friends and celebrating this finish.
It was an AWESOME 22:36:52-hour event
Course: 8x 12.5-mile loop. Great ample trails, not technical but lost of ups and downs. One long mile hill between mile 4-5. Excellent for 100 first-timers, highly recommended.
Venue: At Start/finish, excellent variety and availability of food, plenty to drink, and amazing volunteers. The potato soup was a miracle elixir for me at loops 7 & 8. Water and aid stations were placed at perfect distances.
Weather: Good weather with few clouds at the start followed by clear skies, great 57º-74º with just over 60% humidity but felt higher at times.
T1D: Sugars were good at the start, fluctuated across the 24 hours, mid-event they trended downward but I was able to address it with a gel and cookies.
Pre-Race: 1 serving Hot Cereal and Latte. Half of the banana about 10 minutes before start.
Race: Mix of fuels from liquid calories to solid foods.
- Running at an slow pace is key. Specially starting very slow.
- Not everything is going to go right or perfect. Just need to learn to minimize the impact and adjust.
- Having fun, even when you are in pain is key to get things going.