Tackling another 100 miles Ultra: Umstead 100
Yesterday morning I completed my 2nd 100 miles event. Once again, an amazing experience it was to tackle the 100 for the second time. Although not everything went according to plan, all the training, the hours, and paying attention to the minor details paid off in big time. I was able to shift to the target goal quickly and come in very close but ahead of my B goal of finishing in under 24 hours, with a finish time of 23:44:15. The weather was great for most of the day and the event, coordinator, volunteers, the crew, and my pacers were outstanding. Well, let me rephrase the last two mentioned there because Jamie, Chad, Venu, and Kaleel (the super crew/pacers) were phenomenal! I could not have had such a great event without them.
Thank you all for the support, and words of encouragement during training, during the event, and after the event. Special thanks for those texts, photos, and messages that provided me with extra encouragement at different points of the event.
But most importantly, huge thanks to my wife and daughter for all your patience during all the training, help with the preparation, words of encouragement and for being there for me when I needed it the most, I LOVE YOU BOTH!
Below is the race recap,
Loop 1: The weather was great, fresh legs this morning, and feeling excited. I slept well for the past few days and that helped me feel good about this. After the usual breakfast and final preparation, I drove to the event area with plenty of time to sort things out. To my surprise, Jamie was there in the morning to help me with the prep and setup work. It was awesome to have him there, we went over a few final details. Filled the many bottles with water, sorted a few snacks out, and set up the non-fuel side as well. He took a few pictures and videos of the setup and shared them with the rest of the team. That by itself gives me peace of mind that the rest of the team will be able to be familiar with the setup for a speedy transition from loop to loop.
It was so great to see many friends, either getting ready for the event or volunteering. Jay arrived shortly and set up next to my setup. He was ready to tackle his 1st 50 miles event. Others were ready to tackle their personal best and very excited to be at the event.
We started right on time at 6:00 AM. Like my last year’s 50 miler, it continues to amaze me to see in the initial long stretch of the starting 2 miles the river of headlamps ahead and behind. All the hopes and aspirations bounced in groups like fireflies ready to lead the path ahead. I held back a bit with a few runners and talked and enjoyed their company. Jay stayed with me and kept me company. The plan was to continue to pass the aid stations and only stop briefly at the water station and aid station if I needed something like take water and Gatorade. I am trying to minimize the time and be able to conserve energy and time.
Since the humidity and temperature were fantastic I press on the pace a little bit. Not too much, as I was always keeping an eye on my heart rate as well as the effort I was putting in covering these initial miles.
It was awesome to see a few friends that were manning aid station 2 at the midpoint of the loop. All the volunteers were great, checking on you and helping with anything you need.
I took one of my gels about three-quarters of the way. Also drank my energy drink (a combination of Tailwind and E-fuel) between stations since I knew hydration and calorie intake were going to be key for this event. During this 1st loop, I tackle and ran the up-hills with no problem, slowed the pace but solid and that gave me confidence.
Loop 2: I was very fortunate to get a spot in the HQ tent directly across the start-finish area. Out of the two tents set up for runners, it was the closest and only added about 15 meters to get my stuff. That allowed me to quickly crossed the start/finish and get to the home base where I had all my supplies.
Jamie was there and he helped with the transition, helping with a few things. I replace my energy drink bottle and grabbed my snacks from the pre-prepared ziplock bag. Some snack bars, gels, and baby food. I took some time to lube all the areas that could cause chafing problems in the future. This was key for me last time as I want it to prevent and address issues early rather than later.
Headed out fairly quickly for my second loop as I try to not spend too much time there. I left my phone in airplane mode this time to conserve batteries just in case I needed to use it during the last loops. I had an almond butter and jelly sandwich to eat during the initial uphill. It took me a while to finish it but it did settle well. Also after the turnaround now with good daylight, I was able to see a few more running friends having a blast.
At aid station 2 once again saw many additional familiar faces. I stopped quickly for Stella to snap a picture. It was great seeing her and cheering for all the runners. All the volunteers were fantastic.
By this time I was finding myself at a good decent but solid pace, not ahead of plan but solid and feeling good. Same plan for the aids stations, so awesome to see the volunteers cheering and being so helpful with everything. The weather was still perfect for running with some clouds in the sky but the sun was already out.
Loop 3: At the home base, another quick turnaround, more lube, replenishing fuel, grabbed the new prefilled bottle (Mostly Tailwind), and off I went. I change shirts since now it started to warm up just a tad. Once again left my phone in saving battery mode for this loop.
I am feeling good and taking in fluids and food. Pace wise I was right on plan, this loop I opted to take in more fuel. The fuel settled pretty well. By this time the runners are spread out throughout the course, I started to listen to some comedy audio files to help me pass the time and miles. The temperature started to rise, still very comfortable but I knew that later in the day it was going to get a tad warmer and I needed to keep an eye on my hydration.
About 6 miles into the 12.5-mile loop my sugars started to trend down. That was something that needed my immediate attention. From previous experience and training, I was forced to slow down a bit and get fuel in. After about 15 minutes, it started to feel good again enough to increase the pace. After a few minutes, the CGMS trending alarm started again. Once again I had to slow down and force some extra fuel.
Also, during 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, similar to last year. So It quickly started just to take smaller sips to let the water warm up before swallowing. By this time I also started to walk some of the more challenging hills.
Loop 4: As I arrived at the start/finish area I was super surprised to see the whole crew there cheering for me. That gave me an energy boost given that during the past few files, handling the low sugars had slowed me down. At this time the PR A goal was slipping away slowly. The whole crew jumped into action and helped me during this transition.
I quickly grabbed my last pre-filled ziplock bag for loop 4, a new bottle of energy drinks (Just tailwind this time), and some more gels, bar, and clementines, this time I took my electrolyte tablet that I was planning to use later in this loop. I ate some more as I went out tackling the uphill, but notice that my stomach food was not settling as smooth as I want it. Fuel intake was going to be key for this event and I needed to take control of the situation if I want it to meet any of my goals. I slowed down a bit and took the time to eat with smaller bites to minimize any irritation and allow for digestion to happen.
I was feeling good during the first few miles and perhaps I was running just a bit faster than the target pace as I want it to keep the PR goal still in sight. Not too much faster, 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 just doing okay at this time, the sugars keep staying on the low side so I had to reduce the effort a bit to minimize them going down too much.
At aid station two I was so happy to see my good friend Roland who came to cheer for me and Jay. It was fantastic to talk to him and take a picture. He helped me out with the aid station walk and mentioned that Jay was looking good, but with the temperature rising he needed to take more fluids. Then I realized I had not been taking enough fluids either. Basically after 9 hours of running and I have not gotten the need to go to the bathroom. I realized I needed to be more aggressive with my water intake. I was so glad to have Roland there providing some insights and awareness.
I continued taking down one mile at a time, more walking than I want it but still moving forward. Yes, I was tired and I am going, to be frank, I had some thoughts about stopping at the 50-mile mark and called the day. But I kept going back to the training, the hours, the challenge. I knew it was not going to be easy. I also knew that I needed this, I needed to continue. One mile at a time, it was not going to be easy but I needed to get it done. Goal A might not be possible, but there was still a chance for goal B, finishing under 24 hours.
By the end of this loop, it was awesome to see the crew, Jay, and his family cheering for me. They just cheered for Jay as he completed his 50-mile event. Seeing all the spectators, volunteers, and my whole crew there waiting and getting ready for me gave me that additional energy to get ready to continue to complete the second half. 50 miles to go!!
Loop 5: I decided to not change my running shoes at this time as my legs were feeling good. I was more concerned about getting something to eat soon since I was still tackling the low sugars every so often. I lubed once again in critical areas. I dropped my waist hydration belt and grabbed my pre-filled handheld. I also grabbed more fuel and some additional options for snacks. I opted for Cheezits and they were perfect, salty, and delicious snack food. I also asked the crew to get me some soup, In previous years the soup gave me the energy to continue, I was counting on it even this early in the event. Although this transition took a little bit longer Chad and Jamie kept providing the time and we were able to head out within the planned time.
Jamie kept reminding me that I was ahead of schedule and in a good shape. We headed out, always walking that 1st uphill while I ate something. That was something I already had planned, as I want it to make sure I start eating early on at the start of each loop. My stomach was still not that great and took a little bit longer for the food to settle still we opted to start just to jog a bit to give it some time to settle. I manage to take a quick pit stop at a water fountain to rinse some of the saltiness and cool down a bit. Since the previous loop was warm and I felt like I needed a quick splash of water on my face. It felt great!
Between miles 54 and 55 you will encounter the usual 1-mile long hill in this course, we kept the conversation going, but the sugars once again started to trend low. Every so often it was a little bit of a roller coaster getting it to go up a bit to then come down. I manage to run some but not most of what I want it to run. The trending low kept me from getting the most of the downhills and flat of the course
Having Jamie as the 1st pacer was great. We talked almost the whole way about many topics, including his experience in tackling different aspects of training and getting faster. That kept my mind away from the long miles ahead of me, the sugars issues that I was trying to keep at bay, and any discomfort from the muscle soreness. Even tho it was warmer I was having a great day and it was still good weather conditions compared to last year’s event. At this time I was still slowing down at every water and aid station for a quick short drink, while Jamie was helping me get some fuel to eat.
Coming from not drinking that much during the earlier loops, I was able to manage better the hydration for this loop by finishing my bottle more often in the later parts of this loop. Jamie was fantastic at reminding me to drink often as well as helping with refilling the water bottle at every aid station and the water fountain.
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. Similar to the first time tackling the 100, the reasoning was to try to get caffeine early 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 where Chad was waiting for us. Similar to three years ago, I was pleasantly surprised that we did not need to use the headlamp although it was cutting it close.
Loop 6: Chad, my second pacer, was there waiting for me. I changed my running shirt and reloaded fuel. I dropped the hand help and put on my hydration vest. I also changed my running shoes, since I manage to get a small rock in the later parts of the last loop and needed to remove the running shoe, I decided to put on new fresh comfy shoes. I am glad I did, as it was more comfortable and got me energized to tackle the next 3 loops.
At the start-finish area, I was able to briefly talk to Johnathan and Mike, who are good friends from work, both ready to help pace Christine who traveled from Oregon to complete this event. I shared with Jon a little bit of the struggles I was having with the sugars. Three years ago, Jon pace me for loop 7, so he was familiar with how it was for me when getting low sugars during an event. They both provided words of encouragement.
I drank some, got some more chicken broth, and soup, and headed out as quickly as we could. Both of them kept telling me that I was doing great and still within reach of finishing in under 24 hours. I believed them and relaxed a bit while walking the 1st uphill to get some of the soup in my stomach.
Sugars were doing just ok, a little bit better than earlier loops but they were still forcing me to run at an easier effort that I needed to meet my target. As we continued in loop 6, Chad was also great at keeping my mind away from the distance. He did a fantastic job pacing me during my 1st 100-mile event and this time he was even better at keeping me moving, hydrating, and thinking about something other than the muscle soreness. 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 65 and now in the cover of darkness, I notice just a little bit of wobbling in my run. Chad asked how I was doing, I said “ok”. My sugars were just ok, my legs although sore and tired were feeling really good. I was just a little bit frustrated about the sugars trending low so often that was not allowing me to get back at a cruising pace. Some runners passed us and it was ok. I was seeing the chances of finishing under 24 getting smaller and smaller every time I heard the CGMS low trend alarm go off.
Loop 7: Venu and Kaleel were at the home station ready for me. All of them helped me get ready, going thru the checklist I prepared in advance and getting me more soup. I am glad they were there because at this time I started to forget a few things and they kept me on track. Like I almost did not lube and with two more loops to go, it could have made it for some miserable miles. Once again they kept reminding me that I was doing great, looking strong, and still within contention for under the 24-hour mark. I said goodbye to Chad and Kaleel and we headed out to complete the second to the last loop. Once again we talked about tons of topics.
Venu asked me how I was doing, I responded I was doing ok, my stomach had not recovered that great yet. I got another low sugar trend and I remember getting once again a little bit more frustrated about not being able to keep them up. 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, there was soreness but no pain during the run but as soon as I increase the pace the sugars were coming down.
Enough is enough!!!
I knew I had to do something if I want it to finish within my second goal. I went for broke and started to get a gel, snack, soup, and/or fuel almost every 3/4 miles for the next few. I knew I was going to risk my stomach feeling bad but I had to do something. I even started to consume the one extra gels I had for an emergency. I also started to drink water more aggressively. But I am so glad I did.
Although the sugars did not pass much higher than 110 mg/dL, (For me the best for running performance is around 170 mg/dL) it was holding steady as I started to increase my pace. I know Venu noticed and he kept me going increasing the pace every so often and power hiking the hills as fast as I could while keeping the eating and drinking going.
One thing I was doing once in a while as I was able to increase the pace 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. “Squeeze them!”, “Active them!” I kept reminding myself. “Relax those shoulders” while imagining them coming down and relaxing. I would imagine my form as an elite runner, knowing that I probably was looking more like a twisted mess for running form. It kept my mind away once again from the distance. Venu 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. It lasted for a while, not too thick compared to three years ago, but enough to be noticeable.
My stomach was not 100% there, but I continued to have soup, it has been working so far, giving me extra energy. I felt bad for Jamie, Chad, and Venu as I realize that they were trying to catch up with me while carrying two cups of hot soup. Since I was passing the aid station while they were getting me the soup and chick broth. I am so grateful for them.
After the aid station, there is the 2 miles section that has tons of short hills, with three of them being very steep. We walked the really steep ones, but we were back and able to jog the rest. That and seeing that I was able to keep the pace going gave me a huge boost in energy and hope that maybe, just maybe if I can keep it going I might be able to come under 24 hours.
Feeling better we continue to power walk fast on the uphills and run/jog the rest. We were passing a few runners and that gave me even more confidence that I was once again in better shape. We continued strongly to the start/finish area where Kaleel, the final pacer, was waiting and eager to pace me during the last loop. As we got close, Venu reminded me, that there was 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 Venu to find some more miracle potato soup and chicken broth. I asked them how much time I have, they said they have some. I asked them for a few things as I was changing bottles, snacks, fuel, and lubing again. We went over the checklist and had a bit of the miracle soup before we headed out.
We headed out and walked the first hill as planned while sipping on warm chicken broth. After that, I had a new burst of energy and continue to jog, a very easy jog but definitely faster pace than before. Kaleel was fantastic, keeping the conversation going and keeping my mind away from the pain and discomfort. We talked about his half marathon event that he completed just about 20 hours ago.
Like many of the other pacers and runners, we were having a blast. I was feeling much better but I knew I needed to keep on top of things as I was increasing the pace and that could mean lower sugars if I do not feel better. After three miles into the loop, I told Kallel, “you know we just passed the three-mile mark for this loop, you know what that means?”, “We have less than 10 miles to go”. I added, “This morning it was a triple-digit mileage at the start, the whole day has been in double-digit miles, now I was in the single-digit realm” and that made me happy. Similar to what Venu did, Kaleel kept me pressing the pace a bit, but checking on me and asking about the sugars. Now finally they were holding steady, not great but steady.
We continued chugging along the miles and convince him to have some of the miracle soup with me at the aid station. Again I felt bad that he had to carry the soup. I had some more chicken broth and potato soup and I felt great. At every mile mark, I asked Kaleel for the splits, I did not want to look at my watch as I had the overall pace for the event. Every time, it was well under the 15 minutes mile pace, with some close to the 11 & 12-minute pace. That made me feel great. We were flying (Relative speed after 80 miles on your feet, lol) during the downhills.
At the last aid/water station, I knew now that in less than 3 miles the finish line was waiting for me. Less than a 5k, that was it!!! I needed to make sure that I finish under 24. I could have taken close to 20-minute miles now, but we were determined and continued to run/jog as much as possible. Once we saw the last water fountain I knew it was going to be downhill and we decided to increase the pace and run towards the finish.
Finish Line: As I kept running the last small uphill towards the finish line, I could hear the people cheering, and I saw the banner, runners, volunteers, and organizers at the finish line. It was a great feeling to be able to finish after struggling, thanks to the super crew that kept me going and pushed the pace. I was so happy to see them there. It was an awesome feeling, 100 miles of adventure and physical and mental endurance. Although I was not able to meet my A goal to PR, I was able to come in under 24 hours whit sometime to spare.
Thank you, Jamie Thompson, Chad Richards, Venu Vegesana, and Kaleel Rahiman Mohammed for being outstanding pacers. You guys were more than phenomenal and it did make a ton of difference for me as without your help I would have most likely not completed or missed my secondary goal. I am so privileged to have you as friends.
Even after these long-running hours, I had some energy left in the tank to stay standing, hugging, volunteers, runners, and friends, and celebrating this finish with others like Daniel and Henry who both were finishing their 1st 100 miler event and under 24 hours. Pressing pace during the last few minutes of their race to meet the under 24 deadlines.
It was an AWESOME 23:44:15-hour event
Course: 8x 12.5-mile loop. Great ample trails, not technical but lots of ups and downs. One long mile hill between miles 4 and 5. Excellent for 100 first-timers, highly recommended.
Venue: At Start/finish, excellent variety and availability of food, plenty to drink, and amazing volunteers. Although they removed a couple of water stations due to COVID restrictions from the previous year the water and aid stations were placed at good distances. You would not go more than 4.5 miles without hitting an aid station.
Weather: Good weather with clouds at the start followed by overcast skies, great 37º-68º with just over 76% humidity but felt higher at times.
T1D: Sugars were good at the start, fluctuated across the 24 hours, and battling lows for most of the event.
Pre-Race: 1 serving of Hot Cereal and Latte. Half of the banana about 10 minutes before start.
Race: Mix fuels from liquid calories to solid foods. Not enough early in the event need to adjust in the future.
- Running at a slow pace is key. Especially starting very slow.
- Your crew/pacer makes a huge difference.
- I have to address lows more aggressively if I want to keep a decent pace, especially for these long events.
- 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 getting things going.