Mar 31, 2015

Umstead 100 Brain Dump, 2015 edition

Seeing as this is a brain dump (and not a report - I think too much about reports and they never get posted), following is the result of my brain taking a dump.

(If you'd like to read a properly written Umstead report, consider mine from 2012.)

Friday, talking to Banfield:

B: "I think you can finish in under 24 hours. You should go for it."
Me: "You're nucking futs. I'd be thrilled with 27."

Of all my friends, it's only Banfield (and maybe McNulty) who might think I had a realistic shot at 24 hours, but holy hell if he wasn't right. I finished in 23:38. This amounts to a (nearly) 2 hour 100 mile PR, 5 hour course PR, and, most importantly, I caught my plane. I had a 12:05pm flight that would get me to a 4pm wedding in New Jersey after finishing a 100 mile race in North Carolina.

I "reckon'd" (we were in the south. when in rome..) 27 hours is what I needed to shower, return the car, and get on the plane in time. The plane departed thirteen minutes after the last runner finished. I've never had any goal in a 100 other than to finish, and now I'm pressuring myself to actually perform well at a 100. 100s are hard enough. Additional pressure to get a certain time? Crazy talk!

Yet, in order to run the race and attend the wedding (not mutually exclusive), I had to finish in 27 hours, or only finish 7 laps. Finishing 8 laps and attending the wedding: try it, just to be badass (and never pass up on an opportunity to be badass.)

Honestly, if it wasn't for a 30 minute flight delay which caused us to be 15 minutes late to the wedding, the day would have been a rare period of absolutely perfect execution.

Just for fun, here's a photo with Tammy and Fred at 5:45am on Saturday (race started at 6am):

Here is a photo with volunteer pacer Alex at 5:45am on Sunday, right after finishing:

Now here is a photo with Anders, at the wedding, 5:45pm:
Wedding guests make good posts to lean on.
The race started at 6am. Sunset was around 730pm. To catch my flight, I could relax if I reach 75 miles by midnight. I wanted to relax, so I pushed early from the start. The 12.5 mile split times were 2:22, 2:27. 2:32. and 2:59. My first four laps were all under 3 hours, and my 50-mile split was 10:21, a monster PR. Well now I can see that a 24-hour finish is in reach. Snit. Try not to think about it.

Gentry and I had a conversation about this. As best as I can recall-
Me: "I've got to stop thinking about breaking 24. It's driving me insane."
G: "Don't worry about it, just run."
Me: "I know, but how! I can't stop thinking about it."

(We had a remarkably similar conversation in the previous lap about a potential sub-10 50.)

As an aside, I love Gentry. What a great guy.
Friday Registration Photo. L-R: Banfield, Tursi, Gentry, Jim
Except then, lap 5 was under 3 hours as well and in fact faster than lap 4: 2:57. I had finished 100K, and the sun was still up. Lap 6 was in 3:08. I beat my 75-miles-by-midnight-so-I-can-relax goal by over 90 minutes. And then I couldn't relax, because I had 25 miles to go, and if I wanted the silver buckle, 7:30 to do them in. I could longer time to say, "it's too early to think about it." I had to go for the buckle.

I have walked marathons in 7:30, and know I can do this. I just need to remember to run downhills and not waste time in aid stations. Lap 7 was my first lap when I really started hurting. I was still moving well, but it became work at this point. A few miles in, Tony lapped me and we talked for about 5 minutes while walking up Cemetery Hill (He finished in 19:25). Tony is incredibly smart about ultras and I was invigorated by the conversation. Then, towards the end up the lap, I lapped Fred and we talked walking up the other side of Cemetery Hill (Fred has had better days.) He and I ran together for the first 20 miles, so I was surprised that I put 12.5 miles on him in my next 60. He finished in 27:58.

Speaking of not wasting time in aid stations, that was critical. I never stopped for more than 30 seconds on the back aid station, and never more than 5 minutes at HQ aid station (and then it was only twice.)

Lap 7 back aid station conversation. 12:19am. Mile 82.
"Potato Soup."
"Ok we're getting that for you. Would you like something else?"
"We have burgers, dogs, pizza.."
"Just the soup"
He hands me the soup and I'm immediately out of there. Thinking about how laconic I must have sounded to that guy, I made sure to yell, "thanks" as I left. I'm such an asshole.

Another thing that happened in lap 7 was, as I passed a group of runners with volunteer pacers, I was told by one of them that, last year, there were more pacers than needed and that they were disappointed that they didn't have anybody to pace. I was surprised. In previous years there weren't always pacers available. I wasn't going to use a pacer, but boy it sure would be nice to have someone to keep me talking and moving in lap 8.

So when I finished lap 7 (in 3:26), I requested a pacer, and sure enough several were available. So when Alex came out, we exchanged greetings and then I got straight to the point: "We have four hours and five minutes to do this loop. Keep me talking, and make sure we're comfortably enough under four hours that I don't get worried."

I'm not sure I could have done it without Alex. There were times when he was definitely pulling me along. Maybe I could have, maybe not. But the primary benefit was I relief: I could defer some of the responsibility to him, and get out of my own head. We did a lot of math calculating what our lap splits had to be. And every time we had a split faster than required, we'd say "we bought ourselves a couple of minutes." And he kept me awake. I was definitely staggering and swaying a bit in lap 7, and that mostly stopped in 8.

Other thoughts:

I missed out on the second sunrise. Pity.

It occurred to me that 100 milers are categorically different than 50 milers. A 50 has more in common with a half marathon than a 100 has in common with a 50. This is the truth. Sent from above. Don't even think about arguing.

It was cold! Which I'm fine with. I managed to generate enough heat all night long (for a good time, take that statement out of context) to stay comfortable during the race. But as soon as I stopped moving, I started shivering uncontrollably whenever in cool temps, and this continued even after arriving in NJ. In fact at the wedding I wore my overcoat most of the time.

My "DFL Ultrarunning" shirt gets lots of attention. People love it. But I was doing so well that several people commented that it's inappropriate. "I know, I'm so bad I can't even DFL right." Still proud to be on Team DFL. Be sure to check out the podcast, where I occasionally make an appearance.

According to the preliminary results, I finished in 77th place out of 145 100-mile finishers, 258 starters, and 291 entrants including non-starters. There appear to be 88 finishers of the 50. We don't know how many of the 50 finishers intended to go 100, but it's safe to say the 43 who did more than 50 but less than 100 did. Eleven people started but did not finish 50 miles. There were five people who finished under 24 hours but after me (I can't even DFL the silver buckle right.)

The DFL Silver-Buckler finished in 23:50, and the first post-24 finisher was 24:17. That's a 27-minute interval with no finishers. And I know exactly why. If it's in reach, you push that last lap to make sure you reach it comfortably. Nobody wants to finish in 24:01. And finishing in 23:59 sounds like a very stressful last ten miles. In fact I made sure to tell my pacer that we ought to finish with at least 10-15 minutes to spare, so we can be relaxed in the last few miles.

Not once did I say, "this shit ain't right", but not because it suddenly became "right." I merely forgot. So to be clear - staggering and sleep deprived, far from home, through a dark forest at 3am in sub-freezing temps to reach some number in less than some other number just for a belt buckle that's this color instead of that color while worrying about making a wedding the next day - that shit ain't right.

Have you ever been to the delta terminal at JFK? It's like 14 miles long. I looked at my arrival gate.. B45.. and knew. I had a long walk ahead of me. After walking about 2 miles towards baggage claim I saw one of those little bus tram things driving by. I flagged him down and asked for a ride. Turns out that they'll just give you a ride.. just ask. Holy smokes that was a sweet ride. I was soooooo happy. Trust me - if you're ever returning to JFK via delta after an ultra.. flag one of those bus tram extended golf cart things down. You'll be glad you did.

My phone was in airplane mode during the race to save battery, but every now and then (6 times I think) I turned on the network to see what was going on. I saw encouraging messages, both via text and facebook. People were watching, encouraging, pushing me to the goal. I really appreciate that.

Letter from the Governor
I'm always impressed by how well organized Umstead is.
Memorial Service for recently-passed Umstead RD Blake Norwood. It was very nice.
That's Joe Lugiano speaking in the photo.
Blake's stuff
Old and busted, new hotness 
And the wedding! Totally worth going to. Amazing! Congrats Lynette and Leon!!

Several people have asked me what I weighed during the race. I don't know exactly, but on Wednesday after the race my bodyweight was 278lbs.

I was interviewed on the subject of my race on the DFL Ultrarunning podcast. I understand it will be available in episode 46 (not yet published.) When it is published, you can find it here:

Finally, some new photos have surfaced. 

Running with Fred. Photo courtesy of Free Race Photos facebook page
Photo courtesy of Ray Krolewicz.
Returning on the airport spur on lap 1. Photo courtesy of Ray Krolewicz.
Walking up the hill to HQ. Photo courtesy of Ray Krolewicz.
Photo courtesy of Free Race Photos facebook page
Bombing down the hill to HQ. Photo courtesy of Ray Krolewicz.
Holding my new Buckle. Photo courtesy of pacer Alex.

Hamming it up for the camera with Fred. Photo courtesy of Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run.

Photo courtesy of Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run.
Photo courtesy of Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run.

Eric has posted his episode of DFL Ultrarunning in which he interviewed me for an hour or so on the topic of this race. You can find more information here:

Mar 6, 2015

Steve's rules for a running streak

The United States Running Streak Association has a definition of a running streak that says:
The official definition of a running streak, as adopted by the Streak Runners International, Inc., and United States Running Streak Association, Inc., is to run at least one mile (1.61 kilometers) within each calendar day. Running may occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill.
This is different from the rules that existed when I started my streak back in 2010:
The official definition of a running streak, as adopted by the United States Running Streak Association, Inc., is to run at least one continuous mile within each calendar day under one's own body power (without the utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices).

Running under one's own body power can occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill. Running cannot occur through the use of canes, crutches or banisters, or reliance on pools or aquatic devices to create artificial buoyancy.
.. which bums me out because when somebody asked me, "what are the rules for your streak?", I used to have a clear, unambiguous, specific, measurable, external document to point to. It wasn't something that I came up with on my own, and it was something that people agreed to.

The purpose of this post is to again regain a specific, measurable, clear, unambiguous set of rules for my personal running streak, and for those of my friends who agree with me. When someone asks me what my rules are, I can point them here. Let me be clear that these are rules I personally have adopted; they're no longer the rules of some governing association. Let me also be clear that I have no intention of creating a competing governing association. I won't be handing out membership cards, charging dues, writing a newsletter - none of that. I'm just writing rules that I adopt and that my friends have adopted.

Some of my friends have adopted a more strict version of these rules; for example, a 12-minute-per-mile minimum pace, or a 2-mile minimum distance. Rules like that are not in conflict with these rules. They're simply more rigorous.

For the purposes of this post, I am adopting the former rules of the USRSA, unchanged. I feel the rules are very clear, but for the benefit of people who would like crystal clarity, let's dive into each of the terms.

"One Mile"

5280 feet, 1.61 kilometers. Use the most accurate measuring tool available to you. If all you have is a GPS, it is in the spirit, though not required, to run slightly more than 1 mile to account for the inaccuracy. If you have a measured mile, use that instead of a GPS. Keep in mind that "four laps of a high school track" is actually short of a mile, by about 30 feet. If you stop at four laps you did NOT achieve the mile.


Continuous means no stopping for any reason. At least one mile in your run should be continuous. If you were planning on only running 1 mile, and you have to stop at a red light at 0.9 miles, then run 1.9 miles and make sure the last mile was continuous. Walk breaks are not allowed in your continuous mile.

* Sudden turns (including 180ยบ turns) are OK as long as there was no interruption in the running.
* Stopping, even for 1 second, breaks the continuity.
* Tying shoes, letting your dog pee, traffic lights, reckless drivers, earthquakes, lightning, seeing old friends, and being asked for directions are all good reasons to stop running. But if that broke your continuous mile, you need to restart it.

"Calendar Day"

The 24 hour local-government-recognized period from midnight to midnight. If your travel plans mean that you'll be in more than 1 time zone in the same day, then either time zone will work. If you are on a long haul flight going west such that you literally skip a day, then either change your travel plans or run on the plane.

"One's own body power"

Treadmills: OK
Holding on to a fixed part of the treadmill while running: NO!
Water running: No
Trekking Poles: No
Prosthetic: An artificial limb which replaced a real one, including a "Blade" is OK.

Questions and answers

Is there a minimum speed?
No. It can be 20 minutes per mile, but you have to be running/jogging/shuffling. It matters not if some people can walk faster than you can run.

What is running and what is walking?
From "Running is defined as a gait in which there is an aerial phase, a time when no limbs are touching the ground."

Can I puff on my albuterol inhaler?
This was asked in jest, but a serious answer would be to refer you to this. Neither my rules nor the USRSA mention anything about PEDs, but I think everyone would agree that performance enhancing drugs are against the spirit of the streak. However, I have taken aspirin and ibuprofen, which did assist me in my streak. I don't think the drugs I've taken are on the banned substances list (which, by the way, is a clear, unambiguous, external, specific, measurable set of rules. It's nice when those exist, right?)

Aug 18, 2014

Beast of Burden 100-mile endurance run: 25:31:53 (PR)

Mile 99.99
Earlier this year, when making summer travel plans, we did something kind of funny - because I am the only guy who has to return to work, Alex and Joe could stay out in California two weeks after I left. This lets him go to camp, and me a weekend or two with no plans and no family.

Empty weekends like that are vacuums - they don't stay unoccupied for long. Immediately after I bought the plane tickets, I looked at the ultrarunning calendar to see what was up. 5 minutes later, I was registered for the Summer Beast of Burden 100-mile endurance run (hereafter referred to as "BoB")

Going to 100-mile distance is undoubtedly much easier for me than it used to be, and in a multiday race it's a foregone conclusion. But traditional 100 mile races - the kind where the 100-mile mark is the finish line - still intimidates the hell out of me. As it should, because 100-milers are f-ing hard. Despite my reputation to the contrary, I haven't finished too many of them. In fact prior to BoB my record in these races was dismal - 5 entries into 100-mile races, with one 100-mile finish. I have gone 100 miles at least 6 times in multidays (all in so-called "timed" 48 and 72-hour races), but in a traditional 100-mile race with a 30 or 36-hour cutoff, I have finished precisely one, and that was over 2 years ago, at Umstead.

Additionally, I also convinced a friend/coworker/running partner to also go up there, and run the 50-miler as her first ultra. It's perfect because the 100-miler is simply two laps of the 50-mile course (which itself is two laps of the 25-mile course), giving me the opportunity to run with her for her entire race. She agreed.

Three cheers for sombrero race swag!
Beast of Burden

The BoB ultramarathons are held twice per year in Lockport, NY, which is within 30 minutes of Buffalo. There's a summer version and a winter version. The course is along the towpath of the Erie Canal, and is the flattest course I have ever seen. It has a crushed gravel surface with a few short sections of asphalt or concrete. The course is very exposed; there is almost no shade on the entire course. It is 12.5 miles out and back, creating 25 mile loops; the 100 miler does this four times.

There are fully-stocked aid stations at the start, the halfway point (give or take), and at the turnaround. The canal runs east-west, and the course starts on the south side of the canal, runs west for one mile, crosses to the north side of the canal, then goes east for 11.5 miles before crossing to the south side of the canal again for the turnaround aid station, which is indoors.
Aid station at turnaround
Then it retraces its steps back. So at mile 23 of each lap you go right by the start/finish (people are on the shore there cheering you from across the canal), but you still have two miles to go. Each of the canal crossings (and there are four per 25-mile lap) are across drawbridges, so there are 16 times in the 100-miler where you could be held waiting for the bridge to rise or fall. (If you get there while it's up you can take a staircase across, but if it's in motion you have to wait for it to finish going up or down.)
We were held up by the bridge rising at Mile 24. Wouldn't it be a neat story if this cost me a 24-hour finish?
Lap 1 - 5:09:20
Ami (my 50-mile friend) was hit with a severe stomach bug on Thursday and was still feeling the effects of that. Concerned that she wouldn't be able to start (let alone finish), we ran the first two miles at a nice easy 11+ minute pace, and if she felt bad and wanted to drop she had the option of crossing back over a bridge shortly after mile 2 to go back to the start. I said, "If you can run two miles, you can run fifty!" A bystander overheard this and wondered where I got that logic from! She had already started feeling a bit better, so we settled into a pattern of walking about 0.15 miles, then running the rest of that mile. We kept this going all the way into the first turnaround aid station, where I filled my 100-oz camelbak reservoir with water.

On the way back, I was starting to be affected by the heat. When we reached the halfway aid station at mile 19, I should have refilled my res with ice water, but I decided to let it ride. This was a mistake.

Gold dust at my feet on the sunny side of the street canal
While the temperature was relatively mild - about 80F, the unrelenting sun and the virtually windless conditions caused me to overheat. I was sweating like crazy and it was affecting my ability to run significantly. The walk 15%/run 85% pattern was quickly deteriorating into relatively more walking, and the low-11-minute miles we were maintaining on the out were high 11s on the way back, with a few outliers in the 13s-15s. I started longing for the long, cool night that I knew was coming. Yet I had another lap to do in the heat of day.

At the end of this lap, at the aid station, I lingered for about 10 minutes until tightening up. I got the hell out of there. Shame I couldn't spend more time because they had snowcones!

Lap 2 - 5:54:00

The heat was continuing to hit me hard, and I was downright weak in the first half of this lap. We'd spend extended amounts of time walking, just trying to get as many miles as the day would allow. We pushed to the first aid station, averaging about 13 minutes per mile, and took a 5-minute break there. I filled a cup with ice and poured coke on top, then repeated several times. At this aid station I met up with a friend Al from Rochester (who parked a mile away). Tapering for the Pikes Peak Marathon the following weekend, he was interested in hanging with us for 10-15 miles, and figured that an out-and-back from the midpoint to the turnaround and back would be a sufficient little training day. Also at this point other racers latched onto us and for the next couple of hours the five of us hung out together. We probably ran about half of the distance to the next aid station, and were able to maintain sub-14 miles the whole way.

At the turnaround, I had to stop, sit, and rest for a while. According to the GPS record, I spent about 11 minutes there. Bad ultra habit! But I was starting to become concerned - despite drinking over 200oz of fluid in that period, it had been 50K since the last time I was able to take a decent piss. (Sorry, there are no photographs of me trying.) I know I was sweating a lot, but I didn't think I was sweating 200oz, and the only conclusion is that I must be retaining that water because of an electrolyte imbalance. I started taking salt.

Coming back, we were still exposed to the sun but it definitely was cooling off, and our pace showed it. We were consistently breaking 14 minute miles, and even had some sub-13s in there. By the time we reached the mid-way aid station (and Al had to leave us - thanks Al!), I was not feeling overheated anymore but still was unable to piss and was dreadfully worried that the damage had been done. I kept drinking a lot - just to the edge of nausea and not a drop more - and taking in salt pills. Also my pack was filled with ice first, followed by water+heed. Hot temps were over but I was still prone to overheating and avoiding that was utmost importance.

In the last 7 miles to the start/finish, any misery I was feeling was being replaced with excitement for Ami, who had stuck with me the whole way, was about to finish her first ultra - a 50 - in a decent time. She likes to say I paced her but I know she helped me even more. Our final seven miles together were all under 14 minutes and we even managed a sub-13 in there, until the last mile, which we did in 11:30. The 50-mile split was 11:15 - a 30 minute PR for me, and fast enough for Ami to place 19th out of 42 overall and 11th woman! Not bad, especially for her first ultra!
Congrats Ami!
Lap 3 - 6:29:03
50 down, 50 to go
I have another friend from Rochester, RJ, who agreed to pace me from the lap 3 turnaround to the lap 4 turnaround. If you're paying attention, that's miles 62.5-87.5. This was perfect. I had pacers for those exact miles at my Umstead finish in 2012. I feel like those miles are the crux of the race. The first 100K is just a formality, and the last half-marathon is a victory lap. Getting to 100K with a good attitude (and knowing my pacer was there waiting for me helped), and then getting those 25 miles behind me, are what I think gives 100s the reputation they have. In short, if you are going to have a pacer for any 25 miles in a 100, those are the 25 miles to have him in. 

However, I was still at mile 50, it was dark (9:30pm), and with Ami finishing I had to get there on my own. I was OK with this and anticipated some headphone time to break of the race a bit. After spending at least ten minutes at mile 50 aid station, I was once again running.

Or, more accurately, walking. I was moving slow at first, but settled into a rhythm in which my run/walk pattern was resulting in 14 minute miles, give or take. I was more than OK with this - 14 minute miles is definitely fast enough to finish a 100 within a 30-hour cutoff (and then some.. it'll actually get you in under 24 if literally every mile was under 14.) I was walking about half of the distance and running the other half, which was a good pattern for me - though the "run breaks" were starting to feel really long, even when they were less than a half-mile.

After midnight, I ran 1.2 miles continuously (for the streak's purposes) and that brought me within a mile of the turnaround aid station. walking the rest of the way, I saw RJ on the bridge crossing and was thrilled to not be alone anymore.

My awesome pacer and I
It was 12:30AM (right where I expected to be), and after spending 5 minutes in the aid station (still not pissing) we were on our way. I think RJ expected me to run more, but I was not in the mood. I was still on a run/walk pattern, though by now it's more accurately described as a walk/run pattern. I'd typically walk between 60%-80% of a mile, then run the rest of that mile. Meaning that as much as 4/5 of the distance was spent walking. (And, to be sure, there were a few miles which were walked entirely.)

RJ was a good sport about it though. He patiently listened to me as I droned on about how stupid 100s were, and how this is the dumbest thing I've ever done, and how I need to figure out why I'm not peeing, and whatever other stupidity I was carrying on about. To be honest I was really glad to have someone to vent to. To a pacer, I'm a low-maintenance runner, as long as listening to mindless drivel doesn't count as high-maintenance. At least I never yelled at him. But I can't imagine him ever being interested in doing a 100 after hearing me talk for so long about how much 100s suck.

At the mid-point aid station, I gave RJ my pack and asked him to run ahead to have it refilled. We had a great aid station stop there, where I was able to get in and out in less than a minute. This is ideal 100-miler behavior. 


By the end of this lap I was reduced to walking every step, and we had three consecutive 17+ minute miles. My hips in particular were bothering me, after spending 3 hours on my feet without a break. I wondered if taking a 5-minute sit break at the aid stations was helping me more than it was hurting. I decided I would find out at the next aid.

Lap 4 - 7:22:35
You want more???
I took a good long break at the mile 75 aid station. My mental attitude at this point was overwhelming dread - I felt like I had been pushing so long, but I still had a significant number of miles to go. And the idea of pushing another 25 miles was really messing with my mind. However, I was also confident I would finish. I knew that I had plenty of time - 12 hours - to complete the remaining 25 miles. A 2MPH deathmarch would be sufficient. But 2MPH deathmarches are not fun (Believe me, I know.) We eventually got out of there, and were soon counting the minutes until sunrise at 6am (though I was trying to get as far as I could before the heat came.) I knew I had done the work, most of the race was behind me, and barring disaster I would finish. I even was starting to let myself believe I would have a good time (for the record, I never let myself believe sub-24 was in the cards.)

The miles with RJ post-75 were faster - taking a break off my feet apparently helped. The 17-minute miles were largely over. But this is, like I said, the crux of the race. We didn't have any sort of consistent run/walk pattern. We'd be walking along, and I'd tell RJ "let's run for a quarter" and that's what we'd do. "Let's run a third." I think once I said "lets run a half" and that felt unbelievably long.

Thanks to the full moon, we didn't use headlamps most of the night. I love it when that happens.
By the time we got to the mid-point aid station, dawn had broke. Going by the hip experience last time, I sat down and spent another ten minutes there. When we were moving, we were moving reasonably well. But I was taking my time at aid stations and I knew it. One bright spot for this point of the race - I finally took a substantial piss, for the first time in 75 miles. It may have been dehydration after all. I was drinking a ton of water, and apparently sweating it all out.
Mile 82
After this aid station, we actually started moving better. Miles were taking about 14 minutes, which far exceeds what I'd expect for this point in the race. The trick was we decided to break the run walk pattern into half-mile increments instead of full miles. And they were broken into "walk a quarter, run a quarter." We were running half the distance! And by doing so, we did about 5 consecutive miles at this pattern. For mile 85 in a 100 this was really good for me!!
14-minute miles
Finally we reached mile 87.5, and it was time for RJ to leave. We lingered in this aid station far longer than any other - more than 20 minutes, but I was psyching myself out for the last 12.5 miles. At Umstead, the last 12.5 took almost 5 hours but I had no intention of it taking anywhere near that long today. The sun was up and it was time to put my head down and get this done. But first..
..I put my head down for real
Looking at the GPS log, I'm frankly surprised at how much time I spent in this aid station. I ate some cold pancakes and drank some hot coffee. But mostly I just hung out. I knew at this point I would finish, but it's still 12.5 slow miles away.
Typical mile 87.5 selfie
When I did walk out, I noticed that I should probably shake out some of the sand in my shoes, which hadn't been removed once the entire race so far.
Crushed cinder trail makes you want asphalt.
Side note - these shoes and socks were brand new the morning of the race.
I did eventually leave, and my first mile out of the aid station was over 18 minutes. Then I had a 17:22. Progress! I started to run a bit, and pulled out a 15:23 for mile 91. That was enough, and mile 92 was 17:21, and mile 93 was 19:00 - my second-slowest non-aid-station mile of the entire race. In mile 94 I hit the aid station, where I spent about 5 minutes. But I was eager to get out of there because the sun had come up and I was starting to feel the heat. Mile 94 was completed in 22:33. And, 4/10ths later, 10am struck - 24 hours into the race, my 94.42 mile split was a PR. I was also running again.
Notice the pace - 12:48 per mile for the 0.42 miles.
At around this point in the race, I looked over my shoulder and someone who was in the aid station with me was back there. I'm not a competitive guy, particularly in a 100, but even the most laid-back fellow isn't going to be passed in the last 5% of a race without a fight. My headphones were in, the playlist was called "run fast", and I decided I would "run a song/walk a song." This concluded the mileage-based run-walk portion of the race, now it was by random draw of a shuffled playlist.

And it showed. Mile 95 was completed in 13:54. Mile 96 was in 14:58. Mile 97 was in 14:32. Mile 98 was 14:41.... and then, the wheels came off. The sun on my back felt as hot as it ever did the previous day, and I was once again overheated. I pushed too hard the last 5 miles and was about to pay for it in a big bad way. That was the bad news.

The good news was that I had to pay for in a big bad way it for only less than two miles, and I would be finished. And that person behind me? Nowhere to be seen.

A couple of minutes after this, I see Ami bouncing up the trail. You'd have no idea she ran 50 miles the day before. She was running her running-streak mile for the day, and was planning on running it in with me. Meanwhile, I was dumping the contents of my camelbak over by head, because the need to cool off was overwhelming. I wasn't able to run at this point, and actually wouldn't run for the rest of the race (last 100 yards notwithstanding.) She out-and-backed for a mile and walked it in with me. Mile 99 in 18:26, and mile 100 (my slowest mile of the race) was 19:32. I was going so slow that I was starting to be worried that somebody'd pass me in the last quarter mile, but it turns out the the next finisher after me was more than 15 minutes after.

My official finish time was 25:31:53, which was good enough for 17th place out of 40.

5 days after the race, I "participated" in the Parsippany 12-hour, completing 1.5
miles and finishing DFL. The hard work I'm doing in this photo suggests why.
After working on this report for days, I'm writing this portion a week from Monday (T+8 days) post-race, and coming to terms with the rather surprising fact that it's going to take a month to recover from this race. Apparently, I really did a number to myself at the race. I'm noticeably lethargic throughout the day (even in my desk job) and all my runs since the race have been noticeably hard. I've felt particularly hard-hit in the mornings. It's a shame, too, because we've had some beautiful running weather this week.

For the last few miles of the race, and for days afterwards, I kept saying, "100 milers - that shit ain't right", and I meant it. But that "wrongness" of 100s is also their appeal. They challenge me in a way that no other race does. Due to my back-of-the-pack speeds I take a "pass/fail" approach to ultras. Correcting for terrain, anything shorter than 100 miles is just not long enough to be all that hard, and timed-multidays let you get away with slacking off. But 100s don't let you slack off - they're the most unforgiving and grueling race there is.

I guess this is why I looking at 100s to register for. 50 miles is my favorite distance to run, but I haven't run a 50 in years. 50 miles just does not intimidate me anymore - I can enter a 50 and be confident of my ability to finish it (barring disaster, like what happened at Pineland Farms a few years ago.) 100 milers, on the other hand, are always going to intimidate me. People like Liz Bauer who do 100 after 100 are stunning to me. 100 miles is f-ing hard! And I can't imagine 100 miles ever being easy. And when I'm at a point where I can casually enter a marathon, 50K, 50 miles, or even an ironman, without the slightest bit of intimidation or fear, I find myself attracted to races that are both frightening and achievable. 100 milers fit that profile perfectly.

At about mile 99.5, a man with an Eastern European accent ran up to me and unceremoniously said, "I hate you."

Unaccustomed to such straightforward language and able to detect sarcasm but unable to turn off my own filter (due to it being mile 99.5), I said, "What the F did I ever do to you?" (Substitute a very bad word for the F.)

"Because look at me I'm in reasonable shape and yet you are the one about to complete a 100-mile ultra! I'm not even in the 50; I'm on someone's crew!" Unspoken, but clear to me: "Because a fat F like you is doing this and I'm not!" (For the record I'm 6'6", 280lbs).

I forgot what I said afterwards. I think it was something to the effect of "and this is my fault?" but I hope I said, "well nobody's stopping you from signing up!"

I finished the race and never saw him again.