I have been on my present running journey since late September 2008. It was two months into this journey that I read the book "Ultramarathon Man" by Dean Karnazes. It was the content of that book that stirred in my heart the desire to participate in 100 mile ultra-marathon events.
In June of this year I participated in my first 100 mile ultra-marathon event: the "Kettle Moraine 100". My experience at the "Kettle Moraine" was rough. I experienced both hyperthermia and hypothermia. I encountered six hours of down-pouring rain, trashed feet, and improper footwear for a wet muddy trail. In the midst of my suffering to get to the 100k finish line, so I could finish the day with at least getting a kettle for completing that distance, I resolved that I was very stupid for registering for the event and that 100 miles was not for me. When my wife was rolling me into the car that night, I verbalized my thoughts and resolutions. I said something along the lines of me never participating in another 100 mile event ever again. [My "Kettle" post: here]
I believe it was two days after the "Kettle Moraine" that I was regretting my comments regarding 100 mile events, and a desire for another shot at the distance began to emerge in my heart. I started looking for an event conducive as possible to me getting my first 100 mile completion. Initially I was saying 2011, but then I found the information on the "Mother Road 100". When I read about this 100 mile road race from Baxter Springs, Kansas to Catoosa, Oklahoma on the historic Route 66, I experienced an overwhelming desire to participate. After checking to see if my great friend Scott Griffith was available to crew for me, I went ahead and registered for my second 100 mile attempt.
Coming into the "Mother Road 100" both my running fitness and my confidence had slid backwards. I had an awesome 360 mile month in July and then it was all down hill. I enjoyed 3 marathon events this fall, but my running between events was minimal. Due to illness in October I took two weeks totally off. On a positive note, nothing on my body was feeling injured.
On race day, November 13, Scott picked me up at 6:15 am. I was super pleased to have Scott sharing this adventure with me. It was going to be awesome to have Scott and it was also going to be great to have a crew vehicle that would be accessible to me for the entire distance. I packed everything I could imagine needing out there on the course. I also went out of the way to make sure all my gear was easily accessible and very organized for efficient access.
The drive to the race start location in Baxter Springs, Kansas was a messily 75 miles. I wanted us to leave in time to address any possible emergencies that might arise during the trip, i.e., flat tires, etc. Our trip to Baxter Springs went smooth and I was one of the first runners to arrive.
Race packet pickup included weighing in. This was the first time I have ever had to weigh in for an event. When I stepped onto the scale with my size 14 shoes a race official jokingly commented on how difficult it was to read the scale with my huge shoes. According to the rules of the race, If I dropped 7% of my weight I would be disqualified.
After we got my packet and completed the weigh-in logistics, we had some time to relax in the warm car. I was thankful that I had enough time to do my final pre-race preparations at a relaxed non-panicky pace.
At 8:45 am all the runners and crews gathered at the starting line for photos, an invocation, and the national anthem. This 15 minutes seemed to take forever. I was ready to get started. It was a perfect temperature for running, but not a perfect temperature for standing around in shorts. Thankfully Scott loaned me his jacket for a few moments.
At 9:00 am the race was started via a gun shot. I was so thankful to finally get rolling. Everyone seemed to be taking it out at a very nice comfortable pace. I found myself moving with the front 25% of the runners. My plan at this point was to run for 8 minutes and to walk for 2 minutes. My hope was to keep this rolling for a long ways, okay, the dream was to go the entire 100 miles in this manner.
My first walk segment seemed to arrive quickly. I was tempted to skip it since no one around me was walking, but I stuck with my plan. I was pleased to come through the first mile in 9 minutes and 59 seconds. I felt like I was running smart and I was having fun. A mile and a half into the journey we were leaving the town of Baxter Springs and crossing the border into Oklahoma.
My walk segments had me seesawing with a few different runners. I saw Scott about 3 miles in and I informed him that I was feeling fresh. The next four miles felt great with the exception of one mistake. I was running with small water bottles in my pockets, but for the start I opted to only carry one. That one went way too fast.
After 7 miles we came into the town of Quapaw. I had some confusion when I encountered the first aid station. I thought maybe we had to check in at the aid stations, so I slowed down to ask the volunteers. They informed me that I did not need to check in. I threw some of my garbage away and Scott hooked me up with some fresh water bottles.
The 6 miles from Quapaw to Commerce went smooth. I enjoyed the running and the weather. I believe I turned my music on in this area. I was pretty much running on my own with the exception of two guys that I was still seesawing due to my walk segments.
I rolled past the aid station in Commerce and enjoyed passing a few runners who opted to pause. I was committed to keeping my pauses short and rare during this race. When I examined my stats from the "Kettle Moraine" I was shocked at how much time I lost during pauses, thus I hoped to take a different approach during the "Mother Road".
At 14 and a half miles I entered into North Miami. It was at this point that I started to feel warm enough to shed my arm sleeves. I was also feeling ready for a break from my tunes and therefore turned off my mp3 player. I saw Scott at mile 15 and ran to the car to shed my garbage, my arm sleeves, and my mp3 player. This involved my first pause of the day, and it was a short one.
Running through Miami was interesting. I recalled Route 66 being referred to as "Main Street U.S.A." as I ran this portion of the course. It for sure felt like a main street. I did encounter some stoplights in Miami but I was able to navigate them without stopping. On the way out of Miami at 17.75 miles on the course I encountered another aid station and a timing mat. It was good to hear the beeping equipment as I crossed over the timing mat.
I crossed this timing mat 2 hours, 51 minutes, and 56 seconds after the start for an average mile pace of 9:41. I don't have access to the overall stats, but with regards to the male runners I was the 28th male runner to get to this point out of 130 male starters.
It was nice to get past Miami and get back out into a more rural area. At mile 19 I recall a man getting his mail and asking me how far we were racing. I was thinking he would respond with shock when I informed him that we were racing to Catoosa, but I didn't seem to get much of a response out of him.
At mile 21 we turned onto the first "sidewalk highway" section of the course. This section was built as a one lane road and then gravel was added to make it into a two lane road. I did not like this section. The pavement was a mess and the gravel was rough.
During the 22nd mile I snuck off the road for my first restroom stop.
After a little more than 3 miles on the "sidewalk highway" section it was finally over and we returned to some smooth pavement.
When I made it to the aid station in Narcissa I was again a little confused. I had got it in my head that this was the location of the first weigh-in. I crossed the road to make it to the aid station and once I figured out that we did not weigh-in here, I headed back out to the road discouraged that I had wasted time and effort.
I recall experiencing a little fatigue after mile 25. For the next 5 miles I would pick out visible objects ahead of me on the road and attempt to guess how far I could make it during my 8 minute run segment. It was kind of a fun experiment and I was consistently surprised how far I could go in 8 minutes.
Just after mile 30 I ran to the car to change my core shirt. It felt great to get on a fresh layer and Scott gave me some nice encouragement about my efficiency thus far.
30 and a half miles in was the second "sidewalk highway" section. It was during this section that the wheels started to come off. I got very nauseous. With 32 miles behind me, I was ready for a break from my 8 minute run 2 minute walk cycle. I walked mile 33. Mile 34 I tried a 4 minute run 2 minute walk cycle with the hopes of recovering.
34 and a half miles in I came to the town of Afton and the first weigh-in aid station. I was under a major mental attack when I came into this aid station. I was discouraged. I was nauseous. I was fatigued. I was ready to throw it all away and call it a day. I tried to think one mile at a time but I was not having success with that. After weighing-in [down 6 pounds], I inquired about Mountain Dew. I was disappointed to find out that they were not offering Mountain Dew at the aid stations. Mountain Dew had really hit the spot during the "Kettle Moraine". I sat down and drank a cup of soup. I informed Scott that I was not feeling good and that I was very tempted to quit. I had Scott grab my mp3 player and I informed him that I was going to walk it out for a bit.
While I walked it out and watched a few runners roll past me (which discouraged me further), Scott went to a local store and got me a 2 litter bottle of Mountain Dew. When he returned with the Dew I sat down for a bit to drink some and informed him that I was pretty sure I was going to drop out. I even made a comment about maybe going to a movie and I reminded him how nice it was going to be to be sleeping in his own bed instead of the car. Scott responded that the decision was mine to make.
As I walked away from the car I called my wife and informed her that I was not feeling good and that I was probably going to quit. She encouraged me to walk for a bit and see if my stomach improved.
It seems like it was only moments later that I found myself really picking up my walk pace and I walked mile 38 in 15:07. It appeared that the combination of walking, Mountain Dew, and my wife's encouragement got me through the roughness. I asked Scott to do some math for me. I wanted to know how I would finish if I could stay close to 15 minute pace the rest of the way. Scott informed me that I could finish close to 24 hours if I could keep that rolling. Once I heard that, I was fully revived and fully committed to no longer entertaining any thoughts of quitting. I called Robin back and informed her that I had revived and that I was not going to quit. I made one quick pause to get some rocks out of my shoes and to get a Dew refill, and then I went into full on power walker mode.
At mile 39 a spectator stepped onto the road and walked with me for a few minutes. She was a marathoner and had heard that the "Mother Road 100" was coming past her house. It was an enjoyable conversation and I wished her luck in her upcoming marathon.
During the 41st mile I started mixing back in some running. In my mind I referred to these small portions of running as: speed injections. I would pick out a crack in the road ahead and run to it and then keep that momentum going in my speed walk. It was encouraging to watch how even a small portion of running would improve my pace on my Garmin.
Just after 43 miles I noticed the sun setting and that it was time to get out the reflective gear and headlamp.
Scott joined me for a bit after the 44 mile aid station so he could read me the encouraging comments I was getting via my facebook. I totally appreciated that and it was a good booster.
During mile 47 I started to experience a painful blister on the bottom of my left foot. The pain of the blister started to effect my gait and my pace. At first I thought I would be able to make it to 50 miles before addressing my foot, but I finally concluded that it would not be wise to wait that long. I called Scott and I asked him to meet me as soon as possible. I found Scott around mile 48 and he did some work on my foot. When I got my shoe back on, it was less painful to walk and run on it and that was encouraging.
In Vinita just short of 50 miles was another weigh-in aid station. According to the scale I had put 3 pounds back on [I did have on a little more clothes too]. Just after I left the aid station and before I crossed the 50 mile timing mat I snuck into a gas station to use the restroom. I used the women's restroom because the men's was occupied.
I crossed the 50 mile timing mat 10 hours, 35 minutes, and 38 seconds after the start for an average mile pace of 12:42. I was the 55th male to get to this point out of 130 male starters.
After leaving Vinita the next 17 miles were out in a rural area. I just kept moving as efficiently as I could. I put my mp3 player away and just listened to the sounds of the night and worked hard to avoid getting hit by passing vehicles. Scott would consistently meet me every 3 miles and give me a fresh water bottle and a fresh bottle of Dew. The night sky was awesome and with the proper layers I did not get overly cold out there.
A highlight was passing my distance personal record of 64 miles. It was great that at that point I was given a cup of hot potato soup by another runner's crew. My feet did not feel great, and I learned that if I stopped moving it was very difficult to get rolling again - therefore - I resolved to not stop moving.
Chelsea at mile 67 was the first town I had seen since Vinita. Chelsea offered an indoor aid station. I resisted the temptation of going in there and kept my momentum going.
The next 10 miles offered a nice wide shoulder. I kept moving but I don't remember mixing in any running during these miles. One memorable moment was when I went to the car to get on a another layer and forgot to put my reflective vest back on. Since I was wearing black, that 3 miles without my vest required some extra awareness.
I was so grateful to get to the 77th mile aid station in the town of Foyil. This was a weigh-in station with hot soup, a bonfire, and a nice porta-potty. After weighing in I made my third restroom stop of the journey, and then sat by the fire only long enough to finish one cup of soup. The joke around the fire was something about having less than a marathon to go.
Getting it rolling coming out of Foyil was very difficult. My feet hurt in a big way. It hurt to walk and it killed to run. When I would see a runner shuffle pass me I would wonder how they could do it.
During the next few miles I was longing for the sun to rise. Coming down into the town of Claremore we encountered some fog. At mile 85, the sun was starting to lighten things and I forced myself to mix back in some running. It was painful. It felt like my right tibia was broken (I found out later that the pain was from my right ankle which was taking a beating because of my modified gait).
Just as I started to get my pace back down there I got stopped by a train. As I waited for the train to clear I walked in place to keep my feet familiar with the pain. Scott met me shortly after this encounter with the train and read me some fresh facebook comments.
It was encouraging to remind myself that I only had a half-marathon to go. I was very confident at this point that I was going to complete this 100 mile journey. Over the next few miles I would learn that in a 100 mile ultra there is no "ONLY". Finding any form of efficiency over the last few miles seemed to get increasingly difficult. My Garmin battery died after mile 92, so I have no idea how slow I got [thankfully].
I would say that the last 10 miles were killer. It was a constant feeling of almost/not-yet. Scott worked hard to encourage me during this last section. He even bought me a Coca-Cola to see if that would give me a boost. I knew the finish was on the track at the Catoosa high school, but I just could not get that high school to appear. I saw a high school stadium near mile 94 and I started thinking that maybe we would be looping into there, but that was not the case.
Thankfully with a mile and a half to go Scott come out to meet me and informed me that I had a mile and a half to go. I was thinking I only had about 200 yards to go. When we finally made it to the Catoosa track I had a runner reel me in. I was intending to run that track, so this just gave me a little more incentive. I moved pretty good around that track and made sure to stay out of the gutter as I would hate to get disqualified during the last quarter mile of a 100 mile race.
Crossing that finish line I did experience a HUGE sense of accomplishment. I really thought I was done at mile 35. Once I had recovered from that, I never had a doubt the rest of the way.
This was a big time team effort. It was beyond great having Scott share this journey with me. He got crewman of the year in 2009 for assisting me in making it to 50 miles for the first time, and now he gets crewman of the year in 2010 for all he did for me the entire weekend of the "Mother Road 100".
I crossed the 100 mile finish line 26 hours, 54 minutes, and 59 seconds after the start for an average mile pace of 16:08. I was the 62nd male to get to this point out of 130 male starters and 103 male finishers. Overall I was 74th out of 167 starters and 133 finishers.
Do I see another 100 mile ultra-marathon in my future? YES!!!
Picture album linked below - including pictures of my first belt buckle and other cool schwag.
The entire journey is vivid in my mind. I would love to talk more about it with anyone interested.