My first 100k! I’ve run distances close to 62 miles a few times but never attempted an actual 100k race. One of my 2019 Goals is to throw down again at SJS 50 in Colorado. Being my third go at SJS, I wanted to level up my training and figured a 62 mile day in the mountains with over 11k feet of vertical gain will be a good training run. Thankfully this day did not disappoint! I held true to my body from the very start, remained focused on my June goal, and enjoyed a wonderful day in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It even rained most of the afternoon with some heavy downpours but it never once bothered me. I was at peace and generally very happy to be doing what I love most, grinding through a long day in the mountains.
This race had all sorts of fast people, hence the name “Ultra Race of Champions.” I was eager to see the fast people dominate and then eager to see how I’d place. Turns out the field is fairly normal outside of the top 10 super humans. But I finished 25th out of the 69 finishers (with another ~20 DNF’s). I’m thankful to see this kind of success and thankful for the inspiration from all the fast athletes to continue challenging myself to get stronger.
The last climb near mile 58 is a real bear. It’s about 2k feet straight up with switchbacks that seemingly never end. I knew this would be a challenge for me. To see if I had the legs to make it up without death marching and then the mental drive to bang out the final miles to the finish. It helped that I ran did this same climb at Belmonte Endurance 2019 just two months before. It was mentally tiring to know the climb was coming all day but it helped me manage my effort and nutrition with a much higher degree of focus. I ultimately hammered the miles leading into the climb and then power hiked to the top without much additional thought. What a wonderful feeling to reach the summit, that late in a race, and then feel like I still had more climb in my legs.
What I learned
Camping the night before is proving to be a bad idea. I’ve now tried car camping and tent camping and neither have yielded much sleep. I know I’m a habit creature but may have to consider other options for future races. I got 3 hours of sleep the night before the race, which is far from ideal for any type of running let alone a 100k. Nearly a week later I’m still dragging from the lack of sleep followed by the 14 hour day on the mountains (and then I drove 3 hours home…).
Trust myself. We navigated a minor climb roughly 1.5 miles into the race. Everyone was pushing up the jeep road while I settled into a fast hike. I wondered why I was the only one walking but am sure glad I did. The difference paid off in the last 10 miles when the people I traded places with all day were quickly behind me, some crossing the finish line more than 30 minutes later. I had similar experiences during the mid point in the race, when I was struggling but others were clearly moving better. I didn’t panic, I trusted my body, took inventory of what I needed, and sure enough, by mile 35, I was catching and passing people effortlessly. So the point is, trust your training, trust your body, and know it’s a long race with plenty of opportunity to make up time later in the day.
Don’t be stubborn. I typically have my poles in my car but almost never use. I stubbornly assume my legs are strong enough to carry me through any distance and any elevation. This time I decided to save my poles for the last 10 miles and that big climb. I found myself rejuvenated as I started the final section, swiftly navigating over rocks and puddles and creeks. The poles helped me get through the last 10 miles and I’ll hopefully take a similar approach for future races because no matter how strong I think my legs are, the poles will make it easier.
Eat better. I’m starting to slip on my race nutrition. I’ll go long stretches without eating and then eat crap when I get to an aid station. It’s really a bad mental trap because Coke and Oreos are soo damn good when you’re hot, tired, and generally looking for some comfort food. I went back to potatoes dipped in salt for some of the middle aid stations but quickly fell back to sugary crap for the last few aid stations. I told myself to only eat what I needed at the last station and then proceeded to chug Coke and eat more Oreos. I’m going to focus my future races on staying true to complex carbs and minimizing the caffeine and sugar.
Things Others Might Want to Know
The RD and other race reviews will warn you of the 11.5 mile stretch that you do twice (to mile ~16 aid and then back). As much as I was warned about this section, I still ran out of water and that made life hard for a stretch of miles that felt too early in the race to be suffering. The return trip just took longer. There’s a steady climb after the turnaround followed by a lot of short, steep climbs. It took me an hour longer on the return section which I frankly didn’t anticipate, which was dumb. So yes, be smart and be prepared with your nutrition strategy.
Skylark is gorgeous but has it’s gremlins. Running on the land surrounding the Skylark farm is mostly tall grass with a very uneven surface. The start/finish line can be super windy given the surrounding topography. Both of these things made for challenges that I otherwise didn’t expect.
Some of the aid stations are super close to each other. You can likely make up time if you’re strategic and don’t get stuck stopping just because there’s Coke and Oreos tempting your desires.
There is a lot of overlap with Belmonte. In fact, it’s basically Belmonte with 10 more miles. I’m thankful I did Belmonte in March as I needed the training run but can’t say I’d want to do some of those sections within a two month span. It was just too soon even if the spring greenery was a stark contrast to the dead of winter.