The goal was to finish my 1st 100 within the official time limit of 34 hours -- mission accomplished! Weather conditions were tough – dropping temperatures, very windy and a light or drizzling rain thru much of the race. Course conditions deteriorated as time passed and made it very difficult just to walk at times. My personal account of the events leading up to, during and after the race:
I drove up to
Lap 1: START 12 Noon Friday
I felt pumped at the start but told myself the 1st lap is the key & I MUST take it slow. So my start was at a shuffle & I walked most of the 1st downhill. From there I started a slow jog, not much more than a walk. As we went around the 1st large open field, it was easy to see all the runners – to my surprise I was in mid pack! The wind was strong & steady & was most noticeable in the open fields. The course was looking to be in excellent condition with only a few real muddy areas. I could see brand new wood bridges & evidence of a lot of handwork to drain & fill in low areas all the way to the 1st aid station. The 1st creek crossing was tough! Although it wasn’t much more than 12-18” deep, it was very cold. My reaction was like stepping into an ice cold shower, including some choice words. I walked after each creek crossing to let the water squirt & then drain out of my shoes & I walked up any inclines the entire lap. Coming across the finish line for the 1st time, I figured at best. I was really surprised at the time! I thought, is the course short or what?
I took my time at the aid station and set off at a comfortable pace. The field had spread out considerably and there were only a few runners in sight in the 1st big field this time. Approaching the 1st creek crossing, once again (& for the whole race) there was a lot of hesitation before stepping in. I saw some people climbing a fallen tree over the creek – I sure did not want to attempt that – the last thing I needed was to fall in. The lap went smoothly with only a slight ankle turn that I shook off after a couple miles. Coming across the start/finish for the 2nd time with a lap of , I felt OK with what seemed to be a very sustainable pace.
Maintaining my pace of the previous lap, I started to have strong hunger pangs halfway to the 2nd aid station. I don't know what brought it on all of a sudden. Although there was a smell in the air too, it was not of food, but of sour mash, like that of a distillery close by – reminded me of back home in
I brought 2 flashlights but realized I had put the one without the hand strap in my drop bag. Good thing I had a close parking spot. Then I was ready to take on my first all night run. The light worked great. Once past the creek crossing, I was startled by some splashing behind me, but I could see no light. Then all of a sudden this fellow comes running by me with his light off! I tried to talk to him but apparently he didn’t hear me. But as we kind of leap frogged thru the remainder of the lap, I did find out he was hard of hearing (& hard headed like me), and that he wasn’t going to use his light “till it got dark” – what? Anyway, I felt real comfortable running at night and this lap went very smoothly.
A bit lonely starting this lap as I saw very few runners -- actually I only saw their lights off in the distance. I did have 1 running “partner” for a short time though: as I was running next to a strip of woods in a field I came across a possum & when he saw me, started running (waddling). As I came up beside him he sped up just as I realized he wanted to get into the woods -- but I was in between him & there. Got a good chuckle as we were head to head! I backed off a second & that was all he needed as he made a 90 degree turn in a mad dash to the woods – “Great job” I say to him! I did see other wildlife on other laps: a total of 7 deer, several geese & one turtle. As I continued I noticed I was having a harder time seeing the trail, I thought are my eyes going bad or was it the light? I turned off the light and checked it to be sure everything was tight & when I turned it back on, it was bright again. But that lasted about 15 seconds & it started to dim. I couldn’t believe it. I had an energy efficient LED light that drained 3 AAA batteries in less than 5 hours? I guess I should have tried it out or read the instructions. Anyway, it came to turning the light off and on the rest of the lap and the 15 seconds of bright light eventually went down to just a few seconds. At times I ran without the light in straight stretches & fields. Talking about no light, on the last half of the lap, I heard a loud thud ahead of me. A short time later I came across the fellow who had been running without a light since the previous lap. He had fallen right at the beginning of a bridge over a 10 foot deep ravine. Another foot or so to the right or left & this would have been very serious. The trail makes a turn at the very beginning of the bridge and apparently he was trying to make the turn ON the bridge with wet/muddy shoes & slipped. As he slowly got moving, I could tell he was hurting but he said he was OK and to go on. I never saw him again or got his name so I don’t know how he fared.
Put in fresh batteries – what a difference a good light makes! The good light didn’t keep me from tripping & falling this lap for my only time for the race though. Just a lack of concentration & I was able to break my fall, so nothing to worry about. I did notice however, what the fellow without the light was talking about earlier. It had gotten darker since earlier in the night. I think it was the glow from the city lights that faded as the night went on. It would have been much harder, if not impossible to run safely without a light this lap. I’m running smoothly & comfortably with 4 laps to go even though occasional showers make for some slippery sections.
Skies becoming brighter, though still cloudy & continues to be windy. At Heaven’s gate, I could hear the bullhorn for the regular start for 50 & 100 milers. I feel a blister beginning on the bottom and middle of my right foot. With this, I favor my left side & continue at a comfortable pace.
In the daylight, I could now see the trail very clearly, which was not looking good. With all the "new" runners on the course, I noticed the effects on the trail immediately. I felt I was still maintaining my pace at least to the 1st aid station until I started getting lapped by the new runners. From there, I spent a lot of time looking over my shoulder & stepping out of the way for the faster runners & yes, they were very fast. Some of these great runners were running down hills that I had no other choice than to slide down.
The steady stream of runners passing me starts to slow down. The trail continues to deteriorate with all the traffic. Getting tired of the mud.
The 1st half of the course was the most difficult in my opinion the entire race. On this lap in particular, the mud was really getting to me thru this section. I was going slower than a walk for several miles. I can’t believe I began whining about the mud to anyone who would listen at Heaven’s Gate – a very weak moment. I can just imagine what they thought about me. I was more tired of the mud than I was tired. After this silly demonstration, I somehow felt better – I guess I just had to get it out of my system. The 2nd half had less mud and was more runnable to me and I ended up going at a half sprint & feeling pretty good approaching the finish line.
Andy greets me at the finish announcing I’m the 1st 100 miler to finish for those who took the early start at Friday . A real shocker to hear the words “1st to finish” and my name in the same sentence! No matter that only 15 started and the time not fast -- I was very happy to have reached my goal. I consider myself very lucky too in selecting the early start & not the Saturday starting time – those poor runners were still out in that muck – I really felt sorry for them. Physically, I ended up with a large blister on the bottom of my right foot that I believe came from one of my adhesive pads that came loose & found its way there. I experienced my first case of feet swelling and they’re still swollen to some extent as I post this. I did take S-caps throughout the race and stayed well hydrated -- my hands did not swell, so not sure of the cause at this point. I have surprisingly little muscle soreness, but my feet are still hurting from the swelling. Mentally, other than being very happy over finishing, I’ve not gotten over the mud yet. I think this race surpassed the muddiest race I ever ran – the Owen-Putnam State Forest (OPSF) 50 miler in Indiana back in 2004. That race had more shoe-sucking mud, but this race takes the cake with slippery mud. Would I run another race in
I thought the race organization was tremendous considering all the different starting times for different distances and also considering the duration of the event. I had no trouble keeping on the course day or night. The volunteers were super, Heaven’s Gate in particular! I liked the picnic table in the covered drop bag station – that was so very useful. All the manual work that clearly helped on the trails was much appreciated. I enjoyed seeing again & talking to several people I met from previous races, including Andy, Bill, Bob, Brian, Chris, Dave, Ellen, Garret, Josh & Margaret – Thanks for the support!