This weekend I ate pie, humble pie to be exact, and it
I headed out this past weekend to attempt 102 miles in the
desert southwest. Weather looked to be
warm and sunny, clear and perfect. The
Aravapai Race directing crew, Nick and Jamil Coury, their family and dozens of
volunteers, planned another great event under the October full moon!
First, a bit about the course. It’s a washing machine loop course so
there’s one start/finish location and each consecutive loop starts in the
opposite direction, i.e. the first loop is clockwise, the second
counter-clockwise, the third clockwise and so on. Each loop is 15.4 miles and is the loops are
repeated 6 times and then the final loop is a modified 9mile loop so that the
cumulative race distance ends up being 101.4 miles. .On the clockwise loop there are aid stations
at 2 miles, 8.4 miles, 12.4 miles and then the turn-around. There’s not a ton of elevation but enough to
slow the pace down for normal people.
Each lap gains and looses nearly 750’ with sharp pushes here and there
with lots of rolling hills around the midway point. The course is gorgeous; saguaro cactus dot
the landscape, yucca and all sorts of other plants and cacti I don’t know the
name of. The actual trail is a mix of
hardback dirt, sand with some sections of rock and most of it is single track
but there are sections of 4WD road here and there.
|View to the west, JJ Headquarters, credit Brendan Trimboli|
Lap 1: 2:20 / 6:00am - 8:20am / Mile 0 - 15.4
The race started at 6:00am under a setting moon. It was a fairly uneventful lap; beautiful to see
the sun come up over the desert. All the
runners were talkative and no one hurt too bad making it easy to chat with
other runners. I hooked up at the start
with my friend Jeremy Duncan from Carbondale and for the first 8-9 miles we
talked about life and all things running.
My experience on this course last year taught me to make sure and go
slower than I wanted and specifically to watch the first descent down to the
starting line. It’s not that this
course has crazy elevation but for whatever reason, the dry dirt, the exposure
the rolling hills, it just sucks the life out of you if don’t respect it!
|First or Second Lap. Notice the Smile. :) credit B. Trimboli|
Lap 2: 2:50 / 8:20am - 10:45am / Mile 15.4 - 30.8
Still feeling good, I slowed a bit but was eating and taking
in lots of water. I dropped off my hat
and gloves at JackAss aid station which is the halfway point and inadvertently
left my EFS (nutrition!) in my drop bag.
I had some backup food with me but didn’t want to do anything else but
EFS for the first 3 laps, or approximately 8-9 hours. Towards the end of this lap, it already
started to get warm and I started having running cramps all along the inferior
edge of my rib cage. The cramps were
uncomfortable but bearable and so I just kept going figuring they would
stop. (they didn’t!)
Lap 3: 3:05 / 10:45am - 1:50pm / Mile 30.8 - 46.2
The cramping continued and got worse. I also started to notice the tell-tale signs
of my legs cramping too, generally for me that is the adductors, ankle evertors
and plantarflexors.. I increased my
salt intake and that seemed to help but the stomach and rib cramping was
intensifying which also made eating a bother.
All in all though, Lap 3 was uneventful, just kept going. The heat started to amplify and I slowed
more, but never felt like I was hurting, I just knew that I needed to keep a
steady pace if I wanted to make it through the heat.
By the time I got to the end of this lap, it was hot, really
hot. The daytime high got into the low
90’s during the afternoon. My pacer,
Brendan, doused me with cold water from a bucket, my dad filled my bottles with
ice cold water and volunteers were everywhere spraying down runners with cold
water as they went by. It felt great and
honestly probably helped safe my race.
Cooling down during the heat of the day and letting the body recoup is
Lap 4: 3:20 / 1:50pm - 5:10pm / Mile 46.2 - 61.6
I don’t remember Lap 4 much. It was hot, I was slow, my stomach and ribs
were just killing me and I was grumpy.
I didn’t have any inkling of stopping, in fact, it hadn’t even crossed
my mind, but I was uncomfortable and irritated that my stomach would not stop
hurting. I felt good enough to run faster but just
could not pull it together so I slowed more and tried to focus on getting rid
of the running cramps. From about mid way through the 2nd lap, when
the cramping started, I stopped eating anything but fruit. I ate a ton of fruit but that’s about all I
I was also about ready to cross over to no-man’s land. I’d never run past 62 miles, I’d never run
past about 12 hours straight so this was all going to be new and I wasn’t sure
how I’d hold up. I didn’t stay long at
the start/finish between lap 4 and 5 but got going. I didn’t want to even tempt fate.
Lap 5: 4:05 / 5:10pm - 9:15pm / Mile 61.6 - 77
I told Brendan right off the bat that I needed to slow down
and probably walk some. The short
little downhills were irritating my cramping and I was tired. The only thing I really remember about this
loop is that the sun went down, we saw the leaders come by us on their way to
the final loop, and I began to notice my feet hurting.
It stayed fairly warm through this lap but by 9pm it did
finally start to cool down. The colder
air would fill the small draws and valleys so there was this constant flux
between hot air and cold air which was a strange sensation.
Lap 6: 4:20 / 9:10pm - 1:30am / Mile 77 - 92.4
I started out this lap strong but by the 3 mile aid station
started to come apart. I was getting
cold, I hadn’t been eating and after a good 3 mile push with 11:30min/miles
back to back, I was toast. Brendan
correctly deduced that I was being a weenie and hadn’t eaten and promptly began
feeding me. Just a side note – Brendan
was a PHENOMENAL pacer! He did a great
job of getting me to do what I didn’t want to do.
Unfortunately it was right about this point that I noticed
the medial side of my right knee start to hurt. I waited about 10 minutes but thought I’d
better mention it to Brendan. It got
worse very fast and within 15 minutes I couldn’t run anymore. I’m guessing that my running mechanics had
become so sloppy from fatigue that my knees just couldn’t compensate anymore
and I got a nasty case of patellafemoral syndrome within about a mile. I tried several times throughout the rest of
the evening to run but the pain told me to walk. No reason to jack up my knee for the next
several months to save a couple hours in the long run, and I didn’t want to
risk irritating it enough so that even walking was impossible.
It had started to cool down and by the time we hit the
midway point, I’d started to shiver and was getting cold. I’d thought I’d put my jacket in my dropbag
but hadn’t so Brendan convinced the aid station to give me a large black trash
bag. We put a hold for my head and my
arms and I power walked for almost 9 miles in a trashbag – but – it saved
me! I think I would have probably ended
up dealing with hypothermia too had it not been for Brendan’s creativity and
the aid station’s helpfulness.
FINAL Lap: 2:47 / 1:30am - 4:17am / Mile 92.4 - 101.4
At the end of this lap, all I had to do was finish another 9
miles and I was done. I was pretty
bummed by how many people passed me in the final 10-15 miles but there was part
of me that was okay with it too. This
was my first 100 miler, I was going to finish, and I had learned some
For the final lap you are given a glow in the dark necklace
so the aid station crew at the loop cutoff know that you are on your final
lap. I’ve never been so proud to wear a
piece of equipment. Your mind plays all
sorts of tricks on you when you’ve been up for that long doing the same thing
for almost 22 hours. I was so tired, I
just wanted to stop.
I arrived at the finish line and just stood for a
moment. Completely overwhelmed with
exhaustion and emotion. I didn’t start
crying…until I called my wife, and then because the first thing that crossed my
mind was the little girl that we are adopting in 3 months and I couldn’t
contain myself. Weird, but after 102
miles of running the first thing that crossed my mind when I heard my wife’s
voice was our coming child. Amazing how
It takes a team:
I couldn’t have done this without my crew chief, my dad
Matt, and my pacer and friend, Brendan.
My dad drove the whole way out to the race and back and allowed Brendan and
I to sleep in preparation and in recovery.
He covered meals for us and overall made sure that all I had to do was
run and not stop.
Brendan knew from experience how I would feel at varying
parts of the day, what my moods would be and knew how to handle them. He was able to coax me to eat when necessary
and knew when to back off and let me be.
He blended the perfect amount of encouragement with quiet support.
I had no idea what I was doing
Back to my humble pie comment, 100 miles is nothing like a
50 miler. I put together this elaborate
pacing chart and had a solid A, B and C goal for finishing but in the back of
my head was pretty sure I’d be able to hit somewhere between my A and B goal
for sure. Maybe I would have been if my
knee had stayed together but irregardless, my mental picture of how hard a 100
miles is was drastically shy of reality.
A 100-miler is a beast of it’s own.
Now I understand that.
Cool-down in the Heat of the Day
Don’t be afraid to stop and get your core temp down if the
weather is hot. You are not going to
loose that much time in the long run and it can save your race. This is only my first 100-miler but I
imagine it’s similar to the advice I give the triathletes I train, don’t go out
to hard in the swim, it’s probably not where you are going to win the race, but
if you go out too hard, it’s certainly where you can loose it.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Eating and
I ate and drank a ton of water and overall thing I did a pretty
good job but in the heat of the dry desert, did not take in enough salt to
replenish what I was losing and to keep a balance with the amount of water I was
drinking. This is something I need to
continue to work on in training.
Make sure you have a jacket, hat and gloves in your dropbag!
Average pace: 13:11min/mile.
elevation gain: ~4800’
Place: 24th overall and 21st in my
gender and 10th in my age group