Written by Katrin Silva - http://runkat.com

Cast of characters

Our Fearless Heroine:
Katrin, ultra runner in pursuit of another belt buckle at the end of the rainbow, otherwise known as the 100-mile Leadville trail run.

Supporting characters and sidekicks:

Katrin’s Brain, convinced 100 percent that she is tougher than she thinks she is and can do more than she thinks she can
David, Katrin’s loyal crew/cheerleader/photographer/husband combo
Rachael, Katrin’s loyal ultra friend who has agreed to help crew
Adrian “Speed Demon” Stanciu, Katrin’s elite runner friend, who has agreed to pace her for 20 miles . . . and then for 37 . . .and in the end for 50.
Assorted llamas

Villains, adversaries, and monsters to be slain:

Hope Pass – looming and evil, a powerful enemy
The Neverending Trail to Winfield, which has grown two miles since last year.
The Powerline Climb – a shapeshifting hydra with five false heads
Katrin’s Finicky Stomach, a whining traitor who crosses into enemy territory after mile 53
Katrin’s Various Other Body Parts – legs, eyes, knees- who follow the traitorous stomach one by one onto the opposing side

Act 1

Start to Twin Lakes

Soundtrack: A gunshot, then Don’t Stop Me Now (Queen)

Legs: We’re ready! We’re rested! We’re cold! We’re raring to go!
Brain: No, patience. We’ve got plenty of time . . .
Legs: We can run this uphill!
Brain: Really? Ok, if you’re sure . . . it feels good to pass a few more runners, hehe!
Stomach: . . . (content, happy gurgling sounds).
Eyes: Look! Turquoise Lake, how pretty! . . . Oooooh, Mt Elbert. Hey, our buddy Eric is up ahead, let’s go catch up! Hey, there’s an aid station!
David: You’re looking great!
Rachael: What do you need?
Brain: Should we stop and eat something? Nah, no time . . . Hey wait, why is the two-liter bladder still half full after 40 miles? Did I forget something?

Act II

Twin Lakes to Winfield

Soundtrack: You Can Get it if You Really Want it (Jimmy Cliff)

Hope Pass: I will make you suffer. Muahaha.
Brain: You don’t scare me. Up we go!
Legs: Ok. We still feel pretty strong.
Brain: I am superwoman. I can pass people while climbing Hope. Go Me!
Llama: Look at these pathetic things coming up the pass. Two legs. Inadequate. Phew. (spits in runners’ direction)
Friendly volunteer: Can we refill your pack?
Katrin: Yes, please . . . Oh crap, this is the first time since this morning. I ran 45 miles on less than two liters of water??? Why?
Lungs: Gasp . . . gasp . . . Still no oxygen up here, same as last year.
Legs: It’s still steep, same as last year.
Brain: Come one! Up and over! There you go!
The Neverending Trail to Winfield: Muahahahah . . . I am a mile longer this year.
Muahahah . . .one mile each way, makes two miles total. Not flat miles, no . . . Lots of uphill, lots of downhill. Runners can see the aid staton, and then I lead them away from t the aid station again. Complete despair is my goal, muahahahah! Muahahaha!
Katrin: Where is that (#%($^$ aid station?????
Never-ending Trail: I’m going to trip you, so you limp into Winfield with a bloody knee. Muahaha!
Katrin: Ouch! (^$(^^%#%

(an eternity later)

David: You look great!
Rachael: Do you want anything to eat?
Katrin: No time . . . one bite of sandwich will do. And one potato chip.

Act III

Winfield to Hopeless

Soundtrack: Everybody Hurts (R.E.M)

Adrian, fidgeting like a racehorse at the start of the Kentucky Derby: Let’s run!
Katrin, who doesn’t want to look pathetic in front of her fast friend: Sure!
Hope Pass: I am steep . . . I am endless . . . I don’t have switchbacks. Woe to all who climb my backside! Your hamstrings will hurt! They will cramp!Legs: We can’t go up there! Not again. Not without fuel!
Stomach: You should have thought of that 20 miles ago, when I still wanted to play this game. I quit. Bye!
Brain: You sorry bunch of losers! Come on, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. . . we’re practically standing still! People are passing us! No!
Katrin, bonking: Ugh, wait. I don’t feel so good.
Adrian: (muttering to himself) I thought she was faster than a snail . . . (aloud): You’re doing fine.
Hope Pass: You shall perish! You shall suffer! You shall regret ever signing up for this race!

(an eternity later)

Katrin: Yay! Downhill! Oxygen! I am alive!!!
Llama #2: I am cuter than you, human.

Act IV

Hopeless to base of Powerline climb (inbound)

Soundtrack: Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater

Brain: let’s catch a few people on this rocky downhill . . . we’re behind schedule. We want that big buckle!
Legs: ok, ok. We’re running on fumes here!
Stomach: I told you I quit. No, I don’t want another Stinger Waffle. No, not even a Ginger chew.
David: Let me take a few pictures! You’re doing great!
Rachael: Ok, headlamp, jacket, dry shoes . . . you should eat something.
Katrin: No time. I still have a shot at the big buckle if I hurry.

(Darkness falls. Our heroine and her valiant pacer/pack mule Adrian turn on their lights.)

Legs: Can we please, please, please have some fuel?
Stomach: I told you earlier, I quit. That means no.
Eyes: we’ve been wearing those contacts for, like, a long time now, and it’s dusty. And we’re really dry. Everything looks hazy.
Legs: Are we there yet?
Brain: Come on, stop whining!
Adrian: Wow, we just ran a ten-minute mile, 75 miles in. Maybe you can still get that buckle! . . .There’s Outward Bound. David! Rachael! Where are you?
(no answer). Ok, it looks like I’ll be pacing until May Queen. Eat something!
Katrin: Let’s go!

Act V

 Powerline climb to finish

It’s dark. It’s cold. It keeps getting colder. 
All music has stopped, except for drumbeats in a slow, ominous rhythm

Powerlines: I am standing between you and the finish . . . (sounding like Gandalf talking to the Balrog): YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

Legs: No! Not another climb! We’re done! We haven’t seen any glycogen down here in, like, forever. We quit!
Stomach: Great! You guys can just hang out with me and no nothing.
Legs: Good idea. Excellent. Quitting time, yay!
Powerlines: I SHALL TRIP YOU! YOU SHALL SUFFER!

(CRASH)

Katrin: Ouch! Not again! *$$*^@#<br< a="">>Eyes: We are seeing ghosts. Huh??
Brain: It’s ok, that’s the Space Station. Legs, it’s downhill to May Queen from here . . . Come on!
Legs: We’ll try . . . Nope, we won’t even try anymore. We’re done.
Stomach: Yeah, let’s party! Look, I am doing the limbo twist . . .
Eyes: Everything looks out of focus, but isn’t that May Queen?
Brain: Yes! And we’ve got three hours to still get that buckle. It’s not impossible. Come on! Move! Move, I said!
Legs: But it feels much better to not move!
Adrian: David! Rachael! Where are you? . . . It looks like I’ll be pacing you to the finish.
Katrin: I feel awful. I don’t care about the big buckle anymore . . .I just want this to be over.
Adrian: The faster you move, the sooner you finish.

(Several eternities later)

Katrin is dragging her protesting body parts behind her like a pack of unruly, spitting llamas. Her vision becomes more and more compromised.

Eyes: We quit! We’re joining the rebel side! Legs, stomach, here we come . . . yippee!
Brain: Hey! Get back here!
Legs: Are we there yet?
Brain: You ingrates! You lazy freeloaders! Keep moving! Come on. Left, right, left right . . .
Adrian: The boulevard goes this way . . . where on earth are you going?
Katrin: I can’t see a damn thing . . . everything looks blurry!
Adrian: You’re going off the road again . . .get out of that gutter.
Katrin: Where? Huh? What gutter?
Adrian: We’re almost there.
Katrin: Can I just lie down and die of hypothermia?
Adrian: No.
Katrin: Can you just shoot me?
Adrian: No.

(another eternity later)
The first hint of dawn inches up on the horizon.

Adrian, sounding relieved: Look! The finish line!

Soundtrack: We Are the Champions (Queen)

(The clock says 25:51. Thunderous applause from the six or so bleary-eyed spectators lining 6th street waiting to console other runners who have missed the big buckle cutoff by less than an hour)

Katrin: I sort of see it . . . let’s see if I can run across it.
(staggers across the finish line, veering off the red carpet)
David: You look . . . . finished.
Rachael: You look terrible.
Katrin (suddenly exuberant, though still half blind and barely upright): I finished! I finished!

The End

Epilogue:
My vision returned a few hours, two naps, and about a gallon of water later. Cloudy eyes apparently are a common condition among 100-mile racers. It’s harmless and temporary, but it did freak me out a little.

It’s a good time to be alive and running, especially in Leadville.

Spotted in the parking lot before the briefing. My next license plate!

Written by Eric Grant - http://www.lhtrailrunning.com

leman

The Ultra Tour of Léman holds a special place in my heart. First of all, there’s the fact of going around a lake that I’ve called home for 37 years - but the main reason is the atmosphere of this race that I love, “far from the madding crowd”. Every year, a great group of enthusiastic but low-key runners gather to experience this unique race, led by the organizer, Jean-Luc Ridet. I contacted him in 2013 when I saw one weekend a bunch of runners with backpacks and bibs running along the lake in Geneva. I volunteered the following year to help out, and I knew then that I had to do this race. As a result, 2015 became a test year with the 100km of Millau and in 2016 I participated in the UTL for the first time – stopping in Morges after 130km and 19h of running with the feeling that my legs were giving out. I figured it was in large part due to having done only six weeks before another race that I had been focusing on for a few years, the Swiss Irontrail - 201km with 11,000m of elevation (though I timed out at 140km after 42 hours) - and I had focused my training on the mountain running, figuring that transferring to road would not be a big deal! Ah, well, lesson learned...

So 2017, I trained almost exclusively on flat roads. A pain in my right foot in June/July forced me to reduce my training,but having finished the GUCR (233km) in May, I still felt fit and ready...

 

Friday evening I returned to the friendly family-like atmosphere of the UTL. A few well-known faces from the previous year and the 12h/24h Villeneuve race in April - Corrinne, Juan and Paola - and new encounters, such as Scott, an Australian expat from Nyon, Dylan, another expat from Lyon whose blogI’ve been following for a while, Sylvain from Brittany, Hélène from Dax in the Landes, and Ruthann, an Irish woman who had just in Nyon on a short-term work posting and figured, "Ah, there's a race around the lake, sounds nice!". She finished 2nd in less than 20h! Well, turns out she’s Ireland's 24-hour champion (225km). We know, because Jean-Luc takes the trouble during the race briefing Friday night to present all the runners individually. There are some very impressive CVs, of course, with treadmill records, Transgaules, Transeuropes, Etoile Savoyarde, Spartathlons, UTMBs, Tor des Géants and others, but in the end it is the slightly wonky world of ultra-running that unites us all. There are quite a few of us with far more modest CVs, and some for whom this is the first attempt at a 100+ miles. Everyone is really supportive of one another, since we are only competing against ourselves.

 

And then there's the staff, the volunteers, incredible. As one of the competitors, René Lecacheur, wrote after the race: "THANK YOU for your presence, your dedication, your patience, your kindness, your smiles, your good humor, your availability, your little attentions to us, your pleasure to be there. Receive our gratitude for all your support in difficult conditions (night, cold, wind ... etc), but you are always there for us, always with a smile. So Thank you!".

 

After the briefing, communal dinner then off to bed. I slept well but woke up in a strange mental state, as if I did not quite realize that I was going to run 175km. The sole of my right foot hurt very slightly, but in the end it would turn out to be never more than a slight bother even after 29 hours of racing – so ultimately nothing to complain about (damn!).

 

Villeneuve – Lugrin – CP1 (22,5km)


We head off with cool weather at 7am to the sound of cow bells. Right away René charges ahead (he’s vice-world champion for longest distance on a treadmill in 24h - 247km! – didn’t even know that this kind of stuff existed!). He came to win, even break the record... He’s followed by a small group moving too fast for me - then there’s me, at about 9km/h as planned. And then behind me, a slightly slower group... So, only 10 minutes into the race, I find myself alone. And I’ll stay that way- almost without seeing anyone in front or behind - for nearly 15 hours of racing... Ah, for someone who doesn’t like crowds, I got what I came for! A new journey of inner discovery awaits…

This first section is going well. I already plug in to a little music, I set my pace, forcing myself to walk a minute or so every quarter of an hour. The first few kilometers are in a natural reserve along the lake between Villeneuve and Le Bouveret, then we cross the border into France. We’re right on the lake, the view is magnificent, with steep mountains on the left, and I feel very fortunate to be here.

 

I had estimated my time based the GUCR and arrived bang on schedule at the first checkpoint in 2h30. Quick coffee, a homemade wafer by the daughter of Raphaëlle, one of the loyal volunteers of the UTL, and I charge off - forgetting my water bottle! But no worries, I wanted to get rid of it anyway, and I have a pouch in the backpack. Raphaëlle says she’ll also be at the last CP7, and I tell her that this year I count on seeing her there!


Lugrin – Anthy-sur-Léman – CP2 (44km)

Things are going pretty smoothly. Things are getting rather more urban with cars zipping past, requiring to be quite focused when the sidewalk disappears. Then we turn off the main road into residential areas – very pretty! I was already quite pleasantly surprised last year to gain a new perspective of a region I thought I knew so well… I pass the marathon distance in less than 5 hours, much slower than last year when I took off too fast, and I arrive again on schedule in Anthy in 5:15. A few quick nibbles and I’m off. Can feel my legs now, but nothing out of the ordinary…


Anthy-sur-Léman – Chens-sur-Léman – CP3 (64km)

I spend a lot of time thinking about the race, about what I will write on my blog, and time just flies, it's great – I even have to force myself to slow down. Then, as can always happen in an ultra (and usually does several times), the tables flip and I find myself finding the time very looooong. Last year, too, I started to struggle mentally here. There are parts of the road without sidewalk but overall it is beautiful, as you pass through Excenevex, Yvoire, Messery. Yet I’ve got the blues... Which might explain why, when I arrive at the third checkpoint, I blab on and on to the volunteers about the fact that I will see my wife and my daughter soon since I pass within 100m of our house. The CP, which I hit again right on schedule at 3pm, moved one kilometer from Chens because there is a 10km race organized for this afternoon. That's nice.

Chens-sur-Léman – Bellevue – CP4 (87km)

After Chens we head vaguely downhill to Hermance and into Switzerland and very familiar territory. I had retrieved my lost water bottle in Chens, but realized that I had not only forgotten to fill the bottle but also my back pouch, what’s up with that? No worries, I come across a water fountain and fill up my pouch, figuring that the lack of a sign indicating that the water is (or is not) drinkable means that it is… Right? A few minutes later I'm not very sure ... Anyway, whether it's psychological or something else (running and eating randomly for more than 8 hours), I start to feel nauseous. So I pop a Motilium pill... But that doesn’t seem to work too well, so I eat some candied ginger – and that works wonders!

 

Around 4.15pm I pass in front of my mother-in-law’s house. Last year I stopped here more than half an hour to chat with my wife and eat some tasty stuff I’d left in my mother-in-law’s fridge. But it was a weird experience – I'm not used to having my wife follow me on my races – and I didn’t want to stop for such a long time outside an official checkpoint, so we’d agreed just to meet up briefly near our home. I’m glad I did: I feel much better than last year when I was already suffering from very tired legs and a sore knee, even though the nausea has already returned.

 

Just before I get to Collonge, a cyclist slows down to my level and asks me what I am up to, then he explains that he is doing the Ironman Barcelona in a few weeks and that he is on his last long bike ride, which he should follow with a run but he is really not motivated... Sorry dude, not sure what to tell you...

 

I pass my daughter's school and call my wife to let her know. 10mn later we meet up in front of the Migros in Vésenaz with my daughter. They buy me an ice cream (mmm ...), my daughter hands me a Monster energy drink that I’d left in our fridge, and we sit out in the sun for a quarter of an hour - my daughter on another bench ten meters away because she says I smell bad! Then she tells me I have to hurry, I’m going to get overtaken! Oh, no worries about that darling! We are few and far between, and in any case if someone does, good on them! Then she tells me that I should just stay here. What do you mean!? Have I not taught you never to give up without a damn good reason – and this isn’t one! She says it's because she’s going to miss me tonight ... Oh, break my heart... But beyond the fact that I absolutely do not see myself stopping now, the prospect of having to get up and take the train on a Sunday morning to retrieve my car and stuff in Villeneuve sounds even more tiring than running another 100km around the lake. So I just blow a big kiss, hug my wife and off I go…

 

And immediately run into a former colleague. I don’t want to be rude, so I ask how she’s doing, kid and all, and I do really want to know because it’s been a while since we ran into each other, but finally I tell her I’m in a race and should get going. She understands, and I head off towards the lake.

 

The Monster kicks in, I’ve seen my wife and daughter, and the sun is glinting off the lake as the town of Geneva appears (last year it was raining): I’m in rare form, and I start to run more and walk less, and manage to keep that up till the next checkpoint. I spend 5mn talking with a woman on a bike who asks me about the race and encourages me. I feel even more like superman… There are a lot of runners out, so I try to make sure that my bib is visible ("see, 175km, that's why I'm so slow! ") But no-one keeps me more than a perplexed nod…

 

I arrive at Bellevue around 18:30 still within my most optimistic time predictions, so I start to wonder if I might not actually pull a good time, less than 26h? I was over an hour later last year and night had fallen.


Bellevue – Gland – CP5 (107km)

I am the only runner again at checkpoint 3, with three volunteers all to myself. I am offered a massage, I hesitate, I accept. I start to shiver, they give me two blankets, one for the shoulders, one for the legs. Then they serve me up some broth with noodles - mmm, that goes down well, almost the only thing that I can stomach with this recurring nausea which comes in waves between bites of ginger. This is only the 2nd time in about 30  ultras that I have nausea, and now there’s something new: the feeling that I have a pill stuck in my throat…

 

I am surprised to see Helen at the checkpoint, because she’s running the relay, but it’s good to see her. She’s waiting for her teammate Philippe who took off slowly as he’s suffering from a knee injury. She has a while to wait still. Meanwhile, she discovering Swiss chocolate! ... I ask how Dylan is fairing, as know it’s his first 100-miler (110!), and I was told he passed through more than an hour and half ago. So it would seem it's going well.

 

I leave after retrieving a new baggie of food for the next leg – I’ve left one at each checkpoint from here on – but the chips, Pims and Oreo cookies that I thought would be a real delight when packing them do nothing for me now. I actually throw away the cheese-flavored chips, ugh!, and just nibble on an oreo and a pims. It goes down ok, but I have to force myself a little. So disappointed!

 

I keep up a good pace, still run/walk-ing, until Versoix/Mies. Night’s falling but there are enough streetlights not to have to put on my headlamp. I run past Scott's wife who tells me that Scott is napping in the car...

 

Then my watch starts beeping: low battery. I plug it into my portable battery and store it in my backpack. I try to use my phone to track my running/walking, but soon realize it’s totally useless and give up, and give in to the pleasure of just moving along without focusing on time or pace…

 

This might have been a mistake - because it seems to take forever to reach the next checkpoint, which seemed so short last year and which is, objectively, the shortest distance between checkpoints. Yet I feel good and I thought I was moving pretty quick (relatively speaking). Several times I thought I was arriving in Nyon - but no! And when I pull out my watch to check my average pace, it’s dropped! I’m actually moving slower than last year?!

 

Feeling somewhat lonely now, I call my friend Anthony, with whom I did the Alpe d'Huez long-distance triathlon, then the Vichy Ironman (well, we participated in the same events, he just finished far ahead!) and who crewed me at the Swiss Irontrail and the GUCR. Then I try to call another buddy, Cyril, whom I've known for almost 30 years, with whom I did the Marathon des Sables and so many other races,- and who had accompanied me by bike for the UTL last year... Turns out he’s at a friend’s 50th birthday. 50th! Time flies. I don’t feel anywhere near 50!

 

I pass Nyon finally, then Gland arrives not too far behind, but I’m pretty damn sure there are sections of the road that weren’t there last year, or perhaps the kilometers have turned into miles…


Gland – St. Prex – CP6 (126km)

Last year, I already had thoughts of dropping at this checkpoint. I was fine this year, tired for sure, but legs ok. Apart from my latent nausea, all systems are a go – a timid go, like a stubborn mule forced to climb the mountain, but a go nonetheless….

 

I ask how Dylan’s doing, and turns out he passed through two hours ago, so he’s even gained time on me (not that I’d harbored any ideas of catching up), so I’m figuring he’s doing really well. Actually, I learned later from his blog that he was having to cope with signs of dehydration. Goes to show how easy things always look from the outside...

 

I don’t dally, pick up another baggy of food (beurk!), retrieve a more powerful headlamp (a Petzl Nao and its f**king intertwining threads, I really have to switch to something else) and off I hop. An hour later, I pull some Parma ham of my bag – rough going, but it’s real food and salty and greasy and that’s apparently what I need because it goes down ok. And I need fuel.

 

Then I slow down – I mean, to the point where even I realize that I am slowing down. I continue to trot intermittently, but there’s quite a bit of power walking going on… Still, no plodding, so gotta look on the bright side. That said, space-time distortion continues: I feel much better – and that I am doing better – than last year, but I still only get to St. Prex just an hour ahead of last year's time, which means I did the whole section from Bellevue much slower?! I’m telling you, they added sections to the road…

 

But I'm no longer alone at this point. I arrived in Rolle with no water, and couldn’t find any fountains with drinkable water (not making that mistake again!), so I fill my pouch in the bathroom of a pub (from the tap, I might add), and as I’m leaving I see another runner. I call out to him but he doesn’t hear me, so I charge across the road (all things being relative when I say “charge”) and tap him on the shoulder: it is Scott! He’s doing pretty well, he slept a little in his wife's car. But he’s tired and his legs are beat, and we are both happy to reduce our pace to a sustained walk.

 

And so chat for the next hours, about work and the races we've done... Scott is attempting to do 500km in 50 days in six races. Last weekend he did Swisspeaks, about 80km/50 miles and a lot of elevation on technical trails, and next weekend he’s doing the LG Trail, 115km with 3,500m of elevation from Lausanne to Geneva. Which explains his state of fatigue…

 

We arrive at 1 am in St. Prex where we both agree to take a proper break. I retrieve another food baggy, but I suddenly retch at the sight of the bars and gels and even the dried beef that I end up by throwing away with a heavy heart. One of the volunteers standing near steps back but I manage to keep it all down... A few pieces of ginger later and I feel better right away. But I’ll be unable to eat for the next 4-5 hours, which might explain why I have a hard time finding renewed energy.

 

Scott and I both realize sleep is an impossible proposition as the night is quite cool, so we head off for the longest leg to the last checkpoint.


St. Prex – Cully – CP7 (153km)

And it definitely feels like the longest stretch!... But the kilometers slip by as we chat, and I'm happy to arrive at Morges where I stopped last year... Then shortly after exiting Morges, Scott plays tricks with my mind: he sees a bus shelter and says that would make for a nice lie-down. I hadn’t dared suggest it! But when we pass the next one, I say “hey, what about a lie down”, but he’s not up for it, like he was joking or something, but I can’t get it out of my head, so on the third one we pass I tell him I’m going to nap as my eyes are drooping. I tell him to go on, maybe catch up later…

 

The nap lasts all of five minutes. There’s a breeze that just fills the shelter with cold air, so I decide to move on. I try again an hour later, same result. Then I hit the outskirts of Lausanne and enter a dark forest that runs all along the lake. It's almost scary! Which of course is when my Petzl decides to blink to tell me the batteries are dying - oops, must have forgotten to charge them. I recognize with some dry, detached humor the accumulation of errors I’m making on this ultra, a sign perhaps that I was not as focused on it as I should have been. I’m just lucky that it’s a road race where the temperature changes aren’t too drastic and there is access to civilization…

 

Anyway, I decided to enjoy the dark for a while, before realizing that I’ve hit a deadend and there is nowhere to go except into the lake… So I turn back until I see one of the race arrows – actually indicating I was in the right place. What the…? Ok, so I head back along the boardwalk, but this time take out my spare lamp and hey presto magic, there’s the path, just to the left weaving into the forest. Thank God for Light!

 

Oddly enough, it's among the moments in the race that I enjoy the most. The wooded park on the left, the lake on the right, the silence of the night... Then I see a telephone booth - a few broken panes but providing better shelter from the wind than anywhere else. So I curl up on the cigarette butt-strewn floor, actually quite comfortable, wondering again and the unique experiences an ultra marathon provides… It reminds me somewhat of past years of alcohol and drug-use, sleepless nights and aimless wondering in empty public places in the dead of night… And it’s briefly unpleasant until I realize how far I have traveled, that my intense fatigue now is due to 140 kilometers of running and there's no chemical crash…

 

I drift off a bit but eventually leave after about 10 minutes of fitful napping, pass through a port, and emerge on the edge of wide open space now occupied by a horse show... And I realize it's dawn.

 

I arrive soon after at Ouchy and that’s when I see Scott staggering ahead. He really doesn’t look good. But he's on the phone - with his wife, I think - and he waves vaguely to me as I pass. I slow down to stay just a little ahead of him, given him some space, but we’re really moving slowly. Something of a dilemma - if I keep going at this pace, I could eventually just give up; and that would certainly happen if he drops out and gets picked up by his wife. So I signal to him that I'm taking off.

 

Still, I look behind from time to time but can’t see him. I stop for five minutes to rest and wait for him, but he still doesn’t show up... Well, he has plenty of experience (finished, among others, a 250km race in the mountains in Japan – like the Asian Barkley's), he has a phone, we are in a city and there are already joggers out this Sunday morning so I’m not too worried for him, and eventually just “charge” ahead to Cully.

 

And that's where space-time distortion resumes, but this time it's entirely my fault. I’ve retrieved my watch from my bag but it seems like the charger didn’t work so I’ve turned off the GPS function and I have no clue of distances or speed. So I figure that by studying the bus stops, I can guess how long it will take me to get to Cully.

 

What a mistake! Since when are bus route maps drawn to scale? So at the beginning I feel like I'm moving fast, calculating that at the pace I move between bus stops I’ll arrive at the last checkpoint in Cully at around 7:15am - cool! Also weird: every time I stop to check the schedule, a bus arrives, as if to taunt me. And it's Sunday morning! I would love for buses to run on a Sunday like that in Geneva.

 

Then I pass through a beautiful village on the lake stupidly thinking that this is Lutry and I will soon reach Cully, but realize that in fact this is the old town of Pully. But it’s after this that my morale really takes a blow. According to the bus route, the distance appears about the same between Pully, Lutry and Cully... But it turns out that between Lutry and Cully there is a small town called Villette, which comes well after a really long straight stretch from Lutry…

 

Fortunately, the scenery is amazing, especially at this early hour, with the lake sparkling to the right and the vineyards to the left, and the train tracks in between. I feel like I’m in a miniature train set... And then I come across a gas station open early and buy a chicken sandwich. My nausea has not completely passed, but by eating it in small pieces, it goes down pretty well! Have to say that it’s been more than 4 hours since I’ve eaten nothing...


Cully – Villeneuve (175Km)

I arrive shortly after 8h at Cully, where Raphaëlle is waiting with a big smile, her kids running around with endless energy (apparently they slept real well in the car). I manage some broth, and salami goes down well too. Then I try to catch some sleep in another volunteer’s car – he stretches out the driver’s seat and hands me a blanket. But, once again after 5-10mn I give up.

When I get out of the car, I see Scott staggering in. He collapses into a chair, exhausted – and this is probably the first time I’ve really seen someone absolutely exhausted. He doesn’t want to give up but he realizes that he may actually be putting his health at risk. When I head out, he gives me a big smile of encouragement for the last bit. Whatever he’s feeling, it may be completely understandable disappointment but definitely not self-pity. 

The sun’s shining and it’s all downhill into Vevey, amazing. I remove my windbreaker and long sleeves that I wore during the night to put on a new clean t-shirt. I feel like a new man and I start jogging again.

From Vevey I can see the entire distance still to cover – but I can pretty much see Villeneuve! I know I’ll get there and if I push a bit I can make it close to the somewhat loose official cut-off time of 29h10 (which means an average pace of 6km/h for the whole race, taking stops into account). Just like at the GUCR, these last hours are really tough on the legs and feet, and mentally I just want to get it done, I will get it done, but struggling with the amount of time it will take… But I am not bored at all. The boardwalk is filled with strollers, and joggers too whipping by (as I once again try to make my bib visible!).

Then I pass the Chateau de Chillon and there it is, I am in Villeneuve. I pass the train station, I see the service station that marks the left turn towards Tronchenaz. Now I’m running along the river, with the soccer field on my left. And then they see me and I hear the incredible sound of the cowbells - and I get a hug from Jean-Luc, and Scott is there too and we give each other a long hug - I thank him for his support and helping me finish, saying how sorry I am he had to drop - and Dylan’s there too congratulating me ... Actually, almost everyone is there since I'm the second to last person to arrive. Helene will arrive a little less than an hour after me, a real warrior.
So at last the tour of great lake is complete – and I won’t have to return out of revenge but rather to enjoy the magical experience of a unique race.

Written by Katrin Silva - http://runkat.com

I registered for the 2017 Javelina 100 in late September, after two difficult 100-mile finishes earlier in the summer. Bryce and Leadville had gone well until I fell apart around mile 80 and shuffled, walked, or staggered on until crossing the finish line. I began to think that, at 47, old age had finally caught up with me. I worried that my finishing kick in 100s was gone for good.

So, I signed up for the Javelina. It’s an easier course than what I normally choose – no altitude, no mountain passes, not too technical, not too much vert. I wanted my mojo back. I also wanted a 100-mile PR. I wanted to run faster than my 23:16 in Leadville four years earlier. Never mind that the Javelina takes place in the desert heat of central Arizona, never mind that I had not done any heat training since August – I wanted redemption.

I also wanted the race to double as a romantic getaway. My husband David and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in mid-October. When I suggested a weekend road trip to the Javelina 100, David immediately agreed (one of the many reasons why i love him). We drove from New Mexico to Fountain Hills on Friday. While going through Santa Fe, an hour away from home, I shift into panic mode: have I packed my good Hokas? We pull over. I dig through my bag. I have not.

Time to problem-solve. Turning back would turn an eight-hour drive into ten hours, and make us miss packet pickup. Lucky for me, we are not too far from the Running Hub, our Santa Fe running store, where I purchase a pair of Speedgoats and put them on my feet for the rest of the day so I don’t run 100 miles in brand-new shoes. Nothing new on race day, right?

The Javelina is a five-loop course. I’ve always preferred out and backs or point to points, for the simple reason that I don’t want to pass the finish line until the finish. Passing it four times, at mile 20, 40, 60, and 80 seems like a recipe for a DNF. I imagined the temptation to drop would be overwhelming – an irresistible siren call, a surefire way to break my willpower. So, in spite of hearing great things about the Javelina for years, I had never wanted to take this chance until now.

The race starts at 6 am, with a counterclockwise loop that is slightly longer than the other four. We gallop off into the desert, riding high on a wave of pure energy. It’s still cool and crisp. After twenty minutes or so, I turn off my light. The sun inches up on the horizon, splashing the desert with purple, red, and shades of orange. I get stuck in the back of the pack, then break free on a section of double track and speed up – probably too much, but I can’t help it. A familiar shirtless silhouette in front of me tuns out to be Adrian – my pacer and friend without whom I would not have finished Leadville two months ago. He has a plane to catch the next morning, meaning that he has to finish the Javelina in under 21 hours. I wish him luck as he scampers ahead, on his way to a spectacular 18-hour finish..

The Javelina 100 is a social race because the loops are washing-machine style, meaning we reverse direction each time we finish one. Everyone sees everyone else several times – lots of opportunities to catch up with old friends, and meet new ones. I say hello to Ian Maddieson, 75 years young, and to a 14-year old kid whose friends think he’s gone crazy. I meet runners from Ireland, Mexico, Canada, and all over the US.

I also meet strange creatures not normally found in ultra races because lots of people run the Javelina in costumes.

I wear a colorful top, skirt, and cowgirl hat, plus some pink hair, and some body glitter. Others dressed up in much more elaborate fashion: clowns, skeletons, bandits, Jackie O, Fred Flintstone, several Wonder Women, a guy in a thong, men (and a few women) in tutus.

By the time I start my second loop, clockwise, the desert is warming up. By the time I start my third, it’s hot. Really hot. I’m still running strong, but have slowed down a little, even take a few short walk breaks on the uphills. At every aid station, I stuff handfuls of ice into my hat and down my bra. All aid stations at Javelina are top notch – a cross between tapa restaurant, night club with full bar, support group meeting, field hospital, and motivational event. Coyote Crossing offers Bloody Marys and forms of pain relief. Jackass Junction transforms the desert into a dance club, complete with strobe lights and a disco ball. I leave every aid station nourished, cool, and cheerful. The furthest distance between aid stations is 6.5 miles, so it’s impossible to stay grumpy for long at Javelina.

The afternoon sun feels merciless. I pass a couple of runners who crouch doubled over trail side, retching. I offer ginger and encouraging words, but can’t do much else. My own stomach is on the edge of rebelling after a steady all-day diet of Stinger Waffles and ginger ale. I try to reason with it. I implore it to behave better than it did in Leadville.It grumbles, the settles down again, still threatening with mutiny.

The loop course does require more mind games than usual. While I finish loop three, I think “only a 50k to go.” Wait, a 50k? It seems like a lot. I also realize that, had I signed up for the 100k instead of the 100-miler, I would be done already. Ruminating along such unhelpful lines, I reach the Jeadquarters for the third time right before sunset.

I dig out my good headlamp and change socks. David reminds me to eat, so I choke down some pretzels and a protein bar. Time to refocus the mind to something more positive than the remaining 50k, like cooler evening temperatures. Like the undeniable fact that I’m more than halfway done. Loop four will my last counterclockwise round. Each loop features a gentle, rolling climb to Jackass Junction, then a gentle, rolling descent back to the Jeadquarters. The climb is rockier and steeper in the clockwise direction, but the descent is smoother and more inviting, basically an easy cruise to the finish. Now, I run back up the cruising section, finding I have plenty of energy left. The uphill is so gradual that walk breaks don’t cross my mind. I have taken a couple of very short walk breaks in the heat of the afternoon, on some of the steeper clockwise climbs, but in the cooler air, I feel able to run at a decent pace.

My stomach still threatens to quit, but doesn’t actually turn inside out. I talk to it in a stern voice: “Just a few more hours, please, you finicky organ. Quit sounding like a whiny child. Don’t sabotage my race, like you did at Leadville.” And so on. My stomach has a capricious disposition. It’s easily offended and not always a good team player with my other body parts. Halfway into loop four, I switch to an all-ginger diet for the rest of the race, hoping for a puke-free 100 miles. John passes me at the Coyote aid station, looking string and steady. I try to keep up, but think better of it – I still have 24 miles to go, and I’ve learned the hard way to run my own race until mile 95 or so.

Back at the Jeadquarters after loop four, my fuzzy brain calculates that I will have no trouble finishing in sub-22, which was my A-goal. David, my ultrahusband, is dressed to pace in his shorts and knee brace, and we head out into the night. The sound of crickets fills the night. A half moon shines above us. This is happiness, pure and simple – running through a beautiful desert, surrounded by people I care about.

Eight miles in, David’s injured knee begins to bother him. He lags behind me more and more. I wait for him, but he urges me to go on alone. We reach Jackass Junction, where we snap a couple of pictures in the desert disco, then we kiss and I head out for the last ten miles to the finish. I can still run. My legs are tired, but there’s only a single digit number of miles left to go. My stomach is still on the edge of mutiny, but still holding its ginger. The night is cool but not cold, and I feel warm enough in my skirt and thin long-sleeve. I run, at a slow but steady pace, feeling peaceful in the quiet, dark desert. No need for music, no need for more motivation. I am here, the time is now, and nothing else matters. Every so often, other runners come toward me. We mutter words of encouragement, pointing our lights politely sideways and down. It’s a beautiful night, and I know I won’t see that second sunrise. My Garmin has died many miles ago, but I know that a sub -22 is possible.

The last aid station. A last handful of ginger, fresh batteries in my dimming lights, and I’m ready for the home stretch. Less than four miles to go. I pass a couple of runners who ask me whether I’ on my last lap. They cheer me on when I say yes. I cross the now familiar washes one last time. I take a right turn off the Pemberton trail one last time. I’m hurting, but I know I’m getting close.

The tent city comes into view one last time. One last pass under the arch, one last triumphant lap around the headquarters loop lined by pop-up tents filled with cheering crew members. one last little uphill toward the finish line. I see the clock. It says 20:00. I blink. I look again. It says 20:01 by the time I get there. Out of the shadows jumps my dear husband, who has caught a ride from Jackass Junction and arrived at the finish just before me. He snaps a quick picture with his phone. We hug. We feel ecstatic. I never dreamed I could run 100 miles in just over 20 hours. As we sink into camp chairs and pop open a couple of beers, I wonder: could I shave one more minute off my time? I might just have to come back next year and find out.

Javelina is a beautiful race in every sense: the scenery, the organization, the cheerful vibes. Thank you, Jamil Coury and Aravaipa Running, for putting on a top-notch event. Thank you, John and Senovia, for graciously sharing your tent. Thank you, all my old and new friends, for making Javelina a 100 miles to remember. I love you all, and I will be back.

Written by Marcin Krzysztofik - http://wolnybiegacz.pl

V3K (Vegan 3000 Ultra) is a mountain ultramarathon that I heard of for the first time about 2 years ago. Of course I got really keen to run it one day. Before I dive into the report, I can disclose that I finished the race. My result isn’t overly impressive, but I’m satisfied with my performance, considering this was my first such a highly technical race and the first ‘skyrace’ I took part in. My aim had been to finish the race, hopefully in a reasonable time somewhere around the middle of the pack. On top of that I had counted on beautiful views and had been excited to see parts of Snowdonia I’d never seen before.

Skyrunning

Skyrunning is a term for a specific kind of running events. These are generally mountain races with a lot of vertical gain proportionally to the race distance. Skyrunning encompasses a few categories: Sky (races up to 50k long), Ultra (races longer than 50k), Vertical (1000 metres of altitude gain) and Extreme (just hardcore 😊). Skyrunning originates from the Dolomites in Italy and over the years has become extremely popular, among others in countries such as USAUK or Poland.

V3K Ultra

V3K Ultra is the first race of Skyrunner UK National Series. V3K stands for Vegan 3,000s. Vegan, because the organiser is vegan and all participants of the race have to adhere to a vegan diet throughout the race. 3,000s, because the race route winds through Snowdonia and takes in all 15 Welsh summits over 3,000 feet tall. More on what these summits are can be found on Wikipedia. All of them are located in the beautiful Snowdonia National Park. The race is 54k long, while the sum of all ascents is over 4,000 metres, so considerable altitude gain. To make matters more interesting, there is a little bit of exposure and scrambling involved, so those with fear of heights might give this race a pass.

The day before

Together with my family we left Oxford on Friday morning (23rd June) and in the afternoon arrived at the event base in Tal-y-bont, just outside of Bangor. At 7 PM the race registration started. Before I started queuing to register I had met some friends: Maciek, Andrzej and Mariusz, whom I know from some previous races. Andrzej and Mariusz had ambitious plans to score high and finish under 10 hours. Maciek, similarly to me, pretty much just wanted to finish the race.

Maciek and I waiting to register

Once we collected our race packs we enjoyed some nice vegan carbo-loading to make sure we have enough calories to burn the next day. Then, just past 8 PM the race director welcomed everyone and delivered her race briefing, pointing out where to be especially careful, where not to cut short etc. After the briefing we went to our nearby Bed & Breakfast. I packed my race vest, prepared my clothes and went to sleep to get at least 4-5 hours of rest.

Start

The alarm rang at 3:30 AM (!). I ate some porridge and a banana, drank some tea, got dressed and just before 4 AM sat in a coach that was about to take all the runners to the race start in Nant Gwynant on the other side of the mountains. It took us about 40 minutes to get there. Then we experienced an onslaught of midges. I haven’t been exposed to them for quite a few years so I forgot how annoying they are. They quickly reminded me! I carried the bite signs with me even over a week after the race!

On the way to Nant Gwynant

Inspired by Andrzej’s and Mariusz’s plan I thought I’d give it a try too and stay not far behind them. To achieve that I made it to the start line and settled just a couple of metres behind them. At 5 AM 150 or so people set off!

Part 1: Snowdon

The race starts on a gently rising path which turns later into a tiresome climb up to the top of Snowdon. Over 900 metres of altitude gain, so no minor feat.

For the first few minutes I kept up with the front runners, but it didn’t take much time for me to realise that if I continued to maintain this pace I would be gone. Out of my league…

Snowdon conquered!

I continued at my own, slower pace, mainly walking uphill and letting others overtake me. After 1.5 hour from start I summitted Snowdon. From there a short and pleasant downhill run followed. Then a short uphill and summit no. 2, Garnedd Ugain was ticked off. Afterwards I enjoyed the most exciting part of the course: the knife-edged arete of Crib Goch, summit no. 3. Unfortunately, the rocks there made me realise that my Salomon XA Pro 3D shoes were inadequate for the terrain as they had no grip on the rocks. As a result of that I had to be extra careful and frustratingly slow; many runners overtook me on this stretch.

Crib Goch

Shortly the descent from Crib Goch started. On a scree slope Maciek appeared and quickly passed me and got out of sight: clearly, he was handling descents better than I was. With the scree out of the way I continued descending along a picturesque valley until I finally reached the A4086 road. After 2 km or so along the road I reached the first feed station where I replenished my water supplies, ate something and promptly continued.

Part 2: Glyderau

On the arduous climb to Elidir Fawr, summit no. 4 I caught up with Maciek and since then we stayed together for most of the race. With Elidir Fawr bagged we stayed on high ground, always above 700 metres above sea level. With a mix of walking and running we continued checking off summits 5, 6 and 7: Y Garn, Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach.

Probably descending Glyder Fach

After a steep descent from Glyder Fach we scrambled atop Tryfan, the 8th summit. Another slow and rocky descent followed, this time down into the valley and the A5 road. Maciek reached the road a few minutes ahead of me, but I kept him in sight when we run along the A5 for a short while. We soon reached the second feed station where I arrived 3 minutes after him.

With Tryfan presumably in the background (in the clouds)

At the lavish feed station I ate/drank some soup and drank a cup of invigorating coffee. I ate a few roast potatoes and some sandwich as I was very keen to break the sweet taste of gels and bars. At this stage I felt pretty exhausted and my legs and back were sore, but on the other hand I was glad that ‘just’ one, last part remained.

Part 3: Carneddau

Maciek lingered on at the feed station while I set off, being sure that he will catch up with me later. This part begun, similarly to the two previous parts, with a long climb up to the high ground, concluded with peak no. 9: Pen yr Ole Wen. Similarly to the Glyderau section now followed a bit of a flat, or gradually descending terrain suitable for running.

Summitting Carnedd Dafydd (I think)

Having bagged Carnedd Dafydd (summit no. 10) I could enjoy a fair bit of running until I reached Yr Elen (no. 11). At the following ascent Maciek caught up with me and together we bagged peak no. 12: Carnedd Llewelyn. A gradual and runnable descent followed by a short ascent and Foel Grach (no. 13) was ours. Then another runnable descent, short ascent and Carnedd Gwenlian (no. 14) was ticked off. Shortly thereafter, maintaining a nice pace, we bagged the last summit: Foel-fras.

Enjoying the last descent

What was left was just a few miles of gentle downhill to the finish. Most of it was either a grassy slope, or a runnable path, so we pushed on as hard as sore legs allowed. We had a chance to finish under 12-hours, so every second mattered. This really kept me going. Admittedly, the fact that we overtook 3 runners on the last descent was also quite motivating.

Finish

After the last grassy bit we were left with a final stretch of a minor road. We made it across the finish line 3 minutes or so before our self-imposed target of 12-hours! At this point I really need to thank for Maciek for sticking together with me on the final descent. He was clearly capable of running faster and finishing a few minutes ahead of me, but decided to cross the finish line together as we did most of the day’s running and walking together. We finished at 82nd place out of 149 finishers, the last of whom needed just over 17 hours.

Here we are about to cross the finish line!

At the finish line my wife awaited with the camera ready to immortalise our finish. Andrzej and Mariusz were also waiting there. They had a brilliant run, finishing together in around 9 hours at a top 20 position. Respect! Even greater congratulations to their friend Jarek, whom I just met there. He finished as the 6th runner in 8 hours and 34 minutes! The winner needed just 7 hours and 25 minutes… incredible!

Post-race rehydration begins under the watchful eye of my faithful fan 🙂

After the finish and when I settled down I really started to feel how exhausted I was. I was drained, sore and could hardly force the delicious vegan food into me. Luckily, at our B&B accommodation we had a bathtub to our disposal, so I could take a hot and relaxing bath to regenerate a bit. I got so relaxed that I actually felt asleep for 15 minutes or so while there 😊

The Polish crowd at V3K!

Summary

After my good results in April’s Harpagan (6th place, race report here) and May’s Kierat (37th place, race report here) the reality hit me hard and showed that I’m no good in skyraces. I’d need way more training, especially hill training, to improve. Despite that, I’m really glad that I completed the whole course in reasonable time and without any injuries. Interestingly, on Saturday, a few hours after the race I felt quite good. On Sunday I was sore but it was rather fine. However, on Monday and Tuesday DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) hit me with a brutal force! I could hardly walk, not to mention sit. Suprisingly, not only my legs were painful, but also arms and shoulders. It does actually make sense if you think of it, considering all the scrambling when I heavily relied on my arms or descended on all fours.

New trophies to my collection: a coaster and an edible, already devoured, medal

I very much recommend V3K as a race worth running. It has a great atmosphere. Unlike many other races it doesn’t seem to be very commercialised and you can sense the organisers’ and runners’ passion of mountain running. Combined with a great setting in beautiful Snowdonia and a demanding, technical race, V3K offers a memorable experience.

The race route
The altitude profile. Height in metres, length in kilometres

All the best,

Marcin

Written by Avery Frantz - https://averyfunadventure.wordpress.com

Sunrise

Spirits are up early in the race.

This is a very long report that combines the months leading up to the race and the race itself, if you want to skip ahead to the race details, you can scroll down to the section labeled The Race.

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Training
At the end of June I needed to make plans for a qualifying race for Western States.  I intended to enter the Ultra Trail Mexico 100km race in Huasca—the same race I signed up for last year but didn’t end up running due to a surgical procedure I had prior to the race (not running related).  Yet when I went to enter the race it was already full.  Now I was a bit panicked since I needed to have enough time to train for a race.  The only time frame that seemed reasonable was October since the first week of November was the cutoff for all qualifying races for Western states.  As I scoured the list of approved races, I didn’t see many options that were feasible in terms of cost of travel, distance from home, and time frame.  I planned on running a 100km race since I only had 3 months to train but the only one that really seemed to fit was the Javelina Jundred in Fountain Hills, Arizona.  Fear set in because 3 months or more accurately 14 to 15 weeks of training did not seem like it was sufficient to prepare for a 100 miler.  I took the plunge thinking that even under trained, I only needed to finish the race within 30 hours.  Considering I finished the Keys 100 in 20:28, I could walk a good portion of this race and still finish in time.

Prerace

3am and ready to go.

My running had been pretty focused from January through May but as May finished and June rolled around, travel and life events started eating into my regular training.  To prepare for this race, I looked at my training log for the Keys 100 and set up a detailed plan that steadily ramped up my weekly distance as well as my long runs.  The plan focused on three 4 week training blocks that would ramp up for 3 weeks and decline in the 4th week.  

About to Start

Waiting for the start.

Everything went to plan for the first three weeks until a fateful Sunday on July 16th.  I was running 20km on a mainly flat trail in the mountains near my home but at 9.5km, the trail drops dramatically by around 100m.  I descended just fine, turned around at the 10km mark, and ascended back up the incline.  Just as I was reaching the top of the hill I felt a sharp pain in a straight line up my left medial gastrocnemius muscle (inner upper calf).  As soon as it happened I knew something was seriously wrong.  I had never had such acute pain while running before.  The issue now was that I was 10km from my car in a remote part of this forest mountain trail.  I figured out a way to use a modified stride to run back but I had to be very careful not to put too much pressure on my left calf.  When I got back to the house, the pain did not subside and just touching the muscle hurt tremendously.  

Squirrel Nut Butter

Anyone see a squirrel?

The next morning I needed to travel for work.  Luckily I was traveling to Merida, Mexico a city where I used to live.  I contacted the physiotherapist I knew and the clinic was able to see me that day.  They examined me and immediately recommended I get an MRI.  Being the obsessed person I am, I had investigated throughout the day on Monday and had a hunch that I had a grade 1 or 2 tear of my medial gastrocnemius—most likely a grade 2.  My MRI revealed that I did have a grade 2 tear which meant I couldn’t run for 4-6 weeks.  I was very worried now.  How the heck was I supposed to prepare for a 100 miler on a condensed schedule already that will now cut another 4-6 weeks of running?

Motivation

One of the many posters Karina made.

After some contemplation, I decided I couldn’t fight reality and would concentrate on what I could control.  I did some research on power/speed walking, read some articles, and watched some YouTube videos.  My decision, after verifying with the physiotherapist, was to practice power walking during the weeks without running.  When I got back to Mexico City and met with an orthopedic doctor, she confirmed no running for 6 weeks and I had to go to 3 sessions per week for those 6 weeks of rehabilitation.  Quite a setback indeed but I was determined to follow the doctor’s instructions and not screw things up by rushing back.

On the trail

Staying focused.

Over the next 6 weeks, I never missed a rehabilitation session, did my stretching and prescribed exercises at home, and power walked 5-6 days per week.  I ended up walking 70-90 km per week during this time.  A funny thing happened as I continued to walk so much, my efficiency steadily improved to the point that I was able to walk at a speed equal to a slow run/jog.  This made me happy because I felt like in a serendipitous way, I gained a new skill set that could help me tremendously in a 100 mile ultra—the ability to walk much faster than most.  I remember at the Keys 100, my walking was a key to my success because I passed many other runners late who were also walking but much slower.  Beyond that, I knew it was good to focus on the positive and not dwell on the things that I couldn’t control.

Crew

Best crew ever.

Come September, I was given the green light to do 30 minutes of running to test out the calf.  The first test run was a bit scary and it felt weird running again because I had a lot of trepidation that the injury would return.  Luckily it did not.  I reported back to the clinic that all went well and I proceeded over the next two weeks to transition from the majority of the time power walking to the majority of the time running.  As a result of this injury, I did alter my my stride slightly on uphills.  Normally when I ran uphill my heels wouldn’t touch the ground but now I went slower allowing my heels to completely touch the ground to reduce pressure on my calves.  

Little Hot

A little hot out there.

As a side note, I tried to figure out how I injured myself.  The best I can gather is that in early June I went out for a 30km run and woke up the next day with pain in the back of my knee.  It seems the pain was a case of tendinitis on the tendon that attaches to the top of the calf muscle I injured.  I thought it healed because I monitored it closely and after 4 weeks it seemed to have gone away.  However, the day before I injured myself, I did a hard run in the mountains—3.5 hours with tons of elevation gain.  The next day when I went out for the the 20km run where I injured myself I noticed the tendinitis pain return a bit.  I suppose that I needed more rest after that hard mountain run and my calf was simply too tight.  When I went up the hill the calf just gave out and tore.

tarahumara.jpg

Karina with some Tarahumara.

During September I modified my training plan to reduce my weekly distance (100-120km per week vice 130-160km as previously planned).  I had a handful of 3-5 hour runs programmed with one huge training run of 74km to give me a feel of where my fitness was for the 100 miler.  All the running went well leading up to the race.  I made sure not to push too hard.  The first long run of 3 hours was humbling because I hit the wall only after 2 hours and slogged the last hour.  Yet as the weeks progressed I noticed my strength returning.  I did my 74km run 5 weeks out from the Javelina Jundred to give myself enough time to fully recover.  That run went quite well which gave me confidence that I’d at least be able to run a good portion of the 100 miler.  I didn’t start tapering quite as early like I did for the the Keys 100.  Instead I ran my full training load until two weeks before the race.  The week before the race, I reduced the distance by 20%.  The week of the race I did runs of 9, 8, and 5km.  I had two reasons for not doing a 3-4 week taper.  First, I couldn’t afford to back off since I already lost 6 weeks of running.  Second, I felt like the taper period lasted too long the first time and that it really wasn’t necessary to back off so much.

Supplies

Where’d that magic potion go?

Another side effect from the injury was to reset my race expectations.  Originally I wanted to beat my 20:28 time making a sub 20 my A goal.  My B goal was sub 24.  My C goal was to simply finish under 30 to make sure I qualified for the Western States lottery.

Off and Running

Keeping the eye on the prize.

Race Preparation 
I am a detailed oriented person.  In preparation for my first 100 miler I made spreadsheet that was a checklist of all supplies, gear, activities, and race day things I needed to do.  I modified it a bit based upon things I had learned in the subsequent two years but it was more or less the same.  That definitely made packing and prep much easier.  I also made timing sheets — one small one that I’d carry with me during the race to help me know what I needed to do at various sections of the race and one double sided chart to give to my wife as my crew with my plan A and plan B so she’d have an idea where and when I’d be throughout the race.  I’m not quite sure why, but as I made these timing sheets, I decided to alter my plan A to shoot for an 18 hour race and plan B for a 19 hour race.  As I’m writing this report now, I don’t really know what possessed me to not only forget about my post injury revised plan A/B but shoot for even better times than my pre injury plan A/B.  I simply told my wife that I may as well shoot for the stars and give myself a huge challenge rather than just sit back and semi-give up before the race even started.  It’s crazy, I know, since I never had come close to an 18 hour pace in such long distances.

Desert

Arizona desert.

Pre Race Days
We arrived to Phoenix on Thursday with the race start on Saturday.  As we went to pick up our luggage at the airport, I turned to my wife and said, “Now’s the moment of truth” referring to our suitcases.  As I grabbed our first suitcase I glanced at my phone that had a message stating 1 of 2 suitcases arrived.  OH NO!  The other suitcase was still in Los Angeles and that, of course, was my suitcase with all my gear, supplies, clothes, etc.  I was not a happy camper.  We proceeded to make our claim and then pray to the Aztec gods that it would show up that night at the hotel.  Otherwise Friday would be a crazy day of running around Phoenix trying to buy everything I needed.

Race Expo

The famous saguaro cactus.

When I awoke Friday morning, I immediately went to the front desk of the hotel and luckily the suitcase arrived!  Whew–now I could concentrate on getting checked into the race and relax the best I could.  Once I started seeing other runners at the hotel, however, I started to have a bit of panic and feelings of not belonging.  All the other runners seemed to be super fit, focused, and practically pros whereas I felt a bit like a fraud and out of place.  This has happened to me at all 3 of the races I’ve been in.  I think it’s partly due to the fact that I run 98% of the time by myself and partly due to the fact my self-image still has an ingrained concept of myself from 10 years ago when I was 70lbs/30kgs heavier and at my unhealthiest point in my life.  

Supplies

What else do I need?

My wife and I went to the race expo, picked up my bib and goodies.  We browsed around, bought a few items, and stopped at the massage both.  I figured this might be a good opportunity for me to calm my pre-race jitters.  I bought a 15 minute massage for my wife and me.  As soon as the lady started on my back/shoulders I could feel that I was extremely stressed out.  This 15 minute massage changed everything for me.  After it was over, I relaxed for the first time since arriving to Arizona and my mood calmed as well.

The rest of the day was filled with small preparation errands as well as simple light foods (veggies/fruits/tofu).  That night we had dinner at the hotel and I tried to get to sleep as soon as possible (9pm).  I set the alarm for 3am but with nerves I ended up waking up for a couple bathroom breaks and by 2:15am, I was up for good.

lap 4

Got to stay positive

Race Day
I got all my gear on and packed up the supplies.  I drank a simple vegetable protein shake with some turmeric as well as a chia gel for some calories to start the day.  I’ve found in the past that I do not want a lot of food in my stomach from the day before nor from breakfast.  I train week after week with a pretty empty stomach so my strategy is to do the same thing as in my training and consume the calories I need while running.  I had one cup of coffee and tried to do all the bathroom business I could to avoid any “issues” while in the race.  Right before leaving the hotel I took some Imodium to ensure I wouldn’t be looking for a nearby cactus due to intestinal issues.

Once we arrived to the starting area around 5am, we staged my two drop bags–one at the start and one that would be at the halfway point of the loop at the aid station named Jackass Junction.  We went over the race plan one more time, took some pictures, said some jokes, and awaited the start.  In comparison to the Keys 100, I was surprisingly calm with barely any nerves at all.  In fact, I was really ready to get the show on the road.  I ran a quick loop around the start area about 15 minutes before the start to loosen the legs up.  After that I stood near the start line to try to avoid being caught behind hundreds of runners in the beginning of the race.  I read that the first 1-2km of the trail are pretty narrow and if you are in the middle to back the pace will be practically walking.  I did not want that to happen because I had a different strategy to go out faster than my first 100 miler where I held back quite a bit.

The Race
At 6am 535 runners departed from the start chute.  The beginning area wraps around the camp sites, main aid station, and eventually spits you out on the actual trail.  I think I was in the group of the first 40 people.  In my first 100 miler, I used my heart rate as my limiter as to how fast I would run.  I tried to keep it in the 140s and due to that fact I ran at a pace that was quite a bit slower than I wanted.  In this race and because of the experience I have gained over the two years since, I decided to pay attention to my heart rate but also use my perceived exertion and my breathing rate to dictate how fast I would go.  I figured that I could sustain long stretches keeping my heart rate in the 150s.  After about 2-3km, the group of runners started opening up and the trail had a lot more space.  I took this opportunity to pick up the pace.

Moving

Keep on keepin’ on.

Another side note: My strategy was to break the race up into quarters or 40km each.  In each quarter of the race, I had an average pace goal.  Each 40km would progressively slow so I built that into my pacing goals.  The course itself is a loop which we repeat 5 times with the first loop having a slightly longer extra part built in.  Loop one is 35.9km/22.3mi and loops two through five are 31.3km/19.45mi.  It has a total elevation gain of 2409m/7900ft.  You essentially are on an aggregate incline to the far point of the loop and downhill coming back to the front.  The tricky part is that some of the inclines are imperceivable but you notice your pace reducing.  After each loop you reverse course and go back the way you came.  It’s an interesting feature of the race because your are constantly passing other runners making it more social than a point to point ultra and by reversing course you are seeing everything from the opposite point of view.  That helps you from getting bored and feeling like you are just doing the same thing over and over again.

hot

It was roasting

Back to the race:  Arriving at the first aid station “Coyote Camp” I was keeping the pace that I needed.  I filled my two water bottles and got out in under 2 minutes.  I used a hydration vest for storing my supplies but decided I was going to try to avoid using the water bladder unless I really needed to.  I thought that with my two water bottles which held a ½ liter each, that it would be enough for me to get to each aid station.  That strategy turned out to be correct.  The reason I didn’t want to fill the hydration vest with water is that it adds another 5-6lbs of weight.  Over 100 miles that would require a significant increase in energy expenditure.

The next section from Coyote Camp to Jackass Junction is the longest segment between aid stations 10.4km/6.5mi.  It’s also the roughest section with several very rocky portions where you definitely have to watch your step or else you’ll take spill.  In fact I heard of one older runner who had a serious fall in that section and had to be taken to a hospital.  As I navigated this section my pace picked up a little more.  I had good conversation with another runner who ended up finishing 8th in the race.  He ran an amazingly well paced race.

skel

I hoped I wouldn’t turn into that guy.

As I arrived to Jackass Junction, I filled water bottles again, grabbed some food from my drop bag and was off again.  Crossing the timing mat, I was 35th.  On the back half the loop and with the downhills ahead, I pushed the pace some more and was running at clips of 5:10min/km to 4:55min/km.  It felt good to run at that pace.  I had slight worries that maybe it was too much but I quickly eliminated those thoughts and reminded myself that this race was a perfect opportunity to experiment and find out what I could do.  I didn’t want to feel like I was too conservative after finishing this race.  As we made our way down to Rattlesnake Ranch, I had passed several other runners.  I got in and out quickly and set off for the the end of loop one.  At this point, the sun had got to a point in the sky where the temperatures were starting to rise significantly.

I really wasn’t too concerned about the heat since I had run extremely hot and humid race before, I had lived in a very hot tropical environment for two years, and I really don’t mind the heat.  Plus in this part of the country, there was absolutely no humidity.  That would help to cool the skin since the sweat would evaporate vice just stay on your skin.  I wore a singlet along with white arm sleeves.

As I arrived to the start/finish area, I surprised my wife since I was there 18 minutes prior to my predicted time for my A goal (3:18 total time).  I handed all my gear to her so she could refill my water and supplies while I ran to the timing mat.  I got back to the aid station area where my wife was and she was so happy for me.  She showed me one of the great motivational posters she designed, gave me a big hug, took some pictures with me and sent me on my way.

Going out on loop 2 back to Rattlesnake Ranch, I quickly realized that my wife didn’t see the other water bottle I had tucked in a front pocket of my vest.  My fault completely for not showing her where it was.  The good news was that the aid station was closer this time since loop 2 had a shorter total distance.  Ultimately I ran out of water with less than 10 minutes to the aid station so no big deal indeed.

The slight uphill to the back of the course was a lot more difficult this time now that I had run over 40km.  Leaving out of Jackass Junction I had the long section with lots of rocks and wouldn’t you know it, I was checking my watch for something and BOOM–down goes Avery.  I caught the bulk of my fall with the palms of my hand but I also fell to the left hitting my hip and back.  I got up dusted myself off, checked for any serious injury or dropped supplies.  Besides some cuts on my hand and elbow I was good to go.  From there on out I was much more careful with my steps knowing that the later in the race it got, the harder it is to lift your feet.

I finished loop 2 in 3:16 for a total time of 6:34.  I had also PRd my 50k time in a race by quite a lot with a 4:50 time.  Things were looking very positive so far.

avery jj100-02

Loop 3 was the repeat of Loop 1 minus the longer final quarter.  This time it was much hotter reaching the high temperature of the low 90s F or 32-34 C.  As I was ascending the hills towards the back of the loop my speed started dropping markedly.  I ran with for a while and was passed by the overall female winner of the race Larisa Dannis.  Closer to Jackass Junction the same thing happened to me with the 2nd overall female finisher Dana Anderson.  Both of these ladies were so positive and encouraging.  They were incredible in their consistent pacing.  As I was fading a bit, they kept on going.  It reminded me of the old Energizer Bunny commercials in the 80s where they were the Energizer batteries and I was the off-brand battery.  Passing through Jackass Junction and using the aggregate downhill helped instill a little more confidence after a little less than 2 hours of a fading pace.  

The total time for loop 3 was 3:44 which meant I ran 27 minutes slower than loop 2.  I had lost all the extra time I banked early in the race and was slightly behind my A goal now.  Starting loop 4 meant Karina, my super wife, crew, cheering section, and overall hero, was going to run with me to the first aid station at Rattlesnake Ranch.  As we headed out, I noticed I was in some definite trouble in terms of flexibility and pain in my legs.  I had a very hard time opening up my stride and there was some mounting pain near my kneecaps.  The best I could figure was that my quads were tightening up severely.  I also had a little bit of pain in my hip to groin area when I had to take any steeper inclined steps with my right leg.  Karina pulled out every trick in the book to cheer me up–from jokes, to videos from my daughters, to even tickling me, she was a real trooper.  We arrived to the aid station and I knew I was hosed for my A goal and I let her know.  My pace couldn’t even reach anything faster than 7min/km and according to my pacing charts, I needed to run around a 6:30min/km.  The problem was that I simply couldn’t muster any quicker turnover in my feet nor the strength to move faster.  I felt like I was stuck in first gear.  This happened to me in the second half of the Keys 100 when all I could do was alternate running and walking until I reached the end.  The upshot of this day was that I was strong enough to barely have to walk.

When I reached Jackass junction for the 4th time, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, dejected, and slightly disoriented.  The fatigue from the day really sunk in, the disappointment of fading so quickly from my A and possibly B goal was bothering me, and I just wanted to run faster.  I got out of there and headed back down the trail through the rocky section once more.  At this point it was dark and I was using my waist lamp.  I definitely was very careful not to eat it again on the rocks.  Because this was a washing-machine style race I was passing runners going the other way, going my way, and being passed as well.  I could tell for the most part who was who but the closer I got back to the start/finish line, the less accurate my assumptions were.  It felt as if I faded very far back in the race.  At 8:34pm I arrived at the start/finish line for the 4th time.  It took me 4:15 to complete that loop and 32 minutes more than loop 3.  I was not happy.

aid station

Now was the time of reckoning.  Karina was about to run another segment with me after she did all the crewing and aid station work I needed.  She could see I was in distress and offered me some ibuprofen for the second time.  I didn’t mention it earlier in this report but prior to lap 4 she offered me some but I generally avoid all pain medication, especially when running/racing.  She had been spending time with the crew and wife of another runner I met.  Apparently the wife of this runner had a medical background and explained that I was having quite a bit of inflammation and that a single dose of ibuprofen was not going to cause the damage I was so worried about.  I had heard many horror stories of runners with kidney failure in races because of ibuprofen and I did not want that to happen to me.  However, as a good runner should do, I listened to my crew since she was much more sane and capable of thinking than I was.  I consumed the ibuprofen with some water and we were off.

Wouldn’t you know that after about 20 minutes of running, I started feeling better.  I felt a little lighter on my feet, I was cracking jokes, smiling, and just felt like things were improving.  We rolled into Coyote Camp and Christmas music was playing.  It was awesome.  I grabbed some supplies, kissed my lovely wife goodbye and headed off into the wilderness feeling renewed.  For the first time I decided to listen to some music to distract me.  Using DJ mixes I had, I queued one up that really made me feel good in the past and the next thing I know I’m singing out loud as I went up the gradual hill to the back half of the loop.  As the kilometers clicked off, my speed kept increasing.  The only glitch I hit was when my waist lamp was losing juice.  I didn’t realize that it only had around a 4-5 hour battery life at full power.  The tricky part was that in order to change batteries I had to remove the other one.  It had a screw cap but with a tricky pin insert you had to align with the lamp tube.  Once I turned off the lamp it was quite dark.  I slid the battery into the tube and tried to screw the cap back on but it wouldn’t turn on.  UGH!  No panicking yet…What to do??  Using my logic, I figured that if I tilted the tube forward putting the small hole, where the pin was to align, closest to the ground, I could use gravity to help align the pin in the cap.  I took a deep breath, screwed it on, hit power and voila–LET THERE BE LIGHT!

refill

I hit Jackass Junction just as happy as could be.  I encouraged several runners sitting there to keep pushing.  I was giving pats on the backs and high fives.  What was going on with me I thought?  I couldn’t stop smiling.  Grabbing my final supplies out of my drop bag, I passed the timing belt and headed down the back half of the trail for the final time.

Now things were really getting fun.  I felt a certain momentum building from within.  Little by little I continued to push the pace.  I passed several runners who were in front of me but were reduced to walking.  I understood exactly what they were going through from being there myself in other races but for some reason it wasn’t me in this race.  They call this reeling people in and passing the carnage.  Rattlesnake Ranch was visible in the distance but the trail was quite winding so it took longer to get there than the crow flies.

I stayed barely a minute at the aid station only filling up on water.  Looking back, I still had a full bottle of water in my vest so I didn’t need to stop there at all.  It was only 6.5km to the finish line.  Now is where I wanted to drop the hammer as the elites say. I upped my pace as best I could and I felt like I was flying.  I continued to pass people coming and going and rarely saw anybody running.  After about 15-20 minutes I could see the glow of the lights of the finish line.  I could smell the end of the race. I also looked over a large hill and saw the moon was still up.  Prior to the race, I told my wife that I would race the moon meaning I wanted to finish before the moon set (around 1am I think).  I called it my quest to Chase the Moon.  In my happiness of the moment I had a conversation with that moon to explain who won the race between him and me.  Mind you I was actually talking out loud…but who cares…I do some strange things late in races to entertain myself.

avery jj100-04

Finally I approached the start/finish camp.  The first thing I did was look for me wife.  She was nowhere to be found so I tried my best to sprint around the chute leading up to the finish line.  I was passing people all over the place and probably looked like a lunatic running so hard.  Yet a funny thing happened, it seemed to charge up the crowd and everyone was cheering loud for me.  Then I did what I dreamed for months, I crossed the finish line—at 12:12am!  Final time 18 hours and 12 minutes.  The final lap took me 3:37 meaning I ran it 38 minutes faster than loop 4 and 6 minutes faster than loop 3.  Amazing!  I had no idea I had that capability inside of me.  It surprised me more than anyone.

I left the finish area and headed back to where my drop bag was–still no wife.  Looking towards the trailhead area, I spotted her waiting at the gates with the crowd looking for me to come in.  We apparently missed each other as I came around the chute.  She went from the finish line to the trailhead as I went through the chute to the finish line.  After hugs and kisses, we headed to the finish line again to take pictures together to capture the happy moment forever.

Looking back on this race makes me very happy.  I learned that I now have the capacity to run almost all of a 100 miler and have the ability after 90 miles to pick up my pace to levels I ran in miles 20-40.  Listening to your crew is an important lesson as well.  In my mind I hit my A goal and 18:12 for 100 miles for a guy who 10 years ago couldn’t run a mile and was extremely overweight is something I’m very proud of.  I think 5 or 6 of the top finishers are pro runners and 12th place among 535 starters is not too shabby.  

Done

Done and done!

The other interesting thing about this whole adventure was the fact that I had to take 6 weeks off from running in the middle of my training.  I returned to running with less than 8 weeks until the race.  I’m still trying to distill what that meant.  The best I can guess is that the power-walking helped my base fitness, the lower volume weeks kept me from overtraining, and when I came back from running I was very focused on trying to maximize my training days while making sure to build in true rest days around my long training runs.

Success

We did it!

So that’s my long winded report…for those that stuck with it until the end, you have a taste of the patience it takes to run an ultra.  I want to give a big thanks to Justin and Candice for giving my wife a slice of your popup tent during the race.  Another big thanks goes to my family for putting up with my craziness and for supporting me.  My friends were very encouraging leading up to and during the race.  The race director, staff, and volunteers were awesome.  Yet the biggest thanks has to go to my wife, crew, running mate, best friend, and superhero Karina.  None of this ever happens without her.  She has a special gift of bringing the best out of me despite my crazy ways and stubbornness.

Buckle

Sub 24 hour buckle.

Lap 1 – 35.9km/22.3mi – 3:18 – 5:33min/km – 24th place
Lap 2 – 31.3km/19.45mi – 3:18 – 6:17min/km – 23rd place
Lap 3 – 31.3km/19.45mi – 3:43 – 7:09min/km – 19th place
Lap 4 – 31.3km/19.45mi – 4:15 – 8:11min/km – 18th place
Lap 5 – 31.3km/19.45mi – 3:37 – 6:58min/km – 12th place
Total – 161.1km/100.1mi – 18:12 – 6:47min/km 10:55min/mi – 12th place

Race Accomplishments:
100 mile PR – 18:12
100 km PR – 10:48
50 mi PR – 8:23
50 km PR – 4:47

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