First of all, this is not a normal backblast. Yes I am going to cover the normal stuff that goes into a backblast, who was there, what was accomplished physically, what happened behind the scenes and other various items. It is, however, different in a bunch of ways. First it wasn’t an official F3 workout (and as such doesn’t deserve to count on big data, but ultimately that is Splinter’s call). Second, I am going to be talking about something that is considered an individual activity or event. So I can see the spoof backblasts (or offhand comments) coming that detail your latest golf round, ping pong game or tennis match. I look forward to those. Third, I am going to touch on some non-workout and athletic types of things. At times I might even mention folks who are out side of F3. Craziness! Lastly, I am going to do something us men do not do too often–I am going to be talking about emotions. My apologies. A 100 mile race allows you to experience a lifetime full of emotions in one day.
Normally I would recommend if you have complaints about this, you could call the corporate HR hotline when it is open (for those that don’t remember it is every other Thursday from 9:00 to 9:01 am EST (or EDT depending on time or year) GMT (Garmin Mean Time). But today I will just say, bring the feedback on. I am going to write what I want to write. If you don’t like it or don’t think it appropriate for this forum, don’t read it. Give me the feedback. I welcome it. There are some things I just need to say. End of Apology
The last text I received prior to the race was from my daughter. “good luck today!!! you’ll do great! but remember, it’s not about u!!
The race was the Blind Pig Endurance 100 mile race. It was in Spartanburg SC in Croft State park. Course was a nine-mile trail loop done 11 times after an initial one mile jaunt on the gravel roads. Course was pretty nice. A little downhill to start, then over a small bridge. The first five and a half miles were on rolling terrain, very similar to the buttermilk/northbank trail. About 500 feet of elevation of the 590 per loop were in this section of the course. The last three and a half miles were along a river and pretty flat. Then back across the bridge and up the hill to the start/finish. My GPS tracked the loop at 9.04 miles with 593 feet of elevation gain and fall. All in all, a pretty moderate route to run for a hundred miles.
For those that think that this is an individual event, you are sorely mistaken. Nothing could be further from the truth. My being at the start line and ending up 26 hours and 48 minutes later at the finish line was a group effort from a ton of people. I am going to point out a few key people here (for those keeping track, very unconventional from a backblast perspective).
My immediate family, Kay, Leigh and Allie. I wore three things on my arms while I was running. My running watch and two bracelets. The watch is something that Kay bought for me. Every time I am running and I look down at my watch, I think of Kay. I think how lucky I am to have someone in my life that is not only tolerant of, but really supportive of the things I want to do. Without this base, I would not be able to think about doing something like this. Without her picking up my slack while I pursue something like this it would not be possible.
At some point in your life, your children will surpass your capabilities. You will teach them in their formative years, and as an adult with some wisdom, you will be able to continue to coach and help them through life. But the world will change, and they will be closer to the change and will know things that you don’t. The fortunate (or unfortunate) thing for me is that I have two worldly and wise children and they and in some areas they have already begun to surpass me.
Leigh and Allie are both very different, but both very special. Leigh’s determination when she runs and her closing instincts in a race are special. Allies maniacally methodical approach and unending work are inspiring. The two bracelets represent my daughters. Every step along the way, I saw the three items on my arms and got a little extra energy.
Saab. Saab has so much to do with this. It all started when I supported Saab at the Cloudsplitter 100. Once I started running Ultras he was there to support and run with me. He ran the entire Belmonte 50k with me, supported and ran with Swirly and I at the Devil Dog 100k and was there once again at the Blind Pig, doing three loops with me. No doubt, I had the most accomplished Ultra running pacer at all of these races.
One of the special things about F3 is that it brings people together who might not be able to work out together otherwise. Saab and I are at two completely different running levels. Saab actually runs. I jog, mosey, saunter, or shuffle my way down the road. Our normal everyday per mile pace is several minutes apart. If I had met Saab and we ran together, we would have been once and done with the running. He would have been miserable slowing down to try to accommodate my pace and I would have nearly killed myself trying, unsuccessfully, to keep pace with him. At F3 running workouts, since we have multiple distances, we can go to the same workouts and still get some second F afterwards. Me, as a less experienced and accomplished runner, can learn from him and see what is possible from a running perspective. I can expand my horizons and learn from an expert.
Swirly. Another great example of two guys who normally wouldn’t work out together. He would be over in the free weight section moaning and groaning with his Roid Rage friends and I would be in the cardio section pumping in some miles on the treadmill or bike. But if you want someone to teach you that failure is not an option, Swirly is your guy. The guy is a machine, and if he considers you a friend, he will do anything for you. ANYTHING.
Two stories. When I was about to go on my last leg, I told Saab I really didn’t want to go (I knew I would go, but was just sharing my feelings). Saab said, ok, you can go and do it on your own, or Swirly will carry you on the last loop, your choice. Although meant to be facetious, with Swirly, I didn’t take it that way. Second story. When Swirly and I were training for the 100k, I was rolling into the Pump house at 4:29 am for a 4:30 am meet with Swirly for a run. Along the way, I thought to myself. What is more likely to happen? Swirly not being there in big blue or the sun not rising today. Although I have been alive for 54+ years and the sun has come up everyday, Swirly not showing was less likely in my mind.
Circle K. OK, Circle K and I could have been working out together outside F3. In fact, we were friends before F3. The kind of friends who hang out together at our daughters’ gymnastics meets. The type who are friendly when they see each other and have some good laughs. The type of male friendship I was used to before F3. A relationship that has a very limited depth and would be immediately over once our daughters moved on in life. Thankfully F3 intervened.
Circle K was a beast at the event. F$$k Emeril Lagasse, Gordon Ramsey and Wolfgang Puck. Those guys don’t know shit. Ask any one of them how long it takes to cook a pork loin and they will recommend some precise temperature. Not Circle K. He will tell you that it takes exactly four Coors light beers to cook a pork tenderloin. One beer on each big side, one-half beer on each small side, and then a one-half beer back on each long side. The things were perfect (four of us ate three whole pork tenderloins for dinner on Friday night) as was every other item he concocted for me while I was on the course. He perfectly overcooked potatoes and steak for me so it was easy to chew and digest and then as a good friend would do forced me to eat when I did not want to.
Bleeder. Bleeder wasn’t able to make the trip down to the Blind Pig with us. Although I would have preferred that he be there physically, his absence wasn’t felt that much. When a guy knows you for over a quarter of a century, he gets to know how you think and what you need. You also get to know that if the shit hits the fan, that man is going to be there for you and bring to bear anything that needs to be brought. Despite his physical absence, his spiritual presence was with me the whole time. While I was on the run, I made two phone calls (other than to Saab, Swirly or Circle K at camp). One to Kay and Allie and one to Bleeder.
F3 Pax. I got a ton of emails, tweets and had a ton of personal well wishes from the F3 Pax. My phone was on fire on Friday with well wishes and on Sunday with congratulations. I felt your presence along the way. I thought about our workouts, our runs. I thought about F3 core principles and the type of people we want to be. I tried to be a good steward for F3 and a representative of our PAX in Richmond. For that reason, stopping was never an option for me. I couldn’t set a bad example, I couldn’t let you all down.
Race started at 8am. Weather was 36 and sunny. Forecast for the day was for a high at 60 and a low of 32 over night. Perfect weather for TYA (or so I thought). It was a startled start for me. We were talking to some folks and I wasn’t really paying attention to the race director and it wasn’t quite 8am yet (EST GMT). Despite that the horn sounded and people started running. I followed suit and got the race started. There were about 50 of us at the starting line (100 mile and 100k runners). The start consisted of and out and back on a gravel road for a mile. Then we were off to the trails.
Loops one and two for me were about learning the route and the milestones along the way. These were the only two loops where I utilized my running watch (for distance only). At each mile, I would pick out a landmark and name it so I could remember how far along I was. The sequence for miles became 1 gravel road, 2 small bridge, 3 s-curves, 4 long fallen tree, 5 Flat trail intersection, 6 s curves, 7 3rd left hand bridge turn, 8 small up down and 9 start finish. I also focused on learning where to run and where walk along the way.
I finished the first loop in an hour and 49 minutes for 10 miles. A way better start than I anticipated and I felt awesome. Since I was early by about 45 minutes to my projections, the guys were still in the RV. I knocked on the window and they came out and restocked me. At each of the stops, the guys were great. They were like a finely tuned NASCAR pit crew. They would ask me how I was, what I wanted, get me stocked up, adjusted, whatever was needed, and send me back out to the trails. It was perfect for me as I hate to waste time not moving.
Loop two I spent most of my time on my own, again feeling really well. At about mile 4 I caught up to a middle aged women running alone. We chatted for a while and I found out she was from Spartanburg. Nice lady, I thought. When we hit my five mile marker, the flat trail intersection, she went left where I thought we should go right. She assured me that she knew the course and that it followed to the right. Despite seeing the course markings, I follow her. Well, she was wrong we ran an extra mile and a half on this loop. I hated to have run the extra mile, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I just let it go….I had no other choice. I never told Swirly who the women was as I was afraid he would exact revenge in a way I would not want. My second loop was about the same time as my first, despite the extra one and one-half miles I did.
Laps three through five were the mentally toughest for me. I had a strong plan for the first two laps, I had my mind occupied and I was focused. I was still feeling good physically, but I kept doing mental math in my head on these laps. Ok, I’ve gone two laps, 19 miles, plus the two I am already in, total of 21. Shit, I have 79 damn miles to go. I’ve done two laps, nine to go, less than 20% done. Every math equation I did said the same thing. I hadn’t even done a marathon yet, I wasn’t completely fresh any more, I’d been running for over four hours, and I had a boatload of miles to go. Holy Cow, how am I going to make it? Never, ever in a long race do you think about how much you have left. Stay in the moment, take the next step and deal with the rest of the race when it comes to you.
I had to change something. On lap 4, on a section where fast hiking was best, I made a couple phone calls. I called Kay and Allie and Jack. This started to distract me. On the fifth lap, I turned my iphone playlist on and listened the whole time. By the time I rolled in after lap five, I was back to a much better place mentally. Despite my mental struggles along theses laps, my pace was still strong. I was 10 hours and five minutes into the race and I had officially completed 46 miles (unofficially 47.5 miles).
Lap six was awesome. It had just started to get dark outside and I was allowed to have a pacer come out with me. What a fricking gift. As you guys might know, TYA is an introvert. I love my alone time and need some everyday. There is however a limit. And ten hours in the woods, mostly alone (with a five minute rally with the guys every two hours) is too much alone time. So Saab got his running gear on and joined me for Lap six. At the very beginning of the loop we discussed when he would pace for the rest of the night. He was up for three laps and we decided that he would do laps six, eight and 10 with me. This was awesome for me psychologically. I got to spend a couple hours with Saab, then endure a lap alone, another with Saab, one alone, the last with Saab, and then finish the final lap myself. Perfect.
Laps six and seven both logged in at about two hours and 20 minutes a piece. I knew I would slow down at night and this was about what I expected. About a minute to two minutes a mile slow down is pretty normal for night versus day. Not too bad. I hit the halfway point in the middle of lap six, my time was just over 11 and half hours. Right before the end of Lap seven I hit the 100k mark. My time was just under 14 hours for 100k. Much faster than I have ever done before. Although I was slightly disappointed that I was slowing down, I was still very happy with my performance.
After lap seven, I decided to get into the RV and take on a complete change of clothing. I thought that this would freshen me up and set me up for the colder portions of the night. I also thought that a little bit of warmth would help. Boy was I wrong. Getting in the RV was the biggest mistake I made on the entire race. Going into a warm environment for 10 minutes, stripping down and redressing and getting comfortable was good. Going back out into the cold sucked. I immediately began to shiver. It took me nearly half a loop to warm back up again and stop shivering. After this stop on Lap seven, I never physically stopped at the RV, I just kept walking and talking to the guys around the loop until I was back on the trail
I tried to prepare for everything in my training. Day running, night running, running in the rain, long runs back to back, running in the heat, running in the cold, everything I could think of. In the end, I thought that the night portion of the race was going to be a strength of mine. The fact that you can only see a limited distance and that you had to be very careful with your footwork made me more focused and less worried about the running part. That is all well and good when you are starting a run at three am after six hours of sleep and your legs are fresh. Its completely different after running 12 hours and the temperature is dropping every minute.
By Lap eight I really started to slow down. I still ran a little bit in Lap eight and nine, but the cold was taking its toll on my body. Although I was still moving I had added several more layers of clothing, the constant dropping temperatures were tough to handle. I was also getting more and more mentally tired during these laps. I fell several times and had two major toe stubs on lap eight. Both laps eight and nine logged in at around two hours and 45 minutes.
Lap 10 was my last lap to have a pacer. This lap was entirely walking. I was still able to keep a fast walking pace, but my left calf was really starting to bother me. Saab pulled me along on Lap 10. He was ahead of me the whole time and it felt as if he were pulling me along with a string. It was great to have him out there on this lap. Toward the middle of the lap, around six am, the sun started to glow over the horizon. Although the temperatures wouldn’t rise for another two hours, the sun was a welcome addition. It is great to see the entire sunrise. From the initial glow to the first peaking out the sun all the way to the first splash of warmth when it gets just above the trees. What a blessing.
Two and one-half miles from the finish of lap 10, it was now light enough to see without the headlamp again. A whole new world reappeared and you could again see the river and beautiful surroundings. I was nearly 24 hours into the race and my mental faculties were waning. I looked over at the river, and on a sand bar near the edge of the river stood a horse. Mirage? I casually asked Saab if he saw a horse, and when he said yes, I was relieved. I was still sane and wasn’t seeing things. This lap timed in at three hours.
One lap to go. Just nine miles. Piece of cake. Only thing was I had no desire to keep going. I just wanted to be finished. Please let me close my eyes, surely 91 miles (92.5 unofficially) is enough. Maybe I would just go lie down in the woods for three hours and emerge rested and finished. No one would know, except me. To hell with that. I had trained and run races for over a year to try to accomplish this goal. I could do anything for three hours despite the pain and tiredness. Saab walked me down to the bridge at the bottom of the hill to make sure I kept going.
The last lap was a slog. I just kept telling myself that this is the last time I will see this section of the trail. That every step I took was one less step I had and one step closer to the end. The miles started to move behind me, I ignored the clock, because there was not much I could do about and I moved forward. I ran zero steps on the last leg. It took me a bit over three hours to finish the lap.
On the final mile three things happened. First, about a mile out a women and her pacer passed me. They were moving pretty good and could see I was not running at all and just making it along at a slow pace. He stopped and asked if I wanted to join them, said they would walk in with me to keep me company. Didn’t want me to have finish alone. I said thanks, that I wanted them to finish at their pace, that I was Ok and he agreed, and said, I will see you at the finish. Little moments like that happen all the time during races like this. The human touches, people sacrificing their time and energy to help each other. It is amazing.
Second, as I was approaching the bridge for the last time, I noticed three people on the other side of the river, two men and a women. One of the men yelled over “have you seen a horse?” I replied, “Damn right I have”. He asked where and I directed them to the sand bar two miles down. The horse had apparently escaped from the stables the previous night. They were the owners and were searching for it. In the end, they retrieved the horse and returned it safely to the barn.
Thirdly, as I made my way up the final hill, one of the female volunteers who had been there the whole day and night was heading out of the trail to clean up any trash/debris from the race. I was about 100 yards from finish line. She had checked me into the start finish 10 times. She was so happy to see me that close to the finish. She stopped, we talked for a few minutes and she congratulated me. She game me a quick congratulatory hug, saying “I don’t know you, but I am so happy that you finished this”.
As I walked the final 100 yards to the finish line, I tried to muster a bit of a run, but to no avail. Swirly, Circle K and Saab were waiting for me, three great friends that had been there for me for the entire weekend, wanting to see me celebrate. I want to say I was filled with emotion, that I let out a big scream, that I was overjoyed, that I thanked them profusely and acted like a maniac. I did none of those things. The only emotion that I had was of relief. I didn’t have to run another step today. I could go to sleep. The journey was over. I would celebrate at another time when I had some energy.
Other Miscellaneous items.
Shooting. The race was upfront with the runners that part of the course was on the back side of a shooting range. I figured it must be safe or there would not be a trail behind the range. I thought, no big deal, I will hear few gunshots, couldn’t be that bad. Wow was I wrong. The trail behind the ranged was sunken down about 40 feet below the range. The were indeed shooting, but it must have been high caliber military stuff because it was loud and frequent, but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that every once in a while you would hear the whistling of the bullets as they flew over your head until they finally hit a tree. Every time past that range, I ducked down and ran as fast as I could
Eating. If you read even a little bit about Ultra running you quickly find out that eating is important and one of the things that people screw up often. Not surprisingly I did the math and found out that I would burn about 12,000 calories during the run, so I had to eat as close to that as possible. I was targeting 1,000 calories a loop, 500 while I was on the course and 500 at the RV.
I had practiced during my training and knew what worked and what didn’t work for me. I shoveled in about 1,000 calories pre run and did great the first two loops. PB&J and chocolate milk after lap 1 and burger and chocolate milk after lap 2. I was at about 3,000 calories. After two laps things go increasingly difficult. I honestly just did not want to eat any more. I felt full and hydrated and did not desire anything. The guys continued to force me to take food and to eat stuff. If not for them, I would have quit eating at sundown and probably collapsed at dawn. They forced me to eat and it saved me. In the end, I would guess that I ingested a little over 9,000 calories.
Dogs. For any of you that know Circle K, you know that he loves Dog’s. There could be a million dollars laying on the ground and Circle K wouldn’t care if a dog was approaching. Well, while Circle K was cooking dinner Friday night he saw a dog approaching the campsite. He immediately sprang to action and started to call the dog over. Despite his multiple calls to the dog, it would not come. He tried bribing it with food, still no approach by the dog. Finally, Swirly turns to Circle K and says “Circle K, that’s a cat, not a dog”.