Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Bear 100 - The Agony, the Triumph, the Mud

For a long time I never thought I would run a hundred mile race.

Taking eight hours to run a fifty mile race sounds SO much better than over twenty (or THIRTY!!) hours to run a hundred miles!

Definitely not interested in such ridiculousness as that!

Or anything taking over ten hours!

That was before I did the Rim to Rim to Rim back in May, which took over seventeen hours, AND before we ran the Blubber Creek Aid Station at the Bryce 50 and 100, which was a crazy 40+ hours of no sleep!

So after those, I knew I could do it, and why not?

Just before Bryce, Matt and I had run up to the top of Naomi Peak up above Logan starting from the beautiful Tony Grove. A few weeks AFTER this he mentioned that part of the trail we were on was actually part of the Bear 100 course.

On Magog (near Naomi) above the Bear Course back in May
Finally - almost 2 years of peer pressure from my running buddy Steve Newman - "Man, you're totally ready for a hundred miles. You should run the Bear!" "The Bear is a great race. Beautiful. You're definitely ready." "Hey are you signed up for the Bear yet?"

I caved.

I signed up for the Bear 100.

Thanks a lot Steve.

This year leading up to the Bear I had done plenty of training. With one week to go I had run 155 times for a total distance of 1,362.2 miles. I had climbed 276,982 feet in just over 271 hours.

I was definitely ready.

But I'd never gone more than 50 miles.

I had no clue how I would actually do on 100 miles, but based on my experiences pacing, crewing, volunteering, I knew I could get sub 30.

I think, that with my fitness, speed, abilities, etc. I could even get sub 24 if conditions were right!

So we come to the race.

My wife's wonderful Aunt and Uncle allowed us to stay the night in their home just ten minutes from the starting line. After we attended the pre-race meeting and dropped off my drop bags at the Fish Farm, we grabbed some Steak at Texas Roadhouse, then went there to rest for the night.

Drop Bags!
As I laid out my race gear for the morning, I had a niggling pain in my left hip and IT band, kind of extending down into my knee that had been bugging me all week flaring up, and I hoped it wouldn't affect me during the race.

Ink N Burn Buccaneer race shirt, new Altra shoes, trusty UltrAspire belt and handheld!
Also, we were expecting my brother who was half my crew and 1 of my 2 pacers to meet us where we were staying and help my wife from the very start since she is still recovering from a broken ankle... but we found out that his son our adorable nephew had been taken to the hospital with a spiking fever and heart-rate, so we hoped for the best for our nephew, but also that Matt would make it up to help Kakes with her crewing duties... and especially so my ailing car wouldn't have to trek up into the mountains being driven by my one-legged wife!

I woke up multiple times throughout the night, but really slept fairly well. We got up, packed up, and drove to the starting line for check in where we met up with a bunch of friends who were running, crewing, or pacing this race.

One of these, Nate, signed up for the race RIGHT after me, so he was number 215! We ended up running about the first 30 miles together. However... I think we should have moved up in the pack a little bit BEFORE the start of the race... we started WAY back, which put us quite far back in the early conga line!

As we headed up dry canyon, Nate and I were feeling really good - and we noticed our friend Kendall was about ten people ahead of us, so we hopped up ahead in the line until we reached him.

Also - I definitely found somebody who takes more pictures than I do at races! I think he's pickier than me because he doesn't post as many as I do - but he takes GREAT pictures!

And conga-line notwithstanding, it was a BEAUTIFUL morning!

The first aid station comes after you've climbed over 4,000 feet in 10.5 miles.

As you can see from the screenshot from the race AS page, no crew, no drop bags, and there are nine miles until the next aid station, where I was hoping to see my wife if she could make it up there all right!

As you leave the Logan peak aid station - it's a little bit more climbing until a Millville pass, where it is a LONG WAY DOWN from there.

Cresting Millville pass.
I love downhill running! And at this point in the race I was able to bomb it!

It was HOT going down that trail, but the majority of the trail was shaded by trees, which made the temperature perfect. But when you were out in some of the exposed section, it was like stepping into an oven! My Ambit showed 93° F at the hottest point in some of those sections.

I was starting to chafe a little on my right nipple (doh forgot to tape the nipples!!) and at the very top of my right thigh (OUCH!) so I took my shirt off for the last mile down into Leatham Hollow.

A Shirtless Pirate!

When I got to the Aid Station I was REALLY glad to see my wife there, Nate's awesome crew had packed her up there with them so she wouldn't have to drive up on her own, and I found out my brother would pick her up as they drove back near the start! Yay my crew was finally getting together! I told Nate's crew he wasn't far behind me, and sat down and chugged 16 oz of Mt. Dew - the first Dew I'd had in over Two weeks! YUM!

It felt really good to have my shirt off - but I knew there was a lot of exposure in this next section and it was going to be HOT so I put my shirt back on. I don't think that made a huge difference, but I DID make a mistake at this time that just got worse through the next two aid stations - I should have taken another water bottle here. The one handheld was fine for the first 19 miles, but things were about to change.

Nate caught up and we left the aid station together - running and walking the dirt road talking to lots of other runners and having a good time, it wasn't quite as hot as I thought, but we weren't REALLY climbing yet.

It was a gorgeous canyon. Richards Hollow Aid station seemed to come REALLY fast, we grabbed a cup of Mt. Dew (one of the only aid stations that had some!) and were through decently. This next section was a really cool, but tough climb.

I utilized the hands-on-quads power-hike method, but the heat caused me to get dizzy after some hard pushes, so I would crouch down in a hammy-stretching squat and just breathe in a few shady spots.

It was definitely starting to get rough! Halfway up this ridiculous climb (right about the Marathon mark) there is a beautiful little area of rolling hills where a huge cloud cover rolled in and it felt amazing.

We had caught up to Davy Crockett and passed him, so as we continued on he was serenading us as he listened to music on his headphones. Having that guy come upon you in the dark would be quite an experience as he makes some interesting noises. But he does use a green headlamp, so it's pretty distinctive... plus it wasn't dark so that doesn't really matter.

Because of that we called it the Serenade Meadows and really enjoyed that bit.

Nate marches through Serenade Meadows

Davy Singing at us
When the blissful rollers ended, we came upon another friend Trent who was hoping for a sub-24 finish this Bear (he's a speedy guy) - but he was having some major issues due to the heat. I gave him some Ibuprofen and Tums and we marched along up the hill towards Richards Summit.

Nate, Trent and I marching along

The leaves and clouds were beautiful, but wow it was getting hot!

When we finally reached Richards Summit we were on a wide dirt road and it was time to again go down to the aid station.

Up and down up and down!

I was feeling good and I knew Nate would catch up and be ready to go before leaving the aid station, so I took off down the hill.

Caught up to Kelly Agnew about halfway down and we chatted as we ran into the Aid station, where I was VERY happy to see my brother's FJ cruiser there, him taking pictures with the TAUR camera and my wife there with chairs!

Coming into Cowley with Kelly

I had the beginnings of a blister forming on the back of my left foot, and my calves were starting to bug me a little bit. so I put some med-tape on the blister, ate some food, cooled off, refilled, the normal stuff at an aid station.

I also made compounded my first MAJOR mistake of the day, mentioned way back at Leatham Hollow.

Me - "Should I take another water bottle?"
Matt - "Might be a good idea... I can grab you one from the car"
Me - "Nah, it's only 7 miles... I'll be all right!"

And off I went with Nate and Kendall who had caught up to us and was moving phenomenally.

Pretty quickly the heat started getting to me.

I reached into my pocket to pull out a Sea Salt Caramel Gu, my go-to gel for any long runs for the past few years, and realized one of them had started to leak in my pocket. Yuck! That stuff is STICKY on fabric.

I opened it up and started to squirt it in my mouth - it was warm and nasty and almost immediately made me feel like vomiting - so I stopped and tried. Nope. Not happening.

In the past twenty years I have only vomited one time - at the end of the Dugway Ultra race last year.

Looks like it'll be a while before I am able to again - which I wouldn't mind most of the time, but dang, during this race it just felt like getting something up would help me feel a bit better!

Kendall and Nate were long gone by then and I was being passed by a couple other runners, Kelly had just moved on past me as well as Mindy Campbell and I was starting to feel really low.

Finally I reached the top of Ricks Summit, barely 2 miles past the aid station.

Normally for me bombing the Downhills make up for the slow Ups, but even though I passed Kelly here, who was looking very uncomfortable, I was also not able to move very well, and was not feeling well.

At all.

Was running for a little while with a nice guy who kept talking to me... but I was in a low point and was a bit annoyed. He didn't seem to mind and just kept talking, we passed each other a few times over the next hours, every time he looked worse... I hope he was able to finish it was also his first hundred and I felt bad about how grumpy I was about his talkative-ness!

I'M talkative... so that was weird to feel that way.

I did feel pretty horrible, and I'd stop for a second and squat, much like the picture above, almost anywhere I could find some shade, then shuffle on to the next spot.

Finally I reached a fork in the road - one going up, and one going down, and there was a RIVER.

I can't even explain but somehow it is MUCH easier and more pleasant to be running along water, even if I don't get in it (although that's even BETTER) - Down was the Right Fork Aid Station, and up was where I would go next.

As I headed down to the Aid station I passed Ashley going up - she was looking AMAZING for her first hundred, and then I saw Kendall again, and finally as I got to the aid station - Nate was just heading out. I gave him a huge high five and was SO happy that he was looking so good.

I was a little bummed, because I knew I'd be at this aid station for a while getting my body back to where it needed to be.

I checked in, and Brian Kamm was there with a pitcher of water he dumped on me after I gave my beautiful wife my phone and gopro. Felt SO good! I then stumbled to the chair my crew had for me by the river and collapsed into it.

I stayed at the aid station for at least 45 minutes. I fixed some blister wrappings.

I put on nipple tape.

And finally - I grabbed a pack so I could carry extra water, and headed out, feeling a LITTLE better. Hoping it would stick.

It didn't stick for very long.

It is 8 miles from Right Hand Fork to Temple Fork.

And it was HOT. Even in the shade, next to a bubbling brook that soon we forked away from and our section was DRY. Dang. I liked that brook! Soon I had gone through my first water bottle, and was getting over a third into the second already! Dang!!

10 hours in, 39.5 miles - and I was in a low low place.

Still climbing. Eventually I kept on moving and passed some other struggling runners, including Scott lying on some very soft looking grass under some aspens and his wife/pacer my friend Kelli. I said "Wow that looks nice!" and Kelli, very sagely said, "You won't be able to get up though, so get out of here!" So I kept moving.

Smart lady! :)

I came up over a ridge and saw a red shirt and white hat and thought "WHOA!? Did I catch up to Nate?!" it wasn't him, but right in front of that guy was Davy Crockett, and a road we had to walk up - suddenly I wasn't in a hole, I was happier, things were turning around! My brain was cooling off!

I caught up to Davy and told him he was the wind beneath my wings. He didn't really respond... but that's okay!

MORE AMAZINGLY - right at the top of this road... there was manna from heaven. A table with water on it. The water was almost empty but I didn't care, because inside the big jugs was ICE!!!! I filled up my bottles with ice and pulled out my phone to see if I had service - a guy here was really struggling and wanted to call ahead to his crew.  No luck. He said not to worry about it, so I wished him luck, and feeling AMAZING, took off down the road in a glorious ice-rattling speed, catching up to and passing Davy and many others who were heading down the road.

After running down the road a ways you head off onto a really cool trail that crosses a beautiful RIVER. I marveled at this beautiful scene to runner number 1 Andi, and she said in her Southern twang "I must be dead. Cuz I don't care."

I would see Andi a lot over the next 40 miles or so - I'd pass her on the downhills, she'd leave the aid stations before me, and we'd do the same thing over again!

I also stopped and splashed a ton of water on my head to cool off again - chatting a little with a runner sitting down by the river. He didn't want to stop talking ... which is fine with me as long as your moving! So I took off and headed off down the awesome trail, feeling wonderful.

About 2 miles from the aid station I had another great surprise, my pacer, who was supposed to meet me about 9 miles later at the Tony Grove aid station was there next to the trail! THAT was a nice boost!

We took off and I still felt mostly good, but I was starting to get twinges of pain more and more in my knee-pits, right at the very top of my calf muscles, so I'd stop and march occasionally before running down to the aid station.

Temple Fork was great - I had my wife rub my legs a bit which helped a TON.

I also grabbed a charger and my cord for my watch so I would be able to track my data without the watch battery dying!

There was still plenty of light, but the clouds were starting to get ominous, and it began to rain a small amount as I left the aid station.

We crossed the highway and went up a hill onto a trail and the rain immediately lightened. Hooray!

Maybe it would miss us!


Anyway Derek was great pacing me - kept telling me how solid I was moving and how good our pushes up the hill were... but I felt slow.  We did catch up to Andi again and had a good time talking to her about her race experiences and this race, and then we moved on past her as she stopped for a break.

To keep moving we did the normal things ultra-runners do like punching hornets nests to make us move faster...

Yelling at the cows to get them out of our way

showing off our sexy runners power-hiking legs

Splashing water onto my face (don't drink that water - too many cows around - sickness forever!)

Finally we made it to the top of the climb before Tony Grove.

I started moving down the hill and passed a whole bunch of people, Tarzan yelling as I went, and finally made it to Tony Grove! Just over halfway! Hooray!

I used the restroom there, ate as much of whatever I could find, and made my next big mistake.

I changed out of my Altra Lone Peak 2.0's I was wearing into a shoe I only had about 15 miles of experience with, the Altra Olympus. My two runs I had with them weren't bad runs, but my body was definitely not used to the rocker on the front, and I knew from my experience that I didn't particularly like them while power hiking.

Anyway - I put them on and Derek and I headed off into the now darkness, moving up the one section of trail I WAS familiar with of this whole course! (Darkness = pretty much no pictures :( )

We made decent time, mostly power-hiking, but we caught up to Andi again and then we got to a flattish section and started to FLY. It is about ten miles from Tony Grove to Franklin Basin, and  I probably made up 45 minutes to an hour of some of the slowness from before and I was REALLY excited to be feeling so great and moving so amazingly.

Derek was singing loud show tunes in the darkness and I would belt out along with him when I could - or we'd take turns singing different parts. It was awesome.

We made it into Franklin Basin and there was a lot of familiar faces - many of which I was shocked to see since I thought they'd be far ahead. Still I was feeling all right, and gulped down some broth, a banana, and some yummy nectarines and we took off.

Looking at my watch and how far we had left, I was elated to realize that a sub 30 hour finish was highly likely... very doable! All I had to do was maintain a 20 minute per mile pace or faster... and I was hitting 9s and 8s on the downhill to Franklin!

This would be a piece of cake!


From Franklin to Logan River it is 8 miles... the first 3.5 being some of the worst climbing on the course in my opinion. for 2 miles I was moving really well, feeling good. I passed my friends Tobias and his pacer Adriana on this brutal uphill and then we hit a flat part and we kept motoring along.

Then it finally happened.

 We hit the final mile and a half of uphill to Steam Mill Pass and my ankles weren't working right anymore because of PAIN. I kept moving, but couldn't maintain that around-20 minutes per mile pace any longer.

I figured it wouldn't be too bad because I would pick up some time on the downhill...

Then we hit the downhill down to Hell. Or Hell's Kitchen Pass... at that time it was kind of the same thing.

At about this same time - the expected impending rain started to fall - but so far it had missed us, staying to the West, providing a cool light show with the lightning. It wasn't too bad though - and the temperature, even with the rain, was quite pleasant. I just wished I wasn't in pain!

I couldn't move down the hills. My ankles were hurting so bad that in compensating, my calves that had been flaring from early on (interestingly, the hip and IT band issue I was worried about the night before never bothered me!) flared up worse than before, and it would cycle in which part of my legs were in the most pain. Occasionally the toes would try to join the din as well... but they were basically ignored.

Either way - it was very very slow. I was a bit worried.

When we finally made it to Logan River - I was really hurting. I wasn't thinking of stopping, just about the pace. It was raining harder, and they had a nice big black plastic tunnel thing for runners to sit in - and we came upon another friend Canice, who was sitting there getting ready to head out.

I sat for a bit, Derek brought me some food, and I stretched out my ankles and calfs and hips and whatever else I could think to do while sitting in the camp chair - starting to feel better. It was getting colder and with the rain picking up, we figured it was a good time to put on some more protective gear, so I pulled on my Montane windbreaker (that does a good job in the rain as well) and we headed out, Canice hopping onto our little train.

As we leave the aid station you come to a crossing of the Logan river - where you cross over some logs. Derek was just telling us how when he ran this race a few years prior, our friend Ryan was pacing him and fell into the river. Derek laughed about it and started acrosss the logs

And fell in the river.

We made it across without further mishap and started up the gradual ascent of Peterson Hollow. I was in the lead and I was feeling pretty good! The rain was lightly falling, the trail was in great shape, my legs weren't hurting too bad, yes. This is good.

Then the Storm finally broke through... and it was REALLY raining.

We hunkered down, but it still wasn't too bad.

For about five minutes.

Then the trail changed.  It got muddy. Rivulets of water were flowing down we were splashing and squishing our way up, and my Olympus shoes, with their barely-there traction, were NOT doing me any favors.

The slippage caused my ankles and calves to flare up again, and I was really struggling up the hill. When we finally made it up to Peterson Pass, Canice had taken off ahead, and Derek was trekking about 50-100 yards ahead of me, waiting occasionally and calling back encouragements.

Darkness of the mind... again...  Slipping was not fun. Pain. This sucks. What am I doing out here?!

Trying to go down Long Hollow to Sink Hollow before heading up (again up?!) to Beaver Lodge was torture. Ouch. It Hurts was probably repeated by me thousands of times, more of a statement in response to pretty much anything Derek said, but he kept saying he was impressed by my attitude and mental awareness. I laughed...

Right at the bottom of Sink Hollow there was still a very long 3/4 of a mile up to the Lodge, and before we even came out of the woods, a runner and pacer came running by moving quite fast, and Derek recognized the runner - "Hey Ty! Great job!"  I don't know Ty... but Ty is CRAZY. We were at mile 75 and he had just passed me.

Wait scratch that.

I was at mile 75... Ty was at mile ONEHUNDREDANDSEVENTYFIVE and just blew by me like it was nothing. He started before and ran from the finish line backwards along the course to the starting line, where he then slept for about 6 hours, and lined up at the start with the rest of us.

Wow. Human beings sure are amazing.

Coming out of the forest we came to a paved road. Normally I hate paved roads... but I was happy to see this one and to march along up up up until we turned off to a steeper (dagnabbit) dirt road up the to Lodge.

Yay the lodge!! My crew was there! I could see my wife and she could fix all my leg problems with this wonderful cream lotion essential oil stuff!!!

Which we left in our car back at the starting line. DOH. (hee hee)

Time to get out of those dang slippery shoes. Altra makes great shoes, but those Olympus were not good for mud or my ankles on this course.

Derek's pacing duties were DONE. It was so great to have him for more than ten miles longer than expected! I really appreciate what he did for me during that time. Definitely awesome.

Punch drunk but still alive! Thanks Derek!

She rubbed my legs a bit anyway - and I just rested there shivering, even though I wasn't ever that cold.

Cleaning off legs to rub 'em down and compression sock'em up!
I used the restroom and lie down again, and said to my crew "I should go find one of those cots and just rest for 30-45 minutes... let my legs rest"

But my pacer/brother/crew Matt was bored and wanted to get moving... so he wouldn't let me. Jerk.

HA! Just kidding - it was probably a good thing because I don't think I would have gotten a lot better.

So I grabbed a pair of lifesaving (seriously I'm not kidding) trekking poles my brother keeps in his car (yay!) and trudged out.

Huge thanks to Missy Berkel and her friends who were there supporting another runner... they helped my wife take our chairs and gear back to the car so my wife could make it there... it's kind of hard to carry bags of clothes and food and camp chairs when you are crutching around with only one leg! (the other one IS partially weight bearing now which is awesome, but still) - so THANKS for that!

Matt and I headed off down the trail and across a field to the side of a road. Ahead of us down the road a runner was peering around, kind of lost, as lightning strikes were starting to pick up. We looked around and saw the markers across the street, and signaled to the runner to come back towards us.

Man - looking at the map later, that would not have been a fun place to continue for him - not the WORST place, because he wouldn't have been lost, he would have ended up right back at Beaver Lodge, unless he had decided to follow the markers backwards, THEN that could have been bad!

Luckily - he made it with us. However - he had already gone back to the Lodge to get some stuff he had forgotten, and I realized it was the same guy who had gone an extra mile back to Tony Grove earlier in the night! Poor guy!

The splits from Beaver Lodge to the last 3 aid stations are 6, 4, 7, and finally 8 miles to the finish.

We could do this!

Unfortunately it then started to dump harder then ever. We stopped under a big pine tree and pulled on the 97 cent Walmart Emergency Ponchos - it is amazing what a thin layer of plastic can do for keeping water out, and warmth in. Many people complained about being extremely cold and wet - but I was perfectly fine temperature wise! One of the best decisions I made was to put a poncho in every drop bag, just in case!

Plus I was also able to put my charger and cord in the little plastic bag the poncho was in to protect it from the rain. Definitely don't want to ruin the electronics!

The dirt road started going up - and we were crossing rivers constantly as the road was now a small river, rushing down the mountain.

We crossed into Idaho and just like Derek told me to I looked at Matt and said "I don't CARE!" And we laughed and sang the Idaho State song just like we did as kids EVERY SINGLE TIME we drove across the border to visit family.

Finally daylight started to appear. We couldn't ever see the sun but the electric crazy yellow of the quaking aspens made us think there was bright sunlight everywhere. Pictures are beautiful of the autumn leaves, but really don't do it justice!

We finally made it up to Gibson Basin. I felt bad for the AS workers there - it was WINDY and RAINY and a muddy lake where they were, plus their bonfire was blowing smoke everywhere - but they were still cheerful, including friends of my wife's family Michelle and Chris helped us get some coke and broth, and after I stretched just a bit, we left.

This dirt road was a muddy mess - and I finally had my first fall of the race. Not too shabby! and it didn't even hurt.

Check out some of this mud!!

Finally we headed off that road - the turn marked by the awesome skull I'm posing in front of there, and we had a conversation with the gentleman in the background there... I believe he was from Philly.

"This mud you have out here is NOTHING like I got back home"

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah this mud is ridiculously slippery! With the mud back home it gets all over, but you just dig in and keep going! This is crazy!!"

"Yeah - we'd like some of your mud too!"

He was moving better than me, so he took off as we continued up to the top of Beaver Creek Summit, and slipped our way down to the Beaver Creek Campground Aid station, where some teenage girls were yelling at us to come to where they were so we could cross the river. We pretended to ignore them or act like they were hallucinations - I don't think they got it. Oh well. It amused me for a minute!

Immediately one of my feet slipped into the river, so the next crossing I walked right through it. I was already wet!

I was hoping to see my wife here, but the road conditions were pretty treacherous - so I was all right. The aid station was one of the best ones of the race with hot dogs, sausages, lunchmeats, and pancakes and more for those who wanted them. I ate 2 hot dogs, a sausage, a bunch of ham, and downed some Rev3 (most of the other aid station drop bags I had I drank the Mt. Dew but it didn't feel right) and was amazed my stomach felt so good.

This wet rainy section I really hadn't eaten or drunk a lot (other than aid stations) but I was feeling fine. We headed out and started trudging up the hill with Alicia and Andrea - we've known Andrea for quite some time and both of them are in a road running group with a coworker/friend of mine Marie! So we had a lot of fun walking and talking with them, our pacers joking and having fun, and Alicia and I commiserating in our misery!

The rain let up a bit so we took off our ponchos - but it started raining less than a half hour later, so the plastic continued.

The face... of 88 miles in High Top Grunt - picture by Matt
Alicia and Andrea on the High Top Grunt - picture by Matt 
 Finally we reached the top and then - there was one of the two most ridiculous downhills of the course. At least if it was muddy... I would have loved to see this (and most of the other sections) dry!
About to head down the Bugler's Holiday - picture by Andrea Stevens
Alicia had Olympus on - I knew she was going to struggle with the downhill. Matt and I barely made it without falling because I had poles and we were both wearing the much more tractioned Lone-Peak 2.0's.

When I reached the bottom of this horrible section - the flat was just as bad. Slightly rolling, slippery everywhere.

And I was finally really and truly pissed off.

This was definitely the lowest point of my race.

Here I was - almost 30 hours into a race I did not expect to take me more than even 28 on a bad day, I had paid over 200 bucks to get in, and there was NO way I wasn't finishing. But you know what?! There was still about 10 miles to go... and based on current pace etc etc that 10 miles would probably take 5 hours... which means I'd be finishing with just 1 hour left before the cutoff.

THAT was NOT going to happen. One of the reasons (as mentioned before) that I didn't want to do a hundred mile race was exactly this situation I was in now. I'm pretty much okay with a hard course and conditions requiring 32ish hours to finish. More than that? NOT for me. That time isn't worth it to me and was NOT going to happen.

So while it was one of the lowest points of my race - it also made me good and MAD - and I wasn't going to take it anymore!!!

Still had about a mile to the final aid station, Ranger Dip, and I was angrily hiking along.

Ferociously stabbing the mud with my trekking poles and forcing my legs to keep moving forward.


Until we got to a wide dirt road that I could run on.

To the side there was a big truck with some four-wheelers on trailers and Matt joked "Hey want me to go see if there's a key in that?"

Ha! No way. I'm finishing this thing. I death-marched forward.

When the aid station came into view I started using the poles and hopping and running and stabbing my way super fast and I saw my brother's FJ and I knew my wife was there and I kept on running until I was about twenty yards from the aid station tent and my wife got out of the car and my right calf muscle seized up excruciatingly and I yelled and hobbled to the tent.

"Where do I check in? Runner 214 in!" and collapsed against my wife with a sob, telling her how angry I was at how much stupid time this was taking.

Views from Ranger Dip - pictures by Kristyan
I drank some broth, drank some coke, ate some grapes, downed some Ibuprofen and took off up the ridiculously mean hill from Ranger Dip to the Gates of Paradise.

Matt had just run the Wasatch 100 a few weeks before and I had paced a friend the last 25 miles. I heard from this friend that this hill was very similar to 'the Grunt' up from Ant Knolls on the Wasatch Course.

I thought this was a LOT steeper and harder than the Grunt, while Matt, in his current role of pacer thought the opposite.

Perspective. Ha!

I had to stop a lot on this uphill - but kept on moving. I was driven. Determined.

And then my watch beeped. "Memory Full" - What the heck?! I guess the Suunto Ambit 2 has a 30 hour map coordinates memory limit. I left it alone and it continued tracking mileage and elevation, which is important to me, but stopped plotting the map. Strava to that point.

Matt stopped and started his watch again so that I could have an accurate last section (yay thanks, brother!) and we continued on to the Gates of Paradise... which was totally covered in clouds so we couldn't see a thing...

But it was now 'all' downhill (ha yeah right) - and I'm GOOD at downhill - (conveniently forgetting all the sections where I was NOT good at downhill!!) so we took off.

I was actually able to RUN and it felt GREAT as long as I didn't flex my foot up towards my ankle on the landing - if the terrain did that it HURT and I'd walk for a bit before I could run again. But we flew by 6-10 cursing, slipping, muddy runners in this section, some of them exclaimed "Wow I wish I had YOUR energy" and I thought "This is DEFINITELY not energy!" and we continued putting some distance between us.

When we were finally below the clouds and could see the lake - it got even steeper - and we slipped our way down the mountain, turning and running straight in the middle of the steep crevice carved by the river of muddy water - the only safe place to move fast without slipping as much. All of the people we passed, we didn't see until much later at the finish line.

At the bottom of that hill - you come to a parking lot and it totally looks like you go straight over a cattle guard and onto the dirt-paved roads above Fish Haven to the finish - there was less than two miles to go - and we could see some runners and pacers heading that direction - but we looked down and noticed on the cattle guards the striped ribbons which indicated DO NOT GO this way and looked around - seeing a very muddy path going back UP a different hill to the North.


Up we went, and if there was a type of slippery mud you'd want for fun, or mud wrestling, etc - THIS was it!

NOT what you'd want at mile 98 of a 100 mile run, however.

The mud path led into a gorgeous autumn-red and green forest...

The picture really doesn't do these colors justice! - pictures by Matt
and FINALLY onto the dirt-paved road we were expecting.

And Matt's watch died. So I'm still short a couple miles of tracking. Oh well. That last bit on Strava.

I was determined, I was ready to be done - I CRAVED the finish. We were SO close.

I thought for sure I'd be able to RUN large sections of that road.

I tried really hard - but I could only walk for pain. I've never had pain like this!

Definitely not a fan!

We kept on moving and I told him I would force a run the last mile (according to my watch) and we kept on moving - angrily yelling at some jerk rednecks who flew by at 70+ miles on a muddy wet slick road in their trucks (grr) until we got close to the highway - and people were around saying "Great Job! You're almost there! Only like 800 yards!"

So Matt said "Okay we're almost there lets run now!" so I did.

And it hurt - and it was a lot farther to crossing the road than I wanted it to be, but I wanted to run in to the finish - I wanted it real bad! Because a lot of it had not felt like I had 'run' 100 miles!

We finally crossed the street and I could see the finish. I was still running.

Or maybe a hobble-hopping-crap-my-calves-are-seizing-up-running-using my poles thing - when Lane Farka, a HUMR I haven't really met but I've seen at multiple events yelled "come on your calves aren't seizing up now are they!? Finish up!"

But DANG those calves were seizing hard!

Seriously! These calves are killing me! I'm not making this up!

30 yards to go, 20, 10, and I was there!


I gave my wife a kiss and took off my poncho and did my obligatory and traditional finish-line Mayurasana - pretty impressively after 100 miles if you ask me (except I couldn't straighten my legs...)

AND I stuck my face on the ground in a more 'chin stand' position

Which got a bunch of mud on my chin. Awesome.

But I was done!

You got mud on your face! You big disgrace!!

It was awesome to run the longest 25 miles ever with my brother. He really is a great pacer.

I also think he's a better 100 mile runner than me!

I had a great crew and pacers out there - One of the things that bothered me was that I felt bad they had to be out there supporting ME longer than expected.

But they make me happy. Especially my wife - she's the best crew ever!

See - one of my lowest points and they brought me right up! - Picture by Steven Lindsay
Overall time: 32:36:09 - 115th place

I was done. It was horrible, it was awesome.

The major problems I had were my ankles and calves, and the mud slippage afflicting my pain. Even my mistake of not having enough water I think I could have recovered from and still met my goal.

I have pulled or strained the upper gastrocnemius muscle in my right leg.

It hurts still. But I don't think it is seriously injured - I just have to let it recover.

My biggest problem with that is it is still beautiful out there - and I don't have a lot of time left to hit more peaks, have more adventures!

Would I run 100 miles again?

I can't say right now - but I think I lean more towards the negative. I don't like to suffer quite that much. I know I CAN, and I can handle it pretty well I think! But I'm kind of lazy.

I don't particularly WANT to suffer that much.

However, I do love to support my friends in achieiving their goals, so this definitely won't be the last you see of me on hundred mile courses crewing, pacing, volunteering...

Who knows. Maybe one day I'll decide to run another 100 mile race.

As long as it fits my desire for a true adventure (and every true adventure should come with some suffering! Just not THAT much!) I'll do it.

We'll just have to see what happens!!

Oh yeah - and while I decided I need a break from writing this report - I finally put together the Bryce 100 Dance Party video!

Man! Why didn't we do one of these in the Bear!? It could have had MUD DANCING! YEA-YUH!


  1. So freaking awesome. That was a such a miserably fun time! Thanks for letting me be a part of the journey. You'll be back! :)

  2. Congrats on your finish. It was one heck of a time out there even without all the other challenges thrown in. It was nice to spend some time with you on the trial.

  3. You, my friend, are insane! Congrats on the finish though. I'm impressed.

  4. This is just SO awesome to read, Aaron!! You and Kakes are BIG inspirations to me - pushing through the SUPER difficult, gritting your teeth through the pain and coming out on the other side NOT DEAD and feeling more resilient and strong than before!! I know I am not to that level of intensity, but this past week's homework was almost 20 hours, and I was SO TIRED and ready to GIVE UP... And I'm glad I didn't. It's incredible when we push ourselves and realize how many amazing things we can accomplish. YOU are RAD. And so is your PIRATE SHIRT. I think I need one.