I won’t keep you in antici…pation. I lost again. Surprise, surprise.
March 18, 2014 — Buffalo Run 100: 21:44; lost to 11 people, 66 starters; 49 finishers (74%)
April 01, 2014 — Zion 100: 23:33; lost to 13 people; ~190 starters; 116 finishers (~61%)
Over beers, I committed to documenting my little project of running a 100 mile race each month this year. Writing is rather painful for me, so I again decided to combine two races into one lengthy report. This laziness with likely continue until I start receiving hate mail from die-hard fans demanding timely race reports. In my first race report, I started these silly haikus for each race. These will continue — sorry I’m not sorry.
Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100
Plenty of me time
Volunteers laugh at bad jokes
Or they laugh at me
The weekend prior to the Buffalo Run 100 miler, some bad influences convinced me to run the Run Through Time Marathon in Salida, CO. This turned out to be a blast and I got to showcase my shoddy camping skillz to some Rocky Mountain Runners. Back in the Boulder bubble, I woke up the next morning to a voicemail saying that my friend, Marcy Servita, died that night. Two months earlier, I woke up the morning after the HURT 100 to a Skype call from Marcy that she had cancer. Six months before she died, Marcy crushed the Headlands 100 miler, her first of what should have been many more to come.
A few days later, I set out solo on the long drive to Antelope Island State Park in Utah. This would be my first 100 miler sans crew and/or pacers. Frankly, I was glad to have some alone time. For about 200 miles on I-80, red, white, and blue billboards promise the world to the driver with some attraction called Little America, which turns out to be a super disappointing gas station convenience store. I got to my hotel room just as it got dark and packed my drop bags without urgency because the race started at noon the next day. While rare, I love these later start times for 100 milers. Like everyone, my pre-race anxiety means I sleep terribly that night. Listen, don’t you dare complain about the lousy sleep you got when you’re at the start line of a race. You should feel thrilled that you have something positive in your life that you care enough about that it causes you to lose sleep.
Jim Skaggs, the race director, kicked off the Buffalo Run 100 with the sneaky countdown, “10, 9, 8, 3, 2, 1, Go!”. Sharing miles on the trails with old friends and new friends happens in every 100 miler and is a huge attraction of the sport for me. I ran with some wonderful people for the first 20-ish miles. In particular, I was glad to see Quintin Barney there again this year. Quintin is all smiles and never complains, which is absolutely a conscious choice because I’m sure he hurts just like the rest of us. Aside from occasionally leap frogging with other runners and briefly crossing paths on out-and-back sections, I ran completely alone from mile 20 onward.
I kept doing the running thing at a steady pace of about 5 miles per hour while the Earth kept spinning round at 1000 miles per hour, eventually causing the illusion of the sun going down. The temperature dropped maybe into the mid-40’s, but I was feeling pretty chilly. I arrived at the aid station where I stashed my best headlamp and announced loudly for all to hear, “I have become uncomfortably numb.” Crickets. Since I was being ignored, I seized the opportunity to strip ass-naked and swapped my short shorts for fleece-lined running tights. I was in and out of there before the volunteers and crews could process what they just saw. It’s just a butt, grow up.
The course is a repeat of a 50 mile lollipop, with the stick being a long out and back with rudely gawking buffalo everywhere. These pesky things “ganged up” — a group of buffalo is called a gang, har har — to storm and wreak havoc upon one aid station tent. Total jerk move, ya filthy animals! I cruised into the mile 50 start/finish aid station and roped some random guy into helping me with nutrition, hydration, and lubation. Although he was timid at first, the time we shared together was special, but soon it was time for us to say our teary goodbyes and part ways. I never saw him again. Second verse, same as the first.
Back on the ‘pop’ part of the lollipop — I’m no expert on lollipop anatomy — for the second time (mile 65-ish), the loneliness was really sinking in. This stretch is mentally brutal because you can see the start/finish aid station for a long ways but it never seems to get any closer until suddenly you’re there. It’s very much like this Monty Python sketch. I felt a rumbly in my tumbly and panic set in when I discovered that I was without my trusty traveling papers. Huge rookie mistake…not sure how that happened. Still keeping things contained for now, my experience pacing Marcy at the Headlands 100 popped into my mind, as she, too, faced a similar predicament. I imagined the roles reversed and now she was talking me down from losing control; thus, saving a sock from a horrible fate. I bee-lined it to the porta-potty and felt better instantly. Generally, in a race I feel like if you’ve got to go you should go immediately, but I suppose it’s good to suffer sometimes. I swear, just like gravity, the urge to go goes like 1/R2, where R is the distance from the toilet.
Okay, moving on. Each time I hit an aid station, I found myself wanting to linger there a bit because it was nice to talk to someone after so much time alone. It turns out aid station volunteers are really helpful! “Well, duh”, you say. But this often goes unnoticed for me because I have a crew taking care of everything. I remember parting a sea of buffalo along the trail, which is when “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta” came into my head and stuck with me for awhile because I can totally relate to that song, growing up in middle class white suburbia and all. The rest of my race was consistent and I was neck-and-neck with my ghost from last year, ultimately utterly demolishing him by five whole minutes. Clearly, I’m improving.
Right after finishing, I slept in my car until it started to feel like an easy bake oven. Now the after party was in full swing, so I grabbed a few of Jim Skaggs’s home brews and chatted with some folks. There were loads of massage tables at the end of the race, but I can never bring myself to request a post-race massage. Like always, I was covered in nastiness at the end of the race. Even I wouldn’t want to touch me. I hung around for awhile, because watching the folks finish who suffered the worst is the most inspirational thing in the world. Man, I love that. These stubborn back of the packers are the people who make ultra running such an awesome community. I had the pleasure of seeing Quintin come in and also met Ed “The Jester” Ettinghausen, who is attempting to break Liz Bauer’s record of 36 100 milers in a calendar year. The race wrapped up and I headed back to the hotel to shower and get some proper sleep.
I set out the next morning on the remote drive back to Boulder and soon regretted bringing only four CDs. Two hours passed by with the Flaming Lips’s “Do You Realize??” on repeat, as I thought a lot about how much I was going to miss Marcy.
Marcy really lived
Life is fun, use your body
Even when it hurts
The Boulder Banditos got me hooked on trail running and they are some of my best friends in the world. Marcy was the cornerstone of the Banditos and I spoke at her memorial on behalf of the Banditos. While trying to express how much we all loved Marcy, I felt so overwhelmingly sad and can’t remember ever uncontrollably crying so much in my life. Even though I had just escaped Boulder a week earlier for the Buffalo Run 100, I felt like I needed to get up and go once again. At our last Banditos meeting only days after Marcy was diagnosed, she put the Zion traverse at the top of her list for an early spring time adventure. The evening after Marcy’s memorial, I e-mailed the Zion 100 race director, who graciously made space for me in the sold out race only a few days away. I mentioned this to Wendy Drake, who was Marcy’s primary caregiver throughout her journey with cancer, and she was immediately in to crew and pace. This spontaneity is one of many things that makes Wendy totally fucking awesome.
Wendy picked me up in a rental car in the morning. We drove the ~10 hours to Zion and chatted the whole way, never even turning on the radio. I was so happy to have such a good friend there with me. As Zion came into view, we had a hard time holding it together, both knowing how much Marcy would love to be there with us.
We woke up in Hurricane, UT, I took my ritual race morning shower, and we made our way to the start line at the Virgin, UT town park. Minutes before the start, I was delightfully surprised to see Neeraj Engineer, who snuck up behind me and wished me luck — he said he would recognize my red short shorts anywhere. We were off and it was really neat to see a string of headlamps winding up the first big climb of the race. Less than 10 miles into the race, I donated my traveling papers (…foreshadowing…) to John Knotts, who put them to good use and went on to kill the 100K.
Somewhere around mile 30 I climbed the steepest hill I’ve ever seen. We’d get to go down this sucker at mile 75. At least it was short. Neeraj was there crewing a friend of his who was not far behind me, so I got super lucky to have him crewing me as well for the first 40-ish miles. At this point relatively early in the race, my shin was starting to hurt. I’m no doctor, but I suspect this was running related. It might have also had something to do with the maiden voyage of the Brooks Cascadia 9’s. Yeah, that was self-admittedly really stupid. C’mon, Greg. I switched into the inov-8 Trailroc 245’s and (almost) all was good in the world. The tummy trouble began shortly thereafter and I would have sudden sphincter surges for much of the remainder of the race.
I picked up Wendy at mile 50-whatever and we were off! We ad-libbed trail running appropriate lyrics to songs like “Dancing Queen” and “I’m Too Sexy”, getting in a good abdominal workout from all the laughing. At some point, I peeled off to take care of business and couldn’t see Wendy on the trail. I gave out Marcy’s signature trail call, “Euah, Euah!”, which was returned by Wendy and we were reunited. We had some nasty climbs to knock out and Wendy was surprised by how much I complained — I tend to vent to my pacers! I remember commenting that I wished people had 9 fingers so that we counted in base 9 and this race would only be 81 miles rather than 100. This was perhaps too nerdy for Wendy’s liking and I changed my pessimist attitude to be thankful that we don’t all have 11 fingers. I was charging up some stupid hill with my head down, with Wendy leading the way. Before we got to the top, she stopped and pointed for me to turn around. We stood there taking in the spectacular pinkish orange sunset, when suddenly it dawned on us.
With a giant hug, Wendy sent me on my way at mile 75-ish. Nighttime was in full swing and I was about to begin the final big climb of the race when I saw a cyclist coming up behind me. This was Josh Owen, who was running so damn fast that I actually thought he was on a bike. He caught me, we leap frogged each other for some time, then we decided to stick together to the top of the climb. The next section, called Guacamole, would be the most frustrating segment of the race. Josh and I stuck together struggling to follow the non-reflective flagging on slickrock terrain where one could not maintain a consistent running stride. I was actually running well and wanted to take advantage of this, which I did until I face planted like an idiot. I sat on a rock for a little while and linked up with Josh again when he came by. We stuck together for the rest of the race.
We spat out of the canyon and were home free. Well, except for some silly shin-deep water crossing with ~1 mile to go. Really? We crossed the finish line together and it was so nice to see Wendy there. I picked out one of the unique belt buckles and then Wendy and I hobbled over to the car to get a few hours of sleep. We woke up to hundreds of people charging straight at us, which was terrifying at first until I realized that this was just the 50K kicking off.
We hung around in the town park enjoying the post-race atmosphere, which was one of the best 100 miler after parties I’ve seen. Lots of socializing, homemade pizza, and beer. As with all of these 100 milers, the elites love to chat with everyone because they’re all awesome people. We chatted with Jason Koop, whose dog pissed all over my leg, and Candice Burt, who logged her first 100 mile win. Wendy’s partner and fellow ultra-crazy man, Jorge Rufat-Latre, flew his propeller plane to Zion and whisked us away back to Boulder. While not my first time flying in a small airplane, it was my first time landing in one. The views of the continental divide were spectacular — thanks, Jorge!
Two weeks after the Zion 100, I joined a cohort of Banditos at the Gemini Adventures Trail Running Festival in Fruita, CO and ran the 50 miler in Marcy’s memory. This was a very special weekend, as the race directors worked closely with the Banditos to make Marcy a big part of their event this year. The Fruita 50M is perhaps my favorite race and I plan to be there next year for my fourth consecutive running.
So what’s next for me? Hopefully I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch, but I’m registered for the following races:
Peak 200 miler, May 29 — June 01
Bighorn 100 miler, June 20/21
Vermont 100 miler, July 19/20
Fat Dog 120 miler, August 15–17
I’m really looking forward to each of these races. They should be a lot of fun…at least for a little while.