BHS 100K

Here is some video and pictures from the 2013 Bishop Ultramarathon. I completed the 100K in 14 hours 22 minutes.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Zion 100 - Race Report - April 4-5th, 2014

Climbing "The Goosebump"

     It was about six o’clock in the evening when Amy and I pulled up to the race headquarters just outside of Zion National Park and I remember how cold it felt.  The wind was cutting right through us on that early spring evening the night before the race would begin.  I think that was when I first started having serious second thoughts on the wisdom of the adventure I was about to put myself through.  Was I ready for this?   The next morning I would begin this run of 100 miles through the canyon lands north of Zion.  The immensity of this 100 mile race that would surely take me more than 24 hours to complete was beginning to weigh down on my psyche as I realized that it would be just as cold as out there tomorrow night and I would already be exhausted.  I was imagined myself in the pitch black cold of the desert wilderness trying to find my way around the course. Now tell me, why again was I compelled to put myself in this situation in the first place? Hopefully I would only be scaring up jackrabbits and mice along the trails and no rattlers or scorpions.  That night’s frosty cold bite was causing me to shiver on the outside as the thoughts I was silently contemplating were in turn causing me to shiver to my bones on the inside.  Yep, and though it all I kept a brave face on it all, laughing and joking with Amy telling her I wasn’t worried about a thing.
Race morning - all dressed up and ready to go

      The wood fried pizza that they had for us at the check in was awesome and the entire event turned out to be very well organized.  Amy and I then checked into our room that we had reserved in the park where I laid out my things for the morning and got to sleep as quickly as possible.  Amazingly I slept well that night and made it to the start line with plenty of time for a change.    The race started in the dark at 6:00 am rise and we were already halfway up the first of 5 challenging climbs in the race before the sun started to illuminate the course.  Each of those climbs to the tops of 5 different mesas averaged between 1 and 2 miles of horrendous 15 – 30 % grades.  Lone Mountain in Las Vegas provided me with the best local training options for these climbs but it was only ½ mile in length and averaged about 20%.  Although I made numerous repeats of this climb during training it turned out to be inadequate.  I did alright on the first climb keeping up with the mid-pack runners but after that I felt like my legs were already cooked for every other climb.  After about 5 miles and an hour of hard climbing we had a fun little 2 mile romp down a slight incline though a sparse forest to the first aid station that was bathed in an early morning glow.
Aid Station #1 - Smith Mesa Aid station - Mile 7 - Thank-you Volunteers, all of you were awesome

       After the first aid station we had a steep decent down some gravel and a bit of paved road where I was feeling real good and averaged a nice pace – later on I would think back and wish I had slowed down at this point.  Shortly, in under 3 hours, I arrived at the second aid station and I got in and as quickly as I could.  From there the course undulated up and down as we followed the Virgin River with its spectacular for about 6 miles.  I continued pushing the pace and came upon the Virgin Dam aid station at mile 23 in under 5 hours.  Some quick calculations indicated that if I could maintain anything close to this pace I would finish in under a phenomenal 24 hours for my first 100 mile race.  That thought right there was telling me “slow down buddy,” but I wasn’t listening.  I continued to feel good as the course started to slowly rise again towards the 2nd and most difficult mesa climb which is “affectionately called the Goosebump.”  At this point in the race I was still running all the small inclines and only taking short walk breaks when things got a little too steep.
Poor picture quality but some easy running down to the 2nd aid station.
We started the morning climbing these walls and now were on our decent.

View of the Virgin River: Photo by Ron Board -

     The climb to the top of Goosebump Mesa involved wicked 15 to 30% grades for close to 2 miles and I took a lot of breaks heading up this one and most of the other runners were as well.  There were places where I took 25 steps or so and had to stop and catch my breath it was that bad for me.  I felt unprepared and dwarfed by these climbs.  I finally reached the top where there was an aid station and I had access to my first personal drop bag where I restocked on my food supplies.  The food and refueling situation was one thing that went really well for me this year.  My prerace strategy for this event was to stop eating any meat four days prior.  Then two days prior was when I did the last of any heavy carbo loading.  The day before the event I ate normal except that I got as many calories as I reasonably could from liquids.  My theory which I heard other runners had also successfully use was to limit the load that I had on my gastric system at the start of the race and for the remainder of that day.  In every other ultrarun I  had completed before this I had suffer from an upset stomach during some point of the race but not this time making my whole experience a lot more enjoyable.  Also this time I was eating primarily bananas that I had dehydrated myself and dried figs; I was limiting the amount of gels and other foods that were available at the aid stations.

Arriving at Goosebump

View from the top of Goosebump

      The six miles from Goosebump to Grafton Aid station was a mostly down some gentle grades and was fairly easy running.  I found myself running along with and chatting to a physical therapist from Virginia which turned out to be extremely fortuitous.   I had started getting some sharp cramps in my quads and told him that I would probably need to slow down a bit and he should go ahead.  He asked me if I ever tried Tums before during a run and I didn’t even think I had heard him right.  But, yes he was recommending the Tums, the upset stomach tablets for my muscle cramps.  He had some and offered me some telling me I should take two.  I did thinking that they probably wouldn’t hurt and continued down the road with him not really thinking about it anymore.  Half an hour later I realized that I wasn’t getting any cramps anymore and I mentioned it to him.  He told me that it was a deficiency of calcium in my system that was causing the cramps and Tums had the fastest delivery method for getting calcium back where it was needed.  I am now a big believer and bring Tums on all my long runs.  At asked for some more Tums at an aid station because I had been separated from this running angel therapist but they didn’t have any.  They did have some packets of EFS electrolyte mix which I noticed had calcium as one of their ingredients so I scooped up a few of those which held me for the remainder of the run.  EFS is the only Electrolyte mix that I have found that has a significant amount of calcium in it and I will be taking it on my next ultra which incidentally is in two weeks from now.  I will be running the Javalina Jundred 100 in Fountain Hills, Arizona on November 1st this year. I will also have salt tabs with me but I have now discovered that the calcium is very important for me anyways.

      I reached the Grafton Mesa aid station as the sun began to set. I was 12 hours and about 50 miles into the race and still moving forward at a good pace.  I felt good as I got out my head lamp for the night.  Luckily Matt and his crew do an awesome job of marking a trail with an unbelievable stream of reflective ribbons that just about anyone could follow.  Unfortuately, I am one of those that can get lost following the best of trails and I got a little disoriented coming out of the aid station as I started to run the Grafton Mesa loop.  I didn’t get to far, less than a ½ mile before a runner coming the other way told me I had to turn around so I did.  That was my first course detour and I figure I put in about 1 extra mile.  There was a lot of up and down to contend with and that was not an easy 6 mile loop.  After hitting the Grafton Mesa aid station for a second time I ran about 6 miles of down and 3 miles of up uneventfully though the night towards Eagles Craig aid station.  Supposedly there is a great view from up here but not at night.  I was sore at all yet except for some minor tenderness in my feet and I was still running all the down hills and run/walking the inclines the best I could. 

      On the downhill from Eagles Craig I made a major course detour.  At some point I was supposed to make a left but I kept on going straight.  There was someone not far behind me and he followed me too, soon catching up to me and we began talking and we were more than a mile off course before we noticed there weren’t any more markings.  We were exhausted and not thinking right by now as we had already been running more than 16 hours and our brains were seriously glucose deprived.  It was a major buzz kill to think that we had gotten lost and we quickly went from slap happy to seriously pissed and worried.  The only thing to do was to turn back and find the course, and I quickly rethought my attitude and realized how peaceful and immense the night sky was; and, here I was in the middle of it all traipsing across this wonderful Earth being allowed to revel in it all.  So I did and about 15 minutes later I saw runners’ headlamps ahead of me and I rejoined the course.   Yipee Cayae, just over a third of the course left which...hmmmm... translates to a marathon plus a 10 miler on top of that, but who’s counting at this point?

More to come