I found myself excited about running this race. Although I had run a 50K in March during the 12 hour run, this would be my first distance ultra race. Of course, this also meant I was nervous and since I had some time to kill Friday afternoon, I wrote a short poem about it:
T'was the night before Frenzy and all through the house,
My running gear was laid out all over the desk, keyboard and mouse.
The running shoes are laid out with such care
In anticipation the morning will soon be there.
I in my PJs all snug in my bed
While my spouse sits in the living room instead.
For 3:30am comes early for me
Sleep in for her, no place to be.
I toss and turn and try to fall asleep in bed,
While visions of trails, rocks and hills fill my head.
After just closing my eyes there arose such a clatter,
I looked to my night stand to see what was the matter.
And what do my wondering eyes see?
3:30am, race day for me.
If you want to know how my night before the race really went, re-read the poem (except my wife did get up early and saw me at the race start).
I got to the start of the race in good time and picked up my bib. I then got in line for the bathroom. (There is always a line for the bathroom at races.) Pretty soon, the race started and we were off. The first mile of the course is pretty flat (with only a slight grade) so it is great for a warm up. We all quickly found our places in line (based on running speed) and I found myself behind Uli Kamm. For those who do know this amazing man, he has completed over 250 ultra marathons, all by walking them. But you must understand that this man walks a 12 minute mile. And yes his is walking. So I fell in behind Uli, him walking and me running to keep up. Sadly though we quickly pull away from me as he doesn't slow down much when going up hills and I have to walk up them.
The view of Boise from the race course.
I was rather proud of how I was doing. The first 11 miles of the course is pretty much all up hill. By the time of the first aid station, I was able to take off my head lamp as it was light enough to see. I managed to make it the first 9.5 miles without having to stop and “suck wind.” This was big for me and I made to the bottom of “Ass Kick” hill. (Sorry for the choice of words but I was once told that it is not swearing if it is a truthful description and this hill kicks my ass every time.) Now Ass Kick hill (the hill has no name of than 5 mile gulch trail so I have named this hill) is a mile and half climb of 1900 feet of elevation. There are no dips or flats on this hill and is just steep and steeper the whole way. The first time I tried this hill it took me almost 2 hours to make the climb. Well this time I made it up in just 57 minutes. I did have to stop and suck wind a few time but I didn't have to stop very long. I was so happy (and sore) when I reached the aid station at the top.
Coming into aid station 6/25
Now there were three small sections of this course that I had not actually run before. The first was an out and back section right at the top of Ass Kick hill. Imagine my surprise to find out that this was also mostly a climb. I ended up walking this two mile out and back section as I was trying to recoup from the big climb I just did. As it turns out, this was a good thing was I felt great for the next dirt road section and was able to run most of the way to the next aid station. The next section that I had not run before was Orchard Gulch trail up to 5 Mile Gulch (and then down the bottom section of Ass Kick hill). This trail wasn't too bad. There was a small section of switch backs that was steep but it was a short section and I rather enjoyed Orchard Gulch trail. However, Ass Kick hill was not done with me. You see I have trouble with my knee when I am going down steep and/or technical section. My knee really starts hurting. (I am fine on gradual down hills, flats and uphills, but steep down hills kill me.) As I started down this ¼ mile section of Ass Kick hill, my knee started to hurt a bit. I took it nice and easy (aka, slow) and managed to make it down in mild pain. Fortunately the next mile and a ½ is a gentle down hill so I was able to work out the pain and get back to running.
I made it into the aid station at mile 22 at 6 hours 19 minutes. This aid station has a 8 hour cut off time so I was doing great. I even sat down and had a Popsicle. They asked me what flavor I wanted. I really didn't care so I finally just said a yellow one (it was the first color I saw when they opened the cooler). They told me it was banana flavor but I will have to take their word for it for all I could taste was cold and sweet. While I was enjoying my Popsicle, another runner came in and the first thing she said was “What mile is this?” When they told her it was mile 22, she cried out in joy “I get to finish the race!” She was so happy that she even stared to tear up a little.
Making the climb out of aid station 22.
The next section is a three mile climb to the next aid station. I managed to power right up the hill to that aid station. (I found that I can power walk up hills pretty good.) This aid station was the same as the first aid station and it was great to see the same smiling faces. (All the aid station workers were great and upbeat.) And this brings me to the last section of the race that I had not covered before: Femerite Patrol. Now, in one direction is Watchman Trail and it is a nice fairly flat piece of trail. Femerite Patrol goes the opposite direction so I was hoping it would have the same characteristics. Boy was I wrong. This trail had some of the steepest down hills of the entire race. It took me forever to make it to the next aid station as by the time I was done with Femerite and on Freestone, both knees were killing me. I was at the point where all down hills hurt, and the most of the remainder of the course is down hill. I was actually slower on the down hill sections then the up hills. I finally reached the last aid station and was so very glad. Only 4 miles to go and finally some flat and up hills sections. Unfortunately, I knew I still had one steep switch back down hill section and I was afraid that if I push my knees I would not be able to make it down that hill and thus would not be able to finish the race. As such, I just walked the last 4 miles.
Me coming into the finish line.
The last big thing you have to do before the finish of this race is a set of stairs. The last time I did these stairs (that was a 10 mile run), I had to suck wind a couple of times. But I not this time. I just powered right up those stairs. From here there is this a small down hill (ugg for my knees) and then it is flat to the finish. Since I was so close, I decided to see what my legs had left in them and I ran the final distance in. I was surprise at how well my legs did and at how much energy I had left. Had my knees not given out on my on the down hills, I could have put in a much better time.
Over all I am happy. It was not the time I was hoping for, but given how much my knees hurts, I am trilled I finished. The race was well organized, I got to see and cheer a lot of friends and fellow runners, and my wife was there to cheer me on that the finish (along with several friends). Even having cross the finish line last, I still felt like a winner.
My favorite pic of the race, me taking my wife's soda at the finish line.
What went right:
- Hydration. I have sucked at hydration the last few long runs and the last marathon. I nailed it this time. I started my day by drinking two (2) sports drink (ok they were Sobe Life Water). I also drank from my pack often (having to get it refilled at one point) and I tried to eat things with moisture in them (like fruit). Sure, had to pee along the race course once, but not feeling the affects of dehydration was worth it.
- My gear setup. My pack, my head lamp my shoes, my trekking poles, they all worked perfect. The only place I chaffed was in the butt cheeks (which I often chaff there). I supposed I could try applying something there to prevent chaffing but I just know my wife is going to walk in on my lubing up my “back door” and then I am going to have a LOT of explaining to do.
- Trekking poles. Not only did they help on the up hills and down hills (stabilizing me and my week knees) they also provide something to lean on when you stop to suck wind.
What didn't work so well
- My knees. I come to realize during this race that the issue with them is muscle related. It turns out they hurt the most when I am trying to go slowly down a hill. Apparently I am using some muscle too much at the bottom of my knee. So what I need to work on is 1) strength training. I have got to build up those muscles and make then stronger. And 2) learn to run down steep sections. I came to realize on this run that is if I didn't try to go slow down a hill, my knees hurt less.