I remember a few years ago after I finished my first 50km race, someone asked me if I would ever attempt to run a 100mile race. My response was “Not a chance, those people are nuts running all day and night”. Well that came back to bite me.
This adventure actually started 2.5yrs ago when I paced Derrick for the last 30kms of his sub-18hr 100mile race at Haliburton. The experience and thrill of the night trail running and (as Derrick put it in a recent interview) the absurdity of running 100miles buried itself deep under my skin and once there, I found difficult to shake. As with every other “new” distance that I have attempted, I have approached it with caution. I just don’t want to’ just RUN X’, I want to run it well. If I was going to try to run a 100miles, I first had to learn how to run 50miles. And so the adventure began. It was at this point that I enlisted Derrick as my coach, knowing full well that I would not be able to tackle this on my own. So over the next 2 years I ran 3 50 mile races, with the last being the JFK50 last fall which was one of the best races of my life. It was then when I knew that I was ready to take the next step and attempt the 100 mile distance. I chose the Sulphur Springs 100 as my first for a couple of key reasons. The first was that as I ran the 50mile there last year, I knew the course and what to expect. The second was that it was a 20km loop course that I would have to run 8 times which would allow for much easier crewing logistics.
So with the decision made, it was time to begin the training. I ran the Yukon Arctic Marathon in February, and was pretty sick during and afterwards, but I was fortunate that I was able to finally get better with 12 weeks of the race. This didn’t provide a ton of time, but my base was solid and by the end of March was finally able to get in some solid runs. It was decision time. I talked it over with the family (needed their support) and Derrick, got the green light and registered for the race. Here we go.
Training went very well. I was able to keep on top of all the aches, pains and niggles. I set myself up for alternating Physio and Chiro appointments, made sure I got the sleep I needed, basically keeping on top of everything. Training time was limited and I needed to make sure that I had no setbacks (I did have one really bad ankle roll, but fortunately got through it).
Imagine having to do 4-5-6 hour runs by yourself. The voice in your head that keeps you company gets a little boring after a while. I started doing something I have never done before in training and that was listening to Podcasts, specifically http://ultrarunnerpodcast.com/. Little did I know at the time what a huge impact this would have on me. Not only did it keep me company for many hours of training and allow me to just keep running along, it provided me with a wealth of information and inspiration. Being able to listen to so many incredibly experienced people and their advice, the lows and the highs that even the elites encounter you can’t help but be inspired and absorb that wealth of information. After my runs, I would make sure to summarize what I had listened to, to myself, mentally filing away little tidbits of information that could/would be useful.
So enough about race prep, but suffice it to say it went as well as it could. Derrick said I was ready and I have learned to trust him. One of the nice things about having a coach is that you don’t have to 2nd guess yourself as that is his job while yours is to execute and that was what I was getting ready to do.
As I said Sulphur is a 20km loop which may sound like it could get boring, but it really doesn’t. There are enough twists and climbs and variations that it stays pretty fresh. Kim and Justine both had signed up to crew and be there for me at each loop. Kim, because she is just the greatest, and Justine HAD to be there for Dad’s first 100mile race, and Kim needed some support to keep her sane through the long day and night (and she is the greatest too).
Okay, so on to the race itself.
We drove down to Hamilton on the Thursday so that I could spend Friday with my feet up, hydrating, watching movies and just relaxing; getting ready for the big day. It was wonderful, one of the most peaceful days we have had in a while. Friday night, we went to the Pasta Dinner, mandatory for the 100mile runners (it really was one of the best pre-race dinners I have been to). We met up with Eric and Marc, fellow Gatineau Park Trail runners. Then, back to the hotel nice and early for a little more R&R and to do a final gear sort and check for the early morning start.
Dinner Bib display
Friday night’s sleep was restless, but I did manage to get some and woke at 4am to start what I thought would be one of the longest days of my life. Pre-race routine went off like a well oiled machine, only change was that I ate more than I usually do. Kim and I got to the race site with plenty of time to get my gear and nutrition totes organized for the day. Weather looked like it was going to be warm, but luckily not the +30 that had been predicted the week before. This last 2.5yrs had come down to this day; at this point all I wanted was to get started. I had trained and learned everything I could and I now wanted to see if I could execute.
Looking a little scared before the start
Start – Loop1
Everything I read, everything I heard, everything I was told, start slow; don’t get caught up in the rush off the start. Derrick told me to lock into my ‘run all day pace’, and in hindsight I would call it my ‘run all day effort’. The race starts with quite the dramatic 350m downhill that also by the loop nature of the course is your finishing climb (8 times). I held back on the descent, took the right turn on to the trail and the day had officially begun. I held back my pace and locked into a steady even cadence that would be my constant friend for the day. Aside from the even effort for the day, the other task for the day was to eat and drink from the start and continue for the duration. Consume calories every 20min (goal of 250+/HR), drink constantly as allowing either of these to slip would ruin the day. I spent the first loop getting comfortable with the day, remembering the course and focusing on getting into the routine that I needed to carry me to the finish. I had forgotten how undulating the course was, and how steep some of the climbs/descents could be. I did realize early on that my feet would take quite a beating today. I completed the First loop in 2:03, admittedly faster that I had planned, but my effort had been low. As I was feeling comfortable and keeping up with everything, I wasn’t worried.
My awesome crew was waiting for me with what we had rehearsed, so it was a simple matter of switching Gel/Water bottles, grabbing a little water and heading back out. I had thought before the race that I would want to do something different for each loop to make them unique and therefore a little less monotonous. Well this never happened as I never once found the loop structure mentally tough. So, in/out I went fairly quickly and I was back off running again each time. I managed to lock back into the pace/effort of the first loop and just continued on with the day. The trails were a little bit busier now with the 50k & 25k runners but it never seemed crowded or congested. It did feel a little odd to be running a 100miles and passing people running much shorter distances. Again, I thought I might be pushing the pace too much but was feeling quite comfortable and relaxed, so not worried.
I was 100% on top of both nutrition and hydration and feeling no real ill effects. Things were just ticking along as I completed the first quarter of the race hiked to the top of the nasty hill and finished the 2nd loop in 2:08.
Loop 3 & 4
I have to roll these two together because to be honest I don’t remember them that well. I do know at the beginning of one of the two a couple of, I think, college kids asked if they could interview me to which I said ‘Sure if you run along with me.’, and to they did. They were filming and asking me questions for 5 or so mins. I also remember having a Popsicle at the gatehouse aid station which was wonderful. But aside from that, I was just getting the job done, focusing on the theme for the day: Relentless Forward Progress. Splits for the 2 loops were 2:12 & 2:20. I purposefully started slowing on the 4th loop for fear that I had gone out too fast and that I should take a little more recovery time and I spent a little longer at the aid stations and walked a little more after the uphill hikes.
Halfway in 8:44
So my original lofty goal was to finish the first 50miles in 9hrs and here I was a good 15min ahead. So, I took extra time to change shirts and sock and bandage up a toe that had been taking a beating and was quite sore. I decided to bring my little iPod shuffle out with me to keep me company and headed out for loop 5, rocking to the beat.
So, at this point I was heading out into the great unknown. Every step was a new distance record, further than I had ever run before. Thing was I was feeling good. Sure my feet were sore, toes were getting hammered, quads were starting to really hate the downhills, but my physical and mental strength were unwavering. I felt good. The heat was really starting to bug me, but I kept up on my hydration and that combined with the little heat training I did before, I was able to beat the heat. I ran smiling, enjoying the day, chatting and joking with the aid station crews, just staying as positive as I could. Done in 2:30 (but this also included a little longer at the start/finish before heading out).
Okay, so now I was getting excited. Thinking back to my lofty goal, I was figuring I would be done 120km by 9pm so that is when I had told Robbie to plan on being there to pace me. Now, it was looking like there was a good chance that I would be there by 8pm. Here it was, 5:15 and I sure wasn't feeling like I was wavering at all. I asked Kim to get hold of Robbie and get him there before 8pm, as I had a feeling we’d be heading out then. Off I went for my last Solo loop. Again, not too much to report except my iPod died ½ way though. No concern because I knew that once finished, I’d have Robbie to keep me company and we’d be starting the last 40km. Completed in 2:36, arriving at 7:50pm and 10mins before 8pm when pacers were allowed to join. Seriously, could I have timed that any better? And, Robbie was there. Perfect.
So changed shirts, put on my headlamp, chatted with everyone for a bit (had 10min to kill), some pics and finally, the time came and Robbie and I headed out.
The boys are ready to roll
First off, very BIG thanks to Robbie. Couldn't have done it without him! I wasn't sure what to expect or what I would need from him, but from the start, we hit a rhythm that would carry on for the next 40k. Robbie ran a few strides in front of me “pulling” me along. I just focused on him and his pace and kept the forward progress going. Shortly into the loop the realization hit that not only would I quite easily at this point hit my very lofty goal of 22hrs, but I was on track to break 20hrs if all went well. It was nice that we were able to run some of the loop in daylight but soon enough, we switched on our headlamps and ran through the darkness. Everything was ticking along well until the final aid station at the beginning of what is affectionately known as the lollipop loop. At his point, I was surviving on Coke, Ginger-ale and water to keep the calories in and the stomach under control. I grabbed a cup of each and said “I’m walking”, meaning I was going to walk while drinking. Robbie mis-heard me and thought I was going to the Port-a-potty. The result was I ran most of the lollipop solo while Robbie ran back and forth trying to find me. We did finally meet up and got the loop done in 2:41.
Coming in from loop 7 (awesome shot Justine)
Loop 8 – FINAL Loop
I’ve got to admit, I was tired. My feet hurt, my quads were killing me, I had to walk a few downhills, but I was still running. This loop was so magical. The trail that I had called home for the last 17hrs was rolling up and down and I was saying goodbye to. Each step was my last time on this section and it became a very exciting feeling. A couple of km’s from the return trip to the Gatehouse aid station, we caught up with another 100mile runner. Robbie had a brief chat with him and then dropped back to tell me he too was on his last lap. Funny, I could tell from Robbie’s tone that maybe he wanted us to pass him and move up a position, but I was fine just to keep ticking along. Once we hit the gatehouse, I stopped to get what I thought was a stone in my shoe, only to find it was a blister, well better now than earlier in the day. This allowed the other runner to put some distance on us. After a couple of minutes, we headed onward and caught back up a few km’s later. This time we were close enough (less than 10k) that I figured might as well, and pushed the pace on a couple of uphill’s to pass the runner, and never looked back. Damn, racing after 150km of running, crazy. The rest was as it had been for the whole day until that final climb. 350meters to go and we/I was done. With 50m to go on the hill, I put my head down and started the final run to the finish. Justine came running down and joined us, and with one final push, I was done. 100 miles in 19:14:19. Holy crap!!.
The boys are done
I still can’t comprehend what I had accomplished. I was fully prepared to be exhausted at the finish. To hit such a low point in the race that I would want to quit and I would have to pull myself up from the depths of despair. Nothing. I ran the whole distance. My effort remained even all day. Everything worked. Execution was flawless, and looking back I would not change one single thing I did.
Thanks just never seems enough, but I hope everyone knows how much I appreciated everything.
Kim and Justine, my amazing crew, I love you both dearly.
Coach D. You got me ready and I am glad I was able to execute.
Robbie, anytime I can return the favour brother, you know I’ll be there.
Joe and the Sulphur crew, thanks for making it an amazing day.
100 Miles – 19:14 – 5th overall + 2nd in the M50+ Age Group.
Elevation gain – ½ way up Everest. 'nuff said
Splits and placement (thanks to Marc)
Lap.......Lap Time......Cumulative Time.......Position
Lots more pics at http://thebohns.zenfolio.com/sulphur_springs_2012
Thanks everyone for your support, it really meant a lot
(Follow up post coming with Gear and Nutrition breakdown. This one was long enough)
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
As Derrick put it, it was my "get un-sick" week. I am still blown away by how low I let myself get. You always like to think it is just a cold and all in good time and it will be gone. Not this time. I am thankful I had the smarts to go to the Doctor, twice, and that I followed his direction, I hate to think where I would be right now if I hadn't. The week started slow as you would expect as I only finished off the antibiotics on Thursday. I have been pretty tired and listening to my body and having some of the best sleeps in months. As everything is finally flushing out I am starting to feel more myself, and looking forward to getting in a semi-longish run this weekend. For now SS100 is still on and the thought of the race is really getting me excited.
Summary - Total time 5:07
Mon - PM 20min EFX (Elliptical) - 20min was all I had
Tue - PM 32min Treadmill. A little longer, felt good to get the legs moving
Wed - PM 40min EFX
Thu - PM 35min Treadmill. Got in a little progressive speed work - topped out a 9mph
Fri - Rest
Sat - AM 92min is very wet and slippery and windy roads
Sun - AM 89min Cold and windy, but faster than yesterday and .5km further.
So I am still being very cautious, but everyday I feel just that much better. Really hoping to be done with this sickness and recovery by the weekend and we can really focus on getting ready for Sulphur.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
So that was a crappy start to my SS100 training. Monday and Tuesday went well. Tuesday evening I went back to the Doctor and was told to STOP all exercising as I was on the verge of pneumonia and unless I STOPPED everything I was going to get worse, not better. I do not remember that last time I did not run or do any form of exercise for 5 days, but that is what this week was about. I hated it but it was the right thing to do, no question. I have not been this sick for so long and I needed to get better. I am on the fence to be honest as to whether I will be able to run SS100 at this point. I don't know if I will be better by next week to kick back up to full speed training; just taking it one day at a time for now.
Mon: AM - 45min easy
Tues: AM - 45min easy. PM - 30min treadmill in minimal shoes
Wed: Sick - Feel like I am near death
Thu: Starting the slow crawl from the abyss
Fri: Made it to work for 1/2 day
Sat: Double naps
Sun: PM - 20min run/walk - that was enough. more napping.
This week's focus is to get "Un-Sick" and then we will re-access next week.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
So SS100 training started yesterday. I guess in reality it started back in Aug '03 when I went for my first run (in years) but we'll count yesterday as the starting point.
I am feeling pretty confident about getting through the training. I believe, physically I am in at a good point to handle the additional load, and mentally I am ready. 14 weeks isn't that long (some Marathon programs are 16 weeks) so I hope I can suck it up.
Things of note:
I am still sick (well actually we all are). 3.5 weeks and counting. I went to the Dr. last week and started antibiotics and I thought they were working, but Sunday afternoon the scratchy throat returned and I feel I am back where I was a week ago. Kim and Justine seem to be in the same boat, it is just going to take time. Back to the Dr. at 5:30 tonight.
I am giving up my Orthotics. It has been a long time coming and it seems like the right time. The only issue I am having is a flare of my Morton's Neuroma on my right foot. I am using a very shaved down orthotic with a beefed up Met pad on my trail runs which is helping significantly. Add to that exercises and stretches my physiotherapist has given me I anticipate being able to dump them completely in the next couple of months.
Diet? Yeah hot topic there. Hoping to loose about 7-8lbs in the coming weeks and get down to 145lbs (65.9kg). If I cut back on Hershey Kisses, peanut M&M', Cookies, Rolo Ice Cream and a little drinking it should be easy to loose the weight. I'll add that to my weekly summaries so I am a little more accountable.
So forward, lots to read and think about and I'll loads on time on the trails to do the thinking and recovery time to do the reading.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
So I have talked about this for a while and finally after discussions with Coach Derrick and my family, yesterday I registered for my first 100 mile race. I am trying not to think of it as 100 miles, but 8x20km loops. Last year I ran the 50mile at Sulphur and really enjoyed the course and it seemed like the perfect fit for my quest for my first Belt Buckle.
Derrick had given me one more week of recovery, and to get rid of this everlasting cold before we kick off training. I am nervous of what is in front of me and know I will need to focus more, and put more effort into recovery than I ever have before. There are only 14 weeks between now and then so anything I can do to prevent injuries and be ready for the next workout will be monumental.
I plan to resurrect my weekly training updates so I can log the craziness, so stand by.
One other note, part of the reason for registering yesterday, Valentine's Day, was it had been 13 years since my Father passed away. I haven't really thought of him when it came to races, as it was after he died that I took up this obsession. Still yesterday, while thinking of him, I got the courage to register - so this will be run in his memory.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Ever since my failed (cancelled) attempt at Rock & Ice, I have been yearning to participate in some form of arctic race. I have been fascinated by the ruggedness of running in such conditions and have been looking forward to training and racing in the great north. Back in October when Kim was unfortunately diagnosed with pleurisy, we were forced to cancel a planned trip to NYC in November and we needed to re-book our flights or lose the AirMiles. Well, one thing led to another and before I knew what happened we had changed to fly to Whitehorse so that I could take part in the Yukon Arctic Ultra Marathon. The marathon was being run as part of the 100mile & 300mile race event, and as I told people who thought me crazy, I was one of the sanest racers.
After the JFK50 in November, I pretty well took the rest of the year off training. I still ran almost as frequently, but only to burn off the Mexican Beer and the Christmas treats. January saw me ramping up my mileage again, as well as trying to get out whenever it was cold to acclimatize and test gear. The marathon was totally self-supported so I tried to train by practicing real racing experience with both food and water. My endurance seemed to bounce back fine, but my speed was just not coming back. Truly I wasn’t too worried as I couldn’t imagine this being a hard foot race (wrong, I was).
The other draw for this race was that Derrick Spafford (Coach and Friend) was running the 100mile. I was looking forward to being able to spend some brief time with Derrick before and after the race, provide any support I could and also learn from him as I hope to be able to return and run the same 100mile race in a couple of years.
About 10 days before the race, and just as I started my taper I started getting the dreaded scratchy throat, and Kim was getting it too. Taper Flu? I was hoping was all it was and it would be well and gone come race day. Wrong! No matter what we did, pills we took, nothing was shaking the cold, cough and flu systems we both were feeling. Oh well we said as we headed to Whitehorse on the Thursday, it will be better in the next two days after a little R&R. That never happened.
We arrived in Whitehorse early Thursday afternoon, dropped off our bags at the Hotel and headed out to explore the city.
It really doesn’t take long to explore Whitehorse. End-to-end is likely a 20min walk so within 5 minutes we were in the city centre. We stopped in at Costal Mountain Sports to see if there were any last minute items we “needed” and at Shopper’s to pick up snacks, water, and more cold medication (yeah this stuff will get rid of it for sure). We met Derrick for a quick dinner and a couple of long overdue beers and headed for bed.
Friday morning, we woke up feeling no better (okay THAT stuff didn’t get rid of the cold either). I attended the trail briefing and then Kim and I went for a short shake out run. I had been training and planning on racing in temperatures around -15C or colder and when we headed out we were greeted with +3C and showers. We ran the trail to the start and the snow was soft, mushy and wet, far from ideal – this was not looking good. Returning from that short jog, I was exhausted. My energy levels were way down and I was starting to doubt that I would be able to complete the Marathon. We spent the rest of the day with our feet up, napping and taking it easy. We attended the pre-race dinner which was very good, and then called it a night.
With the later morning sunrise in Whitehorse, and allowing the longer distance racers time to prep their gear, the race didn’t start until 10:30 in the morning. This allowed for a relaxed pre-race which I desperately needed. My night had not gone well, a number of times I woke up feeling very feverish and nauseous and for the first time ever was having serious doubts about my ability to complete the race. I was having the same “scared” feeling I had when trying scuba diving for the first time, and to be honest I was terrified. But as with anything it was just time to suck it up. The worst that could happen is I would be walking back after 10km and if I didn’t try I’d regret it forever. Onward!
We met Derrick and his stealthy pulk in the lobby and walked the 15min to the start line together.
We did a group picture, all got in line, brief countdown and we were off.
The weather at this point was perfect for a winter race, not the stupid cold I had been hoping for, but a nice -5C, sunny and light southerly breeze. With the drop in temperature the trail had frozen somewhat and was no longer the mush we had run on the previous day.
The course for the marathon is pretty straight forward. Run up the Yukon River, hang a left a the Takhini River, run up that until the turnoff for CP1, run a short out and back from CP1 and you’re done. I lined up and started at the front of the racers, hoping I would be faster than those pulling pulks, and from the start I was in the lead.
Sick but still competitive, I figured it didn’t hurt to see who was serious about this race. I wouldn’t say I started out fast, just at a nice steady pace. I was pretty well by myself for the first km, but I soon heard the foot falls of another runner. So I wouldn’t be alone. I had a brief chat with Johann but soon found talking and running was just too difficult and we just ran along in silence taking turns in the lead. I was feeling him out to see if he was serious or just being too aggressive but after 17km and almost 1:30 he was still hanging on running strong. It was here that I had to make the decision, I knew on a good day I could keep up this effort, but being sick and my low energy levels, and the fact that every time I tried to eat or drink, and still another 24km to go, it was best I let Johann go and hope that he would hit a wall and I could catch him. So, just before the turn on to the Takhini, I pulled up for a quick nutrition break and let him go. From here, I was running on my own, as it turned out until the finish. I finally took the time to enjoy where I was and what I was doing. Racing up a river in the Yukon, surrounded by tree lined cliffs and mountains off in the distance. It was peaceful and beautiful and the real reason I wanted to be here. I hit the ½ way at about 1:50 and thinking that there is no way I could run an even split race, I figured that a 3:45 marathon was quite achievable.
For the next 1:15 , it was just me and the river enjoying the day, but feeling tired and out of breath every time I ate or drank – damn cold. Just before the 34km mark (on my GPS), the course turned off the river (through some of the THE worst sugar snow I have ever tried to run through) and up the river bank towards CP1. Eh? I thought I still had 8km to run. Coming on to the road leading to the CP, I passed a girl who said “almost finished”. Me “The Marathon? Really?” Her “Yes, just to the top of the hill and back”. I was confused.
As I arrived at the CP, Robert the race director started running beside me re-iterating what I am been told. “How far to the turn?” I asked. “About 1.5km” he tells me. Okay so off I go up the hill. So, as it turned out, it was just almost 2km to the turn, and it was uphill all the way. It was a nice treat after running the flat river path for so long. I passed Johann as he was returning, looking strong and happy – he ran a good race. Hit the turn (a painted line across the road) and headed for the finish – all downhill from here. Hit the finish in 3:23, but unfortunately only 38km on my GPS.
Shortly after I finished, Kim arrived (she had rented a car and had her own adventure getting there) – we chatted and waited for Derrick to come in.
It wasn’t long till he arrived looking strong and happy – we did what we could to help and then sent him on his way
before heading back to Whitehorse.
Sunday we spent anxiously waiting for updates on Derrick’s race, and then finally waiting for his return to the hotel. We enjoyed long overdue Pizza and Guinness with him hearing his tales and celebrating his amazing race. Monday our adventure was over, and it was time to say good-bye to the wonderful folks of Whitehorse and Robert and all his amazing volunteers.
This was not the race I had hoped it would be on a number of levels, but it was huge in that is gave me the experience of the YAU and great knowledge of the process and what the first 50km of the 100miler is like. It scares me to think of going back for the 100mile, but there is a draw to the beauty of the Yukon wilderness that will be hard to shake. I will be starting construction of my first Pulk soon and hope to get a couple of runs with it before the end of the season. And thank you to my wonderful wife for sharing my adventures and supporting me all the way.
More picture on our Zenfolio site here