Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Pistol 100 Mile Ultra Recap-Sweet Redemption

OK, where do I start.  Let's start from the beginning of 2015.  It was my first time running the Pistol 100 mile ultra and my 3rd 100 mile ultra.  I was on a roll going into that race.  Over 1100 day running streak, had just qualified for Boston again and felt awesome. I was on a roll and really looking to crush the Pistol last year but I knew going into that race something didn't quite feel right.  I had good weeks and bad weeks leading into the race.  My body was aching and I was worn down.  I never took any downtime in 2014 and it came back to haunt me at the beginning of 2015 at the Pistol.  I felt good through about 70 miles and was on pace to crush my 100 mile PR and it went all downhill from there.  My shin started throbbing and I could barely place any weight on it.  I looked down and it was black and blue. I knew the worst had just happened.  Stress Fracture!!  I finished the last 30 miles in total pain.  Missed my goal of sub 24 hours running a 27:15:18 and was doing 40+ minute miles for some of the later parts of that race just trying to get to the finish line. Feeling defeated I had to take some time off to heal ending my 1140 day running streak. I was devastated.  I was lifting weights, cross training like crazy but it just wasn't the same.  I missed my running so much. It is my passion.  I still had my coaching.  I truly love helping my runners achieve their goals and dreams but not being able to run myself had me sad.  I took a little over 6 weeks off of running before I got the green light to ease back into it again.  I'll have a 2015 year long recap in the next week or so but for now let's get to the Pistol 100 and 1 year later.  January 2, 2016.

Leading into the Pistol this year I hadn't run nearly as many miles going into this race as I had in previous 100 mile races in the past.  Here is a look at my training the last 8 weeks:

As you can see by my training 8 weeks leading up to it my miles weren't a lot considering the type of race I would be running with my longest run being a 33 miler.  Some back to back long runs but nothing too much.  With previous 100 mile races I had done I had typically ran 80+ miles a week for several weeks leading into the race.  This time I wanted to try something a little different.  Not run as much, still put in some quality work by strategically placing the runs on tired legs and see how my mental toughness would be during the race and if it could get me through it.  All the runs consisted of easy/conversation paced running except for 1 run per week which was a tempo run.  No other speed work beside the tempo run.  I knew what to expect coming into this type of long distance race having done it before so I thought with my miles not nearly as high as they had been in the past it would leave my body more rested and feeling better come race day.  

Come race day the weather was looking perfect.  Not like last year with the flooding the course had experienced during the middle of the night. 48 degrees for a high and 25 degrees for a low. I got to Tennessee on Thursday evening and planned on meeting up with my crew and pacers Ashtyn, Shyla and Christy on Friday at packet pick up.  I discussed with my crew and pacers before the race that I wasn't sure if I wanted to carry a pack on me or not or just carry a handheld water bottle since they would be serving Tailwind on the course.  We decided it was best that I carried a pack, that way I could carry 2 bottles on me and some little other items I might need.  This would one, leave my hands free and two, cut the time I would have to stop at the aid stations.  Probably ended up being one of the best decisions that could have been made as far as saving time. I had already talked race strategy with them during the week and had a pacing strategy in mind from best case scenario to worst case scenario.  We met, talked and went to dinner before calling it a night.  My pre-race meal was Fire House subs.  I didn't get to bed as early as I had liked. Fell asleep around midnight but it helped me get about a solid 6 hours of sleep before the race.

The race was to start around 8AM.  I got to the race around 6:30AM.  It was nice because you had access to a heated school and indoor restrooms before the race started.  I talked with my pacers and crew one last time before the race and then I was off.  Ashtyn and Shyla were running legs of a relay race that was going on here so I wouldn't have a crew or pacers for a little while.  I planned on picking up Shyla around mile 50 and she would pace me for 20 miles then Christy would pace me for the final 30 miles.  My goal in this race was a sub 24 hour finish.  Anything more than that would be a disappointment for me.  I needed that sub 24 hour finish so I could finally knock off that final goal.  

The course consisted of 9-11.1 mile loops.  There would be 1 aid station you would pass twice on the course and the the aid station at the start/finish line you would pass twice.  The longest between and aid station was about 4.25 miles which wasn't bad.  The main aid station Woody's was awesome and has anything you could ask for.  All your usual ultra foods plus they would custom make about anything you asked them to make.  The grilled cheese I ate was great!!

I started off the first 11.1 miles wanting to get a little ahead of my pace.  The first loop was all about finding a groove and settling into it without still going too fast.  I did the first 11.1 in 1:49:45 (9:53 overall pace).  I was sticking to my plan of trying to take in about 24 oz of my electrolyte drink every hour.

The 2nd 11.1 miles (miles 11.1-22.2)  still felt really good.  I slowed it down just a bit to conserve energy but was still drinking my electrolyte drink and feeling good.  I took a 1/2 piece of PlowOn Gum during this loop for some extra caffeine to kick in.  Finished my 2nd loop in  1:51:50 (10:04 pace) with an overall time through the first 22.2 miles of 3:41:45 (9:58 overall pace)

The 3rd 11.1 miles (miles 22.2-33.3) I started the first few miles into this loop feeling really good and then my legs were already starting to feel heavy.  This wasn't good.  The mind games were starting already.  How was I going to run another 75 miles if my legs were already starting to get tired?  I tried to slow it down a little more thinking maybe I had went out too fast now trying to make up for it which is usually hard to do once your legs start feeling like lead.  I walked a little as needed and tried to walk the hills when I came upon them.  The course had several rolling hills but not much elevation for a 100 mile race.  I finished this loop in 1:56:03 (10:27 pace) with an overall time through the first 33.3 miles of 5:37:48 (10:08 overall pace).  Still ahead of my dream sub 20 hour finish and way ahead of my sub 24 hour goal but only 1/3 of the way done there was still lots of running left.

My 4th 11.1 miles (miles 33.3-44.4) I did start to feel a little better.  Not any worse than the last loop so that was a good thing.  I kept a descent pace, was doing a little more running this loop although I slowed my pace some more.  I continued with my electrolyte drink about 24 oz every hour and took another 1/2 piece of PlowOn Gum during this loop.  This would be the last piece of PlowOn Gum I would use during the race and the last caffeine of the race for me as I was starting to feel like I had tons of energy and didn't really didn't need any more.  About 6 or so miles into this loop or mile 40 I started to feel a blister on the top of my big toe.  That wasn't good.  Not sure why either because +2Toms  had always worked great in the past preventing any blisters from forming.  I called Ashtyn and told her when I came in the next time I needed a different pair of shoes, the larger size 14 and was going to reapply +2Toms.  She had it ready for me when I got back.  I saw her and Shyla's smiling faces eager to help me and they were on top of the game.  They got my shoe off.  As they did I noticed a rock that was on top of my toe that had been rubbing and causing the blister.  I reapplied 2Toms to that foot and changed shoes to the larger size and was off again.  Even with the stop it was a maximum of about a 3 minute stop at most.  They got me through fast and kept me going which really helped.  I finished that loop in 2:15:30 (12:12 pace) and my time through 44.4 miles was 7:53:18 (10:39 overall pace).  Still ahead of my dream sub 20 hour and still way ahead of my sub 24 hour goal.  

My 5th 11.1 mile loop(miles 44.4-55.5) I really wanted to focus on staying consistent.  I needed to continue to focus on Nutrition and I knew once I finished this loop I would have a pacer with me for the rest of the race.  Just get through this loop.  The larger size shoes provided relief on my feet and they were feeling good again.  I started gaining confidence with each step as I started to feel better.  Much better than I felt around mile 25 when I started having my doubts.  It would start to get dark by the end of this loop and that is when the mind games start to mess with you however having a pacer after this loop I was hoping it would take my mind off things.  During this loop I continued to stay on track with Nutrition and walked very little.  I got back to the start/finish line where I just had to do about a 1.5 mile mini loop before I would pick up my pacer Shyla for the next 20 miles.  I saw her and told her "I'm coming back for you!!"  She just smiled which made me want to get back even sooner.  Her positive energy was just what I needed to keep me going at this point in the race and darkness had just started to set in so it was perfect timing.  I finished the loop in 2:14:32 (12:07 pace) which was even faster than the previous loop.  My time through 55.5 miles was 10:07:50 (10:57 overall pace).  Somehow I was still ahead of my dream goal of a sub 20 hour finish and way ahead of my goal of a sub 24 hour finish however the really hard miles for me were yet to come.  I had usually never been able to run much at anything over 70 miles and usually found myself walking for the most part after 70.

My 6th 11.1 mile loop (miles 55.5-66.6) I would have a pacer.  Shyla is so awesome and so much fun.  It's is hard to be in a bad mood when you are around her.  I had met her a few times but had never had the privilege of running with her.  All I can say is she was just the bundle of energy I needed at that point of the race to keep me going.  We had lots to talk about and she kept my mind off things and helped me focus on continuing to run as much as I possibly could.  I would tell her, lets run to that light pole, or lets run to that bridge and before you know it I was running a mile or so at a time before having to take a little walk break then running some more.  She really made it fun, well as fun as it can be in the race after you've been on your feet for over 12 hours and still had me going at a very steady pace.  Before you know it we had finished that loop.  At mile 62 I had looked down at my watch and it was 11 hours and 30 minutes.  I had only run 1-100K race before but my 100K time during that race was 19 hours and 10 minutes which means I just ran a 100K over 7 hours faster than earlier in the year.  That in itself got me pumped up!!!  Let's keep running, I told Shyla and run we did.  I finished the loop in 2:25:02 (13:03 pace) and my overall time after 66.6 miles was 12:32:52 (11:18 overall pace).  Although this was my slowest loop yet, the fact that she still had me running this far into the race was a huge plus for me.  My spirits were still up and I was still feeling good.  As good as you can this late in the race.

I was now on my 7th loop (miles 66.6-77.7).  Shyla was still my pacer an still full of energy and still had me running!!!!!  Just to let you know Shyla's longest distance she had ever run was a marathon.  With her running 11 miles of a relay leg earlier in the day, running 5 miles with a friend and then doing another 20 with me she would knock out 36 miles that day.  She never looked tired and if she was she never showed it and kept the energy going.  We continued to talk and laugh and I don't remember too much from that loop but before I knew it I was charging up the hill by the start/finish line, still running!!!  Getting ready to pick up Christy for my last 25 miles. All the sudden I see my wife and kids there standing holding up signs cheering for me!!  That really made my night!!  It was so awesome seeing them there.  I finished that loop in  2:27:28 (13:17 pace)  which wasn't really that far off from my previous loop.  Through 77.7 miles I was at 15:00:20 but the main thing is I was still running at this point and I didn't feel any worse than I did at mile 25 earlier in the race!!!  This was great.  I was somehow still ahead of my dream goal of sub 20 hour finish and killing my sub 24 hour finish goal.  To get a sub 20 hour I would need to maintain around a 13 min mile the last 23.3 miles which was mind blowing to me to even think I would be able to do that type of a pace this late in the race.  I knew however if I just kept the legs moving and stayed good with nutrition I was going to kill my sub 24 hour goal.  The sub 20 hour was still in the back of my mind but wasn't really a main focus for me.

I was now starting my 8th loop!! (miles 77.7-88.8)  I knew this would be a challenge.  I had never been able to run beyond this point in the race and usually averaged 20-25 minute miles from this point on.  I told Christy I wanted her to try to keep me running as much as I could.  She was an amazing pacer!!  The positive energy continued with her.  She kept me laughing and smiling. She is doing her first 100 miler in April at the Indiana Trail 100 and pacing me the later stages of the race would give her some good experience on what to expect. Usually this far into the race I am saying to myself why did I do this and I want this to be over.  I usually feel like death warmed over!!  Not this time.  I was still running and still running at a descent pace.  If I wanted to walk a little she would have me run just a little more then walk a little less.  I was still running more than I was walking at this point.  Around mile 83 however I started to get light headed and dizzy.  With Christy being a nurse she pretty much thought it was because I was Hypoglycemic.  Not good.  I was so close.  She had me eat a grilled cheese sandwich at the next aid station and I had a few M&M's.  I was also starting to get cold as it was 25 degrees.  I had been able to leave on the same clothes I had on all day which helped with not having to stop but I'm sure the clothes being somewhat damp from the sweat earlier in the day was now making me cold.  I had some hot chocolate as well and within a couple miles I felt like a new man and was off running again and running for quite a while before having to walk. 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile run segments at some points.  We finished up the 8th loop in 2:29:32 (13:28 pace) and 88.8 miles done in 17:29:52 (11:49 overall pace).  I looked at my watch and was in shock.  I had 11.2 miles to go and 6 hours 30 minutes to do it in to get my sub 24 hour 100 mile finish!!  At this point I am feeling great!!  I can't believe how great I am actually feeling.  I get to thinking and realize I still have a shot at a sub 20 hour 100 miler!!  I really get excited at this point and tell Christy I need to be pushed as hard as possible this last loop.  Do not let me walk unless I absolutely have to.

The 9th and final loop!!  (miles 88.8-100).  In order to finish in less than 20 hours I need to finish this loop, 11.2 miles in 2:30:07 (13:24 overall pace) or less which means I am going to have to run and run a lot!!  I don't really know how I was doing it at this point other than the fact of having such an amazing pacer keeping my mind off the pain and suffering, still making me laugh and keep moving.  I'm not talking much at this point.  I am trying to focus on running as much as I can.  The blood is pumping through my body and I can feel this is going to happen.  I start sprinting by lots of other runners on the course and they start cheering me on when they find out this is my final lap which motivates me even more to keep pushing. I was putting my body through hell but I still really didn't feel too bad!!  I was still running and running a lot, and not really walking at all at this point.  I knew I had a shot at a sub 20 hour finish and that just fueled my fire even more.  I told Chirsty I needed pushed and pushed hard.  I ran, and ran, and ran, and ran that last loop with minimal walking.  There was one point I ran for 4 consecutive miles at the end miles 96-100.  I'm running every hill every section and we approach the start/finish line which has a big hill to climb.  I'm sprinting this hill I tell her. Once I get to the top I will only have to do a small 1.7 mile loop back to the finish.  I see Ashtyn and yell at her I'm running a sub 20 and take off sprinting.  I'm running an 8 min pace down the hill.  Christy catches back up to me and I slow it down but still knock off a mile in the 9's at mile 98!!  I sprint back up the hill, round the corner, see Ashtyn and we all cross the finish line together with the clock reading 19:40:30!!  I new PR by 5 hours and 57 minutes.  Not only did I get my sub 24 hour goal but I got a sub 20 hour finish.  I run the last lap at a crazy time of 2:15:54 (12:08 pace).  I hadn't run a lap that fast since the early stages of the race.  All the emotion is taking over at this point as I start to cry realizing what I had been able to accomplish just a year after coming back from a stress fracture I was able go crush my goal!!!  I was the most amazing feeling ever!!  I got my redemption on the course where I ended in misery last year because of a stress fracture.  I finished 8th overall and 2nd in my age group.  Official time of 19:40:30.  The race of my dreams!!  Better for me than any BQ or better than my fastest marathon I have ever run.  There is just something about being able to say I ran 100 miles at an 11:48 pace that is mind blowing to me. This is by far my best race performance ever.

None of this would have been possible without my amazing pacers/crew.  Ashtyn, Christy, Shyla, I love you all very much.  You don't know how much this meant to me having you all there to help me.  Each one of you having an important job which you did to perfection.  I can't ever thank you enough for everything you did for me during this race.  I will never, ever forget it. 

Seeing my family there at the later stages of the race was so awesome for me and the support I got from them really helped me kick it in those last miles.  I loved seeing the signs and their smiling faces.  It really meant a lot having them there for that. 

This is my second year running this race.  It has exceeded my expectations both years.  Very well organized, amazing aid stations and a great race director make me want to do this race over and over again.  It will be on my list for years to come.  Thanks Will for putting on a great race as usual and the volunteers and the amazing Woody's aid station for making this such a great experience.

Thanks to PlowOn Gum and my electrolyte drink.

Last years finishing time:  27:15:18
This years finishing time:  19:40:30

What's next on the list?  I'm planning on running the Indiana Trail 100 on April 30.  This race is very special to me because not only was it the spot of my very first 100 mile finish but my friend Christy is running her first one there and I want to be a part of it to see her crush it!!  

Each lap was approximately 11.1 miles
Lap 1 - 1:49:15
Lap 2 - 1:51:50
Lap 3 - 1:56:03
Lap 4 - 2:15:30
Lap 5 - 2:14:32
Lap 6 - 2:25:02
Lap 7 - 2:27:38
Lap 8 - 2:29:32
Lap 9 - 2:15:54

Finishing time:  19:40:30 (11:48 pace overall).  8th overall and 2nd in my age group.

1st 25 miles -    4:05:32
2nd 25 miles  -  4:49:59
3rd 25 miles  -  5:15:14
4th 25 miles -   5:29:45

Below is the pacing strategy I would use from best case to worst case:

How I did it...... 

3-4 months leading up to this race I had gained about 10 lbs putting me around 194 lbs.  When I was at my fastest I had weighed 184 lbs.  That 10 lbs is a lot of extra weight and my goal was to get that weight off.  On race day I weighed 183 lbs just by eating better.  No trips to McDonald's, no extra cookies or deserts, eliminating most of the junk I ate and just started making healthier choices.  I lost the weight fairly quickly and was able to keep it off once I eliminated all the junk I was eating which helped a lot.

What I carried in my drop bag:

  • Nathan Handheld water bottle (in case I wanted to change from carrying a pack)
  • Headlamp (for night)
  • Duct Tape
  • Toe Warmers
  • Hand Warmers
  • Ibuprofen (Carried in tick tack container for easy access)
  • KT Tape
  • 2Toms Sports Shield wipes
  • 2Toms Sports Shield roll on
  • Ginger Chews
  • Extra AA Batteries (For headlamp)
  • A&D Ointment
  • Baby wipes
  • Permanent Marker
  • Band aids
  • Liquid Bandage
  • Ziploc Bags (various sizes)
  • Zip ties
  • Rain poncho
  • Tape
  • Caffeinated Electrolyte drink (if necessary)
  • Scissors
  • Sunblock
  • Body glide
Extra tote of clothes and shoes:

  • long sleeve compression shirt
  • long sleeve  turtle neck compression shirt
  • short sleeve shirt
  • short sleeve compression shirt
  • tights
  • long pants
  • compression shorts
  • shorts
  • 2 pairs of shoes (size 13 and size 14)
  • Smart wool socks
  • Rain jacket
What I carried in my Ultimate Direction vest:

  •  2 bottles filled with electrolyte drink (non-caffeinated)
  • PlowOn Gum
  • Ginger Chews
  • Stickpacks of caffeinated Tailwind
  • 2Toms Blister Shield wipes
  • 2Toms Blister Shield roll on
  • Ibuprofen
  • Blistex
  • Garmin charger
  • MP3 player
  • Flushable wipes
  • A&D Ointment
  • Mini portable charger

The last time I ran 100 miles I finally got my nutrition figured out during a race of this distance which was another struggle of mine in the past.  I was going to try to fuel on nothing but my electrolyte drink the entire race and supplement in some caffeine with PlowOn Gum when I felt like I needed caffeine.  Tailwind also comes in caffeinated as well but using the PlowOn Gum would just allow me to take in the caffeine when I felt I needed some.  Another great thing was they would be serving Tailwind on the race course which would save me some time.  Through this race I fueled on nothing but Tailwind Nutrition, half piece of PlowOn Gum at the 3 hour and 6 hour mark and at mile 89 I had a grilled cheese, 4 M&M's and some hot chocolate. I tried to drink about 20-24 oz of Tailwind every hour (approximately 200 calories per hour). I felt like I had tons of energy the whole race, never felt bad or nauseated.  Best I've ever felt during a 100 miler.

I can't say enough how thankful I was to have an amazing crew and pacers for this race.  Only one other time had I had a crew and pacers and believe me it makes a world of difference than trying to go at it alone.  My crew and pacers were phenomenal.  Ashtyn crewed for me the whole day.  She knew what I needed and I would call her and tell her what I needed before I got there.  That saved time and helped me keep going.  Shyla and Christy were my pacers.  They were nothing short of miracle workers.  We clicked, got along great, made it fun, even in the later stages, were full of energy in the middle of the night when I needed it, were making me laugh when it started to get hard.  I just don't know what I would have done without them.  They made the miles fly by and I will never be able to thank them enough for what they did for me during this race helping me to reach well beyond my goal.  I sit here now writing this in tears of how thankful and lucky I was to have them there for me.  I couldn't have done it without them.  They were a blessing.  If you are ever considering a 100 miler, find a good crew/pacers and hope you are fortunate enough to find one as good as I had it.