A little over a week ago I pulled the trigger and actually registered for the Boulder 100 race to be held 16-17 October. As I mentioned in my recent article I had not been training for another race this year after my efforts pacing Ultrathoner to his 100 mile finish at Lean Horse in August. Several reasons drew me to signing up–a few long distance outings, for fun, with Aly; conversations with Barry about his races; and the unknown, as in, what does running more than 77 miles (reference to my solid finish at Laurel Highlands in June) feel like? There was only one way to find out. Besides, why ‘waste’ 14 months of training conditioning without giving it a try?
The race is run concurrently with the 12 and 24 hours of Boulder on an out & back trail around the Boulder reservoir. While the repetitive nature of the course did not entice me to sign up I thought it would make it easier to self support and attempt my first 100. The course is some asphalt, a good section of gravel road and the rest single track trail with a well stocked aid station at either end.
The day was a beautiful Colorado fall day with a slight breeze and few clouds with the temperature in the upper 60s. The trees were changing colors and the distant view of the snow dusted peaks of the Front Range helped distract me from the repeat trail. Additionally with three races together I was constantly passing people with whom I exchanged pleasantries and encouragement. This would continue until night which limited my vision to the illuminated world of my headlamp.
To finish the race we had 14 laps to put behind us with the standard 30 hour cut off. I knew, short of an unknown medical surprise, that I could easily finish 50 miles before there was any concern for completion. My pre race calculations called for me to attempt an average 13.5 min/mile pace. I did not want to come out too strong only to crash later in the night but I also did not want to factor in much walking as I am not conditioned to walking long distances as I discovered at Lean Horse. So an easy dog trot was my goal.
I also borrowed from my mountain climbing experience the idea of resting 5-10 minutes each lap by sitting down and allowing my legs to rest. Most runners will walk and stand for a couple minutes at the aid tent then shuffle off on their next lap. I sat in a chair in the back of my SUV next to a cooler of food to recharge each lap. I think it worked as my time each lap remained consistent as the miles added up.
Before I knew it the day had shifted into night and I finished my 50th mile a few minutes over 10 hours. My friend Barry enthusiastically joined me as a pacer at the start of my 8th lap. Being a strong ultra trail runner in his own right I was concerned that he would out run me!
Hours slide by like minutes. The accumulated clutter of day-to-day existence – the lapses of conscience, the unpaid bills, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison of your genes – all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose by the seriousness of the task at hand.
Having a pacer on a 100 race is not required but is very helpful. The mind does wander after so many hours of running allowing simple things such as time and distance calculations, hydration and nutrition to get messed up without a pacer. Having more than one pacer is not a bad idea either as 50 miles can be a lot of time and distance for anyone to volunteer for during a race.
The half moon cast welcome light for half the night to supplement our headlight’s beam. Even with the moonlight it was dark enough to justify a headlamp yet many participants chose not to use one. Many were walking and not running at this point causing my main complaint of the race. If you do not have a light and are wearing dark clothing how can I see you until I just about run into you? It’s such a simple thing to check at the aid stations in order to continue the race for the safety of everyone.
While some of the walkers were still keeping a good pace Barry and I joked that Halloween was starting early with the arrival of so many shuffling runners mimicking the Hollywood zombie movies. If a runner is walking and limping that much how much damage is being done trying to compensate for what ever injury or lack of conditioning caused them to start walking that way? Perhaps that is a good indicator that they should quit?
The 7.14 mile laps continued to fall behind us approximately every 105 minutes until we crossed the line for the last time a little after sunrise for a sub 23 hours and a top 10 finish for my first 100 mile attempt! I ate the whole elephant and survived.
I certainly have to thank Barry for his company, photos and keeping me safe through the last half of the race. I suspect I’ll be returning the favor in the very near future.
Get out and explore the World!