The night before the race my crew and I reminisced over the past few months of training. We laughed and laughed the night away. Trailmomma has been my running partner for years, but this past year she was with me for just about every long run and boy did we have stories to tell. I think sitting there around the kitchen table and sharing and remembering our runs was one my favorite parts about the trip.
The morning of the race I awoke really early. I couldn't sleep, I had some major anxiety and when the alarm finally went off I bounced out of bed full of energy and ready to start the morning. My wife made me eggs, pancakes, ham, and strawberries. I enjoyed this meal like it was going to be my last. We arrived at the starting line about an hour before the race started and I found us a nice spot on the benches to relax and take in all the excitement. Soon it was time to head to the starting line. I kissed my wife and said " I will see you at diamond." and off I went into the cool morning.
Photo By Trailmomma, what was waiting for me on the kitchen table
Right Before the start
The start to Hobart begins on a fire road. I quickly settled into a nice a pace. Soon the line began as we squeezed our way onto the single track trail. I wasn't in a hurry, I didn't try to pass anyone but there were plenty of runners passing me. I wasn't moving slow, I was moving just as quickly as the runner in front me. It was a comfortable power hike as we were climbing, or I should say snaking our way to the top before a nice descent down to Marlette lake. This year I took it all in. I took the time to look up ahead and also below me as the lights from everyone's flashlights were pretty amazing to see. Plus it kept my mind occupied and focused on the current task at hand, to make my way to Hobart aid station, roughly 6 miles. I arrived into Hobart on schedule and quickly gathered my drop bag and enjoyed a Special K breakfast bar. It was easy to eat as it was soft and tasted really good. I was also fueling with Power Gel as I had stopped using the prepetuam as I was getting sick while I trained with it.
Hobart To Tunnel Creek:
I was in and out of Hobart rather quickly and started the climb up to peak and a gorgeous view of the lakes. I again settled into my pace and focused on the next 5 miles to Tunnel Creek. I knew that trail was super runnable once I crested the peak and I had a nice downhill section into Tunnel Creek. I also knew not to open up to much as the day was just beginning. I arrived at the downhill section and enjoyed the nice smooth rollers and switch backs to Tunnel Creek. I passed a few runners, but I didn't push the pace.I was running comfortable. I was excited to get to Tunnel Creek as my some of my crew were going to be there, I always enjoy seeing a friendly face or two when I am on this trail. Trailmomma and her friend from Canada Be-Well-Run would be at Tunnel Creek and with each step that brought me closer to Tunnel, the bigger my smile became. I arrived into Tunnel right on schedule, and quickly grabbed my drop bag and supplies, refilled my pack and departed. Trailmomma and Be-Well-Run were both waiting for me and cheering loud. It was awesome to see them.
Photo by Trailmomma, Leaving Tunnel Creek #1 on my way to Red House Loop
Tunnel Creek to Red House Loop
The next section of trail was a 6 mile loop with a massive descent to the lowest elevation on the course. This descent is a quad buster and bone jarring. I took it conservatively on the descent. Here I saw a lot of the front runners and some of the faster 50k and 50 milers started to pass me as they started an hour after us. It is pretty cool to see and even better on the climb back out to offer and receive words of encouragement. I started the slow climb on the fire road. Running some here and power hiking some there. I hit the red house aid station and quickly did my best at making a ice bandana and cooling myself off as the day was getting warm, a bit warmer then previously reported. I knew this next section would be a grind so I just put my head down and continued on my way. Finally I hit the real climb out and slowly started to make my way back to Tunnel Creek. It was tough and it was hot. I just put my head down and carried on. Soon I could see my crew and Trailmomma comes running down to me and asked "How are you?" a harmless question, I quickly say "Why?" a not so harmless answer. She was a bit concerned because in years past I have run this flat section. I was feeling that climb out. I quickly avoided her question and looked at Be-Well-Run and asked "How did you enjoy the climb into Tunnel Creek?" she said "This isn't about me it's about you, how are you?" Such a great crew!!!!! I of course needed some calories and to recover from the climb so I entered Tunnel Creek and took my time getting situated.
Photo By: Trailmomma, coming out of the red house loop, still smiling
Photo By: Trailmomma, getting weighed for the first time, down 1 pound
As I entered Tunnel Creek I immediately was weighed. I was down 1 pound from Friday's weigh in, nothing to be concerned about. After weighing in I went and grabbed my drop bag and ate a special K bar, grabbed my bottle to help cool me down during the next 12 miles and picked up a few more gels. Then I sat down in the chair and emptied out my shoes, they were full of sand and pebbles, plus this gave me a moment to breath. Then I gathered my things and used the restroom and told my crew "At diamond have ensure and gatorade ready, I will see you guys there." and off I went to the cheering of my crew. (I also forgot to cross the timing mat, but my crew saved the day and told them)
Tunnel Creek to Bull Wheel to Diamond Peak:
Now I was on the longest stretch of trail, but I wasn't alone. My friend Tina who was also running the 100 miler was with me. We talked and talked, which made the 3 miles fly by. We arrived at bull wheel grabbed some food and started on the 9 mile stretch. I was carrying my water bottle to help keep my cool, as last year I burned up going through here. This year I wasn't going to make the same mistake. I started to notice my energy levels getting low, so I ate a special K bar and took in a gel. Soon, instead of power hiking I was running again. The fuel was what I needed. I pushed on keeping a nice comfortable pace, power hiking some here and there. Then I made that left turn and knew I had 4 miles to Diamond peak and my crew. On this descent though my stomach I had a stomach cramp and had to walk some of the downhill, which was fine as it saved my legs. I was near Diamond Peak so I changed my focus on what I needed instead of how I was feeling. I wasn't feeling terrible, but I also wasn't feeling good. The descent seemed to never end and all I wanted was for the descent to end. Soon, I could hear cheering and I knew I was close. I popped out of the trail and hit the parking lot and my crew immediately went into action.
Arriving at Diamond Peak Aid Station
I told my crew I had put together a nice 12 mile section, in fact so much better then the previous years. I was stoked about that. I was focused coming into Diamond Peak. My crew took my pack and cooled me down as I walked to check in. Once I checked in they showed me our spot and I went to the bathroom. I was having a bit of discomfort (put lightly) and I needed to address it. I used the restroom, and it hurt. I was chaffed pretty good in that area and it was bleeding as well. In my efforts this year to keep cool by squirting myself the water my shorts chaffed me in the groin. It hurt, I was swollen, but I was also determined. After the bathroom, I emptied out the pebbles and sand in my shoes, ate some food, drank some coke and was ready to go.
Diamond Peak, taking care of the sand and pebbles
Photo By: Be-Well-Run, (I should have tried to keep my shorts dry)
I also soaked myself with the hose. I was overheating and it felt so good to cool down. My crew was fantastic here, they had me in and out in no time. I was excited to see them and also excited that this year I came into Diamond Peak in much better condition then last year.
Kuni and I
Diamond Peak to Bull Wheel:
I was now on my way up the 2 mile climb of the ski slope. Kuni walked me out a bit and told me to take my time on this climb. I had plenty of time, in fact, he told me to slow down, that it was ok to walk the downhills. I thanked him and off I went. I had my water bottle to keep me cool and I was fueled up. The first mile of the climb isn't that tough, I hiked it and I would pause in the shade when there was some to recover. Soon Tina caught up to me and we both worked our way up the hill. We would pause in the shade on the steeper section, and soon we were pausing every so many feet. It was brutal, but you know what, I was doing better then last year. As we climbed I looked to our left and noticed a storm cell coming in. I told Tina about it and that I hoped it hit us on our way to Tunnel Creek and not Snow Valley. I could hear the thunder in the distance. We climbed and climbed and eventually made our way to bull wheel. Once at bull wheel, we enjoyed the best tasting water mellon I have had this year (Ok, it has been the only water mellon I have had, but it was delicious.) We took some time here, I ate another special k bar and a gel. That climb took a lot out of me and I knew I needed the calories.
Bull Wheel to Tunnel Creek:
Tina and I were both on our way to Tunnel Creek. It was 3 miles pretty much downhill to the aid station. I had a nice pace going, but I was also uncomfortable, the chaffing was getting worse, and causing a lot of pain. I sat down and emptied a boulder of a rock out of my shoes and then carried on. By this point Tina was a good distance ahead of me and moving well. I was feeling pretty bad and all I could focus on was the chaffing. I couldn't move past it. It burned. I eventually arrived at Tunnel Creek along with some sprinkles. Here I weighed in again and was down another pound, again nothing to be worried over the volunteer said. After weighing I grabbed my drop bag. I ate a Honey Stinger Waffle, a gel, a quarter of a pay day bar, and drank some coke. I took my time in this aid station. I also put the water bottle in my drop bag, and pondered over grabbing my rain jacket. (I had packed a wind breaker in my Hobart drop bag, my rain jacket in the tunnel creek drop bag, and my crew had a wind breaker at the 50 mile marker) I decided against (a decision that would prove costly in the miles to come). It only sprinkled a bit, so at the time I wasn't to concerned about the weather.
Tunnel Creek To Hobart:
I left tunnel creek hoping that the calories I had just put in would help me get back on track. I also had plenty of food and gels in my pack to refuel on my way. I knew that this next section would have a lot of power hiking and the only thing was, my legs left empty. I didn't have any power in them. I slowly made my way up each switch back and just kept moving forward. This was not good. What just happened? I couldn't believe how bad I was feeling. I tried to focus on the smaller picture of just getting to Hobart and not how many miles I had left. But it was hard, I cried some on the way to Hobart. I was struggling. I kept thinking that the calories needed some time to digest and that I would start to feel better. I kept moving forward switch back after every switch back, the process was slow and painful. The sun was no longer out and the storm clouds at any moment would open up. I slowly arrived at Hobart and just looked at the volunteers. The color was gone from my face and I eventually asked for some warm soup. I sat down and pondered what to do. I grabbed my drop bag and ate a waffle and a gel. I also grabbed my light wind breaker. I sat back down, looked at the volunteers and asked about the situation on snow valley. She responded "It hasn't been evacuated yet. But it is cold up there." I said thank you and packed my wind breaker. Before I could stand up a tremendous boom sounded and streak of lightening danced in the sky. The volunteer was again looked at me and said "Well, it is evacuating right now with that." I held my breath and could only think, I am getting ready to head that way into the storm.
Hobart to Snow Valley:
I left Hobart, not fully recharged, but ready non the less. I was hiking my way into the storm and secretly hoping it wouldn't be that bad. I mean I was only going to 9,250 feet. I deep down knew better and quickly increased my power hike. I didn't know what to expect, but with each step forward the thunder slowly grew. It started as small growl and slowly grew the higher I got. Then the lightening came, it was bright and seemed very close. I would count until I heard the thunder and then another crack only this time it scared me and I screamed. It was close, closer the I ever want to be. The thunder and lightening were really close and there wasn't anything I could do. Then it slowly started to rain, I unpacked my wind breaker and put it on. Just in time as I placed my hood on my head, the hail came down in buckets. I was in a hail storm and each pelt of hail hurt. The lightening was till dancing around me and the thunder was loud. Then it poured buckets of rain and the trail slowly vanished to river. I saw some runners running to tree line. I followed and asked what they are doing as I knew if I stopped hypothermia would set in in these conditions. The guy looked at me and said "Do you want to go to the aid station." I said "yes." He said "Ok, let's do this together as if we stay here we will get hypothermic." I said "Ok" and off we went. I were sprinting on the trail with the thunder and rain. It was raining so loud we could hardly here each other when we spoke. We picked up a few other runners and together we made our way to Snow Valley, which I was pretty sure would be empty and not be a safe place to stay. We crested the last small hill and were completely exposed with the lightening dancing where it choose. We rushed into the tent and were greeted by a volunteer who told us they had to evacuate and that it was best to keep moving as stopping now we were at risk for hypothermia. I quickly drank a ensure thanked the volunteer and started down the river trail.
Snow Valley To Spooner Lake (mile 50):
My feet by now were killing me. They were completely soaked and freezing from run off. I couldn't keep them out of the puddles/river. The chaffing was even worse now and I was cold, I couldn't feel my hands. Each step on a rock my feet screamed at me. They were tender and sore from being soaking wet. I was suffering, but that is all part of a 100 miler. The question was how much and how long could I suffer. I slowly made my way down to the tree line and here it wasn't as cold, but I was still cold. I knew my crew was probably worried about me as I was off schedule. This 7 miles was longest thus far for me. It was pure torture, each step caused bolts of pain to shot through my body. By far the worst was the chaffing as the rain didn't help me. I slowly made my way down. Eventually I arrived at the lake level and soon I saw Kuni, my pacer and friend. I became emotional in seeing him and quickly told him about snow valley how I had gotten caught out in the storm. He looked at very supportive and said "so you experienced yourself a mini Hardrock." You see Kuni had just completed Hardrock the weekend before and had run in far worse weather then I, so yes, you could say it was a mini Hardrock experience for me. He walked me into the 50 mile aid station and my crew went to work.
My crew and others trying to keep everything dry including themselves.
They rushed soup to me and were just thankful that I had some kind of a jacket in. I told them I was cold, the chaffing was out of control and my feet were killing me. My wife told me to sit down so that she could assess the situation and fix my feet. We took my soak off and she said "oh wow, your feet are water logged." They were so water logged, we couldn't repair the 3 blisters I had. I had a blister on the sole of foot and on both pinky toe. Last year I had blisters in between each toe, so this was far better then last year. The bad part was we couldn't dry my feet out, they tried, they put foot warmers on my feet. I also shared my concern in regards to the chaffing. It was really bad, so bad I could hardly run. I looked at my crew and knew I had a tough decision to make. They could see that I was torn with what needed to happen. I wasn't able to run due to the chaffing and my feet were water logged. I looked at my wife and told her to turn in my chip. I was pulling the plug here. It was a serious blow to me. I came into mile 50 mentally ready tackle 50 more miles, but with the chaffing and water logged feet, physically I couldn't. The chaffing was/is getting worse and with me just sitting there, I was on fire it hurt that bad. I kept apologizing to my crew and pacers as they had invested so much time and energy to support me all day and through out my training. I felt like a failure and a disappointment. They kept reassuring me that it was ok, that ultimately it was my decision and a tough one at that. To this day, I question myself on that call. But ultimately in the end, there was no way I could have gone on.
My amazing crew: Be-Well-Run, Trailmomma,and Rachel my wife (we are expecting our first baby)
Well I be back........maybe......is there another race this season?........maybe?.............
Thank you to my amazing crew for being there all day and braving the storm. Thank you to my very supportive wife for supporting me through the many long training days, I love you so much. Thank you to my friends and family for believing in me, I may have fallen short, but I am not finished.