Monday, December 31, 2012


Early yesterday morning (29 Dec) Liz and I both finished the Houston 100.  This was Liz's 36th 100 miler in the calendar year 2012, and it was my 27th.  We did it and it is now done!  We both pushed hard on this one and following a sub-24 hour performance two weeks ago we both did a repeat sub-24 with Liz finishing in 22:26 and myself in 20:19.  As we sit here in our hotel room we are sore, stiff and happy to be finished.

Liz has 3 or so reports that we will be posting soon.  I will write up the Houston report later this week. And look for a "year in numbers post" which should be fun.  It's been an exciting year.  We've pushed our bodies and our minds to places that we've never gone before and met so many wonderful and interesting people.  This has been a year to remember but definitely not one to repeat.  For anyone who wishes to challenge the record, best of luck but be prepared for the challenge of your life!

Sunrise at the start of the Houston 100 - a great omen for a great race to end the year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bartram 100 (The Bacon Protocol)

The Bartram 100, run on 15 December for me was all about a great easy course, interesting people, and bacon.  Liz and I drove down and slept in the camper so lodging was free and we were right at the starting line when we woke up. The race started at 7am and I don't think we crawled out from under the covers until about 6:20.  There was coffee and donuts at the start and all we needed to do was for me to tape my feet and to get dressed.  I have make a note about how well the RD's Russell and Mike did with this young race.  This race is a labor of love for them and you really got the feeling that they wanted to do everything they could to help everyone achieve their goals.  They are two really nice guys.

The course:  This is a great course for a first time 100 miler to test themselves on.  The tread is nice and soft and there are very few things to trip on.  Almost all of the trail is double track which is very nice for chatting and running side by side whether with your pacer or other runners.  It is very well marked and the 6.25 mile loops make things seem very manageable.  There is a mini aid station and the course is set up so you never go more than 2.5 miles without aid.  I did not carry a bottle and got by fine only stopping at the mini aid station once per loop.  

Another thing that made the course nice was that there were small rolling hills spaced throughout the loop that really broke things up nicely.  The hills were neither long nor steep and there was one really nice cruiser downhill that lasted about 1/3 of a mile.  I was able to really roll this hill right to the end.  Below are some pictures from the course:

This was the start/finish/main aid under the overhang in front of this middle school. 
This main aid station was manned through the night with students who did an excellent job keeping cups filled and a great variety of goodies well stocked.  They looked more high school age but I could be wrong.  In any event they did a great job.  Thank You!

At the beginning of the loop we ran on an asphalt track that went around this field along the fence in the distance.

Trail animal

This picture was taken late in the day.  The mini aid is just off picture to the right.  Across the lake there is a shelter that we ran by after about another 2.5 miles or so.

This was one of the "big" hills and at the bottom there was a "big" uphill.

The uphill. 

This is part of the short out an back that brought us to and from the loop.  It was nice to see and high five the other runners so often.

Here Liz is coming to the end of the loop and the timing mat seen here between the cones.

The signage on the course was nice and the mile markers every mile also a nice touch.  The course was well marked but not over marked.

Here is the final mile marker and part of the out and back section taking us back to the school.  1/4 mile to go.
The people:  You meet such interesting people at ultras, especially hundred milers.  I mentioned that the course had a lot of nice double track which made it really easy to run and chat.  Well I certainly did my fair share of chatting at this one.  I want to mention a few of the folks that I ran with.  First is the amazing, 69 years young, Terri Hayes.  I had heard of Terri and the races that she puts on in SC and FL but had never done one or had the chance to meet her.  I was excited to see her on the roster for the race and I cornered her, introduced myself, and told her how much I admired her achievements and the spirit of her races, her website and an explanation of her vision for the series can be found at Ultras on Trails.

To summarize her vision it is to have a series of runs that are very low cost events with very few rules or regulations.  It is in part a protest against the high price, big swag races that are the norm these days.  Pretty much all the races Liz and I have done fall into that category.  That's not to knock those events but it's good to have low cost alternatives.  As I caught up with Terri early on a lap I fell in with her and walked a whole lap with her and learned a lot about her ultrarunning history and some life history.  This lady has been running ultras for 30 years (next April) and has done over 300 ultras all across the country.  It was a real treat to run with her and get to know her a bit.  She doesn't run much but has a very strong power walk and still finishes ultras.  At this event she did 50 miles finishing a bit after dark and then slept and came back in the morning to finish the 100k.  (The race is called the Bartram 100's because it is a 100 mile and 100k event.)

Here's a picture of Terri on Saturday:

I can't remember this young man's name and the results have still not been posted but I think it might have been Tim.  He is in training to become a Special Forces Navy diver.  He had just finished dive school where he was one of the less than 50% who graduated.  I think this was his third 100 and though he had some ups and downs he finished in under 24 hours.  I think he finished within 15 minute or so of me.

In this picture the guy in yellow is a PhD student doing laboratory work in nutritional science at Georgia State University.  We had some interesting discussions about nutrition especially in light of my following the Bacon Protocol in this run.  More on the Bacon Protocol below.

The guy in black is Levi and he is finishing his family medicine residency this spring.  He has done multiple hundreds and had a very even and steady run.  He also had the perfect efficient stride that gets you through these things.  I ran for a while with both of these guys and had some fun conversation.

Here is Perry Sebastian, RD of the Double Top 100 doing the timing for the race:

More timing helpers writing down laps on paper.
Here is Dave Krupski the race winner and a very nice guy.  He started very fast and ambitiously and really struggled through a couple of laps but pulled it together and had a fine finish in about 19:15.  He was also the winner of the Wild Sebastian 100 early in November.

The Bacon Protocol:

The day before the race I cooked up 3 lbs. of bacon.  Liz and I ate 1/3 of it with breakfast and the rest I put in a resealable container.  I'm finding more and more that meat sustains me the best at these races with the least amount of acidy stomach and other stomach issues.  I also have the habit of eating very little during most events.  At certain time I do get really hungry and chow down but I try to wait until I'm really hungry before eating a lot.  Anyway, during the first loop I decided to see how far I could go on just bacon.  I had had some sweet wafer type cookies before the start but not a lot.  I did the first loop and as I stopped by my drop bag I pulled two pieces of bacon from the bucket.

I continued with the following pattern.  I would come to the start/finish aid station and have 1 full cup of gatorade and 1 full cup of coke.  I would then pass by my drop bag and eat two pieces of bacon.  Then about 2.5 miles into the loop I would stop at the mini aid and have some water or some more gatorade.  I would finish the lap and repeat the pattern.  On my 6th lap I walked with Terri and that took me about 20 minutes longer than my other laps and I was extra hungry so I ate 3 pieces of bacon instead of two.  Other than that lap, though I continued with my pattern of coke, gatorade and two pieces of bacon.  I got to 100k having only eaten 19 pieces of bacon in addition to my coke and gatorade.  My energy levels were great and my stomach did not get acidy feeling as it often does. 

After finishing 100k I didn't eat any more bacon even though there was more left.  My body was telling me that I should eat more carbs and more total calories.  I didn't struggle at all to 100k but at that point the bacon just didn't appeal anymore. It was very satisfying for me while I was eating it though.  I don't know if it would work at a hotter 100 though even at other races whenever I've seen bacon at the aid station I've eaten it.  Some of the runners I talked to couldn't hardly believe I was doing this and some said they felt kind of ill just thinking about it but it worked for me.  It might work for you!

Cudos:  A huge thank you to everyone that helped out at the Bartram 100!  You made it as easy as it can be for us to run 100 miles.  Congrats on a job well done!

Here we are with the RDs Mike and Russell just after finishing.  I finished in 22:39 and Liz in 22:47.
Race count:  Liz (35)  Scott (26)

Cajun Coyote 100

Cajun Coyote was on 1 December and while I was doing this run Liz was in Florida doing the Ancient Oaks 100.  I flew out on Thursday and drove up towards Chicot State Park getting a room just outside Lafayette which was about an hour away.  I got situated in my room and gave co-RD Chris Scott and found out that they were just sitting down to dinner about 20 minutes away.  I hopped over and enjoyed a nice dinner with Chris, Sue, Mark and a bunch of other fun folks.  I had originally planned on camping during this trip but ended up leaving the camping gear at home and hiring a room for Thursday and Friday night.

I got to the park well before checkin was to happen but all the folks from dinner were hanging out at the pavilion planning on how best to organize course marking.  They sorted that out and soon I was alone at the Pavilion so I just sat against a tree in the sun and relaxed for an hour or two.  Eventually people started drifting back and things started to pick up.  For the pre race dinner they had arranged to have this gentleman cook an authentic Louisiana sausage and chicken gumbo:

He cooked the gumbo in this huge cast iron pot and stirred it with this paddle.  
 Once again the sun set way too early and most of the runners had arrived and I got to see old friends and make new ones and after a short race briefing by the Cajun Dip himself we finally got to eat!

Cajun Dip giving us instructions for tomorrow's run.

This cat was found near some of the cabins in the park and was the friendliest stray cat you could imagine.  He did get adopted before the weekend was out.  Yay!
While I was able to find a nice cheap room near Lafayette online, I wasn't able to find anything less than $79 online near the race start.  So when I first got to Ville Platte I poked around looking for a mom and pop type hotel tucked in a corner somewhere and what I found was a jewel in the rough.  Well, actually the Best Inn was more rough than jewel but it was cheap!  Also notice the new paint job on the exterior:

Whoever they consulted on interior design was very creative.

Nouveau cinderblock and linoleum theme here.

Very little mold in the shower.
The next two photos show an innovative lamp cord camouflage technique.

Cardboard hanger tubing and packing tape - who would have thunk it?

I don't want to publish the address or phone # as I worked out a commission arrangement with the proprietor.  Email me for details.

There wasn't really a "front desk" but the handy metal plate slid back so I could give my credit card.
The Best Inn might have been a bit rough around the edges but I did not see a single bug and the mattress was quite comfortable which was good enough for me.  I slept well.  In fact, I was so beat I laid down and fell asleep before showering or organizing my things for the morning's race.  When I woke up I still didn't feel up to doing my chores so eventually I just set the alarm for around 4am and did everything in the morning.  It was probably about 8pm when I first dozed off.

Here are some pictures of the course.  Chicot State Park is beautiful and the 20 mile loops worked out really nice.  Most of the trails were quite runnable though there were certainly plenty of tree roots in places.  There were also some fairly steep though short ups and downs.  I think we 100 milers did 2 clockwise, then 1 counter clockwise, and then two more clockwise loops.  There was also a 20 mile run and a 100k run so there were plenty of folks on the trails during the day.

My run went pretty well through the day and I figured that I had a good shot at a sub 24 hour run but once I got a few hours into the night I had my worst ever tangle with the sleep monster.  This night I completely lost the battle.  I figure that I spent approximately an hour and a half sleeping in 10-15 minute increments through the night.  I would lie down and pass out for 15 minutes or more and then get up and a mile down the trail I would fall asleep on my feet and wake up when I wandered off the trail into the bushes.  I think what had happened was that I was exhausted from having been in England touring around the country like mad, ran a tough race there the prior weekend and then I flew home on Tuesday only to turnaround and drive back to the airport for my Thursday flight to LA.

I had just not had time to catch up on sleep.  Thankfully this was to be the last back to back week of the year.  After this race there was a weekend off and then the Bartram 100 and then another weekend off and then the final race of the year at the Houston 100.  During this run I ate a lot of meat.  I ate some of the leftover gumbo from the previous night's dinner, I ate a BUNCH of brisket, and some tasty burritos at one of the aid stations.  I'm finding more and more that I run best on meat.  I don't know if I'll be able to do this as much when and if I ever get to where I can run fast again but it's sure working for now.

Here's a pic of me with RDs Chris and Mark:

Thanks to these two guys.  And thanks to all the volunteers who once again did a magnificent job.  This was a very nice run in a very pretty park.  We had good weather and if I hadn't struggled so with sleep would have done better.  Definitely no complaints on this one!

Race count: Liz (34)  Scott (25)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Winter 100 (in England)

Sometime in late summer I was looking at my calendar and trying to fill in some holes with races.  There were no races on the 17 Nov or 24 Nov weekends except Chimera in California which was too far away and too difficult of a race for the end of this year.  Looking on the internet for international 100 mile races I found the Winter 100 on the 24th, an inaugural race held in Streatley, England which is about 50 miles to the west of London.  It was going to be an expensive race with the airfare but I have never visited England before and decided to take some time before the race to see some of the country.  I ended up leaving on 13 Nov which was just 2 days after finishing the Wild Sebastian 100.

The trip was well worth the expense even though it was late fall and the sun was setting shortly after 4pm.  I spent most of my time in London visiting the British Museum, the National Gallery, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, some cool train stations, and much more.  I tent camped on the outskirts of London and took public transport into the city keeping my accommodation and travel costs down to about $35 per day while in London.  It was a bit cold and damp, not perfect camping weather but it worked out well financially and I had good gear to stay warm and mostly dry.  I camped at the Lee Valley Camping and Caravan Park which I highly recommend.  The office folks were very nice and the Camp was very well kept.  It was pretty quiet in the tent camping spot with it being late November:

I left this camp spot and went to another near the town of Bath where I stayed for two very rainy nights and got flooded into the campground for about 5 hours due to a swollen creek blocking the exit.  This was on Wednesday before the race.  Newton Mill Holiday Park:

This was the only way out of the park and my vehicle did not have good clearance.  From Wednesday night through Friday night I had reserved a hotel room at the Abbey House Hotel in Reading which was about 20 minutes from the start by car and also a reasonably priced hotel with very nice folks running the place.  It was very nice to be out of the tent, in a real bed with an in room shower.  I had been doing a lot of touristy type stuff, spending a lot time on my feet and doing a lot of walking.  I needed to try to dial it back some so I'd be ready to run 100 miles on Saturday.

I was fairly successful resting on Thursday and Friday and made it to the start feeling pretty well rested but still my legs were a bit tired but then again, I had 23 100 milers on them just from this year....  This race had a start time of 10am which I really liked.  It let me sleep in some and not feel rushed getting ready for the start.  Here we are gathered in the Morrell room in Streatly with RD James Elson giving us the race briefing:

I was already impressed with everything that I had seen about Centurion Running from the RD's correspondence to the sleek and well organized website.  Everything looked well thought out and very professional.  But James really showed his mettle in the way he handled some last minute course changes.  The race was supposed to be 4 out and backs of 25 miles each with two of the legs following the Thames Path and two of the legs following the Ridgeway Trail both trails being National Trails which were well used and well marked.  But with all the rain that the south of England had been having the Thames river was flooded and the Thames Path unusable.  So on the morning of the race he had to come up with a redesigned course that was both safe and at least 100 miles long.

While listening to the briefing I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about as he was referring to places and intersections and such that meant nothing to me.  He assured us that it was all well marked and in fact it was very well marked and I never had any major issues though I did wander off course for a bit many times due to my own inattention.  I never went very far off though realizing my mistakes soon or being corrected by another runner.  So what we ended up doing was roughly half of the first leg twice (27 miles), then the third leg twice (50 miles), and then the fourth leg once to give us about 102.5 miles.  I was impressed not only with how well it worked out in the end but also with James' calmness that morning.  It seemed just another day at the office for him.

So we had our race briefing and instructions and were cautioned that things could still change as the rain had already started and there a significant amount of rain forecast to fall during the event.  This was looking to be exciting!  Welcome to winter in England!

Here we are just outside the doorway of the Morrell room ready to start:

RD James Elson sending us on our way.
The swollen Thames River which we crossed almost immediately after leaving the start/finish.

A narrow footpath early in the course.

A typical section of the first 5 miles of the course.

I'm not sure what you call this kind of roof but it is some kind of thatch held in place with a kind of chicken wire with moss growing on the outside.  You don't see this in the States!
The course passed close to this double set of train tracks with passenger trains FLYING past every 10 minutes or so at what must have been 80-90mph.  No big deal to the Brits but I was fascinated.

Another thing I enjoyed everywhere in England were these red phone booths.  They were everywhere!
All of these pictures are from the first 5 miles of the course which we ended up running out and back 4 times due to the modified course.  The pictures don't show it so well but there was a fair bit of muddy single track and with all the out and backs this stretch got very sloppy as the day wore on.  It was raining lightly when we started at 10am and it barely stopped for 15 minutes at a time, raining steadily until about 2am.  Mostly it was a pretty light rain but at times it was pretty heavy and this constant rain completely saturated the ground making footing a nightmare.  I was wearing my Hoka Mafates which had 600+ miles on them and while they did well in the mud when new with the worn out tread they were slipping and sliding constantly.  Luckily in that first 5 miles there were a couple of miles of paved road and non muddy trail.

On the first out and back I was so fascinated with everything and taking so many pictures that I ended up falling all the way back to the sweep runner without even realizing it.  I really enjoyed meeting and talking with Chaitan Kerai who was sweeping the first 25 miles of the race:

 After doing the short leg twice we took a right turn at about the five mile mark to head up onto the Ridgeway Trail for another 7.5 miles to the turnaround and return to Streatley which brought us to about 52 miles.  This leg had a lot more climbing as we followed a ridge up and up on rolling trail and through two horrendously wet and sloppy plowed fields.  They weren't very wide but the footing was nasty nasty mud.  And we had to go through them four times.  Ugh.  The turnaround was quite high and exposed but very welcome and manned by an excellent aid station crew as were all the other aid stations.  Heading back from the turnaround was mostly downhill and went much quicker than the climb up though both directions were made more difficult by the saturated ground and some pretty slippery conditions.  There was one spot where I went down on my butt and slid a good 30 feet down a muddy slope and I was even warned by a runner to be careful there!  I went around the slippery bit the next three times at that spot.

Back at the Morrell room after 52 miles I finally put on some running tights as the temp was dropping and it was still pissing down rain.  This was the first time I had run in tights in a race in years but it was that cold and damp.  After donning the tights, changing socks and getting ready to leave a runner that I had chatted with a bit earlier was also about ready to leave.  When I first chatted with Sharon Walton I found out that she was a first time 100 miler and I asked her the question I liked to ask first timers to gauge their chances of finishing.  The question is "So do you think you'll finish?"  Sharon's answer was something like "I'll finish if I have to crawl over the finish line!"  That attitude and the way she said it told me that she was going to get it done.  Usually with first timers I'll give advice if it seems they want it but with Sharon I got the feeling she didn't need my advice and I found out from her husband post race that she does her research and that she was, in fact, quite well prepared physically, mentally and gear wise.

Sharon and I left the Morrell room for our third leg (a repeat of the second leg) together and ended up running together until the end.  Sometimes she'd get ahead a bit and sometimes I would but our paces seemed to match each other really well and we had a great time chatting and poking fun at each other for 15 hours or so.  The repeat of that second leg didn't seem quite so long this time since I knew what was coming and the rain did stop during this leg but boy did the wind howl.  As we were coming down the exposed ridge we were getting hit by a steady 25mph wind with probably 50mph gusts and they were coming right from the side.  I got really frustrated in this section because it was right here that we were running in a rut of a trail that was about a foot wide and cut into the ground a good 6 inches.  With my big Hoka clown shoes I had a difficult time here without the wind but going down this section getting rocked side to side by the wind I was constantly stumbling.  Outside of this rut is was very thick and long grass on an uneven tread which was even worse than the rut so we had to just tough it out.  All of the slipping and sliding and then all of this stumbling was really starting to wear me down.

By the time we got back to the Morrell room it was light out and Sharon's pacer Richard Hurdle joined us as did her husband Tim, though Tim only went a couple miles due to some low back issues he's been struggling with.  It was nice to have Richard along.  He had lots of energy and a great attitude.  He didn't coddle us but made us feel like heroes for getting this one done.  We had a great time talking about all things ultra.  Like Sharon, Richard is just breaking into ultras and very keen.  The daylight and his energy perked me up mentally but physically I was struggling.

This last leg was again on the Ridgeway trail which meant there was a fair bit of climbing.  Even though we ended up doing extra miles on the Ridgeway trail and thus more total climing there wasn't really a tremendous amount of climbing all together. It was all the slipping and sliding that had taken it out of me and I was feeling it.  As we reached the turnaround I met Tim Lambert who had asked on the race facebook page for special requests at his aid station.  I asked for bacon and Tim delivered!  I sat down and layed into a large container of bacon getting in more than enough to fuel me to the finish.  And it was here that Sharon said to me in her delightful British accent "Come on Scott, it's not a picnic!"  I just had to smile, give Tim the bacon, and carry on.

The first half of this leg had been a lot of pavement and nice smooth dirt roads but the last half had us working back and forth on grassy trails to find the least repugnant path.  Most of it wasn't very wet but the trail was often uneven and too much work this late in the race.  Eventually we got back down to the good footing and started to roll along a bit better.  I was really impressed with Sharon.  She wasn't talking much late in the race which was my only hint that she was finding this difficult.  She was moving well and never once said anything remotely like a complaint.  Perhaps she though I was doing enough complaining for both of us.  I had made a mistake with my pain meds and hadn't brought enough for the whole time.  I guess I wasn't expecting to be out for 29 hours but I ended up running the last couple of hours without pain relief.  Usually I manage my pain quite well but here I was hurting.  I was to the point where I was letting out pretty frequent grunts and sighs from the pain when I stumbled or my foot hit the ground sooner or late than I expected.  I've only gotten to that point a few times since my first 100 miler.

Sharon's crew was at many different places where they could drive to meet her and they probably think I'm standoffish not paying them any attention but I just didn't have the energy to be social.  This was a very hard run for me.  I did get to talk to Tim a bit after the run which was nice but during the run I didn't even try to figure out who was who even though Sharon had told me who they all were.  Sorry guys!

Getting to the Morrell room for the final time was a tremendous relief and I believe pretty emotional for Sharon as her first 100.  In describing what I had witnessed on her run I told Tim that she had done this run with poise and determination.  I was quite impressed with how well she handled such tough conditions on her first 100.  We managed to squeak in under 29 hours with a 28:57:34.  Official results are here.  Here's a picture of us just after finishing:

Notice the muddy legs.
And here are my shoes when I got home:

I seriously thought about throwing these away but couldn't find a shop in Atlanta to replace them before next week's Cajun Coyote 100.  I though I might need them for that.

Me with the very capable RD James Elson.  
James' race report can be found here.  I was very impressed with my experience at the Winter 100.  The aid station volunteers had to endure some tough conditions with wind, rain and cold temps and they did so without a whimper.  The second time we got to the turnaround on the first Ridgeway leg the aid station was reduced to a pile of water jugs and food containers piled in the lee side of an SUV after the canopies had blown away in the gale force winds.  But those guys were still out there braving the storm so we'd have support.  And Tim's bacon got me through that last 12.5 miles.  A huge thanks to everyone!

While I was running the Winter 100 Liz was doing the Shazaam 100 near Atlanta.  Liz did her 100 miles on a 400 meter track in freezing cold and windy conditions (but not wet!) in an impressive 23:04. I believe she is planning to write a report on that run soon.....

Race count:  Liz (33)  Scott (24)