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Thanks for visiting my blog. This is where I document and share all of my running adventures with my friends and fellow runners. The good, the bad, and the unquestionably painful. All for your entertainment! Enjoy!

Monday, October 28, 2013

2013 Javelina Jundred: So...Yeah...It's Hot in the Desert.

Six days after finishing the Pony Express Trail 100, I was back in Arizona to run the Javelina Jundred for the 3rd consecutive year. Back to back 100 milers sounded manageable at the time because my race recovery time had dwindled dramatically in the last year. I had planned to run these races at an easy pace to ensure I could finish them both.

Whatever...that plan immediately flew out the window and I ran Pony Express in 18:02, finishing 2nd overall. I sometimes have trouble suppressing my competitive impulses. 

The week between races, I was worried. My recovery from Pony Express was anything but fast. People like to assume that flat races, like Pony Express, are easy but they definitely are not. My legs took an unprecedented pounding and they weren't springing back to life like they usually do. 

Between races, I walked a lot, ran a little and focused on my recovery nutrition, which includes a lot of protein and vitamin dense foods. As the week wore on, I was feeling better and gaining confidence, but a successful run at Javelina was still in question.

The Thirst for a Buckle Can Lead a Runner to do Foolish Things

By race morning, there were no more obvious aches and I was feeling pretty good about my race. I had set two goals for my finish and would have been satisfied with either:

Goal #1- Sub 20 hour finish. I finished in 19:48 in 2012 and wanted a repeat.

Goal #2- Sub 22 hour finish. As my fall back plan, I wanted to do at least as well as I had in my first race here, which was 21:48.

For me, there's something very satisfying about a sub 20 hour finish in a 100 miler. It's an arbitrary time, but it motivates me.

To run sub 20, my strategy was simple. There are six 15.5 mile loops and one 9 mile loop. I planned to average 3 hours on the large loops and a sub 2 hour time on the final loop. 

The race started at 6:00 AM. We were led off the line by Ian Sharman, Hal Koerner, Joe Grant and several other elite ultra runners. 

Race Start

Still Half Asleep!

The starting temperature was around 60 degrees but felt cooler than that. The weatherman was promising a high temperature in the low 90's. The ability to run totally exposed in this kind of heat would be a deciding factor for most runners.

For the first several miles, I was running well but my legs were protesting my decided pace. I was busy passing runners in search of my proper spot in the lineup. After 7 miles, I was settled in and the field was spread thin.

I was carrying a handheld bottle with Hammer Endurolyte Fizz and a few Hammer peanut butter gels. I didn't stop at any of the aid stations on the first loop.

Where Jo Would Spend Her Day, Taking Care of Me

Finishing Loop #1

First Loop Done in 2:17

By the time I finished the first loop, my legs were loose and the pain had totally subsided. The looming problem now was the heat. The sun was up and the day was warming fast. I would have to slow down and conserve energy from now on, but the first loop bought me some time on my race plan.

A Quick Coke Before Heading Back Out

A big part of the allure for this race, is the festive atmosphere. Costumes are a big part of this race culture and there are always plenty of interesting things to see on the trail. Running 100 miles is undeniably difficult. Running 100 miles in 90 degree weather makes it harder. But to do all that under the burden of a costume? That's pretty damn intense!

And as an ultra runner, you haven't truly lived until you've seen Spiderman taking a crap on the side of the trail at 1:00 AM.

Angry Bird. This HAS to be HOT!

Not Entirely Sure...

Arrrrrrgggg...

This race format requires us to switch direction on each loop, heading back out the way we came in. This is a brilliant idea because it breaks up the tediousness of a loop course and it allows all the runners to see each other more frequently, like an "out and back" format.

After heading out for my second loop, I was able to greet a lot of friends that were heading in. We exchanged encouragement and support along the way.

Aid Station Girls Hamming it Up!

I slowed my pace a bit on the second loop and spent some time enjoying the desert scenery. Arizona is a unique and beautiful place to run.

Scenery on the Course

I spent more time socializing during the second loop. Whenever I went to make a pass, I would linger and settle into conversation with other runners. That also allowed me to temper my pace more and probably prevented me from blowing up early.

The sun was blazing by this point in the race and I knew the carnage was about to take shape on the course.

Coming in to Finish Loop #2 (50k) in 4:46

I made a point to take some time before heading back out, so I stopped for an ice cold PBR and a short chat with Nick Coury, one of the Race Directors. That beer tasted amazing! I made a point to drink a PBR after every loop from that point forward.

Chatting With Nick at Mile 31

Because the heat was climbing fast, I ditched my bottles and grabbed my Osprey hydration pack. Jo loaded it with ice, water and Fizz Tabs.

Heading Back Out

Loop three is always the dangerous time in the race. The heat is reaching its peak and runners begin to succumb to fatigue and potentially heat exhaustion. I slowed my pace even more and focused on staying hydrated. I topped my bladder off twice during this loop and depleted it with ease.

I saw plenty of reasons to believe there would be a high DNF race this year. More than half the field was walking now and many of them were too drained to pass along the customary "Good job" when we met and passed each other.

The brutality was just beginning.

Finishing Loop #3 in 7:35


I had survived the lethal third loop and was still in great shape as most the field was fragmenting and falling apart. Loop 4 would be just as troubling for the faster runners because we would still be in the hottest part of the day when we got started.

My short term goal was to finish this loop in good shape and prepare for running strong as the sun set.

I could feel a sunburn coming on and kept meaning to do something about it, but in typical "hurry up" fashion, I never actually did anything except allow it to get worse. 



The carnage on the course was mounting. I stopped several times to make sure certain runners were ok and offered whatever help I could.

It was on this loop that I stopped to help a runner remove dozens of cactus burs from his shoes and feet.  It was a bloody, painful mess. One that I am all too familiar with on this course.

Finishing Loop 4 (100k) in 10:35

At the end of this section, I was feeling dried out and somewhat dehydrated. I decided to take a prolonged break and get properly fueled and hydrated. I drank two full handheld bottles of ice cold water, a full bottle of Endurolyte Fizz and a an ICE COLD can of PBR. I also ate some solid food to fill my belly. After a 10 minute break, I was ready to get back after it!

It was at this point that I wandered over to the medical tent, just to see what was happening in there. As suspected, it looked like a military field hospital, with people scattered everywhere, groaning and a few screaming from the intense pain of severe cramps.

People rarely understand the value of managing electrolytes.

When the nurse saw me standing in the door drinking a beer, she assumed I had just DNF'd and invited me in to sit on an empty cot. I said, "No, I'm still racing. I just needed a beer". She stuttered for a second and I walked away so she would be spared any further embarrassment.

Trying to Rest, Recover and Hydrate

Feeling Much Better!

Heading out for #5!

And it Was Still HOT!

The sun was lower in the sky and that provided a lot of relief, but the hot day had already done a lot of damage. As I rolled past the aid stations, they were getting fuller and fuller, at capacity with runners seeking refuge, nutrition, hope and a reason to continue.

I've learned my lesson about aid stations at tough races like this. I avoid them at all costs or I risk being sucked into the misery that dwells there.

Sun Beginning to Fade



The temperature began to drop rapidly but it would never approach anything that resembled "cold". I don't know if it ever got "cool", but the sunburn I earned earlier in the day made it feel colder than it actually was. And I was fine with that.


Finishing Loop #5 in 13:53

It was time to evaluate the race and plan for my finish.

I had hoped for an average of sub 3 hour loops and at this point, I was averaging 2:45's. I was firmly in the top 10, partly due to my running and partly because a few of the elite runners had to drop. I had one more big loop, then a short loop before finishing.

Assuming nothing disastrous would happen, I had a great shot of achieving a sub 20 hour finish.

Knowing I had some cushion, I started to take more time. I ran easier, walked more and spent more time fueling.

Heading out for #6!

I felt fully refreshed by the arrival of full darkness. I still had 23 miles to go, but it definitely felt like this race was winding down and I was going to pull this off as planned. My enthusiasm pushed me along, into the night.

Somewhere in the middle of the loop, I left the trail to make room for a large pack of oncoming walkers. When I stepped off the trail, my right foot landed on a dead cactus that I hadn't seen in the dark. The pain was intense and immediate as the cactus easily pushed through the bottom of my shoe. I quickly hopped onto my other foot, which landed on the same cactus! Now I had long needles stuck in the bottom of both my feet.

This misadventure required me to sit down, remove my shoes and delicately deal with the cactus needles. After a few minutes, my shoes were safe again and I was on my way. Tenderly at first.

During my sixth loop, Hal Koerner went on to win the race. Hal has won here once before and he also holds the course record. He's had an amazing year, placing very well in several races, established a new FKT of the John Muir Trail and recently, he and his wife were blessed with their first child.

But uncharacteristically, Hal hadn't won a race all year. I was pulling for him and was elated to see him take the win.

Hal and his Beautiful Mother Diane. Great People.

It was after Hal finished that I got a text from Jo, telling me she was leaving the race for a little while.

This was NOT in the race plan!

Evidently, Hal was feeling sick after his intense run, and meanwhile, he was being swarmed by people wanting to congratulate him and enter into dialogue regarding his race, diet, nutrition, shoes, etc. Hal is a very gracious person and he certainly tries to accommodate people when they want some of his time, but he was feeling REALLY sick. Normally, he would sit and talk for hours, but this was not a normal situation.

Jo loaded Hal and his Mother up into our car and took him away from it all so he could get home to rest.

My wife left the race. With Hal Koerner. While I was still on the course!

I probably would have done the same thing.

 Fortunately, Jo made it back in plenty of time to crew for me before I headed out for my final loop.

92 Miles in 17:19!

While Jo was taking care of my pack, I enjoyed a final PBR with my good friend, Larry Adams. Larry is in my local running group and ended up dropping down to the 100k after he had some kidney problems. Another victim of the intense heat!

At this point, I knew I could walk this last 9 miles and still break 20 hours. But now, I was focused on a course PR, which would require me to beat 19:48. I was still in the top 10 and also didn't want to lose any positions on this last loop.

I headed out fast. Or at least at a pace the feels fast after 92 miles.

A mile into this loop, things got weird.

I passed a runner who was sitting on the side of the trail, staring at his shoes. I stopped to check on him and he said he was fine, just resting.

A few hundred yards later, this spectacle repeated itself. Again, he claimed to be fine.

Up ahead, I could see a long line of runners heading my way. As they approached, I could hear some yelling and eventually I could understand the words. The lead runner was telling everybody they were going the wrong way and needed to go back to the finish line and get on the right trail. This Pied Piper had rounded up several runners and was leading them all back to the right trail.

Unfortunately, they were ON the right trail and this guy was totally delusional. And evidently, his followers were delusional enough to believe him!

I tried to stop the train and get these people to listen to logic. The Pied Piper began to argue with me and insisted they all return to the finish line so they could get on the right trail. After a few angry words, he stormed off. In the wrong direction. And a few people followed.

This dude had totally lost his mind.

The rest came with me while I explained the reality of the situation. When we met up with a sign and some course markings, I showed them where they were and assured them they were in the right spot. Convinced I had done my best, I ran off and left them to finish their own race.

After about 5 miles, I left the main trail for a cutoff that takes me back to the finish. This trail is only used during the finish loop and I was all alone.

Or not...I kept seeing lights behind me but couldn't tell if I was being chased or if those lights belonged to distant runners on the main trail. I convinced myself that I was being chased and I pushed the pace again. I looked over my shoulder repeatedly and only became more certain that I had a pursuer.

Now I was fighting to keep my position.

I finally rounded the last corner and crossed the finish line.

Finished! 19:18:32, 8th Place!

Jamil Coury, Handing me my 3rd JJ100 Buckle!

A few minutes after I finished, two runners crossed the line together finishing in 9th and 10th. They were 4 minutes behind me! I WAS being chased and nearly lost TWO spots.

In consideration of my running and beer drinking prowess, Patrick Sweeney presented me with a shovel award. It's moments like this that make these things so worthwhile!

My Shovel!

BEAMING! 

Celebrating With a Burger and a Beer!

I was elated with a solid finish at Javelina because I love that race and always run well there. But I was even happier because I ran two smart races in two weeks, and forced some quality recovery in between them.

The only downside with back to back 100's is the lack of motivation for the second race. After you finish a 100 miler, it's easy to slip into a mentality that you don't need to do another 100 again any time soon. That feeling eventually fades and you begin to regain your desire to do it again.

I didn't have the luxury of going through that natural process. I finished Pony Express and had my usual feelings, but was then forced to get right back out there and do it again. As a result, I robbed myself of the excitement of the upcoming race and that sense of excitement was replaced by doubt and dread.

Nonetheless, I love the Javelina Jundred and had a great time on the trail with so many great people. This is a race we plan to return to every year. It's very well organized and has an atmosphere that can't be beat. Nick and Jamil know how to get it done.

I have a few more ultras on the schedule before the year ends and I'm looking forward to a more realistic recovery period in between them. And I'm also looking forward to regaining that sense of excitement.

But Before then, Jo and I will be heading to Moab next weekend for the Moab Trail Marathon (and recovery run).

I hope to see all of you on the trails very soon!

Monday, October 21, 2013

2013 Pony Express 100: Flat, Fast and Fabulous!

I registered for this race because I wanted an opportunity to run a fast 100 miler. Don't get me wrong, I love running the mountain 100's, but I was curious how a flat race would go. As it turns out, even a flat 100 miler hurts like hell. Maybe even more than a mountain race. Scratch that...it definitely hurts more than a mountain race*.

*Disclamier: Every race you've just finished is the hardest race you've ever run. It's Runner Law. Deal with it.

Another Cool Buckle!

The Pony Express 100 is unique because it follows dirt and gravel roads for the ENTIRE distance. What was once the Pony Express Trail, is now a roadway that cuts through the desert. Another unique feature is the total absence of aid stations. Aid can be found at mile 48, but beyond that, you're on your own. However, because we're running on a road, our crew can follow the course and set up personalized aid stations at whatever intervals we want. As a runner, I loved this concept. As a crew member, it meant much more work for Jo than she would normally encounter while crewing one of my 100 mile races. As long as the runner is happy and healthy, it's all good though! (Jo didn't think that was funny)

I had spent countless hours thinking about this race because I wanted to post a fast time. Fast for me meant sub 19 hours. I studied the course, logistics, but mostly the competition. I reviewed the entry list and studied each runner in the 100 mile race. I narrowed the list of "fast guys" down to three, excluding myself. I decided the guys to watch would be Matt Van Horn, Mark Harmon and Phil Lowry. All three are people that I was at least mildly familiar with and I knew any of them could potentially win the race. Winning would be a long shot for me, but a podium finish seemed to be a reasonable goal. Assuming...well, assuming a lot of things, but it was my goal nonetheless.

The race director, Davy Crockett, starts the race in four waves, beginning at 5:00 AM, with the final wave getting underway at 8:00 AM. This is designed to reduce vehicle congestion as crews navigate the course to care for their runners. Runners are seeded according to their anticipated finish time. The fastest runners go out last. That was my wave. 

My strategy was simple. I planned to go out slow and easy to conserve energy, then spend the day tracking the fast runners and eventually work my way past them during the night.

When the race started, I jumped off the line and found myself all alone.

This was not going well at all! 

Leading at the Start. Not my Intention!

I panicked right away. I hate leading races and all I wanted was a couple of runners in front of me. I kept looking over my shoulder, hoping to see a gang of people trying to pass me. Nobody was there. Crap, crap crap! I was trying to will these guys to get up front. Nothing. I slowed down a little. Still nobody appeared. I thought about pretending to stop to tie my shoe, but that seemed lame, so I kept running.

The Sign that Nobody Paid Attention to!


I had arranged for Jo to meet me at mile 4. I had started without any fuel or hydration and wanted to get a handheld and some Hammer peanut butter gel, while getting rid of my light jacket. Just as we approached my crew vehicle, Matt Van Horn and Mark Hammond passed me. Whew!!! The pressure was instantly gone. I handed off my jacket, grabbed a bottle and gel flask, then I was off.

I asked Jo to travel 1 mile up the road so I could hand off my gel flask. This was the rythym that we fell into. Meet me every 4 miles, then again 1 mile up from that to get trash, flasks, or bottles from me. I almost never stopped moving.

A View of the Course in the Morning

Now that Matt and Mark were ahead of me, I was able to settle in and enjoy myself. The Utah desert has a unique beauty and I was enjoying the run. The temperature was ideal for the race and I was feeling really good.

Mile 8, Moving Strong

Utah Desert

Somewhere around mile 14 or 15, I began to pass runners from earlier waves. Most of these people looked happy and were in good spirits. They were just enjoying their private adventure on the Pony Express Trail. I was envious of their perspective.

Coming in to Simpson Springs, Mile 16

Simpson Springs

Historical Remnants

Simpson Springs was our first check point, and also where the 100 mile race would eventually finish. We left the road, checked in and headed back out.

On the way out of the check point, I met up with Kendall Wimmer and we ran together, discussing his race. Kendall was the current 50 mile leader and was having a good day, but he was being pursued and he knew it. Kendall and I met at the Bear 100 a few weeks earlier and finished that race side by side. He helped me get to the finish of that race and is one of the coolest guys I know. After a half mile of jabbering, he pulled away and continued on, while keeping an eye on his pursuer.

"Go down this road for a while. Then keep going. And after that, just keep going straight. When you see the mountain in the distance, just keep going straight."

Pony Express is tough because you can see FOREVER! There's no mystery to this course. The field is spread out, there's no hope of casual conversation with other runners. Mentally...it's grueling!

My BFF at Pony Express!

The Ultra-Mobile in Action!

At around mile 20, I was beginning to get warm. It was probably only 45 degrees, but my pace was pretty brisk and I was heating up. Also, the direct sunlight in the desert made it seem warmer than it was.

20 Miles and in my Groove

Mark Hammond and I had been swapping positions for several miles and it appeared he was beginning to fade, and possibly having some trouble. We exchanged greetings every time we passed each other and I was enjoying this part of the race and the bit of competition between us.

I had also been monitoring the traffic further back and knew that Phil was stalking me. I was catching random glimpses of him all morning and I suspected he may be looking to make a pass eventually. I was hoping he would.

Near Mile 24

Wild Ponies on the Course
Photo Courtesy of Tara Moreland

Phil eventually got close to me near Dugway Topaz Well. When I stopped to get aid from Jo, I let him pass me and we exchanged a wave and a smile. I like Phil a lot and he's an amazing runner. He's also now my carrot.

Phil at Mile 30

Stalking Phil

I hadn't seen Mark for several miles and assumed he dropped back or dropped out. Barring any black horse runners from earlier waves, I knew Matt was leading, Phil was in 2nd and I was in 3rd. This was an ideal spot for me to be in at this point in the race. I was sure I couldn't catch Matt unless he blew up, but I could ride behind Phil for the next 30 miles and see how things went. So I settled in and kept Phil in sight...barely in sight.

Dugway Topaz Well is our second checkpoint and is located at mile 33. It's nothing more than a card table and electronics sitting in the ditch along the road with a couple of volunteers to check numbers as we file by. I don't know what I was expecting, but this wasn't it.

Shortly after the checkpoint, we began our only major climb of the race. A long grinding uphill that takes us over Dugway pass and I was happy to see it. After 37 miles, it was a blessing to have a chance to use other muscle groups. I made it up the pass swiftly, keeping Phil in my sights.

Dugway Pass Looking Back Toward the Start

Let me tell you something about Phillip Lowry. This dude has over 60 ultras under his belt and at least half of them are 100 milers. On top of that, more than half of those are the Wasatch Front 100. Keeping Phil in eyesight isn't exactly easy. This guy can roll through the miles.

Phil held on to 2nd place...and I kept stalking. Sometimes, I got close to him and was tempted to pass, but backed off. I wanted to take my time and conserve energy. With a guy like Phil, I don't want to pass him, only to have him pass me later. It was still early and we weren't in a hurry.

Phil Making it Look Easy

Around mile 40, I began to have some pretty serious chaffing issues. After 3 years of running in the same type of shorts, I bit the bullet and tried something new. After a few long runs, they seemed great. But none of my long runs went quite this far. Now they weren't so great. This led me to hop into the crew vehicle all too frequently to adjust, add body glide and to check for permanent damage.

For those of you that run LONG distances, you know chaffing only happens in the most sensitive parts of your body. I was worried...I use all those parts with some regularity and would like them to be fully functional.

Get your mind out of the gutter!

I was looking forward to coming into Blackrock Station at mile 48 because this is the only aid station on the course and the BBQ would be fired up. They promised portobello mushroom sandwiches and that sounded about perfect. Jo met me at the aid station, handed me my Hammer gel and Endurolyte Fizz and I rolled out while she tended to acquiring my sandwich.

Heading Out at Blackrock

As I was leaving Blackrock, I could see Phil right in front of me and I sped up to close the gap. I decided I was going to pass him, or at least catch him and chat for 50 miles or so.

But there was a quick intervention...

Jo pulled up alongside and parked the truck so she could feed me my sandwich. Before I took my first bite, I nodded toward Phil and said, "There's Phil, should I pass him?" Jo reminded me that I acted like an ass at the race start and I might want to consider taking it easy for another 30 or 40 miles. I looked back at Phil, then to Jo....then back at Phil...and grudgingly agreed. Passing him this early could be a huge mistake. I finished the most delicious sandwich I ever ate (quite seriously) and headed down the "trail".

Entering Fish Springs

Fish Springs marks our turnaround at mile 58 and I was excited to get there. I was still running well and was happy that the sun starting to drop in the sky. I knew my best running would come at night.

Entering the Wildlife Refuge at Fish Springs

Jo stopped at mile 56 to crew for me and planned to stay there until I returned. This was another stop that required some time and attention to my chafing. As I was in the back seat of my truck, shorts around my ankles and my hands full of body glide, I saw Matt Van Horn fly by my window, heading back toward the finish. CRAP! I looked at my watch and it was 5:11 PM, meaning he was at mile 60 in just over 9 hours!

This is when I knew it would be futile to chase Matt, assuming I ever managed to get around Phil. Why do fast people always show up at the same races I run? Frustrating...

On the way into Fish Springs I planned to count the runners that were headed back out. This was easy. It was just Phil and one runner from the 7:00 AM wave. Me, Matt and Phil had passed every other 100 mile runner on the course, except one, even though we started last.

I checked in at Fish Springs, turned on my heels and headed out without delay.

Sun Dropping Low

Coming out of Fish Springs, Heading Home

The sun was setting fast and I was getting amped up. The cooler weather was going to make everything a little easier and now that I was on my way back, there was no need to repeat the scenery, so the darkness was welcome.

Mile 62, Rocking Out to Bieber... Not Really.

 Light Fading in the Desert

 The run back was uneventful and I lost myself in thought while my iPod blared in my ears. I met a lot of runners heading to the turn and we exchanged encouragement and congratulations on getting that far. I enjoy that part of our sport and I was also looking forward to being alone again so I could just lose myself for the next several hours.

My next major milestone was getting back to Blackrock at mile 68. The sun was setting fast and darkness was enveloping the desert. The temperature was dropping but still comfortable. I knew this was going to be a good night for running.

Still Running Strong Into the Night

Sunset

 Beautiful Utah Desert

We were running under a full moon and it was throwing off enough light that my headlamp wasn't needed. I wore it in case I needed to warn oncoming cars of my presence, but otherwise, it was off.

I loved the feeling of running in total solitude in the desert at night. The stars were bright and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The full moon was brilliant, the weather was perfect and I was running with renewed enthusiasm. These were my finest miles in the race.

What the Moon Looked Like

What I Saw

When I was approaching Blackrock at mile 68, I was catching the occasional glimpse of Phil in crew headlights up ahead. Every time I saw him, he was a little closer. I started to plan my next move.

When I entered Blackrock, I saw Phil leaving the aid station table but didn't pay much attention to it. I got some things from Jo and noticed that Phil was heavily engaged with his crew. I realized this was my chance to get passed him without a battle and I headed out. In a hurry.

I bolted from the aid station and was spinning a sub 8 minute pace. I wanted to put distance on everybody behind me and felt like I had plenty of energy to do it. I met Jo 4 miles down the road, made a quick exchange of bottles, and resumed my pace.

I ran at that pace for 7 miles. I was a man on a mission.

I knew I was in 2nd place, but I also knew Phil could come after me and take it back. I wanted to create so much space that it would be a less than tempting idea.

I climbed Dugway Pass, running most of it, and my paranoia really began to set in.

When I descended the pass, I began to hear people talking and was sure I was being followed. When I entered the long straight stretches, I could see lights behind and was sure they were runners coming after me. These exhaustion fueled thoughts urged me on. I was literally running from ghosts.

Every noise and movement behind me was a threat. I was 85 miles into the race and was still running a sub 10 minute pace. Fear and adrenaline do amazing things.

At mile 90, I heard a soft "whooshing" sound coming out of the desert. I stopped running and listened, turning my ear in the direction of the noise. It was growing closer and becoming louder. I could tell it was moving fast, but I had no idea what it was. Obviously, because Phil is an Army officer, I assumed he called in a drone strike to take me out. After a few seconds I could see a black mass flying above me, low to the ground. As it passed over me, I realized it was a massive flock of birds. That makes sense, right? A HUGE flock of birds, flying quietly at night through the desert? I'm not 100% certain that any of those things actually happened.

I pushed on.

I met Jo at mile 94. I was done eating and drinking. I handed her my bottles and my iPod and debated on where I wanted to meet her again. I was tempted to have her go all the way to finish so she could finally rest, but decided to split the distance and have her meet me at mile 97. Things were getting goofy with my brain, so it was probably a good call. Plus, I wanted her to keep an eye out for any potential drone strikes. I may need backup.

By the time we met at mile 97, I was nearing a state of total insanity. We barely spoke and I told her to meet me at the finish. With the drones flying around and the people whispering in the bushes, this was no longer a safe place for her anyway.

I was no longer running a 10 minute pace but I didn't care. I was just headed to the finish, shuffling along, but still running. I was happy for that at least.

I found the lights that led me to the turn for the finish, glanced at my watch and realized I might get a 100 mile PR. Maybe...and if I did, it would be close.

The finish takes us down a rocky, rutted road and I was having issues with footing. Even in my depleted state, I realized how ridiculous that was. It wasn't "technical" but after running 100 miles on a nice, graded surface, this section seemed intense. I laughed at my own helplessness.

I flashed my headlamp as I approached the finish line so I could alert Jo and Davy that I was coming. I ran across a short length of flagging tape that marked the finish and stopped.

DONE!

Finished in 18:02:57

This was a 100 mile PR by 3 minutes (Rocky Raccoon), a 2nd place finish and the 4th fastest time ever recorded at the Pony Express Trail 100. Matt Van Horn beat me by over an hour and claimed a well deserved victory.

Aside from the first few miles of the race, I felt like I ran smart, fueled properly with my Hammer Nutrition products and managed my race well, despite a few temporary moments of insanity, which may eventually wear off.

I want to thank my loyal crew chief and wife, Jo Agnew, for taking such great care of me, as well as Hammer Nutrition for all their support. I could never do these things without the people that have an interest in my success and well being.

Jo and I are headed to Arizona next weekend to run the Javelina Jundred, which is always a favorite race and an amazing time. Back to back 100 milers seemed like a good idea at the time, so we'll see how all that plays out.

Thanks to everyone for all the love and support. I hope to see many of you on the trails soon!