There was a time, not so long ago, that my greatest ambition in life was to become a marathon runner. At the time, 26.2 seemed to be a lofty goal, likely unattainable. A lot has happened since then.
I didn't transition to ultra running in an effort to push harder and go farther. I transitioned because of the community surrounding the sport. I often find myself returning to the same races every year, and I've come to understand that it has more to do with the people than the course or the scenery. And that's why I keep coming back to the Pickled Feet Ultras.
Jayk Reynolds at Sunset. First Night of the 48 Hour Race
Pickled Feet provides timed events at 6, 12, 24 and 48 hours, as well as a 100 mile trail race. I had been running the 24 hour race the last couple of years so I wanted to mix it up and run the 100 miler this year. The decision was partially made because I wanted to drop to a shorter distance and save my legs in preparation for a busy April.
Yeah…that's the world we live in. I dropped to the 100 miler to save my legs.
The 100 mile runners started at 10:00 AM on Friday, which allowed me to sleep in, get a belly full of food and take my time getting ready. I felt good, but I also felt terribly undertrained for 100 miles. The long winter in Utah has made it difficult to get the kind of mileage I would prefer before a race like this, so I was banking on experience and muscle memory to pull this off. Not a great race strategy.
Timp the Trail Pup Knows Exactly What We're Doing and She's Pretty Excited to Get There
The course this year was a 2.6 mile loop, mostly double track and some gravel road, with a tiny bit of pavement around the only aid station, located at the start/finish line. Because 2.6 doesn't go into 100 in a neat fashion, we would be running three small loops near the start line to get the mileage as close to 100 as possible.
And So it Begins...
I intended to run hard right from the start and see who would come with me. Nobody took the bait.
Running the Small Loop
The first three loops amounted to almost 1 mile. Before I had finished my third loop, I was lapping the back half of the field.
I ran my first mile in 6 minutes flat.
Leaving the start line, we take a grassy trail into the woods where we begin the large loop. When we come to the loop, runners can choose which direction they want to run. Being able to change direction any time we want is a blessing, because running the same small loop, in the same direction, for so many hours is a mental drain.
I chose to run left on my first loop because experience tells me that most runners will go right. This will let me see the rest of field when we meet on the back side of the course, so I can get an idea how the field is shaping up in the early miles.
I hadn't studied the 100 mile entrants list in advance, so I had no idea who my competition might be. But I knew Davy Crockett was lurking out there, and despite running 100 miles the previous weekend, he can always be a threat. Davy has the unique ability to log tons of hard miles and he rarely shows any wear and tear from it. When Davy has a good day, he's hard to beat.
I ran hard for the first 20 miles and had lapped the entire field at least once. I allowed my pace to slow so my heart rate could drop and I could settle into a more sustainable pace.
I was hitting a Hammer gel on every other lap, so my energy was high and I felt great physically. Nonetheless, I wanted to continue to build distance between me and the rest of the field, but I began to do it in a more cautious manner. Caution and maturity are things I've been experimenting with. Mixed results so far...
At mile 30, the bottom of my left foot began to hurt, A sharp pain was shooting through it and I was forced to walk for a while, trying to figure it out. I stopped twice to adjust my laces, hoping it was a simple fix. It persisted and was slowing me down.
After a lot of worry, and another 10 or 12 miles, the pain just vanished.
Coming in to Log Another Lap
I came to this race, hopeful for a win, even though I felt completely undertrained. And a small part of me had thoughts of snagging the course record, which was a stout 17:23. When I hit 50 miles in 8:10, I doubted that I had enough speed left in me to knock out the back 50 miles in 9:13 or less. I tried to push the notion out of my head and focus on the race at hand. But the thoughts kept migrating back to the course record...
The weather was typical for Boise in March. It was cold on half the course and warm on the other half. It rained once and we got pummeled by hail twice. The wind was a constant, cold reminder, that we were in Idaho. With that being said, it was the nicest weather I'd seen at this race over the last three years.
By mile 60, I had built up a pretty comfortable lead, but Davy was still out there laying down solid splits. In fact, he and I were the only people still running the entire course. Trying to wear that man down is simply impossible.
I started a strategy of trailing behind Davy, keeping an eye on him while attempting to reel him in to make another pass. It was like he could sense me stalking him (at that point, he could probably smell me), because when I got close enough to try to make a pass, he'd vanish into the woods. The stalking would continue like this for most of the rest of the race.
As the sun began to dip deep into the horizon, the temperatures dropped dramatically. The evening went from super uncomfortable to almost unbearable. Moving quickly and with deliberation was the only chance of keeping my body warm enough to function properly. Even aid station stops became abbreviated in an effort to battle the cold. Because it's Idaho in March!
By mile 70, I felt like I had a big enough lead to secure the win as long as I could keep moving. My mind began to drift back to the idea of breaking the course record. I started calculating splits with each lap, working through the numbers in my head, then recalculating after finishing each loop.
I kept coming to the same conclusion…if I was going to break the record, it was going to be within a matter of seconds. And even then, it depended on my ability to keep moving at a very solid pace.
The mental struggle and constant internal debate began, and from that point on, it never stopped.
By mile 90, the win was sealed up and it became clear that the record could potentially be feasible. I was fueled by the realization that I might miss the course record by just a few seconds and that thought was agonizing. I ran hard, reminding myself of how painful it would be to fall short by such a tiny margin. I was leaving it all out there, going for broke!
I had been running the 2.6 mile loop in 28-30 minutes, and this had been consistent for several hours. When I came in to the timing chute, with one lap left, I had 32 minutes to beat the current record.
Without even slowing down, I headed out onto the course to wrap this up. It was going to be tight.
I finally crossed the finish line in 17:20:33, beating the course record by less than 3 minutes!
I was freezing as soon as I stopped running. I was hungry, and I was exhausted. I chatted with the Race Director for a few minutes, loaded up into my truck and headed toward a warm bed at our hotel.
Pickled Feet was my 3rd overall win in 2016, but that's a streak that won't last as I fall into a training program for the upcoming Hardrock 100.
Thanks to the Race Directors, Emily Berriochoa and Amy King, and all their volunteers. They do an amazing job putting this race on.
Special thanks to Topo Athletic for providing me the best running shoes on the market. I pulled these Topo Fli-Lytes right from the box and they carried me to a great finish. Thanks, guys!
Jo and I are heading to Moab next weekend for the Behind The Rocks trail run. Two things are guaranteed…I'll be SLOW and the race will be AWESOME!