Feb 18

Training Marathons: The San Diego Trail Marathon by Steve

Training marathons can be a lot of fun. There’s no pressure for PRs or times. It’s a day to just enjoy the course (trails in this case) in a low key way and get in a good workout. San Diego might be one of the best places for a training marathon. It’s a beautiful and fun city.

The San Diego Trail Marathon starts at the San Pasqual Valley Trailhead and takes place at the San Dieguito River Park and Black Mountain Open Space Park. It’s near the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The course is a mix of singletrack, fire road, and a little paved path.

I did the Red Rock Canyon 50k the week before this marathon. I knew I wouldn’t be able to push the pace on this one. The weather was nice for the race in the morning but got a little warm (for this time of year) towards the end the race.

At the start of the race I cruised along, taking in the views. There were some areas with beautiful views, especially along Lake Hodges. However, there were some fairly flat, non-technical sections of the course. Maybe my expectations were too high because I like the San Diego area so much, heh.

I felt pretty good throughout the beginning of the race. My quad (the one that bothered me during the beginning of last year) was tightening up on me a bit. Still, I kept moving steadily. After reaching the halfway point and turning around, the cumulative fatigue from the 50k the week before began to catch up to me. I knew I didn’t have much left in the tank. I slowed down but did my best to keep a slow, but steady pace.

Despite the fatigue, I was able to finish with 4:25:24, which I was satisfied with for training pace. Upon finishing, I received a nice wooden “medal” as the finisher’s award and a sweet pint glass. They also gave out a really nice long sleeve cotton shirt. Their logo on all these items is really cool!

I should mention that the course markings for this race were fantastic. There was never a point where I was unsure about where to go. It was also fun to run through an orange (I think they were those little oranges called ‘cuties’ рџ™‚ orchard near the start and finish area.

Jan 27

Red Rock Canyon 50k by Steve

On a random day in January, a random group of runners showed up at random times to run the Red Rock Canyon 50k.

The “randomness” is tongue in cheek due to the secret entry system for the Red Rock Canyon 50k. I also use the phrase “entry system” loosely because to call this run (race? Event?) organized at all would be an overstatement.

Still, every year the trail and ultrarunners show up for this fatass style run. This style of run means everyone takes care of themselves for aid, support, and directions. Sure, a map is provided but there are no trail markings. There is a general understanding that you are required to be self-sufficient if you want to participate. This style of run has the motto, “No fees, no medals, no whining.”

Given the secrecy and simple style of this run, how many runners do you think would show up? Quite a few, actually. Not everyone runs the full 50k. Most do a 30k version of the course or some other modification. The 30k version of the course is also quite good.

This year was the 22nd year of this event. Many from the local community (and some from outside of it) show up for many reasons. The course is beautiful. The comradery is special. The event itself is a part of ultrarunning history. Also, it’s a lot of fun to kick back after the run and enjoy some food and drink with your running friends.

This year was my second time running the full 50k. The course is absolutely beautiful with views of the Red Rock Canyon escarpment. Running through Calico hills is also beautiful and White Rock Loop is one of my favorite trails in the entire Las Vegas area. Still, I had forgotten how tough this course is! It is relentless. Big climbs or rollers nearly the entire time. You never seem to get a break. It keeps pushing you.

I started early, running with some friends that needed a little help navigating the course. They were running a shorter version of the course, so I stuck with them for a while. The weather was perfect. We get some really great running weather like that sometimes in the winter of Las Vegas.

Part of the course is on the White Rock Loop trail, as I mentioned, and it is done washing machine style. This means that you do one loop clockwise and one loop counter-clockwise. My friend Andrew and I were discussing which direction was our preference. I realized that even though the course technically does the same loop twice, the different directions really change the flow and how the course feels. It’s very interesting. It doesn’t feel like you’re doing the same loop twice.

The washing machine style on the loop also means you encounter other runners quite a bit. This makes the run more social. It’s fun to see everyone out there. Some friends set up makeshift aid stations at a couple of the trailheads offering various snacks and water. They also took some photos. It’s nice when people surprise others with support like that.

I cruised through the 50k in about 6 hours. I wasn’t pushing hard nor was it easy by any means. I don’t think a course like that would ever be easy. After the finish, there’s no medal or award. It’s just your friends cheering for you, sharing food, and conversation. Those things are better than any medal or award. Then, it’s my turn to cheer on others as they come in from their runs.

50k Finishers

It’s always a great experience. It’s hard to put it into words but I want to always make sure I attend this event

Dec 22

Ray Miller 50 Miler

This is one of Keira Henniger’s races. It offers a 30k, 50k, and 50 miler. It starts at Point Mugu State Park at the Ray Miller Trailhead. The race start is right by the ocean. It’s such a beautiful place. You can hear the waves while admiring the Santa Monica Mountains.

I chose to do the 50 miler. This race is near the end of my race season. I felt like I was in good shape from the other races I’ve done this year like the 100k and two 100 milers. I didn’t really specifically train for this race. I was mostly trying to maintain my fitness while winding down for the offseason. Still, it’s a 50 mile ultramarathon with 9,587 ft of elevation gain (according to my Strava), so I couldn’t just wing it.

Photo credit: Howie Stern

With this race in Malibu, CA, we had a lot of runners from Las Vegas travel out for it. It’s fun how it happened. There were a few folks that signed up for it in our local trail running group, TrailRunning.Vegas, on Facebook. Later, a few more signed up. Then, friends of those people signed up. It really took on a life of its own with a lot of fun encouragement and a bit of peer pressure. At one point, we had 60+ people planning on going. As the event neared, that number was whittled down to 50+, which is still amazing. We at Desert Dash even had custom-made Trail Junkies hats in unique colors with Ray Miller 50/50 and the date on them.

It was a lot of fun traveling out to the race with friends (telling silly inside jokes and John Music making Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “September” the song of our race, haha), seeing so many familiar faces at packet pickup and at the starting line, and, best of all, there was such a large group of Las Vegas runners cheering for each other at the start/finish line. It was really special to see so many local runners setting PRs, running their first ultra, running their first 50 miler, and other notable achievements. One of the runners brought a #VegasStrong sign that was used in many of the photos.

Running the 50 miler meant that I would be starting before and finishing after the runners doing the other distances. Still, it was fun to see some of the other locals crossing paths out on the trails. It was dark at the starting line, and I knew the sun would be coming up soon. I opted not to bring a headlamp and just rely on the light of other runners if I needed it. It probably wasn’t the greatest idea but it worked out fine.

There was a nice climb at the start of the race. Many of the runners took off fast from the start! I was content to take it easy on that first climb because there was plenty of race left. As the sun came up, the sunrise with the mountain and ocean views created the kind of moment that trail runners cherish.

I cruised throughout the beginning of the race, taking it easy on the climbs, and trying to stay loose on the descents. I moved through aid stations quickly and did my best to stay relaxed. There were some tough climbs near the beginning but I knew the biggest climb was closer to the end. The climb near the end makes the earlier ones look easy!

Around mile 13, I was cruising down a fun descent and I must have lost focus (I have no idea what I tripped on) because I fell pretty hard with my left shoulder and arm absorbing most of the fall, also banging my head on the ground too. At first, I thought that my race could be over now. But, I got up quickly, assessed the damage, and I seemed to be okay. My arm and shoulder were bleeding and hurt a bit but I seemed to be functional (my shoulder ended up hurting throughout the race, making it tough to maintain good arm swing form). Another silly frustration was all the brush, tree branches, and such hanging over the trail that would poke the boo-boo on my shoulder as I ran by, haha. Throughout the race, I would get questions and comments from people asking if I was okay and such.

I carried on and made it to the next aid station. Fortunately, I knew a friend whom I had only previously known from Instagram was at that main aid station. It was fun to see and meet her there. It was also nice that she could help wash and clean the blood and mud off my arm. Thank you, Tam!

I kept up a consistent effort, fueling regularly throughout the race. My fuel and stomach seemed to be on point. I had no issues there. Even during the big climb, I kept grinding my way up it. I passed a lot of people with consistent intentional movement. There was a drop before reaching the aid station after the big climb. Just when you think you’ll get a break from all the climbing, you have to climb your way out of that aid station, haha.

The big descent was a lot of fun. I was happy that I had the energy to push down it. My Altra Lone Peaks held up well and felt great throughout the 50 miler, even during the pounding downhill. I saw a bunch of local trail running friends on the way back. Some of the singletrack on the last section was absolutely stunning. I wish I had taken some pictures but I was enjoying the moment while keeping constant movement. One funny thing that happened around this time was when I passed a group of older women hiking, they turned and looked at my 1” in-seam split shorts, and one remarked appreciatively, “Would you look at THAT!” and a chorus of giggles followed. Hehe

I also checked my phone and texted throughout the race (there wasn’t much signal) to see how other friends were doing on their races. This probably isn’t the most efficient thing to do during a race but I couldn’t help it. I love hearing about their achievements.

As I approached the last aid station, someone was excitedly cheering for me, until she realized I was not her son (whom she said I looked a lot like). The cheering was nice though, haha. She also told me I was in 10th place. I was a bit skeptical of that but I appreciated the news.

I rolled through the last aid station and I noticed a couple of runners that I pushed past on the aggressive downhill section making their way towards me. They were moving well. I was moving decently, but I felt like they were moving better. I kept consistently pushing, but they reeled me in. I was okay with this because I hadn’t simply given up, I made them work for it, and they earned it. That’s how it goes sometimes.

Photo Credit: Howie Stern

Still, I came into the finish under 10 hours, which is better than I was estimating for this course with all that vert. I ended up finishing 12th overall with a time of 9:55. The finish was a lot of fun because all the people milling around the finish area can see which runner is approaching on the singletrack. It was sweet to hear the local Vegas runners cheering loudly. Overall, I’m very pleased with how the race went (aside from the fall). My time was better than expected. My effort level was solid and I felt decent after the event. I would definitely attribute the results to my training throughout the year, thanks to Ian Torrence with Sundog Running. The course was beautiful and it was an experience shared with friends.

After the race, I joked around with medical as they cleaned me up a bit.В  I also made a point to compliment Keira on one of the most well-marked courses I have ever raced on.

I would definitely recommend this race to others for many of the reasons I have mentioned in this write-up.

Gear: Altra Lone Peak shoes, Altra singlet, Desert Dash Trail Junkie trucker hat, Goodr sunglasses, BOA shorts, Darn Tough socks, Salomon hydration vest, Garmin 935

Nutrition/Hydration: Nuun Hydration, Honey Stinger chews and waffles, GU (mmmm toasted mashmallow), Coke, fruit puree squeezes, bananas

Oct 04

Stagecoach 100 Miler by Steve

After the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler, I wasn’t sure if I could run another 100 miler within a relatively short period of time. I allowed myself a month to recover, and eventually felt drawn to running another hundo I was trying to decide between the Stagecoach 100 miler (obviously from the title) and the Javelina Jundred. The timing of Stagecoach made more sense. Also, Ian Torrence does my training plans and he’s the Race Director for Stagecoach, so I felt he would have some special insight for my training.

Recovery/Training/Sharpening for Stagecoach went fairly well. Ian had transitioned me from altitude/vert training for Tahoe to some flatter, faster runs to get me running legs back under me vs my climbing/hiking legs for Tahoe. I felt pretty good. I wasn’t sure how running 100 milers so close together would affect me but I wanted to give this race a solid effort.

The full race name of the Stagecoach 100 miler is the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 100 mile. Ian said it’s the longest 100 mile race name, although I’m not sure if that was just a joke. It is also one of the few races (the Appalachian Trail being the other one) that is run on a National Trail, which in this case is the Arizona Trail.

My friends Ron and Marie were also doing the 100 miler. My friends Natalia and Kimberly were doing the 55k. Ron was just coming off a strong run at the Run Rabbit Run 100 miler, taking 11th. For some reason, ultrasignup had me ranked ahead of him, so some teasing ensued, even though I knew he would likely beat me (but you never know what’ll happen in a 100 miler… am I foreshadowing? No, I’m not. Haha).

Random phone booth at Flagstaff. Felt like a piece of history!

The race started at the beautiful town of Flagstaff. I had never been to Flagstaff before. I loved it! I finally got to meet Ian Torrence in person at race check in.

I also got to meet Jim Walmsley. He was running the 55k.

Ian told Ron and me that the field for the 100 miler was wide open and he was counting on us. No pressure, right? For added pressure, he gave Ron the #1 bib. Ha!

The start of the race was chilly! I believe it was in the 20s. I used layers because I knew it would start out chilly, warm up during the day, and then get cold again during the night. I also prepared my dropbags with extra warm clothes.

After some words from Ian (while Ron did some sort of angry chicken dance [see below]), we were ready to start.

Ron and I ran together in the beginning for quite a bit in the lead pack. It was so beautiful out there. Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures. I felt like I was quite focused on racing this one well.

It didn’t take long for the lead pack of 55k runners, including Jim Walmsley, to catch up to our lead pack of 100 mile runners. Jim Walmsley passed me right when there was a course photographer and I was rewarded with this perfect photo:

I did a quick turnaround at the first aid station because there was a water drop a mile away and that was all I needed. I didn’t want to get delayed by the other goodies at the aid station.

Unfortunately, when I got to the water drop, I asked where it was and someone told me there was no aid there (although one of the runners later told me there were water jugs there that I guess I had completely missed). So, I was running low on water way too early in the race. I knew I would be okay but it messed with me a bit mentally.

I made it to the Kelly Tank aid station (mile 21) just fine and felt revived a bit. After the race, I heard Rob Krar was at this aid station and I totally missed him. Bummer! After I left, I decided to drop back from the lead pack so I didn’t overextend myself.

Still, I was able to maintain a good position in the race. One other runner, Brad, passed me during this time. It was kind of funny because we were both on this open plain with the wind whipping across it. The wind gusts were so strong that you couldn’t even run. We were both walking into the wind as he eventually caught up to me. We had a friendly conversation for a while. It was his first 100 miler and I told him he was doing really well so far (mentally I hoped he hadn’t overextended himself, making it so he would be ill-prepared for those difficult last 30 miles).

He moved ahead and I found a new runner to chat with, Raymond, that was closing in on his 55k finish. He was struggling a bit and I encouraged him. We also chatted about shoes since he was wearing Altras. I didn’t think much of it but he later looked me up on Strava and thanked me for the encouragement to finish his 55k strong. I guess sometimes we don’t realize the power of a few polite words to another human being.

Eventually, I made it to Cedar Ranch (mile 34). Ian was there so I could chat with him a bit. I told him about my error with the water and he assured me I was fine and could make it up. It was good to hear that from him to help get me back into it mentally. Also, I want to add that the volunteers at the aid stations were outstanding! They were all so helpful in getting me in and out of the aid stations quickly. After refueling, I was on my way out, giving fellow Altra ambassador, Breanna, a high five as I left.

I continued to maintain my position (5th place) in the rankings through Boundary aid station (mile 55), where I picked up my headlamp.

I’ve noticed in these 100 milers that I usually do well at night. Night fell by the time I reached Russell Tank (mile 68). I felt good. The volunteers at the aid station said a runner had just left and he didn’t look great. I knew it was time for me to push a bit in the race.

I did my best to continue my upbeat attitude that helped me so much at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler.

Not long after I left the aid station, I came upon Brad and his pacer. I chatted with him for a bit and ran off into the night. I try to put some distance between runners in these situations (if I can) because I don’t want to get caught in some cat and mouse game where they’re using me as motivation to try and catch up.

Again, not long after Brad, I was surprised to pass another runner, Adam, and his pacer. Adam was with the lead pack in the beginning and I know he was pushing hard. I hope he wasn’t blowing up after such a strong start. Again, I stopped and chatted with Adam for a bit and then ran off strong. I came upon a steep downhill section after passing him that I pushed hard on to put some distance between us. It didn’t feel great on quads that had nearly 80 miles on them.

The next aid station was Hull Cabin (mile 80) where they confirmed I was in 3rd place. Yes! I just needed to hold on to this. There was an out and back to Hull Cabin and as I ran out past Adam, I did my best to run strong (to hopefully discourage further chasing).

That mile 88 smile

I cruised into Watson Tank (mile 88) where my friends, Aaron, Doug, and Jean from Las Vegas, were crewing. It was a boost to see them. Doug assured me that 4th place wasn’t close to me. I got my jacket on (because it was getting really cold!) and headed out. Before the jacket, I was only wearing a shirt, arm sleeves and gloves. I had felt fine. But, suddenly, the temperatures plummeted. I got really cold. It didn’t help that I was struggling a bit so I wasn’t moving fast (which would warm me up).

My headlamp started dimming a bit and I thought I should replace the batteries but my fingers were cold. I wish I had because at about mile 94, I turned around and saw two headlamps coming towards me. I let out an audible, “Nooo!!” and, out of pure instinct, I bolted. I was struggling before this but now I was running with whatever I had left. My headlamp was dying so I turned on the flashlight from my iphone for more light. I knew they saw my headlamp because they were chasing too. I kept it up, mile after mile, but I couldn’t drop them! I didn’t know how much longer I could keep it up. I didn’t know how much longer my headlamp was going to last. My iphone battery was nearly at 0%. Was I about to lose the podium spot at the very end of the race? Were my lights about to die at the very end of the race causing me to replace batteries mid-chase? I couldn’t think about that. I had to just keep moving as best as I could.

I finally put some distance between us on the last mile or so. What a relief and elation as I cruised into the finish in 3rd place overall! I had set a new PR for myself for 100 miles of 20:18. I asked Ian if he was a hugger and gave him a big hug. I was so pumped. I got a sweet copper buckle, a water bottle, and a $75 gift card to Run Flagstaff (which I used for my newfound Goodr sunglasses addiction). My friend Ron took 1st place overall with a time of 18:08. Our friend Marie took 3rd female. It was really cool to see Las Vegas trail/ultra-runners on 3 of the 6 podium spots. We also had some great training plans (Thanks, Ian!).

Finished!

I also noticed later that my time was 8th on the all-time Stagecoach 100 mile times. Ron and Marie’s times are up there too!

It ended up that the headlamps behind me were from relay runners, not 100 mile runners! I wouldn’t have guessed that because the relay runners always run by themselves (that I saw) and I knew the 100 miler runners behind me had pacers. Oh well, it pushed me to a strong finish and a PR!

Copper Buckle!

Gear: Altra Timp shoes, Altra shirt, Desert Dash Trail Junkie hat, Patagonia Strider Pro shorts, Injinji socks, Salomon Sense Ultra 5 set pack.

Nutrition: Gu Roctane Energy Mix, Honey Stinger waffles, Honey Stinger chews, GU gels, fruit squeezes, and various items from aid stations, especially coke.

Jul 27

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Miler by Steve

It’s funny that when a race goes really well, it doesn’t always make for entertaining stories (or blog posts), but I’ll happily take it every time.

My first experience with the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 miler in 2014 was not ideal. I was relatively new to trail and ultra running. The weather made it quite difficult too. This experience soured my perception on the race.

When a couple of friends suggested doing the 100 miler in 2017, I balked. I wasn’t enthusiastic. The 100 mile course is doing the 50 mile course twice. However, I listened to my friend Doug talk about the race and he loved it so much. He had already registered for the 100 miler. His experience was vastly different from my own. He mentioned how cool the finishers’ buckles are too. They even have a video on their website showing how it is made. I decided I would go ahead and register for the lottery to get into the race. Besides, I figured I might not get in anyways, haha. If did get in, this would also give me an opportunity to redeem myself from the poor experience on the 50 miler and also it would be a step up in difficulty for me doing a mountain 100 miler versus the flatter two 100 milers I had done previously.

This profile, twice. Sounds fun, right?

I ended up getting into the race, as you can tell. I had Ian Torrence create another training plan for me specifically for this race. I had to recoverВ properly from the Miwok 100k and then ramp up training again to prepare for Tahoe. I hoped the efforts from the Miwok training & race would carry forward and really help me. My training includes a lot of mountain runs to help mimic the conditions in Tahoe. Near Las Vegas, where I live, I would drive to the Mt Charleston area to do summit runs. I love that area so much. It gives me an opportunity to escape the Vegas heat and enjoy the beauty of the mountains. On those runs, I can get a lot of miles, climbing, and altitude (the Mt Charleston summit is at about 11,900 ft).

Mt Charleston Peak. I love it here!

Of course, training doesn’t always go perfectly according to plan. I had to be flexible. I missed some days when I got really frustrated with my quad strain but then it was magically fine again, haha. Probably the worst part was while I had that quad strain, I felt like I didn’t even want to run. That was the most concerning thing. Injuries can do that. They can take the joy out of the activity. Fortunately, some days off with yoga really helped me feel better and get in the right mindset. Then, I got back into training for the peak weeks.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say I’m “ready” for a 100 miler right before the race. I felt good but it’s such a difficult undertaking and there are so many variables; things that could potentially go wrong that I think it’ll be tough to ever say I’m truly ready. Still, I received some positive encouragement from local friends and Ian. Ian told me that I’m more fit than I think I am. That comment really helped. I always wonder about goals heading into a race. I knew that a sub 24 would be very difficult and few runners achieve it in this race. I talked to my friend, Ron Hammett, who is an amazing ultrarunner – far better than myself. I asked him what a reasonable goal time might be and he simply replied, “finishing.” That just made me realize I shouldn’t even attempt to fixate on any goal for this race. The problem with that is if I select an unrealistic goal arbitrarily and then I can’t achieve it. What does that do? It only puts me in a negative place mentally because I didn’t reach some goal that wasn’t realistic to begin with.

At the pre-race check in

I went up to the race the day before because it’s required to check in, get my bib, leave my dropbags, have a medical check done (they weighed me), and listen to a briefing. All of the pre-race stuff is located at the Nevada Capitol building, which was fun to see. I met up with friends and some of us ate together. I also checked out the local running store in Reno. I even picked up some absurdly short shorts with the NV flag on them (#TeamShortyShorts), Haha! I had been on an early flight to Reno so I crashed early that night, which worked out really well because I got some decent rest the night before the race (a rarity), even though Doug and I had to be at the starting line by 5am for the 100 miler.

At the starting line with Doug. PC: Rebecca Thomas

I wasn’t super nervous at the starting line. I think it’s because 100 miles is such a daunting task that I can’t wrap my mind around it. All I can do is start running when it begins and take the race a bit at a time as it unfolds before me.

After the race began, Doug and I ran along in the dark. We didn’t have headlamps but there was enough pre-sunrise light and light from other runners’ headlamps that we were fine. We only ran together for a few miles before I drifted ahead at a comfortable pace. I wasn’t sure if that was a good idea since Doug is so much more experienced than me. Still, I did my best to keep my effort easy and stay within my own ability.

It was a solid climb to the first aid station, Hobart, at 7 miles. I moved through the aid station fast. I was using the GU Roctane Energy Mix in my bottles to get a base amount of calories. I just had to get to my drop bag, put the mix in the bottle, fill with water, maybe grab some small food items, and I was on my way. I’m usually good about getting enough fluid. I knew that if I could at least drink a bottle per hour, it would help make sure I got in at least a base amount of calories and it would help maintain my energy level. Plus, I could supplement with gels, food, and such without getting fuel fatigue.

The views from the course weren’t too bad

The next 5 miles to Tunnel Creek had such beautiful views on the lake as we ran along smooth singletrack. After Tunnel Creek was the Red House loop, which included some steep and technical (at times) downhill. The bottom of this loop is the lowest portion of the race altitude-wise. There were a few streams to cross near the bottom. The last time I ran this course, doing the 50 miler, I could simply jump over these streams. This year, there was so much snow melt that the streams were much larger. I couldn’t jump all the way over them. I had to ford through them with the water above my knees at times. My feet, shoes, and socks were completely soaked. Fortunately, I packed extra socks at my Tunnel Creek dropbag. However, by the time I returned to Tunnel Creek my shoes and socks were nearly completely dry so opted to not change them at that time.

No way around it, go straight across

Next, I did quite a bit more climbing up to the Bull Wheel aid station and then some fun downhill into the Diamond Peak aid station at mile 30. I saw my friends Kris and Shannon at the aid station. They’re both ultrarunners themselves and they helped me get my stuff, refuel, and take care of things quickly. Kris asked some really good, direct questions about how I was doing.

Me at Diamond Peak aid station. PC: Kristopher Cargile

After leaving that aid station, I began a 1,700 ft climb in under 2 miles. It’s a sandy dirt road. I grabbed my trekking poles at the Diamond Peak aid station for this climb. I just dug in, put one foot in front of another, and got it done. It was funny when I looked back at the runners going up it and nobody looked happy, haha.

The start of the climb.В PC: Kristopher Cargile

I should say that the weather was perfect for this race. It was warm during the day and it wasn’t too cold at night. It felt so good at night. It didn’t rain and there was even a nice breeze at times.

The run back to Tunnel Creek and Hobart went well. I enjoyed the views coming the other way. There were also quite a few snow fields to cross near Hobart and near Diamond Peak. The snow was tough to run on because this isn’t something I have much experience with in Las Vegas. I did slip and fall on one of the snow fields and hurt my knee a bit. On the way back, the poles helped with crossing the snow fields. Still, there was one part where it was steep and the footing was poor, so I had to slide down the snow on my booty, haha.

Snow fields like this. PC: Maia Detmer

After Hobart, I headed toward Snow Valley Peak. It was a tough (but not too bad) climb up to the next aid station. The views up there were spectacular. I loved it. It was cool because the Boy Scouts were running the aid station. They used binoculars to spy my bib # and when I got there, one of them called me by name saying, “Stephen, what do you need?”

The descent from the peak was nice and speedy except for the part where I tripped and somersaulted to the side of the trail. It was a steep descent off the side of the trail, but fortunately not a sheer cliff. I’m also happy that when I tripped, I chose to roll on some wildflowers as I rolled down the hill a bit. After I got up and ran again, I noticed there were some sections with big rocks that would have been much worse places to fall (whew).

Beautiful. Photo Credit: Rebecca Thomas

After getting to the 50 mile aid station, I could hear the 50 mile runners finishing their races at the finish line nearby. I actually found out that my friend, Maia, finished her 50 miler as I was leaving that aid station. It was tough mentally to think about doing that whole 50 mile course a second time. At the 30 mile, 80 mile, and here at the 50 mile aid station, I had reception on my phone. So, I would check messages, read Facebook for words of encouragement, and let friends and family know where I was at and how I was doing. My friends Kris and Rob teased me about checking my phone mid-race. Still, doing this as I walked out of the 50 mile aid station helped me space out a bit to avoid thinking about embarking on the next 50 miles. Before I knew it, I was well on my way into the second half of the race.

As night fell, some mosquitoes came out. After I saw some, of course, every itch I felt was a mosquito in my mind, haha. I’m even itching while writing/thinking about this. When I got to the next aid station, I asked for some bug spray. I told the volunteer, “The mosquitoes love my calves, but can you blame them, knowmsayin?” She didn’t think that was funny but I did. Haha! That’s okay. Most of the time I’m laughing at my own jokes anyway.

Speaking of jokes, the 50 mile runners I would see heading towards the finish as I was out on the second 50 mile “lap” would say things like, “Have a good night!” They knew full well I would be out there running all night. I remembered what Emily Harrison Torrence wrote on her blog about when she was having a tough time at Western States. Her crew member said they had nothing else to do tonight. So, I replied to the 50 miler runners saying, “It’s not like I have any other plans tonight.”

At the Tunnel Creek aid station, I met with a super volunteer named EJ. He knew exactly how to help me. I would see him again at Tunnel Creek, Diamond Peak, and even at the finish line. He knew my gear and how to help with my bottles and energy mix. I really appreciate volunteers like that who are so helpful and so encouraging and are really putting in extra effort to help you succeed. I know he saved me a lot of time out there. He even gave me a hug during the race and at the finish! I may not be able to specifically help him as a volunteer at a future race but I hope I’m able to pay that forward to other runners. That’s how the trail and ultra running community works.

As I headed down the Redhouse loop again, I was chatting with another runner named Jason. As we talked, we were losing sunlight, and I noticed what looked like a photographer on the side of the trail holding their camera sideways. As I got closer, I realized it was just a couple of logs and shadows. As I got even closer, I thought it actually was a photographer! Then, when I got right up next to it, I realized it definitely was a log. Then, Jason suddenly says, “Did that log look a lot like a photographer to you?” Holy crap! It was like he read my mind. I was so glad he said something, haha. Did we just have a group hallucination?!

Speaking of my mind playing tricks on me, when it got really late and I was alone, I imagined every sound I heard to be a bear. I knew there were bears in the area. I didn’t think it’d be a major threat, but I didn’t want to run right up on one. Even a pine cone that fell behind me while I was running at night startled me. A week after the race, I saw a friend of mine post online that they came across a bear up a tree in the area. I didn’t end up seeing any bears myself, but maybe it was the bear up in the tree that threw a pinecone at me. 😉

I cruised along through the night. Sure, I slowed down but I kept moving. I did my best not to spend long in aid stations. One thing that helped me a lot is that I kept a good attitude throughout the race. I laughed and joked with people I met. I feel like I was able to pass quite a few runners through the night simply because I kept making consistent progress. Even when I came to the big climb at Diamond Peak aid station for the second time, I just dug in again and got it done. At night, I couldn’t see how far I had left to go on the climb so I just put my head down and kept climbing… until I was finally done. Even when someone asked me how it was, I replied, “Even better the second time.”

My attitude was upbeat, my forward progress was consistent, I wasn’t having any major issues, and my nutrition was on point. The GU Roctane Energy Mix in my bottles with additional things like gels, Honey Stinger chews, waffles, and aid station fare like fruit, smoothies (yum), PB&J, Coke, and Mt. Dew was working well. This system also helped stave off the fuel fatigue I get sometimes at ultras from trying to consume so many calories so often. I didn’t get sick and maintained good energy throughout the race.

Still, the race wasn’t without minor issues. I mentioned my graceful falls earlier. I also had an issue with my headlamp running out of battery during the night. I think I had it on too bright of a setting and it drained the battery too quickly. My backup battery didn’t work either! Still, I had a portable fuel cell that I used earlier to charge my Garmin 935 on the run (I really like having the race all in one dataset. It’s so nice to see triple digit miles on the watch face). I used the fuel cell to charge my headlamp while I used my phone as a light. It wasn’t bad because I did this while going uphill, so I wasn’t moving too quickly. Another thing, I felt a hot spot on my big toe during the race. After the race, when I took my shoes & socks off, I had a huge blister covering my entire big toe. It was like another big toe was growing on my big toe.

I may not be great at many things when it comes to running ultras, but I’m pretty good at staying awake. Fortunately, I was able to run through at the night and not get sleepy. It helped because this was my longest (time-wise) race yet.

Cheerleaders cheering on runners on the course!

As I neared the finish line after the sun had already risen a second time during the race, my body was beginning to hurt quite a bit. Still, I kept moving forward. I was excited to nearly be finished. From across the lake where the finish is located, runners can see the finish line long before they get there. On one hand, I was happy to see it. On the other hand, I wished I was on the other side of that lake, haha.

Here I am coming into the finish line. One of the Altra reps said, “Stop looking so happy running 100mi ;)” when he saw this picture.

I cruised in at 26:09 (33rd overall) to the cheering of friends, race officials, and volunteers. I was so happy to get to sit in a chair! I got my finisher’s cup and stumbled around to get some food and drink at the finisher’s “ultra lounge,” while chatting with friends and other runners. What an experience.

Here’s a link to a video of me finishing

Later that day, I hobbled back to the finisher’s area to pick up my buckle. Boy, it is beauty! They engrave the year and finish time on the back. As a proud Nevadan, I love how the buckle is made with the silver coin (since we’re the Silver State) minted in the oldest mint in Carson City. The craftsmanship is just so special to hold in your hands after earning it in a race like that. I’m not usually too big on finisher’s medals or other things like that but I really like buckles, especially this one. I immediately put it on!

I’m happy I went back to this race and had a great 100 mile experience. It is a beautiful location. The race is so well organized with fantastic volunteers.

I was also interviewed by Rebecca Thomas about this race and ultrarunning in general on her podcast (Episode 11), Trail Tales. Check it out!

Gear/Nutrition Used:

Altra Olympus shoes, Altra shirt, Desert Dash Trail Junkie hat, Pearl Izumi shorts, Injinji/Drymax socks, Columbia arm sleeves, NV Battle Born hoorag, Black Diamond Z Trekking Poles, Garmin Forerunner 935.

GU Roctane Energy Mix, GU gels, Honey Stinger waffles and chews, applesauce, smoothie, PB&J, Coke, and Mt Dew.

Thanks for reading!