I completed my first attempt at a 100 mile run. I earned my buckle and am a proud member of a still fairly exclusive club in the running world. It was a bitter sweet experience as I’ll describe later.
It took me 27h:26m:42s to complete the five 20 mile loops. I burned 14,111 calories, climbed 6699ft and descended 6975ft over the wet, muddy, swampy, creepy, and more importantly, beautiful trails of Chicot State Park in central Louisiana.
This run is put on by Edie Couvillon of Paix Running and was just the second year for the event. I ran the 40 miler here last year as only my second ever Ultra and fell in love with the park, the volunteers, the rowdy and ever supportive aid stations, and of course the race director. I knew after I finished that 40 miler that this is where I wanted my first shot at 100.
I came into this event in possibly the best running shape I’ve been in. Nothing was sore, nothing was tight, and I had no nagging injuries to plan around. I set a big goal and was willing to go for broke. I wanted to do this sub 24, not typical for a 47 year old first timer. But I knew if everything fell into place that it was possible.
The course was wet and muddy from 3 straight days of on and off again rain and covered with leaves hiding all those fun roots and stumps that our toes just love finding. I’m now missing 3 nails now due to said stumps and roots. It was cool and cloudy and some fog, perfect running temps with a bit of a chill from damp air and occasional breeze.
I finished the first 40 miles under 8 hours and was well on track. I got to spend a few miles with the Bueno’s who both crushed the 40 miler, with Kim taking 1st female! My only issue was my feet were stinging from being wet and muddy. I didn’t change socks when I came in from fist loop, this mistake could’ve potentially cost me a finish.
By the start of the 3rd loop the first 8 miles of the course, which were the wettest and muddiest, was getting torn up and making you work and suffer for every foot of ground.
When I got to the 8 mile aid station I was still feeling strong but the feet were getting worse. Like a constant pins and needles with a hint of heat from the hot spots and blisters forming due to the softening skin.
The next 8 miles should’ve been fast and runnable but I was starting to struggle to push off the balls of my feet. I saw the time slipping away as I felt myself slowing and struggling. My mind started racing doing math trying to troubleshoot and whispering to me that I’m not going to make it.
I brushed that aside and as I tried to push harder I was shocked when my body did not respond. I was slowing even more. I was trying every trick I knew to get back on some sort of track, they all were failing. I had just broken my body and the mind was starting to go with it. For the first time in 17 races I was facing an adversity I was not familiar with and I still had over 40 miles to go.
My 24 hour goal was gone, my 26 hour consolation goal was in serious jeopardy, my body will not respond to my demands, and my mind started to crumble. My only hope was to get back to start/finish however I could and let my awesome crew do their job and pick up my pacer. More on these amazing individuals to follow.
When I finally got to the start/finish I just remember feeling numb and defeated. I don’t recall a whole lot during this stop. Just that the air was out of my sails, I set a lofty goal and pushed myself over the edge to achieve it and was paying the price. I remember my pacer, Jen Kirkpatrick, helped me out of the chair and said lets go, need to get you moving.
We started 4th loop slow as I needed a mile or so to get the body warmed back up. I was still in a downward spiral mentally, my feet burned with every step like I was shuffling across hot coals mixed with glass, my legs were just dead gone. Jen played rabbit for me, getting out ahead trying to get me to chase those first 4 miles but trying to dig into the mud to get up the hills was pure torture and the friction of going down them was worse. I knew as we passed through the first aid station the next 4 miles were going to get my somewhat dry feet wet again and cake the inside of my shoes and socks with Louisiana’s finest swamp mud. The trail was winning, beating me at my own game, it was in my head and I couldn’t shake it.
That whole time Jen is pulling every trick out of her bag trying to bring me back. I could tell she was getting concerned about making cutoffs if we didn’t start picking it up. I was giving everything I thought I had just to shuffle and fast walk. I honestly don’t remember much of any conversations or anything we had during this time, I was deep inside my own head fighting an intense battle that I was determined to win.
Was I looking at my first DNF? Could I accept that knowing I went all out those first 48+ miles?
Yes, yes I could accept that. I came into this knowing that was the risk for such a reward.
Somewhere around mile 12ish of the 4th loop I came to this conclusion and accepted it would be ok for me to fail, to learn, to grow. But I was still breathing, my heart was still pumping, and wasn’t going down without a fight.
I reached back in my mind and thought of every ounce of pain and anguish I have accumulated in my life and compared it to what I was going through now. This wasn’t shit, I knew I could take more. It was time to really hurt. I accepted every new ounce of pain and used it as energy to pick up the pace trying to get closer to Jen. She immediately fed off that and picked it up as well gradually picking up pace to get us to the end of loop 4 and back to the start/finish.
I was still a bit out of it at that stop, I remember being cold and lots of work being done on my feet. I couldn’t really eat as stomach was in knots, a combination of the physical and mental toll I was dishing out to myself. Next thing I knew we were ready to go for loop 5.
I do remember walking out the start and telling Jen I need a bit to get things loose again, but I realized in that first quarter mile that walking hurt more than running. I also noticed she was looking at her watch and then at her phone a lot early on. I assumed she was doing math on our pace chart to see if I was going to miss cutoffs. That was when I told myself, if I’m going to be broken at the end of this run I’m going to make it worthwhile. I set a new time goal in my head that was acceptable. I was going to make that goal or they are going to have to help carry me out of these woods.
It was up to me how much longer this was going to last. I could walk and drag this out, or run as hard as I could and get it over with. I told Jen lets go, I still have to power climb the steep and longer hills, but I’m running. She must’ve saw something had changed in me, I remember seeing her smile, and we were off. The miles clicked off and the pain was getting so intense, but I welcomed it, used it to push on. When she would stop he told me to push and she’ll catch up, i took those oppurtunities to run as fast as possible to make her work to catch back up to me. We continued that for the final 4 miles coming in from the last aid station. I stayed strong, I was mentally sound and happy with our progress.
With a mile to go I could feel the emotions building up. I was running with purpose despite the pain asking me to stop. I was way ahead of the final goal time I had made for myself. Cutoff was over two hours away. I fought my way out of a dark and dreary place. I had my bestest trail buddy in front of me leading the way to the finish. I looked to the now sunny sky hoping Kodey and Dad were watching and that they were proud of me. It was time to end this.
We came out of the woods with a short uphill jaunt on the road to get to the finish line. Jen took off to get there to video my finish and Kelley was waiting for the photo ops. I felt like a boost of nitrous when my feet hit the pavement and sprinted as hard as I could with whatever was left to cross that line.
The cowbells, the cheering and encouragement from the crowd still gathered, some yelling my name as I crossed the line I had toed less than 27 1/2 hours ago. Edie was there with my buckle and her awesome finisher hug. There were more hugs and a couple high fives, then I turned to Jen and offered her yet another thank you and got the best hug of the afternoon. She was my rock out there. She didn’t have to say much, just do, just do what she knows I needed from my pacer. She took care of me from start to finish just like she knew she would need to be cared for and handled. It hit me, I was done, no more running, 100 miles behind me. My legs started quivering and I needed to sit. My race was done.
Thank you to my wonderful wife for supporting this crazy obsession of mine and putting up with everything I go through, and put her through.
Thank you to all my friends and family for your support and following on my journeys.
Thank you to my crew. Kelley Mims and Jen, you guys were outstanding! It was like a NASCAR pit crew every time I came in to the start/finish. You were encouraging and supportive when I needed it most. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!
My pacer…I met her back in May, we were both on the struggle bus finishing a 50 miler. We kept each other company and finished together. Ever since then we’ve become best of friends and trail buddies for life. I couldn’t have asked for a better companion out there, you are THE best! Thank you so much for everything!