Why Big Cedar?
I've fallen off the blogging scene this year. As much as I’d love to blog and share my thoughts on living an active lifestyle, time was a luxury I simply have not had over the last several months. I’m sitting her on a Sunday morning one day after Big Cedar making the time to share this once in a life time experience. Honestly I’m forced to sit for a bit due to my left foot but, we’ll get into that later.
This race was really important to me. Yes, I raced a lot in 2014, but all of those races were races I wanted to do for fun. I did train, but none were an A race. I did them more so for the experience. My only real goal for 2014 was to complete a 100 mile trail run. I made an attempt at Rocky Raccoon 100 earlier this year and due to illness I had to swallow my first ever DNF (Did Not Finish). That was probably the lowest point of my active life style experience. I caught a bug before the race and it hit me hard after completing the first 20 miles of the race.
|My little one and I scouting out the starting|
area the day before the race.
That DNF and 100 void had been sitting in the back of my head all year long. One day while I was on Facebook I saw Big Cedar 100 pop up. I knew I did not have the time to put in the training to do the 100 mile run, but I was still considering signing up. I spoke with a couple of friends about the race and searched for feedback. I also reached out to the race director and expressed interest in the race. I had run some of the course once or twice before and I knew it was going to be pretty challenging. My running base since March had been 20 to 35 mile a week. I may have had a couple of 40 mile run weeks somewhere along the way. The lack of running miles was the only element that kept me from signing up. I took some time to think about how I could get this 100 done. I didn’t want to sign up for a race if I wasn’t convinced I would be able to cross that finish line. There were several key elements that needed to fall into place to get me to the finish line, and I knew I could line them all up. As I pieced what it would take to get me to that 100 mile goal I mentally convinced myself that this was an obtainable goal.
Four weeks out from the race I signed up and started working on those key components. My crew would consist of several close friends, who I knew I could depend on. I had no doubt that they would get me what I needed during my race and they would also take care of needs that I may have missed otherwise. They were going to walk this sleepless journey with me, and there was no doubt on their ability to crew me. My pacers were pretty much a last minute addition. I know they are called pacers, but what I was really looking for was company on the trail. I knew that just having someone with me for the last 50 miles would make a huge difference. They would help carry me mentally. Both my crew and pacers were spot on during the race. I cannot say enough about both my crew and pacers. THANK YOU GUYS so much!
Two weeks before the race my strategy was to do as little as possible and sleep as much as I could. The 14 days leading up to the race I had 3 workouts and 2 crossfit sessions. A normal training block would have tallied up close to 20 workouts in 14 days. The reduced number of workouts played with me just a bit mentally. I kept telling myself the rest would pay off on race day.
|Customized drop bags courtesy|
of my little one.
Race morning I had a blue plastic bin organized with 2.5 gallon zip bags that had extra cloths, nutrition, shoes, jackets, etc. Not knowing what I would or would not use I figured more was better than less. My Truth Corner drop bag was simple. I had a couple of gels, a power bar, Vaseline and a hand towel. My Power Line drop bag had individual sandwich bags that contained what I would need for each loop. I labeled them loop 1 through loop 4.
I somehow have the tendency to run a little late to the start of trail running events. This one was no different. The race started as I was walking over. I quickly took my shirt off and started the race. The morning was nice and cool, but not running cool. I would have preferred the temps to be in the low 50’s. Seeing the weather report, 60s and high humidity, I felt hydration was going to play a huge key role throughout the day.
During the first mile I made my way through the pack. I knew after the first mile the course was going to be runnable for the next couple of miles, so I did not want to get caught trying to pass people on the trail. I do not like running behind people on the trail. It’s mainly because I’m not discipline enough to give adequate space between myself and the person in front of me. This tends to lead to more toe grabbers.
The plan for the first 25 mile loop was to run at a feel good pace. This meant I did not want to feel like I was pushing anything more than an easy comfortable effort. The longest race previous to this was just over 60 miles, and that was over a year ago. I did not know how my body would hold up after the 60 mile point, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t get too crazy early in the race. My goal at hand was to finish. The thought of my finishing place was nowhere in the picture.
The first 25 mile loop was a feeler. I also knew it would probably be my fastest and best loop. I expected my energy levels to drop after each loop. The trail was in perfect running condition. It had a little bit of everything. There were some very runnable sections, decent climbs, technical sections, bridge crossings, switch back sections, short rollercoaster ups and downs. It kept you mentally engaged the whole way through. The fall leaves were beautiful and the course was nice and clean.
Finishing up my first loop I clocked in just over the 4 hour mark. My crew quickly took care of me and within minutes I was headed back out on the trail. At that point someone yelled at me saying I was sitting in second place. It was good to hear where I was, but my bigger plan was to finish the 100 so I didn’t give it a second thought.
Starting my second loop I was feeling pretty good. The course was still dry, but I had heard we were supposed to get some rain. My pace started to slow down, and it wasn’t until mile 32/33 at the Truth corner aid station where a volunteer asked me if I was taking in calories, that something clicked. My light bulb in my head finally came on, and I realized that I had miscalculated my calorie intake. I had prepped 4 hydration bottles that contained 1500 or so liquid calories. The plan was to consume a bottle per each 25 mile loop. I took this strategy from my Ironman triathlon experience. It worked really well for that type of event. However I came to the realization that I would need closer to 3,000 calories for each 25 mile loop if I planned on keeping a consistent pace. The missed nutrition showed as I finished the second loop and my second 25 mile split was closer to the 6 hour mark. I was almost 2 hours slower than my previous lap.
|Crew getting me setup for the next segment.|
Starting miles 50 to 75, I picked up a pacer and also began to adjust my calorie intake. I knew if I let that calorie intake get away from me I would run the risk of not finishing the event. I was thankful that I caught it early enough that it ended up being a non issue. Jose, my pacer was a last minute add on and was a great motivational pacer. During the 3rd loop I ended up setting a finishing goal of 24 hours. I had 14 hours to do it and figured I could hold a 15 to 16 minute pace that would get me there. The first 5 miles felt pretty good. The aid station had giving me a nice little pick up. We were averaging 12 to 13 minute miles. We were trucking along making brief stops at each aid station. I was now consuming more calories and my body was beginning to feel better. Truth corner had these awesome bacon quesadillas amongst other great hot foods. All was going to plan. We were clicking off mile by mile keeping them all under the 16 minute per mile mark then shortly after 10 pm a solid down pour hit the area.
I was at mile 65/66 running without a shirt. The wind began to blow and the rain soon followed. I was wet, cold and body began to shiver. The trail quickly became a wet, muddy slippery mess. Jose and I were slipping and sliding all over the place. The last mile leading up to Powerline mile 68 mark took us over 25 minutes to complete. I was wet and cold and without a shirt. I asked my crew to dry me off, and I slipped into an Under Armour warm top along with the Big Cedar 100 waterproof jacket. I knew the next 7 miles to the 75 mile mark may be slow, and I wanted to make sure my core temperature wasn’t going to be an issue. I had originally planned on switching pacers at mile 68 to allow some fresh legs to get me through the 68 to 75 mile mark, but I decided against it. My pacer for that segment did not have night or wet/muddy condition experience, and I did not want to put them in a situation where they could have had an incident on the trail. Jose on the other hand had that experience, and was ready to finish up that third 25 mile loop with me.
We started on the last 7 miles of the 3rd loop. It took a good 10 to 20 minutes for my core to warm up. The 7 mile segment was broken down into a 4 mile segment to the aid station and 3 miles back to Power Line aid station. The course at this point was very dangerous in several areas. There were a lot slippery wood bridges. My goal was not to do anything that would prevent me from finishing so we walked the best we could through the mud. The mud was sticky added a couple pounds to each foot. It was like walking with leg weights. All I could think about when we hit the mud was that I would have to cross this section two more times on my last 25 mile loop.
We approached a small creak crossing that had a dip in it with huge slippery rocks. My pacer and I were on one side of the creek and another racer and pacer were on the other side of the creak. They crossed the creek and made it look so easy. I asked them what the trick was, because my plan was to slowly step down and try to step across without getting my feet wet and falling. At this point of the race it was tough to power through anything, and I was concerned about not being able to have the leg strength to pull me out the other end of the creek without falling in the water. They said all you have to do is go for it and keep moving your legs. Well I figured there was a good chance of me falling if I took it slow and easy so I decided to go for it. I gave it a go and sure enough I made it through without falling! That was pretty awesome. I had made it across the creek, but in the process I also stubbed my left foot on a rock when I made it to the other side. All of a sudden the top of my left foot was hurting. Jose also used the same technique and made it across with no issues.
Jose and I started our walk again and I told him I think I just hurt my left foot. Each step I took bothered me. The wet muddy conditions along with focusing on not to fall help get my mind off my foot. At this time we both had walking sticks. They were money! Having that extra leverage helped me out tremendously. We finally made it through 6 of the 7 miles. I got a small second wind and was able to jog in the last mile. It took us 2 hours and 43 minutes to travel 7 miles, almost a 24 mile per hour pace. I had 25 miles left to go. My legs did not have the run miles to run 100 miles and I felt like my body had been reduced to a walk with or without mud. I was giving into the thought that I may take me 12 hours to do the last 25 miles.
|I make the slow trudge through the mud while my pacer|
Tracie patiently hung in there and supported me onward..
I picked up a new pacer, Tracie, at the 75 mile mark. I apologized to her as we began. I told her I do not know what to expect on this last leg, and there may be a lot of walking. We jogged about 3 miles, before I hit a physical wall. I mentally wanted to run, but my body wasn’t responding. I felt so defeated, but I kept my head up and told Tracie that I was finishing this race. I also told her my left foot was hurting. The pain would come and go for the next 18 miles. It wasn’t pretty, but we made our way through the mud and wind. Pace had slowed down tremendously. At this point anyone who was doing the 100, and still on the course was reduced to a walk during the mud segments. I remember I kept apologizing to Tracie for going so slow. This part of the race was the mental challenge. I was trying not to let my foot injury, sticky mud, slippery wooden bridges and slippery cement areas frustrate me. I focused on getting to each aid station and counting down the miles.
It took us 8 hours and 26 minutes to get through that 18 mile segment a 28 minute mile pace. I knew that Tracie endured a lot on that 18 mile segment, and I knew she had also committed to doing the last 25 miles with me, but I simply didn’t want to drag her with me for the last 7 miles knowing we would have to hit the mud once again. I gave her an out and pulled in Red for the final 7 miles of the race.
As usual my crew took care of me and prepped me for the last 7 miles. My crew lead Michele came through in a huge was with some delicious blueberry pancakes from IHOP. Again, this crew could not be beat. It was now day light and I was only 7 miles from my goal. I told my crew that I would be back in about 3 ½ to 4 hours. I was giving myself 30 minutes per mile pace. I figured I would walk the whole 7 miles. As Red and I started on the last 7 miles of this epic journey I apologized to her in advance for my walking speed. We made our slow trudge in the mud. Towards the end of the first 4 miles to Truth Corner I got another second wind.
This is where I sit in awe at the power of the human body, and its ability. Here I was with about 4 miles to go, and thoughts in my head of the finish line in less than 4 miles, thoughts of taking that DNF earlier in the year, thoughts of my daughter knowing that dad had DNF, and she was confident that I was not going to DNF this race, thoughts of filling that 100 void came together, and kicked started my adrenaline. There was no longer a foot issue. I was no longer using the stick to help me walk, because the walk had turned into a jog. I jogged into Truth corner for the last time and thanked everyone there for volunteering. My body felt great and I told my pacer that I was going to push while I was feeling good. We had about 3 miles left to the finish and finishing the race was going to happen.
|The Buckle :)|
We left the Truth corner aid station, and my adrenaline was still full on. I was not walking, power walking, shuffling or jogging. I was now running. I had 97 miles in my legs and busted up left foot, but none of that mattered. Legs felt fresh, and I was now running through the mud sections I was walking through earlier. I didn’t want to overdo it so I pulled back pace, and power walked a couple climbs. I told Red I’m feeling good and I’m going to push the last mile once we get back to the top of the hill. She gave me the go ahead telling me to go for it. The last mile was truly blissful. I ran through the last segment of the course like I had just started the race. Legs felt fresh and I was on cloud nine. I darted out of the wood section, running with my walking stick in hand onto the last 100 meters of the course. Words cannot describe certain moments we experience in life. This was one of them. I went back to compare the final three miles of each of the four 25 mile loops. Loop 1 was 41 minutes 46 seconds , loop 2 was 45 minutes and 12 seconds. Both of these were pre rain loops. Loop 3 was 1 hour 13 minutes and 14 seconds. This was a mud loop. The final loop clocked in at 40 minutes and 39 seconds, also a mud loop. Miles 97 to 100, the last 3 mile segment of the race ended up being the fastest of the four loops!
I’ve walked away from this experience feeling accomplished along with a stronger mindset, and a new appreciation for the will of the human body, and what I can endure. I do not recommend that other’s approached a 100 mile trail run with my low running mileage approach. If I were to do this all over again I would make sure I got the proper mileage in. I think the rain was a blessing in disguise as it allowed/forced me to walk a good little chunk of mileage. I think that help prevent complete leg muscle fatigue.
|Awesome crew and pacers!|
Thank you all for reading this lengthy blog entry. I’m truly a blessed individual to have such great friends and to be part of so many different active life style cultures. Each culture brings their own bit of crazy to the table for the love of the sport. That’s what makes this enjoyable for me.
Congratulations to all who toed the line this weekend. Showing up to the race knowing there was a chance of rain extra difficulty made each and every one of us a winner. We all took some type of learning experience from this race.
Couple Race Facts
- Big Cedar 100 was the first 100 mile trail run in the north Texas area.
- Over 60 athletes started
- 12 athletes finished this included 10 male and 2 female athletes.
- Over 80% of the field either dropped out or did not make the cut off time.
Thank you for reading my blog entry. As always feel free to email me any questions or comments you may have.