Elk/Beaver 100k Race Report

Done like dinner.
Done like dinner.

So the race is over, and I can easily say this was the hardest run of my life. I haven’t run that many races, I guess, so that’s not a very dramatic claim, but this was intense. I guess perhaps the first marathon I ever did was harder, because I was about 100 yards from the finish line and still wasn’t sure I’d finish… but beginners don’t know true pain. And the Victoria marathon (2:56:56) was really goddamn painful… but only for 12 km or so. And my pace only slowed by about 30 s/km, so … how hard could it have been? And 100 miles at Leadville was a piece of piss compared to this, due to the relatively chill pace, walking breaks and walking up the hills (even though it was a very fast finish…) You just can’t push the effort like this in a 100 miles I don’t think. Well maybe someone can. I certainly can’t!

This though… this was taking suffering to a whole new level. I mean, 100k is like – “Run a really fast marathon. Then run another really fast marathon. Then you have just one really fast half marathon to go.” The mistake I made was deciding that because I could run 4:48 min/km on the flats of Richmond (or “Limbo”, as Ross called it) in training, I could run 4:48 on the course. Well this course was not the “flattest, fastest ultra in the world”. And if it is, I could make a flatter one. This was winding, with little climbs and descents here and there, just enough to make a fast pace extra painful… Plus the monotony of 10 laps (not as bad as I’d thought… 10 km in the woods is a long freakin’ way) makes it tough.

Pre-race:

So we show up with hardly any time to spare, as I’ve learned that getting to a race early is only good for adding stress. I do a few little jogs and shizzle to warm up. In a 100 miler I wouldn’t warm up at all, but since I plan on blitzing this thing at faster than my normal training pace I figured a few jogs wouldn’t hurt.

We line up with about 1 min to go, the countdown thing happens and we’re off.

Lap 1:

As usual, fuckers go out waaay too fast but I’ve got the Garminator activated and watching my pace. I basically let them go right away. I count 8 guys ahead of me. I’m doing 4:43 min/km and these guys are pulling away. I’ve seen the results for the last decade or something and I’m thinking there’s no way 8 guys are gonna run sub-8 hours. But these could be 50k runners too, so whatever. Because of the pace I figure maybe 5 of them are 50k and 3 are 100k. A few dudes looked pretty serious so I don’t try to catch them. I refuse to run faster than this anyway – I know I’ll blow up, if I do.

After about 3 km I get passed by some dude who looks like a turd but is moving fast, and some chick who looks like she’s working her ass off and does not have the body of a really fast marathoner. But in ultra running you totally never know. The fat bastard in the skin tight, sweater white long sleeve with the Grateful Dead bandana might just be a 20 hour 100 miler.

"Hold on I need to refuel before I finish setting this course record."
“Hold on I need to refuel before I finish setting this course record.”

That being said, I thought they looked awfully sweaty for this early in the race, but who knows. Maybe they’re running the marathon or the 50k. If I was doing the 50k I’d be long gone too.

So I hold this position for most of the lap, until the girl stops at an Aid Station and I never see her again. The turd dude (I hated him for passing me) was losing ground and it’s possible I caught him in the first lap, just before the starting section.

I’m making good time, running about 4:50′s and feeling “ok”. Not great, kinda having a hard time catching my breath, but that’s kinda normal for me, I’ve recently discovered. My right calf is already stiff (God-damnit!) and I have a tiny stitch in my right side, but other than the calf I was all good. My right foot / nerve pain starts to flare up a tiny bit around the 9 km mark but quickly goes away, never to return. Thank Christ, that would have been a race ender.

I run through the timing area feelin’ fine. Love me some cheering. Ross the Boss has water bottles in hand so I take a drink, and grab two gels. I’d forgotten my gels for the start and first lap, and the course had zero water on it (they said water at 5 locations!) but it was chilly as hell out so no worries.

I finish in 6th place, almost 2 full minutes (!) behind the lead pack of 5 (!) 100k runners. Roy Kok and Jeremy Walsh are neck-and-neck, battling it out for 1st place, and run the first lap in under 45 minutes! The other 3 are running about a minute behind in a tight group.

My time of 47:31 is just under my target of 48, so I am pleased. Life is good.

10k – 0:47:31 split – 0:47:31 total

Lap 2:

Another great lap. I have gels at 10 & 15 km (basically 2 gels per lap, the entire race.) I don’t stop for anything, although I need to pee, and make very good time, easily. The Garmin has me on 4:48 average pace and had measured the first lap short (thank God!) so I was ahead of my A+ goal (sub-8 @ 4:48 per km).

Right calf is getting worse and it’s making me angry. I imagine it trying to tear out of my leg, to give up and leave the rest of us to run alone. “Go then!” I yell, “Go on! Go! We don’t need you!!” while imagining this scene:

I hit the 20k mark still in 6th place. The leaders, Roy & Jeremy, again run sub-45 and are now 5 mins ahead of me. The others slow down a touch, but Oleg Tabalev, in 3rd runs a near identical lap to his first, in 45:51.

20k – 0:47:13 split – 1:34:44 total

Lap 3:

I lap my first person, at the 23 km mark. Some old lady just puttin’ along. For some reason this feels exciting.

I am definitely getting warmed up and the calf is feeling good (or at least, better), and I have the lay of the course pretty well. The section along the West of the lake is my favourite, and I put down a couple moments of 4:40 pace. Oops. On trails that’s pretty damned fast. Too fast. I reckon if I was on nice paved road I’d be averaging 4:20 or something. Cripes. I am still bang-on 4:48 on the Garmin though, even hitting 4:47 at one point. A+ goal looking very attainable!

During this lap I pass two people: #4 (Gary Poliquin) has a 50 minute lap, and #5 has an unfortunate 1:08 lap. I don’t think I even recognized or saw these guys as I passed them. Perhaps the 1:08 dude was on the shitter.

My pace is actually getting faster, and I come in at sub-47. I give Ross the “meditation hands” as I come in, like “I need to slow the fuck down!”, but I was feeling like a champ, and slowing down is really hard to do.

"Ooommm. Slow the fuck dooooowwwn."
“Ooommm. Slow the fuck dooooowwwn.”

The leaders, Roy & Jeremy, put down their fastest lap yet, a 44:29. Oleg goes even faster, 43:25 (!) and is sitting only 40 seconds behind them. This pack crosses the line at ~2:14. I cross at 2:21, so I’m now like 7 minutes behind. Gary is only a minute behind me, despite his slow-ish lap.

30k – 0:46:47 split – 2:21:31 total

Lap 4:

This is where it starts to hit me. 36 km mark, if I recall correctly, is where I notice that rather than constantly forcing myself to slow down, I am now roughly neutral and hitting 4:50′s. No effort required to slow down! I know this is a short-lived state, and that the race is about to start here any minute now! I stop to pee early on in this lap, but don’t really lose any time. Nasty stench of outhouse toilet, but only 15 feet off the course so it was not a time-sink.

I think I passed a couple of dudes in this lap, (turns out they were shorter distance guys) and when I cross the line Ross tells me that I am definitely in 4th place.

The lead pack run their fastest lap yet, and Oleg runs a 43:30 again, actually passing Roy and Jeremy. All three of them are within 10 seconds of each other over the line, and they are now a full 10 minutes ahead of me.

I finish the lap feeling “good”, but not great. My pace is perfect (or so I thought,) with 47:17 for the split.

40k – 0:47:17 split – 3:08:48 total

Lap 5:

Another totally solid lap with perfect pacing. I am doing great, and run through my first marathon in roughly 3:22, according to Strava. Pretty much right on schedule. I am definitely feeling it now and have to concentrate to maintain 4:48 or 4:50, but am still doing fine.

I make it a point to look fantastic every time I run through the timing station, and the crowds are giving me props for “looking good! wow!” Figure it can’t hurt to have other crews think I’m fresh as a daisy while their runner are suffering.

Jeremy Walsh has made another tiny push and regained first place, but Roy Kok has slowed down a smidge. The pack roughly comes in at 45.5 minutes, putting them ~ 13 mins ahead of me. Ross reckons that the guys in front are looking a bit rough, and has done his internet research, and concluded that I should be able to catch the guys in 2nd and 3rd. He concludes this based on the fact that this is Jeremy’s first 100k, and his marathon time is “only” 2:57… Ross obviously failed to notice that his half-marathon time is 1:14! Haha.

50k – 0:47:19 split – 3:56:07 total

Lap 6:

Another perfect lap for me, even faster than the last, which is a bit surprising.

Oleg nails another 45 minute lap, but Jeremy slows down to over 50 minutes, and Roy comes in around 1:09. I pass him walking (at least, I think it was him?) and he unfortunately drops out of the race at the end of this lap.

I’m now 13 minutes behind Oleg and 10 minutes behind Jeremy. 60 km down and I’m really getting tired at this point.

60k – 0:47:13 split – 4:43:20 total

Lap 7:

When I finally catch Jeremy he looks like a goddamn weapon, with legs like Hercules and the stride of gazelle (Ross’s words) but he has also blown up. He is at a slow jog when I pass him. He says “Good work man” and doesn’t give chase so I guess he is wasted? Unfortunately, according to his blog post he wiped out and hurt himself. Shitty deal.

So I’m in 2nd place, now, probably very comfortably, but fading fast. I come through the start area feeling like dog shit and cannot for the life of me believe that I have 30 km to go.

My split is a bit slower (granted, by only about a minute) but it’s 2 minutes faster (!) than Oleg’s, who comes in at 50 minutes. I’m now 11 minutes behind the leader. Jeremy comes in just 1 minute behind me, but drops out of the race.

70k – 0:48:06 split – 5:31:26 total

Lap 8:

Deep pain.

I finish again in roughly target time, but things are getting really, really damned painful.

Oleg has a terrible lap, a 54 minute split. So I hit the 80 km mark only about 6 minutes behind him! Ross knows I am dying, and his hesitant to try to push me any harder, but tells me if I can keep running 4:50′s I might catch him. Oh God. The thought makes me want to cry… if I had the energy.

I’m still 4 minutes ahead of a sub-8 finish. It’s possible…

80k – 0:48:30 split – 6:19:56 total

Lap 9:

Unfortunately, I’m really struggling. Like – badly. The wheels are falling off the cart, as they say. (Is that what they say?)

This lap is by far and away the worst. Of my life. I can barely move my legs. My hamstrings, quads, adductors and calves are so thrashed, I’m running bone on bone. The “hills” (read: even the slightest incline) are white-hot pure torture and require every ounce of willpower to not walk. I mean, I’m almost running in place. On the flats I try so goddamn hard to put the pedal down but I can barely get my average to 5:00, and most of the time it’s hovering around 5:25.

Ross told me that the leader had been doing 55 minute laps so I’m still faster than him (the only thing keeping me running, at this point) and I’m praying that old Oleg has impaled himself on a large branch, or perhaps been trampled by a horse, so that I could stop and walk the rest of the way.

"I am sorry you were trampled, Oleg, see you at the finish line."
“I am sorry you were trampled, Oleg. See you at the finish line.”

The worst part of this race is a little picnic area full of people who doing some nature exhibit. As “run” I past them, trying so hard not to run hunched over like a zombie, or to break down crying, they absolutely ignore me. No cheers, not a clap. Not even a glance! It makes my effort seem pointless. Ridiculous. Here is a broken man, in more pain than… ever before in my life? And it means nothing to them, and they don’t care. They don’t care how far I ran, or how fast I’m running. No one can help me. My pain is my own.

Conversely, the crowds at the starting area have been like angels from heaven tooting on their heavenly horns. Every cheer is like sweet, sweet mana from heaven. My form gets better and my pace is better and I forget about my excruciating (so, so excruciating) legs. It’s a drug, man. And then I round the corner and I’m alone in the forest with wooden legs of hell. Damnit.

Incredibly, I finish this lap without walking, which is now my only goal: don’t walk. I run a 54 minute lap, but Oleg runs a 55! I’m now less than four minutes behind the leader, but I’d been hoping for more. That’s a lot of time to make up in a single lap, when you can hardly lift your legs. My clock time is 7:13:58, and I know the odds of me running sub-50 for 10k are now basically zero, so I am nearly certain I have missed my sub-8 goal.

90k – 0:54:02 split – 7:13:58 total

Lap 10:

The last lap is hard, but as I run each section (I know it all by heart now!) I know I’ll never see it again, and that motivates me. I’m running really fast (ha) but still barely making 5:00 (on a good section!) and though I want to walk like crazy, I’m motivated by the idea that any minute, the leader could have crashed and burned, and I could take 1st. I am making “passable” time and counting down the last km’s. 9. 8. They pass by so incredibly slowly, it’s awful. It’s torture. But the urge to stop fades away as the clock ticks down, as does the pain.

I had missed the 8 hour cutoff, but as I rounded the lake to the “fast” section (is it really faster? Or is it all psychological?) I look out over the lake as the Garmin rounded 8, and I decide the starting area isn’t 2 km away. If I can run 5:00, for 2 km, I can do sub-8:10. I can do that.

So finally I have some motivation and manage to eek out a few extra horsepower, and finish well, in 8:07. Oleg finished in 8:01, having rallied a bit to run a 52 minute lap, to my 53. They must have told him I was comin’…

100k – 0:53:22 split – 8:07:20 total

Conclusion:

In conclusion, never race 100 km. It’s like a marathon, but instead of the pain lasting for 12 km, the pain lasts for 36 km.

Here’s the run on Strava, if you’re super keen:

“In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher.”

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: