I honestly never wanted to run a 100 mile race. Anything further than a 50 mile race was simply not appealing to me. I knew that to be successful at running a 100 mile race I would have to significantly drop my pace and hike quite a bit. Also the fact that most runners at that distance suffered greatly from GI and stomach issues was really discouraging. I don’t mind suffering from a sore and fatigued body but I see zero fun in feeling sick.
Anyway, after winning the 2018 50 mile distance at the Tahoe Rim Trail race I had a spark of interest to step up to the longer distance. I had won the 55k distance and the 50 miler so why not try for the last longer distance to see if I could get wins at all three distances. I know running a 100 miles is crazy but so was running 50 miles before I had done it and the same for the 50k distance. I also feel that many ultra runners see 100s as the real “ultra” distance. I don’t necessarily agree with that but I thought I should at least give it a shot and see what it was like.
My training left a lot to be desired. With shorter distances I feel I was able to incorporate a lot more intensity into my workouts and not put in the distance in terms of weekly milage and still run a good race. I still feel that way to a point but obviously volume needs to be up quite a bit more for racing a 100 mile race. My schedule and life doesn’t lend well to a huge volume so I knew that was one weakness I had going into the race.
Before the race I did the same thing I did for the 50 mile distance. I camped near the start in our camper van by myself. I tried to get a ton of sleep prior to racing, which I did. Everything was great and I was good to go.
When the race started I found myself near the front as I expected and the pace felt very easy. I found myself running with a young fellow (sorry I forgot his name) from Colorado. We chatted quite a bit until the climb out of the Red House loop at mile 17 where I started to pull away. I later learned he dropped at mile 30.
Everything felt great as I progressed out front at a pace that at the time felt fairly easy compared to my previous years 50 mile pace.
As I came into the mile 30 aid station at Diamond Peak I spotted George Ruiz the director whom I have known for quite some time. “BEN! What are you doing?” he asked. At that point I began to question my pace as I was way out front of the field. I told him I was probably digging my own grave as I sped out of there and started climbing out of diamond peak. I somehow missed a turn and added on about a 1/2 mile. This was totally my fault. I saw some hikers further up ahead and simply ran towards them without noticing a turn. I got back on course and kept at the same pace.
I knew I could have been pushing my luck but based on my experience the races that I take gambles on are often my best races or my biggest blow ups. I still love racing that way. I continued to push along. Everything was fairly effortless and without any issues like blisters, stomachaches, etc. I ran without a shirt and was drinking a lot so I wasn’t overheating. One of my first mistakes was that I was trying to see if I could run it solely on gels. I’ve had wonderful experiences in races at the 50 mile and 100k distance only eating gels so I thought I would see if I could do the same for a 100. I think that and the fact that I was running at a fairly fast pace were my two biggest mistakes.
As I reached the 50 mile mark aid station George was there again and repeated the same thing “BEN! What are you doing?” I sort of knew at this point as it was feeling quite hot that I really had dug my own grave. I later learned that my time to the 50 mile mark would have won the 50 mile race by 20 minutes! What a dummy I was. My legs started to feel heavy and my body was struggling to maintain an elevated heart rate. I got what I needed and start the climb up to the Hobart aid station.
This is where things started to slow. I found myself hiking too much. By time I hit Hobart I was hurting. I sat there for quite a bit. I think the heat had gotten to me and my stomach was not happy. I struggled to even think about what to eat or what to do as I now had a headache also. I think I ate a couple potatoes, drank a bunch and started walking. I was bummed to be feeling this way. My first half had gone so well and I feel like I was throwing it all away as I struggled along. Chris Price passed me at about mile 60 to take the lead and eventually win the race.
After that I spent a lot of time at each aid station trying to eat potatoes and some solid food to try to regain energy but I really would never get back to a running pace. I hiked and suffered for what felt like an eternity. I couldn’t believe how few people passed me. I then realized that this is sort of what a 100 miler is. Everyone was probably suffering, struggling and moving slowly.
I made it down to Diamond Peak a few hours later than I wanted to and picked up my pacer Luis. It was awesome to have Luis by my side as it was now night and I still had 20 miles to run. Chatting with him really made the time fly. With my original goal of trying win out the window now I simply wanted to finish. I think the hardest part of the whole race for me was climbing out of Diamond Peak. It is really steep and sandy and every time my heart rate went up I felt sick and would have to sit down to try to catch my breath. This probably happened 10 times and I was quite embarrassed every time I had to sit.
After the steep climb I switched between hiking and running the downhills slowly until Snow Valley Peak, mile 93. After reaching snow valley peak it is downhill to the finish. It always seems to take a very long time to get to the bottom. Luis and I were moving slowly but at least jogging. At about mile 97 I saw a light in front of me and as we rounded a corner I passed a guy leaning over on his poles. His pacer told me I was in 5th. Cool, that was better than I thought I was in after such a $h!t show for the last 40 miles. I picked up the pace a tad bit to put a gap on him.
After a couple minutes I looked back to see 4 headlamps bouncing along the trail behind me. Two racers and two pacers. Crap! another runner had caught up to me and the guy I just passed. With a jolt of adrenaline I said to Luis “Let’s f-ing blow them away!” I immediately started running what felt like 6 minute mile pace (was probably 8:30 or something pathetic) and it actually felt good and fun. I could feel myself starting to get sweaty. Luis and I weren’t talking and I simply ran hard. We ran like this for a few miles until the final stretch to the finish. I knew there was no way any of the guys behind me were going to catch me and to my surprise 4th place came into view up front but just a bit too late for me to pass him.
As such I ran through the finish in 5th place in 22:49, a time I wasn’t too proud of. It was nice to be done but I felt embarrassed by executing so poorly. I should have paced myself better. I should have eaten better. I should have trained more. Oh well! At least I know what to expect if I ever decide to run another 100 mile race which I promised myself I would never do again. Luckily us ultra runners have very short and hazy memories when it comes to pain and suffering.