Becoming an Ultraman! 2015 Ultra520K Canada

This story begins with reading “Finding Ultra” by Rich Roll in 2012 after breaking my foot.   I was inspired by the book to eat healthier and go for bigger goals and it’s where I  first heard of Ultraman.  Rich completed Ultraman in Hawaii which has an 6.2 mile ocean swim which didn’t sound that appealing. In researching Ultraman I found there is an Ultraman in Canada with a lake swim.  In first looking at Ultraman Canada it looked beautiful and I started looking at what it would take to do it.  I found you have to have completed an Ironman in under 14 hours and you had to have a crew and the entry fee was very expensive not to mention the travel.

I completed my first marathon, ultra-marathon and 100 mile ultra-marathon in 2013.  Also in 2013 I listened to a podcast called -No Meat Athlete that said you should pick a race that sounds crazy and gets you excited to train for.   I kept thinking in 2014 about possibly signing up for Ultraman but needed an Ironman.  Two weeks before Ironman Louisville I signed up and became an Ironman in August.  Around January 2015 I signed up for Ultraman Canada now known as Ultra520K Canada.    Just before signing up I asked my dad and brother if they would crew me and they said yes.

Originally Celeste and the kids were all going to go to the race but that changed in June when I changed jobs and we decided Ayden would go with me to meet my brother Jon and dad at Ultra520k Canada.  Celeste ended up taking Kyler and Brooklynne to spend the week with her sister and kids and her mom in Texas.

Ayden and I had a long adventure getting to Canada.  After dropping Celeste and K and B at the Airport we were supposed to fly out 1 hour later to Spokane, WA but the flight was cancelled because the airport got hit by lightning.  We ended up getting rerouted to Seattle through Baltimore and Chicago.  We got to Seattle in the afternoon and drove 6 hours to Penticton BC for the race.  We started Wed morning at 3AM in Nashville and didn’t get into Penticton until 1:30 AM Pacific or 3:30AM Central. A marathon of traveling to start the race week, not good but the race didn’t start until Saturday.

The race format is 3 days, 1st day is 6.2 mile swim then 93 mile bike.  2nd day is 173 mile bike. and the 3rd day is 52.4 mile run.

Day 1

This day full of a lot of firsts!  My dad and brother have never crewed anything and same for my 9 year old son Ayden.  I had never raced a multi-day ultra event or swam more than 2.4 miles.   A requirement of the swim is you need a swim escort in a Kayak.  My brother Jon said he would do this, also a first.   The race morning began on the beach of Lake Skaha with a total of 25 racers from 12 different countries.

The plan was for Jon to paddle alongside me and for my dad and son to go to the other side of the lake and set up transition to the bike for me.  The swim went well except once I got off-course and heard Jon blowing a whistle to let me know I was swimming off-course.  Another tough part of the swim was my brother told me I was in last place but later found out I was 13th place in the water.   I thought I would do the swim in 3 hours but it took me 3:45.  I got out of the water at the same time as Ricardo from Mexico and was excited to get on the bike.  I had a quick transition and I passed the first rider on the uphill to the main road who was Nat from NY(Nat was great to race with and kept telling me how lucky I was to have my son along with me).  Shortly after I passed Anel from Kazakstan.

I was feeling great and enjoying the ride the first 35 miles mostly flat or down and with the wind.   I passed Shane from Canada, Shane and I passed and re-passed each other a lot over the 3 days. I also passed Chika from Japan and first saw her crew jumping up and down cheering.  Every time I saw Chika during the race she was smiling and her crew was yelling go Dustin!

The first day it was around 100 degrees and once I started climbing around 35 miles it got hard.  During the race briefing the race director Steve told us it was going to be very hot and if needed to get into the crew car for a few minutes to cool off.   Around 75 miles into day 1 I got in the car for 5 minutes and cooled off, I was extremely overheated.   I got a great shot in the arm from a competitor Robert from Canada with about 10 mile to go he passed me and we passed each other back and forth many times leading into the finish.   We must have passed each other 10 times in the last 3 miles alone.  I decided to follow him into the finish and passed him just before the line by 8 seconds and finished day 1 in 9:30Hrs and 9th overall!

I fell asleep at the restaurant waiting for the food and passed out as soon as I got to the hotel.

Day 2

We had to get all our stuff out of the hotel in the morning because we would be staying in another town 50 miles away after day 2.  Jon and my Dad did a great job packing and helping me get ready for the ride.  I asked the Day 1 bike winner Dustin from Seattle what he was eating on the bike and he mentioned peaches.  I would ask for lots of peaches throughout the day.  The day started out very fun with the front 7 or 8 riders staying close together at a fast pace.  I stayed with this group for about 10 miles.  The first 35 was out and back on the same route as day 1.   I got to see the leaders coming back before the turn around and Ross from England was leading with Kate from Australia in 2nd (she was leading overall after day 1) and the other Dustin was 3rd but was stopped fixing a flat.  Around 70 miles into the ride there was supposed to be a big steep climb called the wall. As I was approaching this climb Ross who had been leading came by.  I asked what happened and he said his bike broke. (I later found out he also had 2 flats later that day.)

I was in 7th place on the road and around 135-140 miles or so I passed the finish line and headed up hill into the wind for another out and back.  About 10 minutes later I decided to get in the car to cool down and eat.  When they poured cold water on me and turned the AC up my body started to shake uncontrollably and my brother called for a medic.   The medic said all my vitals were okay.  Ayden kept asking “dad when are you going to get out and go again?”His words got me out of the car.  This was the lowest point of the race for sure.  I went to get up and go again and Jon said you have a flat!   I am lucky my bro knows how to fix a flat and in a few minutes I was riding again. It was hard in the car watching about 5 riders go by.  It was a tough slog to the turn around but on the way back I kept going faster and faster. – I could smell the finish line.  I saw other racers going out and I was worried some would not make the 12 hour cutoff. Karen from CO was a long way back and I was hoping she was going to make it and I heard someone had just made the cutoff and someone just missed it.  I found out Karen had made it but Anel from Kazakstan didn’t.   (Anel was so inspirational running a great 52.4 mile the last day despite not being an official racer.)  I was so excited to see the finish line on day 2 after 11 hours and I was in 13th place overall.  Steve the RD after the race told me to call my wife because she was very worried after she heard they announced my crew had called for the medical crew.  I texted her that night and called her the next morning to tell her I was okay.  I felt so bad Celeste had told me her and her sister and mom were very upset and worried if I was okay.  All they had heard was my crew had requested medical to come and help.  I ended the day falling asleep at the restaurant in Ayden’s lap waiting for dinner.

Day 3

After two hard days there were only 20 racers left.  The morning it was cool and crisp and great to know at the finish I would become an Ultraman.  I had decided like most of my Ultra-marathons I would start out fast and hold on at the end.

I had looked at the run profile and it looked like the second marathon was down hill.  I must have read it upside down because the 2nd marathon was more climbing than the first 26 miles.  Jon had trained in preparation to pace me part of the run.  He had done 20 miles as his longest run and was thinking of running the last 26 with me.   He ended up running 45 miles!

I started out in 3rd place behind Ross from England and Juan from Spain.  From around 2 miles to 6 miles I ran with Kate from Australia (who became the overall winner).  A really cool thing happened around 5 miles,  Ayden came running up next to Kate and I with a water bottle in hand and the pacer ribbon yelling he wanted to be my pacer.  He did a great job and ran at our pace of about 8min/mile for about a half mile.  It was great seeing his enthusiasm and excitement.  It was like a dream having Ayden there cheering me on all three days!

Around 6 miles into the run Jon joined me and it was great having him to run with for what ended up being his 1st marathon, and 1st Ultra-marathon!   We grew up running in the woods together and it was so great running in the Canadian rockies side by side.   Around 25 miles into the run we passed Ross the early leader who was now throwing up alongside the road.  I told him to keep going and he said he had been suffering for 5 hours.  I could not believe he would keep going after being in so much pain for so long.  Wow what an inspiration!!  Ross ended up walking it in after puking 40 times to finish before the 12 hr cutoff.

We had a great time running with Frederico from Portugal and his pacer/coach. They even shared a sandwich with us!  All of the other teams were so supportive and encouraging throughout.   The Japanese team even gave Jon and I tomatoes and fruit and of course lots of cheers!

I finished the run in 10:30 hours which was good enough for 9th overall and was now an Ultraman!  I ran across the finish with Ayden, Jon and my dad which was just incredible!

I want to thank Celeste for allowing me to chase my crazy dreams.  I want to thank my brother Jon for being my crew captain, for being my swim escort, team leader, bike mechanic, watching Ayden, navigator for dad and my pacer for 40+ miles!  And thanks to my dad for making the long trip, driving 10+ hours a day for 3 days and giving such great support!  Also would like to thank Steve and his Daughter Alexis Brown for putting on a world class event that I would recommend to anyone!  To the other athletes I want to thank you for being such great inspirations that I will never forget.

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Pinhoti 100- 2014 – my second 100 mile run

This would be my second ever 100 mile run and my second Pinhoti 100.   I had a successful first 100 last year but I made a bunch of rookie mistakes and I wanted to see if I could improve by changing what I learned last year.  My goals for this year were to beat last years time of 24:50 and go under 24 hours and try to break into the top 10-20 overall(last year I was 46th.)

Last year I took long stops at most aid stations, but this year I planned to make much shorter stops. Last year I wore shorts with liners the first half and had very bad chafing, this year I planned to wear stretch pants with no liners the whole race. Last year I changed shoes at mile 85, but toe box was small and my feet had swollen were very painful until I changed the shoes back 10 miles later.  This year I planned to wear the same shoes the whole race.

I had the same crew from last year my friend Dean and his wife Heather from Atlanta.  When I called Dean to ask if they would crew me again he asked why I would do this to myself again?!!  I told him I love running in the woods!  Last year my wife Celeste and my kids came to cheer me on.  But after last years race I went back to my hotel and took a hot bath which caused me to vasodilate and I passed out.   After seeing me pass out Celeste said she would not go back again.  I thought she may change her mind but as it turned out her photography business was very busy and she had two shoots the same weekend , so no family support this year.

Also on the family side is the timing of this race sucked!  Because I had to be at packet pick up Friday night in Alabama which was also the night of Halloween. So for the first time since having kids I missed trick-or-treating with them.  I will not be doing a race again where I have to miss Halloween! Kids are little for such a short time and I don’t want to miss out again.

I made another change this year about 2 months before. I decided to change my running shoes that I ran in last year.  Last year I ran in Montrail’s and they did a good job but I felt almost every rock and root.  I kept hearing how over a long race like 100 miles, a  more cushioned shoe would allow me to run in less pain.  So I decides to try using Hoka’s this year which turned out to work great.

This year I went to the pre-race meeting/dinner and packet pick up Friday night that I missed out on last year. I got to talk with runners I met last year and meet some new ones.  After the dinner I went to the hotel and tried to get to sleep early. I made a Facetime call to my wife and kids to see all the candy they got trick-or treating.  I had to get up very early around 3:30AM to take a bus to the start line.  I got very little sleep and tried to catch a few zzz on the 1.5 Hr bus ride. It was very cold 29 or 30 and windy and no one wanted to get off the bus until right before the start.

I was very happy to see Dean and Heather around 30 min prior to the start and handed them my gear bag.  I told Dean that I wanted to get in the top 10 or 20 this year and planned to go out with the leaders and try and hold on.   He said it sounded like a good plan and if it didn’t work I could always slow down.

I lined up at the front of the race to get a good position. The race starts on a gravel road for about 100 yards then goes right into single track trail.  Last year I went into the woods in about 25the place and it was like a conga line for the first 6 or 7 miles.  This year I went into the woods in second place and I could run at my own pace.  A dog came running by early on and then I got passed and went into 3rd place.  At around mile 5 I got passed and was still in 4th place at the first aid station at mile 6.

I had planned to run all the hills the whole race. And through the first two aid stations I did not walk any hills.  Coming into the second aid station to my surprise I was catching back up to the guy in 3rd place.  As I approached the aid station I could hear a train, but I did’t think much of it.  But as I got closer Heather and the aid station volunteers were yelling the train is coming!  I ran passed the aid station table and watched 3rd place cross the tracks in front of me and I started to run toward the tracks also and could see the train was fast approaching.  I made the split second decision that I am a Dad of three and decided to stop.   Once I made the decision to stop I stood and watched as the 5th, 6th, and 7th place runners came into the aid station. I was very frustrated at this point because not only was I catching 3rd but now the gap I had on the three behind me was completely erased!!  I was fuming for at least an hour and I new the 6 or 7 minutes wasn’t a big deal but the mental part of having the others catch me sucked.

For the next 27 miles until I reached the highest point in Alabama at mile 40 (Cheaha Mtn.) I kept going back and forth within the top 10.  Some of the runners I was passing and getting passed by that I met were Nathan and Kelly.  Nathan was from Chattanooga and had his two young daughters and a wife cheering him on and Kelly from Kentucky being crewed by his mom.  The view from the top of the mountain was beautiful.   The only problem up to this point was on the climb up to Cheaha my back started hurting.  I was on track for a 20 hour finish as other runners kept telling me but I knew the pace would slow at night and there was the climb up Pinnacle at mile 75.

My nutrition was going pretty good I was trying to get a GU gel pack in every hour and getting real food at aid stations. Hot soup was my favorite!   Including a cupcake that kelly’s mom gave me at the top of Cheaha mountain.   I was using water and Heed and kept trying to drink, I was concerned about hydration because I was having to force myself to pee.  Later in the race I decided to stop the HEED and just drink water.

At mile 55 I put my lights on and turned on my Ipod to go run in the dark. The music was good company as I never listen to music when training.  I found it very difficult to keep a good pace in the single track in the dark.   At this point I fell out of the top 20 and my back was hurting on every climb.   At around mile 57 I changed my watch from one to the other.  From last year I learned my Garmin watch would only last 18 hours.  And after it died I would have no idea how much further each aid station was , so I decided to wear two watches this year.   Before I shut the first watch off it was acting up and going haywire and was getting frustrated until I turned on the second one.

At around mile 70 I started the climb up to Pinnacle and I just put my head down and hiked all the way up. It was how I remembered,  very windy and cold (around 28 degrees).   I remembered they had loud music playing at the top last year and I kept listening for it but it felt like the switchbacks up the mountain went on forever.  I was so relieved when I finally got to the aid station at mile 75 and I sat down by the fire and had an egg and cheese sandwich and some hot soup.  They told me that I couldn’t stay long and kept asking if I wanted a shot of whiskey!  Even though I declined their nice offer, the volunteers were great here and at all of the aid stations!

This was the longest I spent at an aid station and it was hard to get going and knowing the trail kept going up for another 8 or 9 miles.   Much of the climb were jeep roads but were very rutted out and hard to get any type of running pace on.  An enjoyable part of this section was when I kept looking behind me thinking another runner with a light was coming, was actually the moon shining so bright!  Also I stopped a few times and put my hand over my headlamp to look at the stars. WOW! – the sky was just amazing there must have been a million stars out that night!

I knew that the last 15 miles were mostly dirt roads and the race finished on a paved road so I was hoping to have a strong finish.  I kept doing the math adding the distance and time from the first watch to the second watch that I had turned on at mile 57.

When I was able to run on dirt roads and not on single track I was able to get a good pace.  I learned on the single track trail that for my next 100 I need to get much brighter lights.  I took a face-plant once or twice and was very timid and slow thereafter on the single track.

At mile 85 I I started to pick up the pace and felt much better on the gravel roads.  I did come across something strange on one of the jeep trails at around 2 or 3 AM.  A drunk couple  with there car stuck and asked if I had time to help them.  I smiled and said sorry I’m in the middle of a race.   It was very strange and I wasn’t entirely sure I hadn’t only imagined it until I read other race reports that saw them also.

During the last 10 miles I passed some runners including a guy from Wisconsin I met on the bus ride. He told me he had crewed Scott Jurek at Western States and on his first attempt at WS he finished in 22 hours.  As I passed him he told me” I can’t believe what strong finishers their are in this race!”   I said thanks and he was doing great as well.  This gave me a great boost and it felt good to be passing people at the end.   As I went out on the road for the final 2.5 miles it was very foggy and my lights were all but out and I didn’t want to stop and change the batteries.  The road seemed like it went uphill all the way to the school at the finish.   I kept looking at my watch and I was calculating my finish time.

I was so excited to see my finish time of 22:11, almost 3 hours faster than last year!  I got my buckle and Heather took my picture at the finish line.  I went into a warming tent they had at the finish and there were about 5 other runners sitting covered in blankets.  That’s when Heather told me I finished in 18th place!  Wow, what a great feeling meeting and exceeding all my goals for the race!   I ate pancakes and listened to the other runners.  The RD and the other runners were talking about the trophies for age groups.  The race director said he was doing one age group winner and it was for the top finisher over 46 and I said can you change it to 44 and older?  He just laughed.

Heather and Dean picked up my car and took me to my hotel. They did a great job all the way around and I am lucky to have them as friends!

I slept for about 5 or 6 hours and then I headed home.  I stopped in Birmingham for lunch and ordered a 18″ large pizza and ate the whole pie.

There were parts of the race when my back was hurting and it was bone chilling cold and I thought this was my last 100 miler.  But only a week or so later I put my name in for the Western States lottery.  So, I think I was born to run!

I am so thankful to my family for supporting me through all my crazy ultra races.   I am so thankful for the Pinhoti Race director putting on such an awesome race and all the volunteers out there all day and night!

Thanks for reading and if you run I hope we get to run sometime.

.

Pinhoti 100 – First 100 mile race 11/2-3 2013

5 screws and can still walk!

5 screws and can still walk!

How do you start a hundred mile run?  What races do you do, what training do you do, what stuff do you need?  This journey began after I broke my calcaneus in half and needed surgery and 5 titanium screws to put it back together.   I came very close to never being able to walk the same again let alone run.   While recovering I read many books including ultra marathon man by Dean Karnazas.  Dean described how he was very unprepared and he somehow willed his way to his first 100 mile race.   This is when I started looking for one to do myself.

I first singed up for my first marathon in October 2012 to be in April 2013.  While training I ran 26.2 miles on the trails in December and decided to sign up for a 50K trail race in March.   I raced the Fall creek falls 50K and started out way to fast and was miserable the last 10 miles but still finished in 5:30 hours.   I started out much slower pace for the marathon a month later and had a much better race and finished in 3:37 in the pouring rain. I planned to run a 50 miler over the summer but with the new job and living in WA state for a month it never happened.

Fast forward to Nov 1st and the Pinhot 100 in Heflin Alabama.  I had convinced my friend Dean and his wife Heather from Atlanta to meet us Saturday and be my crew for the race.   Friday after school Celeste and I and the kids left for Alabama.  We got to Mellow mushroom to pick up my race packet around 9:30 PM and to sleep around 10:30 at the hotel.

Saturday morning the alarm went off at 4am( I had got up at 1am and at 3am so excited and nervous for the race) and I started getting dressed for the race and loading the car.  I got Celeste and the kids up and we headed to the start.

I texted Dean on the way and as it turned out he was the car ahead of us on the dirt road heading to the start.  We got there about 5:15 am and I handed Dean and Heather my gear bag and cooler.  It was dark so I had my head lamp on as we all walked the half mile down the dirt road to the start which was lit up with a string of light between two trees.   I signed in and was officially listed as a racer.   I kissed the family and took some pics and then I went over to a fence by the start line to stretch.   I started talking to a guy stretching next to me who had the same shoes on as me.    He told me he would be changing his shoes around mile 80 because there were a lot of dirt and paved roads at the end, I told him I would also.  (I said I would but I did not know what I was talking about!)

The start was a simple “1 minute to go” then “start”!    I gave the kids high fives and got into the group toward the front.   Very quickly we left the dirt road and onto the trail.   We were all running in a long line, I peeked back a few times to see the line of lights it was cool.   We very quickly started crossing creeks and I had told myself to keep my feet dry at all costs so I slowed down and skipped across rocks on each crossing.  Most people did the same but a few people acted annoyed and ran straight through.   This surprised me a little knowing we were less than 5 miles into a 100 mile race.   Running in front of me right from the start was the guy I was stretching next to at the start.  I found out he was Errol Josephs and in front of him his friend Johan Desmet. They had both run this race before  and both were from outside of Atlanta.  Johan said he wanted to PR and finish under 24 hrs and Errol joked I don’t want to run with you then that’s too fast for me!  They commented I was running very fast for my first 100, I said it felt good but I would probably regret it later.

The first aid station came at mile 6.7 and I had decided to go with one hand held bottle and would hand the empty one to Heather and she would hand me a full one.(this strategy had some faults as I learned later).  Anyway at the first station my family was there (I was surprised because Celeste said she would go straight back to the hotel) and I forgot to grab anything to eat.   I realized shorty after leaving the aid station I had no gel or food so I asked another runner for a goo or gel and he gave me a goo and I was very thankful.

The second aid station 13. 27 I did the same water change out but this time took some goos and chips and a cookie.  I was chatting and running about a 10-11 min pace and really enjoying the views with the colors and vistas.   The next aid station 18.27 more water and more chips , goos, and some cookies.

Between aid station 5 to 6 and 7 were the long ones we were supposed to have two bottles but I had forgotten and was still only carrying only one.  I ran out of water each leg and did not have the crew until aid station 7 where I changed to two bottles.  I had also tried using HEED drink in my one bottle a few legs and I was having trouble peeing.   One of the legs I ran out of water I got desperate and asked a runner for some water and she said no but her pacer offered some and I took it.  Unfortunately it was not water but some type of energy drink that was giving me abdominal pain each time I drank it.  So I was very thankful to see my crew and change to two bottles at the next station.  I decided to fill one with HEED and one with water and this system worked great for the rest of the race and I started to pee very regularly.   Talking about using the bathroom I got to use the wipes I brought the first time at mile 30 again at mile 43.

Aid station 7 at mile 40 was great for a few reasons, one was Celeste and the kids were there and the other was it was sunny and warm and the view at the top of the mountain was incredible!    I changed my socks lubed up my feet and my crotch (which was starting to get chafed) and had a sandwich was feeling very uplifted from the stop.

Oh and Dean for the first 3 or 4 stops kept telling me I only had 20 or people in front of me!   I also met a runner in this stretch as we ran on a dirt road that said he wanted to go faster while we were on hard pack.  I took this to start a mantra until dark – that I needed to “make hay as long as the sun is up”.  Every time I slowed I would speed up and repeat that mantra.

I think it was aid station 10 (mile 55) that again I was surprised to see my family and it really lifted my spirits.  At this point my crotch was on fire and the shorts liner was killing me I kept putting tons of Vaseline but it only brought short term relief.  I think it was on the next leg I realized the liner was killing me and I needed to change, so at the next stop I think mile 60 I asked Dean for my long spandex pants(with no liner) and I got rid of the shorts – WOW what a relief!!  The crotch pain was finally over!

At this point I started putting warm close on and my lights and the cooler it got the more the cold food I brought did not sound good but the hot food at the aid stations sounded great and I had some bacon, quesadilla, Raman noodle soup, and some pickle juice and coca-cola.  Also at 6PM I turned my iPod on and it worked great having that to keep me focused through the night hours.

The miles from 70 to 80 were tough climbing up to pinnacle with the wind, cold and long climb it was slow going.  At aid station 16 (85 miles) in I made a big mistake and decided to change my shoes to my road shoes that have a tight toe box.  Well this made it impossible to run and Heather told me she would see me in 5 miles so I hobbled 5 miles in great anticipation of changing shoes back only to find out at mile 90 there was no crew and I had to go another 5 miles with the same shoes!!  This was probably the lowest point of the race for me, even at one point I was convinced I had passed the next aid station and I started to turn around but my old buddy Errol said turn around you were going the right way!   I had come up on Errol and Johan 5 or so miles back and said hey guys we can still make 24 hours.  (Which they just grunted but actually they both finished together in just under 24 hrs).

I was so happy to see Dean and Heather at the last aid station at mile 95 I could have kissed them, I changed my shoes and was off.  I thought I had lost any chance of making 24 hrs until I looked at my phone which said 5 am. I had forgot about the time change and started really picking up my pace.  Also at mile 91 my Garmin watch died so I had no idea how far each station was which made those miles walking even worse!    The last 5 mile went well except I had no watch and once I hit the pavement I thought the school must be less than a mile away and started running fast but it just kept going on for what felt like forever and I started to hurt and slow down but kept running until finally I came around a corner and saw the school and I saw the time was 24:50 I was happy I got in before 25 hrs and I had done it!!!!

One thing at the end that was a little anticlimactic was that Dean and Heather and Celeste and the kids all missed my finish.