Zumbro 100: Race Report 2011
I can now officially cross off running 100 miles from my bucket list. This past weekend I ran the Zumbro 100 in southern Minnesota in Zumbro Bottoms State Park. It was an amazing experience but by far was the most difficult thing that I have ever done in my life. It was not that I underestimated the race or how difficult it would be, it’s that I really didn’t know what to expect until I was out there. This being my first attempt at a 100 mile race, there were many lessons learned, and most of them the hard way.
The course was made up of five 20 mile loops with 5 aid stations that you would hit along the way. The terrain was very technical, meaning that the foot was rocky and difficult. It is mostly horse trails with a few sections of gravel roads and most of the verticals looked like deer trails or single track trails. The most difficult part, in my opinion, was the footing. You really had to watch were you were stepping almost all of the time.
The evening before the race I went to the start for the packet pick up and the race directors Larry Pederson and John Storkamp were hosting a little BBQ. It was cool to talk to some of the other runners that had run 5, 10 or more 100 mile races or longer distances. The one thing that everyone seemed to emphasis to me was to not go out too fast. This made total sense, there was no real reason to try and kill yourself the first part of the race. I am a very patient marathon runner and generally have problems going out too slow so I didn’t think this would be much of a problem for me…I was wrong.
Lesson Learn: It’s 100 miles why would you go out fast…Why!?!? Go out slow there is plenty of time to run later.
The race started at 8am Friday morning and the weather was great it started out in the mid 40s and warmed up as the day went on. A friend of my Edward Sandor(check out his blog) was also attempting his first 100 mile race so we started out running together. I didn’t figure to have much company for most of the race, being that there were only 23 total runners (20 men, 3 women) so it was nice to talk with Edward and some of the other runners this first few miles. We definitely went out a little too fast, not that the time was that fast, first lap 3:48 mins, I just went a little too hard on the hills especially the down hills. When I started lap 2 I was already a bit tired, not a good sign, but I continued on and really tried to slow down. Now the weather was really nice but getting a bit hot and I do remember feeling a bit dehydrated and started taking “S Caps” which are salt tablets that endurance athletes will take in order to maintain hydrates and electrolyte balance. I hadn’t used them before so I was a bit hesitant but I think they really helped and it was a lot better than having to eat a bunch of gels. One other lesson learned was that if you’re debating whether or not to take an extra water bottle or not, take the extra one. From Aid Station (AS) 1 to 2 it is a 6 mile stretch and has the worst hills and generally took my at least 2 hours and during laps 2 and 3 I didn’t bring the second bottle and I ran out of water. You’d think I’d learn after lap 2, but nope it took 2 tries.
Lesson Learned: When it comes to hydration better safe than sorry.
The 3rd loop was a bit slower still and by this time I’m hurting pretty good, I’m tired and my legs are really starting to feel beat up. I can tell that my feet are starting to swell and that I’m getting even more blisters on my feet. Ben Bruce who was my one man crew and pacer (his blog) already helped me apply some moleskin to my left foot and some 2nd skin and moleskin to my right foot. They don’t feel too bad but I can tell they have already pretty beat up and I’m not even half way through the race. The third lap went ok but was slow again and it was dark by the time I got done with the 3rd loop. I pulled in the start/finish area at 10pm.
Lesson Learned: Take care of your feet at the first sign of trouble.
At this point I am really down in the dumps mentally, physically and emotionally. I had to really focus on only 5 feet in front of me, even when my thoughts would creep towards thinking of doing two more full loops or another 40 miles I would start to psych myself out. I felt really bad that I was having Ben run with me now that I was moving so slow, but I was really glad to have some company out on the trail, especially now that is was the middle of the night. I think that Ben may have had one too many cups of coffee before we left because he was a lot more excited to start running then I was, I had to tell him a few times to slow down because he started to get away from me and there wasn’t much I could do to keep up. It was great having him out there with me though, I was pretty sick of talking to myself and now that it was dark out there was not much to look at. I don’t really remember too much of the 4th loop other than it took a long long time and it was light out by the time I got done. I think it took somewhere around 10 hours.
Lesson learned: You cannot sleep and run on trails, you just trip and fall.
By the time Ben and I started the 5th and final lap we had a bit of renewed energy, at least I did, from the daylight. We were trying to run most of the flat areas and keep the pace up as much as possible. We had 10 hours until the cut off time, so we had plenty of time but didn’t want to take any chances. Now that we were on our last lap I knew that I would finish it was just a matter of how long and I had already been passed by quite a few other runners. We settled on a system of running as much of the flat parts as I could Ben pushing me most of the way. Once we got done with the section between AS1 and AS2 it was all down hill from there. We had another runner hot on our tails about 5 minutes behind us so we pushed as much as we could to try and tried to put some distance between us. It worked from AS2 to AS3 we lost them and about a half mile from AS3 a funny thing happened.We met my friend Kathy, who had passed me about 13 miles ago, we said hello and they ask if we had any tape we gave them a small amount that we had then took off. And when I mean we took off I mean we sprinted. As soon as I said goodbye a switch flipped and I felt like it was mile one. I literally sprinted the next half mile or so catching another runner along the way then two more at the aid station. We stayed only a minute to refill our water bottles then we sprinted out of AS3 and I sprinted up one of the steepest hills on the course like it was nothing. Then kept going, Ben was struggling to keep up, I guess it was my turn to dish out a little punishment for a change. It is amazing how you can go from lows to high’s so quickly. There were plenty of points during the race were I felt like I could barely move, then there was miles 92 to 94 were I almost sprinted both miles hills and all. It really goes to show you how important the mental aspect is in a race like this.
Lesson Learned: Just keep moving and remember its all mental. Mind over miles.
Once we made it to the clearing and the finish line was in sight I felt amazing. I sprinted, or at least what felt like a sprint, all the way into the finish line. As you can see I’m pretty happy to be almost done and to be able to sit down and get off of my feet.
Like I said this was by far the most difficult thing that I have ever done, I certainly couldn’t have done it alone, there were some great volunteers out on the course and Ben who really stuck it out with me the entire time as well as all of my friends and family for all of the support and encouragement. I had a great time and being able to over come some of those low points in the race now only makes me feel more energized. Everyone has asked me if I’ll do another one and I’m not quite sure yet, but if I had to bet I’d say that there is at least a few more 100 mile races in my future…but who knows what’s next.