I really debated internally if I should sign up again for the Fort Ord 50k, which I did last year, or try for something a bit more challenging this year. It was very tempting to try for the 100k and really push myself to a new achievement. I honestly couldn’t wrap my brain around running 60 miles over 10+ hours. But I’ve always been fascinated with doing things which seemed a bit unreasonable and nonsensical. I silently signed up for the Ordnance 100k without telling anyone and mentally told myself I could back out last minute if I wasn’t feeling it in the training leading up to the race. It felt a little rushed and last minute, but that made it all the more appealing.
The weeks I did have to train leading into the race, I was able to put in some good miles and really push the maximum distance I have ever run on a trail. Even with a good amount of work travel, I was still able to do some long runs on the weekends and some decently big runs during the week. Two weeks out from Ordnance 100k I had a 5-hour run scheduled, where I did a 35-mile trail run on a big section of the race course. I believe the longest run I had done prior to this was a measly 26.2 miles. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed these long trail runs. The pace was much more relaxed than most of my road miles. Strapping on a pack full of water and snacks and heading out for the morning only to come back exhausted and starving was much more gratifying than I could have imagined.
The week leading to the race, I was much more excited than I originally expected. The pressure of a full Ironman race wasn’t there because there was no travel or huge pressure I put on myself. Running is so much simpler than triathlon. There is no pressure of damage to the bike while traveling, or mechanical issues. I felt a bit more relaxed and easy-going. Plus, I was getting excited to be able to say I’ve run a 100k race.
I had put some planning into the race, anticipating taking in about 300 calories an hour, if I could handle that. The issue was, I would get most of my calories from aid stations, so there was really no way to track calorie intake. Same issue with fluid. I would carry a hydration pack with bladder and fill it up as needed, but again, no way to actually track how much fluid I took in. My only worry was dehydration. Since the intensity is lower than in Ironman, I knew I would sweat a bit less, but still, a lot could go wrong over 10 hours. It was also planning on being one of the hottest days in months.
I anticipated a 4am breakfast the morning of the race. I like to eat 2 hours before start. Alarm was set for 3:55, to allow for the 5 minutes to get dressed and pour a cup of coffee. Sadly, I was up well prior to 3:55… Camille had one of her worse asthma attacks that night about 2am. So we were both up and out of bed at 2. My second race in a row with maybe 4 hours of not-good sleep.
Breakfast was peanut butter, honey, banana toast and the rest of the pot of coffee. I also grabbed an extra bar to take 20 minutes before the race start. Because they race was a 10-minute drive from the house (I actually could have run to the start faster than driving there), I had plenty of time when I got there to leave my drop bags and hang out for a bit and stretch in the dark. Each drop bag had an extra pair of socks and shirt in them, just in case, as well as my pair of sunglasses to pick up once the sun came out.
The race start was very mellow. After the race director explained the course markings, the 60 of us gathered under the starting arch for the 6am race start. Oddly, when the race began, most runners took off much faster than I was thinking. With over 10 hours of running, I don’t see why people would begin with anything other than a quick jog. Maybe just to warm up from a cold morning. I tried to go as slow as possible without getting run over. It had been a while since I had run in the dark with a headlamp and I was not going to risk rolling my ankle again. This was especially true as we hit the first single-track downhill section, where I took baby steps down the trail, very afraid of catching my foot on some evil branch or rock.
About an hour into the run, the sun started coming up and I was able to switch off my headlamp. I really wanted to stop to take some epic sunrise pictures, but I held off, trying not to kill too much time. I came up behind my friend Ryan who was running just ahead of me. He had been very helpful sharing information and strategy leading into the race, so we ended up running together for the next 10+ miles, chatting on and off. This was a great way to keep the pace mellow and pass the time.
At the second aid station, I dropped off my headlight, took off my jacket and grabbed a handful of broken pop tarts. The aid stations were fully stocked with every item of junk food imaginable: pop-tarts, cookies, brownies, pretzels, M&Ms, PB&Js. It was challenging not to just stand in awe of the selection of junk food I was allowing myself to indulge in. Maybe it was no surprise that my stomach was not happy with me right from the get-go of the race (even before my first pop tart). At the risk of too-much-information, I’ll just say, that I battled major stomach issues the entire race. It was not fun and made for very uncomfortable running, then entire race.
The miles were slowly ticking away. I finally made it to mile 20, which was a big milestone for me because I could say that I was a third the way done (about). I wasn’t sure if it was normal or bad that my body was getting a bit tight and stiff. 20 miles on these ups and downs takes its toll. I kept telling myself, just make it to mile 40, then I could suffer through the last 20 or so miles. I knew most of the climbing and the hardest part of the course was the second half of the race.
About every hour, I would hit another aid station and grab another handful of chewy chips ahoy cookies, a brownie and a PB&J sandwich square. I really did like those chips ahoy cookies. After the Toro aid station, I knew I had a long climb/slog up Guidotti to Laguna Seca. To make the course even worse, at the top, there was trail 47 waiting, which was another quad-killing downhill on single-track, followed by another long single-track slog back to Laguna Seca. This was by far, the slowest part of the race both mentally and by pace.
I finally made it to my big mental goal, of mile 40, which concluded the first big loop of the course. Only another 20-ish mile loop to go. It was odd to think that every step was the longest run I have ever done in my life. Luckily, at mile 40, I had my friend Rob waiting for me to pace me and keep me company. He had just raced the 25k and offered to keep me company the last section of my race. Most of my race, I was listening to music. I was happy to have someone to talk to for a bit and change up the experience.
Rob and I chatted a bit on the long downhill from Laguna Seca. After a quick aid station stop, we were off for some more single-track. Having a pacer in front really helped. I was a bit off mentally and I could tell I wasn’t thinking as sharply as I normally do. Having someone to follow and choose the line, is very helpful. As I slowly broke down physically and mentally, it was great to be able to chat a bit to take my mind off the discomfort. As we started the uphill section with about 15 miles left to go, Rob dropped off and I was back on my own listening to music.
As I made my way back to Toro, the trails got a bit more crowded with hikers and families. Having to smile and say hi to people as I passed them helped keep my mood up. After the last Toro aid station, I wasn’t eating anything anymore. I grabbed more cookies, but then just tossed them because my stomach didn’t want anything else. I drank maybe half a liter of coke at the aid station to hopefully hold me over till the end. I also texted Camille and told her I was about an hour and a half from the finish, so she could plan on meeting me with the kids.
Another very long and slow slog up Guidotti as my body broke down even further. It’s funny that no matter how long I race or run, my body knows when the finish is in sight and just completely breaks down. If only I could convince my body I had 10 more miles to go and I’d feel great crossing the finish. At the top of Guidotti, I knew I only had 4 more miles of nasty single-track left. A blister in my toe popped just then and I felt the sharp pain. I knew if I could just run through it, the pain would go away in 15-ish minutes. I hobbled on, half limping and half speed walking. By the bottom of the trail, the blister pain was just white noise with everything else going on with my body. I was happy to be at the last climb. I gave myself permission to walk any steep hill I wanted…. whatever it took to just finish the race.
At mile 60, I still had another mile or so to go. This whole time, I had mentally been counting to mile 60, so when it came and I still had 10 more minutes of running, I cursed myself under my breath. But I was deeply happy to know I was going to finish with a strong time and accomplish what I came here for. Rob met me at Laguna Seca to run with me the last quarter mile. We had a good laugh at the silliness of that we do and we made the last steep quarter mile to the finish. Camille and the kids were waiting there to get some good pics. I was beat.
I ended up getting second overall in the 100k and first place in my age group. I definitely was very happy with that positioning overall. I think I could have done a better job on execution and saved a ton more time if my stomach had been cooperating. But it’s hard to complain when things worked out and I had a great day overall.
Race Time: 10:09:52, 2nd Overall, 1st Male 30-39.
I’m still debating if Ironman or the 100k trail race is a harder event. I really enjoy the simplicity of running compared to all the “stuff” you need in triathlon. I think Ironman triathlon is actually higher intensity and harder from an intensity standpoint. But running, even with the lower intensity, breaks down my body much faster, so it’s overall more painful and physically demanding. I’d like to continue to try ultra-running and figure out my hydration and nutrition strategy a bit more, since I think there is room for improvement. But overall, I’m very happy with the race in terms of venue, organization and my own execution.