2013 Tuscobia 75 mile winter ultra marathon.
Lost and alone!! My race report for my 1st winter ultra marathon.
My plan was to hopefully finish under the cut off time of 32 hours. If all went good I dreamed of a 24 hour finish. That is all. However, knowing that this was 44 miles farther than I've ever gone at one time in my life, just to finish would be HUGE to me. The good people at ultra sign up however estimated me to finish 3 hours over the cutoff and 3rd from last.(never underestimate the heart of a Marine)
So, how does one come up with a pace plan? I took a look at last years result times and check point times. All the top finishers spent very little time at the 2 mandatory check points(mile 12.5 & 45) So I decided that the best way for me to save time would be not to hang out at the check points very long. We could have a drop bag at both check points but since the first one was so close to the start I opted to just have a bag at mile 45. I put a dry set of clothes, some salty snacks, and a fresh pair of shoes in my drop bag.
So anyways, it was a 2 hour bus ride from the finish to the start. At first I was just sitting there listening to the other guys talk around me. Then I thought this is dumb, i might as well try to learn something from these guys. I got into the conversation and we all introduced ourselves. The other guys were talking about all the other ultras they had done.(Nathan Jackson the guy behind me finished the superior 100 this year) check out the drop rate from that race this year and you will know this dude is a bad ass!! Then they started talking about there plan for the race. They asked me my plan and I told them not knowing that I'd ever be in contention to place top 3.
My plan was to run to the 1st check point, fill my water and check out ASAP. So the race started and soon we spread out a bit and I see only 2 runners ahead of me. By mile 2 I snuggled in behind them and figured I could do this pace easy for 12.5 miles. Then they both stopped to shed jackets and all of a sudden I find myself in what I thought was the lead(1 kid took off way ahead of us and most of the bikers so I was actually in 2nd) I thought to myself,"boy are you making a HUGE mistake going out this fast!" Then Peter the younger kid I passed caught up to me and we ran together for about an hour. He introduced himself and we talked the whole time. Awesome kid!! He left me when I went back to my sled for Gatorade. I got to the 1st check point about 10 minutes behind him, but I left out just ahead of him. So then I think I'm in the lead again so I start my run walk plan. Peter soon caught me and was off like a light! The the next guy passed me and I kept him in my sights for a long time.(I may have been actually been pushing him because I later found out he had to drop out at mile 45 check point) by mile 20 I was all alone. @ about mile 23 I decided to jump on my sled and ride it down the hill to a Railroad crossing. It was steep!(the hills earlier I ran and my sled would catch up and hit me in the heals) Anyway at the bottom I wiped out huge!! I hit my head, got all tangled up in my sled ropes. When I got up and shook myself off my sled was apparently pointed in the wrong direction. Yep, I started running back the way I had just came. I thought it was strange that I wasn't seeing any mile markers but I didn't put 2 and 2 together. So I ran until I came to the kid next closest to me who I thought was in 4th at the time. It was Logan an 18 year old with dreadlocks who I met at the start. Seeing me confused the shit out of both of us!!! He said, "whoa Dude one of us is going the wrong way." I pulled my phone out, turned it on, and found my compass. Sure enough I had back tracked for at least a 1/2 hour.(I figure I lost at least an hour) We ran all the way back to the tracks and I timed it right at a half hour. Logan stopped at the top of the hill and pulled out a thermos. He poured a cup of something hot, and yep, I hopped back in my sled and rode it back to the bottom. Then I trudged up the hill to the other side. At the top I looked back and Logan was still at the top on the other side. That was the last I saw of him. I took off down the trail. Now my mind is going a little crazy!! I'm mad at myself, but I've heard of lots of guys that go the wrong way during ultras. So after a few miles I just let it go. After all I was still in what I thought was 3rd place. I was sticking to my plan of stopping for 30 seconds or so every hour to eat and drink. I'd try to eat at least 200 calories and drink about a 1/3 of a bottle of Gatorade or water. Also I started taking 2 S!Caps every hour. Every 4 hours I took 2 Advil as well.(not sure that's safe to do so please don't follow my lead without doing your own research) I was down to just my MCM Mock with no hat or gloves for most of the day as it had gotten unusually warm. The trail was pretty loose.(similar to walking in sand) I did notice that my hands had began to swell.(my fingers looked like little sausages from either the salt tabs or not moving them enough) So I started clenching my fists and moving my arms more and it seemed to go away. I also cut back on the S!Caps. By mile 35 I was running out of food and water. Thankfully I came to a town with a gas station that was still open. I crossed the Hwy to the station bought 2 MT Dews, 2 Gatorades, 2 Pringles, and a jars of peanuts.(I was thinking sugar, salt, and caffeine) there were 2 mountain bikers from the race in there. I asked if they knew how far it was to the last check point. They confirmed what I had it figured to be about 10 miles(so I wasn't to out of it mentally) off I went again! Then I kept seeing lights in front of me. It had to be another runner I was closing in on. I finally caught up to HER!(it was the only 150 mile lady to ever eventually finish the race to date) the trail had been groomed at this point so I started running again. It was packed almost like a icy crust on the surface.
I got to the Mile 45 check point, and changed into warm dry clothes. I opted to just swap socks and shoe insoles because the home made gaiter were only on the pair I started with. I really bundled up because the temps just continued to plummet. I topped off my water and was on my way! Only 30 miles to go and the aid station workers confirmed It, I was now in 3rd place. How ever as I left the next closest runner was pulling into to the check point(it was the guys I told my whole race plan to on the bus, Nathan Jackson) I had a feeling he was going to reel me in, but I just wasn't sure. I was hoping he would take a nice long break. He was hoping to finish in 24 hours. I knew I was ahead of that pace for sure baring any major catastrophe. Nathan caught me @ about mile 70 as I stopped to refuel. (that dream crusher) He was Awesome!!! He gave me so much encouragement and paise for how well I was doing for the first time. He kept asking if I just got out of the Marines(half kidding I'm sure) We stuck together for a while bull shitting.(the company was cool because I was all alone for most of the night) then he was off. I tried to keep him in my sights as long as I could but he was flying. Now I'm thinking the flood gates are going to open and half the field is going to pass me in the last few miles. I keep looking back for blinking lights. My pace was fading big time and the miles just kept getting slower. Finally I make it to town and onto the city streets!! A few turns and I see the finish tent. I'm off and running again!
I am literally in shock!! Helen(the race director) and another lady come out and congratulate me on finishing. They record my time and all I want is to sit down. I take a seat on a hay bail inside the tent. They offered me a beer, hot soup, or coffee. It was now minus ten outside and I was soaking wet. The heaters in the tent hardly were taking the chill off. I'll give you one guess which one I chose. The BEER of coarse!! I just accomplished something I didn't know I was even capable of. It was time to celebrate!! After the beer I had to walk 3 blocks to my truck. I had some dry clothes but no shoes. They must have got freezing rain overnight because I had a layer of ice on all my windows. I started the truck and had no intention of standing out in the wind to scrape my windows! I changed out of all my wet upper stuff and put on dry choppers and a hat. I was shivering so bad by this point I actually got a little worried. Just a little! I went back to the finish area once the truck warmed up and melted the ice. Nathan and Peter were both inside with their wives and kids. We joked around and talked about the race. These guys were awesome! They race ultras on the north shore, Carlton, and Duluth. I will see them again for sure!! Nathan and I have a rematch planned for next years Tuscobia 150.
All and all I had the time of my life. If you have ever wondered what you are truly capable of I suggest giving it a shot! You may surprise yourself. If you believe you can achieve!! Dream BIG my friends!! DREAM BIG!!