I knew going into the Bryce 100 that this was not going to be an easy race. 19,000 feet of elevation gain at an altitude between seven to nine thousand feet is no joke. It scared the shit out of me. But, as I eluded to in my previous post, I knew I was ready. I felt strong and confident at the start. As long as I didn't get injured during the run, I knew I could finish. Having that belief in myself made all the difference, especially when things got rough, which it did, many times.
The race started without hitch at 6am on a cool, clear Utah morning. The sun had yet to make its appearance over the horizon, but the sky was already bursting full of beautiful dawn colors. After a two mile section on a wide ATV road, it was onto the single tracks. The course weaved back and forth and up and down through a maze of beautiful ponderosa pines. Before long, the course emptied out into Red Canyon and the unique hoodoo formations that make the Bryce landscape so special.
My main focus at the beginning of the race was to take in lots of fluid. Everyone told me that hydration was paramount when running at altitude. It didn't take long for me to settle into my groove at the start. I ran easy on the flats, walked the uphills and let gravity carry me on the downhills. I could definitely tell that my downhill running was much stronger. Instead of runners flying past me on the descents, I was flying past them. It felt good and bounding down the hills like a wild animal was a lot of fun!
Near the Proctor aid station (Mile 18) I felt a little pain in my right foot and immediately knew was it was, a blister. Sure enough, when I pulled off my shoe and sock at Proctor I had a nice one on the inside of my second to last toe. I couldn't believe it. I rarely get blisters and to get one not even a quarter into my race sucked. Thankfully, a fellow runner loaned me some vaseline and I slapped a nice glob over it. I also had placed one of my drop bags at Proctor so I took some extra time restocking my supplies and putting on a fresh shirt and new pair of socks.
|Blubber Creek Aid. By far my favorite aid on course.
|Heading out of Kanab
|Heading into Straight Canyon
|Climb up to Pink Cliff
Running down the small dirt road to Straight Canyon, I called out my race number to the aid station volunteers and immediately heard cheers from my friend Cathy (who had run the 50K earlier in the day), Rachel, and Sara (Rachel's friend). Seeing some familiar faces was great. I later learned that the dirt road to get to Straight Canyon was rather dicey, so an extra big thank you to Cathy and company for driving out to meet me. I warned Rachel to be ready for lots of hiking. I knew that there were a lot of hills ahead and running those wasn't in the cards for me.
|Rachel and I before the start
I'm not sure if the darkness does weird things to the body, but I certainly lost the fire in my legs as the night wore on. After leaving Kanab (Mile 65), it was 8 long, long miles back to Blubber Creek (Mile 73). Once we reached Blubber Creek, I plopped down in a chair and knew that these last 27 miles were going to take awhile.
The stretch from Blubber Creek to Proctor Aid (Mile 82) sucked, plain and simple. I tried to run when I could, but my legs weren't having any of it. The life from them had been sucked away. Climbing the hills seemed to take forever. Rachel and I would soon joke that Bryce has never ending hills. They just seemed to keep going and going. Many times, I would have to sit down on a log and take a break. My mind was going in a million different directions. Thoughts of dropping entered my head. I was feeling miserable and I wanted nothing more than a warm bed to climb into. It moments like these when you begin to realize how important your goal is. Even though I felt like shit and didn't want to take another step, I refused to give up. Tired isn't an excuse to quit. As long as I could continue to put one foot in front of the other, no matter how slow, I would keep pressing forward. Each step brought me closer to the finish and I took comfort from that.
As we neared Proctor, dawn was on the horizon, which came as a big relief. I knew having some daylight would make me feel better, even if my legs didn't want to move faster. Reaching Proctor, I plopped down again near a bonfire they had burning. The warmth from the fire felt great and made leaving very hard. Sitting across from Rachel and I at the bonfire was Hal and his wife, which he was pacing for her run. I wanted to chat with Hal and tell him how much he inspires me, but the timing wasn't right. He and his wife were both doing their thing and I didn't want to disturb. Nonetheless, it was cool to sit and share a fire with such a great runner.
The last 18 miles contained very little running for me. Thanks to the very generous time cutoff (36 hours) I knew that I had plenty of time to make it to the finish. It was then that I began to realize that I might just finish this thing! However, my mind wouldn't let me believe that it was going to happen.
Rachel and I continued our trudge to the finish line. Even walking, the hills were so hard to climb up. Each footfall sent pain through my sore feet and up my tired legs. Yet, they were still moving. I'm not sure how, but there were. In any race, the will to finish will always carry you those last few miles. All the kinds words of support I received from my family and friends before the race were running through my head. I just had to keep moving!
With about a mile to go, Rachel and I spotted Cathy and Sara waiting for us. They had come out to greet and walk with us to the finish. When the finish came into view, relief flooded over. Relief that this race would soon be over. Relief that I was, indeed, going to reach my goal. I started to run again. I'm sure it wasn't pretty, but I wanted to cross the finish line running. 31 hour, 19 minutes, and 20 seconds after I started, I was done. As I sat in the finishers tent, looking at my beat up legs, the realization of what had just happened set in. I did it. 100 miles!
My thanks to everyone that supported and believed in me. Your words helped carry me to the finish and I'm forever grateful for all of you. I found it fitting that I finished this race on Father's Day and I felt my dad's presence many times during my run. He's always with me. This run was definitely for him.
|Sweet handcrafted Bryce 100 belt bucket