Bryce 100 was my first attempt at running a 100 miler. I have signed up for several over the years, but injuries and self doubt had left me under trained which ended up to dropping out of the race. This year I felt like I was motivated and the training was excellent. I started to really look forward to this race. I initially was going to run this without a crew or pacers, but my two good friends Kendall Wimmer and Craig Stahl came down to help me out. The race packet pickup was at the kings creek camp ground near Tropic Reservoir. It would also serve as the group camp sight and an aid station later in the race. Kendall and I drove down early Thursday morning so we could get a good trailer site and relax before the race. We really lucked out as we pulled in getting the one and only trailer site available. Packet pickup started with a little confusion and Kendall went over and started helping handing out the race packets, while I finished setting up the trailer and cooking dinner. I wanted to be in bed early as the start for the race was several miles away and I need to get up at 3:30am.
Race day dawned clear and cold with an amazing cloudless view of the stars. It would only get better. Kendall took me down to the shuttle drop off where I hopped in the back of a Ryder moving van for transport down to the start. Runners from around the country were huddled around several fires trying to stay warm while waiting for the start. Matt Gunn the race director gave a few last minute updates and casually said GO to start off the race.
The first part of the race was surreal. the scenery was amazing as we ran on single track trail among the hoodoos of Bryce. The sun rise was spectacular and I found my self stopping and taking many pictures during the first 10 or so miles.
My strategy for this race was to really hold back for the first 50 miles. I set a goal to reach the Crawford Pass aid station mile 50 at 14 hours. This would really take some self control on my part as I usually go out with the energy of the pack, pushing to hard in the beginning. Taking all those pictures helped me calm down and I was able to maintain a good average pace.
Thunder Mountain aid station was at 10.3 miles. I could hear the cowbells ringing and family's cheering on the runners as they came in. I was not meeting Kendall or Craig at this aid station, so I made a quick stop to replace water, eat some calories and left as fast as I could. The next leg to mile 19.5 was a meandering mix of meadows and mixed terrain ending up in a steep climb up to Proctor Aid Station. I wasn't expecting anyone here so I was pleasantly surprised when I ran into Craig about 1/2 mile from Procter. He cheered me into a chair waiting for me and Kendall and Craig took total care of my water bottles, GU refills and some food I don't remember eating. I was feeling good and made my way out after about 10 minutes.
The trail plunged back down a canyon for several miles before turning up into a steep technical canyon that climbed over 1300 feet back to the rim. Climbing strongly I passed several runners. The canyon meandered among cliffs and pines for 6.5 miles then had a gentile drop into Blubber Creek aid station. This aid station was on an exposed ridge that I imagined would be quite cold later that night/morning. Kendall and Craig were waiting with some food and I was out fairly quickly.
The next section was 7.6 miles to Kanab Creek. I was feeling really good and had gained several hours on my projected time into mile 50. I kind of let loose on this section and had a serious runners high as I pushed harder than I should have. The trail was up at altitude over 9000 ft and it was getting hot,it ran along ridges and cliffs with incredible scenery as I came in to Kanab Creek feeling better than I had all day.
Kendall and Craig were again waiting for me as I came into Kanab Creek. I couldn't believe I felt so good. I knew that by holding back I had a lot of energy to expend. I was also hungry. I ate a refried bean burrito, some broth, had a ensure and grabbed 1/2 a turkey sandwich on my way out. And so my problems began! One half a mile out I knew I was in trouble! My stomach was reacting to the gut bomb I had just devoured. And I was soon puking up everything I had eaten. Nausea ruled the day as I wandered down the trail trying to get my energy back. Straight Canyon Aid station was only 5.4 miles and most of it was down hill, but it seemed to take forever.
I sat in Straight Canyon for over 30 min trying to get the nausea under control. Nothing sounded good and my fingers were starting to swell. I had been taking 1 salt tab every hour and Kendall suggested that I take 2. I was able to drink some chicken broth and ate some food but for the life of me I cant remember what it was. As I got up and started moving down the dirt road to the next section of trail, a runner called out to me that he had suffered a complete breakdown during the Badwater and was still able to finish. This really encouraged me and as I got down to the single track leading up to the Pink Cliffs Aid station I was feeling better.
The section up to Pink Cliffs was a mix of single track and atv roads. It was also the biggest climb of the run going up to an altitude of 9400 ft. I was able to pass several of the runners that had taken advantage of my stay at straight canyon. One called out about the great recovery I was having. I had started taking the 2 salt tabs and the swelling started going down in my fingers. I was still haveing slight problems with nausea but I figured that the altitude was having some effect. the views were amazing and I stopped again to take pictures. I'm sure these little stops helped.
Coming into Pink Cliffs aid Station
I finally made it into Pink Cliffs. It was windy and a bit cold and I didn't hang around very long. The next section was almost all down hill and would be just over 5 miles and I wanted to get it done. I was still right on pace with a little time to spare. During the section I started having some hot spots begin to bother me on mt left foot and I made a mental note to fix them when I got to Crawford Pass. As I got close to the aid station the nausea came back with a bang and I was sick again on the side of the trail. I could feel my self fading as I arrived at Crawford Pass mile 50 in 14:02. Two minutes behind my goal.
"The next 50 will be hard" I could hear Kendall tell me as I puked again at the aid station. I was getting dark and I was beginning to shiver violently. Kendall and Craig took total care of me, coaxing me back to life, feeding me what I could tolerate. I probably tried everything on the aid table but the rice and chicken broth tasted the best. I also changed my socks, cleaned my feet and found one blister on the right foot that needed to be drained. Craig was running with me as my pacer for the next 25 miles and was encouraging me to get going, I'm sure he was cold too. After about 40 min I made my way out of the aid station for the second half of the race. Kendall later told me that he was sure I would drop by straight canyon. but was hoping for the best.
I had picked Craig for this section of the race for one reason...he's a talker.! He can ramble on about a subject for hours and I planned on him keeping my mind occupied for hours on end. It was also the night section of the run and he provided great company. We did a brisk walk the whole 5 miles back to Pink Cliffs passing a few runners here and there. Pink Cliffs was COLD! the wind was blowing and there was little protection from it. There was also limited food available and I was completely demoralized. Craig kept poking and prodding me to eat and I learned that there were some warm pancakes left. I grabbed one and made my way down the to Straight Canyon.
Have you ever had one of those magical runs where everything feels like it is right with the universe? I felt like this after eating one of those magical pancakes. My energy returned, the nausea diminished, my legs felt fresh. The night was beautiful with amazing stars, occasionally we would see a globe of light in the distance and would slowly catch up and pass. I came into Straight Canyon with a complete turn around from the last time I had been there. Kendall met us and had everything ready for a fast departure.However I had another hot spot on my left foot that needed to be looked at. A nasty blister had appeared on the ball of my foot. I drained it and placed some mole skin. this would make to be the worst mistake of the race for me.
We left Straight Canyon planning on meeting Kendall at the Blubber Creek aid station mile 74. Craig kept pestering me to eat and would hand me a cookie or something to nibble on. I had also changed to Heed Perpetuem as my main nutrition and I could tell it was working well. My feet were really starting to bother me though and I could tell that the blisters were affecting my stride. I turned on my music and zoned out. ignoring the pain, running along at a steady pace and passing the occasional runner. I was never passed again after straight canyon!
We met Kendall at Blubber Creek and he took over for Craig. I cannot thank Craig enough for his company during the night. He had sacrificed a lot to come down to this race for me! He had to be back in Salt Lake that morning and left to drive straight back. The rest of the race is kind of a blur. My feet were killing me however my legs felt really strong. We made the steep decent and accent back to proctor where the aid station crew had more of the magical pancakes and coffee for breakfast, a brief stop and on to Kings Creek aid station 10 miles away. The miles and time flew by, Kendall was encouraging and setting a great pace. I really started to worry about my feet at some point during this section. I could tell that the blisters were bad and every step on both feet were painful. There was a pretty steep climb and decent into Kings Creek however I don't remember much of it.
The last 10 miles of the Bryce 100 was a complete blur for me. All I could do was zone out to my music, and ignore the complete pain that had enveloped my feet. Kendall was pushing for me to run at a faster pace so I could make a time under 30 hrs. It would have been possible as my Garmin had me at 100 miles at 29:57 however this was 3 miles from the finish. That was the longest 3 miles of my life. The finish line finally appeared at Ruby's Inn and I crossed at 103 miles with an official time of 30:47:55 in 61 place overall and 16th in my age division. I'm not sure how many started but I heard that there were many DNF's. My feet were in terrible shape! I am amazed at the power of the mind, putting aside the pain and pressing on. The human body is amazing! What an incredible experience. I saw many friends and made many more. I am sure this race will be a destination for many and sadly will probably become a lottery entry. Matt Gunn put on a fantastic race getting through the inevitable hiccups of an 'inaugural race" If I could only make one suggestion to Matt. Make the crossing line finish a bigger deal than have me wander over and inquire about the buckle, then say "Its in the Box". Its all Good!