As I pinned my bib on my shorts, I got the text from Bode that we was broken down. After explaining the concept of "pins" in google maps and the mysteries of technology, I ran to the car to rescue this poor bastard.
I'm pretty sure it was a trick for tardy runners. Or, we're just morons. I'll stick with the former, but I'm still pretty sure we're morons as well.
I was very excited for him. 50K with almost 4000ft of climb is legit. And equally as important, I was pretty sure I hooked another sucker into the Ultra world. Yes it's selfish, but so much more fun suffering with a Team!
Advice, Stories, Editorials, Absurd Rants, and Utter Babbling Nonsense from our extensive Runhole team in the field.
I had a 100K race on my schedule the next weekend, but I knew if I left Bode out there on his own it would be much more difficult to understand the unique challenges of your first ultra. I really wanted him to have a positive experience and not be soured this early on Ultras. I was really just setting him up for some really horrendously difficult races in the future. This race was like letting him win a few hands of 3-card Monty before stealing him blind.
Don't get me started on Mustard. Seriously. I will fight someone on the spot over this topic. I have nothing against mustard. It's delicious. But if this clown thinks it will help him, live and let live. But I will mock him over it. Always.
Bode becomes an Ultra Runner
Constant fueling is crucial and I reminded Bode to eat a little something continually. I assured him that maintenance was preferable to getting behind and bonking. He was a good student.
If I knew he was chugging mustard, I would have punched him in the stomach though.
BIRTH OF AN ULTRARUNNER
Bode didn't want to eat at 25mi but I told him to anyway and explained why. He trusted me and choked down some food. I had no doubt we were going to get him 50K that day. Only option.
I taught Bode the technique of resting your calves on hills by shifting your weight to your glutes for drive power. It's a good way to mix up muscle use. I think it helped him on the later laps.
Runhole Jon and Bode
Bode Runhole is Born
The following is Bode's account of his first Ultra. On the right is commentary from Runhole Jon who was with him to guide him into the mysterious rituals as he joined the tribe. (to be fair, Bode was a world-class Runhole PRIOR to becoming an Ultra Runhole )
“Run the Green Monster 50K with us.”, my friend and ultra veteran, Jon Nicholson, said one day when we were out on a training run. “It’ll be fun.”, he said. Mind you, I had only just whet my feet with a half marathon trail run a few weeks before, which was my longest race to date. My plan was to work my way up gradually to the 50K distance by running the 25K at the Green Monster, but I’ve always loved a good challenge. The greater the obstacle, the more excited I seem to get, and I welcome these challenges as an opportunity to prove something to myself. I knew I could run the 25K, but the 50K? Now that’s a challenge I had to take - something to make me feel like I’m not just living, but am truly alive. So after not more than a second to think about it, I said, “Sure, I’m in. Let’s do it!”
I really had no idea what my limit was. Twenty miles? A marathon? Or would I even make twenty? It seemed every time I reached 10-12 miles my legs were having a bad habit of tiring and cramping. Was an ultra in the cards this year or would I need to build up to it and give it a go next year? Before meeting Jon I had never thought of an ultra. I didn’t even know people did this crazy shit! I had hoped to possibly run a marathon “some day” not knowing when that day would be.
I decided it would be a logical idea to have a test run before running the Green Monster. So as I searched for trail races and came across the Labor Pain 12 hour Endurance Trail Run by Pretzel City Sports in Reading, PA, which was within an easy 1.5 hour drive from me (or so I thought...more on this later). Five mile laps with approximately 635 feet of elevation gain per lap. You go as long and as far as you want to or are able to. What a perfect way to get in a good long test run before the Monster came calling. So I texted Jon about it, and he was in (it doesn’t take much usually). On Sunday, September 6, 2015, my limits would truly be tested for the first time.
That week I did everything to give myself the best chance to log the most miles I could in the Labor Pains Run. After all, Jon had posted that we were doing this race on Facebook, so the die was cast and there was no hiding now! I rested. I stretched. I hydrated. I organized all of my gear the night before. Had plenty of fuel and electrolyte tablets (and mustard for cramps - subject for another article). I went to bed early Saturday night. The next morning I was up, had a coffee, put my racewear on and was out.
I was within 10 miles of the race, and was right on time, when I received my first notice that the day might not go very smoothly. My car suddenly lost power and the engine light came on. Not to be dissuaded and only caring about getting to the start line at this point, I powered on hoping to make it there like a World War II pilot trying to navigate a wounded aircraft back to the ship. After a pained mile or two of progress the engine light began blinking as if to say “Hey asshole, don’t ignore me something is really screwed up!” Finally I had to face the reality that this German bomber (BMW) was coming in for a crash landing. Luckily I made it to a convenience store before it would go no more. At this point I was still approximately 8 miles from the start and the race was going to kick off in about 20 minutes. I was sick over this. I texted Jon to let him know what happened, texted him a google pin showing my location, and the was on his way to rescue me. Not the way to kick things off. We would start late, but maybe the day could be salvaged.
After arriving and checking in we learned that we were only about 13 minutes behind the start. No big deal really for a 12 hour endurance race and maybe we could have some fun trying to catch the pack. We started up the course me not knowing when or after what distance it would end. I was still having some thoughts about how I would get that damn car home after running most of the day. The car problem was put aside for now other than some ribbing by Jon.
As it turned out a consequence to the late start was that we were alone on an unfamiliar course with no pack to follow. Predictably, we got lost in the first mile. We circled a lake but upon completing the circle found ourselves back on a familiar stretch of trail we had just been on. Then we saw course markers across the street. Aha! There’s the trail! We bounded down the trail, then up a steep upgrade to find two volunteers cheering us as the leaders finishing the first lap. Hmmm something isn’t right here we realized. Made a circle around the lake again and there it was - a big white arrow pointing left where we had gone right. I started to wonder if it just wasn’t our day. Now we had run an extra two miles that we would get Strava credit for but not race credit. Although I was a newbie, I was already aware that to meet your goals in ultra running at some point adversity has to be overcome - we were just given an early extra dose of it, I reasoned.
We enjoyed the trails on the first lap becoming familiar with the course. There were a few decent hills but the nice part was that the last mile or so was downhill back to the start line before a final climb at the end to complete the lap. The first few laps went smoothly. After each lap I’d fill my water, eat a Cliff shot pack, and be back on our way. After Lap 4 at Mile 20, my legs were toast. They were tight and heavy. I was eating mounds of mustard off of potatoes to the bewildered attention of onlookers and stretching to try to relieve my cramping legs. “Stay away you asshole cramps!”, I thought, ”Not today!”. Jon put me at ease, reminding me that I wasn’t alone by telling me most people are feeling the same way by this point but you just have to keep pushing.
Miles 20-25 were the toughest of the race for me. My mind was willing but my legs had never been through this before and weren’t very pleased with the added and unexpected workload. I struggled getting up the hills on the course but powered on the best I could. I thought if I just make it through this lap then marathon distance at least is in sight.
Jon had other ideas. I didn’t know it, but he was going to make sure I became an ultramarathoner that day.
I mercifully made it through the lap to reach Mile 25. I filled my water, and took a bottle of mustard that was out for burgers and hot dogs and poured in as much as my belly would handle, then chugged a coke. I thought since I got through that last lap, Mile 30 and the 50k were now in reach. Based on the last lap I envisioned that I’d look (and feel) like something out of a war scene on this one but onward we would march.
Surprisingly, a funny thing happened on that lap. I was introduced to the phenomenon that I’ve come to learn is common in ultra running of experiencing a peak after traversing the prior valley. I felt good. We even picked up the pace on that lap. My legs were still tired and tight and hurt but they were moving much better. Maybe I just beat them into submission. Whatever it was it was welcomed.
We got back to the starting line completing the sixth lap with just a little over a mile to go to get to the ultra mark (50K). I hurt like hell but nothing was stopping us now. In fact we didn’t bother stopping at all but kept on going past the water station and goodies. One more hill climb and some trail and we hit the 50K turnaround. Slapped the sign and we headed back. As we neared the finish I wanted it over with and I broke into a sprint; at least it felt like one but I’m sure it didn’t resemble anything of the sort to anyone witnessing it. We went through the finish and that was it - after running for 6 hours and 43 minutes I had become an ultra runner! What a feeling of accomplishment that was! I was so appreciative of Jon’s help to get me there! He was proud to have brought yet another one into this beautifully insane world of ultra trail running - another Runhole was born.
Now the small detail of the broke-down car and how the hell I was going to get home... AAA towed that giant paperweight to a mechanic, and I got rid of it soon after. And this winner had to call his parents for a ride home. Humbling.
We actually DID run the last couple of laps faster than the prior ones. Bode is a maniac on the downhills (hence the nickname) and we consistently made up a lot of time every lap, blasting down them. My philosophy is that it's not reckless unless you fall. Then you blame your shoes.
You meet certain people in life that you instantly know that they have more guts than good sense. I could tell this about Bode immediately. Such a balance is perfect for running Ultras.
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