But who said we can’t have some fun as well!? And maybe a little beer at the end?
The second weekend of this September was a big one for three of our NATHAN employees. Each took on their own challenge in different parts of our vast country. On both coasts and the Colorado Rockies our own, Erin Hunt, Cole Crosby and Maggie Guterl set out to test their limits. Erin was in search of her first 50 mile finish, Cole ready to take on his first hundred and Maggie set her sights on her most challenging, mountain 100 miler to date. Below are each of their accounts of this fateful weekend.
Customer Service Representative – Resides in Santa Ana, CA
Ultras completed to date: 2
Race: SLO Ultra 50 Miler. San Luis Obispo, CA. Rolling hills, sandy fire roads, some grassy single track. Cool and foggy in the AM. Dry and hot later in the day. According to Erin, “there were a million aid stations!”
2017 has been an incredible year. When I accepted a role with Nathan Sports in January, I packed my life in my car and moved across the country to California. My first time west of the Mississippi was my move. I expected a year of chaos before finding personal and professional balance in my new environment. However, I’m not one to go after small goals, so running my first 50 mile ultra seemed like a good idea to throw in the middle of this wild year. After a day trip to the beautiful San Louis Obispo, I learned about the SLO Ultra located on private land in early September. The timing and location was perfect, so I committed.
As I stood at the starting line on Saturday morning, I doubted my training. My preparation was lacking, as more than once this season I reached for a beer with friends instead of my trail shoes. I hadn’t studied the course map in fear of psyching myself out. I raced the weekend before and wasn’t sure if any nagging aches and pains from that event would flair up during the run. However, I was not entertaining DNF as an option. For the first 20 miles I couldn’t stop smiling. The overcast weather and occasional tree coverage was a much-needed change of pace from the blazing southern California sun I’d trained under. Everything was perfect until my watch beeped at mile 29. I was supposed to pick up my pacer, our west regional sales manager, Sablle, at mile 28. Later I learned that I took a wrong turn and detoured through an extra five miles of single track. My mental game was tested when I didn’t pick Sablle up until mile 32, and I thought my run was extended to 55 miles. Thankfully the race organizers allowed me to skip the last 5-mile loop making my run an even 50. Sablle kept me focused on hydration and nutrition, and eventually we made our way to the finish.
I almost thank my low intensity training for such a great first 50 experience. Those friends I skipped training runs for? They greeted me at the finish line with cow bell rings and hugs. If I would have taken the race more seriously, Sablle and I might not have had so much fun chatting and observing the stunning San Louis Obispo trails. My recovery time was short and sweet, and I didn’t need to take a long break from running. Staying positive through the rough patches was also key. It was easy to do when I knew my co-workers Maggie and Cole were tackling TWICE the distance on the same day. The entire Nathan family flooded me with encouraging words before the race, and those echoed in my head all day. I’ll be back with a competitive mindset in the future, but the SLO Ultra was a perfect 50 mile run to commemorate a year I’ll never forget.
East Coast Tech Rep – Resides in Endicott, NY (when not constantly on the road)
Ultras completed to date: about 20
Race: Pine Creek Challenge 100 Miler. Pine Creek, PA. Out and back on flat, gravel tow path. Temps in the 60s and partly sunny.
Challenges are meant to be hard! That is what I thought to myself 62 miles into my first 100 miler. I was well-under my goal pace (15:00 finish time) and was feeling surprisingly good except for my legs. I noticed something was off as early as 15 miles into the run as my front quads were as tight as steel girders. “Okay I can handle this”, I thought to myself. I continued on to proceed with the top group at a breakneck pace. By the time I made it to 100k, my legs had taken on the abuse of being so tight that the entire length of my legs were going through crazy muscle spasms. I took 20 minutes to regroup as my crew gave my ailing legs massages and I chugged a jar of pickle juice (my secret cramp-busting solution). This was hard! It hurt! But I was up for the challenge. I continued to walk and hobble along the trail to the next check point.
By the time I made it to mile 75, I could not even walk anymore as my legs gave out. At my speed of a half a mile an hour, I began to do the math… I would finish the last 20 or so miles in about 16 hours which would place me just above the race cut-off. I was not going to be able to finish this thing. I was lucky enough to have help from a woman on her bike that stayed with me as I proceeded to the 80 mile checkpoint. She went to go for help and ran into my crew which met me a few miles from the 80 mile checkpoint. I called it quits at mile 80. I may not have finished the 100 mile distance but in a way, I felt like I did. I battled against my own personal challenges and pushed beyond what I thought I was well capable of doing!
All it takes is one imbalance, one miscue and your race becomes the biggest challenge of your life just to keep moving on. That is what I have learned makes 100 milers so humbling and rewarding. I met so many incredible people out on the trail and thank you to the woman that raced on her bike to alert the aid station that I was “not doing so well”. My biggest fears (Hydration and nutrition) were in fact my biggest triumphs in the race. Utilizing my Speedraw Plus Insulated, Exoshots and Exodraws and Vaporkrar 4L hydration pack, I made sure to drink early and often which allowed me to get myself as far as I did. The big challenge in a race like this is believing; believing you can keep going on in the face of adversity. Though I did not get that official 100 mile finish, I did rise to face my challenges and to me, I feel as if I won. Stay Hydrated my friends…
Marketing Coordinator/Athlete Team Manager – Resides in Glen Mills, PA
Ultras completed to date: about 35
Race: Run Rabbit Run 100 Miler. Steamboat Springs, CO. 20-23,000 feet of climbing (depending on who you ask). All run between 7,000 and 10,500 feet above sea level. Mostly single track and jeep roads with a small amount of pavement. Dry and hot during the day, very cold at night. Some remnants of smoke from wildfires.
I went into this 100 miler super confident and feeling well prepared. After all, this was to be my 14th 100 miler. I felt I was ready for the 20+ feet of climbing in the mountains of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The average elevation was 9000 feet. I had done the training and plenty of hills. I arrived in Steamboat 5 days prior to the start. I camped along the course off a jeep road called buffalo pass. I got the solitude I was seeking and for this first time before a race I felt no stress. It was serene, breathtaking and hazy. The morning I arrived, about 16 miles NW of Steamboat, a wildfire began and by nightfall the eerie sunset was evidence to this. For days Steamboat was shrouded in a smoky haze. Emails began to come in from the race directors regarding the smoke. In the end, their experts said the smoke would cause problems for people with existing respiratory issues but that it would not cause us any negative long terms effects. The race was on!
On Friday, September 8th at noon I began the climb up Mt. Werner. We took the most direct black diamond ski route up to the top. I relaxed a bit on the climb and let a lot of racers get by. I felt hopeful but by mile 1 or 2 I began to feel nauseous already! I figured once the climb was over my stomach would settle down but that was not the case. Winding over the trail of Mt. Werner, I knew I was in trouble by the time I reached the Long Lake aid station at mile 11. I refilled my soft flasks and stuffed a couple more Electo-bites (the only thing I could get down at this point) into my NATHAN prototype vest. “Just get to Olympian Hall,” I thought. That is where, at mile 20, I would see my crew for the first time. I figured I could turn it around there. Well…it didn’t get any better after that. I completed the Cow Creek loop and back to Olympian Hall the second time at mile 40. I didn’t know how I would go on with no calories. I couldn’t even hold down water. My crew consisted of my NATHAN and Altra teammate, Amanda Basham (who has recently fought her own battle for a finish at UTMB), Dave Wiskowska, a friend I met through my travels in Colorado last summer, and Sheva from Gu Energy Labs. My crew fed me noodles and broth and showed no signs that they were cool with me dropping. After about 30 minutes of eating and commiserating with my crew, they sent me off into the night where I wouldn’t see them until after day break at Dry Lake around mile 60.
The last 40 miles or so of the race were even harder than the first 40. After seeing my crew for the last time at mile 75 with a huge 7 mile climb ahead of me, I doubted I would finish even after fighting all night for every step. Reaching the top of the climb with 22 miles still to go and completely spent, I sat in a chair. For 30 minutes, I may have sat there wondering how my body could carry me another 22 miles. It was close to 1:30pm and I had to get to the finish by 6pm. It wasn’t possible. But a friend told me, “you have to go now.” So like an obedient robot I left. I started running, realizing I had come so close to finishing after all this and if I didn’t cross that line before 6pm it would not count as an official finish. I had to run harder and push harder than ever before. And that is what I did. I crossed the finish with a bit more than 30 minutes to spare. My biggest challenge to date and I barely survived but I didn’t give up.