Thursday, June 9, 2016

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUD SQUISHING UNDER MY FEET...My 2016 Booneville Backroads 100 Mile Race Report

I’m from Iowa. I love it. I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s where I grew up. It’s where I call home and more than likely where my kids and their kids will live too. It’s a great place to live, it’s a great place to raise a family, and it’s a great place to go exploring in the mountains…..(insert screeching car noise)…..what? Oh, wait…..you think that just because we don’t have 14,000 ft peaks and thin air we don’t have mountains? Let’s give you a little insight into a race called the Booneville Backroads 100 Mile race, shall we? J

You’ll never hear me claim to be an expert at doing “smart things”. Most of the time, it’s on the contrary. I like to do a series of really dumb things and see how they turn out. The same goes for training for the 2016 Booneville Backroads Ultra. After Rocky Raccoon left me a little down in the dumps because I knew that I could have done better after making some questionable decisions when it came to nutrition and hydration, I knew that I had a chance to redeem my 2016 calendar with my 2nd trip to Booneville.

I took nearly 2 weeks off from running after Rocky to just let my body heal. I was having a slight flare up of an old Achilles/calf issue after the race that wouldn’t go away and my piriformis was SCREAMING at me most days. I took some advice from a friend and got back into the gym and worked on just getting stronger. I spent a fair amount of time lifting and just working on parts of myself that I knew were weak and causing some “system” issues when it came to endurance at the end of races. I took up a slight amount of swimming (which is not pretty to watch) and spent SO MUCH TIME on a treadmill at 15% incline and just going for a couple of hours at a stretch. Fast forward several months and BOOM! Before I knew it I was 3 weeks out from Booneville aaaaaaand I kinda forgot to do any really good long runs over 20 miles….see…..dumb decisions. Once you realize this, there is a little voice in the back of your head that says “Oh, it’s OK. You’ve run 100 a couple of times and you’ve even done this course. You know what you’re doing. Have another beer. You’ll be fine”…….Ahhh, yes, Alex. I’ll take “Things an idiot ultra runner says before a big race” for $10,000,000, please……

Luckily for me, I was still staying fit and have been “coaching” a couple of my really close friends as they prepare to take on Leadville as their first venture into the 100 mile distance and was able to work out a night with them on getting out for a 50k training run that went amiss when piriformis issues popped up, 30+mph winds and the allure of cold beer presented itself. We were still able to get a good 20 mile run in once on some backroads as prep work. Ehhhh. We’ll see how this goes J


Being a father of 3, soccer coach and husband, when it turns Spring at my house any plans to do anything at night can go away very quickly and that’s what happened leading up to this race. We got insanely busy and having 2 garden plots we had almost forgotten to plant our fresh veggies for the summer. We scurried around, got the garden at my work tilled up and planted and then found out that our tiller was broken and tried to figure out a way to get our garden tilled up at our house. I figured, "Ehh. I've been lifting weights and feel pretty fit. I can til the garden with a spade. All I really have to do is break up the ground a bit"......you can probably see where this is going.....Halfway through I felt a shooting pain in my back/hip/butt that felt like I had just gotten shot with a tazer. There goes my back exactly one week from the start of the race. (insert sad trombone sound here). Well, let's finish the garden and see what the next week will bring.

Fast forward to the morning of the race at 2:30AM. I was tossing and turning all night. Writhing in pain I realized that there was no way that I was going to get anymore sleep so I got up and started prepping for the 6AM start. Got some coffee, a banana and what may have been conceived as an overdosable amount of ibuprofen down and I was on my way to the starting line.

I met up with a few friends at the parking lot and I was walking like someone had beaten me with a bat. With a quick walk over to the start line (led by a processional including a bagpipe), some inspirational words from Mr RD, Steve Cannon, we made our way across the timing chip and were off.

My goal with the race, since I knew the course, was to go out incredibly conservative pace and save some energy for when "the sleepies" set in. I very quickly met up with a guy named Craig, who I had met the year earlier around the 53 mile AS, We talked and ran together for A LONG time. I told Craig ahead of time that I was going to walk the hills, run the flats and downs for as long as I possibly could and just keep moving forward. He agreed and that's what we did. Flawlessly.

My biggest issue, as most know, is my stomach and that I have a very difficult time around the marathon distance at being able to stomach food. The more I research and remember back from Rocky was to go less salt and more water because I was getting really dehydrated without really even knowing it. I also decided that I was going to eat real food early, eat often, and drink some Tailwind for liquid calories. I was going to supplement with Honey Stinger chews and was hoping to consume 300-400 calories per hour to "bank" some calories for when I stopped wanting to eat.

10 miles in, all strategies and plans were working. 23 mile AS, all strategies and plans were working. We were making great time and were soon joined by Willy, Scott, & Dan to get some new conversation started. I really like all of these dudes and knew that we could have some great times together.

25 miles comes up and strategically knew right where we were at/headed. I made the conscious decision, because I was ahead of schedule, to back off the pace a little bit and get prepared for my arch nemesis....the Level B Roads...For those who don't live in Iowa and don't know what they are....Google it. You won't be disappointed.

I forgot to mention in my lead in that it had rained A LOT for days leading up to the race and this was what I was forced to deal with that went on for nearly 4 miles...let that sink in a little bit.

Photo courtesy of Chuck Fritz

Photo courtesy of Chuck Fritz
With the rain comes some of the most muddy/mucky condition of road/trail that I've dealt with in YEARS. At times I nearly lost my shoes with the ankle deep mud. The constant up and down while trying to stay upright was sucking all of my energy. In this section of 4 miles, I slammed a whole bottle of Tailwind and ate an entire packet of Honey Stinger chews just to make sure my calories stayed up because I was using SOOOO much energy. Brutal wasn't even a good way to describe it. I kept looking at my watch and it was almost as if I were standing still even though I knew that I was moving.

Prior to the race even began, I relied on one of my pacers, Jim who used to be a meteorologist, to provide me with an estimate on what the weather was going to do. He gave me a window on when the rain was supposed to start and I was slowly approaching the beginning of that window. I knew that the conditions of the B roads would get worse in the rain and knew that I needed to get through them before the rain started. I walked as fast as I could to try and beat it and with a slight turn to the south I saw the mile 30 AS and knew that I had made it through the most soul sucking section of the race before the rain came. SUCCESS!!!!!

When I got to 30 I got to my first drop bag and could resupply the stuff that I had used so far. I sat down, scraped some of the mud from my shoes, grabbed my mini coke, fig newtons, chews, packets of Tailwind and was out in less than 10 minutes but the previous 4 miles cooked me. I had started going into a negative place but had to keep reminding myself that the worst of the B roads was behind me until the night section around 86 miles.

As I began my ascent up the hill on Settlers Rd, I noticed the clouds becoming more and more ominous and then in almost the exact spot that I experienced it last year, the skies opened up and began raining and didn't stop for nearly 3 hours. Blarg.............here we go again............

From 30-42 though, the rain made it easy for my body temp to come down a little bit and made running more comfortable. I tried to pick up the pace where I could and make the most of the burst of energy from the sugar and carbs I had consumed. I ran where I could, walked where I needed to and just made the most of daylight. 

There was a section of B road (around 35 miles) that actually made me laugh because of the weather conditions, the terrain I was about to enter and this sign. Irony at it's finest :)
Photo courtesy of Phil Brecht
I had another really low segment of energy, but I was still drinking water and that was a HUGE improvement from races in the past. Maybe I was ACTUALLY learning how to do this thing.

As I approached the Winterset AS (mile 42), I knew that my friend Chris would be there to offer up words of encouragement in the form of insults if I started complaining. I told him prior to the event that if he heard me complaining, that's what I was going to need....and that's what he did. He got me some things that I needed, reminded me that this was what I signed up for, told me to stop whining and to get my ass back on the course.

It had stopped raining by this point for a little bit and was happy that it had because my feet were soaked to the bone. My shoes had finally drained and the mud was gone. I was moving really well and eating/drinking. I was thanking God for giving me some reprieve from the rain and I think he realized that I needed to take a step back and throw some more obstacles at me in the form of more rain and then blazing heat and humidity. 

Miles 42-53 began the only section of the race that I considered throwing the white flag and calling it a day. This section of the course is unrelenting with the amount of ups/downs and then you throw in the big yellow thing in the sky mixed with soaking wet clothes and 15-20 mph winds. It got real "awesome" real fast. 

I hadn't dealt with stomach problems all day until this point, which was amazing and unheard of, but the ONE thing I forgot to do before the race was to visit the little boys room and make a "boo boo" before and that monster was rearing its ugly head. I'll spare you the details but I owe a huge apology to the farmer whose drive way into his field that, in the words of Ruxon from "The League", will be FOREVER UNCLEAN. 

I came into 53 broken. I was calorie deficit. I was really starting to get tired for the first time and for the first time was not having a good time. 10 miles is a long ways to go in an event that you're only halfway finished to not enjoy what you're doing. When I came into this AS I saw my buddy Phil, handed him my pack and just told him that I needed to throw a fit for a second. I covered my face, primarily because this AS was overflowing with ladies and I didn't want them to see a grown man acting like a baby, and just bawled. I had a short little pity party, grabbed some watermelon and a coke and got back out. 9 miles......that's what I had until I saw my family and my crew. 9 miles......then it would become a different race.

This seems like a fitting place to give one really cool highlight of my prep for this race. I assembled the crew/pacers that I felt gave me the best opportunity to make my sub 24 hour dreams happen. Phil, Sara, Jim and Jen without flinching agreed to do it and I was so grateful. We chatted for weeks over FB messenger and I told them that my mantra over the course of the event was going to be "#SlayTheBull" and whenever I was down in the dumps I needed to be reminded to slay the bull of this course that was going to try and buck me off. Needless to say, "some of us" took the slay the bull mantra to the extreme and it was freaking AWESOME!!!!


When I saw Phils vehicle, I lost my mind. What a cool gesture. Not only was he giving up his holiday weekend, but to "brand" his vehicle with my mantra and my race was just unreal.

From 53-62, I was see-sawing a ton with Willy and Scott. Both of them looked so strong on the flats and downhills, but the work that I had down to get my legs strong after Rocky was certainly paying off on the uphills. Every up, I would pass them. Every down and flat, they would pass me. Yes, it was probably annoying for them, but it's what I had to do to keep motivated knowing that this was where I was so strong. 

Making the turn for the final 2 miles of the 100k loop, I lost my mind. I knew that my family and friends were going to be waiting for me and I couldn't wait to see them. In this sport, they are my blood. My wife is such a strong, smart, beautiful women. My kids are incredibly loving and supportive and a lot of what I am doing is to show them how capable they are of doing great things. I get a lot of drive from them to keep pushing on when my mind says "stop". I would be seeing them shortly and I was still moving very well. I really despise this section because this is the only section of the race that you seen 5 times as it is the beginning and end of 2 of the 3 loops. Your mind knows that this is nearly the start/finish line and keeps telling you to quit. At one point, I even caught myself saying, out loud, "f*** off brain". I'm weird. I get it. :)

It was a long time since the beginning of this race that I was truly happy. These pictures make me happy even nearly a week later.





I came into 100k in a completely different mental space than I was in last year. That apparently happens when you don't stop eating & drinking 30 miles earlier. I sat down, told my crew what I was dealing with and they were on it like a NASCAR pit crew. Sara and Phil helped me clean up a little bit, change my socks, swap out bandages, etc and we were GONE. I told all of them ahead of time that this would be the longest AS because I had a lot more maintenance to do and they kept me honest to that. Sara kept looking at her phone checking time and just kept saying "anything else?" in that lovely teacher voice that makes you realize that you're being a child not getting out of the chair.

"Someone drove down one of those B roads???"
Jim was my first pacer one of the people that I love dearly. He is such a great friend and positive role model and exactly what I needed on the first section. We chatted for a little bit on the issues that I was having on the day and how we were going to attack them. This was a pretty short section (4 miles) but he kept reminding me what our plan was and that we were going to stick to it.
What? Your crew doesn't bring a camp stove to cook s'mores?
We passed the spot on this section where, last year, I began my puking escapade with full intention of enjoying my birthday beer (the race was on my birthday last year) and I just started laughing. I'm pretty certain Jim thought I was nuts until I told him why I was laughing so hard.

Coming into 66, my stomach was beginning to act up a bit. I told Jim that I was going to start the chicken noodle soup at this point and that I needed a couple of pepto tabs....Looking back on it, I actually meant tums, but kept saying Pepto. The crew grabbed them for me, I popped them in my mouth, swallowed and almost instantly screamed "NOPE" and expelled so much water from my stomach that I probably could have bathed in it........but at least my stomach felt better :)

I grabbed Jen at this point and we made our way along one of the longer section that we would encounter during the night. Now, I know Jen but have never spent a significant amount of time with her but this was such a cool environment to be able to do it. We talked about a lot of things from her desire to write a book, to our struggles with weight to our parents. It was really cool experience and a definite section that I'll treasure. 

The mile 72 AS, used to be my favorite. It was right outside of a polo field, with a strong street light, at the bottom of a hill and was a great place to grab something to eat before ascending this hands on knees monster. This year, however, our wonderful RD decided that the 72 mile AS (which is also mile 10 AS) would be placed at the TOP of said monster hill. Having just spent the last 6 miles, with no significant amount of food in my stomach, this was a cruel joke and one that I won't let him live down for the rest of my life. I was starting to get VERY tired and knew that I had a Red Bull in my bag that would be amazing. 

As I came into the AS, I handed off my pack, got handed some chicken noodle, some water, some jerky........AAAAAND threw up again. Honestly, I think this one had far more volume and lasted twice as long, but on a positive I was able to use some mouthwash and we were out of the AS in 10 minutes.....GO CREW!!!!

72-77 was basically Jim constantly reminding me to drink and eat and trying to stay positive. I wasn't having significant lows, but they were there. I was mainly trying to ward of the sleepiness when around 76, Jim told me that he would really like it if I took a short nap. I really don't like to take naps because I feel that when I lay down, wake up, get back to moving again it takes up a lot more time that I would like, but he was pretty insistent on my taking a short nap. Since we had a crew vehicle that was warm what better place to do it then right out in front of the aid station? I dragged my sweaty butt into the front of Phil's Jeep, pulled my hat over my eyes and was OUT. I literally don't remember even falling asleep and didn't struggle at all to nap.

15 minutes later, my crew woke me up and asked me what I wanted for food. Because of the issue I had with the previous two AS's I didn't really want chicken noodle, but nothing else sounded good except for Coke. I did, however, bring string cheese in my cooler and thought I would give them a try. Even though I was cold, the coke was cold and the cheese was cold, MAN that was a good combination!!!!

77-83 was another doozy with one TREMENDOUS hands on knees climb that mimics climbing a damn mountain. When you are 81 miles into a race, the last thing you want is one of these climbs......except more B roads...........which come later....... This hill sucked and it's where Jen truly learned the importance of how to position hands on your thighs when going up hill. The student becomes the teacher :)

With temps dropping and the wind picking up I knew that coming out of 83 mile AS I needed to get on some warmer clothes because we were about to, again, embark on a really short (approximately 1 mile) section of B road. I threw on my lovely UVU 3/4 length "manpris" and headed out. Now the section from 83-87 miles isn't that long, but again, Cannon is a sadist and throws in a section of B road that the 50k runners (roughly 75 people) and the 100 mile runners have to go through. Again, with ANY precipitation, this becomes the equivalent of running through peanut butter. Last year, with the nearly 8 hours of rain that we were subject to, this SUCKED!!!!!


Jim and I made sure to get me more coke and string cheese, because that's what was at least staying down, and some more items, switch to my gross Challengers that I had worn earlier in the day and got moving. I was starting to shake REALLY bad coming out of the vehicle because my body temp was plummeting. I made sure I had my warmer UVU jacket and was trying to pick up the pace because the wind was awful. I was really thankful to have Jim on this section of  because he knew how I had struggled earlier in the day with the B roads and wanted to make sure that he could get ahead of me and hopefully scope out some better footing. Right around 86 miles is where we found ourselves.........and honestly it wasn't nearly as bad as I had thought it was going to be. The 50k runners earlier in the day had certainly done a number on the road, but the wind and scorching sun earlier had dried it......slightly...... My shoes only came off once and I was able to follow Jim's lines to avoid a good amount of the muck. As we came into the 87 mile AS I was so happy to see that vehicle again, to be able to get my gross shoes off, take another short siesta and know that I only had 1/2 marathon to go.

As I gagged down another cheese stick (yes, I did gag while eating it) and drank some more coke, Jen and I noticed headlamps. OH CRAP!!!!! These people are going to catch us. As I threw on my shoes again and we got back out quickly and actually started running to try and get a gap between us. It had been a while since we had seen anyone and I was determined to not let anyone beat me. I'm not a super competitive person, but the killer instinct kicked in.

Making our way to the 94 mile AS (the start/finish) I found myself constantly checking for those lights. I had an idea of who it was and there was no way I was going to "get chicked" on this course. We pushed, and pushed, and pushed and this was the section where, even though we were walking, I found Jen jogging more to keep up with me. I kept looking down at my watch and saw my goal of 24 hours slipping away but adjusted to a 25 hour finish. I spent a lot of time reminiscing about this section last year and the struggles that Reg and I were both having. It was raining and we were both destroyed in the previous attempt. I kept remembering conversations that he and I were having and making our way up one of the hills and realizing that the sun was already peaking up last year and was at least 2 hours away from peaking this year. We were making incredible time.

I had told everyone prior to the event, at our pre-race meeting, that coming out of the 94 mile AS I was going to drop my pack, grab a bottle and go. Very little time was going to be spent at this AS and that's exactly what happened. I dropped my bag, Sara handed me my handheld and we were gone. I looked at my watch heading out of the AS and told Cannon that I was about to cut nearly 2 hours off of my time from last year. This got me so jacked up that Jim and I were back to running. HOLY CRAP!!!!! WHERE DID MY LEGS COME FROM?!?!?!?!?

The running, however was short lived because of the hills that once again presented themselves. I went to the same strategy with Jim as there are 4 fairly significant hills in the final 10k that I was not about to run up as I had little to nothing left in my stomach to burn for fuel. As we crested the final hill, I told Jim that I wanted to run again and .........gurgle............gurgle............gurgle...........what was my stomach going to do? I had literally drained my 20oz bottle in about 5k and all of the water was sitting at the top of my stomach. Jim told me to let Booneville have the contents of my stomach one last time, but I just couldn't do it. We picked up the walking pace a little bit and closed in on what was going to be an amazing finish. 

With one final north turn, we could see where the finish line was located. I hadn't cried in a while and just lost it right here. Here I am 99 miles in crying like a baby. Reliving the prayers that I had said earlier in the week about my back, Relaying to Jim how amazingly God heals us and how much I loved him, Jen, Sara and Phil for spending their weekend with me. 

As we slowly approached the finish line all I could think about was the fact that together, we had cut 1 1/2 hours off of my time. With a final jog down the little service road to the finish line...........It was finished!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Primal scream!!!!

Spike of my handheld

Crap....I just busted my handheld :)
I was so excited to be done and couldn't believe we made it. 24:52 with a handing of my shiny new buckle and a huge hug from one of my favorite RD's. 

Before the event even started, I had picked up a bomber of a whiskey aged oatmeal stout from Millstream Brewing called "Barrel Aged Back Road Stout" and required a celebratory toast with all of my crew and the RD. I sat down with my small glass of beer and relished the fact that together we had "#SlayedTheBull"

We hung around for a bit, talked some, gathered all of my stuff and I was out. As per usual, as a family, we had plans so I got home, showered, laid down for an hour and we were off to our "glamping" (fake camping) escape for the weekend. A short 3 hour drive later and the Memorial Day weekend could officially begin.....aka I have a couple of beers and pass out :)

It's important to wear compression socks and pass out with a beer in your hand :)
I am so thankful for all of the opportunities I've been given to participate in this sport. From my wife being so understanding of my goals, to UVU for believing in this former fat guy from Iowa to the hundreds of people who were sending me messages on facebook and twitter. I am so humbled by everyones interest in my stupid love of this sport and I can't begin to thank you all.

In closing, 2016 Booneville Backroads was an unbelievable experience. I battled through somethings that I wasn't prepared for and had an amazing time doing it. Sure, there are somethings about my own training that I'll do differently for next time, but the moment we stop learning is the moment the sport loses it's appeal. For those who are reading this from out of the state of Iowa, you need to get here to run this race. It will challenge you physically, mentally, emotionally, and will make you realize how beautiful this state truly is. 

As per usual, I have to say thank you to so many people. God always gets my first and my last. I've been blessed with a body that is able to withstand hours and hours of grueling physical activity and continues to rebound because of the love that He has for me. 

I need to thank my wife and kids. They are so amazing and loving of me. They are the reason I continue to push myself to go "bigger". I want to show them, and you, that if we stay focused and consistent we can do so much more than we think we can. 

I have to thank my crew and pacers. Jim, Jen, Sara and Phil. You guys are all amazing people and I know that I wouldn't have been able to push through and end with the time I did without you guys. We have formed an amazing bond that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Thank you!!!!

To the brands that sponsor me, thank you!!! UVU, Gerhard and Hayder, thank you so much for continuing to have faith in me and allowing me to represent the brand. I believe that these races are truly "You Vs You" and love to represent that philosophy.

Nuun Hydration and Honey Stinger. You guys make the best nutrition products and make training and racing so much easier. Thank you!!!!

I know I don't represent them or their team, but for long distance events, Tailwind Nutrition is an amazing product and a great supplement to the products I currently use. Make sure to check them out.

And thank you to all of you for reading. I hope we can run into each other soon.

Stay Strong, Run Long

Things I used at the 2016 Booneville Backroads 100 Mile UVU Vim Race Tee
UVU Brio Vest and Jacket
UVU Air Jacket
UVU Stamina Jacket 
HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 1Injinji Performance Trail Midweight Mini-Crew (One pair for 62 miles, one pair for 38 miles)
Mobeben Arm Sleeves (provided to me by the one and only Shannon Farrar-Griefer)
Nathan Hydration VaporCloud hydration vestCEP All sports Compression Calf Sleeves 2.0Nuun HydrationHoney Stinger gels (10) and Chews (3 packs)Tailwind Nutrition single serve bags (10)

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