Enjoy the scamper report by Jason Bousliman of New Mexico who traveled to Colorado for a 100km adventure at the Gunnison 100k Trail Run.
Overall: Fantastic 100K (62 mile race). Very well organized first year event by Ever Run Racing. Outstanding course, great field, and tremendous volunteers. Very satisfied to finish. Congrats to Duncan Callahan and Leila Degrave on their wins.
Take Away/What I learned:
- Value of repetition (counting) when I’m extremely fatigued.
- Checklist of simple tasks for hard to leave aid stations to avoid dropping.
- Fire ants don’t care that you’re trying to sleep, port-o-potties are good shelter unless they’re about to tip over, and cows can run really fast.
Event held in Gunnison, Colorado. Incredibly pretty town with its own bistro and brewery. Home of Western State Colorado University.
The 62 mile race was made up of three 21 mile loops. Each loop was run in alternating directions. Runners were given the choice of starting at 4:00 AM or 6:00 AM.
After the six hour drive from Albuquerque, I found a motel and slept for four hours. Awoke at 3:00 AM and was out the door by 3:20. Found the start, checked in and kept warm in my car until the race briefing.
Race director Charles Johnson thanked everyone, gave updated course info, then said, “Have fun, be safe, and no matter what, don’t let any cows out of their pastures or this event will never happen again…ever.” I laughed thinking that was a joke…it wasn’t.
Loop 1. Miles 1-21: Total time – 4:10
Start. 4:00 AM. 39°, clear sky and an almost full moon. Planned on using my car as basecamp as I didn’t have a crew. I’d have access to it at miles 21 and 42. Wore light up mow-hawk headlamp until the sun rose. And no I didn’t steal it from my son.
Start was on a dirt road, slightly uphill. Found myself running with the uber fast Michelle Yates (marathon PR of 2:38). Chatted a bit and was reminded what an elite runner actually is. Michelle said she was taking it easy today because she was pregnant…four months pregnant. Yeah so I decided to stop running with her and let her run ahead because any complaints I had would pale in comparison…and because she is faster than me….much faster. Amazing to see someone first hand redefine what can be done with proper planning. (Michelle’s race report)
Settled into a comfortable pace and made sure to hold back. Enjoyed the stars, setting moon and sunrise. Hit the six mile aid station around 5:15 AM.
Made my way up a pretty decent climb and found the only 100 feet on the entire course that seemed to have cell service. Sent my family a text and carried on downhill. Reached 12 miles in 2:30.
After mile 12, we had a ½ mile climb, then a few miles of downhill to reach the mile 16 aid station. Just before reaching mile 16, I came across a herd of about 100 cattle. Lots of new calves with their mothers. I remember the words of the RD “…no matter what, don’t let any cows out…” Shot past them, closed the gate, and finished the last five miles of Loop 1 with some good downhill running.
Loop 2. Miles 22-42: Lap time 5 hours. Total time – around 9:20
Made the turn around and started Loop two. Ran well uphill to the mile 26 aid station.
Ran past the herd of cattle for the second time. Made a loud “moooooo” to the cow closest to the trail. I thought I was quite funny. The cow stared. It just didn’t get me.
Leadville Trail 100 Champion, Duncan Callahan, screamed passed me at mile 32. He had opted for the 6:00 AM start. This must have made for an interesting strategic game with second place finisher Jeremy Bradford, who had started at 4:00 AM. Duncan ended up taking the win by about 12 minutes. Not only is Duncan apparently a master tactician, but he’s also a great coach in case you’re looking for one.
Take Away #1: Value of patterns.
After running 32+ miles, I was feeling fatigued and unable to run every step uphill. To cope, I employed some mental tricks I learned in a book I recently read by Laurence Gonzales, Deep Survival. I’m not saying running an ultra is the same as surviving a plane crash in the Andes with your rugby team, but the book describes situations that contain parallels to endurance events. Gonzales has studied traits among survivors and noted that our brains crave patterns and that repetition (counting, singing a song in your head etc…) is a common coping mechanism for those sorting their way through a survival situation. Based on that, I began a pattern at mile 32 of running as far as I could and then fast hiking for 20 breaths…run as far as I could…20 breaths…etc. Worked quite well.
Take Away #2: Checklist for hard to leave aid stations.
At this point, I had run 32 miles and had 10 to go until reaching the dreaded turn around at mile 42. There sat my nice warm car. Knew it would be a mental challenge to make that turn and run another 21 mile lap.
For background, I’m not a gifted runner. Far from it. I was a high jumper in college and distance running has never come easy. I’ll never qualify for Boston and breaking 20 minutes in a 5k would require me to make deals with God she knows I won’t keep. But I love ultras and although I’ve never missed a cut, I have dropped. My DNFs have always been in 100 mile events where the aid station is so tempting to bail (i.e..Twin Lakes mile 60 at Leadville).
I want to change this and have spent considerable time thinking of how to avoid dropping. Recently I thought about how astronauts have checklists to avoid having to think in high stress/low energy moments. And no, I’m not suggesting ultras are the same as going to space. Going to space makes sense whereas ultras…yeah maybe not so much. I digress.
Based on this, I made a simple checklist of tasks to complete at the hard to leave aid station (mile 42). Plan was to follow my list and leave. Just follow the list and get the hell out of the aid station.
Now back to the race.
Ran miles 38-42 well downhill to the Aid Station of Death and then followed my checklist. (Get gels. Rain jacket. Headlamp. Water. Sunscreen. Then check out at tent). I completed these tasks as fast as I could and started jogging. The list idea worked incredibly well.
Loop 3. Miles 42-62: Lap time – sun dial slow
Immediately felt sick as soon as I left the aid station. Every step was a battle not to go back to my car and drive home. After a mile, I found myself very light headed and dry heaving. I was exhausted, alone and emotionally done. Even became hard to keep my eyes open. Low blood sugar and lack of sleep had chased me all day and now hung on my back like a 100 pound bag of sand. I decided that rather than turn around and drop, I’d take a nap. Sounds crazy and I don’t recommend this but I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I found a group of bushes 50 feet off the trail, used my hydration pack as a pillow and fell instantly asleep. I positioned myself close enough to the trail that I could be found should something be wrong (which I knew wasn’t the case), but hidden enough not to look like a corpse to another runner. That’s a pretty fine line by the way.
I woke about 20 minutes later by a sharp pain. I pried my eyes open and saw six fire ants biting the crap out of my left leg. I was about to brush them off when I saw that the six on my left leg were only a well-orchestrated diversion for three other fire ants (whom I deemed to be that particular ant colonies’ “Special Forces Ants”) racing up the inside of my right thigh and under my shorts…the Special Forces Ants had a clear destination and evil glint in their eyes. Ok, I couldn’t see their eyes. I jumped up and did that crazy dance people do when trying to brush bugs off. Knocked them off before any permanent damage was done. Whew.
The jolt of adrenaline was all I needed to carry me to the mile 47 aid station. There I found another runner slumped in a chair asking how far it was back to the start. I made sure he was ok and then headed up the mountain again for the last time.
I knew that if I could get up this next climb, I’d finish. I took my time and tried not to throw up. Was 37% successful on that front. Made it to the top as the clouds turned nasty. Time through 50 miles was 11:30, including my nap and ant war.
Once blue skies had turned dark grey and a cold wind had started. I put my jacket on and ran the three miles downhill to the mile 53 aid station. By now the wind was gusting between 30-50 MPH and the sky was pouring down freezing rain and hail.
The 53 mile aid station was now unmanned and blown over. I grabbed some paper towels to use as makeshift gloves for my freezing hands and took a few steps up the mountain. Then I thought, “What’s the rush? I should find a safe place to ride the storm out.”
So I took shelter in the only place I could find…the port-o-potty at the aid station. Not since Tom Hanks in Castaway, has anyone been so glad to see such a structure.
I stayed in there for about 20 minutes and put on every bit of clothing I had including a plastic poncho over my “waterproof” rain jacket which was now soaked through to my skin. I was going to stay until the storm completely passed, but the wind started rocking the port-o-potty, threatening to overturn it. This forced me to choose between braving a freezing cold hail storm while running up a mountain at 8,500 feet, or being in an overturned port-o-potty. I chose the storm.
Video of my shelter:
As soon as I reached the top of the last short climb, the clouds parted and sun came out. Every speck of vegetation had now turned bright green from the rain. As pretty as the world gets. If you’ve never been in the Rockies after a storm, you’re missing out.
From the top, I ran downhill to the mile 57 aid station…and the last gate…and the cows.
Don’t let any cows out: The herd of cows had decided to place itself, all 100 plus of them, between myself and the gate. Mother cows with baby calves and even some bulls. It took me a good 10 minutes to navigate the 400 yards through them. When I finally reached the gate, the metallic sound of it opening startled a nearby calf. Instead of returning to its mother, the little bastard jumped through a small hole in the fence. What the hell.
I stood in disbelief as it ran by me and parallel to the fence. Meanwhile, the calf’s incredibly distraught mother, and the other 100 cows, had now taken chase and were running on the inside of the fence after the calf that was now headed to Canada. The words of the race director went through my head (“Don’t let any cows out…”). I was so tired and confess I considered doing nothing for a second. But I didn’t want the race to get blamed and more important, I didn’t want to tell my seven year old daughter, Elle, about letting this calf go. Exhausted, I hunched over with my hands on my knees telling myself that the cow would probably be fine. “This must happen all the time”, I told myself. Just then, the calf jumped over the sun baked skeleton of another cow who had apparently made the same mistake the year before. So maybe it wouldn’t be ok. Son of a bitch…time to chase a cow.
I threw my hydration pack off and started running. But the closer I got, the faster it ran. This cow needed to be tested for steroids. Unable to catch it, I stopped and pretended to walk away. I feel like the theme song to the Pink Panther was playing off in the distance. When the cow finally stopped, I ran a large 1/4 mile loop to get in front of it. The next 20 minutes involved me herding the calf back up the hill. It got away from me a few times. Each escape required me to chase it down again, get in front of it and repeat the process. After running out of curse words, I finally got the cow back through the hole in the fence where it rejoined its mother. Not even a small thank you. I fixed the fence, put my pack back on and headed towards the finish.
Video of the Cow Herding Incident of 2014:
I ran the last 4.5 miles in about 45 mins. Not a bad way to end a great day. Total time 15:43:17.
I’ll be back to run this race again provided I can take some calf roping lessons first.
– Jason Bousliman
Posted on 09 Jul 2014