“No worries, mate,” said a veteran RR100 runner right behind us with an assuring hand on the dizzy mans shoulder, “there’s plenty of time for that later.” We all chuckled, and several more supportive arms came out of the darkness with reassuring pats and fist bumps for our nervous recruit. He was stoked into a smile, then lowered his head down to his watch, his thumb on a start button he won’t touch again for two more sunrises. With one last collective exhale, Race Director Joe Prusaitis released us from our mental cages. The 2015 USATF 100-Mile Trail National Championship had begun.
|(Here we go! Photo courtesy of Victor Ballesteros|
|(T-minus 30 seconds, photo courtesy of Jason Bryant)|
|(And we're off!!!)|
|(Steve Speirs smiles as the sun greats us)|
|(My early mile pace mates, Steve Speir and Shaheen Sattar)|
|(Steve catches up to Melanie Fryar as we hit one of the many footbridges along the water)|
|(Henrik Westerlin sets a fast pace and heads into loop #2)|
|(I get by with a little help from my friends - sticking with Steve Speirs on the first loop, photo courtesy of Ally Speirs)|
|(Women's leaders Nicole Studer and Liza Howard share a few strides, photo courtesy of Victor Ballesteros)|
|(Hey, I know that guy! Jean Pommier setting a wicked fast pace)|
|(Cruising the footbridges)|
|(Only allowed on the left, photo courtesy of Victor Ballesteros)|
|(WR or bust, David Kilgore goes out hard)|
|(Nearly impossible to get lost with the great course markings)|
|(Liza Howard moving fast, photo courtesy of Dominic Grossman)|
|(The hearty volunteer team at the Dam Nation aid station has no worries about rain)|
|(This guy said "I think you dropped the skin from your elbow on the trail"..ha, ha!)|
|(Matthew Urbanski gets some tree cover)|
|(19-year-old Carlos Rodriguez and Peter Goldring are looking good)|
|(Jason Bahumundi and his friend Jeff Irvin always had a smile for us!)|
|(72-year-old David Blaylock gets his tunes rolling)|
I had switched to eating broth/ramen and pumpkin pie slices at the aid stations, a good complement to my drink calories as the lunch hour arrived. Sure is easier to manage the stomach when it’s not 100+ degrees out…I was easily staying on my hydration and calories, with a little Vespa to balance it out.
|(Ian Sharman looks amazing, natch)|
|(Paul Terranova keeps the pressure on)|
|(Liza Howard is so fast! And still smiling)|
Speaking of which, Ian had moved his way into second place and had gapped Paul Terranova by a few minutes. Nicole Studer was right on Paul’s tail, well on a 14:30 pace. They inspired me to run a bit faster, particularly when I realized I had gained a few minutes on Joshua Finger in the last lap, but as soon as I did, I was face down in the dirt again. One of the fast runners stopped to pick me up, and it was none other than Joshua Finger! He wasn’t leaving until he knew I was okay. Love that guy.
|(Nicole Studer leads the women...no watch! Photo courtesy of Jason Bryant)|
|(I'm still hanging in there! Photo courtesy of Jason Bryant)|
|(Nathan Leehman takes a break, then digs deep for a Top 10 finish, photo courtesy of Victor Ballesteros)|
|(Snapping a quick pic with Victor Ballesteros and Jean Pommier before loop #4, photo courtesy of Victor Ballesteros)|
|(Amos Desjardins stays under a 20-hour pace)|
|(Tony Nguyen ain't stopping! Photo courtesy of Victor Ballesteros)|
Despite a thought-to-be-fully-charged headlamp, my Petzl Nao started to give that oh-shit-just-about-out-of-power blink a few miles into the Dam Loop (mile 88). As it dimmed, I reached for my backup handheld, only to find the back up light dimming as well (I think I left it on). Oh, no…it’s that worst case night running scenario! By mile 90, I was at a dead stop in the rainy blackness, and I cursed myself a bit for being so lazy in the headlight planning. But as my ears and eyes settled in the expanse of the darkness and heard the light rain, it felt amazing, and I was completely lost in the moment. When you hear nothing but footsteps and breathing for a dozen plus hours, a moment of infinite silence and darkness has a vertigo-like intensity. So….wicked….COOL! My runner’s high was off the charts at this point (obviously), and nature’s symphony was almost too much for my wide open soul. I could see some runners headed my way, so I just sat down and enjoyed the tranquility, fueling up the best I could and letting the tears of joy run down my dirty cheeks.
|(Wow...the forest sure is pretty at night. ;-) )|
I was seriously shuffling at this point, but still running everything. I found energy in my gratitude for Jerry’s help, so I sang a version of The Beatles' "Let It Be" in his honor:
When I find myself in times of trouble
Brother Jerry comes for me
Sharing grace and headlamps – let Scott see
And in my hour of darkness
There is still a light that shines for me
Shines right through tomorrow – it’s Jerry!
My light fiasco had erased any sub-17 hour possibilities, but I blew through the last aid station anyway to see how close I could get. At 17:06:38, the finish line found me in 22nd place, with Jason Bryant holding up the USATF finisher tape to signal I had won my age group! A PR of 66 minutes, a sub-24, got the USATF AG win, and no line at the massage table. Can’t ask for much more than that!
|(Paul Terranova captures the USATF 100-Mile National Championship, photo courtesy of Jason Bryant)|
|(Getting a massage at the finish...phew! Photo courtesy of Jason Bryant)|
|(Nicole Studer sets an American Record on her way to winning the USATF 100-Mile National Championship)|
|(72-year-old Nofal Musfy finishes in an outstanding 26:11)|
|(A little more bling for the wall)|
My thanks to Joe Prusaitis, Tejas Trails, and the amazing volunteers who put on this fantastic race. A special thanks to my Dad too, not only for being there on this special day, but for giving me the love of trails that never seems to end. I hope this finds you all healthy, happy, and letting adventure pour into every part of your lives. If not, the 2016 Rocky Raccoon 100-Miler will be on February 6, so get registered! - SD