Pickled Feet 48/24/12/6 hour run is held at Eagle Island State Park, near Boise, Idaho. This event is in its 4th year. They also provide a 100-mile option. I was interested to finish my 4th 100-miler in the first three months of the year, so I signed up. Last year I ran the 48-hour version and did pretty well, finishing in 3rd with 161 miles. The course runs on a mostly flat, smooth dirt road/trail on a 2.5-mile loop. The scenery during the loop is great – rural farm land, by a small lake, and along Boise River.
I arrived at the park as the 48-hour runners were getting ready to start at 6 p.m. on Thursday evening. I chatted with Israel Archuletta for a while. He would go on to finish in 4th place with 120.280 miles. I was happy to not be running for two days this time. 64 loops last year was tough and I knew that 40 loops for 100 miles would be plenty.
After a good night’s rest at a motel, I arrived at the park in plenty of time to set up my personal aid station at a point where I could visit it either at the end of a loop or near the beginning of the next loop. It was just a table, chair, bag of clothes, extra shoes, and a cooler with some food and drink. The race also provides a nice aid station but it is handy to have my stuff too.
When I looked at the 100-mile competitor list, I realized that there would be no elite runners in the field and that going for the win would be possible, but hard. There were at least three other runners who could run faster than 22 hours. I predicted that Frank Morris and Julie Tinney would be the main competition. It had just been two weeks since finishing a strong 5th place at Monument Valley 100, but I felt well recovered and ready to race.
We started at 10:00 a.m. At first I hung back a little to see who wanted to grab the lead. Sure enough it was Frank Morris. Clyde Aker was on his tail and Julie not far back. We were doing a pretty comfortable 8:30 pace. Once we hit the main trail, I decided to push things forward, took the lead at the 0.3-mile mark and increased the speed to 7:30 pace. I wondered if I created a big enough gap that they might mentally let me go. I knew it was far, far, too early to race, but playing some mental games early can be effective.
It was about 38 degrees out, but I was dressed for speed, short sleeves, shorts, and no gloves. I felt comfortable running the very familiar trail, knowing that I would have to do it 40 times in order to finish. My first three miles were 7:57, 7:51, and 7:44 pace, a blazing fast start. I finished the first 2.5-mile loop in only 19:51. There is an out-and-back to the start/finish area after the loop so I could see where the others were. Frank was only a quarter mile behind. The next loop was a still speedy, in 20:24. The first five miles complete in 40:15. My lead increased a little, but generally the other frontrunners were keeping pace. Loop 3 was 21:15. I almost completed the third loop (7.5 miles) in less than an hour. I was flying.
During the 4th loop, I decided it was time to back off the crazy pace and get back to my plan for a controlled pace to 21-hour finish. My pace slowed to 8:30-9:00 mile pace and by about mile nine, Frank caught up, passed me, and soon disappeared down the road. The day was already getting much warmer and we would be facing record temperatures for this date, approaching 80 degrees, so I needed to be careful. During this loop veteran ultra-walker, Uli Kamm yelled out and scolded me for running so fast, that I was doing it wrong. He did the same last year to Kelly Agnew, thinking that we were both rookies. He must do this in all of his races. I laughed to myself. I was already three miles ahead of him.
I reached the half-marathon mark at 1:51:45. I made my first “longer” stop (2 minutes) at my aid station at the 15-mile mark, with 6 loops complete. I wanted to be careful to eat enough, and started to put ice in my bottle. With each loop, the heat became more oppressive. The aid station provided a big container of water with rags and I started to use that after every loop to cool my head and back. Rather than counting loops, I started to count the number of hot hours left in the day.
I settled into a comfortable 100-mile pace, slow enough to work with the heat. I completed the first 20 miles in just under 3 hours, with all miles in under 10 minutes including stops. Running loops starts to become very routine but the hours passed by fast. I listened to music, checked my pace, and greeted runners as I looped them. I reached the marathon point at 4:13. I had put together a pace chart and I was about 20 minutes ahead of my plan and 40 minutes ahead of my last year’s pace on this course.
As I ran along, one thing bothered me. At the race briefing the race director was very clear that for our race no pacers were allowed on the course. You could have someone go with you for a course tour, but one of the contenders, a runner catching up to me was using pacers all day, each doing several loops and they were effectively helping him to catch up to me. It didn’t seem fair but I tried to put it out of my mind.
I next reached the 50K milestone at 5:14, still 15 minutes ahead of my plan, doing very well considering the heat. My pace had now slowed to a very consistent 12:00-minute pace. Soon the 24-hour runners started to show up to start their race at 6:00 p.m. Kelly and Jo Agnew arrived and encouraged me on. I had not been taking time to examine that standings closely but I believed I was now running in 3rd place, being recently passed by the pacer runner. But several of us were all bunched together within a couple miles of each other. At about the 35-mile mark, Frank, Julie, pacer-runner, and I were all on the same loop. The next runners were about five miles back.
The worst heat of the day was around 5 p.m. as I was approaching the 40-mile mark. I knew it would start cooling off quickly and I was pleased that I seemed to have survived it just fine. My shirt was covered with salt stains from pouring water on me. I reached 40 miles at 7:23, seven minutes ahead of my plan and 34 minutes faster than last year. But the heat was taking some toll on me. I was slowing and by mile 45 I was ten minutes behind my plan. I was stopping after every 2.5 mile loop for at least a couple minutes.
The 50-mile mark was the next important milestone. I had hoped to reach it by 9:40, and I came close, at 9:48. The good news was that it was now 8 p.m. and much cooler. Jim Skaggs arrived for his 12-hour race in the morning. I stopped to talk for a little while and set up things for the night. With green light in hand I was ready for the night.
At about mile 54, I felt energized, cool again, and my legs felt speedy. I had been running about 13-minute pace and decided it was time to kick it up a few notches. I speeded up to sub-10-minute pace and it felt great, so I started to race along the trail again. On the Boise River side of the course, an owl was out cheering us on with hoots. When I finished the loop, I checked the standings and saw that pacer-runner was only three minutes ahead. Frank had looped me so he was about three miles ahead. It was time catch up. Within a couple miles I passed the pacer-runner (who was no longer using a pacer) and regained second place.
I reached 60 miles at about the 12-hour mark. (My best for 12-hours was 67.1 miles during a 48-hour race on a flat dirt track at Across the Years.) Things started to crumble. My stomach was shutting down. I had brought potato soup in a thermos, and drank some, hoping that would help, but it didn’t and I threw it all up a mile down the trail. I reached 100K (62 miles) at about the 12:45 mark. Julie and pacer-runner both passed me. I was now in 4th place. When I finished that loop around 11 p.m. feeling terrible, I couldn’t resist the temptation nearby, grabbed my car key, and started to head to the car to rest and get warm. Jim Skaggs was turning in for the night and saw me heading the wrong direction. “Where are you going?” He asked. I explained. I needed to try to recover. I knew that winning this race was now not possible.
I hoped for a short stop, but it took 40 minutes for me to mostly recover and again head out into the night. But after another loop I was far sicker and I again headed for the car. I was pretty much in agony for the next couple hours. I had a fever, was throwing up, and in a bunch of pain. After a while I ran out of food in the car. My food was out in my cooler, 100 yards away, but I dreaded going out there to get some. I finally did and came back in a bad shivering fit. I took more electrolytes and within ten minutes started to feel somewhat better. I likely had not been taking in enough salt after sundown. Now I was in a bad electrolyte imbalance and also bonking because my stomach wasn’t processing calories. I knew recovering from these bouts took time. I decided that my race was over. I wished that I could just start driving home. I was about to do that, but then remembered that I needed to gather all my stuff up on the course. I didn’t have the strength to do that. I moaned and groaned in great discomfort as I watch runner lights in the distance going around the course.
At some point I finally fell asleep. When I woke up, I could tell that my fever had broke and I felt much better. It was about 4:30 a.m. Thoughts went through my mind, recalling when last month I had quit at mile 90 at Antelope Canyon 100 with still plenty of time. If I got back on the trail, I still had more than 13 hours to finish the remaining 32.5 miles. That would be 2.5 miles per hour, 24-minute miles. I had no excuse now to stop. Thoughts of quitting floated away. It took me some time to get prepared, carefully eat, and find all my stuff.
I was back on the trail at about 5:20 a.m. I had stopped for a total of 6 hours in my car during the night. This was crazy! In all my many 100-mile races, I’ve never stopped for hours and then started up again. Why? Because quitting was not an option. I had invested all this time and effort. I was going to reach that finish line.
I was now in about 13th place out of the 23 100-mile runners. Frank was in 1st place at mile 95, ten miles ahead of Julie and pacer-runner. I was 17.5 miles behind all of them. Uli, the ultrawalker had caught up to me. I had been about 18 miles ahead of him. So now it wasn’t about placing well or having a good finishing time, it was all about getting to the finish.
For my first loop since midnight, I took it very carefully, testing out the stomach and legs, going about 17-minute pace. A couple runners noticed my green light again and asked where I had been. “I rested for six hours.” That sounded so funny. The 12-hour race started and those speedy runners passed by half way into the loop including Jim Skaggs.
Now at mile 70 with that test loop complete (45 minutes), I was ready to get going and complete the race. Mentally I tried to convince myself that this was a typical Saturday morning, that I was out early for a nice 30-mile run. “Just enjoy it,” I told myself. Twelve more loops to go.
My pace improved to about 15-minute pace. Dawn arrived and during my third loop of the morning a gusting wind storm with some rain arrived. It blew markers off the course and collapsed some canopies. I gathered my things and put them in the car to stay dry. I then wimped out and waited out the wind storm in my car for 15 minutes.
With a cold front passing through, the day would be much cooler than the previous day but still when the sun broke through the clouds, the warmth really bothered me. I was the only one in shorts and short sleeves, not bundled up.
When Jim Skaggs or Kelly Agnew passed by going in the same direction as me, I would attempt to run with them for a little while which worked out great to bring my legs back to life. You could run the loop in either direction. I ran every loop but one in the counter-clockwise direction. I knew that direction so well that when I tried it in the opposite direction it seemed disorienting.
My 4th loop took 30 minutes, a good solid time. My legs felt rested and great. I was now in 10th place, moving up. Besides the 12-hour runners who started a couple hours earlier, almost every other runner still on the course was mostly walking except for the leaders in the various races. I was also running nearly the entire time. I kept receiving good compliments. I told a few of them that I had rested for six hours.
I did the math and realized that I still had more than six hours to go. My stomach was still tender making it tough to run at 10-minute pace for very long. It now became a mental challenge to endure the last 8 loops and 20 miles. I knew that the faster I went, the sooner I would be done. Yes, I could stroll along, but I was determined to finish in under 29 hours. Without my six hour stop, that would be like beating 23 hours.
The 5th loop of my final 13 morning loops took 30 minutes, a good solid 12-minute pace, but the next one took 40 minutes. I reached the 80-mile mark at 22:45. Dennis Ahern was now helping out at the aid station and did his best to cheer me up. Jim Skaggs and Kelly Agnew would come running along. For some loops I could nearly keep pace for the entire loop with both of them. They both went on to be the overall winners of their races. For Jim, it was a well-deserved first win of his ultrarunning career with more than 67 miles in 12 hours, a new course record.
To pass the time, I observed the other runners (walkers). Most of the slower runners in all the races now had pacers helping them along. Everyone seemed very determined to face the day and cover a bunch more miles. The course itself was getting boring. Between the two year there, I had now run the course nearly 100 times. I knew every corner, details about every section. It was all memorized, and becoming a bore because I wasn’t contending for a good placement or a personal record. I just kept checking my GPS to make sure my miles were under 15-minute pace. I knew I had the strength to run much faster, but at this point I was just happy to run at a comfortable pace. At the 24-hour mark, I was still in 10th place but catching up fast to many runners.
I reached the 90-mile mark at 25:45. The previous 10 miles including stops took me 3 hours. Now, quitting for sure was out. There was more than six hours left in the race and I knew I could finish this thing in less than three hours. Four more loops. I now started to count them down. I concentrated on completing them in less than 45 minutes each, including stops.
At the 26-hour mark, I had climbed into 7th place. With three loops left, Jo Agnew put up three fingers and cheered me on. I reached 95 miles at 27:10. On the last loop, I was all smiles. With each turn, I knew I wouldn’t see that turn again on this day. I was in the home stretch. For grins, I really kicked up the pace for the last mile going at sub 9-minute pace. My final goal was to beat 28:30. The finish came in sight and I reached 100 miles without fanfare at 28:26:59 in 6th place. My 67th career 100-mile finish and my 4th so far for 2015. I received my finisher award from Emily, the race director. She had been surprised when I hadn’t finished early in the morning. I explained about my long rest. I thanked her for the wonderful race and all the support. She puts on a very classy race with everything you need.
I gathered my things up and immediately started to drive home, about six hours. But once I reached the freeway, I felt sick again and knew I shouldn’t push another six hours. I stopped at a motel for the night and when I woke up the next morning, I felt wonderful. I had no sore muscles at all, just a tender stomach.