I ran Jackpot 100 held at Cornerstone Park near Las Vegas, in Henderson, Nevada. I had never run this race before and looked forward to running in warmer temperatures away from the long, cold winter in Utah. This race is a loop-format race on a 2.38-mile course through the park. Various races are held concurrently, 48-hour, 24-hour, 100-mile, 12-hour, six-hour, and marathon. I chose to run the 100-miler.
Cornerstone Park which opened in 2012, was converted from a gravel pit. That explains my initial feelings when I arrived the afternoon before my race. “This looks like a pit,” I thought. The pit was filled in with a 30-acre pond, and the rest of the 100 acres developed nicely. As I looked more closely, watching the 48-hours run, I was more impressed with the park development.
There was a very large grass area, entertainment plaza, many pavilions, and lots of trails. I was amazed that the race had been permitted to take over the place. Many of the public were still making use of park, walking their dogs, riding bikes, running, and playing basketball. I could tell that it was a popular place.
I checked out the course route a bit, a loop course with out and back sections where we would come across runners each lap. Because this used to be a gravel pit, the trails are below the rest of the city and gives a nice feeling that you are away in your own little world.
My son, Kevin lives nearby, going to school in Henderson. I had a good night’s rest at his apartment and we arrived at the park the next morning with plenty of time to get ready. I set up my own personal aid station table and chair along the course, under a light that would be great during the night. Personal aid stations aren’t needed because they provide a great aid station that can be visited each lap, but I like to have my own food and drink near my stuff when I need to stop to make adjustments.
My goal for the race was to finish in under 22 hours. My dream goal was to finish in under 20 hours if all went well, but my advanced age (57) is making it harder to approach that time. I constructed a pacing chart with time milestones for every four laps (9.52 miles). It included the mile pace I needed to be running at that point in the race (allowing for slowing) and the lap times needed.
My training had been pretty solid for this race. During the winter I concentrate mostly on running the flats but with some intense very long uphill treadmill work to give me the strength to run the mild hills throughout the entire race. It had only been three weeks since my last 100-miler, and I had inserted two 100+ mile training weeks, including a 38-mile treadmill session just a week earlier. I felt ready and hoped that my minor muscle issues had healed from my last race.
After some Las Vegas style entertainment, we were off and away running at 9:00 a.m. Several runners really shot out in front and I decided that I would not attempt to match their pace. Kelly Agnew from Utah was ahead and I kept him in my sights for several miles.
I became introduced to the course. More than half of it was pavement. There was a mild hill to go up and down and sections where runners in both directions shared the trail. I was at first annoyed that runners were not always staying right (that should be encouraged) but the trail in those sections were wide enough to avoid any collisions. A short single-track rougher section was a nice change to finish up the lap. The course was fast, but not as fast as Across the Years. Each lap included about seven 90-degree turns to slow things down. My first two miles were a speedy 7:39 and 8:15 for a first lap time of 18:47 minutes, which would be my fastest lap. With all the races combined, I didn’t realized that I was in second place.
The distance was advertised as 2.38 miles, but if it was measured and wheeled with the shortest possible lines (as is done for certifications), I believe the distance is no more than 2.30, probably less. But I didn’t let it bother me although it would confuse me later as my GPS would become behind by more than a mile.
Kevin left for the day after I went by for a few laps. There wasn’t much for him to do to help, I’m very self-sufficient in races like this. He would stop by later in the afternoon. All went well for the early laps. I kept my eye on my mile pace, keeping it below 10-minute pace for the first 13 miles. We seemed to all settle down into our positions and for long periods no one passed me and I didn’t pass anyone either.
One problem with the race is that the bib numbers did not reflect at all which race a runner was in and thus you had no good way to gage your competition without asking them which race they were in. This could be easily fixed, even if switching races is allowed in the days leading up to the race. All I could do is consider everyone the competition. Later many of them would disappear as their race would complete. After four laps, 9.52 miles, I was actually in 5thth place, 9 minutes behind the leader.
After a few hours, the heat of the day started setting in. It would reach 73 degrees but felt much hotter with the totally exposed course. They put out a dunk cooler with ice water which we could use to dunk our hats or pour water on us. I tied a bandanna around my neck and kept it cold. That did wonders for me. But my pace suffered from the heat which discouraged me.
After ten laps (mile 23.8), I was settled into 7th place, 40 minutes behind the leader. I reached the marathon (26.1) mark at about 4:15, which was about 30 minutes slower than Across the Years, six weeks earlier. Kelly Agnew had lapped me, now about 2.5 miles ahead.
I tried to keep my stops after each lap to a minimum. I liked the lap distance, to always have things you need within 2.3 miles, but if you stopped every lap it drastically affected your time. I observed a woman runner who had very strong speed. Each lap she would pass me, but then spend about three minutes or so with her crew at her aid station. It greatly affect her lap times.
I made my first long stop (6 minutes) at mile 28.6 to solve a painful rubbing issue near an ankle which I solved easily with some tape. I also paused to recover from the heat somewhat. I reached the 50K mark (31.1 miles) at about 5:25, much slower than I’m capable of. With the heat, I started a pattern of stopping after each lap for a minute or two. By mile 29, including stops, my pace had slowed to about 12-minute miles.
While the course was pretty flat, each loop did involve about 90 feet of climbing. The biggest hill was a paved area that I could push pretty hard each time. I appreciated the variation. On the far south of the course were storm tunnels where some water was coming into the pond. You could noticeably feel cool temperatures coming from those tunnels and I was very tempted to stop and enjoy, but never did.
I was surprised at how many runners were still actually running. Usually in the loop races, runners do significant walking by the 50K point, but this field included some strong runners. I still was running nearly the entire time, only doing a little walking after a lap heading to my aid station.
I finished my 16th lap, mile 38 at the seven-hour mark (4 p.m.) Kevin had stopped by to see if he could help or bring me something, but I was doing fine and just complained about the heat. I knew that the worst would soon be over. Kevin commented about my gross salt-stained shirt that showed the effects of the heat. I soon changed out of that.
I was 21 minutes behind my pace goal, but I knew it was front-loaded with speed so I hoped to still catch up. With the heat, I did throw up twice. Once, my stomach was loaded with lots of liquid and not processing it. I was greatly slowing but after that event felt remarkably better and was able to get the stomach working again.
The sun set and I started to feel much better although I knew that I had been badly dehydrated and it would take a few hours more to totally recover. I was able to run a fast 10:47 48th mile and 12-minute pace now felt very comfortable. I tried to run the first lap after sunset without a light, but the dirt sections were not well-lit and I knew that my green light would help me run faster in those sections.
The park looked amazing in the dark! Lights reflected beautifully on the pond and the ducks would call out as we ran by. Because I was now feeling better and running faster, my spirits greatly improved and it felt like I was out for a pleasant evening run.
I reached the half-way point, 50 miles, at about 9:30 (6:30 p.m.). Kevin returned. I took a 6-minute break to celebrate the half-way mark and clean a foot. After the next lap, Kevin snapped a picture of me and posted it on Facebook with the comment of: “Old man after 52 miles. Smells ripe and has only barfed twice.”
Kevin left for night to visit with friends. I mentioned that I hoped to finish by 7 a.m. (22 hours), but would have to pick up my pace to do that. By mile 54, my pace greatly improved, with miles of 11:28, 11:23, 10:31, and 11:17. Things were looking up. I ran one lap listening to ESPN radio, but then shifted back to music and would find songs to help my pace and to sing to.
At 12 hours I had covered about 60 miles. I needed to pick up the pace. I reached 100K (62 miles) at about 12:15. My slowest lap for the entire race was at about mile 64. I walked a mile with Ed Ettinghausen (the Jester) also took a 13-minute stop to fix my feet once and for all. My lap took 43 minutes.
Eventually instead of focusing on my mile-pace I started focusing on my lap pace. I should have done that earlier to help me minimize my stop times. At this point in the race a 30-minute lap with a 12:30-pace average was very good to maintain.
The night went on. Most of the other runners put on another layer of clothes but I knew if I did, I would slow down to avoid sweating, so I was one of the few runners still running in short sleeves. It would be comfortable all night, getting down to about 45 degrees.
My energy level was high. When wanted I would run some half-mile “sprints” to wake me up and make sure I kept my pace up. I would get good compliments from other runners, most who had slowed way down. I kept up with a very strong female runner. She would pull ahead each lap, but make longer stops with her crew, so each lap I could match her strong pace for a while. Eventually she would push on ahead and several hours later lapped me. I also ran a little with Kelly Agnew from Utah. He was struggling with a hamstring problem and had thoughts of stopping. But he had a significant lead in the 24-hour race and was just making sure that lead remained. I was able to match his pace easily at this point and pushed on ahead. When I reached 69 miles, mentally I considered that I only had 50K left and at mile 74, just a marathon left.
At one point, I came upon Ed Ettinghausen and Dan Brenden walking together. I quickly reflected that together, adding up their career finishes, they have far more than 200 100-mile finishes. I called out, “There they are, the 100-mile men.” They laughed.
As I considered how far I had remaining and how much time, I discovered that my pace chart had an error toward the end and that my chart was actually for a 21-hour finish instead of 22 hours. That perked me up and I really began to believe that I could break 21 hours. I reached 75 miles at about midnight. Could I run the remaining 25 miles in six hours? I was about 20 minutes behind my pace goal, but believed I could catch up.
At mile 80, I decided to focus on the finish, stop being so lazy, and quit stopping and sitting after each lap. Thus far, if I could have added up my stop times, it was more than an hour. For the past 8 laps, I had stopped each time for 2-3 minutes, losing a total of 34 minutes. This couldn’t continue. I was now determined to stop doing that. There would be no more sitting.
I had noticed an older runner, Leo Rankin, 64, from Williams Lake, Canada, who had been running very strong all day. He was maintaining my pace and each lap would be at about the same point of the course when I would see him, about a mile ahead of me. I wondered what lap he was on and considered that he was indeed ahead of me (he was). Once I eliminated rest stops, and only quickly filled my bottle and grabbed food, I noticed immediately that my lap times improved and I was quickly catching up to Leo.
I clocked a 27-minute lap, my best lap in more than 20 miles. I ran the numbers through my head and discovered that if I could average 30-minute laps for the remaining 8 laps (19 miles) that I would break 21 hours. I could do this! I ran Mile 82 at 11:40-mile pace. I discovered that my legs were feeling relatively well and I enjoyed some long stretches of fast running.
I caught up and passed Leo and soon was a mile ahead of him. He was friendly and complimented me. Another runner, Anthony Portera, 44, from White Plains, NY, who always greeted me, started running like crazy at mile 86. He had been a mile or so behind me, but sprinted past me at great speed with a team of pacers. He even recorded a 19:50 lap. He kept it up for the remaining 14 miles and eventually lapped me. I didn’t have the determination to match that speed. I think he was trying to break 20 hours but couldn’t quite make it at that point. He finished in 20:14.
The race director noticed how well I was doing and greeted me as I finished laps. I made the comment that this old man was running with speed.
With four laps to go, mile 92.8, I ran numbers in my head. It was 18:54. That would be 31 minutes per lap to break 21 hours. I was determined. I watched my GPS watch carefully and tried hard to keep my mile pace around 12-minute-mile pace. All seemed very quiet and deserted on the course at 4:00 a.m. Most of the 48-hour runners were off the course sleeping, and many of the 24-hour runners had quit. The top runners of the 100-mile race had finished including the winner, Jeff Friedman, 32, of Grand Junction, CO, in 16:48. Jeff had greeted me before the race, and was always very friendly toward me on the course, cheering me up.
Lap 39 came and went in 32:17. I couldn’t lose any more time to the 30-minute average. I needed to push harder. Lap 40 was better, 29:17. After each lap, I quickly drank a half bottle of Ensure to keep my calories up. Just two more laps to go and 4.8 miles. Usually at this point of a 100-miler race it turns into a death march and I can’t wait to get it over. But in this case, feeling fast and strong, I had no such feelings. I was enjoying the running and just hoped to keep it going to break 21 hours.
Lap 41 was clocked in 28:54. I was at mile 97.6 at 20:24:28. I had this in the bag! After one last bathroom stop, I sprinted down the trail. A glow of dawn appeared in the sky. I knew I was on my last lap, but actually wished it wouldn’t be over. If I instead was running the 24-hour race, perhaps I could have continued to reach 112 miles. (Kelly Agnew won that race with 121.38 miles, despite his challenges.) He had only four laps over 30 minutes.
The finish came into sight and I finished in 20:51:31, my last lap was 27:24. Wow! I was very pleased. This was my best 100-mile time in five years, and my second best ever for a 100-mile race. (I have also run sub-20-hours as split times twice in 48-hour races.)
And then came a great surprise. At the finish I was awarded the 3rd place male trophy! (I finished 6th place overall. There were some speedy women). 31 out of about 50 starters would finish.
Feeling very well and excited, I quickly cleaned up my aid station and arrived back at Kevin’s place. He was still sleeping. An hour after, recovery turned a little rough as I got light-headed and had to lie down for a half hour until things improved. But by about 8 a.m. we were away, driving back to Utah, arriving home in the afternoon.
It was the 76th 100-mile finish of my career, and was already my 2nd finish for 2016. Now that I understand the race better, I’m left to wonder if it would be possible for me to even finish faster. Perhaps I will return and try.
Most of my 100-mile races involve about 190,000 steps. Notice how I took 45,000 fewer. My stride was longer on the easier and faster course. The net impact on the body is noticeable with a much easier recovery.