Pickled Feet 48/24/12/6 hour run is held at Eagle Island State Park, near Boise, Idaho. It is a wonderful event put on my Emily Berriochoa. They also provide a 100-mile option. Last weekend I ran 100 miles at 4mph challenge and I really didn’t consider running this event just one week later, but my recovery went well, the Idaho weather forecast improved, and at the last moment, I decided to head for Idaho and run. If successful, I could accomplish two 100-mile finishes with just five days of rest in between them. I have accomplished that one other time, back in 2013, running 107.7 miles for 5th place at North Coast 24-hour, and then the next Friday running Salt Flats 100, finishing in 8th with 23:29. So, I knew it could be done. Could I do it again?
The Pickled Feet course runs on a mostly flat, smooth dirt road/trail on a 2.6-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 about an hour before the start on Friday. I surprised many people there who didn’t know I was coming. I was surprised that I was there too and had a very uncertain feeling. My main worry is that I still had sore calves for my last race. I had visions that I would cramp up after five miles and have to drop out and go home. But I hoped they would loosen up. I had been massaging them for the past couple days and had seen good improvement.
The race provides a nice heated tent to put your things in and I decided to use that instead of putting a table out on the course. It worked out great this way. I was still making preparations and missed the race briefing but was ready at the start with a small field 13 100-runners at 10:00 a.m. As we started, I was confused that we took an unexpected turn and ran a short loop. Quintin Barney kindly explained to me that the course had changed from previous years. The main loop was now a little longer and we needed to do three short paved loops to get the mileage exactly right. A new paved road had been put in the park to get to a zip line area so the trail went across the road in a different spot, thus a longer main loop. I believe the course is very accurately measured.
Kelly Agnew ran very fast determined to get the win. I wasn’t going to chase him, needed to hold back, make sure my legs were OK, and enjoyed running with Quintin. After three short loops we ran on the main longer loop. There were also 20 48-hour runners out on the course. They had started at 6:00 p.m. the previous evening. The race was being led by Jayk Reynolds (a previous winner) and my good buddy Tom Jackson from Washington. They were at 75 miles after 16 hours, a solid pace. When I noticed that Tom was in the race, we both stopped on the course and greeted each other, glad to see each other for the first time in a couple years. (Tom would go on to get an impressive 48-hour win with 188.5 miles for a course record).
My pace goal for the race was for a 22-hour finish. If my legs had truly recovered, I thought that was possible. Last year, I finished poorly in 28:30, stopping for more than six hours, sick because of the heat last year. But this year, it would be cold the entire time, daytime temperatures only in the 50s and nighttime below freezing. I ran the first loop in long sleeves, but then shed the extra layer.
My legs seemed fine, so I turned up the speed a little. My early mile pace was 9:19, 9:18, 9:19, but I kicked up the pace and mile 7 was 8:44. I was running in second place but just barely ahead of two other runners. At one point in the course you can decided to run a big loop in clockwise direction or counter-clockwise direction. This way you can always see how your competition is doing if you choose the direction opposite from them. You can also see runners across the course during the loop to very easily to keep track of them.
I was very surprised at how well I felt. My first mile above 10-minute pace was mile 10. At about that point, I noticed I was pulling ahead of the others each lap. Kelly was flying and had already lapped me by then. At mile 15, I felt amazingly well and really kicked up the pace for the next five miles running at 9:10-mile pace. I unlapped myself and was on the same lap as Kelly for several miles. But at mile 20, I slowed down to a more reasonable pace, about 10:30-mile pace.
Yes, I was starting to pull well ahead of my goal pace. The cool weather was perfect. I was avoiding stopping at the aid station on every loop. I felt strength in my legs and body, as if the 100-miler last week strengthened me, rather than tiring me. I never have believed in severe “tapering” before a race (the practice of greatly reducing the number of miles you run in the weeks leading up to a race). I’ve found for me that I actually do better and run faster if I don’t taper except for nearly complete rest for a couple days before a race.
I reached the marathon mark at about 4:18, not terribly speedy, but for this course is very good. While the course is pretty flat, it does have many twists, turns, and sections of uneven footing to slow you down. I reached the 50K mark (31.07 miles) at about 5:15. By that point I had lapped the 3rd place runner, Ryan Taylor and double lapped the next two runners after that. The lead would keep increasing and I started to feel confident that I could take 2nd place.
You would think that running 2.6-mile loops would be boring, but it isn’t. I am always watching my completion, keeping track of my pace, listening and singing to music, looking at the things along the course, and planning what I needed at the completion of each loop.
At mile 27, I had recorded my first mile over 11-minute pace. My first mile over 12-minute pace was mile 39 and I held pretty steady after that with a few miles faster. At 6:00 p.m, the 8-hour mark, about 40 new runners entered the course running 6, 12, or 24 hours. Several friends were in that field and would greet me during each lap. Most of these runners at this point were running far faster than me, but after a few hours would slow down and I would be passing most of them.
In 100-milers, I always hope to reach the 50-mile mark before sunset and even with the late 10:00 a.m. start, I achieved this goal. I reached 50 miles at 9:18, at 7:18 p.m.
I was 39 minutes ahead of my goal time. Last year I reached the 50-mile mark at 9:56, so I was doing much better.
Darkness came, and I took out my green flashlight, still trying to keep a solid pace in the dark. It cooled somewhat, but as long as I kept running hard, I stayed warm and didn’t put on only put on one more layer. I was two laps behind Kelly and three laps ahead of the third place runner. I reached the 100K mark (62.1 miles) at 12:04. Thus far, I had only stopped for less than 20 minutes total at my aid station or the bathrooms.
At the 12-hour mark, I reached 62 miles, far off my personal record of 67.1 miles, but still very solid on this course during a 100-miler. Last week at the 4mph challenge, with forced stops, I was at 48 miles at this point. Last year at this point in Pickled Feet 100, I was at mile 58.8 and was soon walking 18-minute miles. My race fell apart last year when I had to rest for an hour at mile 62.8.
But this year, I was still running well. But by midnight, I started to really struggle. I was at mile 70 and about ten miles ahead of the runner behind me, but the cold air started to really affect my lungs. My usual sinus problem flared up and my coughing started. I could no longer breathe well but kept pushing ahead. I put on another layer on my chest, a fleece vest, and that helped for a while.
My miles slowed to over 14-minute miles. To motivate me, I simply recalled that last week I was able to average better than 15-minute miles at this point on a much tougher course. I could do this. But mile 73 was a 19-minute mile including a long stop to warm up and eat well. At mile 74, I knew I had less than a marathon to run. I could do this. Earlier I had visions of finishing close to 20-hours but that hope slipped away as I slowed.
I was still running nearly every step, but now I could feel the effects of running 100 miles last Saturday. I pushed on ahead and tried very hard to keep my pace consistently under 15-minute pace. I was succeeding, but after each lap lost time with 3-5 minute stops. I was still well ahead of my pace goal, but it was creeping closer and closer.
At about mile 80, I was suffering from the below-freezing cold and had to stop for about ten minutes to warm up and recover. I put on another jacket, now wearing four layers. I was still in shorts which felt fine and my hands were still warm in my thin gloves, but my core needed to be warmer.
The course seemed to have lost many runners who were stopping to sleep or warm up. But a few were still running well. The night was still full of noises around the course including honking geese and hooting owls.
One big problem with loop courses like this is cheating. You would think that no one would cheat in a sport like this, but it happens and I observed it on this course again this year several times. Without clear evidence, I couldn’t report it, and those that cheated know who they are and will live with it but it is very disappointing. To help prevent this, the race really needs someone taking numbers at a couple points, the intersection where you can go either direction and on the far side of the course.
I slowly ran on and on during the night but it wasn’t very fun. My stomach at times started shutting down but I shifted what I was eating and drinking and seemed to pull out of it. My mile times, including stops, averaged through the night at about 16:30 pace.
By about mile 88 after another long stop, I started to feel much better. It was about 4:30 a.m. and I had great hopes that a new dawn would get me to the finish. I was still five laps ahead of the runner behind me but he was gaining on me fast and passed me, pulling to within 10 miles at one point. Kelly had earlier finished and recorded a time of under 18 hours for first place in the 100.
At 6:00 a.m. the course filled again with new runners, running 6-12 hours. That helped motivate me and seeing the dawn light approaching really boosted my spirits. I reached mile 95 at about 21 hours, 7 a.m. I had less than two loops to go. I was now about ten minutes behind my goal time, so I knew I wouldn’t beat 22 hours, but I was fine with that. Other runners asked how far I had to go and it was very nice to say that I had one more lap after this one. The morning light brought the course to life and my pace increased to 13:00-minute pace. At 8:00 a.m. on my last loop, I had more than a 16-mile lead on the next runner. I celebrated while running my last mile making sure I took in all the sights for the last time.
Note in the chart above, these are GPS miles. Since it is impossible to run the course on the line it is measured by and with GPS technology weaknesses, on a well-measured courses my mileage is always a little longer. I came very close to my goal pace.
I crossed the finish line officially in 22:22, in 2nd place, and was very pleased. It was the 6th best 100-mile finish time ever on this course. Not bad for a 57-year-old man. I also did it again! I finished two 100-milers in a seven-day period. What is really funny is that it was almost exactly seven days from the start of my first 100 to the finish of my second 100. I had eight minutes to spare. You would think that the second 100 would be slow, but it wasn’t. It was solid and I felt fine at the finish. How is this done? I don’t know. But certainly my very long runs every Saturday really helps. My 78th career 100 is finished and my 4th already for 2016.
I’ve also been trying very hard to stop quitting 100-milers. This is now seven straight 100-mile finishes without a DNF. For those close to my age, we all really struggle avoiding DNFs. Also, out of the last 14 100s, I only experienced one DNF. So hopefully I have put quitting behind me for now.
The 3rd place runner would not finish until another 4.5 hours. I immediately drove home, stopping to snooze at rest areas, and arrived home at about 4 p.m. with the race still going.
One bit of triva for fitbit users is that I set a personal record for steps in a seven-day stretch of 324,134 steps. Most reasonable people hope for 70,000 steps in a week.