My 1997 GNC National 100k Experience

It's Monday, the weekend's over, and the 1997 GNC National 100k is but a memory and I gotta say I ran the race of my life. Here's my report.

On Thursday night I got word that the weather forecast for Saturday in Pittsburg was rain and temps 42-52. Setback. In anticipation for a cold night in Leadville I had just received a pair of Activent pants from RoadRunner Sports that day in the mail but hadn't found a top yet. Friday morning I called all over the Washington D.C. area for a goretex/activent top but none was to be found. So I placed a call to my pal Scott Rafferty and pleaded my case he said O.K. and picked up his jacket before we left. As it turns out it was probably a major reason for having a such a good day.

We arrived at the Doubletree hotel around 5 pm and went to packet pickup and met RD Chris Gibson and Aid Station Leader extraordinaire and fellow Lister Mike Franusich. Had dinner, met a bunch of folks then went to bed early.

Saturday morning it was up at 4:30 am, out the door by 5, and arrive at North Lake by 5:30. It was 39* and dark. Couldn't see the clouds to make an intelligent equipment decision so I decided to break ultra rule #1. Which states "NEVER do anything different in a race than what you've done in training". I put the Goretex top and activent pants on over my RaceReady shorts, long sleeve coolmax top and coolmax singlet. I pop a SUCCEED! Buffer/Electrolyte Cap and wait for the gun. The race starts and off we go. The course is a 5 mile rolling loop around North Lake on the bike/jogging/walking path. It's a loop with character and realtively entertaining. The two aid stations are 2.5 mile apart.

It was opening day for fishing season so there were fisherman shoulder to shoulder everywhere. To a third party looking at this scene I wonder who looked stranger, the fisherman sitting in the dark or us running in the dark. Am happy to report that the fishermen respected the race and all the race signs remained in place and only got intentionally splashed with gutter water by a passing car once.

The first loop went well. Started out at a good pace maybe a tad too fast but nothing that would come back and haunt me later. Time 43:51 and way too hot. Made a direct line to the start/finish aid tent and took off the rain gear. Lost a couple of minutes, but what the heck, I'm not in contention to make the US team and I'm here for the experience.

I slow down in Loop #2 and start talking to Dave ? from NY city and start to swap ultra stories. My story arsenal is limited (ran my 1st last July and this is only my 4th "official" ultra) so Dave does most of the talking. My time for the second loop is 45:30 and it feels more comfortable. Pull into the aid station, go to my bag, and take my first drink of a prototype drink that Karl King is working on. (He's given permission to mention it).

It starts to drizzle and I catch up to Dave in a couple of miles, we have more one sided story swapping then fellow Lister Sam Bertenthal pulls along side we meet and begin three way banter. Shortly after that the first place runner laps us. Don't know who it was because we just saw the back of his head. So we lie to ourselves out loud and say that we're just pacing ourselves so we have "kick" at mile 40. Two minutes later Kevin Setnes runs by in a pack of three looking very experienced. By this time It's beginning to rain pretty hard and I decide to put the Goretex top back on. I pull in with a loop time of 44:05 hey not bad, feeling good but make a mental note too make sure I don't get caught up in the race and go out to fast. Back to my bag and notice other people putting tights and stuff on, what's going on? More prototype drink and electrolyte cap and I'm off.

On my 4th loop I finally begin a rhythm and a strategy. I'll take prototype drink at the start/finish aid station and water, soup or any food at the mid-point station. Decided to count loops instead of miles. 12 loops is more digestible than thinking of 62.5 miles. Feeling really strong so no plans for walking. Decided that I will accept any repercussions later on but I'm going to run on instinct. Turns out this was the right thing for me to do, on this day. I'm around a 9 minute/mile pace and I feel I can maintain that.

Loops 5-8 I'm running by myself. Can't figure out where everyone is. Should be getting lapped by more runners. What's going on? It's raining and in the low 40's but legs feel fine. Truth be known I'd like to have put my racing bathing suit and run in it and a raincoat but sensibility got the better of me. At the 40 mile mark I see Kevin Setnes pulling out of the start/finish aid station so I do a quick gulp and sprint to catch up. I jokingly inform him that I'm going to run with him for a mile just so I can say I did it. OK so he had already lapped me twice at that point but I can still say that I ran with him. So I disengage brain engage mouth and start making conversation. After a short bit he's looking a little agitated and I sense that it's one of those moments where I should shut up and remember this is serious business for him here and I drop off. So for the 1/2 mile that I ran with him it takes me 2 miles to recover. I'm waiting for the crash to happen. Still hasn't hit me. I set a PR for 50k (4:38) and I'm on my way for a PR at 50 miles.

Loop #9. Talked to Kevin McGovern for a little bit, now get this, I pass him. He's lapped me twice, but so what... it's an un-lap now. Knowing that it's a fleeting moment I say "see you in a half hour when you catch up". I tear off to make a strong 50 mile time. Hmmm not bad break my 50 mile PR by almost 20 minutes (7:42) . OK so my previous PR was on a trail and this is a paved loop so does that mean I've got to keep separate time for paved vs trail surfaces... not today buck-a-roo. I'm in the groove now. 12.5 miles left just like my Appalachian Trail training run but a lot easier. Can do this in my sleep. Maybe this is where I crash, bonk, or loose it. I say to heck with that I'm going for it.

Loops 10-12. Start to notice the field of runners has shrunk. The cold and relentless rain has taken it's toll on many of the runners. Seems more like survival mode at this point than anything else. The "elite" guys are done and warming up in their car's. Notice that my stride is much more confident and assured. I'm in my usual bolt upright position and my feet are not shuffling. I'm feeling real good and decide not to waste the moment. The hammer goes down. Did a training run of 55 miles 3 weeks ago so I say to myself "your at the end of your run give it what you got". At this point have gotten to know some of the workers so I tell them jokes, inform them they're looking good and to keep up the good work when I run by. This is well received since they've been doing it all day. It was probably nice to hear it back. I finish my 11th loop and am at the the mile marker when Kris Clark-Setnes's does her 61 mile turnaround. Boy she looks strong. I tell myself 6 more miles and its warm sheets and pizza.

Finish loop 12 and pass my jacket to my wife at the start/finsih line and tell her I'll see her in 20 minutes. Don't know why but have more energy than expected so I "sprint" the last 2.5 miles. It takes less than 20 minutes and I'm done in 9:35:13. My first 100k done. Still walking, legs feel good, not hungry, no swelling, can make an intelligent statement, can smile and kiss the wife... it's a good run.

Head back to the Hotel shower, nap, go to the awards dinner and re-establish bonds formed and the course and make some new friends in the process. As it turns out enough of the "good " runners dropped out so I get a 4th place award in my age group. WOW! Am I in heaven or what? You mean you don't have to blow the doors off the other runners you can just hope for a nasty day and maybe some folks drop out and, in the process, you advance. Made a mental note of that. You can do "OK" if you survive the attrition.

In review I'd have to say that there where a several of factors that contributed to me having a really good day.

  1. Tapered the week before only running 20 miles instead of my usual 75+
  2. Used SUCCEED! Buffer/Electrolyte Cap in the prescribed dosage.
  3. Used a SUCCEED! prototype drink in what I felt was the right dosage. It definitely had a very positive effect on me. I only ate 3/4 of a PB&J sandwich, half a banana, 3 cups of soup and 3 Powergels throughout the whole race.
  4. Ran my own race. Didn't get sucked in or pushed.
  5. Outstanding aid stations with, cheerful, helpful and knowledgeable volunteers.
Well I'm going to savor this until after the Boston Marathon next Monday. At which time I'll look forward to the MMT100 in May where humility will once again reign supreme.

As a final note when we got home my wife said "I miss our new friends". So I run upstairs grab the last year and half of UltraRunner magazines open them up to articles and pictures to some of the people that we met. She takes them and reads for the rest of the night. Before bed she's trying to work out how she can take time off to join me for the VT100 in July. This is on top of her agreement to go to Leadville for our summer vacation and crew me at 24hr at Olander in September. Did I get lucky this weekend or what?