18 April 2020


Looking back down my street...halfway up the first hill.
While I do enjoy running just for running's sake and to connect socially with my running buddies, having been physically distancing myself for the better part of the last 2 months I won't deny that I always like to have a carrot in front of me that keeps be motivated to not skip out on a run, even when I may not feel highly motivated. During this pandemic, virtual races have come to fill that void for me. It's allowed me to pound the same neighborhood roads over and over without losing my mind. It gives my running or rather my goal to run consistently direction and purpose.
Huntsville does have hills.
So far, I've probably had 5 big races cancelled on my already, so when Aravaipa Strong announced it's latest virtual race series that included a 100 miler, I did not hesitate to register. Unfortunately, I registered without ever even thinking about the course I would use to run this rave while under a statewide stay at home order. I quickly decided that I wasn't quite "desperate" enough yet to pound the treadmill for 100 miles as the Quarantine Backyard Ultra (50K or 8 hours for me) was still fresh on my mind from 2 weeks earlier.

That meant mapping out a neighborhood loop that would allow me access to my own home for aid to avoid having to utilize other resources like convenience stores, etc. as that would not be really in the spirit of physical distancing and possibly even violate the state order. So I had to resort to working out a loop in our quite hilly neighborhood. In the end, I put together a 4 mile loop and a 4 mile out and back from our house, allowing me access to food, water and other supplies every 4 miles. I did end up getting close to 100' per mile, which made for a challenging course, both mentally (because I would be back at my house every 4 miles) and physically (because of the added vert).
Part of the out & back section...may be a while until I can return to this former "go to" route:-)
Next, I needed to figure out how to give this craziness purpose. After all, if I was going to run loops all day and night, maybe there is a way to give back to the folks that are taking care of us without much care for their own safety during this pandemic. In the end, I found a couple of charities that were both working to provide protective personal equipment for health care workers at the front lines of this pandemic. Not only would this be a great way to support them, it would certainly be a massive boost to my motivation not to quit. That and I didn't want Cary Long to shame me publicly on Facebook, of course.
One of the two major hills on the course.
Along the way, I roped in my good buddy Vic to join in the fun from the west coast. He signed up just a couple of days prior to our planned race day. We decided to start at the same time to be able to keep checking in on each other while running, so he started at 11AM PST and I started at 1PM CST on Friday afternoon. I had a lofty A goal of sub 20 hours that went out the window after an unusually hot day of running that turned my stomach, forcing me to rely almost exclusively on liquids (Coke). Thankfully, I was able to eat my fave Spring Energy gels throughout the day. Other than that, my wife kept refilling my bottles with Nuun Sport electrolytes at record pace. Luckily, Nuun came out with a limited release of my favorite Kona Cola which hadn't been around in at least a couple of years. I am addicted to that stuff and definitely need to stock much more of it before they end production.
At first glance I thought this may have been put there by someone I know...but then I realized it was just bored kids:-)
The first 3 hours were super hot, but otherwise uneventful. I settled into a steady pace pretty much from the get go always making sure to keep in mind what lay ahead. After 3 hours, I had the first of my friends from my neighborhood join me for a couple of laps. This was the beginning of a continuous flow of one or two running friends at a time showing up to run with me for various loops, anything from 8-26 miles. In the end, I did not run a single mile alone after the first 16. I did make sure that physical distancing as observed as much as humanly possible. While I never considered quitting, I am quite certain I would have struggled mightily to finish had it not been for all of those friends showing up at different times to keep me company.
Aid station at the top of the driveway because...why not add extra vert:-)
The weather kept throwing me curveballs, from unusually hot temps during the day to hours of rainstorms and high windchill during the night. Progress was slow, but steady. After 81 miles and just past daybreak, I decided I would give myself a one hour break to rest and shower before tackling the final 19 miles. That did the trick and rejuvenated me both mentally and physically. It was the first time I ever tried to sleep during a race of any distance and a perfect test for my upcoming Triple Crown of 200s. While I slept maybe a total of 10-15 min, that combined with a hot shower and clean dry clothes worked like magic. I ate and enjoyed my first solid food since the day before, a stack of pancakes covered in syrup prepared by my awesome crew/wife, ready to tackle the remaining distance with another friend of mine, who had patiently waited at our impromptu aid station downstairs.
One happy camper with a shiny new 100 mile finisher buckle at the impromptu start/finish line banner:-)
After another 5 hours, I was finally done. I had earned myself another sub 24 hour buckle, but my first solo 100 mile buckle. Running a virtual race is quite different from running with/against others on the same course, but it does provide just enough motivation to keep you going. At the end of the day, you're still competing alongside other athletes, even if you are separated my miles, state lines or even oceans. Thanks to Aravaipa for putting on a great virtual event. I will be displaying that finisher buckle proudly:-)

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