Lake Martin 100 was the endurance race I signed up for thanks to the urging of Jeff and Dave. Running a 100 mile race was never even a consideration. I admired Emily from afar but in reality I thought she was missing a screw. When Jeff and Dave finally broke my will and I registered for the event it was all systems go. The training, eating properly, recovering and especially the mindset was all going to be done 100% with no short-cuts.
On Wednesday evening I drove to Jeff’s house so that we can get up early (4am) and pickup Caroline (our pacer) and Dave and head for Alabama around 5am. When we arrived at our house for the week we were in awe. This house was awesome. Spirits were extremely high. We were going to run 100 miles and each one of us was prepared. Except we were not prepared for what would happen Friday into Saturday. Rain and lots of it came down on Friday (all day) and Saturday (into the late part of the morning.) I never once thought about how much this rain would change the course.
Saturday morning we got up at 4:30am and had breakfast. I ate two banana and peanut butter sandwiches with coffee. Driving to the race I was a bit nervous about what was going to unfold. Luckily for me these guys are a barrel of laughs and that helped take away the edge quite a bit. We unloaded the car and setup our drop bag section in The Stables. This race was conducted on a horse farm and The Stables would become the sight for sore eyes over the course of the next 28 hours.
We lined up at the starting line and promptly at 6:30am the race was under way. The first part of the race is straight uphill and right then and there we should have known that the ass kicking we were going to get all day was about to unfold. You just keep running straight up the driveway and make a left onto as steep of a downhill as the uphill. Within 5 minutes your quads and your hamstrings have been worked more than one can imagine. We hit the trail and MUD. I do not mean a little bit of mud. I am talking ankle-deep mud. The kind of mud you are afraid that you will pick your foot up and your shoe will be still in the mud. This race officially entered crazy world with that.
After about a mile into the race we befriended Martin. A nice Irishman from St. Louis who chatted with us about racing 100 milers. After a few minutes with him we came across the first of what seemed like 12 stream crossings. The problem is that the stream was now a river from all the rain. There was no tip-toeing over the water or looking for rocks. You had no choice but to go right through it and so we did. The water came up to our calf and was freezing cold. Now soaked, cold and facing the idea of 98 more miles of this turned this race into the mental fight of a lifetime.
We eventually left Martin and came up on a handful of other racers. We chatted with them and took GoPro video with them. It was all so much fun but that may have been the last of the fun as the course continued its soul crushing. You were either going up the steepest inclines you can imagine, going down the steepest inclines or crossing water. Very rarely were you able to actually run. This was not just a physical endurance test but mental. Nothing about the Lake Martin 100 was going to be easy.
Just when you think you have done enough climbing you come to an area labeled Heaven Hill. It is appropriately named because every step takes you closer to heaven. You think to yourself: this has to end soon. The problem is it doesn’t. It keeps going up. Of course when you finish you come across the valley and it is gorgeous. You are above the tree line and can see for miles on end. This is where the first aid station is. There is so much food that you could easily spend 30 minutes there just eating.
You leave Heaven Hill and run a 5 mile loop. I say run because there are actual opportunities to let your legs loose. It is in this section where you are capable of averaging 13:00/mi paces. You read that right. If you manage 13:00/mi here you are doing awesome. At the end of the 5 mile loop you come back to Heaven Hill to check in and grab more food. The next 5 mile loop is another area where you can run and we made friends here again. Spoke to people and had the opportunity to laugh about the fact that the first 8 miles almost made us quit.
At the end of this 18 mile loop you come back to The Stables. Here you have access to your drop bag where you can change, eat, sit, etc. After a few moments here it is back out for the final 7 miles of the first of 4 25 mile loops that creates the Lake Martin 100. The 7 mile loop is just as crushing as the first 8 miles. We were told that the 7 mile loop would be fairly easy. The problem is that this information came from a billy-goat or somebody who likes to take pleasure in other’s suffering. Out of The Stables you walk for nearly 0.5 miles UPHILL. You get onto the trail and it is a whip. Again, more up and down with more mud. More suffering and less laughing. This race was going to test you every step of the way.
When we finished the entire 25 mile loop in 5:39 I was surprised. I could not believe that we managed to finish the 25 miles let alone in a time that I considered respectable. I had plans of racing the first 25 miles at a 12:00/mi pace and we finished in 13:36. The 22 hour and 30 minute goal was out the window. There was no chance that was happening. Time to head out for Loop 2.
Lake Martin 100 Loop 2 Highlights:
As we started running I noticed that Dave was not looking good. We were chatting and he said to me that he was getting a bit light-headed. This was not a good sign this early into the race. I became worried and wanted to make sure that nothing happened to him along with keeping us moving forward.
Near the same time I noticed that Jeff was going through the course very gingerly. His legs just did not want to move it seemed. I kept my mouth shut because I did not want to add any stress to these guys considering how stressful this race already was.
Probably 3 miles into the 2nd loop I left both Jeff and Dave. My legs were feeling great and I was ready to keep moving. I had told Dave that the last thing I wanted to do was spend all night out there. The idea of racing and seeing the sun go down and then come back up was terrifying to me so I took off.
When I reached the Heaven Hill aid station I ran into Gordon and it was a sight for sore eyes. The moment I saw him my smile got huge and I gave him a big hug. A familiar face was needed after getting my ass kicked for the previous 8 miles. I hung with Gordon for about 10 minutes waiting for Jeff and Dave before taking off again. It was at that moment that I knew they were not going to finish this race and I would be taking this on by myself. As I came into The Stables I saw Caroline and we chatted. She told me that the guys had texted her and were concerned about making the cut-off. I left and set-out for the next 7 mile loop knowing I would see them when I got back. I took my phone out and texted my wife to tell her that I loved her and that she was a main inspiration for me. It was tough knowing that the guys were not going to be coming out with me. My mind had to turn to steel and not allow me to give up.
As I came into The Stables to end the 50 miles I looked at the time and I had been on the course for 12 hours. For some comparison, Jeff and I did Rocky Raccoon 50 in under 9 hours. This race was that hard. To have a difference of 3 hours tells you how difficult the course was. The crazy thing is I am in better shape today than in early February and could barely manage a 14:30/mi pace. When I saw the guys in The Stables we chatted and they told me they were not going back out. I felt defeated but knew that I had to finish this race for them. I grabbed my headlamp and maglite because I knew it would turn dark while out on the course.
Lake Martin 100 Loop 3 Highlights:
About an hour into Loop 3 it got dark. I stopped running and got my headlamp out along with the light. I still felt really good and was able to run. The biggest issue was the mental aspect of now being in the dark. This got to me quite a bit. I had to start thinking of things that would allow me to keep moving forward.
- Susan Lacke and her MTFU mantra.
- Emily and her SIUB mantra.
- Knowing that at the end of the 68 miles I would pick up Caroline and have a partner to run with for 25 miles.
My body felt decent considering the lack of sleep and the physical toll I was taking. It was during this section that I ran into Anastasia and Crystal. They were awesome to chat with in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night. They asked me if it were my first 100 and how I felt. I told them I felt great and that I was going to finish this race. They gave me the most positive encouragement and I held onto that for the rest of the race.
During the night you have next to no visibility and the climbs that you knew you were coming upon during the light were no longer that obvious. You were able to run when out of the woods but while inside the trees you could not really figure it out and had to walk when you felt your Achilles and hamstring get tight. That was the clue to the idea that you were going uphill.
As I took another step I kept telling myself that I just needed to finish the 18 miles to get to Caroline. Just keep focusing on the goal for this loop was my mantra. As I managed my way around the course hoping to not get hurt and just finishing. At this point time to finish became irrelevant. Finishing became the only goal.
Upon entering The Stables I saw Caroline and then moved to the bag drop section where Jeff and Dave were. These guys were so supportive. They gave me so much encouragement and made me feel that I could easily do this. Caroline and I left for the next 7 miles of the third loop. Because of how hard this section is there was not a lot of running but having company was awesome.
When we finished Loop 3 I took the time to change socks and put the Hoka One One Mafate back on my feet. I used all three pair of Hoka I brought with me. I started with the Mafate then switched to the Stinson and then the Bondi for the first three loops. Every one of them was covered in mud and weighed far more than they should have because of all the water that they absorbed.
Lake Martin 100 Loop 4 Highlights:
The final loop of the Lake Martin 100 was not going to be a pretty sight. I was exhausted beyond belief. My body was sore and my mind was questioning my own sanity. I had not gone into delirium but I was not all there. This final loop became nothing but survival.
Caroline kept pushing me and encouraging me to keep moving. We came across Anastasia and Crystal throughout much of this loop. We were moving between places 3 and 6 as there was another runner out there with us. I kept thinking that finishing in the Top 3 in my first 100 mile would be a hell of an accomplishment.
We reached a section that is road and as I was walking I could feel my eyes closing. I would take 3-4 steps while sleeping on my feet. Once I opened my eyes to catch where I was I would close them again. The sleep walking was helping me as I moved through the easier part of the course.
When Caroline and I reached The Stables it was fully light out. Since the last 7 miles was going to be nothing but walking there was not a need for Caroline to join me. I went out without a Garmin and just planned on walking. My legs were stiff and sore. My feet were a shredded mess and every step hurt. This was not going to be pretty.
I had a short conversation with Karen in my head about getting through this and focusing on getting in before the 28 hour mark. As each step went by and I got closer to the finish line I was overcome with joy. This 100 mile run was not as much physical as it was mental. The first 8 and the last 7 miles were the toughest miles I have ever covered. When you add up the distance that is 60 miles of soul crushing activity. Regardless of sport or time in a race these 60 miles were bordering on the impossible.
As I came down the final hill and saw the The Stables in the distance I pumped my fist and started to cry a bit at the enormity of the accomplishment. I had goals before the gun went off. Throughout the race the goals were a moving target. I managed to hit each of those targets and after nearly 28 hours I can say:
Lake Martin 100 ….. I Finished!
Lake Martin 100
Lake Martin 100 Ultra Trail Run
[img src=http://cooktraineatrace.com/wp-content/flagallery/lake-martin-100/thumbs/thumbs_10001092_10203245983250098_612811943_o.jpg]18480Coming in after the first 18 miles
[img src=http://cooktraineatrace.com/wp-content/flagallery/lake-martin-100/thumbs/thumbs_1382167_10203249469137243_414310464_n.jpg]18300Getting ready to set out for miles 68+
[img src=http://cooktraineatrace.com/wp-content/flagallery/lake-martin-100/thumbs/thumbs_1941497_10203250616605929_1818837276_o.jpg]18180Returning to The Stables after 75 miles
[img src=http://cooktraineatrace.com/wp-content/flagallery/lake-martin-100/thumbs/thumbs_1901695_10203251523948612_1846502177_n.jpg]18090Done AND Done
[img src=http://cooktraineatrace.com/wp-content/flagallery/lake-martin-100/thumbs/thumbs_bj60kuxieaamhlp.jpg]17810Seeing Gordon after the first 33 miles was incredible
[img src=http://cooktraineatrace.com/wp-content/flagallery/lake-martin-100/thumbs/thumbs_img_2054.jpg]17530Jeff hydrating the night before
[img src=http://cooktraineatrace.com/wp-content/flagallery/lake-martin-100/thumbs/thumbs_img_2050.jpg]17410Packet Pick-Up and Pre-Race Meeting.
[img src=http://cooktraineatrace.com/wp-content/flagallery/lake-martin-100/thumbs/thumbs_img_2046.jpg]17040Signing our lives away.
[img src=http://cooktraineatrace.com/wp-content/flagallery/lake-martin-100/thumbs/thumbs_img_2043.jpg]16820Night before the race dinner on the grill
[img src=http://cooktraineatrace.com/wp-content/flagallery/lake-martin-100/thumbs/thumbs_img_2040.jpg]16670Just arrived in ALA and happy!