Bartram 100 by John Ridgley
Due to the twisted company I keep I got it into my head that I really wanted to complete at least one 100 miler. I tried in March at the GRR and only made it half way due to terrible weather and epic mud. After that I had two Ironmanís to do so ultra running took a back seat to swimming and biking. Once they were done ultra season started up again and my potential next attempt at the Pinhoti 100. I started getting my mileage back up and had a pretty good 50K at stump jump but I had a not so good run at the North Face 50 miler. That was my go Ė no go race for Pinhoti so it was a no go. Instead I crewed and paced for Mike Delangís attempt. 2012 was going to be the year. I would train just for the 100 miler, no Ironman. Then one day Iím just trolling Facebook and I see that the twisted company of Mike Delang, Sandy Geisel, and Phil Sustar are signing up for the Bartram 100. I foolish post something in the discussion and the next thing I know my phone is ringing. Phil Sustar is calling me. I tell Jennifer that she might as well start signing me up now because I wonít get off the phone without Phil talking me into doing it. Team Insanity is born.
How do you crash course a 100 miler in 6 weeks? I immediately wanted to start getting 60+ mile weeks in and fortunately I was leading some Pine Mountain 40 practice runs which helped me get the much needed mileage. I started to do incline workouts on my treadmill wearing a special weighted shirt and did a few trail runs wearing it too. That was about all I really had time for.
Because we are insane for doing this, had already called ourselves team insanity, and that the state mental facility was in the same town as the race we decided we needed straight jacket uniforms to wear. I got some tyvek paint suits from work and Sandy Geisel decorated them for us to make them look like straight jackets.
Now anxiety and panic sets in. I became very worried about doing this race. It was a real big unknown for me. The only thing that kept me going was this race had everything going for it. For starters it has an extra 2 hours of time limit, 32 instead of 30. The course is completely non-technical. I had seen mixed reports about how hilly it was but compared to every single ultra I have ever done it wasnít hilly at all. It has 6.25 mile loop with an unmanned aid station half way. That means it is easy to crew and I can pack everything I can imagine and have it with me at the start finish area. Plus I only need to be able to carry 3 miles of water so that means I can run light. The race is also less than 3 hours from Atlanta so it will be easy to get people to come support. This is the race to complete your first 100 miler.
The day before the race I packed everything I could possibly imagine needing. I had three pairs of shoes and twice as many socks. I had multiple pairs of shorts, socks, gloves, hats, and shirts. I packed four different methods of carrying water from a carry bottle all the way up to 100oz Nathan pack. Headlamp, batteries, rain gear even though there was no rain forecast, you name it I packed it. For nutrition I had a cooler filled with 8 premixed bottles of sustained energy. I had a twelve pack of high nutrition boost energy drink. I had pop tarts, uncrustables, gels, and granola bars. Also just in case the race ran out I had my own bottle of tears of a unicorn (Mountain Dew).
Race morning arrives. We had already set up our tent the night before so it was just a matter of getting my chair and gear in a good position for when we ran by each lap. I moved to the back of the pack but I had spent too much time goofing around before the start so when the race started I was struggling to get my Garmin turned on. There was no rational reason to stress a few minutes in a 32 hour race but here I was panicking about not being able to find the reset button on my watch.
I had meant for the first lap to be a reconnaissance of the course. Find out where the hills are and to make sure they were spaced apart well enough to allow for a good run/walk interval. The course is real nice and very easy to run on. None of the climbs are bad and if you werenít running a 100 miles you could run up everyone of them without difficulty. I ended up running with Phil who is essentially our 100 miler mentor and decided to do what ever he did for as long as I could. The plan as it is in most of these type races was if it had any incline at all regardless of the distance we walked it. Run the downhills and flats. These early laps were going very well. My plan was to stay liquid on nutrition for as long as possible. At the end of each lap I would take a salt pill and drink a 350 calorie Boost. I would replace my carry bottle of sustained energy when it was empty. Aid stops were kept to 30 seconds or less.
Phil was commenting on how we were doing better than a 24 hour pace. Wouldnít that be nice. There really isnít much to write about in these early laps. Our first pacer Terri Tillman joined in at 50K and her Phil and I ran a lap together. We got separated after that and I ran a few on my own. I finished 50 miles in 10.5 hours and was pretty damn happy. Jennifer had arrived while I was out on the lap and I told her it was good time to do a lap with me so I could show her the course. It was night time now and time to put on the head lamp. She ended up running two laps with me taking me two the 100K mark (10 of 16 laps done). I hit this point at 14 hours and some predictors say to double this time as your 100 mile finish. Iím ready for something solid so I had Jennifer run ahead at the end of the lap to get me a grilled cheese sandwich ready and I was going to do sock and shoe change.
Peggy ran with me next on what was to be my last good lap. Night time also slows you down or at least it did me. You are a little more cautious and even though it was a full moon you canít see everything. Iím still pretty happy with the lap time but I know the death march is approaching. Iím no longer going fast enough to make enough heat and it hovering around freezing outside. After the lap I put a pair of sweatpants on over my compression tights to try and keep my legs a little warmer.
Peggy and Jennifer are ready to try and get a little sleep to be ready for later so Harry joins in on the next lap. The laps are now 100% walking. There is still plenty of time but I know I am winding down. This is the spot of the race I knew would be difficult. It is around 2 or 3 in the morning. It is cold and Iím tired. I need to keep my brain alert and active. These were good laps to have Harry since he could keep me talking or at least listening. I thought I had a hallucination of a falling star but Harry saw it too so it must have been real. Harry finishes 2 laps with me. There are now only 3 laps (18.75 miles) to go.
Sometime during the last lap I started to have terrible pains in my quads. They were really starting to slow me down even worse than I was already going so I need to do something. Harry had brought some biofreeze which I applied to my muscles and than we started to use the roller on my legs. Leslie was taking over for this lap. I had some hot soup before I left and now it was time to start taking gels for the caffeine and sugar so I filled my pockets with them. This was probably my mentally darkest lap and Leslie did an awesome job of keeping me going. She was talking, would remind me to drink, and stayed positive the whole time. These have to be difficult laps for the pacers because I am going so slow and they have to keep luring me along. I sat down a few times during the lap to eat a gel but quickly got up each time once I had eaten it. She brings me in around 6:00 AM. There are now only 2 laps to go (12.5 miles)
The quads are still hurting so more biofreeze and roller on the legs. Peggy is up for another lap and I know the sun will come up during this lap and that it will give me a boost. We can see the sky getting lighter the whole way. Iím moving very slow and eventually we find a stick I can use as a trekking pole which helps a lot. More gels are needed to keep me moving. When the sun is finally up I can start to taste the end but Iím a little worried about how weak my legs are becoming due to the issues with my quads. We finally make it in. I donít even want to know how long it took us at this point.
This is the last pit stop and my last pacer is ready to join. I had asked Todd Carson to get there at sunrise on Sunday to take me to the end however long that took. I knew everyone else would be tired and if I was a complete wreck it was going to take a fresh person to keep me moving. I had my one stick but asked Todd to find another one so I could have two trekking poles. He did and it was a life saver. We called this lap the F-you tour. After doing 15 laps this was finally the last time I was going to see each section of the course. Every time we passed something it was like F-you pine cone, F-you power line, etc. It was therapeutic. This took so long and I just wanted it to be over. Finally after 28:31:55 it was. I had run 100 miles.
I walked to my chair sat down and drank a beer. I would never have made it without my team and my crew.
This should be the end but what happens next it too good not to include. We were all in hurry to get home because the GUTS end of year party was that night at 5:00 so we packed up and left. Apparently the worst thing you can do after running 100 miles is take a car ride. The plan was for Jennifer to drop me off at the house than take Peggy home and pick up the dog. We pull into the driveway; I open the door, and immediately fall to the ground as my legs give out. Iím rolling around in pain in the grass as Jennifer and Peggy debate weather they should take pictures or not. After a great struggle they mange to get me into a wheeled desk chair placed just inside the door to the house. They then leave me. I really want to take a shower and get in bed which is on the second floor so I deiced to crawl there on my hands and knees which was a very slow process. Doubly slow was trying to take my clothes off. I turn the water on in the shower and crawl in. I canít stand so Iím just sitting on the floor trying to wash myself. When I get done I canít reach the towel and know I canít reach were I keep my underwear so I just head from the shower to the bed. I had considered the dog bed since it wouldnít require any climbing but Iím determined to get in the bed which I eventually do but Iím not any happier. I hurt too much to get comfortable in any position. This were Jennifer eventually finds me. She starts getting ready for the party and I start using a heating pad on my quads. Eventually using a knee brace, biofreeze, the heating pad, and roller I make it to the GUTS party and toward my 40 straight hours of being awake.
Now several days later when I can walk again I can almost look back at all of this fondly.
Wow, what a report and what an amazing accomplishment by you and everyone who ran. Kuddos to the support crew. It really makes a difference to see a friendly face when you are out there, I am sure.
Great job and again, you are incredible.
Oh my goodness what a story, congrats on finishing! I'm always impressed by someone that can run 100 miles (or even 50!), so good job to you. Glad you somehow made it to the shower. Hope you are recovering nicely still. Congrats again.
John - you are nucking futs, and amazing. What a story! Congrats on toughing out the overnight demons, painful legs, and all the other craziness that comes with running for 28 hours. Take the rest of the year off!
Happy Running & Run/Walking.
Congratulations! I thoroughly enjoyed the report and look forward to hearing stories later on the trail...enjoy your holiday recovery!
Wow! Wow! Wow !!!!!
Congrats on an amazing accomplishment!
Karen if there was a "like" button for your comment I would have done it. And yes, take time off!
Great report. I'm sure now to stick with Century Rides instead of runs.
Great report John. Congratulations to you and your pacing crew - I know this was a team effort. Love the after race story . . . I'm glad you are recovering from your herculean undertaking . . . seriously, that is one bad a__ accomplishment!!