This past Saturday June 17, 2023, I ran the second edition of the Ring the Springs 100 miler, hosted by Aravaipa Running. Miranda and I did a recap podcast on this race, so check that out on your local podcast app.
Fitness: My fitness is pretty good. I have gotten back into training after Niwot’s Challenge six weeks prior. But, I didn’t do a proper build for this race, just a few weeks at base and an abbreviated taper.
Nerves: I didn’t have any nerves about this race until the night before. I was actively trying to be chill about the race. But, I didn’t predict that I would become so anxious about finishing the race prior to ever starting. See, the last two (and only two) times I’ve tried to run a 100 miler and be “chill,” I’ve failed to finish (one was 2019 Lou Garou).
Race Intentions: I had some dreams of a sub-24 hour finish, but I realized that was somewhat unlikely, although not impossible. I also didn’t really know where my fitness was or how that would translate to this course that I had never run before. So I wanted to run as good as I can, but I was going to happy wherever that landed.
Day Before: We (Miranda and I) drove down from Boulder the night before. The weather was super rainy, and traffic was bad. We barely made it in time to pick up our bibs the day before. We immediately headed to our AirBnB to rest and prepare.
Start - Gold Camp Up (18mi)
I was excited to get started. I even stood in the front of the corral, but didn’t go out with the front pack. For the first 6 miles or so, I was in about 10th place, running reasonably quickly on the bike path. I had to stop at a portable toilet at the first aid station, which is somewhat unusual for me. After I got out, I wasn’t sure what place I was in, which was good, because I shouldn’t be tracking which place I’m in anyway. Over the next 12 miles up to Gold Camp, I just tried to run steady. I got to Gold Camp at 3:15, which is pretty fast for the first 18 miles of a hundred. Miranda was there to meet me. I declined to sit down and drink a lemonade. I just refilled gels and hydration and continued.
Bonking on the Mountain
Gold Camp Up (18mi) - Gold Camp Down (45mi)
About a mile after leaving Gold Camp, I passed the 7 Bridges Trail. For some reason that I do not know, the map of the course I had on my phone showed us taking a large loop on that trail. I remembered this about a quarter mile after the turnoff. I decided to turn around and go back to the turn to inspect it. It had no “wrong way” markings, but the markings clearly indicated staying on the main road. I had even scared the eventual women’s winner into checking it out again. She assured me the course didn’t go that way. We decided to continue on the main road. I had just cost myself over half a mile and 10 minutes, and now I didn’t trust the map on my phone to boot.
Pretty soon after, we got up into the forest heading to Mt Rosa. I started bonking pretty hard. I had been eating and drinking a ton of calories, so I didn’t think it was due to a deficit of calories. I just kept trying to move uphill, however slowly. Eventually, I finally reached the top, took a photo, ate some food, and started heading back down. By this point, I had been passed a bunch and was probably near 20th place.
My downhill legs weren’t there either, and I found myself walking some of these downhills. I will admit that this was at 11k feet altitude, so some of this could be attributed to that. But, I believe that the bonk was due to two main factors:
- Stress causing stomach distress and difficulty processing calories
- Undiagnosed dehydration due to a sneaky humid day
As I was descending slowly, a storm rolled through, pouring rain and hail on me. I got all my gear on. Even though I felt a little miserable running in the storm, looking back, I feel this was a positive turning point for my race. It really was the first time I got out of my head and dropped my nervousness.
After what seemed like forever and getting passed by everyone, I finally made it to Old Stage AS. I made sure to eat some real food here and fill my bottles with water. This helped greatly. I started realizing that my Skratch hydration mix was negatively affecting me. It was giving me an irritated throat, which happens to me when I eat some raw fruits. This irritation was really bothering me, and I decided to pivot away from the mix for the rest of the race.
The last 11 miles back to Gold Camp went much better, as I was able to consistently run and eat real food. Finally, I made it back to Gold Camp. I came into the aid and immediately tried to use the portable toilet again, but this time to no avail. I told Miranda no more Skratch. I drank a lemonade and a protein shake, filled up on to-go snacks, and headed down the mountain and back to Colorado Springs.
Finding the Groove Again
Gold Camp Down (45mi) - Palmer (68mi)
This section went by pretty quickly. I turned on my Mile 76 playlist (my 100-miler specific inspiring playlist, named after when I broke down at mile 76 on my first hundred), and ran downhill. I got into ATB (57mi) at 14 hours or so into the race. It would be the last time I’d see Miranda until she finished the 50k the next morning. I made sure to give her a kiss. She brought me a nice coconut water and a canned latte, both of which I enjoyed. I was out of there in just a few minutes, continuing with the momentum towards the finish.
Another 12 mile section over to Palmer gave me some time to think and run. I ran most of the route, taking a few walking breaks here or there. By the time I reached the trails, the sun had set enough and I turned on my headlamp at 9pm. Palmer Park was super muddy from the rain. There were also far less course markings in this park than there had been on any other part of the course, so I had to be careful to make sure I was going the correct way. We ran around some cool geologic formations, and eventually, I made it to the Palmer AS.
I met Nathan there, who was going to pace me. I still felt pretty good. I ate some pasta, refilled everything, and we headed out back into Palmer Park.
Navigating Course Vandalism
Palmer (68mi) - Pulpit Rock (80mi)
We made it through Palmer all right. It was super twisty but marked well enough that we didn’t get seriously lost. That however, was about to change. Between Palmer and Austin Bluffs Open Space, we made at least 4 major errors in course nav, running at least 3 extra miles, but maybe as many as 5. First, there was a turn into an underpass right after Palmer that was missing markings. I figured it was vandalism, as it was on a city underpass. I called the Race HQ and Jamil answered. I told him about the missing markings and sent him a pin. We continued.
Before the race, Jamil had announced that there was a small course change in this area, and earlier in the day, I had realized that the route on my phone was from the previous year. Both of these pieces of knowledge encouraged me to distrust my phone in favor of the course markings. This was a mistake.
But once we got into Austin Bluffs, the markings just didn’t make sense. They disappeared for a mile and half, where we were navigating by the phone. Then they reappeared, but appeared to be going a different route than on my phone. We ran along that for a half mile until the markings just stopped and didn’t come back. Eventually, we found ourselves a mile off course, and I got fed up with it all and decided to just follow the route on my phone no matter what, even if it was last year’s route. We corrected ourselves and found the course again, which felt like it took forever. I just kept saying to myself that it’ll feel good when we’re back on course and making progress toward our goal.
We picked up another runner and their pacer, also confounded by the course markings. At a following junction, there was a course marking showing to take a slight left turn. After I followed it, it descended a bit. I knew this wasn’t correct (because I’m looking at the map constantly!). After retracing our steps a quarter mile, we found that the course markings were literally taking us off course. I’ve never seen this kind of vandalism. Someone didn’t just remove the course markings. They had moved them to fool us. We corrected it as much as we could and continued.
Eventually we made it to Pulpit Rock in the dead of night. This would have been a cool place to be at sunrise or sunset. It’s a really cool formation that I bet someone used to lead a church service at some point. We descended off the formation and eventually found ourselves on some singletrack heading outside the park. As we crossed the park boundary, the markings got excellent again. I sighed relief that we had made it through there to the other side… at long last.
We came across a volunteer holding course markings. He said he was going out to help. We told him about the issues. There was no way that he could remark everything. But at least he could improve it a bit. He told us we were a half mile out from the aid station. Thank god!
All in all, that “11.4 mile” section took me 4 hours and 40 minutes.
Bargaining to the Finish
Pulpit Rock (80mi) - Finish
Back on well marked sidewalk and path, it felt good to run with Nathan. At least we could run and not be worried about getting lost. I just had to keep myself motivated to keep moving well. I was taking long walking breaks at this point. But, overall still moving well. After having constipation issues all day, it finally hit me like a ton of bricks in the Ute Valley Open Space. I couldn’t wait for the aid station. What a relief to have empty bowels! I felt like a million bucks, and ran much better around that open space than I had coming in.
After 8 miles of mostly road and path, Nathan left me at mile 88 aid station. He had a date with the San Juan Solstice the next week. I think our “20 miles” (24 by his watch!) was plenty adventure for him.
I kept moving on my own. It was about 4:30 in the morning, so I called Miranda as she was preparing for her 50k starting at 6am. I knew her course went through the super difficult navigation section so I warned her to download the map and follow it! I’m glad I did, because otherwise she would have been quite lost like everyone else.
When I reflect on this part of my race. I’m struck at how inevitable it all felt. I just knew I was going to finish. All I had to do was get there and be patient. I ran through a pretty neighborhood, up a big hill and down that hill. We went through a Christian retreat that opened up their property to us. It was very pretty in there. The security guard waved at me. I passed the cool castle on the property, took a picture.
I climbed a steep dirt road (quite slowly I might add) to the summit of a ridge where one dude was manning the final aid station. What a hero! I drank some coke, ate an orange slice, and said seeya. I started off on the final descent. It took a moment to convince my legs to go, but I bargained with my body to just keep going. The pounding on my feet was endless and unbearable, but I grinned and beared it. I was given a beautiful view of the Garden of the Gods from above. It slowly became closer and closer into view as I drifted down into the park.
The course wound through the park. I power hiked the uphills and forced myself to run the downhills. I said hi to day hikers. Two women asked what I was doing and I said, I’m on mile 99 of a 100 miler, and the finish is around the corner. They were so excited they came to the finish line to congratulate me. I ran the last mile well.
When I crossed the finish, I felt all that inevitability had caught me. I had done what I knew I could do and that felt good, but not elating. This is the chill finish I had dreamt of. Nathan was waiting for me. That was nice of him.
Jamil asked me how bad the course markings were. I described them as being pretty bad in that one section, but overall, not too bad. “Sometimes, in trail running, you get some free miles.”
I’m writing this way late… like 6 months later. It’s taken me a while to come to terms with the outcome of this race. It’s not the race result that’s bothered me, which is one of my best overnight race results. Tenth place, top 20% of the race, with consistent effort all night long, and I kept my cool when it got hard (or hard to navigate).
The day after the race, I went for a walk with Miranda and our dog, Summit. I felt a sharp pain in the fifth metatarsal of my left foot. There are always weird pains after 100s, so I decided to stay off it for a week, let it heal up. The next Saturday, I went for my favorite short trail loop (4.5mi 1000ft gain) around NCAR. The pain in my foot was unbearable. I had to walk it in. The pain lasted through the day, and I had trouble standing for a couple days. I went to see my PT, Michael Morrison at Red Hammer Rehab (highly recommended). We decided that it was probably a stress fracture or “stress reaction.” I should stay off it for a couple weeks and start building from there.
Without going into the day-by-day, fast-forward 4 months, past many ups and downs. I thought I was cured multiple times, only to go back into the pain hole. I took my rest seriously, breaking from running for over 4 weeks (non-consecutively). I had a lot of trouble doing an easy build back, but I eventually figured it out. I ran less than 25 miles per week all of September… which was hard for me. Eventually though, I was able to fully recover from the injury, and as of this writing in December 2023, I’m back into training at a mild 40-45 miles per week.
This race showed me I do have a shot at a sub-24 100 miler, and I’m planning on attempting that by apply to San Diego 100 next year. Also, it showed that Miranda and I can have a great weekend of racing individually and have fun together.