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My first Ultra



My first

Ultra Marathon

My first adventure. August 22, 2021

Going into this weekends Black Spur Ultra marathon , I knew my injury had not yet healed. After the cancellation of 2020 and deferral to this year, I was not walking away. My training had been seriously impacted by the ITB issue I have been suffering with all year. Odd thing is there is a possibility it was figured out a few days before the race (shoes).

So what do you do? Adapt and plan for the best possible outcome. I did plan on not running until the very last leg of the race, but I felt good and diverted from my plan. About 10km into the race and around 2300 feet of vertical climb my injury surfaced. The good news is I think it held out longer than it would have previously. So really I just took my plan and flipped it around, run … then hike.

Leg two started with a little wildlife watching. As I climbed past the 5km mark of the leg, I rounded a corner and there was a big buck standing in the bushes. He was so close I could have reached out and touched him. His 4x antlers still had velvet on them, he just stood there eyeballing me. I pushed past and kept climbing.

I can’t remember exactly when the rain started (probably around 18km) , but it kept up for 5 hours. I was moving through the course in just my shirts and shorts, it was a little chilly. My ITB was screaming for some relief, and really started to complain around 25km. It was a steep, rocky downhill on the side of the mountain. I stopped for a minute, reminded myself the pain would probably go away if I kept moving and may have popped an Advil and salt.

At 32km I was making up time on a double track, I was nearing the end of leg two. Nothing would stop me from finishing the race. I rounded the bend knowing that it was so close, and then…. Another wildlife encounter. There was another buck standing in the road, he was a 4x3. Looking to the right was a drop off, to the left was a steep bank back up the mountain. Okay I’ll take the steep bank up and around. All of the sudden out from behind the bushes on the bank drops down Mr. 4x4 buck! He wanders over towards the other buck on the right side facing away from me. What do you do? Have you ever seen a video of someone getting mauled by a buck? I have, it doesn’t look fun. I looked around to see if maybe there was another path. Nothing, so I started a verbal assault on the deer. It started with, “Hey bucks, get the buck outta my way”. Then it progressed to “Hey I’m gonna get two bucks for one buck”! Nothing, they wouldn’t budge. I raised my poles and started around the deer, assuring them if they got close I would stab them in the eye. Leg three passed atop a ridge just above where I was. The person running in the yellow jacket was likely busting a gut at my expense. Well it turns out they were pretty tame, thinking back I probably could have ridden one down to the transition. For those who think this tail is getting tall, I assure you I considered taking a picture. The pelting rain prevented me from getting my phone out.

I rolled into the 2/3 transition and my most excellent crew Laura Johnson swapped my shirt, tossed my jacket on and pushed me out for the final attack. The climb back up the first section of the hill was a bit of a challenge. As I approached the trail to go up the hill my knee stopped, it just would not bend. I took a moment and stretched, let some folks pass and then started back up. It only took a few minutes and it started to free up.

What I failed to mention was the muscle relaxant I may have taken at the transition. After the climb back up the mountain, the terrain leveled out for a few km. This was my chance to make up some time, so I dialed up the power super fast hike. Well let me tell you, as your muscles start to relax in one hip, the expected outcome is not received. I had hoped that easing the tension would relax the pain on my knee. Nope, it just made the hip yell at me. It took a few km but it started to calm and I could focus more at the task at hand.

Finishing the last long decent towards the final aid station I was feeling pretty good. A young lady passed me at a slow jog. I noticed she was wearing sandals, I remarked she is just like the Tarahumara from Mexico. She looked at me like I was nuts and kept on her way.

Reaching the final aid station at 44.6km I was feeling pretty good (aside from the ITB issue). I had a brief chat with the volunteers, ate an Oreo and was one my way. My pace up the second last big climb was pretty impressive, around a 9:30 per km. I kept this up for some time as I moved across the top of the mountain. I was moving fast enough that I caught up to the young lady in the sandals. We chatted for a bit and I explained about the Tarahumara, they are a group of indigenous from Mexico that run crazy distances in sandals made of tire scraps and leather.

I followed the young lady on the final ascent through the forest, looking back I should have passed her (I could have made up another 15 minutes, my legs were motoring). We exited the single track trail on to the double wide forestry road and I was off. I was almost as glamorous as an Olympic speed walker, just slower and maybe a bit chubbier. I finished up the forestry road and dropped onto the little stretch of pavement before the entering back onto the resort.

200 meters away is the last corner before the descent down under the chairlift, behind a fence I see a blue jacket. I had a sneaking suspicion it was Laura Johnson coming to find out what was taking me so long. I released a loud crazy man yell and flailed my arms at her. With my watch dying and not sure if my phone would last, no one knew how close I was. I also was not responding to the text messages Laura was sending, I was focused. We snapped a couple pictures and Laura ran down the slope towards the finish. I hiked the last km down, some may have seen my stop behind the lift to wrap up my poles. With the house keeping complete I was ready to finish.

The last push was a 100 meter jog across the line to meet Laura, Nolan and Hunter. And that was it… it was all over.

Thank you to my wife Laura Johnson for all of the support and encouragement, this is an achievement I never thought possible a few years ago.

So will I try again? I need to take a few months and correct the underlying issue creating the ITB problem. Some strength building and more hill repeats.

Yes, I will return. Hopefully faster.

Distance: 54Km
Elevation: 7200 vertical feet
Elapse Time: 11:33