I owe many special thanks to several individuals who have graciously supported me and helped me get to the finish of this race, sometimes even before it started. In no particular order I would like note my appreciation for the gratitude the following people have shared with me (I apologize if I mispell someone’s name): My parents and family, Krista N. Dierkhising, Cody Schultz, Jordan Langen, Edward Sandor, Alicia Sandor, Andrew Sandor, Allison Carolan, Jason LaPlant, Misty Schmidt, Scott Huston, Mike Poland, Wesley Rolnick, Anton Overson, Lynn and Daryl Saari, John Storkamp, and the Volunteers at the race this last weekend. Without everyones’ support of me,  the life of this dream would not be real right now. You are amazing!

Preparation:

I never could have imagined how much this race would take from me before I toed the starting line. In five months of planning, I reached for every recollection of a challenge I have ever faced in my life and how the situations of the past could possibly play out in my race at Zumbro. I packed the quickest treatment option I could to every pain, sprain, contusion, or injury that could be dealt with in my runner chest ( the contents of which I will try to link here). I thought back to to each bad memory I relived from all my physical endeavors and which course of actions could have been taken to repeat the bad. I tried to read up on as many past race reports of this race and many others from individuals who have accomplished much more already, and relentlessly squeezed any juice of wisdom I could pick up on. I tried to take in all the tips and tricks from my veteran ultra running partners over the past few months all in unison for this epic test. This endurance run took more from me than I could have ever imagined, as it feels larger than life. It broke me mentally, and without the many incredible souls watching over me for more than 16 hours late in the race, I may have ended up sitting on some rock halfway down a certain coulee crumbled and defeated.

Lap 1 of 6:

Woke up approximately and hour and a half prior to race start. I had hopelessly tried to get a straight night of sleep after my failure to rest properly the 2nd night before the race. None-the-less, adrenaline was plenty high. Got up to prepare a PB and Jelly bagel and banana. About a fourth of the runners are  visibly awake by now. John Storkamp bellows out on his loudspeaker, “This is God! You have a 100 mile race to start in one hour! Get Up!”. I chuckle, because I had just thought the same thing. Many runners head to the picnic shelter to check in and grab some hot coffee. The weather was chilled with a slight breeze whisping by my legs. Fresh rain mist hovers over the ground from the late night showers. Many runners gather around the tables for anxious chit chat and pre-race photos. The overwhelming notion amongst all conversation is lets get the show on the road. 15 minutes prior to race start, John Storkamp gives us a rundown on the rules. He tried to end on a joke but I’m not paying attention to him anymore at this point.

Suddenly, he says go. I had heard that many people would make a fast push off the front, but I was surprised to see Mike Poland take off for an early whole-shot. I tried to remain in control of the emotions that made me want to chase everyone up the first ascent. I promised to stick to a game plan and felt some self-assurance in doing so. Since nothing notable ever happens in the first loop, its all predictable and rehearsed, I wont review much. Dramatically, I unknowingly dropped my S-caps baggie somewhere between AS1 and 2. Fine, its taken care of anyways. I got into a groove and became separated between groups early on and had solitude.

Finish in about 3:45:00 roughly. (My chronograph stopped 24 hours in so I lost my splits)

Lap 2:

After changing socks and reapplying petroleum jelly in the important places, I checked in at the lap end checkpoint. John shoots me a quip if I had been following my HRM, and I gave him an affirming thumbs up. He replies with a quirky, ” Oh man! There’s about 15 runners out there who are in for an awakening later on” I don’t show any affection to the comment as I pick up a couple of sandwhiches and check out for Lap 2.

Not too much longer than after climbing up the first overlook point I spot the first runner who made it out of aid stations faster than I had. Overtaking him after Ritchey’s Mtn. trail we exchanged something of conversation but I was more intent on keeping the groove moving, and in all actuality kind of wanted to run alone anyways. Not much later, I picked up on a chatty group whom had formed around this  16 year old runner named Logan from WI. It seems they liked to hear his story and make quips about the general age difference amongst their little group. I started catching them on climbs, as I had been working on a way to be more aggressive while hiking without spiking my HR up. I caught Logan’s eye and he seemingly worked on picking up his effort after that. I resided on their trail for a few miles at that point until we  started hitting some more prolonged ascents. I made a move to get right up on them and they allowed me to carry-on ahead. I offered thanks and sportmans’ encouragement and worked to get back on my plan and pace.

I continued with persistent momentum to cover more ground and working on keeping the HR within a reasonable zone. I began passing some more runners through AS-3. I saw Cody and his friend at AS-3 as they helped me get some food and repack. He asked how I was doing. I got asked this several times today and decided on one reply to have handy to keep me level-headed later on; I replied ” I’m feeling better than last loop”. I didn’t mean this to be sarcastic and standoff-ish but more to exemplify that everytime someone would ask me that over 100 miles, I could be content with knocking off more and more miles and getting that much closer to the finish line. I needed that constant reaffirmation that I was going to get there, no matter what I had been going through in the present. But this AS stop was significant to me. This was the point where I almost missed it, but I noticed that I was passing two of the legends of this race Daryl Saari and Susan Donnelly. I smiled at Cody and then turned my head as I walked off with a cup of water and whispered, “Oh Shit!, Am I doing this right?” Well I wasn’t about to wait for them as I’m not really into running and talking when I’m trying to maintain a rhythym in a race. I just wanted to stick to my race plan. I caught up with Jason LaPlant at the crest of Scenic Overlook trail who I was really surprised to see had taken a fast paced first loop. All the times I’ve run with Jason on long runs, he starts slow and makes a heavy push late in the run. I asked him how he was, and he sounded well as he was in a bubble with his IPOD. He said he had taken the first lap at 3:15:00 which is moving pretty quickly, but said he was falling into place now. I said he looked good and keep it up as I made my way ahead.

The rest of the lap went by pretty uneventful as I hadn’t come across any other souls on the trail. Took some time to fill up and pack food at AS-4, and spotted John hanging out with the TCRC crew there. John comes over to give me a pep-talk and tries to motivate me a little more I think. “You gonna be my black horse out here tonight?”, “I hope so” I replied still leaving the opportunity for a great performance in my spirits. Shortly after, I made my way out to finish off the last of the loop. Once I reached the campgrounds to finish Lap 2 I stopped at camp to replace socks, and reapply lube. Picked up some food and warm soup and finished in a time of approximately 3:48:00. Good pacing thus far!

Lap 3:

I spent the first portion of this lap making my way up the first overlook ascent catching back up on some of the competitors who had made their way by me as I took my pitstop. I had made such great progress on Lap 2 on catching people that I thought I would still catch a few more yet. However, it became apparent in the next 5 miles that the field in front of me was thinning and stretching the length out. Not really a problem, just makes me re-evaluate my current state-of-effort and pull it back on staying comfortable. This is the first time I started to think though that the section between AS-1 and AS-2 is a real pain in the ass. It starts with a trek across an old sandy creek bed followed by a long climb with false peaks for probably close to a mile. Then it follows along some long ATV trails that are just slightly curvy and relatively flat. The trail markings on this part get pretty scarce though, and after wandering off in my mind for a while, the uncertainty of if I missed a turn somewhere surely sets in. Luckily in that moment, I could just see ahead far enough to the next flag. Well one of these trails leads to another and it just seems like forever.

Finally, I come upon a sharp right turn which heads straight up a steep grade with enough loose rocks to almost justify bear crawling up. I don’t reccommend trailing someone up this hill too closely or you might be playing dodgeball. The hill adds to the theme of long and relentless torment that is fairly prevalent in this portion of the course. Upon reaching the peak of the hill, you find yourself walking by a picnic shelter as you catch your breath. At this moment, I find myself collecting myself for what is about to be the most destructive on my knees, ankle, and quads. The next part is an exaggerated formation of one the coulee’s that wrinkle the hills at Zumbro. They’re these deep cut out trenches in the ground that slalom down the descent where water runoff has repeatedly carved out the ground. The surface is a very narrow path of loose dirt, loose rocks, and criss-crossing tree roots, which turns into a butt-sliding ride from hell after a fair rain. Did I mention that this is the definitively hardest portion of the course?! After you manage to avoid a number of bad falls, the trail levels out in a valley and you pick up on a another short gradual climb and meet up with another ATV trail that leads back to AS2. After my journey on this path, I started feeling like I had finally began burning off the fresh legs reserved from the taper. For the first time I started to feel the tiredness as the miles began to add up.

The distance from AS-2 heading out and coming right back in the same spot to AS-3 is 2.7 miles I believe if I recall correctly. Well by then I had started experiencing a fair share of energy swings. I was on a teeter-totter of managing the low points and holding back when I felt really good. I was trying to maintain an equilibrium and it was taking more energy out of me mentally to do so then to just fall off on one end or the other. I knew I was going to need someone to help keep me company soon just to keep my focus clear. I arrived at AS-3 and chatted with Cody as I fueled up. I asked him if he could be ready by the time I got to AS-2 on the next loop. He said he would be ready and I continued on. From that point to the end of the lap, I really began to experience the energy twists, and the violent mood swings. I was beginning to lose myself from my central focus and started to muscle my way on-ward. This was the first loop in which I decided to walk down Ant Hill and Patties Drop very slowly. A tightness was forming in my left ankle. Normally, given my past experiences on this course it should have been an issue with rolled ankle sprains, but this time it was more like a shin splint. The anterior tendon in front of my lower shin and upper ankle had begun to get irritated. I was having increasing difficulties with going down the descents and was losing range of motion use in my ankle.

At the end of the lap I stopped in at camp and sat down to strap up my ankle with Kinesio Tape. I also was having some muscle annoyances around my knees, and I strapped them up as well. I changed socks and dug through my running tote for anything that would be useful at this point. Not sure if I actually grabbed anything, but I got up and checked in to finish Lap 3. Time: about 4:30:00

Lap 4:

Ah Yes! I remember now. I grabbed a light rain shell and my headlamp because sundown has come, its a little after 8pm at this point. I hike up and around past the first overlook spot and manage to catch a couple of souls who were a bit faster moving through the last aid station than myself. At this point my ankle was feeling more sore, but my knees were settling down due to the quick fix with Kinesio tape wrapped around strategic spots. Going down hills became more of a hassle from this point on as anytime I had to extend my ankle the more I wished I didn’t have to. Stopped in quickly at AS-1 to grab some sweets and see Kurt Decker again. He asked the million dollar question yet again, and I replied “Great! Better than last lap!”. That was also usually my cue to get a move on again and prepare for the long section between AS-1&2 that I had begun to dread looking forward to. It seemed longer, and quieter this time yet again, and I was beginning to test the waters with the long day of activity and loss of mental stamina. Arriving to the next AS couldn’t come soon enough for me. I had lost my momentum, and only walking most parts seemed desirable for now; or maybe it was just less painful and more bearable to.

I finally found the light, and the tent was just down the gravel road. I don’t know how many times I thought random headlamps beaming around the hills would be that tent but at night things just seem to slow way, way down. I sat down and handed my pack to the volunteers asking to be topped off and have my drop-bag brought to me. Meanwhile, Cody finished strapping up his gear to head out with me and helped make sure I had restocked on everything. He had a good eagerness with him to get out on the trail which was nice. It carried over into me with some perk so I appreciated it. We started walking as I finished popping some sandwiches and rice krispees. I began with my instructions for him that I had worked on preparing while on the run to try and help prepare myself for what I would like him to help me with. We began to carry on in a little bit of small talk and talked about races on the calendar, races we had done, stuff not-about running, and back to running theology. I told him my main desire for wanting to do the Gnarly Bandit and tried to examine his level of contemplation of doing 100 miles reactively. I had him follow closely behind me as I sporadically busted out in a quick jog and halted to a walk when I hit the hills. ~I’ve been hearing more and more now after sharing race tales that keeping a pacer in front to pull you may be a more competitive strategy, but I believe it to be a personal preference as well as a situational decision. I was just happy to be accompanied by another soul nearby.~ It had been pouring on us for an hour now, my feet are squishy, soft, and the OutDry material in my shoe’s uppers couldn’t hold up to the conditions to keep me dry after that assalt. The benefit of the storm was that it distracted me from the reality of what I was doing for an hour, and allowed me to be caught up in the moment for a prolonged period.  Before I really became aware of where I was again we were already over Scenic Overlook trail heading to Ant Hill . I wish I hadn’t broken back into reality at that moment because Ant Hill is a huge pain in the ass. A quote goes around describing this portion of the trail “The thing about this hill is not the grade, or the slippery surface, or the loose jagged rocks, or the leaves blanketing the trail. It’s the combination of all these factors that instills the fear of all the bad things that could result of one misplaced foot”.

Fast forward a bit later- I’m adding on the pain. It’s building with every major grade change, every stump I trip over, and fed by time. It feel’s like a beast growing from within and you can choose to monitor it and keep it calm but it never ceases to stop making tantrums. It finds new regions within your legs, your joints, and feet and hits one after another, and comes back to do it harder the next time. I can’t believe I never looked further into the energy depleting effects of coping with prolonged pain. We as humans typically avoid this situation much too often in our era of survival, but then again we are hardly worrying about survival anymore these days which is a bit of a shame I believe.

Once reaching the river bottoms again, there is a long straight path of gravel road traveling along the river and heads directly towards AS-4. The veterans of this race tell me that John took out about 3 miles of level running path like this and put in place another 20% of hills and elevation change compared to last years 5×20 mile design. I wonder if that makes this year’s race the toughest course design since it’s creation? It’s a flat surface and my best strength on trails, so me and Cody run it out. My stride is more choppy than normal and hurts much more than I’d like but it’s race day and time to put any and all excuses away. “Suck it up and charge this shit”, I think to myself.

Coming in to finish up Loop 4, I find my way to the camp-grounds. It’s quiet, and bonfires are the center’s of social gatherings. I walk-up to the huge party tent where all my friends and the rest of the Sandor crew and supporters are hanging out. I guess I kind of snuck-up on them but Alicia is the first to jump over to help me get taken care of. She grabs my pack, and gets to work on it like a pro. She is better at topping it off than I am. Cody goes over to recover my grab-bag at the check-in table as well as a pallet of food. Krista get to work on re-taping my feet and legs and switching socks and shoes. I feel useless. I eat, rest, answer questions, while a four person crew buzzes around me like a Nascar pitstop. After everything is done I get up and head over to check in for the start of Loop 5 with Krista and Cody pacing me now. Loop 4 finish in about 4:30:00

Loop 5:

Now I head out with two pacers and it’s dead of night. I’ve begun to swing into my zombie moods periodically and burst out with small spurts of energy even more sporadically. Things are getting goofy for me mentally. The conversation is cheerful though. Krista jumps in right from the get go with positive bubbly energy and stories of the day and the other runners as they checked in previously. She starts keeping track of time for me helping offer friendly reminders to take salt, gels, and water. We carry on with random small-talk and funny stories which help distract me. We reach AS-1 and I try to grab some food to keep eating. Joe Boler comes charging down the hill not too long after me and is making a quick stop and launch to finish his final lap. The situation seems crazy and I’m just astonished how much energy he looks to have yet. I can tell he’s pushing hard and determined to finish well but this is a breakthrough for him. From what I have heard he hasn’t made it this far into a 100 miler or at least this well prior to today.It motivates me to push on again and gets something going for myself.

We head out and cross the bridge for the section between AS-1&2. This is really where I was burning up my high points on the runnable sections and hurting on the descents. Sometimes my momentum would plow right off into a drop and before I realized what happened I was charging down a hill and couldn’t brake because my ankle was becoming less and less mobile. Krista and Cody loyally surge and hault immediately along with me each sporadic time I changed pace. I’m all over the place and making a big push to leave everything I have on the course. I think at this point I realized my mind was faring a lot better than my body had been, so I felt I had more energy to put out than I could find doable with my legs. It just required me to muscle through the pain more. The night becomes a lot less solitary with the cheery conversational tone and humorous jokes going back and forth. I’m thankful to be able to be accompanied by Krista and Cody, because I’m much too quiet by myself when I start turning my attention inwards during races.

This was the loop where trying to get traction going up and down hills proved to be most difficult. With the heavy rainstorm that just passed a few hours earlier, the slopes of many of the hills turned into mud slides. With the 50 milers starting out right after the storm, they slipped and slid so much that it was impossible to dig in to the ground following much of the actual trails. I often would have to walk around the schrubs and rocks lining the sides to make my way up hills.

After reaching As-2, Cody and Krista helped me get repacked, grabbed some food, and I thanked Cody for his help as he was finished with running from this point on. Me and Krista headed off and worked to get through the remainder of the loop. After rolling past AS-3 and climbing scenic overlook, I was down to a very slow hike. I was extremely weary from lack of sleep up to this point. From this point on, I relied on Krista to remind me to get in gels, S-caps, and water. It’s real easy to forget to drink when you feel this tired. In some instances just squeezing a sip out takes more energy than you willingly have to use. Up at the top of scenic overlook, Krista calls at me to tell me a runner is coming up on us. It was Becky George, the leader of the 50 mile racers. She had a rather large lead on the rest of the field and slowed down for a little bit to walk behind us. Krista chatted her up for a little bit and was giving her sincere words of cheer and optimism. The best I could muster was a mumbled yes or no anytime a question was directed my way. As we reached Ant Hill, I side-stepped out of the way to allow her to pass and say good-luck. I had only the slowest pace possible left in me to go down this hill. Every step was excruciatingly painful and stable and forceful. I was simply just stepping out and falling with my body weight onto the ground without any sort of flow of movement. I felt like a start-stop animation character, where somebody was shaping me to make a movie of me going down a hill and I would make a step and pause for a snapshot of time and then repeat the process repeatedly, and slowly. I had no real use of my quads. My knees only made enough of a bend to walk with a step 6-8 inches in front of the other. My left ankle couldn’t flex or extend for support. I thought I was walking on stilts instead of legs, because my joints had no fluid movement; just jarring jabs at the ground right after another. It took me over 40 minutes to reach the bottom, less then a mile of ground covered.

From this point on, the only theme left for me to cover is that I was tired. I know I came into passing with other people after this point and if I could remember anything that happened I would love to relive it. Unfortunately, my mind is numb. Thoughts don’t stick long enough to even hold a conversation. People talk to me and I can hear voices, and see a face speaking at me, but I can’t process any understanding of words. There is no answer to how you feel when you don’t know how to say yes or no. The only thing that stays with me is to keep moving. I prepared myself for this point, in which no matter what I felt or how bad it hurt, I would just move. I trusted Krista to ensure I was going down the correct path. She had to eventually take feeding and drinking me into her own hands. I was less responsive to commands than a two year old toddler. I had difficulty grabbing a GU chomp or a gel, and when I did finally take it, I didn’t know what to do with it. Krista ordered me to “eat it; put it in your mouth; chew it; swallow some water; take some salt.” I would classify my state of mind as a walking vegetable at this point. I cant raise my hand to my mouth, I can barely chew, and I don’t know how to work the nipple of my hydration pack anymore. Walking was a reflexive exercise, no thought of it was needed. Just the little flame within me to keep going.

I come up to a windy lane of single-track of trail with grassy shoulders and broken twigs and logs littered throughout. I’m looking ahead and see this critter facing us standing on it’s hind legs. I turn to Krista and point, “It’s a chipmunk”. She looks confused. “Where do you see it?”. I said it’s up there on the left side. Krista informed me that it was a huge log. I saw what she meant as we  passed it walking. Giggles ensue as a result.

Later, walking along the river, Krista was trying to engage me and get me to wake up a little bit. She started talking about some childhood memories and I think I had taken enough caffeine to where I could finally understand her. She mentioned her favorite poseession as a child was this Easy Bake Oven. The little Barbie colored toaster oven where you make single serving cupcakes, and other bad baking concoctions. I thought it would be humorous to share that I too liked playing with my sister’s EasyBake. Then I would use it to double batch the Creepy Crawly bugs I was making at that age as well.

I guess at somepoint when we reached AS-4, I was a zombie. My face was pale, my eyes heavy, and my stature was crippled. I sat down in the chair and did nothing. Krista got to work filling up our packs with water and gels, and the aid station volunteers were trying to talk to me to see what I wanted to eat. I stared at the table and gazed. I must have gotten some awkward looks because people looked confused. “Why isn’t he responding? He’s looking at everything. Krista works to grab some random foods and comes over putting things in my hands. She’s not hesitant with me anymore, she just tells me what to do from this point. I put up little resistance if any. I don’t even speak. I just slowly eat, sitting in a camp chair, gazing at my feet. I guess the color in my skin had really faded at this point too. Some of the volunteers told me after the event that I looked real bad, like there was nothing left in me. Well I still had that brainwashed voice deep within that said to keep moving. After burning my mouth on some hot coffee I got a little jolt and made the push to get out of the chair and keep moving. I stood up and a white flash burns in my sight. I felt nautious, and light-headed. I wanted to get sick. After catching my breath, I sat back down. I told Krista what happened at was worried for myself. I asked, “What do I do?”. I just sat there for another couple of minutes and drank some water. I asked for a sweater because I was cold. All the blood was retreating back to my heart and leaving my extremities. I can’t stop and rest this long anymore. I have to keep circulation moving. I finally get up for a second try, and this time make sure I do it very slowly. So far, pretty good. I stand at the safety of the AS for a minute until I feel like things are okay and begin walking again. I’m shivering because there isn’t a fast paced flow of warm blood flowing throughout my core anymore. Krista walks besides me and begins to rub my arms and back to try and get my upper body to warm up again.

We had finally hit the campgrounds again. Loop 5 was finally done with. I had 10 hours left in the cutoff to finish. We sat at my camp site and got to eat again. I changed into fresh clothes and put on my hiking boots. I knew I was only going to be able to hike the last loop. Wasn’t even going to try to run bits of it. My crew had a growing concern about me after seeing the shape I was in. No one was going to try to cut my spirits and encourage me to stop my race. They just worked harder to get me back to reasonable shape to get moving again. Alicia asked me how many Ibuprofins i had taken so far for the pain. I told her none, and she scolded at me looking pissed off. She probably thought I was a stubborn idiot, (I don’t usually like the idea of taking pain killers for muscle aches or joint pain, but rather like to work on what’s causing the problem and preventing it from reoccuring  rather than disguising the pain). I took three of Advil though because there is nothing I can do to address the problem at this point. I had a mission to finish and would just need something to help me muscle through it. Advil is a powerful medicine when you aren’t used to taking it!

Loop 5 finished in something over 7 hours.

Loop 6: The final stretch.

Krista agreed to go out and finish the last loop with me. I am extremely impressed with her selfless support during this because after pacing me for two loops she hiked further than ever previously done before all while keeping the well being of a helpless hiker in check. In total she went out for 33 miles starting in the middle of the night, and after a full day of work and driving out to the race. This was also her first experience pacing a runner in an ultramarathon event, so her crash course lesson on crewing she learned on the drive down was the best prep she had to use. Pretty impressive.

The hiking boots were very helpful on the course for this last loop. My feet had ample ankle support to make it up the climbs and hike comfortably also with plenty of traction. It looked pretty funny with short running shorts and a tank top but my legs fill it out enough to make for a good photo anyways.

The temperature began to really rise this Saturday morning. The high was expected to climb into the mid-70’s. Even though I’m out in the woods most of the time, the sun still found plenty of time to beam on my head and drain the energy out of me. Knowing it was my last loop, I was bit more peppy most of the time during the beggininig of this loop. I would experience another very hard low point yet to come between AS-1&2 yet though. I was drinking water more often now and actually killed two hydration bladders in the four miles between aid stations.

When we reached the gnarly hills before AS-2, Krista noticed our water packs were empty so she opted to run ahead to the next AS and refill quickly and come back to get me as fast as she could. I kept trying to climb the hills and stopped a couple of times to sit on a rock and catch my breath again. The effort intensity levels got spiked pretty quickly in me by this point so more rest more often was needed. I did this probably a half a dozen times in the 15 minutes Krista was gone. I sat on one rock and felt like sleeping, but I couldn’t shake the guilt of stopping to sleep while waiting for Krista to return and making her run back up the hills she had already blazed through once. She was going to have to come down them again with me anyways, so I covered as much ground alone as I could.This is what I thought I was going to do. What actually happened was Krista came and found me propped on a rock staring at my feet, hunched over, taking up a spot like the rock I was sitting on. She started popping food in my mouth like a baby bird taking a morning worm. She then tried to help pick me up off the rock so I could stand up, because doing so on my own was an impossibility. She is not built for this type of lifting, and my collapsed body wasn’t helping the cause. As she tried to hoist me up from under my torso, I raised up and lost my footing on the hills and collapsed on top of her. I was a heavy sack of crap and this small framed woman was trying to pick up 170 lb sand-bagger.

Between the next two AS’s, the sleepiness had really begun to dig deep into me. We were walking beside eachother and I had a thought cross my mind. “Krista, this race is hard” apparently in the way a little kid would say after realizing Santa isn’t real.  I was veering off the straight line of walking the path I had been marching down because I was beginning to close my eyes. Krista came up alongside and grabbed my arm to keep me upright, as I pleaded my intention to try and sleep while walking. She stopped me for a minute for some more energy chews and water. She pulled out my caffeine pills and had me take one to get me going again. Then every 10 minutes I feel like she grabbed another gel or block with caffeine to keep me alert. It took about a half hour, but after leaving AS-3, I was motivated again. I had pep in my step and began to actually hike. The caffeine overload from gels, blocks, pills, coffee, and a couple of Tylenol for good measure to help manage the upcoming Scenic Overlook and Ant Hill. I was looking good from this point, I could talk, I could walk more easily, and navigate rougher terrain better than previous attempts. It’s like ingesting a second wind with all this stimulant stuff flowing in me.

We reached the stretch of dirt road heading back to AS-4 along the river and at that point I was still feeling pretty cheerful and in a good mood. I knew at that point that I was finally going to make it to the end. Me and Krista walked proudly and started to exchange excitement of realizing that I was going to finish my first attempt at a 100 miler. I was smiling and living in the moment trying to let myself soak in the glory of my victory. There was still 3 miles left but I knew it was all manageable and that I was feeling well enough, and still had plenty of time to spare that nothing was going to stop me from this point on. I had a belt buckle on my mind and some sleep to finally catch up on.

Along that stretch, we actually caught up to Arika Hage and Jason LaPlant who were both also finishing up their 100 mile races as well. I was feeling rather blessed at the way I had turned around my state of health and finishing like this. I could tell that both runners were going through much of the same hell I had been dealing with and we were all so close that it was sweet tasting. The day became more beautiful and nothing happening in the world other than this race had any significance for this time being. I had escaped my lowest moments of pain and dread and relentlessly maintained the pursuit of chasing the dream I had made. Coming down the last 300 yards in the campgrounds to the finish was elating. I was hugging Krista, and cheering with my crew, and had a permanent smile you couldn’t punch off my face.

Loop 6 finished and 100 miles completed in 32:18:54.

Thanks again for everyone’s support in all forms and I apologize for not taking time to edit the rough draft but it doesn’t honestly concern me.