05 Mar 2/17/2018: Jackpot 100, USATF 100 mile road National Championship: An Experiment Gone Awry
I was at the USATF annual meeting when Jackpot 100 was named the 100 mile road National Championship for 2018 and 2019. Due to my fall injury, my schedule was still wide open for winter and spring. I wasn’t sure I could get in shape for 100 miles by February, but decided that a trip to a warm place in the winter was a good decision and signed up. I wanted to run Jackpot hard and find out where I was fitness-wise. I also was looking ahead to Western States 100 and wanting to try fueling on liquid calories alone. My theory was that it would be easier on my belly in hot weather to drink instead of devouring gels as usual.
My goals were:
Run under my PR of 14:45 for 100 miles
Win the USATF National Championship, thus receiving $1000
Break the course record (17:24), thus receiving another $500
Mike and I got in late Thursday night, foraged for some pizza and went to bed. On Friday morning, Mike and I met my coach, Howard Nippert (the USATF liaison for the race) and his wife Karen. We decided to do our morning run at the course. The race was at Cornerstone Park in Henderson, NV (Southeast side of Vegas). We arrived at the course just after the 48-hour race started at 8am Friday. “Elvis” was still there in the pink Cadillac that Lucille Ball used to own. Of course, we needed a picture 🙂
The park/course was open, so we decided to run the loop (2.5 miles) to see what race day had in store. We started about 15 minutes behind the 48-hour group and were respectful of runners to not interfere. The course was not quite what I had expected. I knew it was generally 1/2 gravel and 1/2 bike path. It was as described, but also had a 3’ wide grass portion ( ~150 meters) and a single track rocky section ( ~300 meters). The course was gently rolling with nothing big or steep (100’ of gain per loop x 40 loops = 4000’). There was also a 180 degree turn around a cone 2x/loop = 80 times. As I ran the course, I knew it would be slower than expected and I started rethinking my goal of sub14:45. It was a nice run chatting with my coach and his wife. Plus, I got to say hello to a bunch of friends who were already out running the 48-hour: Ed Ettinghaussen, Yolanda Holder, Greg Salvesen, Andy, Ken, Wyatt, Cory, Walter, etc. I didn’t realize so many people I knew were running and it felt nice to know that I’d get to see and cheer on lots of people on the loop the next day.
On Saturday morning, I talked with Jon Olsen about the course, and he too agreed it wasn’t a PR course. We both planned to allow more time to complete the course.
The weather was perfect, 40 degrees and sunny. I was super excited to get started. I started off a little fast, aiming for 8:40’s-8:50’s, but actually running in the 8:20’s-8:30’s. Cassie Scallon was ahead of me and kept gaining every loop. I kept telling myself to slow down and let her go. I had done the math and knew that 8:45’s = 14:35 for 100 mile time, and this wasn’t a PR course. The loop format made it easy and fun to track where everyone was. Jean Pommier, Jon Olsen, Mike Bialick, and Cassie were running the 100 miler. Pat Sweeney was zooming by. I wasn’t sure what race he was doing, and later found out he ran the marathon in 3:17. My coach was running 4:30 of the 6:00 hour as his longest run since having a kidney transplant in the fall. I was inspired by him, and glad to be running again since recovering from my injury.
Around 11am, it started warming up. I had been used to running in 20-40 degree temperatures in Indiana. So, when the temperature got up in the 60‘s it felt hot, especially on a sunny day and no clouds. I asked for my ice bandana. I wore it most of the day, and it helped immensely. Around 30-ish miles, I didn’t see Cassie where I expected. I thought maybe she had gone to the bathroom or something. I got excited to think I was gaining some ground back. By the next loop, I saw her walking with her boyfriend, Greg. I hollered up to her on the path above me as we sort of past each other “Awwww, C’mon!” It was fun to have someone to chase. She said, “Nope, it’s all yours!” I encouraged her to go on, but she didn’t. I later talked to her and found out that her hamstring had been bothering her and hurt too much to continue for 100 miles. Smart decision for her, but it bummed me out, as I knew she was my main competition.
I basically ran alone the whole race with short snippets to talk to people. I met a girl named Jen doing the 24-hour. I told people “good job” as we passed. I enjoyed all of the costume changes that Ann Trason put on, from the Elvis wig to the full-body rainbow unicorn suit. I was happy and enjoying the day, and starting to sing to my ipod. Around mile 40, I was starting to feel sluggish (I thought from the heat). My husband told me I wasn’t getting in enough calories. I had figured if I ran the pace I wanted and drank all my liquid, I would get 180 calories/hour. Jackpot wasn’t my “A” race, and I wanted to try to see if I could get by on liquid calories instead of liquid calories and gels, thinking it would be better at Western States 100 this summer when it’s really hot. Well, I just couldn’t drink everything. I was leaving some liquid behind every loop. But, I was 40 miles in and my belly felt fine, I wasn’t hungry, so surely it was just the heat. I denied food that he offered as I ran by. I of course knew better (hahaha) and wanted to see how my experiment played out. I was 41 miles in, thinking it was heat, knowing there wasn’t much competition and decided to sit for a few…because Sabrina did it at Rocky, so why couldn’t I? She rocks. If she felt better after sitting for 5 minutes, maybe that would help. I repeated the sitting part at 45 miles and 50 miles. Man, I still felt sluggish. My husband, my coach, and his wife were all telling me that I didn’t have enough calories. Hey! I thought…maybe they are onto something. DUHHHHHH!!
So, around 55 miles, I ate and ate and ate. I had a gel, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, Pringles, and drank a bunch of chicken broth. Within 20 minutes, I felt hungry, so I ate another gel, and another, and another all within the next 45-60 minutes. Needless to say, I felt like I was 6 months pregnant in skinny jeans. My belly ached fiercely and was bloated beyond belief. My pace slowed because I just felt awwwwfffullll. I wanted to puke. I thought I would feel better if I did. I stopped and asked if I should run super hard so I could puke. Sure, my coach thought that would be a good idea. So, I did. Puke, Puke, Puke, Puke. Ahhhh. Better. Now, I know from the past, that I need to give myself time before I put more into the system. But my husband and coach told me to start eating again and I didn’t listen to them before, so….I ate gels again. MISERY all over again. Puke Puke Puke Puke. I decided I was not eating ANYMORE, but ice chips with about 25 miles to go. I ran with ice cubes in a cup with the top folded over so the ice wouldn’t bounce out. I never snuck up on anyone in the dark, because I sounded like I was running around with Yahtzee dice shaking as I ran.
I was calculating my pace. Halfway, I was at ~7:20…Now I wondered if I would be out here all night. In addition, our email said that 90% of the course was lit. So, I didn’t bring a headlamp. Someone loaned one to me, but it wasn’t bright at all. So, I slowed down in sections I couldn’t see for a couple of loops. I stopped and asked the RD if he knew anyone I could get a headlamp from. He brought one, but it wasn’t very bright. It took Mike several loops to get batteries for me. So, I just slogged away in the dark with a sucky belly.
Around 20 miles to go, my husband said you can’t just live on ice chips…I said “Watch ME!” That worked for awhile, but around 15 miles to go, I started to feel REALLY REALLY hungry, but my belly was still mad. I had a terrible pain near my diaphragm. I got smart and asked for Tylenol. About 20 minutes later, and only 6 loops (12.5 miles) to go, I finally felt halfway decent again. I started drinking about 2oz. of Mountain Dew each loop. I started feeling like I could run again and excited when my watch said less than 10:00/per mile. Earlier in the night I just wanted to lay on the ground and call it a day, but now I could smell the barn. I started doing new math and realized I could still get the course record. So, I trudged to the finish, excited to have the win, but feeling like an epic fail.
I RE-learned several things:
1-Do the same nutrition in a race that you do in training.
2-Bring all the gear you can possibly need (hello headlamp!)
3-Listen to your crew. (I had a back-up plan to go back to gels if the liquid failed, but didn’t listen soon enough)
In retrospect, 2 weeks after the race, I feel like it may have been for the good. I suffered with stomach issues, but didn’t lay my legs to waste. I want to try to qualify for the 100k team, and feel like I still have a shot. I accomplished 3 of my 4 goals and had a good dose of suffering (like 50 miles worth). That will make me stronger for Western and reminds me to recognize the signs of not eating enough sooner.
Jackpot 100 will be the 100 mile Road National Championship next year and they are changing the loop to make it more “road friendly”. No more grass, no more single track rocky section. 90% road and 10% gravel (I am guessing) on a 1.25 mile loop. I will definitely think about doing it again next year, as Ken and Stephanie put on a great event with lots of choice for distances. They are more than welcoming and super organized.
Thanks to all my sponsors! I will work on getting smarter 🙂
Altra Running: I wore the Paradigms which were the perfect shoe for 100 miles on road and trail!
Nathan Sports: I used the SpeedMax Plus Flasks. I love that I can carry it without effort. The design is such, that it straps to your hand and stays there. My arms don’t get sore from forcibly holding a bottle.
Running Skirts: I wore my Sparkle Hearts skirt because it’s VEGAS! I carried a gel and wipes in each pocket during the race.
Drymax Socks: I wore my favorite socks: the maximum protection trail socks.
Hammer Nutrition: Hammer gels are my go-to fuel. I will not vary from that again.
Squirrel’s Nut Butter: No chafing…‘Nough said 🙂
Epsom-It: A great post-race or post-run lotion to decrease soreness, inflammation, and pain.