John Muir Trail

John Muir Trail

Monday, September 29, 2014

Race Report: Kodiak 100 Ultramarathon

Race Report: Kodiak 100 Mile Ultramarathon

I spent some time up in Big Bear Lake, CA running the Kodiak 100 Mile Ultramarathon on September 19th.  It was a pretty rad, brutal, intense, and rewarding experience, so here’s my race report.  I apologize in advance: I’m an engineer, not a writer.  If this reports were done with numbers then they'd probably be of a higher quality. Enjoy!

The Race

I hadn’t been this nervous for a race in a long time, if ever.  I started getting butterflies 2-DAYS before the race...ridiculous!  I could tell I was getting amped up, and I was confident in my fitness, but the daunting task of covering 100 miles and the atypical noon-time start, meaning that I would be running through an entire night and into the next day, were having their effect on me.  This was my first 100-miler and it was not known for being an easy one.

The Kodiak 100 course actually looks soft (as mountain 100s go) on paper: 100 miles, 15kft. of climbing.  What this doesn’t show are the steepness of some of the climbs, and the steepness/technicality of other climbs and descents.  Some of this course is not runnable, not because it’s too steep, but because it’s too steep and covered in a loose sheet of melon-sized rocks that make it a scree field from hell, haha.  The aptly named ‘Deadman’s Ridge’ would take its toll on many runners.

Anyway, the race was to start at noon on a Friday.  The weather was perfect, 75 degrees (F) and sunny with a low in the low 40s overnight: that’s a pretty good way to split the difference between too hot in the day and too cold at night!  When the gun went off, all 56 of us took off up the first light climb of the ‘Parade Lap’: a lap up through a neighborhood and then back down through the edge of Big Bear Lake Village and some cheering crowds before we get dumped off onto a fire trail climb.  Almost immediately the guys that everyone expected to win and a few ladies took off up ahead.  I settled in to an easy hike/climb, running when I could and hiking when my heart rate would start to creep up.  I was running with a few guys and we were chatting about various stuff, race strategy, the course, etc. (Neto and Lenin, good dudes!).  At mile 6 or so we topped out the first section of climb at the Grandview trail junction and headed off for some rolling single track on Big Bear’s epic Skyline trail.  Originally made as a mountain bike trail, it was designated multi-use and is now a great running trail, definitely worth running the length of (on fresh legs…).  I met a dude named Jason on this section who is a local and was a veritable encyclopedia of area trail knowledge.  Talking with this guy made the first 19 miles go by quickly.  The Skyline trail dumps the runners off into the Moonridge neighborhood and we came through the 2nd aid station at about 12 minute avg. pace...waaaaay too fast.  Everyone in our little group noted this to each other, but we kept going at this pace...nice job all around.  The next 7 miles were some road and fire trail into ‘Camp 1’.  The Kodiak 100 designates 4 major aid stations/crew access points as ‘Camps’.  Though Camp 1 was supposed to  be at 16.8 miles in, my watch read 18.8 miles as I cruised up...hmmmm.  Here I met the only member of my crew to have arrived yet, Chris, who filled up my fluids and gels, and gave me the equipment that I needed for the climb (wind shell, trekking poles, headlamp in case I wasn’t back by dark).  At this point I was attempting to drink 1-2 bottles of TailWind an hour and the switch to gels/water until the next aid where I could fill up on TailWind again.  So far I had only had some minor issues taking 1 gel, I think because I was full of TailWind at the time, so I was feeling OK about my nutrition strategy.  I left Camp 1 at 3:40pm.

The subsequent section is a 12 mile out-and-back to the peak of the highest mountain in the Big Bear valley, Sugarloaf.  It’s a great trail and I’ve hiked it before, so I knew what was in store for me.  All the hiking over the summer (see the Training section, below) helped me a TON, as the Sugarloaf climb is in no way comparable to the climbs on the JMT, especially without 30 lbs. of gear, food and water on my back.  I cruised up this, being sure to climb within myself and not run up my heart rate.  I was pretty surprised that I was gaining on people while I was hiking, but I guess my long legs are good for something other than getting stuff off the top of the refrigerator.  About a mile or so from the top, I saw the leader coming back down and he was flying!  I gave him a few woops as he passed and continued on.  I didn’t see the 2nd place guy until the false summit, and subsequently didn’t see anyone else until almost the top.  About about 9700 ft. I could feel the altitude in my legs, which didn’t want to respond as well, and I was feeling a little empty in my stomach.  I was realizing that it was going to be hard to take down 2 bottles of TailWind an hour! I took a gel to deal with the empty feeling and continued on the last 200 feet of ascent.  The guy at the top told me that I was in 12th place or so while I took another gel, and this worried me a bit.  My lack of experience (none) at the 100 mile distance had me worried that I was going out too hard, especially when the 2nd place guy from last year was in that last group that passed me!  Coming back down I again tried to run within myself, be efficient and not blow up my quads with 75 miles to go.  This section of the course was the most beautiful by far.  It was sunset, and the golden light was shining across the ridges and trees, lighting up the landscape...gorgeous!  I had my phone in my chest water bottle pocket so I had to snap a pic at one point...haha, poor race form, I know, but it was too good to pass up!

Mile 27...Gorgeous!
My only goals for Sugarloaf were to run within myself, and not fall.  I seem to be catching toes on descents lately, so I was worried I’d take a digger onto some scree and wreck myself early.  Luckily, I was able to maintain attentiveness and I made it down to Camp 1 intact and in the light, around 6:50pm.  Here, again, Chris set me up, I changed shirts for the night (ditch the sweaty shirt to stay warmer), threw on arm warmers, packed gloves, and switched out my straw hat for a Buff to keep my ears and head warm. I quickly downed some broth with what appeared to be sweet potato in it and then took off around 7pm.

The next section of trail is about 18 miles long and is all fire road with the first section being a climb to Deadman’s Ridge.  I had prerun this over Labor Day weekend, so I was thrown off a bit when the course as marked was different than expected.  Turns out that the markings were vandalized and the officials had to remark it literally as the leader was running through!  Good on them for prerunning the course in a moto to make sure the runners knew where to go!

Sunset from Deadman's Ridge
This climb is pretty mild, but portions of the fire trail are rocky...just pure rocks about the size of large gravel and up.  I hiked this stuff up to the ridge and began to traverse the ridge, running where I could and hiking anything too steep.  The ridge dumps the runners down a steep, steep loose rocky descent that winds down to another fire trail.  Lots of sliding!  I took it slow when necessary and otherwise trotted down.  The fire trail is rolling and I swear I saw a reflective backpack moving about 50 feet up from me, but when I hit the trail, there was no one in sight.  I kept going and maybe twenty minutes later realized that who I had seen was the 2nd place woman, Gwen.  She seemed like she was doing OK, but slowing down a bit from her earlier speed.  We chatted a bit, she chided me for already being in arm warmers and gloves and after about 5 or 10 minutes I started to pull away on a climb and never saw her again.  At a major junction, I saw another runner ahead, and a few guys hanging out cheering people on from their jeep.  They looked like they were having an awesome time drinking beers out in the high desert! I guess they were friends of another runner and wanted to cheer him on in a lonely section.  This section descends on another fire trail to yet another wide open, flat, boring fire trail.  I hate to say it, but this is by far the worst section of the course.

On the flats, I started catching some people from the train of guys on Sugarloaf.  Some were hurting bad, and some were just cruising.  I was moving along because I was absolutely bored, tired of running flat, smooth, wide-open fire trail, and ready for the next climb!  It’s funny how a climb becomes better than flats or downhill...haha, but at this point I didn’t know how bad the flats would get me later!  I ran/hiked with each guy for a bit to see how they were doing and maybe raise their spirits if they were down, but would eventually bid them well and move on up the trail.  Finally, I rolled into Camp 2 around 11pm.

Feeling good at Camp 2.  Mile 49. Photo courtesy of Amber Wilson.

At Camp 2 the remainder of my crew (Ryan, Amy and Amber) had arrived and so all 4 people were hanging out with a buffet of gear laid out, a chair for me, and some tunes pumping from a JamBox!  As soon as I rolled in they took my bag and started refilling gels and TailWind.  I was done with my 2 bottles of TailWind-an-hour strategy, as it was making me feel pretty crummy, but I realized too late that I had meant to tell them no more TailWind, and I missed them filling the first bottle, so I got 1 bottle.  No matter, 1 bottle was fine and I replaced the calories with gels in my vest.  I downed a protein shake and a homemade rice bar (the best! from The Feed Zone Cookbook!) while I was in the station.  Gear-wise, I changed out socks (I wear Injijis so I don’t have to tape up my toes, because they rub each other raw on long runs), put on my wind shell, and changed out headlamp batteries for the upcoming 6.5 hour (anticipated) length section in the dark.  My crew had my race vest ready to rock, so I threw it on, downed some hot broth and headed out!  I was feeling pretty solid at this point and was actually excited to press on past the halfway point.

A note here on having a crew: I came into this aid station kind of bored, tired of running flat, and overall just feeling a little bit down about the section that I was running and a bit wonky from my nutritional woes.  It sucked to be locked into a circle of light on a boring fire trail.  Seeing my friends and talking to them, resting in a chair, and eating food lifted my spirits and turned my mental attitude around completely.  They took care of everything that I could write down beforehand, so I could focus on taking care of my own needs.  They were amazing!  The music pumping from the JamBox and made the mood of the aid station bright!

Anyway, back on track, I headed across Highway 18 and down the road a short ways to Jacoby Canyon, which is the 2nd major climb on the course.  I was immediately too hot for my wind shell, but I didn’t want to stop, so I kept moving up the climb for as long as I could.  I was still hiking the steeps and running anything that let me run at a low heart rate, and I came upon another runner.  I realized as I moved up next to him that is was the guy who got 2nd the previous year.  He said he was having a tough race, which makes sense because he’s a fast, strong runner and it did not make sense that I should be passing him at mile 49.  I found out later that he had just raced the North Face TDS 3 weeks prior...what a beast!  I wished him the best as he stopped to take off his wind shell, and moved on, and I actually ended up taking my shell off a few minutes later as well.  I passed a really nice French woman named Gratienne on this climb and exchanged a few words with her.  She was very nice and seemed to be in control of her race.  I eventually moved on at my very slightly quicker hiking pace.  This climb went by quickly and I was deposited onto the Northern ridge of the Big Bear valley.  In this time I had hit the 50 mile mark, which was great, and helped me switch gears, mentally.

An interesting quote that I read before the race was, “In the first 50 miles, don’t be an idiot.  In the last 50 miles, don’t be a wimp.”  I don’t remember who said it, but it kept echoing in my head throughout the race.  I had also heard that running a good 100 miler is a test of your ability to suffer in the last 50 miles.  Both of these bits of information referenced the last 50 miles as a time of pain and a time to push through the pain for a good finish, so I took this to heart, haha.

On the ridge, my legs were feeling really good, power-wise, but they were aching.  This ache was causing me to not want to run, even though I was having no trouble keeping my heart rate low and was climbing and moving at a good speed.  At this point, I pretty much assumed that this is what running 100 miles was like and that I should push through to keep moving well.  Nutrition was working out OK, but my stomach wasn’t overly excited when I would introduce another gel into it.  In previous races, I hadn’t had trouble, even out over 50 miles into a race, so this was a little worrisome, but I knew that I needed calories, so I just plugged away at my food and tried to deal with the discomfort for as long as it lasted.  This resulted in a lot of water drinking to try and help digestion, which I guess sort of worked, but not for all that long...

The Camp 2 to Camp 3 stretch has 3 aid stations, I believe at around 9, 13 and 20 miles into the 26 mile section section.  I passed a guy Dan about a mile or two before running into the first aid station and he seemed like he was doing OK.  This seemed especially true when I saw a headlamp coming into the aid station as I was leaving!  In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t him; it could have been the #1 lady from the Jacoby Canyon climb.  She seemed like she was going strong and steady from what she said.

The aid station captain told me that I was in 5th place...WHAT??  I was surprised to say the least.  I did not feel like I was traveling quickly.  This added an interesting aspect to the race because I had previously not cared what placing I got, but the idea of top 5 was enticing.  I quickly put it out of my mind, but the idea of top 5 would continue to lurk there, scratching at the back of my mind, encouraging me to go faster.

The next section featured rolling, smooth fire trail and 1 short, steeper climb and descent over the side of Delamar Mountain.  By this point, my legs were aching much more, and my stomach was really not excited about gels.  At one point I had to stop and take a few breaths with my hands on my knees to avoid throwing up a gel I had just taken down.  Positive self talk was definitely happening… “You’re OK, dude.  You’re OK!” I hit the climb, hiked it up, and tried my best to run down the back, but my legs were really hurting with each step, so it was tough to get a good rhythm going on the steeper stuff (note: in real life, this descent is screaming fast and totally runnable, but 60 miles in it was ‘steeper’, haha).  I was really excited to hit the bottom of the descent and run the half mile or so the the next aid station.  I think it was Krissy Moehl who said that she runs into every aid station smiling to give herself a huge mental boost, so I ran it into the aid station wooping and smiling at the guys.  I filled up one bottle of water and took down another gel while standing there and talking to Beto, the aid captain.  He was a chill dude and talking with him definitely lifted my spirits!

I pushed out of the aid station and up the hill onto Snowslide road, which is a long, dark, lonely section of fire trail.  For some reason, maybe it was the wooping or the contact with someone during the long dark night, but I immediately felt AWESOME!  Legs were still firing but the ache was gone! I took this as the cue to put in some work (take what the course gives you…), and starting consistently running and getting some miles checked off.  There’s only really 1 strung out ‘climb’ on Snowslide, and I hit the top of that feeling good.

Unfortunately, this is where I also started to unravel a bit.  The course markings went a different direction than I had pre-run, and the markers began to get spaced pretty far out.  It’s also like 2:45am and I’ve been running for almost 15 hours.  So I’m continuing down the fire trail, and I start to second guess my navigation and if I missed a turn because I haven’t seen a course flag in a few minutes.  Of course I see a flag a few minutes later and everything is OK.  But then it happens again, and again, and again and I think about what if someone vandalized the course markings here and is sending me off to bivy out at a loggers camp and suffer through the night halfway to Victorville??  All ridiculous crap, but happening in my head nonetheless.  Then, with all the mental shittiness that is happening, my stomach starts to lock up on gels.  It starts with not being able to digest a gel for 20 minutes, meaning that I reallly didn’t want to take another gel (I was at 20 minute intervals pretty much all day once I stopped the TailWind).  I forced one down and it almost came right back up, and this pretty much ended my calorie consumption for the next hour or hour and a half.  Not eating, feeling lost, and getting tired (sleepy tired), I was at a pretty low point.  I tried all sorts of mental games to snap out of it, but it was not happening.  To further complicate this, the sliver of a moon had come up, and I kept seeing it out of the corner of my eye and thinking that it was another runner coming to get me and pip me for my top 5 spot!  I would turn and look and laugh at myself, get annoyed and keep moving.  Over and over.  This is also ridiculous because it’s my first 100 mile race, I’m 70 miles in at 4am or whatever time it was, I have no idea how strong I will be for the last 30, and I’m worried about 5th place at a tiny race...quite silly.

Back outside of the crazy lockbox of my brain, my GPS said that I should have hit the next aid station already, but the mileage kept clicking off.  This did not help my mental state...I was spiralling pretty badly.  Finally, I see a light in the woods and it’s the aid station approaching.  What should have been mile 68 was at mile 71.  I had already accounted for the extra 2 miles going into Camp 1, so it was actually only a mile more than expected, but in my state, this mile seemed like an eternity.  I ended up not taking in any calories there or filling up water because I knew that I had only 5 or so miles left to get over the hill and into Camp 3.  I just said what’s up to the aid station captains and took off after a brief 20 second breather and collecting myself with my hands on my knees.  I knew the route to Camp 3, and the 4-5 miles, and I was ready to sit down in that camp chair!

I ran the hill down through the Green Valley campground and Green Valley and began the climb.  17 hours and 10 minutes into the run, however, and my Garmin died...what a jackass! This thing is supposed to last 20 hours!! Oh well, still haven’t figured that one out yet, I even made sure to turn it on only 10 minutes before the race started!  So I tried a gel, which worked out well enough, and climbed the hill.  The descent is actually mostly single track, which was fun although steep enough to hurt a good amount.  I was able to see a headlamp beam a few switchbacks down, so I pushed through the pain and tried to move quickly to the Camp.  I ended up catching the dude in front of me about 100 meters from the camp, said an exhausted “What’s up” and rolled in to meet my crew.

For me, this was time to reassess my game plan.  I felt pretty bad both mentally and physically, and wasn’t sure what I needed to snap out of it.  Did I need more calories? Real, solid food? Ginger Ale? A nap?  I think my pacer Ryan sensed that I was in a state of confusion, so he handed me a water bottle of protein shake and told me to start drinking. Amy and Amber wrapped me in blankets because I had started to shiver, and Chris was working on nutrition and grabbed me a ginger ale.  After trying to work through some drink/food relatively unsuccessfully, I decided I wanted to reset with 5 minutes of sleep, so I asked the crew to wake me in 5.

Ryan enjoys some fun while Peter sleeps!
Photo courtesy of Amber Wilson.
I think they were going to let me sleep 20, but I woke up on my own 15 minutes later to Amy saying, “Not it on waking him up!.”  I knew things had changed because my mind felt GREAT! I was alert and ready to go, the sun had come and lightened things up, and except for the stiff legs, the dark places of my run through the night seemed like a distant dream.  I was immediately out of my chair and into a new shirt and then back on with arm warmers, gloves, wind shell and a new, fully charged Garmin.  I ditched my headlamp and snagged the straw hat, pounded some more protein, half a race cake, and headed out with my pacer Ryan.  He’s a fast dude and was ready to get me to the finish.  My crew had switched out my bottles of water for Skratch Labs, which is good shit and very easy on the stomach, so I had 2 bottles of that and a reservoir of plain water.  I left Camp 3 at 6:30am (30 minute stop or so, I think).

Dudes are ready to leave Camp 3! Photo courtesy of Amber Wilson.

The next section of the course is by far the crux.  A bit of trail, a steep 2000 foot descent over 2.5 miles to get down to Bear Creek, and then a nasty 3000 foot climb over 6 miles to get out.  I hiked the descent to save my legs and 2 guys blew by me going Mach 20 down the trail.  I wasn’t sure if they were positions 3/4 that I had maybe passed in the aid station, or if they were coming in hot from behind or what, but they were looking good, and I wasn’t about to try and chase them...the descent is steep and not to be trifled with.

Sunrise! Photo courtesy of Amber Wilson.
Anyway, once at the bottom, I was in the zone.  Hiking poles and 8 days on the JMT made me feel like I could climb well, and I did.  I passed those two guys back in the first 0.75 mile of the climb, and continued to hike hard all the way up.  This climb is NOT easy.  It’s thin, at times extremely steep and loose, sometimes exposed and a bit sketchy.  I felt like I was kick-stepping the trail to gain traction at some points!  So I listened to my legs, and climbed within myself, but hard, all the way to the top.  At the top, there’s some flatter stuff that leads into the aid station, and my legs started to REALLY hurt.  It’s a tough pain to describe because it’s not searing or sharp, it’s just this deep ache that makes my brain say ‘STOP MOVING!’.  Again, I thought, “This is what running a hard 100 is like.” so I pushed through it and ran when I could taking some walking breaks as necessary.  At times there was probably more walking than running, but I was making an effort to do it the other way around.

Finally, I got into the aid station at what was supposed to be mile 83.  I had a new Garmin on now, but who knows what mile Camp 3 was actually at, so I just went with official mileage from here on out.  The aid captain said that I was in 4th, which was cool news, not that I was really ‘racing’ per se, at this point, but it satisfied my competitive desires.  My pacer filled me up with water and I ate a rice cake.  At this point, I was taking down a gel every 25 minutes and drinking Scratch at some rate, which would end up at around 250-300 cal/hour.  When I rolled out of the aid station, I was feeling again not so good in my legs, but I seemed to have plenty of power to spare, so I ran/walked as much as I could, trying to woop and holler to get myself pumped up and running through the beautiful terrain, to not much avail.  The next section of trail is back on the Skyline trail at the western end of the trail.  This trail is RELENTLESSLY rolling and curvy, which would be great if I was fresh, but was total hell when I was feeling so much pain.  The views were spectacular, but I couldn’t even appreciate them with how bad I felt.  It seemed like it took forever (it probably did take forever at 15-20 min/mile) to hit the aid station at Grandview, and I knew that the distance to Camp 4 was going to be long again.  Ryan was working with me to try and get my splits down to 15 min/mile to gain ground on 3rd place, who was reportedly not doing so hot, but I wasn’t really able to respond with much speed.  I tried to run when I could but the descent was beating on me, so I was reduced to a fast walk at times, and a pretty normal walk at others.  The fire trail descent turned into asphalt and my watch clicked over 90 miles with the aid station nowhere in sight...sigh, I was again pretty beat down, mentally, and was not happy with not knowing how far I had to go until I could sit down and take some Tylenol.  Meanwhile, a really nice dude that I had passed back in the mile 40 area or so came *blazing* by me!  I wished him well and he said, ‘Let’s get this to the barn!’ and disappeared around the next curve.  He was looking fresh and ready to smash the last 10 or so.  Well it turned out that this section was about 2 miles longer than advertised, so I came sauntering (ehhh, more like hobbling?) into Camp 4 at around mile 95 or so.

As I walked in, I was told that the course had been adjusted because last minute changes had lengthened the early portions, so they hacked off 6 miles from this section.  I was pretty stoked at not having to do 10 more miles, but my crew cautioned me to treat the final section as 6 more miles instead of 4 to manage my expectations.  Sounds good to me!  I sat down, drank protein, took Tylenol, drank Red Bull, ate a rice cake, and re-sunscreened.  Ryan was intent that I was not going to lose another place, and I said, “OK dude, when this Tylenol kicks in, let’s throw down!”  I was in pretty good spirits with my feet up and taking in nutrition and pain killers and seeing all my friends!  We left Camp 4 around 1:30pm I think.

Almost done! Camp 4. Photo courtesy of Amber Wilson.
It must have been the fastest acting Tylenol of all time because I was in and out of the aid station in 10 minutes, and I was already feeling amazing.  The last climb is 2 miles long and around a thousand feet and we clicked off 17 and 16 minute miles while hiking.  Certainly not fast for a runner, but for 96 miles into a race, I was stoked with anything under 20.  The climb then dumped onto a fire trail that I had climbed in the beginning miles of the race, and I knew I was close.  I started running the trail and taking some minimal walk breaks.  Ryan thought we could make it in under 27 hours and was pushing hard, so I followed.  With a few exceptions of pain shooting into my quad, I felt really solid here as we approached the descent.  We picked up the pace to 11 minutes, then 8:30 and then 8:20 for the last 3 miles!  The last half or quarter mile is downhill on road and I was ecstatic!  I ran into the finish area and gave my crew and pacer a huge sweaty, smelly hug!  Final time was 26:52.

The finish line and crew that made it possible! Photo courtesy of Amber Wilson.
After Thoughts

It was a hell of a time out there!  At the finish, I tried to drink a beer and tried to eat a sandwich and failed.  My stomach was still not too happy with me so I took small sips and didn’t eat anything.  My crew and I chilled in some camp chairs and ate while cheering on more runners coming in from both the 50 and 100 mile races and then I went and took an hour long nap before the awards and belt buckle ceremony.  I was really impressed with some of the 100 milers who came in after me.  Some of them were close behind for the whole race, but maybe just far enough back that I didn’t see them, but some were waay back in the beginning and made up lots of time throughout!  I have so much respect for all runners in a 100 miler, but especially those who can dial themselves back and lay down a successful race with a fast finish.  Great job!

A lot of things happened in this race that I didn’t really talk about above.  I was shooting for 300-400 cal/hr and with only minor exception, failed completely.  I think somewhere in the 300-350 range is probably my max, so I may actually dial it back and go for a more reasonable 250-300 cal/hr if my future long runs prove that it’s sustainable.  Up until now, 300 seemed like the minimum acceptable that my body would handle, but I think I may be better at fat metabolism or something nowadays, who knows?  Also, I used 2-in-1 shorts, (North Face BTN Long Haul) and even though I had never had chaffing issues in runs up to 40 miles, I had chaffing issues during this race.  I was applying vaseline like crazy from the start all the way through and it didn’t seem to help...hmmm.  Maybe I’ll try some jammer-style tight shorts or something like the ones I’ve raced in previously (Saucony AmpPro2 have been awesome!).

Also, I said this before, but seeing my crew at each Camp was amazing.  They brought me back from the dead and got me to the finish.  They helped me get what I needed, and were always smiling and positive which affected my attitude greatly.


I’ve been ‘racing’ Ultramarathon for less than a year now, though I’ve been putting in ultramarathon mileage for a couple years now (started off my ultramarathon career with a brutal R2R2R in the Grand Canyon in 2012).  Before that, I raced a few marathons, and triathlon for a few years.  I think I’ve got about 6 solid years of training under my belt with about 2.5 of those being serious about running.  I’ve used mileage buildup training plans (Pfitzinger! Great stuff) and less formal approaches before, and as I’ve run more distance, I’ve gravitated away from the pure structure of training plans to a more holistic approach of just running a lot.  In ‘Unbreakable’, Geoff Roes relates that he dealt with some really poor race results and mental issues when he was trying to train hard and structured, and goes on to finish his thought by noting that when he instead got out into the mountains every day and just ran, his results improved.  I related to this sentiment, and embraced it with my training this time around.

I raced a 68-mile race in March of this year with almost as much climbing as this race claimed, so I felt like I had a pretty solid base under me to start.  Through April I ramped into the Wildflower long course triathlon, raced that, recovered, and went on to continue running through May with various runs up to maybe 20 miles and 4000 ft. of vert in the mountains.  At this point I was mostly focused on rebuilding from race to race, and less on any kind of mileage buildup, but I also had a secondary goal to train for that would arrive sooner than Kodiak: the John Muir Trail!

In July, my roommate and I hiked the 220 mile John Muir Trail in 8 days.  This trail puts up somewhere between 40kft. and 50kft. of ascent over this distance and spends a considerable amount of time above 10kft. altitude.  It’s gorgeous and a tough hike, and we were out there to take in the beauty and also tackle the distance in fastpack-ish style.  So, leading up to this adventure, I was running a lot of hills but also spending a few weekends out doing some shakeout backpacking trips with some similar ascent values.  A week before the hike I ‘mini-peaked’ at a 70 mile week in 5 days of running.  10/R/14/10/R/24/12.  This gave me a week to rest for the hike.  The hike was amazing and tough as promised, but I held up well and we actually got from Happy Isles to Whitney in under 168 hours, but we still had to hike down to the portal.  This week of hiking was pivotal to my training, though I don’t think I knew it at the time.  As mentioned in the race report, the hiking confidence was quite beneficial to me tackling the toughest portions of the Kodiak 100.

The week after the hike I rested.  No running at all.  I had lost over 5 lb. in 8 days from the hike and my legs and feet needed the time off.  At this point I had a little over 6 weeks until the race, so I needed a good 4 week training block to seal the deal on my mileage.  As promised, I just got out into the mountains (Santa Monica mountains, near my house) almost every day and just ran as much as felt good.  I ran a ramp-in week around 45 miles and moved into a few weeks near or above 70 miles.  There were a couple of key training ideas that I threw into these weeks:

  1. I recently moved and joined a running club of trail runners in my new location.  During the once-a-week morning run, I ran with the fast guys to get some harder hill time in these shorter workouts.  I felt this would help my climbing strength and speed.
  2. I wanted to run a back-to-back at least once.  If you don’t know, a back-to-back is a long run on both days of the weekend.  These are mostly to teach the muscles and mind to perform well on tired legs, but I felt like it was necessary to get one in, if for no other reason than that I’m a novice 100-miler and the experienced guys seem to do it.
  3. I wanted to hit at least 40 miles in one run.

I managed to get these all packed into those last 3 training weeks with a 30/20 back-to-back, and a 40-mile pre-run on the course over labor day weekend.  I’m not sure that I’d really recommend a 40 mile training run, or doing the double in the way that I did.  I raced the Bulldog 50k on a Saturday a month out, and was feeling good, so I pushed it hard.  This left me pretty smoked for a 20 miler the next day...oof, the last 8 miles of that were tired!  This pretty much shot my running for the week.  My quality and volume were both down because my legs were trying to recover from the back-to-back that I ran too hard.  I was barely recovered in time to head up to Big Bear the next weekend for Labor Day to get some prerunning in.  An easy 10 on Friday, followed by 40 on Saturday and 6 on Sunday left me feeling destroyed that week.  Luckily, this was 3 weeks out so I could start tapering.

My taper style is pretty abrupt, so I decreased mileage to weeks of 26 miles (partially so low to recover from a week and a half of killing myself from Bulldog to Big Bear) and 35 miles with some higher intensity hill running.

The week of the race I actually only ran twice for a total of 9 miles.  I hadn’t planned on this but with work/shopping for race food/cooking race food/preparing race gear, that’s how it worked out.  Lucky for me, the 3 weeks of decreased volume seemed to pay off and my legs felt solid heading into the race!

Gear List
-Assorted shirts (North Face, C9 by Champion, some shirt from the Santa Barbara Marathon)
-North Face Better Than Naked Long Haul Shorts
-Injiji Original Crew Socks (Pink and Green)
-New Balance MT810v3 Shoes
-CamelBak Ultra LR Vest w/ Podium Bottle & Podium Chill Bottle
-Salomon S-Lab Gloves
-Pearl Izumi Arm Warmers (Bomb proof! I've had these for maybe 13 years)
-North Face Verto Hooded Jacket
-Super Sweet Straw Hat that I got at Ross for 6 bucks
-Full Length Buff
-Oakley Radarlock Glasses
-Garmin Forerunner 310XT GPS Watch w/ HR Monitor