The C&O Canal 100 was April 27/28 2013. It will be held during the last weekend of April every year. I will not be running this again…not because it wasn’t a well directed race but because the canal path sucks. The race was pretty cheap (under $100) and you got a buckle if you finished under 30 hours. I thought it would be perfect for my first 100 since it was nice and flat. Big mistake, one that I will never make again unless I’m better prepared. I had my finance Lauren and friend Tom as my crew. Tom was going to pace me after 50 on a bike and the soon to be wife was taking care of me at aid stations. Side bar: the other part that sucked about this race was that crew could only be at the Start/Finish and one other aid station. This meant that I would see Lauren at 20, 40, 50, 70, 90, and Finish. Not a fan of that at all. Maybe that is normal for 100s…what do I know.
This is what it was like the entire race. I never wanted to run up a hill so bad in my life.
My training had been severely lacking in March/April so I did not have high expectations. I would take a finish but I really wanted less than 24 hours. With that goal in mind I wanted to do 10 hours for the first lap and give myself 14 for the second. The race started at a camp site high above the canal. We started at 7am after a prayer and walked down a very steep and muddy hill to reach the path. This was the only hill of the race. One we got to the canal it was 5.5 to the first aid station where we would turn around and run south for about 25 miles.
The one and only hill!
Me in the green coming into the first aid station, loving life.
I was using perpetuem and gu brew in my bottles and wanted to limit my stops at the aid stations (this sounds nice on paper but it fell apart later in the day). I hit the turn around and took off south on the canal. Since I would only see Lauren about every 20 miles (for perpetuem) I had to supplement calories at a few of the aid stations. I tried to do this quickly to save time. It worked for a while.
When I got to Lauren around mile 20 I was having trouble breathing and needed my inhaler. She was not able to find it and I was getting frustrated so I took off. I probably should have waited but I just sucked it up. By the time I got back to Lauren at mile 40 it was about 83 degrees. It was supposed to be 70 so the heat was starting to take a toll. I used my inhaler, took a seat to empty rocks out of my shoes, got back up and took off.
Still having a great time pulling into mile 40. After this is when it stopped being fun.
The next 10 miles back to the starting line where hell. It was super hot. I had not trained in this weather and it was slow. I was on pace for the 10 hour first lap but mile 40 to 50.5 took 3 hours. I was dying and I was ready to be done. All I could think about was that I had to do 50 more miles on this stupid canal.
I started lap two after 11 hours. I could still get under 24 if I was able to keep up a 4 mph pace. I was slipping mentally but there was no way I was giving up. I had told too many people I was running 100 miles. I didn’t care if I had to walk for 19 hours to finish.
My friend Tom was pacing me on the bike and thought it would be a great idea for me to drink a 5 hour energy. I’m not sure if that was smart but after about 10 minutes of being miserable and walking I had a huge surge in energy. I was running a 10:00 min pace and sustained that for about 8 miles. If Red Bull gives you wings then 5 Hour Energy gives you legs. The temps were finally starting to drop but I was sweating like a mad man (see 5 hour energy).
When I got back to Lauren around mile 70 it was 11:15pm. My legs were dead but I tried to stay in good spirits. I had a running joke with Tom that when I crossed the finish line I was going to collapse and do a ‘trust fall’ into Lauren to see if she would catch me. Other than that nothing could cheer me up. I was hurting and miserable. The only time I would get a good surge is when I would get pissed off about something. Anger was a great source of energy but it never lasted more than a mile or two.
The great part about my position in the race was that there were about 6 of us that were leap frogging each aid station. It kept it interesting at night and it wasn’t as lonely as I anticipated it being. We all pulled for each other and tried to crack small jokes at each aid station. The one aid station at mile 94 had to think I was nuts. I hope they enjoyed my attempts at humor 23 hours into a race. They had great vegetable noodle soup and I kept raving about how I ran 94 miles to eat there and that I had read about this place in the zaggat guide. Oh well…I thought I was freaking hilarious but that could have been the sleep deprivation.
So with about 7.5 to go I really wanted to beat these 2 Naval Academy studs and this older gentlemen. All three of them ran out of the aid station and I tried to keep up run/walking (it wasn’t working). I eventually made it to the turn off the canal. When I reached the top of the hill there was a road you had to cross, followed by a quarter mile up another hill to the finish. I saw the 3 guys walking up the hill. I took off as fast as I could and charged the hill like a crazed man. I don’t know if they didn’t care or if they were too tired but they just let me go by. There is no way I’m letting someone pass me with a quarter mile to go but to each his own. I finished in 25 hours 44 minutes (92 started 49 finished). Shook the RDs hand, collected my buckle, and got in the car to go home.
A few things I learned:
- Hoka one one’s are awesome. I had major blisters on my big and pinky toes but that is because I did not account for swollen feet. Other than that my ankles, arches, and feet in general felt amazing. Loved and recommend them for 100s.
-The time wasted at aid stations really adds up. I could have met the 24 hour goal but I really started slipping during the second lap. I wanted to be efficient like Kelly but it just wasn’t happening for my first 100. I need to make sure my pacer knows to not let me sit down and waste time my next race.
-I need more runs on ‘tired’ legs. I had a really hard time running at all the last 40 miles. Maybe B2Bs or just stick to the mpw that I plan. I really did slack here. I would get a solid Saturday run in but do nothing but short runs during the week.
-I need to lose weight. I am 188ish right now but I need to get down to 165 where I belong. That is going to take some work but that was my weight in HS and College when I was running fast regularly.
Anyway. Thanks for reading. I had a really great time even though I swore up and down I would never do anything this stupid ever again. Next up is the OSS/CIA 50 in June.
Congrats on your first 100, job well done!
Congrats, and great race report. Sounds painful but you gutted it out.
Congrats!! 100 mi. on a totally flat canal path kind of sounds like a nightmare to me. Great job sticking it out.
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I Run for Oiselle
Nice job and congratulations on a great race.
I've put many miles on the C&O and agree it does suck.
that doesn't sound remotely appealing but good on ya for getting it done.
photos, race reports and whatnot
POOR BASTARD!!! I would rather poke myself in the eye with a fork...repeatedly...than do 100 miles on the canal. For that, you should be granted saint status! Well done!
Faster Than Your Couch!
Congratulations, sounds tough, especially in the heat.
I have run many miles on the C&O Towpath, too, and while for some time it seems wonderful to run on flat terrain (for someone who's constantly tortured by hills and rocks on the home trails), it does get tough on the legs after a while. Kudos for getting 100M in on that trail!
Run for fun.
Great Job! Enjoyed the report!
Trail and Ultra Running User Group
Uh oh... now what?
Where was it... two of us were running alongside each other on a 75k
and every time we got to a bench next to the paved bike path he would
go off course the needed few steps to jump onto the bench, walk to the
other end and jump off. I looked at him. He said something about he
would do anything to break the monotony of the flatness--and we only
had about 15 miles of it.
Well done, good mind training, now go to the calendar and look for
things west of the Front Range.
Nice job, your a better man than me for doing 100 miles on that flat trail, congratulations!
Nice report. I enjoyed it and your zaggat comments at the last aid station is a crackup.
Kudos to you for staying strong and getting 100 miles in on the towpath. I've done 26+ on the towpath as part of the JFK50... 9 miles of rolling pavement is a relief after that much time on the towpath so I can relate to your experience.
Life is uncertain. Don't sip.
Le professeur de trail
I would like to say we told you so but I am not sure any of us actually said anything - maybe just though it. But congrats. I imagine it took a lot of mental toughness to get through that. You will have a great experience to compare it to when you do a non-flat hundred. Great job!
The incarnation of peacefulness and patience
Lace and a few others warned me. Its my own fault. I will however never run a race on that type of surface/terrain again.