A Stories Ultra Race Report By HPRS Staff Columnist Christopher Mellott
The darkness of the night had settled in, and dawn was hours away. I had come into a hushed aid station. Most of the runners asleep in their vehicles. My Mom and Missy had come to check on me and asked how I was doing. In a haze, I replied, “not dead yet.” I had just finished what was to be my final purple lap. It had taken me far longer than I had hoped. On the loop, I fell hard on a patch mud that hadn’t quite firmed up into the ankle destroying ruts that it would be later in the night and early morning. I hit both knees and an ankle hard. This purple loop I had fallen, been scared by a signpost (I thought it was an animal), and made friends with some of the deer that inhabited the course. I was beaten up, exhausted, but not dead yet.
Stories was going to be my glorious entry into the longer distances of ultrarunning. I had prepared to run a hundred miles. I had trained for six months, over a hundred thousand feet of elevation gain, a thousand miles, hundreds of hours on my feet and even a few dozen naps with the Diesel dog. I was prepared, fit and ready to adventure into the unknown to attempt to reach my potential.
Not dead yet. That would be my motto the further into the race I went. When asked how I was doing these three words brought joy to me and probably some sort of relief to my crew. I uttered them at least a hundred times.
My goals have been transparent since I started this journey. I wanted a hundred miles. I had trained for it, and I really wanted it. There were other goals such as getting a top ten result on Ultrasignup.com, set a distance PR and run 100K. According to the official results, I ran 73.21 miles. My watch says I ran 80.7 miles. I could be upset about not getting to a hundred miles, I could talk about all the things I could have done differently, I could complain about the weather and the mud or whatnot, but truth be told I am ecstatic about my results.
I ran over 70 fucking miles! How many people can say that? Not too many. A small portion of the American population has run a marathon, a lower part has run an ultramarathon. I may not have run a hundred miles, but I did get a top ten in ultrasignup.com. I completed a distance PR, and I managed to run over 100K. I am psyched about how it went. I could complain, but that would not have honored the people who were out there with me fighting their own demons, and finding their potential. I could complain, but that would not have been fair to my body that had stayed upright and together for all the training miles, running every day, and stayed healthy while students coughed all over my office. I could complain or make excuses but to be honest, I am content and proud of the race I ran. I have no regrets about the decisions I made and would make them all again.
While I would not change any of the decisions I made nor do I regret anything about the race I did learn so many lessons that I hope to use the next time I line up to attempt 100 miles.
Studying the course:If you were one of the runners that successfully navigated the purple loop the first time around I applaud you. I missed the turn onto the red circuit and ended coming into camp from the wrong direction with about five other runners. It was our fault. My reward. A second red loop to make up for the missing part of the purple and then doing red again for start of my next set of loops. Thing is I ran about the correct distance but came in the wrong way. I guess at least now I have one thing in common with Gary Robbins! (If you get the joke congratulations! We can be friends.) The lesson here is I should have studied the gritty details of the course before perhaps even flying in earlier to try and run the loops beforehand like other runners did. It was my fault, I paid the price, and I learned something.
Buy Gaiters:I made the joke that the mud was soul-sucking literally and figuratively. It was terrible. It would have sucked less though had it not gotten into my shoes, and my socks. I changed socks three different times during the day (costing valuable time) before I finally wore longer socks so the mud didn’t get into them and I was happy the rest of the time. If I had a pair of gaiters, I might have hated the mud less, and maybe saved some time and perhaps even avoided my one blister.
Don’t ignore the long run: I run every day so when a training plan says a long day of 18+ miles I don’t worry and justify it to myself that since I run every day, It will balance if I don’t do the scheduled long run. While I still won’t be logging 30 mile days on the weekends, I should have done more long days when the weather was cooperating. The longer runs would have better prepared me for potential issues, and I may have been able to run a little bit longer during the day before I started to run/hike for the remainder of the race.
Soups on:The broth was a, and I loved it. I imagine that I probably had somewhere in the ballpark of 10 cups worth throughout the race with no stomach issue. I think training with soup would be good. I think I could do long training runs in the cold and carry a thermos of broth with me while running.
Bring a sleeping bag: I had planned to not sleep and get the full thirty hours. By the time about 2:00 AM rolled around I, and the thought of making another loop in the cold was draining. I made the decision to sleep for an hour. I crawled into the back of the car, and under every blanket, my crew had (Which a conservative estimate was seven). I never got feel normal again and think the cold impacted me. If I had brought a sleeping bag, I could have got comfortable and warm and maybe moved on faster.
Stay Warm: I was comfortable when I left for my last purple loop, and by the time I returned I was feeling cold the energy that could be used for running being siphoned off to keep me warm. I should have carried an extra layer or worn an extra layer once the sun went down I might have stayed warmer and been able to get more out of myself.
Trekking Poles: I practiced with my trekking poles, and they were a lifesaver. I moved efficiently over terrain even if I wasn’t moving fast. I am so glad that I had them with me and would use them again if the race allowed.
Fueling:I have spent a lot of time practicing eating nutrition foods, and exercising with real foods that are typical fare at ultras. I nailed it. I got enough calories and probably could have taken in a little more, but I felt good all day. I never got nauseous. The plan between real food and nutrition was spot on and will be my starting points for future races.
The Human Potential Experience:
I am no newbie in the running world. I have run over a hundred and twenty races since 2014. I have raced in five different states, on roads, bike paths, and trails from distances from two miles to 80.7 miles. I have lots of T-shirts that clutter up my closet, I have more samples sizes of various products than a junk drawer can handle. I have even done a podcast on why I am not a race director.
Thus after reeling off my qualifications, I can assuredly say that the Human Potential experience is exceptional. In all the races I have ever run I can say that none have come close to matching the atmosphere. I immediately felt comfortable with other runners, volunteers, and crews. Coming into the aid station every time the energy was palpable. People wanted to see runners succeed even if they were competitors. Everybody wanted to see everybody achieve and it was awesome. On the course runners cheered each other on, they helped each other whether giving a heads up about a slick spot or just giving each other a quick word of encouragement. These are my kind of people. I will be coming to another HPRS race. Hopefully as many as I can get to. I mean I still have some belt buckles I want.
I have known Sherpa for about a year now as I have been writing for HPRS for about that time. He has always said he is about the runners and cares more about their swag then the money and he wants everybody to learn and experience as they attempt to reach their potential and after running Stories I can tell you its 100% true. The swag was great. The t-shirt soft and the samples were things I would actually use.
John was out there almost the entire time in crazy outfits getting runners hyped. Every runner that came in got his attention. He gave them a few words of encouragement and pushed them to go farther. I would say that he was the perfect balance of an encourager and just enough snarkiness that you wanted to get out there to make him proud and prove to him you could do more.
If you haven’t run an HPRS race, I would encourage you to sign up. Stories was my first race, and I will be coming back. I loved the community and was welcomed into it with open arms by all. The volunteers took such good care of me along with my crew. The aid station always was stocked with everything a runner could need and the race director is special. There is indeed something unique about HPRS, and I am so proud that I am a member of this community.
I had lots of equipment and I could talk about but will mention a few things that I felt were the most important to my successful race.
Hoka One One Speedgoat 2s:
These were the perfect shoe for me, and I ran the entirety of the race in them. This pair of shoes carried me through the Chocolate Chip Cookie 50K, Badger Mountain 50 miler and now Stories.
I went through three pairs of socks before changing into my Drymax socks: After I changed into them, I didn’t have to change again. These socks were tall enough to cover the gap between my shoes and my tights
Colorado Running Company Hat:
I think there is great power in items that make you feel confident or bring positive emotions to something. Every time I interview for a job I wear fun socks because it reminds me I am a fun person, and it gives me a boost of confidence to be myself. Same goes for my Colorado Running Company trucker hat. This hat has been with me on most of my ultras and is the one that I did the bulk of my training in. It reminds me of all the hard work I did and all the great times running with my friends on group runs with Colorado Running Company.
If you want a more extensive list of items I wore, used, recommend or dislike then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I am happy to provide more information.
I want to thank my crew. Stephen, Sarah, Missy, Uncle Rick, Mom, and Dad. You were there when I could only run for a minute at a time, you were there when it was below freezing, and the wind howled, you were there when all there was to do was sit around and wait for me. Thank you! I couldn’t have attempted this without all the logistical support, and the unconditional love. You all were so crucial in this and just know I can’t thank you enough.
To my partner, Chelsea who provided the foundation for the crew manual as well as a sounding board for thirty-two weeks of training and preparation even while you were across the country Thank you for being my greatest support.
To my Diesel dog thanks for being my goofy training partner. For getting me out of bed early every morning. For always encouraging me to practice running in the dark. For suffering through my incredibly bland diet with minimal variation and for the early bedtimes. Thanks for being a training partner.
Not Dead Yet!
I am still running every day. I have been battling some pain in my knee, but I have plans to run another big race this year, and hopefully more than one. Not dead yet!
There is a discrepancy between the mileage on my watch and official results. I did not contest the different nor did I ever plan to. I ran a purple loop incorrectly, and while the mileage for that loop was correct I did the extra red loop as advised to make it right. I also did not contest because guess what… It is just running and I am not dead yet!