Two years ago, Dustin, Julie and I ran the inaugural Lone Star 100 in El Paso, Texas. Between the intense wind, the heat, the exposure, the climbing and the acres of rocks, it was an incredibly tough race. Only 8 of the thirty or so starters finished.
2019 was the inaugural Franklins 200. Why in the world would we want to run twice as far on such a brutal course? I’m going to chalk this one up to willful ignorance and peer pressure. Dustin and I hadn’t even completed Bigfoot 200 before we had signed up for Franklins. We signed up early for the discount. That’s probably the main reason. And because we’re dumb.
Training went off the tracks early. I started climbing which was fun, but took time away from running. Didn’t plan much, didn’t make a pace chart AT ALL. Barely had drop bags planned. Figured I would take Dustin’s usual approach: just show up and run.
The day before the race, Ed kept getting worked up about how windy it was going to be and how it was going to rain. He was giving us weather reports on the hour. The course directions were also giving him fits. Apparently there were contradictory statements between the race doc and website. Ed texted Rob for clarification but that didn’t clear anything up. Ed’s stress was totally stressing me out and I told him so. He finally let it go.
I was stoked for the 12 mile intro section that was supposed to be difficult and involved some climbing with chains, but it was called off at the last minute due to the rain. Instead, we had to summit Franklin Peak, which was a major drag because we were already doing that 5 times. (Sad trombone noise here.)
Rain is probably the worst weather to start a race. Luckily it wasn’t heavy and it didn’t stick around too long. The first trip up the peak was shrouded in fog. We were all in good spirits, excited to finally be doing the damn thing we came to do.
Ed and Dustin were pretty chatty, Erin less so, and I mostly listened. Other runners around us were forced to listen to our asinine banter. At one point I apologized to the couple that had been within earshot for several miles. They didn’t seem friendly.
As we were running, I saw a pair of Julbo sunglasses on the ground. I picked them up and hustled up to the couple just ahead of us to see if they had dropped them. Sure enough, they belonged to the girl. She said thank you, but didn’t seem especially grateful.
Maybe it was the second loop I came up on that same couple. Asked them if they were ready for a 4 day long game of leap frog because this was about the 6th time we had traded positions. They didn’t seem to keen on me passing them, so I hung with them and chatted.
Turns out, they knew me and I knew them. Matt Zmolek, a strong runner who had run with Julie a lot. And Dena Carr, another strong runner, who had narrowly beat me at Cactus Rose a year ago. She told me how she had to leave the last aid station when she saw my headlamp coming in. I told her how I was crushed having just missed catching her by minutes. We had a good laugh about that. I was determined not to let her beat me again. They ran the whole thing together, with Dena taking Third Female.
*Early on, Dustin took off thinking he was chasing me down, when in fact I was behind him. He jumped ahead as I was doing a #2. Maybe a good strategy for next time. No matter how hard or how fast he runs, he’ll think I’m still ahead of him. And he’ll either crash and burn… or kick my butt.
*Thinking in percentage of race completed: at 20 miles and thinking, “Wow, I’m 10% done!” Every 2 miles was another one percent done. I was afraid hitting the 100 mile mark was going to be a mental mindfuck because that would be only half of the race, but it didn’t turn out to be a big deal. I don’t even remember where or when I hit 100.
*Took a wrong turn. Proud of myself for not flipping out or getting worked up AT ALL. Didn’t dwell on it, was just like, “Okay, bonus miles!” The section I had to backtrack is relatively short about 1.5 miles, but is really technical and hilly. This mistake cost me at least an hour and a half. But once I got back to Pavilion, I was like “Okay, back on track!” NBD.
*The first night was bitter cold and I had been wearing four layers: wool base layer, windbreaker, rain jacket, and vest. The only other thing I had was the race hoodie, which I would never normally run in. But I wore it the second night after leaving the S/F because I needed more warmth. But once I got into Shaffer Shuffle, there was virtually no wind. I had to remove the hoodie and pack it; it took up a lot of space in my pack. Too much of my race was spent taking off and trying to pack layers of clothing. I need to either get my system dialed or learn to deal with being cold. Definitely need a better warmth layer next time.
*Hanging with Erin from Bowen, the second (?) night. She had lost vision in one eye due to corneal edema. That had happened to me before, it sucks. You can see light, but there’s no detail whatsoever. Just a big blur. (And oddly enough her pacer Joe had experienced this condition before.) Thank goodness it’s a temporary condition. She said she’d fallen several times because her depth perception was off. I suggested she try and sleep it off here, but for whatever reason, she wanted to make it to the Start /Finish. I told her I would run with her and help her navigate through the night.
Running wasn’t in the cards at this point, so we power hiked. My energy levels had dropped, and I was in constant need of trail naps seemingly every other mile. But we couldn’t stop long because Erin was freezing, her hands in particular. I gave her the hand warmers out of my gloves, but later realized they were probably dead. I should have traded gloves with her, but I couldn’t bring myself to part with my gloves since my hands are the one thing that are always cold.
Erin is not one to complain, and when I realized she was still having a hard go with the cold, I gave her my vest. When I noticed she was still cold, I gave her my rainjacket. I told her I was going to start running to generate heat. The section we were on was super flat, so she didn’t need help navigating. I stopped every so often so we weren’t too far apart.
Between our slow pace, the intense cold and wind, and the utter repetitive nature of hiking in the dark, this section seemed to go on FOR. FUCKING. EVER. I can only imagine how tough it was for Erin.
After several hours, we finally made it to the S/F. I was in desperate need of sleep. The wind was thrashing the tent, the structure was swaying and the poles were grinding on the ground. I was afraid the tent was going to collapse. I requested one of the volunteers wake me up in two hours. Laying on the cot, cocooned in my warm sleeping bag and several blankets, I easily fell into glorious sleep. But it was short lived. The volunteer was in my face, “Edward, time to get up.”
It was so hard to rouse myself and leave that warmth and comfort. In my mind, it was going to be super cold again. But the worst was behind us, and once I got dressed and moving, it wasn’t so bad.
Erin was also up and Joe was ready to pace her. Luckily for her, her vision had returned to normal! After the first night, everyone was dressed for a freaking Snowpocalypse, and Joe is wearing shorts. But then he changed into… Jeans? Somehow it worked for him. Fortunately, that night wasn’t that cold. Joe, badass that he is, paced Erin for around 70 miles.
Erin, Joe and I left the S/F at the same time. I tried to put distance between us so that I wouldn’t succumb to the comfort of company. While it’s nice to have someone to run with, I needed to set my own pace.
*Puking. Twice. Can recall puking during a race only one other time at Zion. Managed to double that. Blame it on Chrisy asking me if I ever puke. It was just nausea at first, but it wouldn’t go away. And then finally… I sat on my knees and it felt like my guts were trying to escape out my throat, but only bile came out. I think it was the broth. It was def the broth.
Funny enough, after the first time, right after the final heave, a good song came on my ipod. I immediately got up and started running. I was surprised how much better I felt having puked.
*Didn’t hear any good jokes. Although Dustin surreptitiously bought a three pack of ducks at Walmart. We then hid the ducks for Ed to find. Somehow, one of the volunteers left a duck for Ed at the peak. Our Bigfoot tradition continues!!
*I saw Dustin coming down the peak and chatted with him. I hadn’t seen him in forever. He told me how he had been in second trying to chase down John Kelly. He also said his feet were fucked, which gave me hope that I might catch him. Dustin in the past has gone out fast only to crash and burn at the end, and I was counting on this. I was trying not to get too anxious about catching him, I was playing the long game. The race didn’t actually “begin” until mile 150.
After I got down from the peak, I began giving chase. The section before Bowen is mostly downhill and very runnable. I was 140 miles into the race, and I was amazed (and shocked) that my legs still felt good enough that I could actually run.
*Lapping Ed on fourth loop. Chatted with him and was going to take off, but then he said I’ll see if I can run with you. I wrongly assumed he wouldn’t be able to keep up, but he did. He was probably just as surprised as I was. He said this was the first time he’d run since the start. I felt guilty that I didn’t realize my friend needed help. So we ran a good stretch of several miles. Ed’s issue was the downhill was hard on his knee. We slowly made our way down the crazy switchback section and got to the straightaway to West. I felt bad leaving Ed, but we had a good few miles together and I wanted to catch Dustin. So I ran.
*Texting Katherine after leaving West AS. Told her how Ed was doing and when she might expect to see him. I told her I was maybe a third of the way to the Pavilion AS, and as I ran, I realized how SO NOT CLOSE I was. I kept running but didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, I was still out in the middle of nothing. She asked if I wanted Chic-Fil-A. That sounded amazing and made me run harder.
Katherine is definitely Crew Queen ’19. First time I saw her, she had breakfast tacos, (Steak tacos, OMG….) then Whataburger, AND then pizza, AND THAT WAS ONLY THE FIRST DAY! Honestly, I might not have finished if I had to rely on Rob’s meager offerings. And poor Ed saw her only once during the race! I hope I can provide the same level of service for her at Leadville.
*Normally, I always carry my poles with me. But during the second loop, I felt I was carrying them more than actually using them, and they were taking up too much room in my pack. So I ditched them and it was NBD. There were a few sections where I wished I’d had them, but for the most part I was fine. Until I wasn’t.
My left quad was getting increasingly sore, and I didn’t think much of it until I realized it was blown. And shortly after, my right followed suit. This made life incredibly difficult. When I left the S/F on the last loop, I left without my poles. I realized my mistake as I entered the rock field to Mundy’s, unable to do anything about it. I managed by climbing Eurostyle (hands on quads).
When I got to the base of the peak, I grabbed a stake from one of the signs to use as a pole. (Whatever signs it held had been blown off.) This was about 25% as effective as a pole. The whole time I felt so weak and dumb from running hard the previous days and not anticipating this result. Hubris.
I took at least a dozen trail naps on the peak. I was constantly scanning the trail for any sheltered semi-grassy spot to rest for two minutes. When I found a spot, I’d collapse onto the ground, close my eyes and slightly hyperventilate for a minute, and just as I was about to actually fall asleep, I would countdown from ten and force myself to get up. Fear kept me from fully falling asleep: I didn’t want to freeze to death or worse, get passed by someone and lose a position.
*Heading towards Bowen for the last time. It was late, so I grabbed a Red Bull from the aid station. I normally never drink these, but I needed something to keep me awake. I drank maybe half of it, and it didn’t do anything for me. I think I was just too dang tired.
I was full on sleepwalking, barely able to keep my eyes open. I couldn’t stop to rest for too long because I would get cold. I was trying desperately to keep my eyes open for blue flags because I was paranoid about getting off course in my zombie state. I listened to my music in hopes of it keeping me awake, but the mix I had was the same mix I’d had for ages. It was permanently seared into my brain during this section.
Despite being half sleep, I was trying to catch up to the runner just ahead of me. He was having the same sleep deprivation issues and somehow I passed him. But later, he teamed up with a female runner and they passed me on the long downhill section, which was a little disheartening.
When I got to Bowen, I was primed to sleep… but couldn’t. Marco, the guy who passed me, was lying in the cot next to mine and we chatted. We tried to warm up a bit in front of the heaters. I had three blankets, but it wasn’t enough as I could still feel drafts. I had no idea how long I’d been laying there unable to really sleep, but I knew the sunlight would wake me up.
It’s morning now, and seemingly out of nowhere, Elizabeth pops out and is helping me. She starts massaging my feet (which feels fucking AMAZING. Dustin and I have both made the observation that just touching your feet after so many miles feels incredible.) She came to pace Ed, but he had since dropped. So she was helping me out. I asked if she had her poles with her, and she did. I asked if I could borrow them and she said I could. This was the greatest stroke of luck because the poles basically saved my ass.
When I left Bowen for the last time, I was still cold and dressed for warmth even though it was sunny out. This mistake I chalk up to being too tired to think straight. I was shedding layers immediately and my pack could barely contain all the layers.
It got warm enough that eventually I stripped down to my Smartwool boxers and base layer shirt. I felt weird running in boxers, but it was surprisingly comfortable. This was by far the best clothing change.
Once again, it took forever to get over ridge to West A/S. Just as I’m about to crest the ridge, some guy pops over, running towards me. WTH is he doing? Stop and have a surprisingly long conversation with him; he’s training for some ultra in Mexico. It’s nice to talk to someone after so many hours alone.
Make my way down the endless switchbacks of the mountain side, glad it’s not as windy as previous times. Overjoyed that THIS IS THE LAST TIME I HAVE TO DO THIS SHIT! Last lap I ran the entire straightaway to West, this time I hobbled. My quads are so gone, that I literally could not squat down to poop. Instead I had to lean up against a sign and poop standing up. That’s a new one for me.
Get to West AS and sit for a bit. Get going and try to “run” some of the flats, albeit ever so slowly. Somewhat depressing getting passed by fresh faced 100 milers. I want to yell at them to let them know that, “Hey, I’ve been running since Wednesday!” One guy asked if I was doing the 200, and that made me kind of emotional.
Nearing the end, my thoughts gravitated to food. Ed texted me:
- Ed: “Do you want food at the finish? If so what kind?”
- Me: Yes please steak tacos or mushrooo swiss Whataburger. And a beer please!
- Me: Last fucking 1.1
- Ed: Badass! We have cheese quesadies and ramen.
- Me thinking: Ha ha, Ed you dick! You better have some real food.
The last 12 miles or so were a lot of climbing, so they went by incredibly slowly. Mentally, it was tough being so close, yet still so far away. Once I made it up to Pavilion for the last time, I had only the 1.5 mile section to the finish. The wind had picked up and the downhill sections were tortuous because there was a LOT of loose rock here, but it didn’t phase me. I took my sweet ass time, savoring the fact that I was going to finish and be done. A lump formed in my throat when I could finally see the S/F tent.
Normally in Rob’s races, there is WAY TOO MUCH cowbell; you hear it at every aid station and it annoys the hell out of me. But during this race, I hadn’t heard any at all, and while that made me happy, I also missed it. They could see me coming in and began ringing the cow bell and that made me soooo happy. I tried to run it in, but I had nothing to give.
Rob handed me my buckle and gave me a hug. I felt weird getting all emotional in front of everyone, so I went and found a chair, sat down and cried. I don’t even know what I was crying about. It’s really overwhelming to finally finish something as mentally and physically drawn out as this.
Or I’m just a baby. Maybe a little of both.
Finish time: 81:53:32. 7th Overall, 6th Male.
Overall, had a solid mental mindset throughout the race. Wasn’t affected by getting through the distance. The repetition was boring, but it also made it easier knowing what was ahead. Hardest part was sleepwalking the last night, but I chalk that up to poor sleep in the days leading up to the race. Banking sleep is crucial next time.
Dustin was able to take a SIX HOUR break and still finish FIVE HOURS before me, which blows my mind. He finished Fourth Male, Fifth Overall. But I shouldn’t be surprised, he is a badass. Next time, I will adopt a Race mentality instead of just a Survival mentality. I want to #BeatDustin.
A few hours later, Erin rolled in taking Second Female and a sweet check for $1500, and a mega hug from Dustin.
Notes/ Things to work on.
- Actually train. Like for reals. Seriously. No joke. Do all the things.
- Know the course, avoid wrong turns.
- Pretape blister prone spots.
- Pacing. First 120-140 should be slow and even. Give what you got at the end.
- Less time at aid stations. Know what you need before you get there. Have your shit organized and KEEP IT ORGANIZED. After two loops my gear was all over the place.
- Plan ahead. Know what you need and where you’ll need it. Check your pack for unnecessary items before leaving aid station.
- Bring more of your own food in case aid station food sucks. Snacklogs should NOT be 99% candy. Make a food bag.
- Save poles for last portion of race.
- For God’s sake, new Pandora music!