Jackpot Ultra Feb 16-17, 2018 (Kev's Story)

Every now and then we do a race of reasonable significance and as such I get a little nudge in my side and a “suggestion” that I also write a race report, but joking aside I do enjoy reading race reports and our first ever 48 hour race seems pretty significant.


Last year we did the 24 hour at the same running festival and it went brilliantly (hey, we’re all runners and we all like to conveniently blur out the truly horrific moments we face during longer events), my training going into that race was limited thanks to a broken arm but I still managed to cover 80 miles and not feel like I was dead by the end of it.  Fast forward 8 months or so and I’m upping my game for the 48 hour.

My training is greatly improved and I'm pretty much healthy aside from some sore ribs (I’m beginning to think playing soccer on an indoor hard surface and running ultras are not the most compatible of pastimes) and head to Vegas feeling pretty good about things.  Now in a moment of total honesty and hindsight I should mention I had visions of being in the 150 mile range (after all I just did 80 in 24 hours) and even the odd wild fantasy of closing in on 200 mark for this 48 hour race, I challenge you to show me anyone that has ever said unsubstantiated random race goals were ever a bad thing….

Part 1 – A good start to the day (laps 1-10)

We’re off, I’m more determined than ever to take it easy early on and I’m using my Garmin to carefully monitor my pace as I still tend to find myself running at more of a marathon pace when everything dictates I should be going slower in order to keep going for longer.  All goes well and within the first lap and a bit I find myself running alongside a friendly person called Karla who is going a tad slower than I intended but that sounds like a good thing to me.  The weather is ideal for running, cool and cloudy, so the early miles breeze by as we chat the day away.  Other than the odd walking bit or quick pit-stop we hold a good steady pace covering 20 miles in roughly 4 hours.

At this point my legs start to feel quite tired (I rarely exceed 20 miles or 3.5 hours in my training runs) at first there is mild panic, how can I be tired already, there are still 44 hours to go!!!  Then I force myself to take a step back, I let Karla head off on her own (turns out she is quite the ultra-veteran and wants to get some decent early mileage in) and set about walking for a bit, I manage to sync up with Sue and we cover a good half a lap or so together and catch up on things.  I don’t think her day is going quite as well, so I try to offer encouragement as she often finds the early part of longer races harder until she settles in (in our London 100KM race she struggled most of the day but was a pillar of strength to keep me going through the night).

By now my legs feel a bit fresher and I up my tempo a bit bidding farewell for the time being.  Shortly thereafter I eclipse the 25 mile mark in just under 5½ hours (2 x 5.5 hours = 11, 25 x 4 (sets of 12 hours) = 200 miles in 48 hours), time to plan the parade.  In reality I’m truly not thinking that way but rather I wanted to convey how good things were feeling at that point, by now I’ve come to realize it’s okay my legs feel a bit tired and that chances are I’m going to go through phases of feeling good/bad from now on.

Part 2 – Realistic outlook and positive vibes (laps 11-17)

I’m into lap 11, about this time I find myself running with Karla again and this trend continues on/off for the rest of the day, by now I think she is a full lap ahead of me but seeing other people power through and handle their own issues helps motivate me to push on myself, besides the pace we are running seems to suit us both well and having someone to share the odd thought with helps distract the mind.

The next 3½  hours are mostly uneventful, I’m back to running on my own, the sun has set and I am able to sneak in an extra lap or two in the diminishing light before taking the time to change into my overnight clothing.  The race clock ticks into 8 hours and I’ve just hit 42.5 miles, I love the fact the course is exactly 2.5 miles per lap and that the vehicle is in close proximity to the start/finish line, no wasting energy on complex math!  I know my pace will start to slow from here on but I’m still full of happy thoughts despite all the physical wear and tear.

Part 3 – The night is dark and full of terrors (laps 18-20)

After a prolonged fight with sore muscles and tight confines I finally manage to get changed and head out into the dark, at first things go fairly well, but barely 2 laps later and I’m feeling cold and demoralized, by now I realize we have nothing hot to eat and the only options (aside from grilled cheese) at the aid station are not the kind of thing I feel like.  In the lead up to this race I figured we’d somehow magic a pizza out of thin air at this point, or better yet call a nearby store for delivery.  Now 12 hours in and ordering a pizza seems crazy and the logistics just too confusing.  I bump into Sue and we agree a break in a heated car sounds like a nice idea.  On one hand I’m delighted to have hit 50 miles but keeping warm and chafing are wearing me down.

Feeling warmer and slightly re-energized we both set out determined to get in some more nighttime mileage, after all it’s only around 9pm so a long time before dawn.  At this point my running attire consists of running tights layered with winter running trousers; 3 top layers including a tank top, a reasonably thick long sleeve pullover and a fleece; this is all topped off by two pairs of gloves (1 very thin and the other set way too small but woolly) and finally a toque.  Running in Vegas overnight, hell I’m ready to take on the Antarctic!

The next 3 hours remain a blur in my brain, through some combination of slow running, walking and the odd pit-stop I get through another 10 miles.  The number of people still out and about has greatly diminished and the whole park is much quieter, almost silent except for the occasional quack (there is a pond in the middle) or jingle of tiny bells (the Jester is quite something to behold).  As always with this kind of race it can be slightly demoralizing when you spot a fellow competitor seemingly having the time of his life as he pounds out lap after lap.  Turns out he would go on to win the 48 hour race, so I feel less inadequate knowing that now.

I recall at one point chatting with Sue as we crossed paths and declaring I would shortly make a stop for grilled cheese and a sit by a fire pit in an attempt to warm up.  Despite the chill and other abuse I’ve exacted on my body I don’t feel like I’m in that bad of a place, how fleeting that feeling can be.

As Friday slowly creeps into Saturday I find myself huddled by the fire, listening to a group of runners I’ve seen out and about all day making arrangements for a spouse to swing by and take them home for the night. I confess to jealous thoughts and I’m half tempted to see if I can sneak into their car without them noticing.  Before I get too comfortable I force myself upright and depart the oasis of light, heat and friendly faces.

Only 15 minutes or so have passed since leaving the aid station and bam! I start hiccupping.  At first it’s a slight annoyance but the minutes become 15, which become 60 and my will is starting to falter.  By now running seems impossible, as the hiccups continually force me to slow down in order to diminish their ferocity.

Somewhere after 1am I head for the car, through lack of eating and being unable to run I’m not generating any heat and feel so cold I cannot stop trembling.  I crawl into the car, put the heating on and slump into a doze.  In the 90 minutes or so since the onset of the hiccups I covered a measly 2.5 miles, that lap really sucked.

At some point Sue stops by, I think she must be doing better than me at this point as somehow shortly after 2am we’re back out each trying to reach our own mental goals before the sun pronounces day 2 to be truly underway.

Part 4 – False hopes and trying times

After the hour or so in the car my legs feel like lead, so Sue and I start off at a slow walk.  Just over half way around and I’m feeling better, I feel torn between staying with Sue so that we each have company and forcing myself back into a more upward tempo to feel like all is not lost.  I say my farewells and set off at a brisk pace and that turns into a jog and then I’m bludgeoned by another bout of hiccups, oh C’Mon Man!

I can’t explain it but for some reason the hiccups would settle in and plague me the rest of my race.  I found myself taking more and more rests as that is the only time they would go away as exhaustion would send me to sleep.

Another blur in time, 3am has turned into 5am and 62.5 miles now looks like 70.  A familiar tale occurs as I meet up with Sue and we’re both flat out shambling and deathly cold.  Once more we retreat to the comforting haven that serves as our basecamp and pop the engine on to warm our bones.  This time we actually attempt some proper sleep and after nearly 2 hours we force ourselves out into the growing light to tack on some miles before the next set of races begin.

What seems like days ago, we stood getting pictures with Elvis and showgirls, declaring we would repeat this feat before that start of day two for a funny before and after type of thing, needless to say such thoughts have since left the building and the idea of being surrounded by energetic hordes waiting to set off on their own journeys is more dismaying than encouraging.  We’ve managed an additional loop and the start of day two is 15 minutes away, still feeling a bit jaded we give in to the lure of the vehicle to escape our (presumed) failings.

Part 5 – Rough starts and new found friends

The keen folk that make up day two runners are off at a gallop; my distance has crept up to 72.5 miles and with the big 100 in sight I force myself out of the car to join them in seeing what the new day has to offer.

The first lap, whilst slow, feels good, the sun is out and I see Sue is also shuffling around the course; this combination renews my energy and hope for better times ahead.  I return to the car to change, chafing has become a real problem and I doubt the abundant layers have helped in that regard.  As I commence the next lap a fine gentleman named Bob is heading out and after exchanging good mornings I find myself walking with him.  Turns out we have some mutual acquaintances and he shares many a tale of running and adventures.

In a most bizarre twist this went from being one of my favorite laps to almost my worst.  Half way around and the hiccups return full force, my new buddy is quite taken aback by it all and after much talk I’m rightfully admonished as I confess my severe lack of calorie intake.

We spent two days in Vegas prepping for the race and bought quite an arm load of food, however most of it is still stuffed in one of several paper bags and as any ultra-runner can attest, unless you have someone literally force feeding you or the food you have is in plain sight and easy to grab it’s all too easy to lose track of what you have.  Now not all of it was down to our stupidity, we brought fresh sandwiches, something that has worked well for previous events, however this time the bread seemed stale and very unappealing all too quickly so our main source of real food for day one went pretty much untouched.

Lap 30 comes to an end and I’m back in the car, all my renewed energy swiftly departed.  Sue seems to have befallen a similar fate as she is already there; I collapse into my seat feeling quite lost within myself and slump into another exhaustion induced sleep.  After a mere 30 minutes I awake and surprisingly find I feel half human and that there is no way in hell I’m not hitting the 100 mile mark, so once more into the fray I go.

The rest of the race is both surprising and in some ways uneventful.  I’m surprised as I quickly settle into a pattern of 3 good laps, 20-30 minute break, 3 good laps, 20-30 minute break and then suddenly I’m at 92.5 miles.  When I’m out running I find I’m able to manage a similar pace to that of laps in the single digits, I’m walking certain parts (hills and gnarly trail) of the course but the flats allow me to push myself.  Now just to be clear, this is by no means an easy feat, pretty much everything is sore and I’m damned tired but I now know I still have more to give.

During the final 15 miles or so I get to know another runner called Tony who is also struggling towards his sixth 100 mile finish, he is a constant source of positive energy and I imagine he helped many a folk including myself to keep going.  Also a good friend of ours called George was out and about taking photos so I felt like I had to keep running as no-one wants a photo of themselves plodding along.

He looks like a "bag of Skittles" :)

At this point I should mention that yes, we signed up to run for 48 hours and we had every intention of doing so, that being said I’m closing in on 100 miles for the first time ever, Sue has had a rougher go of things including trouble with blisters and is all but done, and finally it’s approaching 5pm, that means sunset is only an hour away. 

I find myself comparing the thought of pushing through another night (let’s be honest, the first was hardly a joy) maybe tacking on an additional 20 miles or so and then having to sleep all of Sunday to recover; with the blossoming idea of stopping at 100 miles, having something proper to eat and sleep the night away and leaving us with Sunday as a bonus vacation day.  Yeah, the internal debate didn’t last very long.

My last rest complete I set off determined not to stop until I’ve completed 100 miles.  2 hours go by and I hit the trail section that makes up the end of a lap within renewed vigor, I know Sue and our good friend George will be at the finish line to take photos and I’m ready to leap across the “imaginary” line in celebration.

Quick note, the timing station AKA start/finish line is right on a sharp almost hair-pin type of bend and half way up a hill to boot.  As such Sue is nowhere to be seen, turns out George had to head off (some people have proper lives) and my joyous celebration turns into a semi bewildered double take of the official timing screen just to make sure I had indeed done 100 miles.  I then shuffle up the hill to find Sue waiting to congratulate me and take photos, by now my energy has flat-lined as my brain has been told all is done, time to rest and it intends for that to start right fucking now with not another step to be taken.

I fall into the nearest chair and after 10 minutes or so hobble over to Race Director Ken, who is busy on the BBQ, to inform him we’re both done.  As always he does his best to discourage such shenanigans but we are steadfast and once he learns it is my first 100 he rushes to grab me a buckle and offer his thanks for taking part in his race.  Of course it is us that need to thank him and his lovely wife Stephanie for putting on such an awesome event, not to mention all the wonderful volunteers that spend just as cold a night baby-sitting grumbling buffoons.

So hotdog in hand we head back to the car and say our farewells to Cornerstone Park, it’s quite possible we may have driven 20 feet and then paused to grab another couple of hot dogs but I don’t think anyone spotted that….


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