Here we go. I’ve been
dreading looking forward to this race since I signed up for it last October. I don’t want to say I was looking past C&O Canal because I’m definitely still too new at the distance to do that sort of thing, but ES100 has been my focus all year long. Online reports from the first couple years made this seem like an almost impossible race. Nothing but vert, cambered trails, and uncertain distances between aid stations. Well, one of the race directors went and wheel measured the entire course earlier this year so we all know at least how far it is (102.9 miles). What no one seems to know though is how much climbing the course has to offer. They advertise the race as 20,000+ feet of elevation gain, however it could be anywhere from 20-25k according to different measurements that have been taken.
The course itself is one gigantic loop utilizing the Tiadaghton, Sproul, and Tioga State Forests just outside Williamsport in north central PA. There are 17 aid stations spaced along the various trails every 3-8 miles. Seven of these can be accessed by crew and 6 of them can have drop bags taken out to them. I’ll have drop bags at three of them (miles 43, 54, and 80) and Kate will drive around and cheer me on.
Finish. I’m not going to make this complicated. This race is far too hard for me to assign any time qualifications to it. Between the elevation gain (see above) and the heat (temps in the high 80s), I have no idea how my body will hold up. I believe I am as physically prepared as my last two 100 mile races and I’m better prepared mentally given increased experience, however there are so many other factors that I’d hate to hazard a guess as to what would be a “good” or likely time. And frankly, trying to run to a good time is partly what sabotaged C&O. So my goal is to treat this like a long excursion through the woods and not a race. Yes, I’ll have a bib pinned to my shorts. And yes, they’ll be timing me. But if I treat this like a race, I’ll be burned out and broken by the time I get to the halfway point. So I’m planning on starting slow and slowing down.
Take 10 pictures. Weren’t expecting this one, were ya? This will be a twofer. One – you my faithful reader deserve some more pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words and I’m sure you’d rather see a half dozen pictures than my equivalent in verbiage. So this will let me write a better, shorter, more visual race report sometime next week (or the week after depending on how my recovery goes) that you will be able to get through in one sitting. The other benefit is taking pictures during the first half of the run will require me to slow down. So it’s quite possible that by taking more pictures (or any since I haven’t done this before), I’ll end up staying fresher longer and finishing faster.
Pick up 5 pieces of trash. Similar to my C goal, only the first benefit is that I’m making the trails cleaner for future users. I’ll probably be pretty zonked out by the time it gets dark, so I’ll have about 50 miles to get this done. I don’t think these are too heavily traveled trails so I’m not sure how much opportunity I’ll have to meet this, but I’ll do my best. And the more I pick up, the better I’ll be pacing myself.
Changing it up (a little)
My race strategies and tactics are going to remain fairly unchanged from my last go at 100 miles. Namely, start slowly, gel every 3 miles, and drink to thirst. The biggest change is going to be with my music. I love to listen to music when I run. The only times I run without music is either when I’m only going out for a mile or if my MP3 player dies on me while I’m out on a run. I’ve decided to put my MP3 player into my first drop bag (mile 43) and don’t plan to use it until I get to the halfway point. Music gets me amped up and the last thing I need during the beginning of the race is to be amped up. I’ve also decided to swap out the 200+ song playlist I’ve used in the past and just go with my top 35 songs. I’ll toss it on repeat and listen to them over and over. Some people get bored listening to the same songs, but I never have. I can listen to the same song several times in a row and not get tired of it. I can definitely listen to 2.5 hours 5 or 6 times without getting tired of them. I just hope it’s enough to get me through the night. . . and the next morning. . . and possibly the afternoon after that. . .
If you’re interested, the race will have live tracking on their website. This is the Wilds of PA though so don’t expect it to be updated all that frequently given spotty cell phone service. Also, don’t expect me to be anywhere near the front. Don’t worry if you see me at the back as that’s the plan. Though it could also mean I’m having a rough go of it.
And I’m sure many (or all of you) are wondering why I do this. This just about sums it up.
Wish me luck (I’m going to need it).