11 Oct 10 by James Elson

Caesars Camp 100 2010

It's the morning after and I'm feeling pretty great about the race. I didn't achieve anywhere near what I'd hoped to time/ position wise, my body was in ruin for almost half of it and there was a time around mile 80 when I genuinely thought it could be over. Partly through experience of suffering (already once horrendously this year at Badwater) and partly because of a refusal to quit I managed to get the job done. However much it hurt and however long it took really doesn't matter the minute you cross the finish line in a 100 miler. There are some elite runners who would rather drop out than post a poor time involving hours of walking and needless suffering. Their rationale is that there is another race that they would rather save themselves for, rather than grind their body down to breaking point and take months to recover. Luckily for me I'm not that fast that that's likely ever to be a problem. I think my conversation with the aid station official at mile 80 pretty much summed it up:

Him: How you feeling
Me: Absolutely battered, my undercarriage is blistered and bleeding everywhere.
Him: Have you got another race any time soon
Me: Nope
Him: Well then you may as well trash your body to finish, running 100 miles is not supposed to be easy you know.

Good point.

The Race:

The race is 10 laps of 10 miles, with an aid station at roughly the 5 mile point, which means you never really have to go for too long without encountering people serving food and drink. You also go back past your car every couple of hours so you can bring as much crap as you want and have access to it all the way through. A lot of people had already pitched tents next to their car when I arrived. On the down side it also means that after a couple of laps everything looks the same. Again and again and again and that pretty much sucks. There were around 60 x 100 milers (10 laps) and 30 x 50 milers (5 laps) all starting together at noon on Saturday. Its also very tempting for some to just get in the car and drive away when the race inevitably becomes a miserable death march.

The Course:

From the start, the course goes immediately uphill for a half a mile and then drops down a very sharp descent and back up a 25% rocky incline. That pattern continues for the first 2.5 miles of each lap. A short section of flat/ uphill and then a sudden drop and climb back up all on rocky ground which at night is difficult and requires a lot of concentration. No climb ever last more than a couple of minutes but each one is an all out effort with pretty poor footing. Once over that section you hit a mile of rolling track running alongside the road which is quite runnable before a mile of gradual uphill which at first tempts you in to running and then spits you out half way up if you do so, out of breath. The sharp inclines/ descents continue to the 4 mile point where finally you hit a nice mile long section of flat path before you reach the woodland at 5 miles. 
 
Once into the woods you get some truly awesome trails to run on. Lots of soft downhill, not that technical and quite fast. This section is almost identical to the type of running you get at Rocky Raccoon 100 in Texas. There is a good climb up from those downhill trails and then some much more technical single track trail before you come back out of the woods and into the open again for 2 miles and one last good long climb and descent in to base camp. As a 10 mile run its challenging, nearly all runnable and enjoyable, especially miles 4 to 8. As a 50 or 100 mile run it is nasty with a cumulative gain of 15500ft total/ 1550ft per lap (descending the same) which after a few hours of darkness starts to wear you down.

 (This is the only photo I managed in 27 hours)


0 - 10 miles:
Everyone began together, a few of the 50 mile guys bolted off of the front and disappeared out of sight pretty quickly. I walked all the ups from the start, lots of people running past me and pushed on the downs passing people back again. I was economical from the outset and ate gels every 45 minutes to keep energy levels up. Straight forward lap 1:49

10 - 20 miles:
Repeat, absolutely no soreness to this point just easy going enjoying the day. 3 hours 47

20 - 30 miles:
I find I normally hit the first mental low just after the marathon mark but didn't get it at all and cruised round in another decent paced effort. 5 hours 58

30 - 40 miles:
Grabbed my headtorch at the start of the lap and within an hour it was pitch dark. Headtorches create a tunnel effect which can be quite off putting but I like running in the dark so where I could I switched it off. 7 hours 59.

40 - 50 miles:
Still feeling good and full of energy, still pacing well and because of the lap format, knew exactly where to push harder to make up time for the slow uphill sections. 10 hours 2. Aiming for 2 hours per lap at the start i was almost bang on.

50 - 60 miles:
Things started to unravel at this point. I had to here been fairly consistent but I found I needed more food just before the start of this lap which boosted me, but I then crashed big time about 3 miles in to the lap. The gels weren't enough on their own at this point. 12 hours 30

60 - 70 miles:
Picked up Webbo my pacer at 60 mile point. Absolutely awesome to have him running with me. Did a great job of going just ahead of me on the majority of the course, always on the downs and dragging me along. Mentally I'd been low for about 7 or 8 miles before he showed up. I moaned a lot but my legs and feet were fine. My energy levels were low I felt pretty nauseous like I needed to be sick and my unercarriage was starting to disintegrate and blister again. 15 hours 35

70 - 80 miles:
Long stop at 70 mile point of around 15 minutes, while I ate and changed to try and stop the chaffing. Slightly quicker lap then once we did get moving but not greatly so. Light just starting to break through by the time we got back around to the car. The previous few miles the pain downstairs had reached badwater- esque levels and I voiced out loud to Webbo how pointless it seemed to be dragging my ass around a 10 mile loop another 3 times just for the sake of it when I was in that much pain. Again. I couldn't believe I was having to put up with that shit for a second time in less than 3 months. About 20 small blisters all over the insides of the groin, nutsack and perineum. 19 hours

80 miles:
Webbo left to go and watch his sons first rugby tournament. I scanned in and went across to the car and sat in the passenger seat with the fans on full and pointed down towards my crotch. I passed out for about 80 minutes and then woke up with a shock (I hadn't intended to go to sleep) and pretty much shit myself that Id slept through the day and missed the cut off. I spent the next 30 minutes bandaging my appendage and did a pretty good job. I guess Im experienced at it now. I had to physically shout at myself in the car to make my mind tell my body to get out and keep going. Then pulled on my tracksuit bottoms and a jumper, pinned my number on the trousers, put 2 mars bars in my pocket and walked back through the aid station and out on to the course. I looked like a chav but I was still moving albeit walking like John Wayne. 21 hours 20

80 - 90 miles:
The first 3 miles were just miserable, hobbling along again, infuriated that Id turned potentially a great performace into a slog for the finish again. Once I was through the sharp up and down sections my walking speed increased and with the sun shining for the first time in 15 hours for me, my energy levels were better. 24 hours 25

90 - 100 miles:
More hobbling, more misery, tried to enjoy the trails and the woods and actually did manage a smile at one or two points but otherwise just wishing for the end to come. Passed a girl still running the 100 a few miles from the end and found she still had another lap to go. With the cut off at 30 hours and going very very slowly at around 27 hours/ 87 miles at that point it was obvious she wasn't going to make it. I didn't say so just encouraged her to keep going but DNF'ing this at mile 90 wasn't really fair on her. Caught a guy a couple of miles from the finish staggering around like a drunk going about half a mile an hour, when I got to him his eyes were closed, he was just walking around falling asleep on his feet. Stayed with him to the finish line, my good deed for the day. 27 hours 11 minutes. PW at 100 miles.

When we got to the finish, everything was gone. It was kind of like old dominion when there was just one guy and a clip board at the finish. It seems anti climactic but the last thing I'd want to see is 1000 people cheering you as you cross the line. Henk the RD and a couple of people had broken camp, 95% of the cars had gone, most people at home resting, eating, recounting tales of the previous day and their finish, or not as the case may be. After dishing abuse at the start, to people who dropped out all the way through, to runners coming in to the aid station all day, Henk finally said some nice words. He pointed out that this is a hard race and that roughly 70% of runners drop out of the 100 each year. This year was no different he reckoned only 30% finished again but 'll wait for the stats later in the week.

Why this race is hard (apart from the fact that it is 100 miles)?

Most of the really difficult part of the race is done in total darkness, for me miles 35 to 80.
A lot of runnable trail but lots of unrunnable (after about 30 miles) technical steep up and down.
30 hour cut off. 10 miles doesn't seem a long way at 3.3mph but repeat 10 times and you have to rely on running a good amount of this race to finish in time once you take into account the pit stops.

Its unlikely I'll be going back to do this one again but it is very well organised and executed. Don't expect any love or praise from Henk he'll just abuse you and ask you why you're bothering to stay out there running laps for 100 miles in the dark when you don't even get a medal at the end. If you need to wonder why then there's no point coming down for this one. I wouldn't advise this as a first 100, with the finishing rate as low as it is its clear that most people, experienced or otherwise end up succumbing to the tempatation of a warm vehicle/ tent and never leaving. It nearly happened to me too.....

Next year I will finally run a 100 mile race where i don't totally fall apart in the final third and convert a good start into a good overall race. For now I'll be resting for a while. It's been a long year in more ways than one.