Mad City 100k National Championship!

from Traci Falbo | Ultrarunner

Hard Work Pays Off!

One of my two goals for 2016 was to qualify for the 100k team. I have never been super fast and was nervous if I could get my legs spinning quick enough to make my goal a reality. Speed work has always been my weakness, because I never did it. Since hiring a coach, I am doing some sort of speed work twice per week. I have had solid speed work since the beginning of the year and it has made a huge difference. I actually feel faster, which is super cool. It’s a new feeling that makes the hard work payoff.

I went into the race optimistically with big goals as usual. My “A” goal was to run sub 8 hours, “B” goal: sub 8:15 (Comrades corral A qualifying time), and “C” goal to run sub 8:29, so I could get a faster time than another girl on the 100k qualifying list. I didn’t have any goals as far as placement. I knew if I won and was under 8:40 that I would get an AUTO spot, but I thought there was no way that would happen. I knew Cassie Scallon was coming and she IS UBER FAST! I was thinking if she could run Bandera in 9:30-ish, she could probably run 7:30-7:45 range at Mad City. So, I just needed to run my race for time.

I had talked to my coach and we decided that an even paced strategy was best. I would try to maintain 7:45’s for the whole race, putting me in around 8:00. The field was small-only 27 people were registered for the 100k. (There were another 115 or so in the 50k and 50k relay, which started at 8am). I knew several people running and chatted with them at the starting line before the 6:30am start. I was hoping to talk to Cassie more, as she and I have messaged back and forth more lately since discovering that we are both running the Comrades Marathon. I lined up next to her, and we started out together.

About 8 guys took off like jack rabbits followed by Cassie and I. I had hoped to run with her for at least the first loop to get to know her better and enjoy some company. We were about 1/2 mile in and I looked down at my watch. I saw 6:54 pace. Now, I know I can’t hold that pace for a marathon yet and that was NOT EVEN CLOSE to my plan. So I told Cassie that I would love to talk, but I needed to slow down. She understood, we wished each other a good race, and I watched her run off out of sight.

I was pretty much by myself for Loop 1. I had started off fast, and kept trying to slow myself down (7:09, 7:22, 7:47, 7:22). I was getting slower, but not slow enough. So, at mile 4-ish, I said out loud to myself, “slow down, dumb-a$$”. It worked! Mile 5 was 7:47! I was finally getting in a rhythm. I wanted to run 48 minute loops. I came in at 47:30, a little fast, but not horrible. Loop 2 was good in 48:02. However, the whole time I was running loop 2, I debated stopping at the porta can. I convinced myself, I might be able to push the feeling aside (sometimes I can) and that I didn’t have time to stop. Well, needless to say. I should have stopped. I spent all of lap 3, hoping I could make it back around to the porta can at the Start/Finish. With less than a mile to go, there was no holding back. I found a tree on the far side of the course and just barely got my pants down. Clean up on aisle 5. Thankfully, I had Cottonelle wipes in my pocket. It was a process. Lap 3 was 52:15 and I am sure that 4 minutes was due to my plant fertilization stop. I came back around to the Start/Finish and asked my husband if I had anything on the back of me. He said it looked like I had a spot of dirt (hopefully it was dirt) on my bib. I briefly told him what had happened…I know… TMI for crew, right?! What was I supposed to do? I got it cleaned up and I had a race to run, so I pushed on. I also told him that lap that I wanted new gloves the next time around because, 1. they could have been contaminated, but 2. they kept freezing into hard, crisp things that felt like papier mache. I spilled water on them and they froze instantly. It was 22 degrees at the start and didn’t get much above freezing until the race was almost over. My fingers were soooo cold for the first several loops.

Pre-race goodies with Swiss Colony Truffles

6:30am start, 22 degrees

End of Lap 2

About a mile into lap 4, I caught up with Anna Hailey from Texas. She was a 100k runner who had gotten past me on lap 3 during my pit stop. She said her race wasn’t going well. I was thinking, we are still on low 8 hour pace…what was she wanting to run? So, I asked her. She said she wanted to run sub 8:40. I told her we were well ahead of that, but she said she wasn’t feeling good. She seemed happy and in good spirits, but said her hip was starting to hurt. I actually thought that she seemed in a better place than me, as she was chatting easily as we ran. It was nice to talk and run with her. We came though Lap 4 at pretty much the same time (48:01 split). Lap 5 was fine, but I was alone again having gotten out of the aid station a little faster than Anna. Props to my awesome husband, Mike and his seamless crewing. Mike is phenomenal and had everything ready. Ahhh, new gloves that didn’t feel like a frozen popsicle.

Mad City’s course is not easy. It’s a 10k loop that you run 10 times. Upon leaving the Start/Finish, you go over a bridge, run along a bike path, turn right into a neighborhood where a hill is waiting for you. A slight downhill on sidewalks, then cut through a small park on another bike path into another neighborhood. Around 2.5 miles, you run next to a golf course with longer than normal speed bumps, leading to “the sucky hill”. Now, if I was running a long run, I wouldn’t complain, but this hill seemed a little steeper and longer each time starting around lap 5 or 6. At the top of the hill, we turned into the Arboretum and were rewarded with a downhill for our troubles. That part of the loop was a scenic, tree-lined road, eventually taking you next to Lake Wingra and back to the Start/Finish. There was another small hill though at about 3.75, leading into the aid station. At the end of lap 5, Mike told me Cassie was 14 minutes ahead. I had figured she’d beat me by 15-30 minutes, so she was right where I thought she’d be.

By lap 6, I was starting to get tired. At the end of that lap, I told my husband that I wasn’t sure that I could do it. He said, “It’s not a 24-hour, it’s just a rough patch.” What I actually heard was “Suck it up and get going.” So, I did. He also told me that Cassie was 10 minutes ahead now (I had gained 4 minutes on her). I didn’t think much of it…thought she might have had a porta can stop too. On lap 7, I got to talk briefly with Anthony Kunkel as he was lapping me. It was nice to talk to someone. My head was getting negative at times, so the distraction was more than welcomed. I was so jealous that he only had 2 laps left after this one. He said his legs were done and had nothing left. We leapfrogged back and forth for most of that loop. By the end of lap 7, Mike told me Cassie had left the Start/Finish area at 5:37 on the clock…it was now 5:42. I was only 5 minutes-ish behind. I still didn’t think much of it. I needed to run for qualifying time and not worry about placement. Lap 8 started to become more of a grind and I thought about something Mark Godale told me for race inspiration…haha. He said the 100k road was brutal and it would SUCK around lap 7 and 8. Yep, he was right.

At the end of lap 8, Mike didn’t say anything about where Cassie was and I didn’t ask. I just thought about the time and what I needed to qualify for the team. I knew that it was 6:34 on the clock and worst case, if I had 2, 1-hour loops I would just barely qualify. I just kept pushing, but my stomach started feeling cruddy again. On lap 9, I was getting cold again and shortly after the Start/Finish, the familiar wave of distress came in my belly again…more pooping. I hadn’t picked up more wipes, so my gloves were sacrificed to the ultra gods. 2-3 miles later, I still hadn’t made it back around and had to go again. Man, this sucks. Leaves? I finally understood what those poor dogs that drag their butts in the leaves on the ground feel like. Now, I felt truly disgusting, but only had one loop left. Lap 9 had taken me almost an hour including my 2 stops. I got more gloves (glad I had packed sooo many and that my husband had them with him!) and I picked up more wipes (I wasn’t about to wipe with leaves again). I asked him where the girl was behind me. He said, “who?” I said that fluorescent pink girl (being tired, I couldn’t remember Anna’s name…she had a bright pink shirt on earlier). He said “I don’t know, I haven’t seen her, but you are 10 minutes ahead of Cassie.” I said, “you mean, 10 minutes behind her.” He said, “No, she has had problems too and is behind you.” Wow! I thought. I need to get my ass going to keep the lead. I thought if she gets past her issues and starts feeling better…she is liable to catch me. I knew if I finished first and under the 8:40 standard, I had an AUTO qualifying spot on the team. I pushed as hard as I could, but was really out of gas. I remember my watch beeping a mile split, and I looked down, expecting to see that I was running in the 7’s again…nope 8:15. Crap…pick it up, I thought to myself.

Between laps 4-8 with my sacrificial gloves

My awesome husband and crew!

Between laps 4-8 with my sacrificial gloves

At 3.5 miles into the 10k loop, 2 girls on bikes came up to me from behind and asked how I was doing. I said I was tired. They said Timo, the RD had asked if I wanted anything immediately when I finished, which was really nice. I said no, my belly was rough and nothing sounded good, but thanks. I asked how far back the girl behind me was. They said that Cassie was 2 miles ahead of me and the next girl was back quite a ways. I thanked them for the information and then started to get mad. Why would my husband lie to me about Cassie….was it some master plan to make me run harder? Oh well, I just had 2 miles left…get in under 8:29!! At mile 5, diarrhea hit me again. This time, I had no cover and couldn’t wait until I had a place to hide. I looked around, backed into the reed-like plants next to the lake, making sure no one was coming. Seemingly within seconds, a parade went by…I must have flashed old lady butt to about 4 cars, 2 walkers, as well as a male runner and his ~10 year old girl on a bike. I apologized to all of them and got running again. How embarrassing!

About 1/2 mile from the finish, one of the cyclists came back and told me she had been mistaken. I was leading. HOLY CRAP! I WAS ABOUT TO WIN A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP! I WOULD MAKE THE 100K TEAM! AN ENORMOUS SMILE BROKE OVER MY FACE! I got to break the tape!!!! Absolutely surreal! Timo Yanecheck, the RD and Lin Gentling, the USATF liaison for the race congratulated me and before I knew it,  I was bombarded with gifts a plenty! I won a glass vase for Overall female, a glass vase for masters female, a cool pottery plaque, 3 medals (a race medal, and 2 USATF medals), and won $1250! What a phenomenal day!

I found out later that when I left the Start/Finish, heading out on lap 9 while Cassie was in the porta can at that aid station. Lots of people who followed on Twitter couldn’t wait to hear the story, thinking it was exciting that I was gaining on her and finally passed her. I never saw her after the start. I didn’t know until the last loop I was leading and then was told I wasn’t leading from 3.5 miles to mile 6 of that lap.

Coming into the finish

Breaking the tape

Glad to be done

Race Day Gear:
  • Altra Torin 2.0’s-MY FAVORITE ULTRA ROAD SHOE. ALTRA has TOTALLY SOLVED MY BLISTER ISSUES. The combination of ALTRA and DRYMAX is perfect. I HAD NO BLISTERS AFTER THE RACE…I am going to post a picture of what my feet used to look like before ALTRA at the bottom…so DON’T SCROLL DOWN IF YOU GET QUEASY EASILY.
  • DryMax Socks: Maximum Protection Trail Running.
  • Running Skirts: Compression socks after the race for recovery
  • Nathan 12 oz Speed Shot Plus Handheld during part of the race
Hammer Nutrition Products:
  • Pre-race:
    • 2 Anti-Fatigue Caps
    • 1 Race Caps Supreme
    • 1 Mito Cap
  • During the race:
    • 17 Hammer gels
    • Race Caps Supreme and Endurance Amino (alternated every other loop)
    • Anti-Fatigue Caps every lap
  • After the race:
    • Recoverite, 2 Mito Caps, 2 Race Caps Supreme

Now, I think I know why I had GI issues. I was out of Endurolytes and Fizz. I found a tube of expired (2012) tablets similar to Fizz. I thought it would be ok to use them as they were sealed. I was short time to go to the store and get some Hammer Endurolytes and thought it would be ok. I HAVE HAD SUCH GOOD LUCK WITH HAMMER THE LAST TWO YEARS, I FORGOT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN NUTRITION ISN’T RIGHT…I WILL NOT MAKE THAT MISTAKE AGAIN!

Tim Yanacheck, the RD, Lin Gentling, and myself

My haul 🙂

Usual feet after an ultra before Altra shoes & Drymax socks

Click here for Traci’s Altra store; any purchase supports her journey!
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