Ever since I participated in Jackpot in 2021, I had been itching to complete my first 100 mile race out there, on the faster USTAF course that is a 1.1761616 mile loop, consisting of 95% paved or concrete surfaces and 5% crushed gravel. With only 30 feet of elevation gain each loop, I knew I had no choice but to do this.
As I would tell friends that I intended to complete a 100 mile race, many asked me how you train for a 100 mile race. The truth is I have no idea. I'm not going to pretend that I really trained for a 100 mile race. I actually ran very little leading up to the race, opting to spend more time cross-training on my Peloton.
Jackpot returned to its customary February date this year and my race started on a Friday morning. I picked up my packet the day before. Because this was a USTAF race, you have to wear a second bib that prominently displays your age group.
Before the race, I sketched out two different scenarios, a 20 hour finish and a 24 hour finish. My goal would be a 24 hour finish but I thought that 20 hours might be within reach if I felt especially good out there.
We really lucked out with the weather. It was beautiful when I arrived in the morning to set my gear up. As you can see, I didn't bring much. A chair, a couple extra pairs of shoes and a change of clothes, some of my preferred electrolyte drink. Because there is a gigantic aid station after every loop, you don't really need to bring too much. That is one of the best parts of this race.
There is always excitement in the air before the start of this race. Beyond Limits Running does a great job to make that happen. This year, that included showgirls and Elvis. How cool is that! I also saw my friend, David Boley, who was volunteering at the aid station when I arrived. He is the one who graciously took a photo of me with Elvis and the showgirls.
The USTAF 100 miler and 72 hour race started at the same time and there were a good number of entrants. There were also a handful of elite athletes in the field, as the weather conditions lent themselves to the possibility of a world record or two. Although I certainly wouldn't be setting any world records, it was exciting to be in a race with some of the best in the world, including Camille Herron and Vicktoria Brown, to name just a couple.
I was disappointed to learn at the start line that earbuds were not permitted in the USTAF 100 mile race. We had not been told that previously and that put a serious damper on my plans to listen to audiobooks and music. How would I get through 100 miles without any music at all?? Had I known that, I am not sure I would have signed up for this race.
Next thing I knew, we were off and running for what I anticipated would be a very long day. The course offered some nice lake and mountain views.
I went with my Red Rock Running Company Donut shirt, which got quite a few compliments along the way. I was also wearing my new Brooks Ghost 13 running shoes as well as the 6 Days in the Dome hat, one of my favorites.
As often happens in these races, the excitement at the beginning had me running faster than I intended to. My first 10 miles were all between 10 and 11:30 minute miles. I was aiming for between 12 and 15 minute miles. But I felt good and ended up running quite a bit with a young lady from Florida who was also trying to conquer her first 100 miler. We were having a good conversation so I decided not to worry too much about the pace. I figured it would all even out down the stretch.
I was generally able to keep the next 20 miles or so under a 15 minute per mile pace. But I definitely started to have some challenges out there. First, I hadn't applied enough sunscreen and by the time I realized that, I was already burned. Second, my legs were feeling the stress of the miles way more at this point than I had anticipated. Third, my left ankle wasn't feeling great. And lastly, I felt like I was starting to get some blisters, which is unusual for me.
At this point, I was walking more than I was running and my time goals were quickly slipping away. Mentally, I was just not where I needed or wanted to be. I was stopping more to rest and I decided I really didn't want to be out there any more.
I got a bit of a boost when a couple of friends who had come to pick up their packets for the next day stopped me to say hi, including Greg, who I had paced at the end of last year's 100 mile Jackpot race. He signed up for the 100 miler this year too, but the one with the longer loop beginning the next morning. The one where you could wear earbuds and blast your music when the going got tough.
By mile 40, my legs and feet were really hurting and I had slowed down considerably. I took a seat in my chair to consider my options. I removed my shoes and found that I did in fact have a few blisters. No wonder my feet had been hurting more than I anticipated. I decided I would likely just call it a day soon. It wasn't that I didn't think I could complete 100 miles. It was more that it was going to take me much longer than anticipated and, mentally, I just didn't want to be out there that long.
Right then, my friend James arrived and said he was there to check on me and see how I was doing. I told him I wasn't doing all that well, but I invited him to walk a few laps with me. I put on different shoes and off we went walking. My legs were no longer interested in running.
This was right about the time the sun was setting and it made for a pretty spectacular skyline. And for a drop in temperature.
Shortly after James left, my friend Crystal arrived and we shared a few laps together before I decided to call it a day, with my finally tally being 46.48 miles in right about 12 and a half hours. It certainly wasn't 100 miles, but close to 50 miles wasn't bad for a day's effort either.
And we got to see Camille Heron break her own 100 mile record, in 12 hours, 41 minutes, and 10 seconds. She was a sight to see throughout the day. She was an example of consistency and it was really cool to see her cross this finish line to set the new world record.
I have conflicting thoughts on this one. I think I did the right thing by dropping out of the race when I did, but there is always regret and second guessing that follows such a decision. Mentally, I just wasn't where I needed to be to complete this race. I was distracted. And things didn't go well physically either. That one-two punch led to me dropping out of this one.
If I could do it over again, I would have signed up for the 100 mile race starting the next day because that would have given me the opportunity to run with my friend Greg. And to listen to music.
So will 2023 be the third time...and the charm? Greg has already told me he wants to do the 100 miler. So stay tuned!
Steve Yeager is an ultra runner who rarely turns down a challenge. When he is not out putting miles on his shoes, he practices law and serves in the Nevada State Legislature. Steve lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with his very understanding and patient wife, Bita.