I’ve had a couple requests for how the Born To Run Four Days went so I’ll try to summarize as best as I can. First, I’m 50, I’m 215lbs, I undertrained, and I had a 4-day goal of 150 miles. I honestly had no idea if that was even possible but it started at 100 miles and over the weeks and months grew to 140 and then eventually to 150. I had my travel trailer with a bed, hot shower and fridge and planned to sleep at night. I broke the race into days instead of one chunk of miles that seemed overwhelming. I work best when I simplify things to the basics and deal with them that way. I decided to look at this race as simply an ultra a day for 4 days.
I rolled on to the ranch on Tuesday evening and was immediately greeted by PJ and then Luis, the Race Director (also a long time acquaintance and friend). Next thing I knew I was in the back of a CJ5 hanging pink ribbons in trees along the course. It was a good sneak peek for a couple of the hills I’d come to hate over the next 4 days. We got back to camp and about 10 of us went into town for burritos and chips. I only knew Luis and PJ but quickly learned that the other guys were certified Ultra badasses. The stories quickly became about crewing and pacing Scott Jurek on his quest for the record on the Appalachian Trail and it turned out most of the guys at the table were integral parts of the journey. It was amazing and inspiring and I knew I was totally out of my class here.
As Wednesday rolled around about 32 of us headed to the start area where Luis explained the course and loop system; pink, then yellow, then pink, then yellow. Blue is bad. Basically take a pink 10 mile loop and then turn around and take the yellow 10 mile loop and if you are somewhere that you’re looking at blue, you’re off course. Simple enough. We recited the pledge that went something like, “if I get lost, hurt or die it’s my own damn fault” and off we went at noon(ish). Pink loop was pretty flat(ish), smooth road and trails, not too bad at all. I met Kara on that first loop and she explained that she was looking at each day as a “work day” and that her miles were her job and when she was done she was off work. I loved that thought process and immediately adopted it. Thanks, Kara! I got lost on my very first loop (wouldn’t be the last time) but adjusted and got it done. Then came the yellow loop. There was over 1400’ of vertical gain on that loop and chunks of the downhill weren’t runable, well at least not until your quads are blown out and you can’t stop yourself! I completed one more pink loop and called it a day. Wednesday was just a 50k day. Miles: 30
I showered, ate and got plenty of sleep that night. PJ was great about checking in, offering any help he could and basically being a great support person even though he was there to run his own 60 mile race.
Thursday morning I planned to do 40 miles so I was up and going around 6am. I had to start on the yellow loop. My hate for yellow had already started to grow. I was tight and had a couple blisters that I popped the night before but were still uncomfortable. I finished that loop and felt pretty good going to pink. After my 4th loop of the day I felt good and was ahead of schedule so I struck out for one more loop making 50 miles for the day. I figured that was just miles in the bank in case the wheels fell off later in the week. Slaby had arrived by then and was great moral support. He kept me motivated and moving and was a great help (I’m sure he doesn’t realize how much of a help he was to me). Shower, food, bed. Miles: 80
By Friday morning I realized I was going to be battling blisters for the rest of the race. I run in Hoka One One Speedgoats and rarely get blisters so this was pretty new to me. I had popped another 5 on Thursday night and covered them with bandages and moleskin. It was uncomfortable to walk on them but got better as the day went on. Nothing specific stands out about Friday other than Monica and David arriving, more support and motivation. My crew also arrived that night in the form of Taylor and Julie. It felt great having Julie there and I knew Taylor could identify and fix any funk I found myself in. I had planned on doing another 40 miles Friday but again finished earlier than I thought I would and decided to add another lap. Thanks to the WTM crew there for the encouragement and prodding to get back out. By now my goal seemed very attainable and I was considering resetting it to 170 miles. I got another good night sleep Friday night. Miles 130
I woke up Saturday to shotgun blasts and mariachi! Seriously, I love this shit. Up to 6pm Friday the 32ish of us had the course to ourselves. About 75 runners were added Friday evening at 6pm, the 100 mile badasses which included Jeff who crushed that race. Saturday morning the remaining 400 or so runners took off for distances of 10, 30, 60 miles. While the pack headed out on the pink loop, I headed out for a 4 loop day. There were some interruptions to the run on Saturday including stopping for the 12pm 0.0k race that I had also entered with Taylor and Julie. Yep, we paid to NOT run. Essentially you gather at the start area, recite the same pledge and at the blast of the shotgun, just walk away like nothing ever happened. When that was over I headed back out for a lap. I had agreed to do a quick auction for Luis and a charity that he loves. They help homeless get on their feet and get them running which boosts self esteem and productivity. The way my legs and feet felt at the time made me wonder why a charity would punish homeless people by making them run, but we sold a few items, made a couple thousand for the charity and I stood on the stage until two wonderful volunteers helped me down! Off for another loop.
I did have one pretty dark loop. I believe it was loop 16 so I had completed 150+ miles by then. I was hiking up a canyon on the yellow loop and could hear a woman screaming for 15 minutes or so. There was nobody around me though. Later that lap I heard a motorcycle and while there was one at camp, it wasn’t out on the trail either. I shook both of those off but when I crested a hill I saw a mound in the trail with dozens of jet black scorpions crawling out of it. Yep, they weren’t actually there either. By the end of that lap I’d developed tunnel vision pretty bad and by the time I shuffled past camp, I was really just staring at the ground in front of me because that’s all I could see. I got some food, talked to everyone and eventually felt good enough to go finish one more lap that night. Miles: 170
I have to admit, when I woke up Sunday morning I really didn’t want to do another loop. I reasoned to myself that I was already 20 miles over my goal and that was good enough. I had to work that evening and still needed to pack up and get cleaned up and that running wasn’t a good idea. Taylor and Julie were still asleep and I was warm and comfortable. The problem was I kept hearing Slaby telling me to get my ass back out and get some miles. It didn’t take long to realize I’d regret not doing it all year so I got up, put shoes on my blistered and swollen feet (I was a full shoe size larger than the day I started) and headed out the door for one final loop.
The course was pretty quiet again with just a few of us 4 day’ers and the last of the 100 milers finishing out their race. It was a long slow lap but I got it done and when I got to the last stretch Julie and Taylor were there to run (ok, shuffle) it in to the finish. I got to the timing tent, rang the bell and watched my name pop up on the TV monitor: John Glines, 180 miles. I thought briefly about trying one more lap but that thought didn’t last long. I received my 100 mile buckle (my first but not my last), my traditional finish line hug from Taylor, and headed for the truck.
There was one more unexpected adventure during this race. On Saturday, Taylor sketched out a petroglyphic drawing on her iPad of a Hawaiian running man with mountains in the background that she’d seen on a cup I bought there from Tracy at Marvelous Mud. She added her own touch with a cactus (girl LOVES cactus) and asked what I thought of it for a tattoo. I loved that she drew it freehand and told her to talk to the tattoo people across the road in camp (yep, professional tattoo shop right there on site). I headed out for a loop thinking about it and deciding if I wanted a tattoo that night! Backing up a little, the entire race I had really strong feelings that my Mom was watching me from above. I even spent some time on course talking to her – out loud. I don’t usually have that feeling during races but it was really strong this time and for all four days. Mom loved Seagulls, in fact her wedding band was custom made with a seagull on it. It hit me that lap that I needed to add a seagull to Taylor’s design.
When I finished the lap Taylor said the artist was going to be expecting me at 7pm. I passed their trailer and saw that Taylor had sketched out the tattoo and it was hanging there with her name on it. I showered, ate and headed over with Taylor to get the work done. I was a little concerned how it would feel since my calves were rock hard and already pretty sore. Kim assured me it would feel like a massage. Kim is a liar. It was a very simple design with no color or real shading and only took about 20 minutes to apply to my right calf but I suggest not getting a tattoo on top of super tight muscles! I love the finished work and it’s extra special to me because Taylor sketched it and added the personal touch of the cactus and seagull above.
I went to see Clay at Empower Massage Therapy on Monday and realized immediately it was the best thing I could have done. He worked out some knots I didn’t even know where there and I left feeling much better. It took almost a week for the swelling and blisters in my feet to go down enough to put shoes on. My head is still foggy, sleep is odd and I go from starving to stuffed in about three bites. Again, I love this shit.
My hat is off to those that completed the 100 mile course including Jeff who finished 14th overall and Joanie who earned her first 100 mile buckle after fighting through demons after her 7th lap. PJ killed it in the 60 mile and looked like he hadn’t run at all by a couple hours after his finish. I may have gone more miles but I know they worked harder than I had to because they pushed straight through to get their races in.
There are a lot of people to thank for helping me get this done, starting with all of the volunteers. Those aid stations were incredible and The OASIS aid station for 4 day and 200 milers was like nothing I’d ever seen. Manley and Mara were amazing! Everyone on course offering encouragement and laughs, the people I met and spent minutes or hours running/walking with. Taylor and Julie and all our WTM crew. And of course, Luis Escobar for putting on such a weird/wonderful event. Thank you to everyone!
Will I be back next May? Damn right I will and with a 200 mile goal. In the meantime, I’m planning to run the SLO Ultra Marathon on Sept. 1 with some great friends! David Bird, Sean Anderson, Erik Beckmen, Kristie Clay and Ian Marshall Nevarez will be there. If you’re looking for a fun trail race take a look at that one at www.sloultra.com. Distances range from 5 miles to 50K and I have a code for a little discount as a RaceSLO Ambassador (RSA2018GLINES).
I’m also headed Back to the Ranch the first weekend in October for Luis’ newest race. It’s a timed event ranging from 6hrs to 48 hrs. on a mile(ish) loop. Check out www.allwedoisrun.com for details and sign up info (I may even have a discount for that one as it gets closer).
For anyone that read this far, thank you! I don’t mean this to be a brag page by any stretch, rather I hope it’s taken as a statement that if I can do this, anyone can do it. Don’t look at a distance and feel overwhelmed, break it down to segments and do it a bite at a time. I’m a proof you don’t have to be fast, you just have to keep moving forward. Even when your body thinks it’s done and has nothing left, your brain can override that. When we stop listening to our body telling us when we are done and start listening to our head we can go incredible distances. Oh yeah, also learn the difference between “Hurt” pain and “Injured” pain. Keep moving through Hurt, that pain ends eventually.
“We can do anything because everything ends”. Taken from Scott Jurek’s first book and so appropriate for an Ultra Marathon.
“You finish somewhere out on the course and then you make it back to the finish line.” Sean Corvelle
by John Glines (photos courtesy of John Glines)
REGISTRATION FOR SLO ULTRA NOW OPEN. On September 1, 2018, join us for an epic day of trail running, live music, BBQ and more! Pick your race – 50K Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) State Trail Championship, cross country half marathon or a 5K run. Plus kids races! Racers can register HERE.