Aside from major slackage on my part for actually posting stuff…

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Photo Credit: Goat Factory Media Entertainment

It’s wild to think that a week ago I was actively chasing cut offs at Twisted Branch 100k…

I went into this race not putting pressure on myself. I definitely had a game plan but it was something thrown together a few days before hand. I was hoping to not psych myself out so I could get this thang done!

Here is a little history about the race. Twisted Branch 100K is a point to point course that travels along the Finger Lakes region. It covers nearly 65 miles with over 10,000 feet of climbing. There are 11 aid stations with drop bag access at 5 of them, and pacers allowed for the last 25 miles. August 17th, 2019 was the 5th year of its running and the event was sponsored by Patagonia, Altra, Darn Tough Socks, Tailwind and more.

Lauren and I made the trek to upstate New York Thursday night. I booked a room so we could crash and get some rest because who knew how camping would go on Friday. I would say it was a good decision due to the storm that hit us. There were funnel clouds and the sky literally turned black. Right around this point, we ran into Crutchley and Kelly. We chatted about the next day and speculated as to what the course was going to be like. It was good to see some familiar faces and helped build the stoke.

I still had to run a few last minute errands so Lauren and I took to town. We grabbed a few things from a local grocery store and stopped at a restaurant called Brew and Brats. They had some quality grub and I would totally recommend. It was down pouring when we left camp and continued off and on the rest of the night.

I wanted to catch as many zZz’s as possible but it wasn’t happening. After two or so hours of restless sleeping, I got up and began getting ready.

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Pre Race

The next thing I know, I am standing towards the back of the pack and we are off. There were 156 starters that morning and shortly into the first mile we had conga lines. The temperature was perfect at mid 60’s for the first hour or so.

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Race Start

About a mile into the course, I ran into a familiar face. Pederson and I shared some miles at Run Ragged earlier this summer so it was good to see him. We chatted for a while and ticked off about 10 miles before we got separated.

I came into Naples Creek (Mile 12.5) about 10 minutes ahead of my goal time but was feeling strong. This was the first time I got to see my crew! Lauren swapped my bottles, took my headlamp, and had me out of that aid station in under a minute. She’s such a baller!

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Naples Creek

The next leg had the biggest climb of the day at around 1500 feet over 5.75 miles. I was feeling so strong that by the time I came into The Sneaker, I was 30 minutes ahead of my goal. Lauren was waiting for me with my drop bag in hand. She swapped out my bottles again and replenished my Gu’s. My fueling was on point with one Gu per hour and one Gatorade chew packet every two hours.

The humidity was starting to kick into gear and I was soaked in sweat. I continued to run strong through the next aid station (Italy Valley 22.6) and planned to change my shoes around mile 30. I kept getting rocks in my Hokas and didn’t want to end up with destroyed feet :/

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Lauren met me at the Lab (Mile 29.30). She had grabbed my drop bag and was ready for me to change my shoes and shirt. I was soaked from head to toe and had eaten 4 salt pills by this point. The humidity was coming in with a vengeance and the temp had risen to mid/high 80’s. I probably spent a little too much time at this aid station but the chäir was so rad. I was still over half an hour under my goal time so I felt justified. I snagged an extra bottle of water to keep with me and chugged a can of Ginger Ale.

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I wouldn’t see my crew again for over 10 miles. There were no major climbs through the next section but good portions were exposed to the sun. I was so happy to make it to Patch (Mile 35.6) where one of the volunteers was handing out ice cold hand towels. This was a game changer and made the rest of the leg feel awesome. I got locked out of my phone so I wasn’t able to snag many photos but there were a few cool spots. So far the course had some mud but nothing compared to World’s End.

I came into Bud Valley (Mile 39.8) starting to feel the first signs of fatigue. I was confident and knew this is when the race truly began. The last 25 miles.

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Bud Valley

A storm was forecasted for 2PM so I grabbed my rain jacket and headlamp to make sure I was prepared. I also grabbed my cheat sticks as insurance since I began to feel some slight signs of cramping.

I hit the head and chugged some water plus a second can of Ginger Ale hoping that the fluids would bring me some more life. Other racers were picking up their pacers here. I soon learned that Crutchley sacrificed his race to help a downed runner (#whatabro) and another CT Pal who Kelly was supposed to pace had to drop. I wasn’t planning on using a pacer but feel I made another wise decision in having Kelly along for the rest of the race.

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Exiting Bud Valley

This is especially true when over the course of the next mile I got another rock in my shoe. I pulled my shoe off, my body instantly went into shock. My right leg shot out straight and my calve turned into a brick. I screamed a bit and was internally freaking out, thinking that this was going to cause me the race. Kelly played the perfect role of a pacer by remaining calm and helping to knock the lactic acid that was built up in my leg loose. The only problem from here was that I continued to cramp for the next 10 miles. It also began down pouring during this to add to the theatrics.

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Photo Credit: Kelly

My fantastic day with dreams of a sub 16 hour finish were diminishing before my eyes. It was a death march/ slog that was painful with each step. I internally never gave up and continued to focus on seeing myself cross the finish line. All I had to do was adjust goals and stay motivated. I also probably ate a total of 18 salt pills in an attempt to end the cramping

When I finally arrived to Glen Brook  (Mile 46.2) I realized I was losing too much time. I was now one hour ahead of the overall cut off and spent over 2 hours on the last leg. It took everything I had to not let the negativity set in. I was happy to see Lauren and chat for a bit. She told me that some friends, Art & Peggy, had stopped by but just left. Art had a hunch I might be cramping because of the weather and I guess its something I’m known for 😐 #thanksblue2blue. He told Lauren to get some pickle juice in me to replenish my electrolyte loss. I choked down as much as I could and kept moving.

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Photo Credit: Art Byram

 

Kelly was a saint keeping me distracted with her forest wisdom and camping tales. I continued to move but it was painfully slow, losing more and more time. Crutchley was at the next aid station. It was good to see him and he was in great spirits. He offered to pace me the last 6 miles if Kelly wasn’t up for it but she totally was kicking ass. I only needed to make it to two more aid stations before I would be on the final leg.

I started picking up the pace again getting a second, third, or maybe twentieth wind at this point. The rain had died down and my main goal was to get too Urbana (Mile 59.2).I would get to se Lauren again for some more motivation, Gatorade and food.

It would be a lie if I said these miles didn’t drag. The rain had destroyed the course. I couldn’t run more than an 8th of a mile without coming into ankle deep mud. There was also a major climb that had tons of switchbacks. I felt my race slowly slipping away from me. My original goal of sub 17, turned to maybe sub 16, then to under 19, to just get this damn thing done before you are cut off. I couldn’t have another experience like Worlds End. I needed to get this finish.

I made it to Urbana 45 minutes to cut off and take my sweet time there. It felt like the race was guaranteed done at this point. I only had 5.5 miles to go but I didn’t account for the mud, another big climb, and how sleep deprived I had become. This part of the course should have taken me 1.5 hours tops but ultrabrain and trail math don’t mix well.

I set out of the aid station after 15 minutes of chäir time and a little bit more food. I was so over Gu’s. The next point would be the finish and I had 1.5 hours until the 19 hour mark. We had a small road section that led from Urbana right into the final climb. This climb felt like it lasted forever and there were so many switch backs. I started getting passed by a few runners, if you could call us that at this point. I would start to jog and then slide into a mud pit. This seemed to be the pattern for most of this section until this guy I haven’t seen all race shows up. Through conversation, it turns out he’s the sweeper.

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Crew Chief Lauren
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Pacer Kelly

We start swapping stories about our jobs and what got us into Ultras. It was quality conversation until I realized, I was cutting it too close. I politely excused myself and got a surge of energy that I did not expect. I knew I had about 3 miles left and just had to crank them out. I started to pick up pace and passed 4 people over the next mile. I remember our sweeper had told me once I hit the road it was about 2 miles left so that was my goal, get to the road. 

After a few counts of slipping and sliding, tripping almost falling we hit the road. I tuck my poles under my arms and start sprinting. Kelly calls out behind me “go get it!!!” My watch shows that I am heading at 6:45 pace. Where was this all day! I finish the road section and get back on the trail where there are some more switch backs, mud, and fallen logs. Kelly catches me shortly after but we can hear the finish line. I am really pushing the pace to my full ability and am feeling strong for someone who had just run 64 miles. I only have .7 left as I descend down a few switch backs and into the park. I see the line and push it as hard as I can.

I finished the race in 19 hours, 52 minutes, and 57 seconds for a total of 64.7 miles and 10589 feet of climbing. The official cut off was 20 hours and I was stoked to have finished it.

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Twisted Branch Complete!
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Shot

It was great to celebrate with my wife and friends at the finish line. I couldn’t have done it without the love and support of all of them throughout the day.

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Thanks for the sign Jeff

I guess I’m pretty lucky to be able to do these kind of things.

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Later