Jones and His Soggy Bottom
Three weeks after running my best 100 ever, I was on a high. Running has helped me cope with some things but it has also been a burden. Like a manic depressant sometimes coming off of a 100 miler I battle depression. Sometimes I am on top of the world. Coming off of Rocky Raccoon 100 I couldn’t be stopped. So I went straight in to Soggy Bottom 100….
There were many opportunities available to get a free preview of Soggy Bottom to local runners. I didn’t take that opportunity due to the fact that I was much too busy and that I didn’t really want to know what was coming. I had heard that this was a legit course, but I had run several tough courses in the area before (Mark Twain & OT 100) so I can handle this right?
The Soggy Bottom 100 began at 6am. Just a few of us joking and laughing. Just a handful gathered in a barn just south of the parking lot. Some may think this insignificant, but this was a very interesting proposition. As a new 100 miler being offered not many wanted to experiment. 100 milers are tough. The unknown can be frightening. An inaugural 100 miler is quite a challenge and the little I knew about Soggy Bottom, I knew this would not disappoint.
Through the first 8 miles all of the 100 milers stayed pretty close to one another. As with most 100 milers the pace is slow. A lot of people talked about previous 100 milers, finishing times, and trials and tribulations they faced along the way. One thing that was different (for me) on this race was I have had this conversation several times and this time I had a resume…. I was becoming the veteran. This was quite unusual to me. Normally I am fascinated with the stories of this race and that. This time I felt like the real deal. We wound ourselves around some corners and up some hills nothing too unusual for the first several miles… until about mile 6. This was the first time we hit the loop where the Lane family was providing support. This aid station split up a .8 mile loop that went straight up and then straight down. I really don’t know how to describe this but one half mile straight up and slightly less straight down. To the point that everyone I saw was walking downhill. You know the Hills are big when you walk down them.
The trail continued briefly along a creek bottom and then up another hill before entering –what I will refer to as the Cribbs’ Loop, as Heather Cribbs was manning the aid station at Mile 11/14ish of the 20 mile loop. There were a few intimidating hills along the loop but the last hill at miile 13…DAMNNN>
It took a bit of a hike but I had it in the bag, but as for all looped 100s you have to remember at this point you have to do this 4 more times.
The race didn’t get any easier from here… The trail seemed to go from bottom to top of the hill over and over.. I joked that some jack ass got the switchbacks wrong and went up and down instead of back and forth. This course did not disappoint.
Sadly finishing off the 1st loop I had heard rumors that I had cut the course. Unfortunately the course was not marked very well early on. The group of 100 milers wandered off course several times just in the first few miles… I was a little angry and didn’t know really how to take this… I was told 3 of us had cut the course in the first 5 miles and that we would have to make it up. I spoke with CJ of Act Now racing, the timing company putting it on, briefly on my way through the start/finish about the discrepancy and they jumped all over it. After some investigation all 100 milers were on the same course 3 re-layers were off by a little. But CJ jumped on it quick and the course was fixed and marked amazingly.
After a few kinks were worked out on the first loop we headed into the second. The second loop is typically an irrelevant loop in most looped 100 milers that I have ran. But this one was a bit different. I began feeling fatigue….Not the normal fatigue that you feel on mile 70 of a 100 miler. A new fatigue…This was going to be a battle. I went up hills and down hills through valleys but worst of all across fields on top of the hills. This is where the sun and heat began to get to me. Although it was a very nice day in retrospect, for a February run it was just straight up HOT. I started feeling the sun beat down and it really began to get to me.
If I had one negative thing to say about the race (let’s be honest this was an inaugural event) it was the aid stations….NOT THE VOLUNTEERS….the food inventory. It was a little lacking. Mathematically speaking you burn about 100 calories per mile running, on average. You multiply that by 100 miles and BOOM 10,000 calories…IKR? Unfortunately the aid station fair was mostly pretzels, animal crackers, and saltines. So by mile 35 things started going SOUTH!
Just feet from the mile 40 loop I started puking. (Just a little). At the time it seemed catastrophic, but it was just a little. But I was done. I WAS DONE. My son was going to be here and I was going to explain to him why daddy quit. “Son, just like you learn in Cub Scouts -you do your best….Daddy did his best and the day was just too hard…” I was heartbroken. I would not be my sons hero, I would just quit…. Things were bad and I was sick… Derek Glos came up to greet me and ask what I needed and I told him that was it I’m pulling the plug… Derek laughed and said “Shut up, quit being a pussy, and go finish the loop (a section of field a little over a mile that you circle before the finish) we’ll get your shit together and we’ll get this done.
Of course I’m paraphrasing, I’m not 100% sure what Derek said to me but I am sure it contained shit and pussy at least. But at this moment all I know is that he got me out on the third loop, and that is what mattered. (I was in strict violation of rule #6) but I was also in a place I had never been, on a hundred while recovering from a 100. Much of this race, so far, I had spent running against another young kid Ian Kallay from Ohio. Ian was a very fast runner and was tough… He would run ahead of me and I would run ahead of him throughout the majority of the run. He was new to 100 milers and he was pretty cool. But I think on this race he saw things he never thought he would see on races. The first being a man on his knees bathing in a stream…..
I was feeling unusually sick 5 miles into the third loop when Glos looked at me and said, “Dude you are working way too hard.” I must have looked like ass. “We have to get you cooled down” Glos said.. Dude get into that stream… And I knew that was a great idea… The new guy laughed at us as I was on my knees at the creek crossing splashing my head with cold water, but these are very pivotal points in the journey that may make or break the race…I am not sure where I stood at that point but it felt great. Just a few short miles later I was projectile vomiting in the woods laughing as I asked Derek if he was seeing this…I have never puked on a run before. Oh I have been close, but I have never puked.
The third loop ended in the dark, and I felt terrible. I had puked up all of the calories I had, and then some, and most of the liquid. Luckily my awesome wife, Stefani; David Murphy, Kris Bossart and other OMRR (Ozark Mountain Ridge Runners) members, came through and hooked me up with a fantastic dinner of left over beans and pulled pork and mixed fruit….This made me a new man! The fruit my wife brought back saved me as much as Derek getting me to step off on loop 3!
Loop 4 was just another loop. I was feeling better and knocking out miles as fast as you could on this type of course anyway. Derek was going to pace me 10 more miles and then I was going to meet up with Mr. David Murphy for the remainder of the race. I honestly was dreading running with Murphy because I had been through hell and back, covered in river water and puke, but I know that when Murphy comes out it is all business, but not tonight…. We are a serious bunch. Most people would describe us as crazy, invincible or immortal, but when it comes to our families nothing is more important, and tonight Murphy’s girl, the IRC princess, was running a fever and Harper needed Dad…. Murphy had to go be another type of hero…. I know he hated leaving, but we both know there are more important things than Ultras, and as I was coming in on the mile 80 loop I saw Murphy’s truck pulling out of Soggy Bottom knowing his head was in the right place.
Derek was back. Derek and I have been to a lot of good and BAD places together…We have punished the shit out of each other in the name of running. Derek coming back out was quite the relief. I knew Murphy had a lot on his mind, and tonight it was somewhere else. Derek coming back out was comforting. We stepped out on loop 5 discussing the other runners and the advantage we had at night because we have been there before….but something just didn’t feel right, and not just for me. We cruised through 3 miles, and I was trying to keep ahead of nutrition. I had already been in a bad place that day and I didn’t want to go back. I noticed Derek wasn’t eating either, and that was just strange.
I started to do the math in my head and realized that Derek had been pacing me for at least 35 miles and probably 10 hours…Derek had just finished one of the more remarkable races anyone in this area had ever completed. As much as Derek may kill me for writing this I knew something wasn’t right, and I was being a selfish DICK. Derek refused to eat because it was killing his stomach… Have you ever had a friend that refused to eat because he knew it would make it more difficult to run and pace you? Yeah I know. Derek was having pancreas issues and refusing to eat so he could keep running with me. That will work for a few miles but not 15, especially after having just run a 50k…It was time…I was kind of worried. I am leading this race and my pacer needs to duck out. Derek hated it, but we both knew that it didn’t make sense…Derek is not a quitter, the dude is a beast and no words can explain how he helped me on this race but this was a moment…. A time…where it just didn’t make sense for him to continue pacing.
So he sidestepped in to the 5 mile aid station on loop5, and I was in uncharted territory. At first it was a bit strange. I was in the woods, in the middle of the night, by myself, and my headlamp was dimming. Ultimately I will chalk this up to fate. I had wanted to test myself without a pacer for a while and I got my wish at the worst possible time. As Ultra marathoners we question ourselves regularly. We run a 100 to see if we can. We run another to see if the first was a fluke. We meet adversity head on and push through, that is the point of what we do….At the Soggy Bottom 100, I met adversity, from puking on myself to bathing in a river, to pushing through 15 miles in the early hours of Sunday morning without a pacer.. As I say over and over…anyone can have a good race from time to time but it is the tough races that make the best stories…
I finished Soggy Bottom 100 early that next morning; proud that I had pushed, thankful that my friends had helped, and happy that my family had seen me finish, especially my son who had never had the opportunity to be a part of a 100 mile finish. It was like many others in a way; you always learn things about yourself. But like many others, this one will be special too.