Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Back to Booneville for the Buckle!

My last 100 mile race didn't go the way I wanted it to. That's the short of it. You can read all about it here but basically, a pulled quad muscle 40 miles in doomed me to a slow and difficult finish. I hate not reaching my goals.

So back to the Booneville Backroads Ultra to take on the full 100 mile race. Last year this was my first 100k race and I loved it. (That story is here.) It's a super challenging midwest race on the gravel roads around Des Moines. The race director Steve Cannon is awesome and intent on making sure you earn the moniker of Booneville Badass. The course is unmarked and requires cue cards to find your way through, there are miles of Class B Roads - which are awful mud roads in May, and the hills are not what you picture when you think of Iowa. (Steve is a badass in his own right. You can learn more about him and check out his awesome book at

I wasn't sure if I was ready for this. In January my family moved from Mount Pleasant, Iowa to our new home in Gardner, Kansas and moving makes training tough. A new job, new schools for our kids, and a new community means not as much time for running. But eventually things calmed down a bit so that I could get my miles in, and my fitness felt pretty good. But I had no idea if my quad would be a problem again or if some other injury would manifest itself. I never really could explain what happened at the Heartland 100. I didn't slip or fall to pull that muscle, and I'd never had any problems with it before. In my training since, my quad felt fine, but I had no idea if it would hold up or not for another race.

The strategy was easy. Be ready. Unlike last year when the mud roads broke my spirit at Booneville, I knew they were coming and wouldn't let them ruin me. Unlike at the Heartland, I had now been through a 100 mile race and knew I could endure the sleepiness and exhaustion. So the key was, make sure my nutrition was good, run smart, and keep going.

I didn't have super lofty goals for this race, but I was intent on reaching them. First, I wanted to finish in under 24 hours. I felt like that would be a respectable time. Second, I wanted to finish in the top 10 of the race. Of course, with midwest ultramarathons there aren't usually a ton of runners, so that should have been doable with an under 24 hours finish. Third, don't hate it. I wanted to try to enjoy this race and not just try to get through it. (I have a tendency to "get through" instead of embrace the moment.)

Let me take a second to stop and say I have the best crew ever. Once again, friends Matt and Jolie as well as my amazing wife Katie were ready to help me all day and pace me through the night. But this time we also had my awesome sister-in-law Jenny helping out. I could never do this stuff without their help and cannot thank them all enough for their selflessness.

I did not sleep well before the race. I never sleep great, but on this night I made the mistake of checking the weather forecast before bed and then could think of nothing other than 14 hours of running in the rain. I slept maybe 2.5 hours that night. Not a good way to start.

We got to the Booneville start in good time and I felt good. So my crew and I waited around for the march to the starting line led by bagpipes and drums. It's awesome! I also caught up with Brad Dains, who I only knew via Facebook from last year's race. Before the start of the race, Steve gave another great speech in preparation. This year what stuck for me was, "There are only 2 things that can last forever today... A DNF or the hardware you win when you finish. You choose which one you're going to remember." I had been asked to give a prayer before the race so I did my best to ask for God's blessing while not being too long or too offensive for those not interested in this.  And it was on.

On races like this, I usually begin by paying attention to find someone who could run my pace and would be up for chatting. I've been blessed by awesome people to run with in previous ultras. Early in this race it was Brad. We began running together and chatting about our lives, running histories, and struggles. We ran together for most of the first 25 miles through the first two aid stations. My crew was at each station and, as always, was helpful getting what I needed. As we left the 23 miles station, we knew what was to come, but we couldn't have known how it would go.

I had planned to switch shoes at the 23 station so I could muddy up my VFF Spyridon MR Elites during that stretch and then put my V-Trails back on. But it hadn't been as rainy this week and wasn't supposed to rain until 1pm, so I figured I'd keep going with what I had. Bad idea.

About a mile before Brad and I reached the B roads, the sky went crazy. Brad had been dealing with some stomach problems and was trying to push through them, but also had told me over and over that I could take off if I needed to. When the storm came, as much as I enjoyed having a friend to run with, I wanted to get through the mud before it got worse. So off I went. For the next mile or so I ran into sideways rain, hail, and what seemed like way too close lightning. My best plan was to keep my head down and keep moving as fast as I could. Luckily the harsh storm didn't last too long and the rain only continued for about an hour.

Then I came to the mud. Last year I hated it. It slowed me down, broke my will, and hurt my time. This year I embraced it. And I ran. Thanks to my Vibrams, I could run and slide through the mud without too much sticking to my shoes or slowing me down. I passed several people who were trudging as I did last year. It may have been my favorite part this year.

The next parts of the race were the hardest of all. After the 30 mile aid station, there was a long stretch to 42, where 100k racers get to add pacers. Then a long 11 miles to the 53 aid station and the hilly, tough stretch to the 100k finish line. It was in the 40's that I realized that my legs were beginning to feel the miles. And running the parts that last year included my pacers made it harder. During the stretch from 53 to 62 I met up with David, a 100k runner who I'd see multiple times throughout the day. Knowing he was almost finished made me pretty jealous of the idea of being finished. But quitting never came into my mind.

At the Start/Finish line I got to have my first pacer. Matt took off with me for a 10 mile stretch, and it was great having him to run with. I couldn't believe how much faster the miles ticked away with a friend to run with; even though we were definitely going slower than earlier in the day. At the 72 miles station, Katie jumped in to pace me for 5 miles. (Don't tell anyone, but she's still my favorite to run with.)

We were well into the night by this time with headlamps leading our way. Next came Jolie, who paced me for 6 miles.

With 17 miles to the finish, my sister-in-law Jenny took over as my pacer and went with me through 2 stations and for 11 miles. Jenny was the "lucky" one to get to run through the "mud mile" of the 50k course. After a clear afternoon and evening, the mud had turned into heavy clay that made trudging through it difficult. Especially after over 85 miles of running already done. Jenny and I ran back in to the Start/Finish line for the second time as we finished up the 50k loop. This is the mentally toughest part of the race. I've just run 94 miles and have to run the incredibly long road to the Start/Finish line knowing I still have to go back out for 6 more miles.

After a couple minutes at the aid station, Katie and I were ready to go out. With about an hour and a half before 6am and the 24 hour goal time, we were going to have to move. Normally a 10k is well under an hour run for me, but after all these miles this would be tough. Oh, and that evil race director Steve Cannon did us no favors in regards to hills on this last loop either. ;)

So Katie and I ran. We ran the whole 10k loop - except for a couple large uphills. The sun began to come up and fog started to hover over the ground, and we ran. I could tell Katie was tired too, but she never wavered as we pushed through to finish strong. 

I finished the 100 miles in 23:47:19 - almost 13 minutes under my goal. And I finished 8th overall - within my goal of a top 10 finish. Steve Cannon was there at the finish line with my medal and more importantly, the coolest buckle around. I'll be wearing this one constantly.

I love this race. It's hard to describe why, but there is something about the group of people that run it and the man that puts it on. And I'm so grateful for the ability and opportunity to do crazy things like running 100 miles on the gravel roads of Iowa and Kansas.

I'm not sure what else I'll do this year. My Garmin and my Yasso 800's seem to think I could qualify for Boston so the Kansas City Marathon may be in store for October just to try. I certainly need to find some other trail ultras for this summer and fall.

My Favorite Gear:

  • Garmin Fenix 5X - I. Love. This. Watch. I was able to track, use mapping navigation, and even live track my run with only the need to charge on the go once during the race. 
  • Vibram FiveFingers - I ran all but 12 miles in the V-Trails, which are my all time favorite Vibrams. For one stretch after the mud, I put on my Trek Ascents, but since my last 100, they are a bit stretched out and let too many rocks in. So at the next station, I was back in my V-Trails.
  • Injinji Compression 2.0 socks - The new generation of compression socks are a huge jump from the last ones. 
  • Tailwind Nutrition - This gets me through. I supplement with food at aid stations so I don't feel hungry in my stomach, but Tailwind is what fuels me for these races.
  • Ultimate Direction hydration vest - I added a Nathan insulated bottle and it was great at keeping my drinks cold.
  • Flipbelt - the best phone carrier around. 
  • Road ID - My wristband with emergency info just in case. Love what this company offers.
  • Black Diamond Storm Headlamp - 350 lumens and waterproof
  • Patagonia Houdini jacket - Lightweight and water resistant for the downpour.
  • Rev Run Crew Box - My awesome Christmas gift from Matt and Jolie. A great rolling plastic tote full of all my running gear and customized for me. Everyone was jealous. 


  1. Great report and great race, Regan! Bring on Boston!!

  2. Great race! I remember seeing you out there. Congrats on finishing and accomplishing your goals!