If there’s one trail shoe out there that can give the Salomon Speedcross a run for its money, it would have to be the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac. I picked up a pair in my search for something rugged without the 11mm heel-to-toe drop and weight of the Salomon, and I really like them. In fact, I’m now on my second pair!
Promo Copy from Scott:
The updated Scott Kinabalu Supertrac shoe is your trail weapon to help negotiate the toughest of terrains; whether soft mud or technical mountain trails. It is built to be fast with a supportive upper, full-length cushioning and an extremely lugged outsole ensuring excellent traction to help traverse over soft and rough surfaces.
Stats & Construction:
Appearance & Price
Out of the box my first impression of the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac was that the shoe looked sturdy yet a bit bulky. The shoe retails for $145, and trust me, the price is well worth every penny. You can find them online for as low as $120.
Fit & Feel
I wear a women’s size 9 in trail running shoes, and Scott brand shoe sizing is pretty spot on. Foot in the shoe, it feels a bit stiff although comfortable. It’s got a roomy toe box and a soft upper. This shoe requires a breaking in period along with getting used to the eRide technology, but the 8mm heel-to-toe drop is a welcomed support from my 4mm drop shoes.
I logged about 700 miles of trail in my first pair of Kinabalu Supertrac, including a 100-mile race in muddy, wet conditions. I’m currently on my second pair, as my first pair sits in my garage with screws in the lugs for winter running. I’ve used these shoes for training and racing, and they are my go-to shoe for running on technical terrain, wet and muddy trails, and snowy trails.
Bottom line: This shoe is built to last through the most aggressive of trail conditions. Once broken in, the shoe is pliable; it’s perfect for anyone looking for that sweet spot between the extremely high and very low heel-to-toe offsets. The shoe offers superior grip, and the wet traction outsole rubber compound works really well on a multitude of surfaces.
The eRIDE technology in these shoes offers a “rocker” platform that is designed for a more efficient mid to forefoot strike. For those of you who already have an efficient foot strike, this may be less noticeable. However, for someone with heel strikes, the rocker does aid in rolling you forward on to your toes.
The shoe upper has a tight weave fabric with rubberized strips, and the toe box is reinforced extremely well to not only provide good protection but also withstand serious contact with rocks or other obstacles. The tongue is padded, which makes it extremely comfortable when laced, and the bungee laces are thin and textured to stay tight when tied. The lace locker is another feature on these shoes that provides a no-nonsense solution to store loose laces when running.
This shoe is a trail beast! If you are looking for an extremely dependable shoe with cushion, solid grip and all-day comfort without any gimmicks, then this shoe is for you.
Author: Shalini Kovach is a trail junkie and ultra distance runner, forever in search of the perfect gear that will make life easy out in the wilderness.
Fact: I’d never before run in a New Balance shoe, but after reading some positive comments about the Leadville 1210v2, I decided to test run it for myself and see what all the fuss was about. Here are my thoughts.
Promo Copy from New Balance:
Now nothing has to stop you from going deeper into the woods or traveling faster on the trail. The Leadville 1210v2 running shoe is as tough as its namesake race, combining a responsive ride with durable traction. It’s the shoe high-mileage trail runners wished for, designed with input from ultra-runners.
Stats & Construction:
Appearance & Price
My first impression of the Leadville 1210v2? Meh. I wasn’t jumping up and down with joy when I first saw the shoe in person. It looks a bit bulky. But I reminded myself not be hasty; we all know that looks can be deceiving. The shoe retails for $124.99, which is competitively priced for most trail running shoes, and you can find them online for as low as $90.
Fit & Feel
I normally wear a women’s size 9 in trail running shoes, but for this shoe I chose a wide width and got fitted for a size 8.5 instead. (Side note: Anytime you pick a wide toe box for a shoe, go down half a size.)
Foot in the shoe, it feels ultra-light — nothing compared to my “first impression” of the way it looked. Not only does the shoe feel nimble, it feels soft and extremely flexible despite the cushion and stack height. I didn’t feel the 8mm heel to toe drop at all.
I should point out here that I run in minimal shoes — zero to 4mm max heel to toe — so I’m very receptive to that drop and was hesitant before I test ran the 1210v2 because of its 8mm drop.
I’ve logged about 400 miles of pure trail in these shoes since I bought them, on terrain ranging from technical to rocky to muddy. I’ve used these shoes while training and liked them so much that I decided to run the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 100 Mile race in them.
Long story short: I ran the entire length of the 100-mile race in LT1210v2 without having to change the shoe, which is not “normal” for me. During almost all of my races I end up having to swap shoes at about 60 to 80 miles into the race because of blisters or issues with the toe box. Not here!
The shoe did not require a break-in period; straight out of the box I was able to knock out 12 miles with no problem. The shoe has a soft feel, and despite the cushioning is extremely responsive to the rugged terrain. In fact, the extra cushion was a welcome feature as it kept my feet from getting banged up while running in the 100-mile ultra — less fatigue and great response to help with toe offset, minus the added weight.
The shoe upper is lightweight and breathable, and I absolutely dig the gusseted tongue! I’ve run in multiple shoes from multiple brands, and the gusseted tongue is a huge feature in trail running shoes that gets neglected, in my opinion. It keeps the tongue from sliding and holds the shoelaces in place, and you can run debris-free on any uneven surface with loose rocks and roots. It’s the attention to little details like this that make for a smooth ride!
The wide toe box is a lifesaver as it allows for foot expansion on long runs and keeps blisters from forming under your toenails while you’re bombing those downhills. The shoe has an aggressive lug that offers great traction on ascent and decent while running on multiple surfaces. The flex grove system on the forefoot allows the shoe to feel more pliable under foot rather than stiff and rugged. With this shoe you get full ground contact; not only does it offer stability, it feels great on your feet and is extremely responsive.
I love these shoes! I would recommend the Leadville 1210v2 for anyone who is looking for that median between the minimal and maximum shoe movement. It’s a no-bullshit kind of shoe: not much for looks, but it will get the job done and your feet will love you for that.
Author: Shalini Kovach is a trail junkie and ultra distance runner, forever in search of the perfect gear that will make life easy out in the wilderness.
This was my third hundy of the year, precisely five weeks after the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 100-Mile in September. As race week approached, I grew extremely restless and nervous, and for good reason. Everyone I spoke to who had run the race had worrying things to say: “This is NOT a course to go for a PR on.” “If the course itself doesn’t shred you, the creek crossings, cold and wet weather will haunt you through the entire race.”
Well, fair enough!
I was also told that if I had a pacer or crew available to me, I needed to use them and not try to hammer through this race solo, as was my original plan. So, reluctantly, I decided to save being “super woman” for another race and take advantage of the strong support that was available to me at this “home race.”
I recruited Mike Gallagher to pace me from Hazel Creek (65.4 miles) to Berryman (78.6 miles). I chose Mike for this section because he had run OT 100 last year and was familiar with the course and what it would take to get me through “Murderers Row,” as this section of the course is affectionately known.
My second pacer would be Tim Landewe, who would join me from Berryman to the finish at Bass River Resort (100.9 miles). I chose Tim to pace me to the finish quite simply for the comfort and understanding. Tim and I train together quite a bit; we’ve logged many long and unpleasant miles together during runs that required us to be up and going at 4 a.m., or out in 100-degree heat. So, I knew that Tim would recognize when I needed to push and when I needed a reality check to get my rear to the finish and accomplish my goal.
Ah! That brings me to my goal for this race: On the surface, I was looking at a conservative, 28-hour finish given all the logistics, terrain and elevation for this race — assuming that nothing broke down on me. (There are no guarantees EVER when running 100 miles.) Below the surface, I secretly wanted to push for the First Female Overall finish. But the only people aware of this goal were me and Tim.
Race: Ozark Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run
Organizers: Paul Schoenlaub and Stuart Johnson
Location/Course: The race headquarters and finish line are located at Bass River Resort. This is a point-to-point, 100.9-mile ultramarathon on the Ozark Trail through the Mark Twain National Forest in south-central Missouri. The race is mostly single track trail with several water creek crossings, some as deep as your knees or more depending on how much rain there has been. There is an elevation gain of approximately 12,000 to 15,000 feet. The trail surface varies from smooth dirt to technical rocks and roots. Adding to the challenge are lots of leaves covering the trail this time of year.
Time Limit: 32 hours (100.9 miles)
Runner: Shalini Kovach
Nutrition (approximately 2,200 calories):
A couple of us were staying at Bass River Resort the night before the race, so we could get up and catch the shuttle at 3:30 a.m. to be at the start of the race at 6:00 a.m. I had set out all of my gear and was in bed at 8:30 p.m., only to roll from side to side pretty much all night long. I was wide awake at 2:00 a.m. and, long story short, didn’t sleep well. I finally got up at 2:45 a.m. and started to get dressed. Did I tell you I was nervous?
On the shuttle, I sat with a few fellow runners and anxiously chatted for two hours until we came to a halt at the start line. “Just focus” was all I kept telling myself, repeating in my head to hold pace, start slow and keep that up until it was time. Time for what you ask? Time to make a break for it, time to start flagging the competition.
One thing to relay here: I’m normally not a competitive runner, so this was a whole new game plan for me. I had set out with a goal and was on a mission. Strategically, what this amounted to was trying to stay focused on pace and be aware of my surroundings and my competition. And not to stop and chat at aid stations or sightsee, as I am notorious for doing, something my pacers Mike and Tim reminded me about numerous times. So, get in and get out of the aid stations — that was also part of the plan.
Go time! It was 6 a.m., and I was running. I started at the back of the pack and decided to be patient and go out slow, not to rush. My iPod was playing “Fight for Your Mind” by Ben Harper, which was relevant to me because the lyrics reflected the state of mind I was in at the time:
Now, if you’re gonna step, step on in
If you’re gonna finish, you got to begin
Don’t you fear, what you don’t know
Just let that be, your room to grow
Grasshopper Hollow (4.5 miles) to Gunstock Hollow (31.3 miles)
From the start of the race until I hit Gunstock Hollow was pretty uneventful. I ran steady, held pace…then took a tumble and landed smack on my left kneecap. I sat there on the trail for a moment, shocked, and finally had to pull myself up by holding onto a tree. My knee hurt like a mofo. I walked and tried to shake it off. Was my race over before it had even really got started? After about a mile of tenderly testing my gait, I realized it was only when I stopped running that my knee locked up. As long as I kept moving, it felt fine — even with the ever-so-slight “click” I could hear at each knee bend. I told myself it was all in my head and continued onward.
Brooks Creek (40.0 Miles)
This is where my brain turned. I pulled into the aid station, refilled and turned to ask race director, Stuart Johnson, who happened to be there, what place I was in. He said I was the sixth female runner but should be able to catch the fifth-place female, as she had just left the aid station. Cool! I was in and out of the aid station, on a mission. I ran hard past the fifth place female runner and then, later on, past the fourth place female runner. I was in third place and holding steady when I hit Martin Road aid station at 55.8 miles. I had 9.6 miles to go until I hit Hazel Creek, which is where I would pick up Mike for the night stretch. I was hoping to catch up to the lead female runners overnight, although I had no idea how far ahead of me they were and if I realistically had a chance at it.
Hazel Creek (65.4 miles)
For multiple reasons, the 9.6 miles from Martin Road to Hazel Creek were the worst. It got dark, it got cold, and my shoes and socks were soaking wet. And, to top it off, I lost a glove on the trail somewhere during this stretch, so I only had one. My hands were freezing to the point of being numb. I don’t operate well in cold weather, and I came close to mentally shutting down with just 4 more miles to get to Hazel Creek. Two things kept me moving forward: First, I was really looking forward to seeing Mike and having company on my run. Second, I had a change of winter gear, dry shoes, socks and heavier mittens in my drop bag, so I could change out of my soggy clothes and continue forward in dry, warm ones. Oh, the things that you look forward to when running 100 miles!
Soon enough I was at Hazel Creek. I sat down and had Mike, John Goble and Kathy Brennan hovering around me to help with food, water and whatever else I needed.
Me: Where’s my drop bag?
Mike: It’s not here. Sure you packed one for Hazel Creek?
Me: WTF? Where’s my drop bag? I had all my winter gear in it. I need dry clothes and shoes. I’m freezing cold, and I can’t do this. Where the hell is it? What the F happened to my drop bag??!!
Yeah, I had a mini-meltdown. Shortly after I caught myself, as I realized what a brat I was being. Shit happens, and I needed to quit freaking out and get my head back in the zone. Just then, it dawned on me that I had an extra pair of dry socks in my vest, so I pulled those out and John and Kathy helped me change.
Me: I need a heavier jacket. I’m freezing….
John: Here, you take this micro-fleece.
He literally took the shirt off his back and gave it to me, so I could stay warm during the night.
Me: Gloves, I lost one and I don’t have….
Before I could finish my sentence, another runner came up behind me and handed me my lost glove. He had picked it off the trail on his way to Hazel Creek.
Kathy quickly added hand warmers to my gloves and filled up my bladder. Despite the fact that my shoes were still soaking wet, I was now comfortable enough to hammer through the night stretch of the race. As I sat there eating, I asked one of the volunteers what place I was in. He told me that when I had pulled into Hazel Creek I was holding third — and the second-place and first-place female runners were still there, too. In an instant I had forgotten how cold and miserable I felt and was telling Mike that we needed to get the hell out of the aid station!
Berryman Campground (78.6 miles)
The stretch from Hazel Creek to Berryman had a few creek crossings, one with knee-deep water, but Mike kept me running steady and I was holding my new position as first-place female. It wasn’t until we reached Pigeon Roast Road aid station at 73.3 miles that I realized I was being hunted. The second-place female runner was right on my heels. Every time we’d pull into an aid station, she was there with her pacer, so there was no room for trial and error on my part. I couldn’t just plod along; I needed to be aware and disciplined if I was going to hold first. So, we began to play a cat and mouse game. I was flying in and out of aid stations, with Mike edging me forward even when I wanted to slow down.
We made our way to Berryman aid station, where the plan was to pick up Tim, but when we arrived Tim wasn’t there yet. I shoveled food into my mouth and I took out my trekking poles. I had also placed an extra pair of shoes and socks in my drop bag here, so I was able to change those out. As I stood up, the second place female pulled into the aid station with her pacer.
Me: I need to go.
Mike: Tim’s not here…. I’ll go with you.
Just like that we were on the trail and running hard. It was about 10 minutes after we had left the aid station that we started to see a runner flying downhill behind us, almost as though they were trying to catch up to us.
Me: WTF? I can’t run any faster. They’ll pass us.
Mike: That’s not the girl and her pacer. It’s a single headlamp. That’s Tim!
I sighed in relief.
Me: Tim is that you?!
We switched pacers and Mike went back to Berryman while Tim continued to run with me. As we moved forward, I filled Tim in on what was going on and how I needed to put enough distance between me and the second-place runner.
Henpeck Hollow (94.4 miles)
As Tim and I left Billy’s Branch aid station at 84.1 miles, the second-place female was holding steady right behind me, so I grabbed two slices of PB&J and pushed forward hard.
It was about 90 miles into the race that I started to feel really sluggish and was slowing down, starving and whining and not running at all. Tim tried to motivate me to run, but I just wasn’t having it. I asked Tim if it was possible for me to finish in under 27 hours, as last year’s first overall female finished in 27:07 hours. “NO, not at the rate you’re moving,” came his blatant reply. I was a little irritated, but one thing I’ve learned about Tim is that he’s a no BS kind of guy. And I needed the reality check. I was barely pushing a 19 minute/mile, and Tim was no miracle worker. So, we pushed harder and made our way to Henpeck Hollow, the aid station I had captained last year. Our group was taking it on again this year, and I was greeted with a lot of cheers, smiles and positive reinforcement. A shot of bourbon and coke later, Tim and I were off to the finish.
But it wasn’t easy. In fact, my entire 100-mile run boiled down to this last 6.2-mile stretch.
We were about 95.6 miles in when I pulled over to take a piss. As I walked back to Tim, who was standing 15 paces ahead of me and waiting patiently while I pulled the draw strings on my tights, from the corner of my eye I saw the second-place female runner with her pacer. “Good work,” she said, passing me on the trail. She was maybe five steps ahead of me, and I shot past her straight to where Tim was. All I remember saying was, “Let’s go! Run fast. Don’t stop, and hold the pace.”
Tim did just that. We ran hard for the next mile or so, until we came to a turn in the trail and I got impatient, so I jumped in front of Tim and we ran a negative split all the way to the finish.
We were about a quarter-mile from the finish line when the conversation went something like this:
Me: My legs are going to hate me tomorrow. I am going to hate me tomorrow. It hurts!
Tim: That was freakin’ awesome! Did you think you would finish in under 27 hours?
First female overall, 16th runner at the finish line, 26:55 hours. Not only that, but this was my 100-mile PR, on a very technical and hilly course. Things I learned about myself: I don’t quite enjoy playing the cat and mouse game, as it takes the joy out of the “run free” concept. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change a thing about OT 100, and I did enjoy the adrenaline rush of winning and all that comes with it. I wouldn’t have pushed myself as hard if I hadn’t set out with a definitive goal and had pacers that understood that and pushed my rear. But, there is something about being the frontrunner that just isn’t me. I run to free my mind and will continue to do so without the added pressure of placing in a race. So, to the year 2015, I say thank you and goodbye. Bring on 2016!
Author: Shalini Kovach is the founder and lead organizer of Terrain Trail Runners.
Race Report: Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 100-Mile Ultra and Relay, September 26-27, 2015
This was my second 100-mile race of the year, falling on the heels of Kettle Moraine in June. As race week approached, I was nervous. This one would take me completely out of my comfort zone; not only would this be my first race outside of the Midwest, but it was a point-to-point race and much of it took place above 7,000 feet. (When you live 614 feet above sea level, the odds aren’t exactly in your favor.) I would also be flying solo for this time, as two days prior to race day I found myself without a pacer. So, assuming I finished in one piece, I had no means of transportation to get me back to my car. Panic! After freaking out just a little (read: a LOT) I saddled up for Flagstaff and headed out alone.
Race: Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 100-Mile Ultra and Relay
Organizers: Ian Torrence and Arizona Trail Association
Location/Course: The race begins at Hotshots Ranch, north of Flagstaff. The course passes under Arizona’s highest mountain, Humphrey’s Peak, through the high alpine meadows of the Hart Prairie Preserve, across 422-square-mile Babbitt Ranch and along the Coconino Rim, with gorgeous views of the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert and Navajo Mountain. Finish is near the entrance of Grand Canyon National Park in the small gateway community of Tusayan, Arizona.
Distance: 100 miles point to point
Elevation: The course starts at 7,400 feet, reaches a maximum elevation of 8,800, (most of which is concentrated in the first 6 miles) and finishes at 6,600 feet with approximately 7,000 feet of climbing.
Terrain: The course ranges from single track to varying degrees of double track and forest dirt roads. Sections of the trails are covered with heavily vegetated ponderosa pine and alpine aspen forests to sparsely vegetated pinion-juniper grasslands and back again. The terrain is mountainous and rocky.
Time Limit: 30 hours (100 mile)
Runner: Shalini Kovach
Nutrition (approximately 2,200 calories):
Goals & Training
After having run and successfully finished a 100-miler in June, I was looking for a challenge, something that would take me a step forward yet not completely shred me mentally and physically. Flagstaff had been on the list, and as mentioned above, the race presented what I would call a “scenic challenge.”
Now, 100 miles is a long way to run, and it seems like my last two 100-mile races have come with issues during and post-race. So, the goal for this race was to try and run without issues and let the trail dictate what kind of experience I was going to have — something I think I’ve gotten really good with is running by feel.
Leading up to Flagstaff, my peak training was 78 miles a week. Thereafter, I consistently dropped my mileage all the way to a three-week taper before the race. Four things I incorporated into my training for this race were hill repeats, power hiking, working on my decent/down-hill running technique and pacing (80% of my running was done at a pace well below my threshold).
Seeing as I wouldn’t be able to train for altitude, I consistently pushed for that vertical; my average weekly elevation gain was 6,500 to 8,500 feet. Now, for some of you, that elevation gain is attainable in a day’s trot of 5 to 7 miles, but for flatlander standards, that elevation gain sometimes required hours of running on the same hills (“cardiac hill” was my bestie).
As for power hiking, I wanted to be able to maintain at least a steady pace of 15 minutes/mile on the terrain I was running. Why the concentration on power hiking? Quite simply because when shit breaks down and your primary goal becomes to get your rear to the finish line before cutoff, there’s nothing that’s going to save you like power hiking. It helps break up the constant running motion and shake off some of the fatigue and lets you continue to move forward without having to completely stop.
The night before the race I’d connected with a couple of other runners who were also going to Flagstaff, so race morning I had a ride to get me to the start line. How I was going to get back after I finished was still up in the air. I needed to clear my head, so I focused on getting through the finish, then dealing with the rest.
It was a crisp morning. The sun was out, and I was surrounded by gorgeous mountain peaks. I smelled the pine needles in the air and took it all in. It dawned on me that I was going to be on my own. It seemed like everyone else around me had a crew, friends, family or pacers cheering them on. “Time to make friends with yourself,” said the little voice in my head as Ian Torrence, the RD, finished the pre-race briefing. We hit the trail running, and just like that it was go time.
Kelly Tank (Mile 21)
It was a pretty uneventful first mile following behind the front of the pack. I was right where I always am: the mid-packer. As we made our way under Arizona’s highest mountain, Humphrey’s Peak, which is the longest climb of the race and the most beautiful section of the course, we ran through the high alpine meadows of the Hart Prairie Preserve towards Bismark Lake and made our way downhill through some switchbacks surrounded by gorgeous spruce, fir, ponderosa and aspens along the course to Kelly Tank aid station. I stopped numerous times in the first 12-mile section at the start of the race, sometimes to take photos and capture what my eyes and mind were seeing, and other times simply to catch my breath.
As I ran this section of the course, I noticed ever so slightly a bit of vertigo and a lingering headache that would stay with me for the next 30 miles. As soon as I would try and push pace, it would hit me even harder. My heart rate was elevated, and I could barely hold a conversation without grasping for breath. WTH? I was getting frustrated with myself, as I wasn’t even running that hard yet. I was unable to regulate my breathing, and I was being passed by all these runners who seemed to be moving along smoothly without any issues. Soon enough, I fell towards the back of the pack.
I tried to clear my head as I continued to run/hike simply to catch my breath and drop my heart rate. If this was what the day had in store for me, not only would it make for a long and miserable 100 miles, but there was no telling if I would make the cutoff. My legs felt fine — in fact, I wanted to push pace if only I could steady my breathing and the headache would go away — and with a slight panic I left Kelly Tank aid station at 21 miles into the race only 1.5 hours ahead of the cutoff. “Just hold pace and keep it steady. As long as you’re moving, you’ll be fine. Focus,” said the little voice in my head.
Cedar Ranch (Mile 33)
The next section of the race took us through multiple ranches, road junctions and little to no tree cover. As we made our way to Cedar Ranch aid station, it was mid-afternoon and the sun was bearing down on us. It got hot, the kind of hot where you don’t even notice you’re sweating because the moisture gets sucked out of your pores. I could feel the sun on my shoulders. I was parched, and I could feel the dryness as I swallowed. I was drinking a ton of water and dumping some on my head and face as I continued to move forward. My breathing had regulated, and my head had finally caught up to my legs, so running felt more natural. Except now I was dealing with the heat.
I passed three runners in this section; two were doing the death march and one was stalled due to cramping. I stopped to check on him and then moved forward. I noticed a pickup truck and two volunteers with water. Water! I ran up to them; they had driven back, as it was getting hot and they wanted to make sure runners had enough water. I filled up my handheld, drank some and threw some on my head. I mentioned the guys behind me and kept on running. A couple of miles later, I saw another pickup truck. They stopped and gave me ice that was a life saver!
Before I knew it, I was at Cedar Ranch, starving but felt pretty good. I refilled everything and grabbed my headlamp. The next drop bag access would be at 54 miles, and it was going to get dark between now and then. “What’s there to eat,” I asked? Someone said chili and cheese quesadillas, but you probably don’t want chili. Whaaaaaaat? To heck with that! I poured myself a bowl of chili, grabbed a cheese quesadilla and ate to my heart’s content, then made my way out.
Boundary (Mile 55)
This next section of the course was brutal on many levels. First, there was no tree cover at all. Sections of the course were flat, dirt/gravel road with dust slapping you in the face and a head wind that made it hard to push forward. I was starting to lose my cool a bit. Up ahead, I could see a female runner disappearing into the cloud of dirt. I stopped to look around me; it was vast. I was surrounded by mountains, and despite the nuisance of having to run this section, I was able to take in how beautiful my surroundings were. When I came up on the next aid station, all I remember saying to the volunteers was, “That was f**ked up.” They laughed and said the next section had some switchbacks and varied terrain, so it would get better.
Onward I went, repeating to myself, “Just wait for the sun to go down. It will get better.” And so it did! I watched the sun going down as I ran, and a full moon hung over the sky as the crystal blue grew darker. I quickly noticed the change in temperature. It was getting cool, and I was actually digging the run as I made my way to Boundary aid station.
Quite a few runners were just camped out at this aid station. I made a B-line for my drop bag, waited for the Porta Potty to open up, then shuffled my way to a complete gear change. I went from running in shorts and T-shirt to long running tights, long-sleeve shirt, lightweight jacket, gloves and a beanie. As I sat there, digging through my bag, making sure I had everything for the night stretch of the run, I could smell cigar. It smelled so good that I had to ask who was smoking. Someone spoke up and said they’d get me one if I’d like a boost for the next section of trail. I laughed and continued on. This was an interesting stretch, and I passed five more runners. I was feeling pretty good and digging the run in the cool, moonlit sky. Later, as I looked at my GPS data, I had spent 25 minutes at this aid station. Who cares, right?!
Russell Tank (Mile 68)
This stretch of the run was pretty uneventful, other than the fact that I was running steady and singing out loud to my iPod. I felt better than I had the entire day. There were two other runners about a half-mile behind me, holding steady. My goal was to stay ahead and not let anyone pass me.
I rolled into the Russell Tank aid station, and there was music and disco lights. Music was welcoming — the disco lights, not so much. I filled up my handheld, ate and was up and out. I dropped the two other runners who were at my heels the entire time.
The next stretch of the course until we hit Hull Cabin at mile 80 had one water drop and no other aid or support. It was going to be the longest 13 miles I’d ever run. As I made my way out from the aid station, about 2 miles into the run, I took a drink of water and could feel my stomach turn. The water tasted like burnt plastic. Ugh! I dumped it out. Luckily, I had another mile to the water drop and sufficient Heed/Perpetuem in my bladder. At the water drop, I rinsed my handheld, drank some water and filled up. I reached back to feel my bladder, and it had enough fluid in it. “This should last me the next 10 miles,” I said to myself.
This section of the course was absolutely beautiful, but also challenging, with some steep climbs, switchbacks and drops to rolling hills and technical terrain. I wished I was running this section in daylight and could see everything around me. It was the Kaibab National Forest section, and the tall pines stood towering above my head as I cruised through the single track in the company of my own shadow as the moon hung low and peered through the gaps in the trees.
In the middle of the single track, I saw two tiny eyes reflect in the light of my headlamp, and as I got near I saw something fly lopsided to my left and then across. The two eyes landed on a fallen tree limb. Is that a bat? I stopped and turned to look. It was a bird of some kind. Burrowing owl? I reached for my camera, but when I turned it was gone. (Later, I found out it was a poorwill.) I continued to run forward and saw two other sets of eyes that took flight. I assumed more poorwill.
It was at about 73 miles into the run that I sat down on a tree stump to replace my dying headlamp battery and realized I was all out of fluids. I looked around me. The forest was great and unforgiving. I felt the soft breeze flow through the ground vegetation. I felt insignificant, small. “What is the purpose of this?” It was the voice in my head, and just like that I was crying. It was completely involuntary. I could hear my subconscious mind asking, “WTF? Get up, get up you need to run.” I pulled my sorry butt up and I started to run. It was, in a way, liberating. I ran the next 7 miles without water and didn’t stop until I got to Hull Cabin.
Hull Cabin (mile 80)
Ah, Hull Cabin! This is where I spent 25 minutes talking to Neil Weintraub. Seriously!?! I had the run in 26 hours, but I didn’t care. It was the best conversation I’d had in the past 20 hours. You know how sometimes you meet a complete stranger and you just connect? Yeah, this was it! We talked about races. We talked about trails. We talked about everything in between. Come to find out after I finished the race that Neil is the original Arizona Trail Runner and “the Godfather” of the Flagstaff Trail Running community.
I was so busy talking that I completely forgot I was racing and had another 20 miles to go. I turned to look outside and saw I wouldn’t need the headlamp anymore. The sun was up. Dang, I’d better get moving! So, I said goodbye to Neil. As I was leaving, he pointed out that I should look over to my left and catch the sun come up on the south rim. I did just that! I walked over to the edge and looked down at the Grand Canyon, took a deep breath and kept moving forward.
Watson Tank (mile 88)
I pulled into the Watson Tank aid station and saw three runners that I’d been playing catch with. At each aid station I pulled into, they were headed out. I didn’t think I would ever catch them, but here they were. Something in my brain clicked. I grabbed a banana, threw down some Coke and was running.
I ran hard for the next 3 miles. I needed to put enough distance between me and the other three runners. This is where I meet Luis; he had been running in the wrong direction for the last 3 miles, so after we talked, he started to pace with me. I tried to lose him, but he was always there, hobbling along, so finally I gave in and decided if we were going to pace together the rest of the way I might as well get to know the guy.
Me: How many ultras have you run.
Luis: This is my third.
Me: What have you run before this?
Luis: Bigfoot 200 and Tahoe 200.
Me: WTF? Who does that?
We laughed so hard at that.
Right there and then I decided to run to the finish with him, no matter what my finish time ended up being. So, we started to walk. I could tell he was hurting and was unable to keep up with me running or power hiking. We talked about racing, kids, family. Come to find out Luis had gotten off course twice; he should have finished at 4 a.m. Instead, he took a hour and a half nap at Russell Tank and was hurt bad, but quitting was not an option, as his family was cheering him on and waiting for him to finish.
Luis: You should keep running and finish ahead of me.
Me: No, I’ll hang with you and we cross the finish together. Now, if you were a girl, I’d be leaving you in the dirt to finish this damn thing.
Tusayan/Reed Tank (mile 97.5)
Luis and I both stopped to fill up our water, ate some food and I threw some ice in my buff. I was starting to get hot again, and I was in cool weather gear, making it even hotter.
We started our last trek to the finish, and as we approached, Luis’s kids ran towards us all excited and talking a mile a minute, wanting to run us into the finish. And just like that, we were at the finish line! Done! My time was 27:16:33, making this my 100-mile PR by an hour. I finished 10th Overall, 4th Female and 1st in my Age Group!
So, yes, 100 miles is a long way to run, especially when doing it alone. But it’s what you learn about yourself that’s more important than how far you ran and what time you got. It’s about the people you meet, places you get to go on your own two feet and the connections you make along the way that you cherish — not so much the bling, although the buckle is pretty sweet!
I ended up hitching a ride back to town with the infamous Ian Torrence. Not only did I get to hang with the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon crew post-race, I sat in Ian’s truck and talked my ass off as he drove me right to my hotel room! (I was star struck just a little bit.)
In conclusion, this race was absolutely breathtaking during both the day and night. It’s very well done, with great organizers, volunteers, swag and a kick-ass finisher buckle. It has a homegrown and organic feel to it, where the ultra community comes together to truly inspire each other and see you through the finish. Definitely worth doing!
Author: Shalini Kovach is the founder and lead organizer of Terrain Trail Runners.
This is a sport of extremes. Nothing about running 50 or 100 miles at one stretch is “normal” or “balanced.” I’m aware of that fact. Actually, it’s the inspiration for this blog.
Running ultra-distance requires long hours of training, sometimes in extreme conditions and mostly out in the wilderness. On top of that, you have the logistical juggling act of fine-tuning fueling, gearing and strategizing to successfully meet your desired goal — whether this is a particular time, distance or personal achievement. It’s probably the most demanding and time-consuming sport I can think of.
However, that doesn’t mean that we, as ultrarunners, are automatons. Except for the elitest of the elites, we aren’t these guys and girls who do nothing but run all day, every day. We have jobs and families and responsibilities — not to mention very real health and wellness issues that we have to deal with.
Every time I hit the trail, I’m happy to be there. Each time I’m 75 miles into a 100-mile race and suffering, I remind myself how grateful I am to be strong enough to move that far forward on my own two feet. Statistics show that only about 70,000 people worldwide complete an ultra marathon each year. That’s a miniscule percentage who are able to do what we do.
But let’s also be unreservedly honest: The sport of ultrarunning is a selfish ambition. I’ve come to accept this. It takes considerable amounts of time, money and concentration — all of which can negatively impact of our families, friends and careers.
In this sport of extremes, where drive and commitment are so vital, we also require perspective. So, as we struggle to maintain a balance of all things life and ultrarunning, here are few things to keep in mind:
Author: Shalini Kovach is the lead organizer of Terrain Trail Runners. She is a competitive ultrarunner, directs two annual ultra-distance races and organizes other community events, and is a wife and the mother of three girls. Oh, and the dog, don't forget the dog.
Our blog writers are members of Terrain Trail Runners, local athletes just like you, who want to share their love and knowledge of the sport.