Saint Sebastian 100 2016

So I signed up for this 100 mile race prematurely after getting a link from my friend Jennifer , but I’ve read that’s how it’s done right? Just sign up and prepare . Originally I planned on running croom zoom 100 in January 2017, but I got excited with the date, location, and the fact that it was a new race and probably low key (also cheap!).  Ten mile loops, one aid station five miles out, and I’d have access to my suv every ten miles. 

I could have ran more leading up to this race, prior to I ran a 100k in June, 50k in October, with a few long hikes, and lots of speed walking. I learned a lot from my race in June, how to ice properly and keep my body temperature down, the effects of not eating, not applying something for chaffing! I learned a lot from my first 50 miler too, I suffered, unprepared, and unwilling to accept help. First mistake was trying to keep up with a group at a pace I don’t even run on a good day. I truly whole heartedly don’t give a shit about what place I’m in, and that’s saying a lot for a naturally competitive personality like mine . I find myself miserable and full of doubt when I let those thoughts enter my mind. I just want to finish within cutoff. I typically finish within twenty minutes to cutoff, and I’m okay with that.

Three weeks out till the race I drank 2-3 gallons of water a day, supplemented well. Electrolyte tabs, vitamin c, triple maca powder, adrenal restores, magnesium, calcium, iron, flax seed oil, probiotics, etc. I focused on speed walking, how to stay positive, what I would eat & drink, and making sure I had no reservations about quitting. My only goal was to not quit no matter what. 

This race included ultrarunning test research so packet pickup was way different than normal. I got my bib, an ekg, a pain test, and my feet poked. All the students were great, a few in particular were over the top great. Everyone was funny, while laying on my stomach on a cot with my feet in the air someone asked me where my rebel base was. 

I got my things all together, loaded my car, made a dinner for my mom and I, managed to get six hours of sleep. Fellsmere is a 1 1/2 drive for me so I got there around 7:15AM, set up, got everything I needed for a lap and waited to start. 

First lap was nice, I didn’t know what was next, which signs to look for to gauge how far I was. Having a watch and knowing my mileage feels completely useless after awhile. When the monotony sets I try to focus on points of interest. In this case it was the sugar sand, small bridge, random parking lot, my favorite spot to pee, the dirt road, the flags leading right into the five mile aid station, the bottom of the mini mountain, the puddle with three flags, the bridge with a sharp left, another sharp left marked blue, the turtle link trail, the barbed wire fence and finally that tall grass that leads into the finish start area.

A couple of us got lost the first loop briefly, someone moved the flags to the right and we followed a overgrown muddy trail area that eventually led to a loop, with three other runners coming from one direction, having gone a different way as well. Luckily a woman with us had hiked the trail the day prior and knew how to get back to the start finish. 

I felt good first loop, I was ready to fill up, add ice packs to my neck on both sides, grab snacks and listen to some music. I strategized how I wanted to tackle each loop by then, found the hard packed area of the sand portions, and picked spots I would run. I speed walked five out of ten miles at about a 14 minute per mile pace. 

I ate chips, gu gels, uncrustables, sesame sticks, maple cashews, salted potatoes, soft and hard pretzels, cookies, and some tailwind while I could stomach it. I drank tons of water, and chugged matcha green tea lemonade at my cooler. I had a ginger beer when I felt unsettled, and at aid stations I even had a few glasses of coke. After about thirteen hours food taste different, almost overwhelming, I remember chewing a bite of a peanut butter and jelly for thirty minutes and couldn’t commit to swallowing it. 

Jennifer planned on coming up past five, so a lot of the day was spent excited to see and catch up with her. I felt extremely positive throughout the day. On a run one morning with Jennifer heading back to our cars on a dirt road she told me she’d crew me for my first 100, and she really came through. I saw her at the start finish when I was completing loop three at 30 miles. I grabbed a few things took some supplements and headed back out. I think sometime around this loop the sun went down. I made a call to my Mother, ate some salted potatoes, messaged a few people. A friend asked me how I was feeling and the word lonely came to mind. I understand why this is called the lonely sport. You can make so many connections with so many people but the time spent alone just going at it can make you crave being around others, and I’m about a 8.9 on a scale of 1 to loner. 

Soon as the sun went down it was pretty cold out. I’m a floridian and I get cold easily. I’ve ran a 50k in 50° weather and felt fine but for some reason getting back to that start finish area and sitting down in my sweaty long sleeve really got me shivering. We were lucky during the day, mostly cloudy with a nice breeze. Every loop during the day oddly was sunny during the first half of the loop and cloudy even with some random sprinkling the second half. 

Jenn started loop five with me, she had ran over a hundred miles the weekend prior at icarus, I was grateful she wanted to do a lap at this point I needed some companionship for a minute. We caught up and it was fun considering she didn’t see the course yet, so in a way it was like re exploring it. During the last bit about 3 miles from the finish area we came across a man whose headlamp went out and had been walking for 45 minutes without. He was on his last lap completing his first 50 miler. I think it was around 1am at this point. 

We got back to my little crew stop area and I changed shirts, added new batteries to my 370 lumen battery sucking monster of a headlamp. Got some snacks and headed back out to complete my sixth loop. I remember telling myself “I’ll just listen to music and jog this one out”. Yeah that’s not how this loop went at all.. My one and only “bad” loop. I’m afraid of the dark, I don’t even sleep in the dark. I knew going into this ultra business it was gonna happen eventually. All the sudden every noise had me on red alert, I couldn’t imagine wearing headphones and the fog on top of everything was blinding. Maybe two or three feet visibility in some areas. About a mile in I heard coyotes in the distance, and a few minutes later closer. I heard noises in the palmetto’s, I panned over with my headlamp and see about eight of these guys just looking at me. I know it’s rare to see them so let me tell you I lost my mind and didn’t get it back for the next nine miles. First I ran like a crazy person, then I found a stick that I carried the remainder of the time. I haven’t mastered how to not hyperventilate when getting emotional during an ultra, one day.. It was a humbling experience, I thought about all the runners who run at night all around the world, and how brave they are. 

To hear the sound of the generator going at the five mile aid station was heaven. I felt nauseous and tired when I walked up the dirt hill. My mouth watered periodically throughout the rest of the race. I texted Jennifer to tell her about the coyotes that were out to get me /sarcasm. Had a few crackers and gingerale. The foods you want while being sick tend to be the same foods I crave when not hungry during an ultra. Bland, salty, ginger, sodas. I didn’t eat or drink other than that during this loop, I had a stick in my hand the whole way. I was dedicated to keeping my headlamp straight on the trail, couldn’t handle the eyes looking back at me.

I felt so relieved to get back to the start finish, I felt like laying down was something I’d like to do, and for once during a run I felt like throwing in the towel, not 100% but a thought. I knew Jennifer wouldn’t let me, I told her how I felt and my dumb coyote tale. I was grateful Mike the chip guy was sleeping, I crept in trying not to wake him, I didn’t want anyone to see me down. Jenn brought a cup soup and race director Steve Hammer heated it up in his trailer. I took my shoes off, had a ginger beer and just focused on keeping going no matter what. 

I was lucky to have Jennifer in my corner. She is so hardcore and “into it” and that rubs off on me. I sipped the broth of the soup and it brought life back into me. I was shivering cold, and ready to start another loop and I had Jenn coming with me. 

Jenn says “I think coyotes go to sleep around 5”. That made me laugh, such a mom thing to say and it was priceless! We saw the sun come up, and it was fully up by the time we had reached the half way aid station. I grabbed some saltines and chugged some coke, I’m all healthy about 5 hours into an ultra then I’m a total rebel drinking coke and shit. You’d think some kind of relief would have washed over me knowing I’m more than half way done but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around doing it all over again so I thought in terms of time. I’ll just keep walking as fast as I can with little sprints for another 7 hours or so. That doesn’t sound hard at all. We finished loop six. Everyone was awake at the start finish again, Mike Melton still had his music playing. I changed into my knee high compression socks, and made a dumb decision to change shoes (dumb). My altra lone peaks I don’t blister, and I put on a pair of road running brooks. I’ve worn my altras 63 miles without a blister and wet the whole time. 

I grabbed my glasses, some more ice in baggies for my neck, some food I wouldn’t eat and I was off to finish loop 7. Not much food intake happened past mile 70, I felt like a few times I might get sick but it never happen. I read somewhere it’s not an ultra till you puke.. Jenn and I also talked about cut off times and where I was at and I committed to not stopping long at any aids or removing my socks and shoes till I finished. I knew at this point I wasn’t stopping and just tried to be tough and get it done. I kind of felt nothing at times, which I’ve read about from other runners. Hard to describe, I could care less about just about everything but finishing. I felt absolutely fine at this point physically too, how weird.

On loop 8 I tried to make a few phones calls to touch base with a few people, not always a good idea. I had a hard time speaking to anyone but Jenn towards the end. I was tired and had that icky feeling, similar to the way you feel when coming down off drugs. I ran quite a bit this loop, I think it was faster than most of my previous ones. I felt somewhat relief finally making it back to the start finish area finishing loop 8, the end felt like an eternity the last few loops. As I’m running toward the cars I can see all dressed up and ready to go, Roger Burruss. I can’t describe the relief that washed over me, I wanted to cry. I had made a joke on a FUR post about him coming up to help me suffer, but I never asked formally. Just knowing someone is gonna tell me what to do and worry about the time takes a huge load off when your brain has been going for 30 hours. 

This is the loop I started to come undone a little physically. I think the body knows when you’re close to the end, or maybe the shoes were rubbing me the wrong way, or my gait changed from being tired. Almost as soon as we were off I felt the blisters forming, I can handle the heels, but the ones under the toes, good lord. I felt like I could barely walk and I was just pushing anyway. Roger said they would eventually just pop, but they never really did I just pretended it was sand packed into my shoe. Naturally my back hurt, I ran with a pack the whole time. I did not use a bladder during this race, but I used it to carry my things and I stashed my handheld in the back. My hips were really sore, probably the most annoying of all. Roger kept having me do little runs in between walking. I just did my best to do what he said and kept moving forward quickly. 

We reached the half way point of the loop, even though I know I’m almost there it still feels like forever. I normally panic mentally that I’m not gonna make cutoff, whoever is with me I will ask every 10 minutes are you sure we’re gonna make it?!?!? Roger kept assuring me, kept me doing little clips, and we pushed through.

Finally passed all the points of interest I had been chasing since 8am the previous day, we made it to the tall grass, and close to the start finish race director Laura Hammer was waiting, excited. It got me excited, and her, Roger and I ran into the finish. 

Jenn, some of the students, the race director, and Mike Melton playing some victory song was waiting for me at the finish. I finished just before cutoff 29:47:05, with 13 minutes to spare. Very emotional finish, I hugged Jenn and I think both of us had a tear. It was nice to throw my stuff into the back of my suv and do the “unveiling” of the feet. I took my shoes and socks off, my big toes were completely swollen, the toenails lifted up with blisters. My heels were multiple blisters lined in a row. I finished my testing with the students and took a one hour nap at a rest stop on 95 and then drove home! I will always remember this moment and I hope to come back next year and improve my time. 

Thank you Chris Thompson, Roger & Jenn for the photos! 


Published by

Ariel Jean Bernstein

vegan ultrarunner

3 thoughts on “Saint Sebastian 100 2016”

  1. Ariel, we are so proud of you. We had a tear just reading it Love all the details of how you were feeling and what you were eating, love the pictures and love the support you had! Your amazing and we love you!


  2. Congratulations. I found your race reports browsing various 100 mile race websites. You did a great job holding it together through the tough laps. You did enough right things to overcome the wrong things to make the finish cutoff time. Everything is learning and and everything is training. You did good!
    I had about an hour and four minutes to spare on my first 100 (C&O Canal 100 2016). It hurt. I wear my buckle every Friday. I ran the Lighthouse 100 June 2017 (much less pain and a 28:15 flat),
    Good luck on your next 100.


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