Beyond Limits Ultra 100 Mile Race Report – Joshua Holmes

We sometimes sign up for races that we know nothing about or other races whereby we’ve read dozens of race reports regarding what we might encounter during this or that adventure. Well, for some of you at least.  I don’t make a habit of reading race reports or writing them.

Don’t get me wrong, I wish I had more drive to document all of my races like many of you do.  I try to document the biggest ones, like the 2011 Vol State 500K, 2012 Vol State 500K, or my 42 Mini Race Reports from 2012.

Race reports don’t exist for first year events. So I often feel more pressure to write one after completing an event that was just held for the first time.

The Beyond Limits Ultra 100 Mile Race was held on March 16-17, 2013 at the Pathfinder Ranch near Mountain Center, California, which is just south of Palm Springs in the San Jacinto Mountains.  The race also had a 50 mile, marathon, 50k, and 24-hour options.

The beauty of this race, and perhaps curse for some, is that the 100 milers were gifted the use of a cabin for the weekend on the Pathfinder Ranch.  This made it easy to roll out of bed and onto the starting line.  BLU also provided a nice pre-race dinner the night before (did not arrive in time) and fully cooked breakfast in the diner the morning of the race.

The ranch also provided a campfire, cookout, ropes course, and canoeing (on the little man-made pond that we looped every lap) for family members that made the trek as well.

The race consisted of a 1.8 mile loop that was very flat for the most part. There was no tree cover on the course and this played a factor in the afternoon and early hours of the morning as I’ll go into detail shortly.

The race started at 8am after the legendary Ed ‘Jester’ Ettinghausen and Ryan Launder played the Star Spangled Banner on the trumpet.

All the races then started at the same time as we rubbed elbows for the last time as the field quickly spread out over the 1.8 mile loop. As the day passed on, the course became even more sparse as runners from the shorter races reached their finish lines and left us that dared the 100 to keep rounding that loop over and over.

I ran well early on. I did the first 10 miles in 1:37, reached a half marathon in 2:07 with the only disturbances being a quick stop to the cabin for the restroom.  I reached 20 miles in 3:15 and the marathon checkpoint after four hours and twenty minutes. I was running well but the weather was changing as the sun was starting to blaze and heat up really fast.

50k came and went in 5:14 and I continued to push hard but also realized that the sun was starting to bake me a bit, especially at the pace I was pushing. From the 50k mark to 37 I was still putting down solid splits but it was becoming a struggle and battle that made completing a 100 miles seem like a fictitious goal.

Around this time I started to feel like I had pushed too hard. My eyelids were spasming a bit, I was hot, and felt like I had to slow it down, way down, like go to the cabin and lay down for a small bit if my goal was to finish the 100 and not wimper down to a 50 mile or 24-hour finish. So that’s what I did. I went to the cabin where my family was finishing up ‘nap time’ and I took off my shoes, socks and laid across the kinder bed with my feet propped up over the footboard for the better part of an hour. It was good to see my family, recharge, and reenergize for the remaining 63 miles.

Once back out on the course I felt good but started back slow to let my body re-acclimate and not over-heat as the sun was on high and we had no where to hide (outside the cabins). I covered up as well as I could using my Bartlett Park Ultras hat that covered the side of my face and neck.  I began to run well as the sun started to show signs of hibernating behind the mountains to the west.

I knew my original goal of going sub 20 hours was over after laying down for an hour, but I started to run hard again as I kept checking the computer monitors to check my place and kept moving up spots as the moon came up and the cold with it.

At some point I hit 50 miles in 10:27 and then 60 miles in 12:44. At this point it was freaking frigid cold. Like it was 9 degrees when I ran the Yellowstone-Teton 100 and I wasn’t nearly as cold as I was during this point of the race. My body was running well as the temperature dropped but at some point I just started shivering….and shivering. It made it tough for me to run for whatever reason. I believe with no trees, nothing to absorb the cold, being near the desert that it just felt way colder than it actually was on the thermostat. It was actually probably in the high 30’s. It felt about -5 degrees.

For better or worse, the cabin seemed too tempting at this point. I wasn’t moving well and laying down would be worth it. There was a living room at the cabin that had a sofa. So I went in to lay on it for awhile, hoping that a quick cat nap would find me.  This was around mile 67.

So I laid across the 70’s print, floral sofa and rested although sleep never met my eyes. I knew the clock was ticking but I wasn’t eager to get back out in the cold and death march. Finally, after nearly two hours had passed I slid my shoes back on and went to the truck to find a hoodie to throw on top of what I already had on which included two tech shirts, arm sleeves, Northface pullover, and now a hoodie. I had put a pair of running tights over my shorts at some point during the night. Add to that two pairs of gloves and two knit hats.

I marched out the door and death marched, albeit at a respectable speed, with my head buried in my hoodie and my hands inside it. During my two hour hiatus I had fallen down the leaderboard like a meteor towards earth during dinosaur season.  That was ok! My goal was to finish this 100 and add another buckle to my collection.  I was able to quickly walk those early AM miles along with Mark Hellenthal who was aiming for like his 26th 100 miler (which he easily did).  Mark and I pushed each other (without running but with continuous forward motion). Mark’s a faster walker than I am so I had to run occasionally to catch back up with him.

Loop courses, of the 100 mile variety, have pros and cons naturally. One con is well…doing the same loop over and over or 55x in this instance.  The loop, as mentioned before, was flat for the most part and consisted of a dirt road/path. There was a 0.20 mile section that was paved, but you could run in the dirt next to the road if you opted to. I often ran on the asphalt as it was a nice variety from the rest of the loop that felt refreshing to the feet and was a bit faster.

At some point the sun crept over the mountains to the east and it warmed not only my spirit but my legs as I started to run really well once again.  Where was this the last few hours? Oh yeah shivering away like Jack holding on to a piece of wreckage from the Titanic in the frigid Atlantic Ocean. But that was then and this was now and I was running some of my best splits of the past 80 miles.

One reason I had picked it up was that I had done the math and calculated that at my then pace it would take me like 6 more hours for a 28:30ish finish. That was too far away and I was ready to put this race to bed. There is only two ways to do that, quit or run like you are being chased by a pink pony.

My family had also emerged from the cabin during this time and driven to breakfast and back. It was a boost seeing them and knowing that the end was near.

It took me 3 hours and 8 minutes to run the 10 miles from 80 to 90.  The last 10 miles of the race from 90 to 100 took 1 hour and 54 minutes.

I ran the last 5-7 miles trying to break the stupid number known as 26. I realized I’d easily do that with 2 miles left to go but continued to push hard, running with as much intensity as I had left at that point, to finish strong and with as little left in the tank as possible.

I came to the last 1/3 mile of the loop/race that went around the small pond. My family met me and my son ran with me for the last 100 yards as we crossed the finish line together. Mark and his bride-to-be had waited as well for me to finish which was very kind of them.

In summation: Race directors Stephanie Kundlin and Ken Rubeli did an amazing job putting on this first year event. Everything from the shirts, buckle, cabins, meals, and aid stations was first class.  I didn’t perform as well as I’d like, but I put down a lot of good miles.  I wasn’t totally prepared for how hot and sunny it got during the day or how frigid cold it got at night. I’ll be better prepared for both next time.  I’d highly recommend this race to anyone that is considering it in the future. It was a great weekend away from civilization.

BLU 100 Splits

  • Half Marathon: 2:07
  • Marathon: 4:20
  • 50K: 5:14
  • 50 Mile: 10:27
  • 100K: 13:13
  • Miles 1-10: 1:37
  • Miles 11-20: 1:38
  • Miles 21-30: 1:48
  • Miles 31-40: 3:25
  • Miles 41-50: 1:59
  • Miles 51-60: 2:17
  • Miles 61-70: 2:16
  • Miles 71-80: 5:50
  • Miles 81-90: 3:08
  • Miles 91-100: 1:54
  • Finishing Time: 25:52:22

Sidenote: I enjoyed all the conversations I had throughout this race with my fellow runners. It was also a pleasure to share the course with some true greats of the sport including Eric Clifton, The Jester, Dave James, Michael Miller, Brian Recore, John Wog, Anthony Culpepper, Stacey Costa, Alexander Scherz, Mark Hellenthal and others.

I also want to be sure to note that photographer Lynn Cao went above and beyond. She was out there as much if not more than most of the runners taking photographs throughout the day and night. She then posted the photos to her Facebook page for download free of charge. Check her out on Facebook HERE.

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- who has written 1052 posts on Run It Fast®.

Joshua Holmes has completed 197 marathons/ultramarathons while running 100+ miles 43 including races such as the Badwater 135, Western States 100, The Last Annual Vol State 500K (3x). His favorite races to date are the Vol State 500K, Badwater 135, Barkley Fall Classic, Catalina Eco Marathon, Chimera 100, Across The Years, Savage Gulf Trail Marathon, Strolling Jim 40 Miler, Tunnel Hill 100, RUTS, EC100 and the Flying Monkey Marathon in his home state of Tennessee. Follow @bayou Follow @joshuaholmes on Instagram

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