When you have a planned vacation day on a Friday and Scott, your ultramarathon running buddy, has devised a 130 mile route to run through the entire state of Delaware what do you do? Volunteer yourself and your husband to be pacers for part of it of course!
Note – Scott has ran several ultramarathons including Western States. He is working towards a goal of running a 100 miler in every state. Some states, like Delaware, do not have official races, so he has to create his own route and wear a special tracker while he runs to make the run official.
Originally Jason and I were going to get a hotel in northern Ocean City and run in the evening/overnight with Scott so that Jason could run at night. After seeing hotel rates rising and reviewing Scott’s pace chart and route (I had hoped to run in Cape Henlopen or the beach town sections) we decided instead to get up Friday morning and head to Delaware, run and come back home. We ended up waking up before 5am Friday morning so I texted Scott and Brian, his crewman for the run, that we would be able to meet them at their starting point in White Clay Creek Preserve.
We had an uneventful drive to Delaware. Jason drove as I planned to run first. Scott’s route map had all of his aid stations laid out with GPS coordinates that were spot on. We entered the preserve and followed a narrow road until “Destination on your left” was announced and boom, there was a small pulloff that fit two cars. Upon arriving we realized that when Scott said he changed the first 3 miles to be trail running he meant legit trail running not rail trail, and the overgrowth near our parking area had me a bit nervous. So our game plan changed again with Jason deciding to run first as he is a much better trail runner than me and enjoys it a lot more.
White Clay Creek Preserve
Waiting to start the DE adventure
Scott and Brian arrived about 20 minutes after we did. The car’s trunk was loaded up with everything from water to bug spray to Oreos. Jason and Scott warmed up and Scott geared up. The starting spot was the Arc monument which sits on the Maryland/Delaware border. Fortunately this was not in an overgrown area. Scott synced his tracker and he and Jason set off into the woods.
Scott had told us he wanted to run no faster than 5 miles per hour. That meant Brian and I had plenty of bonding time in a Wawa parking lot, the first aid station about 5.5 miles into the run. The guys came rolling in slightly ahead of pace. Brian had already filled up new water containers to swap out in Scott’s belt, and Scott grabbed some Oreos while Jason ate part of a honey stinger waffle and grabbed his handheld water and sunglasses. They set off once more.
Brian and I hung out a bit longer as he had to get ice so I watched his dog in the car’s backseat while I ate a PBJ. The trickiest part of me running second was trying to figure out how much to eat before running as I had my usual breakfast, but the car ride was about 1.5 hours and another hour had passed since our arrival. I was also trying to keep hydrated without creating a need to pee once we left Wawa though I did pack a roll of toilet paper just in case.
The next aid station was farther down the road in a church parking lot. I passed Jason and Scott running down a sidewalk on my way there. Stomach slightly growling I downed a few handfuls of popcorn when I arrived. I was beginning my warmup when I saw Scott and Jason approaching. Brian had a PBJ ready to go for Scott, and Jason ran around the parking lot to finish off an even 12 miles as they had logged 11.7 together. Once Scott was refueled he and I set off down the road, the time around 11:30am.
If you’ve never traveled in Delaware the biggest thing to know as a runner is it’s a relatively flat state. I’m sure this is very appealing to some runners, but for a hill lover like myself I knew the flatness could prove as challenging as the heat. Fortunately chatting with Scott kept me distracted enough to not notice it too much. There were some intersections we had to cross, but for the most part we were just running along an ok sized shoulder of the road. We had a tricky spot where we had to cross the road to a sidewalk in the middle of the road and we walked part of that. At that point Scott checked his map and we continued down the road.
We headed down a slight grade and passed an oil refinery while running a comfortable pace. Then Scott began to question himself and we came to a stop. He checked his map again to realize we missed a turn and had come about 1.5 miles down the wrong road. He apologized profusely despite me telling him that it was ok, and that I was more concerned for him knowing how many more miles he had ahead of him. We got back to the big intersection and turned onto the correct road.
Scott’s route only had 2 major climbs in it, and I had the privilege of completing one of them. It was a bike path along the Delaware Memorial Bridge. The climb was about a half mile and while my legs enjoyed the change up from the constant flat route, the heat was beginning to take its toll on me. There had been no shade, and while I carried both water and vitamin water, I had also banked on having an aid station about 5-6 miles in. We stopped at the top of the bridge and admired the view of the canal below before descending down the other side.
I let Scott know I likely wouldn’t be able to run another section with him after the aid station even though that was my original plan. He understood and I’m sure it became more apparent to him how much the heat was getting to me as I began to lag a bit behind him. We crossed under the bridge and had a slight grass hill to climb to another road. I could see Brian and Jason parked to the side of the road in the distance and tried to pick up my pace, but it seemed to just slow. I stopped my watch at 8.7 miles ran in 1:30:46.
Scott and Brian thanked us both for joining in on the adventure and I apologized again for not being able to run another section. Adding 5.5 miles onto what I already ran just seemed impossible and I didn’t want to risk slowing Scott down. We wished them luck and promised to text to keep Brian occupied.
I planned to drive back home, but upon hearing my slight speaking issue with coherent thoughts Jason agreed to drive. I downed the remaining fluids we had packed, and we stopped at a Wawa for 2 more liter sized bottles of water. We arrived home and promptly showered, ate lunch and took a nap. I don’t think I peed until after I woke up, another indication that I made the right choice in not trying to run any farther in the heat. Fortunately Jason fared better having ran in some shade and earlier in the day, and I was glad we changed things for him to run first.
Scott had emailed us a link to his tracker so I spent the remainder of the evening and the next day spot checking him and texting Brian. The heat was starting to slow him down by Friday afternoon, but clouds finally made it overcast and he was able to take in more fluids. Our running buddy, Todd, had driven down after work and ran 16 miles with him into the evening. Another local runner met him in the early hours Saturday morning and ran the remainder with him.
Scott’s route finished just outside of Ocean City, MD, just shy of 130 miles. He had ran all night with no sleep breaks, and finished around 7pm Saturday evening. His official tracker time was 34 hours, 56 minutes, which worked out to between a 16 and 17 min per mile pace that included the time spent at the aid stations.
I have always thought what Scott did as an ultrarunner was crazy and impressive. Now that I have been part of it I am even more amazed. Everything from the logistical planning of the course and all its aid stations/GPS coordinates (there was a lot of Google mapping on his end) to figuring out how to properly fuel for such a long run to being able to mentally conquer the distance and the elements is stunning to me. I truly admire him and what he is able to do as a runner. I would certainly sign on to help pace him again in the future though I’m sure his next 100 miler is the farthest thing from his mind right now!
Do you know any ultrarunners or are you one yourself? Do you have interest in ultrarunning?