On Saturday, April 24, 2021, our own Adam Lowe, a member of the Frederick Steeplechasers, ran his first 100-mile race and absolutely crushed it, taking 3rd place and finishing in 15:32:00! The C&O Canal 100 Mile Endurance Race takes places on the scenic C&O Canal each year during the final weekend in April. The race starts and finishes at Camp Manidokan near Knoxville, Maryland. According to the race’s description from the website, the C&O Canal 100 course is almost entirely flat and offers plenty of opportunities for success both with new 100 mile runners and old veterans who are up for a challenge on a beautiful course.
Brian Zickefoose, of Denver, NC, came in first place with a time of 14:46:52 and Yasushi Sugita, of Bethesda, MD, finished second in 15:27:52. Another fellow Steep, Lindsey Weaver, no stranger to epic ultrarunning adventures, a female FKT record holder for the C&O Canal Towpath (MD to DC), was also among the race participants and completed 70 miles in 14:36:00, before making a decision to drop out due to stomach issues.
Overall, it was a great weekend to run and spectate. Several Steeplechasers spent time at the Antietam Aid Station supporting and cheering on runners. Head on over to our Facebook Group Page for some more pictures and comments on the event and Adam’s achievement.
“Congrats Adam, you are a rockstar and inspire me to push when I want to quit! (and maybe try some more trails).“Farrah Douglas on Adam’s achievement
Congratulations to Adam on a job well-done! Here’s what that weekend of running looked like in Adam’s own words.
There are a lot of different things that led me to the start line of the C&O canal 100-miler last Saturday, April 24. I tried to convince myself that I was going to run the race for the first time in 2020, but COVID-19 canceled all those plans. So, I decided to take a step back and rely on the last year’s fall races to determine whether or not I was ready to run my first 100-miler.
First challenge up was Fire on the Mountain 50K in early November. I ran 4:56:17, which was good enough to secure first place overall and was the 7th best time ever for the event. Riding that high, I went into JFK 50 three weeks later and finished 21st in 6:55:29. It was at that point that I thought to myself, maybe the 100-miler was a challenge I was ready for. So, with the encouragement and support of my girlfriend, Katie, not fully knowing what to expect, I registered.
After registering, I began to realize just how much physical and mental preparation goes into training for and running 100 miles. I love to train and running was the easy part. With 14 straight 80+ mile weeks, I felt ready. I had a key 36.5-mile long run on the canal on my RSD 365 (Running Streak Day). That training run went exactly to plan. That helped me prepare with fueling and gave me the confidence I needed only about four weeks out from the race.
Mentally, I felt ready as well. I’d come to terms that at some point the race was going to get tough and that I would want to quit… that my brain would be telling my body, enough is enough. However, I’ve been there before and I knew I could fight those demons. A lot of people talked about the long boring miles on the canal, but that’s where I train and I love those long solo miles when no one’s around. I knew I could have a good day if I was able to keep it together mentally.
To say that I was nervous during the week leading up to the race, is an understatement. I was terrified. I usually don’t taper before a race, but this was unlike any other race I had trained for, so I backed off the 6 days before the race. This left me with nerves that I could not calm.
My longest race prior to this was The JFK 50-miler. I was unsure about what I would face after that during the race. I was consistently trying to win the mental battle and not let the doubt seep into my brain that I was not yet ready for this challenge.
I had three goals going in. Goal 1: finish in under 30 hours, goal 2: finish under 24 hours, Goal 3: finish under 20 hours. In order to accomplish these goals, I developed a solid race plan and was ready.
I went into the race with the plan of running in 5-mile segments and then walking between .25 and .50 mile sections in an effort to let my body recover a little bit and refuel. My goal pace for these 5-mile segments was going to be right around 9 minute/mile. I had figured this was the best way of achieving my goal of finishing under 20 hours.
Then I walked to the starting line.
I started thinking, “Stick to the plan, stick to the plan, don’t get caught up!” Just then, Mike Wardian came and stood right next to me. I’ve run races with Mike many times before, even running 41 miles with him when he broke the FKT on the canal in September 2018. Promptly at 7 AM, they yelled, “Go!” and just like that my best laid-out plans went out the window.
Instead of “sticking to my plans”, I decided I would run with Mike. For the first 10 miles I did just that, running and talking with Mike at about an 8:30 pace. We talked about running and about life. It was a great experience. After those 10 miles, Mike said he was feeling good and took off. I gladly let him go.
I was trying to be smart and patient, after all there was still 90 miles to go. About three miles later, Mike ducked into a Port-a-potty. I ran by and only saw him again in passing.
Around mile 19.5, I passed by the base of Camp Manidokan to start the second half of Loop 1. My crew had scampered down the mountain and was there to cheer me on and give me support. That was exactly what I needed at the moment. Almost 20 miles in and I was still feeling great. In fact, I had almost missed my support crew because I had reached the base of Camp Manidokan way faster than I had anticipated.
Heading out towards Brunswick, my legs still felt good but I wanted to stay patient and in control. I wanted to make sure that I felt this good in 20 more miles, when I got back to the camp after Loop 1. I backed off the pace just a little bit. The goal now was to run/walk between 8:30 and 9:00 minute/mile pace.
Over the course of these 20 miles (10 out to Brunswick and 10 back), I saw so many familiar faces! Runners and people who had come out to cheer and support. I am so thankful that each and everyone of them were out there.
Finally, at mile 39.4, I reached the base of the camp. Now it was time to walk up the mountain trail back to where my crew was waiting for me. I was so excited to get there.
As soon as I got there I changed my shirt, socks, and shoes and started to refuel. A quarter of a turkey sub and a Blue Moon and I was ready to go back out for Loop 2.
Back down the mountain I went and onto the canal for the second loop. A right turn took me towards Antietam. After about four miles (44 overall), I passed Nick, the runner who had been in 2nd place. I was now all alone. I passed runners who were going in the other directions and we all were supportive of each other as much as possible.
Running alone on the canal can be scary. Mentally. No music, no one to talk to, just me and my thoughts for 26 miles. Sometimes that can be a good thing and other times, it can be the worst thing in the world. Luckily, on Saturday, it was just what I needed for those 26 miles.
These miles seemed to fly by. I was feeling good, fresh, like I had just started running. I was running three-four mile segments and then taking a 45-60 second walk break. I reached the halfway point of the race in just under 7.5 hours. I’d stop at the aide stations to get a cup or two of Tailwind and something to eat, pickles, Oodles of Noodles, potato chips, Honey Stinger chews, and gel. Then, I was back on my way.
The only goal I had, while on Loop 2, was to stay focused and get back to the camp as quickly as possible knowing that at mile 69.6 I had pacers waiting for me. I was enjoying the solidarity of Loop 2 but was also looking forward to the company I would soon have.
Back at the base of the mountain, I was ready for my second climb. Boy, did my legs feel this one! But I couldn’t quit. I knew that at the top I had my crew, a Rad Pies pickled cheese pizza, and another Blue Moon waiting for me. After about 10 hours of running, I was looking forward to sitting down for just a few minutes.
With two loops behind me, some pickled cheese pizza, and a beer in my stomach, I was ready to set off on Loop 3 with my first pacer.
Katie paced me for three miles, while she encouraged me and told me about all the people who were following and routing for me during the day. It was a great three miles, they seemed effortless.
Waiting for me with 27 miles to go was a local runner and running coach, Lauren Cramer. A couple of months ago, she told me that she needed a long run the weekend of the race and was willing to help pace me.
Our plan for the next 27 miles was to do at least two miles of running and then a minute or two of walking before getting right back to running.
After making it to Antietam, and having an aid station crew member go above and beyond to find me some gum (yes, I chewed gum for 100 miles), we were on our way back towards the base of the camp.
After reaching the base of the camp, I knew there were 20 miles to go. Lauren was great at breaking the race down in smaller sections. She reminded me to not focus on what was left, just make it to the next aid station.
The next seven miles seemed to go by pretty quickly, despite the dark, the rain, and the heaviness in my legs that had creeped in by now. The rain was refreshing for a little while. We stopped at the Keep Tryst aid station for a couple of minutes to refuel, and then we were on our way to Brunswick for the last time.
Reaching Brunswick for the last time was great. Knowing that I had less than double digits to go before I was allowed to stop running was an amazing feeling. Right around mile 92-93 I really started to feel it. My legs were completely exhausted, I was getting hungry and cold. I just wanted to be done running. But we stuck to the plan: two miles of running, followed by one to two minutes of walking.
It was at this point in the race where I was confident that I could break the 16-hour mark. At mile 95, my watch died and the lies and deceit from Lauren came alive. The plan went out the window yet again.
The next running segment wasn’t two miles, as promised. Lauren had the watch and she stretched it out to 2.25 miles. And when she said, “Hey, that was a little long,” I replied “Yes, I know. I’m not stupid”.
All I wanted to do was walk, but there was no way I was going to let my pacers down. The goal at this point was to make it to the blinking cone, which signified the right turn up the mountain. I was beyond excited when we finally saw it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the blinking cone it was another runner.
Luckily, though, the next time we saw blinking lights, it really was the cone. I had never been so excited to see a blinking cone in my life.
The trail was wet and sloppy from the previous 3+ hours of rain. All I wanted to do was walk carefully and make sure I got to the top of the hill safely. At this point, after 99 and a half miles, I didn’t have much faith in my legs.
After making it to the top of the first hill, Katie was waiting for us and took over pacing duties to help me complete the race. She had made sure that all my needs were met during this race and that all my family and friends were updated throughout the entire day. There was no way I was going to finish this race without her by my side.
When I was finally done, the first thing I wanted to do was sit down and start to rehydrate and refuel. But before I could do that, I was presented with my belt buckle and what sounded like a very complex question.
I was asked, what size t-shirt I wanted. My brain could not comprehend the simple question. Katie told me that I looked like I had just woken up from anesthesia following surgery. I think it took me longer to understand and answer that question than to run the last 10 miles of the race.
After getting my t-shirt size figured out, and some food, it was time to limp to the car to change my clothes before heading home. Having crossed the finish line 3rd overall in a time of 15:32:00 was almost unbelievable to me. It was my first 100 miler and I didn’t quite know what to expect. It is definitely one of my greatest running accomplishments. It seemed that everything fell into place. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I couldn’t have asked for more support from friends, family, and strangers. I couldn’t have asked for better pacers and crew.