SUSITNA 100 MILE RUN IN ALASKA FINISHED In 54hr 45min!
The pre race meeting started with us being handed a filtered dust mask and told it was mandatory equipment to be carried at all times. Mt Redoubt a volcano only 100 miles away could blow any day! Man was this going to be an Epic Weekend!
We were also told the temperature would be in the 20’s with snow in the forecast for the race. The good news about temperatures in the 20’s is you won’t get frostbite and loose any parts. The bad news is the snow would be very soft. Not good for runners who will be sinking in it like soft sand. My beach training would be tested!
As the race started I was able to run much of the first 10 miles since it is well traveled trail and very compact. Then the soft conditions brought me down to a power walk. I hit the 22 mile checkpoint at Peggys cottage at about 7 hrs and 30 mins. I was strong! I filled up my camelback and was in and out fast. It was now getting dark as I headed out to the next check point 22 miles away. I decided to just stick with my running tights and not put on my wind pants because the temperature was still in the 20’s. This would turn out to be a FOPA!
2 hrs out on the trail the first snow flakes began to come down. I remember touching one just to make sure it was snow and not volcano ash! No Problem! Nice and cold! No mask yet! I continued to make good time to the Eagle Song 44 mile check point despite the soft snow conditions. But I was working hard! I hit Eagle Song around 2 am. after 17hrs. of racing and was ready to sleep. I had planned to take maybe an hour or so to sleep. I went into the room where maybe 10 racers were already sleeping. I grabbed a couple blankets and layed down to sleep in the middle of the floor. I remember thinking man this room feels cold. Last year it was so hot! It felt like the A/C was on. I then started to shiver even with the blankets on me. I then realized my tights must have gotten wet from the snow and I was in the early stages of hypothermia. I could not stop shivering and on top of that I started having leg cramps from working so hard in the soft snow! After an hour I didn’t get any sleep nor did I ever warm up. I knew if I left with out getting my core warm I would never make the next check point. A down sleeping bag freed up and a spot right next to the wood burning stove. I put on 3 layers and got in the down sleeping bag next to the stove and after another hour I finally felt normal and I had even managed to get a little sleep. I was ready to Roll again!
Although a necessity that extra hour had cost me any cushion I had in making the later cutoffs. As I headed out on the trail to the next check point 22 miles away with it still snowing, I was wearing my wind pants! The snow continued to accumulate on the trail making pulling my 40lb. sled with my emergency gear and food tougher with every passing hour!
I was still making a steady trek at a little more then 2 miles an hour. When I hit the 66 mile check point at Luces Lodge and after eating a quick sandwich and refilling my camelback. I had an hour and a half cushion on the cutoff. I knew I would need every minute of it as the conditions continued to deteriorate with the snow fall getting heavier!
At about 79 miles I was down to only about 20 minutes of cushion and I was working hard. It was now snowing very heavy! This is when things really got Really UGLY! I had 6 miles to go to the 85 mile checkpoint and I couldn’t stay awake! It was now about 10 pm. Sunday night I had been racing for 37 hours with only 40 minutes of sleep. I would be walking on the trail one minute. I would nod off and I would wake up walking in the deep snow next to the trail! After this happened about 3 times I knew I needed to take action. So I started drinking Redbulls one after another. Within an hour I had drank 3 redbulls and was still nodding off. I was also slapping snow on my face every 5 minutes also with no luck! Finally I started shoving snow down the front and back of my shirt to try to shock myself awake! Probably not the smartest thing to do in a snow storm! But neither is sleep walking in a snow storm! It was like being tortured! My 20 minute cushion had dissipated as I headed toward the 85 mile cutoff. I was also hallucinating badly I kept thinking I saw the lights of Peggys cabin only to realize as I got close it was only a hallucination! When I finally reached the base of the hill to her cabin and the 85 mile check point I only had a few minutes to spare. I took the harness off to my sled and ran up the hill and checked in with a minute to spare!
I told Kit who was working the checkin that I needed a half hour of sleep before I could go on. He informed me the 1 am. cutoff was for leaving the check point. I told him well just let me close my eyes for 2 minutes and I would go. I went in the cabin layed on the couch for 2 minutes grabbed my camel back and began heading for the door. A wave of nauseousness came over me! I ran to the door opened it and proceed to throw up all over Peggys front porch! It was all liquid. All the Red Bulls had left me the hard way!
Now I was in a Quandary I was big time sleep deprived and now my stomach was shutting down! I felt absolutely Wiped Out! If I left I would be lucky to make it 2 miles down the trail, I was so weak! I knew if I stayed an official finish wasn’t going to happen but I also knew if I left it wasn’t going to happen anyway. I had done that last year and ended up with acute hypothermia being put in a snowsuit and hauled off the course.
I chose to stay and get some sleep and then go for an unofficial finish. I went to sleep and told some one to wake me in 2 hrs. They tried but I was still comatose with exhaustion. I finally woke up after 51/2 hours of sleep. I felt recharged! I informed Kit and Peggy I would be finishing off the last 15 miles on foot even though I knew it wouldn’t count as an official finish. Kit called Rita ( The Race Director) and told her I would be finishing it off on foot. She told him to let me know every one would be gone and I would be out there on my own. I looked out the window and saw that it was snowing the hardest it had snowed since the race began! I grabbed my camelback and headed out the door and said ” I’m GOOD!”
On the home front during this same time my dad and his wife Murphy had seen my DNF on the website and had called Rita to make sure I was okay. Rita told them I was at the 85 mile checkpoint. I was fine and would be hauled out by snowmobile in the morning.
KEEPING THE FAITH! At the same time my buddy and my friend for over 38 years Dave and his brother Matt were following me on GPS and on the race website. Matt said to Dave the GPS hasn’t moved in hours and the website said I had DNF’d ( Did not Finish). What did he think? Dave said keep an eye on that GPS. Bill hates to quit!
A few hours later Dave received a phone call from Matt who screamed you were right! Bill’s on the move again. At the same time my dad recieved a call from Rita saying Bill was walking it in and would have no support! ( Be thankful you are not related to me unless you are, Sorry!)
Kit told me just as I left he would be leaving on his snowmobile a couple hours after me and he would check me one last time. I headed out on the trail knowing I must pay close attentions to not miss a trail marking. That would not be good! I was asked earlier in the race if I had seen a certain racer who had left eagle song check point and not showed up at the next checkpoint. They were out looking for him! As I headed down the trail I couldn’t believe how hard it was snowing. I was thinking someone really doesn’t want me to finish this thing.
I didn’t see another soul for about 3 hours. Then I saw a guy on a snowmachine heading the other way he slowed down and asked if I was Okay? I must have looked like hell! But of course I said I was living the Dream Alaskan Style!
After about 4 hours you could barely tell where the trail was. I was at around mile 93. The wind had kicked up and the snow was now blowing sideways. When I would see a sign I would have to wipe the snow off with my glove to see what way the arrow was pointing. But man did they do a good job marking the trail. I had no dificulties folowing the trail markings. Kit caught me on his snowmachine with 4 miles to go and told me it was snowing so hard my foot prints were covered up and if I had took a wrong turn they wouldn’t have known where to look for me.
I finished off the last 4 miles to the finish at the Point Mckenzie store. My finishing time was 54:45. Everyone was gone. The last official finishers had finished over 6 hours ago. The finish line banners were down. You could not even tell there had been a race. I saw a guy getting into his truck and asked him if he could film me when I crossed where I thought the finish line was!
I then walked over to the little coffee shop in the Point Mckenzie store to get a cheeseburger that I had been craving for hours. As I walked up to the door I started patting my hair down. I had serious hat hair. Then I heard someone say you look fine. The owner of the Point Mckenzie store was sitting in a chair by the door. She said you must be Bill. Rita let us know you might be coming by. Then she said ” Great Job!” and she started clapping for me. I started to tear up. I had been out there along time! I then went into the coffeee shop and the six customers in there also clapped for me! I may have been unoffical. I would be in no record books. I would receive no medal. But I was having my own award ceremony!
Thanks for your support,
THE FACTS: There were 88 official entrants in the 3 divisions run, bike and ski. 30 of which were runners. There were 59 official finishers. Most of them skiers. I raced for over 35 hours by myself on the Frozen Tundra. Way to much alone time! It snowed over 40 hours of the time I was in the race.