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Night of the walking dead 30


This past weekend lots of stuff happened….

UROC was the “big dance”, the leader got lost and Roes won by default.  I won’t get into my race report on this one, I’ll leave that up to Bryon Powell at Irunfar.  He was there.  I was at the Bear 100 crewing.

Mike Morton, a legend in his own right, remember him?  He was the previous record holder at Western States when Scott Jurek broke the record.  He almost broke Scott’s 24 hour run at Hinson Lake 24 hour this past weekend too.  Sick run!

I had the pleasure to hang out at the Bear 100 crewing my wife Cheryl in her attempt to finish her second 100 miler.  The Bear often gets a bad wrap in course marking, and this year it was good until some arsehole ATV’ers took the ribbons down for  a section and brought them back to the aid station and said “here’s your trash”. They then proceeded up the trail to trash the trail with their gas, smoke and dust.  They suck.  Nick Pedatella lost an hour, but still won under 21 hours, a bunch more got lost in that same area until it was remarked quickly by race staff.  Nice job remarking guys!

And now the real story behind what happens at the back of the pack:

I had the pleasure of crewing Cheryl at the Bear 100 cuz’ my back is a little jacked after Wasatch.  It was a new experience for sure.  Now I know what it’s like to “hurry up and wait” all day and all night.  It’s brutal.  No sleep, random food that the runner didn’t eat, and lots of standing around.

I call this the “night of the walking dead” because every runner after mile 60 was a zombie, moving through the darkness with sunken eyeys, like they’ve lost 20 lbs in a day.  They stumble forward, slowly, but eventually will make it to the next aid station.  It is absolutely amazing to see what runners at this point look like, and what their attitude is.  Cheryl never even considered saying  “I’m done, I want to drop”.  That did not exist in her vocabulary.  She was puking after mile 55, was not eating, was very sore, but she continued….on to the next one, then the next one, then the sun came up.  Well, you get picture.

I rememmber well sitting in my truck at 330am expecting Cheryl to come down that dusty dirt road.   I probably saw 25 zombies pass me while waiting.  I was so cold sitting there, I started walking up the road to find her and her pacer, Tanae Nelson (sp?)  (Luke Nelson’s wife).  Finally there she was, in good spirits, but running on vapor.  No food went down on that last section, only a small bit of a Luna Bar and a few Cheezits.  Hmmmm, if I were a front runner I would quit right now and go home.  Nope, no quitting here, just a short nap and out she went across the freezing Logan River.  Amazing.  And then more zombies kept coming down that road.   Remember that old  Michael Jackson video?  :-)

Every person I saw after this point (including myself) was a fried mess.  A few guys/gals would jog in, but no faster than a walk.  The Death March begins for these folks at mile 60, and it’s a long death march.   Cheryl and others would sit at aid stations not wanting to go further, but they never say die, this is what makes ultrarunning so special, it’s not all about the fast guys/gals, it’s about getting it done.   The back of the pack works ALOT harder than the front, that’s all I gotta say.  And crewing is overrated!  I was awake for almost 48 hours, then drove home from Bear Lake ( 3hours and a few Red Bulls got me home).

So, when any front runners out there want to drop cuz’ the belly hurts or you are puking, think of what’s behind you, it’s alot uglier, and those folks are alot tougher than you!

Needless to say again, it was an entertaining weekend for this goat.  I got to run 4 miles, my back felt good, so now I’ve done 32 miles the past few days here in Little Cottonwood Canyon.  I”m on the mend….again.

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  1. olga says:

    Karl, really, this is the best and most profound and cherished words written by you – after you sticking up at AT as well. Having been on each side, I gotta say, the “zombies” rock and can teach every fast runner a handful of inspiring points. Thanks for bringing it up to everyone’s attention. Cheryl is awesome! ATV’ers suck.

  2. ChrisB says:

    Now that is a cool report. Congrats to Cheryl, and good job with the crewing.

  3. Meghan says:

    “…but they never say die, this is what makes ultrarunning so special…”


  4. footfeathers says:

    Congratulations to Cheryl. She’s one tough lady! I was feeling sorry for myself having to hike it in the last 30 miles but seeing her at the finish and chatting with you before the awards put it into perspective for me. She’s a champ and you you’re damn cool for being there for her after all the times she’s done the same for you. You’re both fortunate to have one another. Happy to hear you’re mending and great to see you.

  5. Mauricio says:

    Congratulations to Cheryl on a great finish and also to you for taking part on “the other side of the race”. Everyone involved has a hell of work to get done, runners, crews, volunteers, organizers…

    It was great to meet you in person at the briefing too. Hope to meet again soon. Heal well.

  6. Peter says:

    Nice job Karl! Welcome to the back of the pack :)

  7. Nick Lang says:


    First off I loved reading this report! As a back of the packer it’s really special to get some recognition from you front of the packers! :) Thank you.

    I saw you at the beaver creek aid station waiting for Cheryl. I was sitting a few cars further up the trail from you, with my crew running back and forth getting me food and such. I wanted to say hi, but in my zombie state, I couldn’t remember things other than I needed to get back on the trail and finish the race. So, consider this my ‘Hello’

    Give a congrats to Cheryl for me. That was a tough tough race, and I’m happy that she finished!

  8. Adam says:

    Sounds like your own endurance event, trying to stay awake while sitting still. It’s definitely motivating, and cuts down on my whining when I’m feeling beat, knowing that there are usually a lot of folks behind me going through the hurt a lot longer. Great job helping Cheryl get in.

  9. Moogy says:

    Send my huge congrats to Cheryl.
    It sure is a different perspective back there and I have the UTMOST respect for the crews, vollies, runners that dig deep for the whole event.
    Thanx for sharing and I hope to seya out there somewhere soon…

  10. Brett says:

    I’ve heard from 2 different people that Mike finished at 163.9 miles.

  11. Jonathan Seiber says:

    Don’t forget a new marathon world record just being set… Congrats to your
    wife and a speedy recovery to you…

    p.s. How about an appearance @ pine to palm next year?

  12. Mac says:

    Karl: Long time reader, first time commenter. Thanks for this post about the “zombies.” My longest ultra so far is a 50K and I have yet to reach the zombie stage–but I fear it’s coming some day. I appreciate a fast guy giving love and respect to the back of the packers. I feel that front runners can sometimes learn as much from the zombies as vice versa!

  13. Turd'L says:

    As a guy that finished last year’s Wasatch in the last 30 (just like cheryl), let me just say … “Nailed it”

  14. Rob Youngren says:

    “…but they never say die, this is what makes ultrarunning so special…” Don’t you know you can’t kill a Zombie! :)

    Crewing is very, very tough work! I’ve been on both sides of ultras and I must say that running the race, even very slowly, is still infinitely easier than crewing, especially solo! Hardest crewing experience I ever had was almost a year ago at the 153 mile Spartathlon in Greece. I was my wife Kathy’s sole crew support over this agonizingly long race, in a foreign country and I had to find my way around to find all these little villages all on my own, in the dead of night and got no sleep for over 40 hours!

    Remember what C.R.E.W. stands for (from “Running Under the Sun”): Crabby Runner Endless Waiting!

  15. Steve Pero says:

    Best post ever from you, Karl…yes, Cheryl is lucky.
    It was nice chatting outside Ranger Dip…

  16. Great report. Nice to read some love for the regular folks. Not that anyone who finishes that distance is “regular”, anyone who finishes is a superstar in my book. But finishing in 30 hours is a whole different kind of toughness than 20. Great job Cheryl. And I’m sure you did ok as a crew member, too (haha).

  17. Jim says:

    Cheryl is fantastic and big congratulations to her, I was one of those zombies and it was great seeing you out on the course. However I would always prefer to read your stories when you are the leader of the pack. On the subject of the ATV crowd it is sad that after all the permits and money payed to the forest service that such a small number of jerks are allowed to harass so many runners.

  18. James Brennan says:

    Great post Karl. You have so much respect for other runners, the trails, and the community of ultrarunning. Most people don’t get it is the non-quantifiable aspects of ultras that are so special. I consider many people I know who are back of the packers to exemplify the true essence of the sport often better than those in the front. Kind of makes you question who the real “Champions” are???

  19. Kimba says:

    Glad you were able to see the back of the packers and the perservance they possess.

  20. Starls says:

    This was as good a post as I’ve ever read in ultrarunning blogs. Ran my first 50K 3 weeks ago, I have registered for a 100 miler at the end of October. I look forward to being a zombie!

    Thank you.

  21. Beth Simpson-Hall says:

    Congrats again to Cheryl. Always a pleasure to see both of you! Can’t wait to do it again. The Holler?!!

  22. Brett says:

    Its official, Mike Morton did 163.9 miles in 24 hours at Hinson Lake:

  23. Mark says:

    Well I for one am not surprised in the least by your post, Karl. You have shown your respect for ultras and ultrarunners in the past. One example was when you worked the Lower Frary Aid Station at the Antelope Island 50 miler and pulled me back from DNF land. I’ve never forgotten that.
    Huge props to Cheryl! She rocks!

  24. CJ says:

    Oh man, you had me rolling…’night of the walking dead’, ‘running on vapor’, ‘1/2 of a luna bar and some cheezits’…good stuff. You painted a great picture and also keep the frontrunners humble. I can imagine that 3 hr drive home afterward being brutal after being up 48hrs

  25. Ian Corless says:

    Karl, great post and so so true. I have always said that only one person can win a race, so why turn up?! Personal reward, to get the job done, to test yourself and to push boundaries. Great that you keep the top boys humble.

  26. Martin says:

    Thanks Karl-this is a great balance to the abundance of front-of-pack reporting. There is pain, suffering and challenges-a-plenty at both ends of the pack (and in the middle as well). And, they are different enough to merit reporting-thanks again!

  27. StephenJ says:

    As a back-of-the-pack runner I feel that I get more out of the race. During the Wasatch 100, you only got to see one sunrise. I got to see a second sunrise after running 75 miles, which really made it cool. You didn’t get to experience the magic second wind that happens when the sun comes up. You barely even used the aid stations, whereas I spent all kinds of time there. I got 13 hours more of fun time than you did, and all you got different was a burger king hat and a different color of belt buckle.
    For me it is not about the struggle or enduring pain or anything like that. It is about having fun and enjoying the beauty of the mountains. I can be fully exhausted and in pain, but still be having lots of fun. If it ever became not fun, I’d drop from the race.
    See you in the back-of-the-pack in about 25-30 years. You maybe superman now, but you won’t be so fast when you’re in your 70’s.

  28. Mer says:

    Muchos gracias from the lizards out here in the desert.
    Word on Meghan’s Word.
    This’s gotta be the most righteous post ever written about ultrarunning. Thanks for every word. Only real people get it. Peace.

  29. Thomas says:

    Congrats to your wife Cheryl for finishing, and congrats on your new perspective. You are looking more like an ambassador everyday. Only in ultra-running do you hear of the elite complimenting all those toeing the line – Regardless of finish time.

  30. Great descriptions of the back-of-the-packers.

    (Stupid ATVers. Damn that sucks.)