Raramuri Style Redemption at the Cloudsplitter 100 Mile

Race report written by Xero Shoes Ambassador Randy Kreill. Xero Shoes is an American Trail Running Association corporate member. Randy Kreill describes himself as “a back-of-the-pack ultra LSD junkie, chasing the maximum numbers of hours of runner’s high and sharing what’s working with hopes of drawing more people into an awareness of what we are at our primal core, running people.” You can follow him on YouTube and Facebook. Photo above from the 2018 Superior 100 taken by Dan LaPlante.

“Namaste. Namaste. Namaste my butt on course!” This was not your typical ultra-mantra, but the Cloudsplitter 100 Mile is not your typical race. There were so many mantras for so many hours of a highly technical run and nearly 25,000 feet of climb. Based out of the tiny city of Norton, this gem winds through High Knob Mountain in Virginia and makes the Superior 100 feel like a nice training run
The Cloudsplitter handed me a grueling DNF in 2016 after I got off course 24 hours into the race. My goal this year was simple: redemption. Trusty cork-handled, carbide-tipped sticks in hand, I planned to run for up to 40 hours with no pacers or crew and with only huaraches on my feet. My drop bags were stuffed with suitable plant-based options in case one of the aid stations was a hog roast. Nine years of consuming exclusively plants teaches you to be prepared for anything.

Start of the Cloudsplitter 100 Mile. Photo by Randy Kreill.

Tapered and eager, I felt optimistic that the silver buckle with two gold bears was within grasp. I was racing for a humble finish, with a desire to be fully present for up to 40 hours. A strong run would have me moving into the sunset twice. During that first chilly night, a heavy rock shifted under my left sandal, and I felt something sharp pull hard on my left pinky toe. Ouch and damn. It could be a broken bone or torn tendon, so I was oddly relieved when I saw some blood puddling on my outsole. It wasn’t too much. A mouthful of water would rehydrate me, and I’d be on my way. Such a negligible body part would not stop this mission.

My long-term experiment with the “Raramuri” style has me replicating the better habits of the traditional, infamous Tarahumara who live in the most remote sections in the Copper Canyons of Mexico as nomadic subsistence farmers. They are the running people. The early results of following their example have been good, with over eight years of running injury-free. That’s 55 ultras and a four for four completion rate in hundred miler attempts this year alone. The table was set, but how deep was that laceration on my foot and how much would it affect this run? Would eating chia seeds really help?

Randy at the burrito aid station. Photo by Randy Kreill.

In high school, I believed I had missed the athletic gene and participated in no sports. By the age of 42, I was overweight and battling thyroid cancer. I was afraid. I had three young daughters. I became laser focused on finding a new path. Twenty years ago, I never could have imagined this running centered lifestyle. Now, I’m always grateful just to be out there on these wilderness adventures with amazing runners. I was Born to Run. Who knew?

I’m running through the mountains at night. How…THE HECK…did I get here? Alone with a full moon and deep into wild country, bloody and sore but laser focused on my 14th belt buckle. Energy flows where attention goes. Namaste. VMR — Visual Motor Rehearsal — had to work this time. This formerly broken-down, suburban Ohio dad had to do it. I had my wife’s assurances. I believed she believed.

The pain in my left foot slowed me down and messed with my stride, so at 76 miles, I had to put a toe sock on the affected foot. Fearing a possible DNF, I dug deeper into that well and ran second loop on the toughest part of the course faster. With an abrasion and more blood on the other side of that left foot, wearing a sock on that foot eased the discomfort.

Randy finishing the Cloudsplitter 100. Photo by Randy Kreill.

That seemingly endless well of energy delivered some magic after the fourth climb to the High Knob aid station. Chilled but with just an eight-mile descent towards the Farmer’s Market finish line, my mind was lit up. I ran negative splits that were faster than needed and came in with a 36:49 finish. Twenty-three of us earned that buckle. Karl Meltzer, the “Speedgoat”, buzzed by me three times on the course and got his buckle 15 hours faster at age 51! At 57, I was the oldest finisher and the first to tackle the course in “flip flops.” I crossed that finish line with one black toe sock and a huge smile, feeling fully alive and enjoying the precious present. Jimmy Buffet was right on with his infamous lyrics, “if we weren’t all crazy, we would go insane.”

Each run is merely preparation for the next. Sometimes you take leaps of faith and just do things. Namaste!

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