Chad Bruce raced from age 10 to 27 but not on the typical track, roads or trails.
In 1997, Bruce suffered a serious injury while motocross racing, rupturing his spleen. Doctors told him that when he arrived at the hospital for the emergency surgery he had about 20 minutes to live.
“I remember when I first started running that my knee hurt really bad after five miles for a while and then 10 miles as I got into better shape,” says Bruce, who suffered other various injuries including a torn ACL and broken leg in 1992. “Now I have run 100 miles and I don't have any pain besides normal pain that comes with running longer distances. My immune system is compromised by not having a spleen so I need to avoid eating candy, drinking soda and I get a group of immune system building shots every five years. As you can imagine, I feel very blessed to be able to run at all, let alone running the longer distances.”
But to understand how Bruce evolved from motorcycle racer to endurance athlete one has to go back five years when he trained for his first race.
The evolution of an ultra runner
Family, of course, is important to Bruce. He married his high school sweetheart, Gail, and they will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in 2019. They have four girls: Bethany 19, Mia 15, Emma, 12, and Sophie, 10.
It was family and friends who got Bruce into running in 2012 to train for a Tough Mudder. “I hadn't run in over 20 years, since high school football and baseball,” recalls Bruce, who weighed 220 pounds at the time. “My first time out was a five mile run/hike in the Claremont Hills. It's known as the Claremont Loop and I got hooked on it from there.”
From there, he proceeded to train for and do Spartan races and a few half marathons with a friend, Andy, and his cousin, Elliott. After running a few marathons in 2014 and 2015, he found an UltraRunning Magazine while visiting a bookstore with his family.
That changed everything.
“I found an ad about a local ultra called the Bulldog 50K and signed up for it right then and there,” Bruce remembers. “At that point I got hooked on trail running and began to focus on ultra marathons.”
He completed a series of 50Ks and then ran his first 50-miler, the Ray Miller 50. He specifically chose the Ray Miller race to qualify for the Backbone 68 Ultra.
“I love the longer distances,” he says. “it's such a grind and you really need to prepare well to finish them. Once I ran a three or four 50-milers, I signed up for the Chimera 100K here in SoCal. This is known to be one of the tougher 100Ks around but it ended up being one of my best races and I ended up second overall and first male.”
With a successful 100K under his belt, Bruce set his sights on his first 100-miler — the Angeles Crest 100.
‘An amazing experience’
Bruce was a mix of inspired and amazed by runners who finished 100-milers. Now, he's in the club.
“I had the desire to do one after I began running ultra marathons,” he says. “It was a huge challenge to build the type of base needed to complete a 100 and the thought of it was exciting. That and my love to run in the mountains was my motivation to give it a go. Nothing better than running trails with friends and other runners in these beautiful mountains!”
A California native, Bruce was drawn to the AC100 from the first time he heard about it.
“I lived in Wrightwood when I was a young boy, first through third grades, so the thought of running from Wrightwood to Altadena was awesome,” he says. “I felt like I had to run that race one day and ended up getting in through the lottery on my first attempt.”
Bruce counts the Chimera 100K — “an amazing experience” — and the AC100 as his two biggest running accomplishments, so far.
“Both are super tough races and I was fortunate to do really well at the 100K and completing that tough of a 100-miler in my first attempt was a total blessing!” he says. “I really learned how much I love the longer distances and pushing myself to new limits. The training for these types of races is so much fun, all the long training runs in the mountains with friends and getting my body to the point where it was hardly sore afterwards was kind of crazy. It's so fun to work really hard and then give it all you've got at the races to see if it was enough.”
Being patient with base building
To prepare for the AC100, Bruce spent four years building up his base.
“That's the key to me,” he explains. “I'm far from where I want to be but I had to build a base that would support this long of distance. I focused on climbing and running technical trails for one solid year leading up to the AC100. I would work on hiking the ups and try to run hard on the downs.”
He also credits the training runs he completed on the course with friends. In fact, he had run the entire course in various stages in the five months leading up to the August race.
“Another key was running most of these training runs on tired legs, trying to simulate race conditions as much as possible,” Bruce says. “One of the training runs on the last section of the race (Chantry Flat to the finish) was started after a long work day at 8 p.m. and we finished the 25-mile section around 3:30 a.m. That was a bunch of fun, thinking outside the box in my training to get extra miles in without sacrificing too much time with my family. All of these things helped me complete this beast of a race.”
Still, it was a learning experience for Bruce. He came away with some ideas on what to do differently for another 100.
“At this point I'm still focused on base building, getting the body stronger so I can improve in my next 100,” he says. “This race was really hot and my stomach turned on my after 37 miles and I didn't start feeling better until mile 70, not sure I could do anything to stop that but I'm definitely working on my nutrition to try and avoid that in the future.”
For those looking to join the 100-mile club, Bruce recommends following his pattern of building a base through progressively longer ultra distances.
“I didn't run a 50-miler until I was finishing 50Ks with no issues,” he says. “Same with the 100K and then the 100-miler. It's all part of building up the base needed to finish 100-mile race without injury and it will also help you dial in the nutrition needed for each distance. Do your best to replicate race conditions and try to run the same trails, if possible. That way you can go into the race very confident in your training/nutrition/gear and then let it rip!”
While Bruce has his eyes focused on another 100-miler, he is also interested in trying the “new 100” — the 200-mile distance,
“I've had the desire to complete the Tahoe 200 but that'll be some years down the road after I am more comfortable with the 100-mile distance,” he says. “I'm planning to apply for the Western States 100 lottery in December and then the AC100 lottery shortly afterwards if I don't get in WSER.”
Name: Chad Bruce
Hometown: Eastvale, Calif.
Number of years running: Six years
How many miles a week do you typically run: I average 40-50
Point of pride: I married my high school sweetheart (Gail, married 24 years) and we have four beautiful girls (ages 19, 15, 12 and 10)
Favorite race distance: Ultras 50K to 100 miles. If I had to choose one I'd choose the 50K distance.
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Honey Stinger Protein Bar/FLUID Nutrition Performance Fresh Citrus
Favorite piece of gear: Orange Mud VP2 2.0 Double Bottle Pack
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Endless Light by Hillsong Live
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: Philippians 3:13b-14 "but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Where can other runners follow you:
• Facebook and Strava: Chad Bruce
• Instagram and Twitter: cbruce78