Friday, May 17, 2013
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Monday, September 20, 2010
Done, 100% done, 400 miles run in 11 weeks and there isn’t another race coming up in 3 weeks. I’m done, and I’m ecstatic to be done. 400 miles is a long way. For a frame of reference, it’s the distance from San Francisco to Tahoe, and then back again. For those of you on the east coast, it’s New York to Boston and then back again. I have never finished a 100 miler and been more relieved to be done than I was at the end of the Wasatch 100. I would have been crushed if I hadn’t finished this one. Having already run 300 miles, to not finish the last of the four would have been a huge, huge blow, both physically and mentally. I would have felt like I hadn’t accomplished the goal that I had set out to do, and that would have sucked. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure at some point I would have looked back on the summer where I ran 3 – 100 milers in 8 weeks, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to do the Grand Slam of Ultra Running and that meant finishing Western States, Vermont, Leadville and Wasatch. That’s what was on my mind as I tried, and failed, to fall asleep the night before Wasatch. What if I failed?
I had my A-team of crew/pacers lined up for this one (not that my other groups weren’t the A-team, but this threesome has run more miles with me than anyone else) as Jon, Shibby, and Shawna were all going to be there for the finale. Each year Shibby, Jon and I sign up for a different 100 mile run so that the other two can come and crew and then you don’t have to drag anyone else around for 24 hours (well in this case nearly 28 hours) of sleep deprivation and my complaining. It’s your own little crew/pacing team that knows you well. Shawna was there because she’s married to me, and she kind of had to be there. Plus, our anniversary was the day after the race finished and nothing says happy first anniversary like a 100 mile run! This is also the same crew that was there with me when I ran the Tahoe 100 mile race, I mean the Tahoe 76. That one didn’t end well as I managed to get hyponatremia and I actually have no recollection of the last 10 miles, or 6 hours of that race. I was hoping not to repeat the fun and games of that race.
The Wasatch 100 race is a tough, tough race. The other races of the Grand Slam allow you 30 hours to finish, this race you get 36 hours to finish. It’s not because the volunteers like to hang out for an extra 6 hours, it’s because the race is that much harder. Wasatch has 26,882 ft of climbing and 26,131 ft. of descending over technical terrain at altitudes between 4,880 ft and 10,450 ft. The race that’s the closest to this one of the four is the Western States, and that one “only” has 18,040 ft. of climbing and 21,970 ft. of decent. In other words, Wasatch is a real ass-kicker. Geoff Roes, who set the course record in the Western States 100 in 15:07, also has the course record in this race but it took him 18:30, so using him as a proxy, this race is 20% harder. That meant that I should be finishing the race close to my goal time of 29:20. Why 29:20? I really wanted to finish all 4 races with a total time of fewer than 100 hours. Why 100 hours? I have no idea. It was a total time I had picked before the Western States (and shared with a couple of people who told me I was an idiot) and now that I might actually have a chance to go sub 100 hours, I figured why not. My most important goal was to finish and I was going to run with my heart rate under 150, but at the same time, sub 100 was still bouncing around in the back of my empty head. OK, one page of your life that you can’t get back, on to the race report.
It was cold at the start, really, really cold. The type of cold where you extremities jump into places that they don’t belong to try and stay warm. With my voice a couple of octaves higher than normal, I start of running with John Catts and we begin the trudge up, up and away. We stay together for about 6 miles before he runs off at his pace, as I slowly walk up the hill, keeping my heart-rate below 150. This was the section of the race where I was the most annoyed out of any of the four races. There was a guy in front of me who was running with music. Now I don’t care if you are running with music, I run with music, but I also run with headphones. This guy was basically running with an iPod boom box and had his music blaring for everyone around him to hear. The problem is, his taste in music sucked. He had some Indian chanting song (literally Indians chanting), some country music and God Bless America going for the 15-20 minutes that I was running along behind him. I wished I was faster and could run past him, but I wasn’t, and I wished he was faster and he could run away, but he wasn’t. My thinking is if you’re going to listen to music, WEAR HEADHPHONES. No one cares what songs you like, but I don’t want to have to listen to your music, especially if (in my opinion) you have crappy taste in music. At the very least listen to something that has a fast tempo that will get me to climb faster. Not a country song about a guy raping his dog and shooting his wife. I was tempted to grab his iPod and throw it down the ravine, or if I had an extra pair of headphones, offer them to him. Alas, I did neither and just silently (well not completely) complained that he must have forgotten his headphones. It was also at this point that I realized I was old.
The start of the race is hard. You start at an elevation of 4,880 ft. and for the first 3.58 miles you have more or less rolling hills as you only pick up 400 ft. in elevation. Then, things start to get fun. From 3.58 to 9.60 miles you climb 4,000 ft in 6 miles. There’s a section called Chinscraper that got its name because it’s so steep that you can scrape your chin on the rocks above you as you go! This part of the course description warns you not to dislodge rocks and send them tumbling below onto other runners. How much would that suck? You’re 8 miles into a race and get clocked by a rock from a runner above you? This was also one of many cold points in the race as it started to snow. I don’t do well in snow or the cold. Actually now that I think about it, I also don’t really too well in the heat. I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to temperature extremes, but it also gives me a chance to complain, and I like to complain. From an adventure race in the past, I now have some “issues” in the cold and now when it gets cold, my extremities go numb. I don’t think it’s a bad thing per se; it’s just something that I have to deal with. So, here I am, 9 miles into the race and I can’t feel my feet, or my hands, despite the fact that I’m wearing gloves (and shoes). The good news is that I can kick whatever I want and not feel it, the bad news is that once my feet thaw out; I’m really, going to feel what I kicked. I hit the top of Chinscraper summit and then had a fun, long gradual 9 mile descent into Francis Peak and the fist aid station at mile 18.76. I had managed to catch up to Catts which was fun because now I had someone to run with for the next couple of miles.
Wasatch 100 is a beautiful course. Out of the four race courses that I ran it is the most beautiful. It’s also the most technical, which creates a bit of a problem because every time I tried to look around and see how pretty it was, I would trip and yell at myself for checking out the view. Then, I’d stop running to look at the view, and I’d yell at myself for stopping. It created a bit of a dilemma for me. Nothing really fun or exciting happened as I ran along from Francis Peak to Big Mountain at mile 39.4. The course is relentless, it looks like an EKG monitor where you are either going up, or down, and there isn’t really a time where you can just cruise and let the miles pass by. The sun had come up by now and I was warm, but never hot and at the Big Mountain aid station, I got my first pacer and I also got to change into my Cadillac Shoes as I moved out of the Inov8 x-Talon 212’s and into the Roclite 295s. I was now prepared to kick anything in my way.
SHIBBY!!! The last time I was supposed to run with Shibby, I had more or less passed out on my feet before I had reached him, so he was in charge of the earlier section, just to make sure he got to run. He was going to run with me from 39.4 to Lambs Canyon at 53.13. I had reached Big Mountain faster than I guessed, which meant we were going to get to do this section without a headlamp. I really like having pacers when I’m feeling good because I have someone to talk to, and I like to talk. I don’t get to see Shibby as much as I used to, so the trails is our time to catch up. I don’t know what we talked about, probably the ontological status of mathematical entities, his sex life, or the difference between Chinese and Japanese, but it’s always fun and the mileage flew by. It took me 3:13 to run the 14 miles and before I knew it, I had been handed off to Jon who was in charge of getting me through the next 8.53 miles.
I had only managed to pre-run one section of the course, and it was this section, but I was glad that I had Jon with me. The section from Lambs Canyon to Millcreek has 3,114 of climbing and 1,519 of descending, so just like the rest of the race course, it’s up, up, up, and then down. The climb out of Lamb’s Canyon gains 1,500 ft in 2.1 miles. I had grabbed a headlamp, but we were hopeful that I could get up and over the top and to Millcreek before it was dark saving me from having to run a technical section at night. Setting a good pace, we were able to get up and over the top and back down before it got dark, which was great. We then had a long walk into the aid station. Since the last 3 miles were all cement, and I was walking at a pace just over 4mph, I decided to walk it in. I still had 38 miles to go and it didn’t make sense to me to hammer my quads to run along the cement. Luckily, Jon agreed with me and I cruised into the 62 mile aid station in 15:29, or almost exactly 4mph.
Two things changed at Millcreek, my clothing and my pacer. As it was now 8:30 at night and was cooling down again, I put on a bunch of warmer clothing. I had to keep reminding myself that my goal was to finish. If I got hypothermia and dropped, I would have been pissed at myself because with a crew, there really isn’t an excuse to be too cold in a race. So, warmly bundled up, Shawna and I headed out. I love my wife. I mean seriously, who lets their husband run 100 miles the day before their first anniversary and beyond that, runs 14 of the miles with him? That’s not normal on either front and it’s probably why we’re together. (That and the fact that she has 2 majors in psychology and is able to understand what goes on in my head, scary). Granted, it helps that she runs ultras as well, but still.
We head off for our 14 mile section in the dark from Millcreek to Brighton Lodge. Man, is it cold. Shawna is dressed like we’re heading to the North Pole to tell Santa what we want for Christmas. I’m surprised she was actually able to move with all of the clothing she’s wearing. I have on a short sleeve shirt, arm warmers, a long sleeve shirt, a vest, gloves and a beanie and when the wind blows, I’m still cold. The combination of the cold, darkness and technical terrain is tough enough, but then my old, old friend the sleep monster comes to visit. I hate him, and there’s nothing that you can do to fight him unless you have caffeine, or a bed. I didn’t have any caffeine for his first visit, and I wasn’t going to go to sleep, so all that you can do is lumber along, slapping yourself in the face, pulling out nose hairs (makes your eyes water, hard to fall asleep if your eyes are watering, plus it gets rid of my longer nose hairs) and anything else you can do to stay awake. This section takes about an hour longer (the 14 miles takes 4 hours to complete) than we would have guessed as life turns into a poorly working flip book right before your eyes. You stumble along and then all the sudden, things jump ahead of where they were. Much like the flip book, you skip parts and your vision isn’t running smoothly as you start to fall asleep. The rock that was 10 ft. in front of you is now suddenly right there as you fell asleep for the last two steps. It’s not a fun feeling, but until you hit an aid station, there’s nothing you can do. You can try to talk, but it’s a one sided conversation when the other party is falling asleep, and you’d be amazed at how hard you can slap yourself and not even wake up! I make it to Desolation Lake aid station, down some coke and a Mountain Dew; feel better and continue on until we make it into the Brighton Aid station.
I had been warned about the evil, evil Brighton Aid Station where the warmth of the lodge and the beds scream at you to sit down and relax. “Come on over here, relax, take a nap, we’re friendly” they say to you. Problem is that once you sit down, you can never get up again. Many races have ended in the comfort of the Brighton Aid station. Knowing this, and knowing how sleepy I was, I tried to get in and out of the aid station as fast as I could (plus, Matt had heckled me via e-mail). I still ended up spending 12 minutes in Brighton as I changed shoes, added ANOTHER layer of clothing, ate the world’s most wonderful hash-brown (why they had hash-browns, no idea, but man, that was yummy) drank some Red Bull (it’s a lie, it doesn’t give you wings) and got out of there. Jon had taken over again and we have 25 miles left to run, but nearly 9 hours to finish, if I’m going to make my goal. Once again, stupidly, I think it’s in the bag! Back to my Oprah theory, if she can run 25 miles in 6 hours, so can I.
6 hours later, I’m thinking how much I hate Oprah and her stupid 6 hour marathon. I’ve just finished what in my mind, is the hardest 18 miles of my life and I still have 7 miles left to go. During this time, I got into a fight with the sleep monster again (fixed by a friendly pacer who had a can of Monster Energy Drink. I have no idea what is in it, but I’m pretty sure it’s not legal), lost my appetite (luckily Jon kept yelling at me to eat) and have once again climbed up and over 10,000 ft. before being subjected to the steepest, most technical descent of my life. This section was so steep; I would have felt more comfortable in skis than I did in my running shoes. Jon and I have also discussed several time if this section really sucks as much as I think it does, or, after 375 miles are my legs revolting against me. He puts this section on a par with the last 25 miles of Angeles Crest; I put this section on a par with a trip to the dentist to get a root canal. I’m not sure who is right, but I do know I’m complaining a ton and Jon keeps running further and further ahead of me so he can’t hear me complain. My motto is if I’m in pain, someone should hear about it, I think it’s a good motto, Jon doesn’t. Luckily, despite all my bitching and moaning, I’m still moving fast enough that I can walk the last 7 miles and still finish before my goal time.
Some people like to finish strong... I’m not one of them, at least not in this race. I set out with one goal in mind and that was to finish the Grand Slam of Ultra running. I didn’t care if it took me 120 hours, or 100 hours, as long as I finished. I didn’t care if I got the first, second or no buckle as long as I finished. I certainly didn’t care what place I came in and as I walked the last 7 miles, with my feet hurting, my knees hurting and just about every joint/tendon hurting in my body, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited and relieved to be done even with people running past me as I slowly meandered to the finish. Thanks to the help of (Shawna, Tony, Michelle, Dr. Callister, Bob (the human), Chip, Cary, Mark, Bob (the dog), Shawna again, Jon, and Shibby) I managed to do something that so far only 209 people have done. It was a little weird to cross the finish line as I expected to be really proud and excited by what I had done (maybe that will come later), but instead I was met with an enormous amount of gratitude for the people that helped me and an enormous amount of relief to be done. 27:53 minutes after this race started and 97:27 after it all began, I was done.
Monday, August 30, 2010
3 down, 1 to go…
Holy crap, that’s nuts. “All” that I have to do is run 100 miles 14 days from now (who’s counting) and I’m going to be done with the Grand Slam. I can’t tell you how excited I’m going to be if I’m able to finish the Wasatch 100, and I also can’t tell you how nervous I am about running the Wasatch. Why they decided that it would be a good idea to end the Grand Slam with a race that climbs 26,882ft. is a mystery to me, but they thought it was a good idea. Western State, VT and Leadville all have 30 hour cut-off times; Wasatch has a 36 hour cut-off. The record holder at Western States, Geoff Roes, ran it in 15:07:04, his record setting time at Wasatch, 18:30:55, or nearly 3.5 hours slower. So, using the same logic, I should be able to finish the Wasatch in 27:30, which would make me ecstatic! OK, on to the Leadville report, writing about Wasatch is scaring me.
I have never been as nervous about a race as I was heading into Leadville. To say that my recovery and training between VT and Leadville was poor would be an understatement. When I finished VT, I couldn’t walk, and it was more than just the normal my legs are sore inability to walk, I had strained a muscle in the back of my knee and it hurt to straighten the leg. I spent a ton of time in my PT’s office (Dr. Alex Callister 415-395-9955, he’s a magic man if you live in the city) stretching, massaging and trying to loosen up not only the knee, but also my calf. After a couple of weeks, I was hoping that I could run and start to stretch things out, when “trail work” bit me in the ass.
For three of the 100 milers, you have to do 8 hours of “volunteer” work on the trail. I put “volunteer” in quotes because it’s not really “volunteer” work if you have to do it. Plus, I like using quotation marks. The trail work that I was doing was clearing out trees so that people who were hiking could have a pretty view (what?!?). I don’t really think that this counts as trail work, since the trees were healthy, but this is what the forest ranger wanted us to do. Anyway, I managed to get some bad; bad poison oak, as did 6 out of the 8 people who were working on the trail. It was so bad that I went to go see my Dr. for the first time EVER (I don’t like Doctors, sorry Geno). He’s a friendly guy and when I left I had some steroids (not the good kind), some cream, and some pills to help me sleep at night. Needless to say, I lost another week of training as I focused on not scratching my skin off. When I finally got out to Colorado it had been 4 weeks since I had taken a running step, and one week later, I was going to try and run 100 miles on a knee/calf combo that I did not have a lot of faith in.
I got out to Colorado a week early as the Leadville 100 has a LOW elevation of 9,200 feet and climbs up to Hope Pass at 12,620ft. Plus, I got to hang out in Colorado with Cary, Mark, Bob and Amy for a week which is a lot of fun, so why wouldn’t I go out there early? It’s not the hilliest 100 miler as it climbs 15,600 ft over the full 100 miles and the majority of that is in 4 big climbs, but I’m used to being at 0ft, not 10,000 ft. Since the race-course is an out and back, I’d have to climb over Hope Pass at 12,620 ft. 2x and Sugarloaf Pass 2x as well. Just a few days before the race, I put my Heart Rate monitor on, and it was 20 beats higher than where it is if I’m at sea level. I was hoping that the week up at altitude would help me some, but I definitely would not be acclimatized after a week. If you are curious what it feels like, go and walk up a flight of stairs, but breathe through a straw, good time.
On to the race, as I’ve wasted a page of peoples time!
Leadville has its own unique challenges, beyond the fact that it’s at altitude. Probably the biggest issue for me was that there were only 11 aid stations for the entire race AND that going over Hope Pass, the weather can be a big, big issue. Vermont had nearly 30 aid stations and Western States has over 20 so it was going to take me a long time (up to 13.5 miles) between the aid stations. I decided to use my normal 2-20oz water bottles and I was hoping that it would be enough to get me through. Mark and Cary were going to be my crew/pacer and it was AWESOME to have them out there. Cary has run Leadville 2x and Mark has run it once so they both knew what I was in for.
The race started at 4am with a blast from a shot-gun, who does that? Scared the crap out of me, shot my heart rate to 200, and now I had to run 100 miles with crap in my pants. (Just kidding about the crap, but why use a shot-gun? It’s 4am?!? How about just saying go, or something not as loud as a shot gun?) I had worked my way near the front of the field as I knew that after about 5 miles, you get onto single-track and I didn’t want to be stuck behind everyone since the starting field was 647 people, but I still was going to use my Heart Rate as a base and not let it go above 150. Sure enough, about a half mile into the run, I was above 150 and was the ONLY person walking. 647 people and when I looked around (I could look because I was walking) I was the only one. A nice lady came over to me and said that I was smart to be walking, that it would pay off for me in the long term. Of course, she said this as she went running by me, so my thought was if it’s so smart, why aren’t you walking with me? The first 13.5 miles took me 2:33 minutes as I struggled, even on the flat/downhill to keep my Heart Rate below 150. Out of the 647 starters, I was in 486th place, so once again, I’d be running from the back of the field. I grabbed some more Gu’s and Clif Products from Cary and headed out for the next 10 mile section to the Fish Hatchery.
This is the section that I got mad at Charlie, Jon and Shawna. Now, they weren’t actually there in person, they were there in my head (scary place) and kept popping up on my shoulder, telling me to slow down. At one point, I took a swing at Charlie as he reminded me (much like he did at Silver State) that the goal was to finish, and no one ever wins a race in the first 25 miles, but a lot of people lose them. When he wasn’t yelling at me to listen to my Heart Rate, Jon or Shawna would pop up and remind me. It was good to have them along, but they were annoying. The 10 mile section was my first time up and over Sugarloaf Pass and what I noticed was that while I was moving slowly, I wasn’t getting passed by many people when I was walking. I took this as a good sign, because I can always descend, it’s just the climbing and flat stuff that I suck at. This 10 mile run to the Fish Hatchery took me 2:15, so despite the fact that I thought I was moving slowly, I had covered the first 23.5 miles in 4:49, so I was moving better than I would have guessed. I saw Cary again at the Fish Hatchery and then knew I wouldn’t see her until Twin Lakes, or about 40 miles into the race. She asked me about my legs and I was happy to report, that so far so good. Pre-race I was really, really scared that I was going to run for the first 30 miles and then have to walk the last 70, but up to this point, it was all good.
Fish Hatchery to Half Moon is around 7 miles and predominantly downhill from the Fish Hatchery Aid station which was really nice. I was able to stretch out the legs and run at a decent clip. By now, the weather had started to warm up, and the scenery running in Colorado is just beautiful. The legs were feeling good, and as I hit the Half-moon aid station and continued on to Twin Lakes, everything was going better than I would have ever hoped. Not having run/recovered as I would have liked to since the Vermont 100, if you had told me I would have hit the 40 mile mark in 8:14, I would have been ecstatic. I saw Cary again who once again fueled me up and gave me a jacket to wear up and over Hope Pass, just in case the weather turned bad.
The section from Twin lakes, mile 39.5 to Winfield, mile 50 is brutal. As you leave Twin Lakes, you hit the low point of the race at 9,200 ft. but then, by mile 45 you are at 12,620 ft. Needless to say, it’s steep, really, really steep. This part of the race profile looks like an EKG monitor. When I first came out to Colorado, we had hiked this section, so I would know what was coming for the race, but hiking it for “fun” and hiking it in the race are two different things. I think that this is the steepest, most prolonged climb that I have ever done in an ultra. It was also while climbing up Hope Pass that I saw the race leader, Anton Krupicka, who was just absolutely CRUSHING the race. I’ve never seen anyone with a bigger lead in an ultra than him. Unfortunately, he didn’t finish, but if you want to read a good race report from someone who appears to be very humble while being a great, great runner:
It was a long, slow climb up to the Hope Pass aid station, and I was very happy to get there. Mainly because it meant I was almost half way done, but also because they have lamas. They use Lamas to get all of the supplies up to the top of the mountain, and lamas are big, friendly furry horses (not like mean horses that scare me). One of them was shaved, like you would do to a poodle and made me laugh, so that was fun. On the way back, I’d tried to get Mark to take a photo of the lamas, but he would only yell at me and threaten to have a lama spit on me if I didn’t get going (more on that later). It’s also BEAUTFIUL at the top of Hope Pass, and that’s part of the reason that I do these runs. I get to see some really, really cool scenery and even though I was in the middle of a race, I paused to look around and take it in.
Once I finally hit Hope Pass, it was time for the descent and I was happy. I probably passed 20-30 people in the 5 mile descent. I have no idea why, but the descents are my friend. Over and over people warn me to slow down, that I’ll burn out my thighs, etc. but I just can’t run downhill slowly. I arrived at Winfield Aid station, half way done in 11:36:28 where I met up with Mark for the first time. The Leadville race is the only race that I have done where the pacers are allowed to carry stuff for you, which is AWESOME. I basically had my own lamas, so if the weather went bad, I was covered. I had made a decision on the way up Hope Pass the first time that I was going to use trekking poles and a backpack on the way back the second time to hopefully help my legs with the climb (this was an awful idea as my triceps haven’t been used since high-school and about 2 miles up the mountain, my arms gave out and I had to give the poles back to Mark). So I had my water-bottles and my cold weather gear in Mark’s pack and off we went, to climb Hope Pass for the second time.
Running with Mark is a lot of fun. He’s similar to me that he likes to make fun of other people and isn’t very good at filtering his thoughts, he’s kind of like British Mark. Once it hits his mind, it then comes out his mouth, which I appreciate, but I’m sure people around us didn’t find us nearly as funny as we thought we were.
Example A: Climbing up Hope Pass for the second time and I’m not feeling very good. My stomach has started to turn (too much sugar from all the Powerade) but I know that I have to keep on eating with 50 miles still left to run. Mark runs through a variety of different Gels that he is carrying for me, and a fellow runner comments that Mark gets an A+ for pacing because of the variety of Gels. Marks reply, was that if he was really a good pacer, he’d have a variety of beers to offer me, which I think is funny because I like beer and now instead of thinking about how much pain I’m in, I’m thinking about yummy beer. Apparently, our running buddy didn’t find it funny because he gave Mark a look that said, why would you have beer with you on a run? Now, most people would realize that this guy doesn’t have a great sense of humor and we should move on, but not Mark, or me, which then prompted the next sequence of events while discussing the Vibram 5 fingers that Mark is running in. No… I’m not making this up, I wish I was, but this is exactly what was said after Mark told him that he liked running in the Vibram 5 fingers.
Random Runner: "They pinch my little guy"
Mark: "did you say 'it pinches your little guy?'"
Me “you aren't supposed to put them on your penis"
Random Runner: "I'll show you how big my little guy is" and he went storming off up the mountain.
Apparently, he didn’t find us funny, which was good because it gave Mark and me something to laugh about for the next hour and even today while writing this I cracked up. Yes, I still have the mentality of a 6 year old, but that’s a good thing when running 100 miles. I mean, who says “they pinch my little guy???” Was he talking about his pinky toe?
We make it up to the top of Hope Pass and now we get to head back down the mountain towards Twin Lakes. This point to me was the crux of the race because the largest and hardest part is now behind me. It’s also when I realize that Mark is going to make sure that I finish the race in less than 25 hours. Whenever I’d slow down, he’d yell “Giddy up!” and I was afraid that he’d beat me with a trekking pole (he never did, but he might have). At one point I asked if I could start running at the next tree, to which he then put the trekking pole in front of me (like a racing gate) and said ready, GO! And then “opened” the gate to signify that no, I had to start running then. I’m not sure why, but for some reason, my legs would always just start running, like a well trained monkey. I came back to Twin Lakes in a time of 3:21:37, which was amazing when I look back at it because the same part going the other way took me 3:21:36. Yeah… that’s consistent.
At Twin Lakes Mark and Cary switch and now I get to run with Cary. I also switch from the Inov8 X-Talon 212’s and into the Inov8 RocLite 295. It’s kind of like going from a Ferrari, to a Cadillac. The first one is a lot faster, but the second one if comfy, safe and in a collision, it would win. That was exactly my thinking as I wasn’t lifting my feet quite high enough and I was kicking a lot of rocks. As I’d kick them, I’d think Cadillac; and also was thankful that having lost most of my nails, it didn’t really matter what I kicked. So with a new dry shirt, a new pair of socks and shoes, I was off and ready to go.
Cary and I have run, walked, stumbled, etc a lot together as we were on the same adventure racing team and she knows how to pace me. She just kind of runs next to me, or ahead of me, and if I slow down too much, asks me if I think it’s a good idea to run. While Mark likes to use a stick, Cary likes to use a carrot and rewards we with walking breaks, but only if I run to a certain point. As we are returning along the same route that I have already run, I know what’s coming up. I also realize that if I can just keep going at 4mph for the rest of the way, I might be able to pull out a 25 hour run. These thoughts are HORRIBLE to have at this point in the race and yet, I’m thinking about them. I quickly try to get it out of my mine because even though I’ve run for 15 hours, I still have 10 hours to go and a lot can happen! I hit Half-moon Aid station in 1:51 or 10 minutes slower than the trip out.
Aid stations are a weird and wonderful place in ultras. I love them. You know that you are going the right direction and you know that your crew is going to be there. Seeing Mark/Cary at the aid stations is such a lift each time, and then you get more food, water, and just the energy from the people is great. Plus, Cary has this great, HUGE smile no matter what is going on, so that always cheers me up. So while I’m happy because I know I’m going the right direction and I get to see my friends, you see your fellow runners and some of them looked bad, really bad, at this point. It’s like a Mash unit out there with people sleeping on cots, vomiting, limping, etc. You’re all excited to be there, but then you see the walking dead and it reminds you that a lot can go wrong in a very short time. Luckily, and probably because I started out so slowly, I’m running nearly identical splits to my times on the way out. After leaving Half-moon I get to Fish Hatchery only 2 minutes slower than my trip out, and for the first time, I start to think that sub 25 can happen (before I thought about sub 25, but now I’m thinking that it can happen. It’s small, but there is a difference). I’m 76.5 miles into the race after 18:35 of running and this is always the point in a race, well, mile 74 is that I remind myself that if Oprah can run a marathon in under 6 hours, so can I, no matter how tired I am.
Mark picks me up at Fish Hatchery and is going to run me back to the Tabor Boat ramp, which is half-way between May Queen and the finish. The problem is that I have to climb up and over Sugar-Loaf again, and after 80 miles or running, my legs don’t really want to do that. Plus, my mind is starting to play tricks on me and I keep thinking that the moon is a headlamp wanting to pass me. The good news is that it’s a beautiful moon; the bad news is that I think it’s a headlamp, apparently on the head of the world’s largest man. I also see a polar bear run across the trail, to which Mark replies, Global Warming. I stumble my way up to the top of Sugar Loaf and as we crest the top, I get a Giddy-up! from Mark and we’re off and running. It’s really a lot of fun running at night (minus the hallucinations) as the weather is cooler and you’re running… well at night. As is the case in most ultras, once I get over the top and can start to run downhill everything is better. I get into May Queen in 2:49 (35 min slower than on the way out) and I now have 13.5 miles to the finish and 3:36 to achieve my goals.
The last 13.5 miles was great, and sucked all at the same time. The first 6.5 was with Mark and by the time he passed me off to Cary for the last 7 miles, I knew that I had sub 25 in the bag. Mark had poked and prodded me just enough to make sure that assuming that I didn’t trip, go off course or just do something dumb (which I could definitely do) I was going to make sub 25. With this knowledge in mind, Cary and I walked, we walked a lot. We actually walked the final 3 miles which was great to do. A couple of local runners were with us and when they told me that I only had 3 miles to go (with and hour left) and I knew that no matter what happened, I would make it. I didn’t care what place I came in, my feet and legs hurt and I just didn’t want to run anymore. Knowing that I could just walk the rest of the way and still finish in less than 25 hours was a very, very nice. Yes, 6-8 people passed me, but I didn’t care, plus I could just tell myself that they didn’t have another 100 miler in a few weeks. I did what I wanted to do, AND since they had all passed me, when I crossed the finish line, I was all alone for the photo, 24:39:53 J
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I flew out to Boston on Wednesday and was able to catch up with my old friends at Goldman on Thursday and grab the keys from my old boss Charlie. He was very, very, very gracious and was willing to let Chip, me and our crew stay at his AWESOME place in Woodstock. You actually run by his home 2.5 miles into the race, which is cruel and great all at the same time. We (Chip and me) had a place to stay and since I was back in Boston, we went to the Red Sox game on Thursday night. We then headed up to NH to stay with Chip and his kids and then off to VT on Friday to check in and get ready for the race.
Check-in was eventful, but not for me. I used to be the fat cool guy at these races, but with Chip there, I had brought a fatter, cooler guy to the race. Chip was my Shibby for this race. A super nice guy who lets me make fun of him while still staying my friend, why? I have no idea, but I’m just happy that people like him exist or I’d be very lonely.
I weighed in at 170 lbs. After giving up beer and eating healthy before the WS 100, I weighed in at 171 which had pissed me off. I decided that beer and whatever I wanted to eat were back on the menu. The lesson? Beer and eating crapily (another lesson, crapily is apparently not a word) helps you lose weight. It might not be in any “healthy” journals, but I have now tested it out and I can prove it. I spend 2 months cutting back on beer and eating healthy only to weigh the same as I do when I eat like crap and drink beer. Clearly, beer and Prime Rib is a weight loss program, but back to the weigh in.
Chip crushes it. He looks at my 170lbs. and says HA! I can beat that and steps up onto the scale at a manly 184. The lady goes wow… that scale must be wrong, and makes him step on it again. (That’s not true; I just thought it would be funny if she did say that). Next up for Chip, his Blood Pressure (and this part IS TRUE). Chip has high BP to begin with and tests himself regularly, but he’s healthy according to his Dr. Chip’s problem is that he panics when he sees the blood-pressure cuff coming near his arm. Next thing I know, I hear the nurse say 180/110… uh, you OK? (That’s the truth, not making this up at all). Chip then tries to explain about his high blood pressure, and how he gets nervous, etc. but she tells him that he might want to go for a walk and then come back and take the test again. Well, that doesn’t help anything!!! Now Chip’s worried that he might not even be able to start the race because his BP is so high that in 24 hours he’s going to stroke out.
So, we take a walk. Of course I’m right there to calm his nerves because if there is one thing I’m good at, it’s calming people down and not making them feel worse about the situation. Luckily, he has me there because when he goes back to the Blood Pressure Lady, his BP is all the way down to 170/90, clearly I’m a calming influence. After a lot of talking and an agreement to be careful, they decide to let him race.
Next up is the pre-race briefing where they tell us all about the race and then I get to meet up with my pacer/crew for the weekend. Due to some unlucky court cases (Berk is NOT going to jail) and a pesky thing called school (Shawna) I was left with no crew and no pacer for the race so I signed up online. The last time I signed up online for help in a race was when Scott and I were looking for a teammate for an adventure race in Maine. We ended up with a she-male (“she” had an Adams apple, was 6’2” tall and could palm a basketball). The last words I said to her were “you’re fucking useless” before our race ended shortly after that. Needless to say I was nervous about Bob. As it turns out Bob is a God, not a mythical one, but a real one. Bob has run a ton of ultras, was very similar to me in racing style/needs and basically turned the aid stations into NASCAR pit stops. I’m 100% convinced that without Bob I would not have finished in sub 24. You have now read over a page and the race hasn’t started. My bad.
Race starts and it’s hot. It’s 4am and I’m warm and I’m only wearing my Adidas Hat, Tamalpa shirt, shorts and my Inov8 shoes. That’s not a good sign for things to come. You know how people say records are meant to be broken? Well, I set a new record. Chip and I were going to run together for the beginning of the race and see how things went and if our speeds matched up we’d run together. He and I are next to each other when the gun goes off, and I would say that we were next to each other for about a minute. The last thing I remember of Chip is Chip saying “Hi Bob” (different Bob than my pacer) and when I look for Chip next he’s gone. This made me sad as they don’t allow headphones in the VT100. Why? Because you might get run over by a horse because you can’t hear the horse, or the rider, coming up behind you. Since I have an un-natural fear of horses, I was fine with that but at the same time, I now had to talk to other runners, which I don’t like doing.
My goals for this race were slightly different than the WS – 3 weeks earlier. My most important goal was to finish and be able to run again in 5 weeks. Goal #2 was sub 24, goal #3 was sub 20 and Goal #4 was sub 19:34 (my time 6 years ago). The big difference this time, vs. 6 years ago is that this time my HR couldn’t go above 150 (last time it was 160) and also, I had just run 100 miles 3 weeks earlier.
The first 15.3 miles are great. I really, really like the VT course and it’s actually a lot prettier than I remember it from the first time. There are a TON of aid stations so hydration is super easy as there are 30 aid station (about half of them un-manned) along the way so you never have run more than 5 miles before you get more food/water. 15.3 miles into the race and I’m in 96th place overall and 4:41 into the race. My pace is faster than 5mph (11:12 pace) but I feel good and I’ve obeyed all of my rules so I’m not concerned. The legs are a bit sore/heavy, but nothing out of the ordinary as all the normal trouble spot are talking to me, but not screaming. I like talking, I don’t like screaming.
Nothing exciting happens for the next 35 miles as I just kind of get into a groove and just run from station to station. It is hot, not super hot, but with the humidity, I’m sweating a TON. The heat and humidity took a lot out of people as only 55% finished the race, the second lowest finishing rate ever. I hit the first really big aid station at Camp 10 Bear (47.2 miles) in 9:31, just about at 5mph pace. Unfortunately, my knee has started to yell at me and I’ve already popped some Advil/Tylenol and the yelling has gone down to a murmur, but I have an angry knee. This is also where NASCAR Bob comes in. He has EVERYTHING I could want in the back of his car. A cooler full of ice water to douse me with, a towel, food, snacks, I start asking for random things and he has them all. Why he had a pony in the back of the car, I don’t know and why I asked for one, I also don’t know, but he had it. I left the aid station feeling alive, ready to crank and in 78th place (out of 288 starters).
That feeling lasted for about 10 minutes as the knee and the 100 miles from before really took its toll on me. Bob had said that this loop would be the key and he was right. I couldn’t keep my speed up and the 22.9 mile loop beat me up. At this point I completely forgot about any of the other goals that I had and was now focusing on how to finish and be healthy enough to run again. I could tell by the pain in the back of my knee that I could and would finish (plus, I’m a stubborn fool), but I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take post-race to recover. I have had an injury like this before; I hoped/assumed it was the same thing. My guess was that it was a strain of some sort, or tendonitis since it wasn’t a sudden pop, but a slow gradual pain. (Turns out I was right, I have a strain of my plantaris muscle and some issues with the popliteus, but I can now walk normally and almost pain free 10 days later. I should be good to go in another week). Anyway, the 22.9 miles took me just under 5 hours as my pace had slowed a full mph.
I came back into Camp 10 Bear, 70.1 miles, sleepy, sore and not fired up about the next 30 miles. Two great things happened though. 1. NASCAR Bob was there and ready to go. Having a good crew/pacer is so great in getting you out there and finishing a race. 2. A random fellow racer had a 6 pack of Red-Bull (which gives you wings and would alleviate the pressure on my knee) and some topical cream to rub on the back of my knee. The Red-Bull was a huge help, the topical cream did nothing.
Headlamps on and now in 61st place, Bob and I headed out for the next 30 miles. The 30 miles took us 7:25 minutes to finish, which reflecting back on it, I’m really, really proud of that time. To be able to run close to 4mph for that section is a tribute to my stupidity, stubbornness and Bob. My leg felt crappy, it was like having a giant claw that I couldn’t really straighten or fully bend. It was in a lot of pain whenever I would walk uphill and the only time if felt OK was when I was running flats, or downhill. I guess that’s a good thing though because it made me run more than my body wanted to. That and the second dose of Advil/Tylenol that I took helped out a lot as well. Bob, once again, was great as I just followed him along staring at his feet. I felt like I was back in an adventure race, half delirious and just following Cary/Scott/Berk/Shibby’s feet and putting one step in front of the other, over and over again.
This 30 mile section also reminded me of one of the cooler parts of ultra-marathons, the scenery. There was a HUGE lightning storm a long ways off, but the skies were clear enough that we could see for miles. Bob and I turned off the headlamps and just checked out the stars and then would see these HUGE (did I mention HUGE) lighting storms that would light up the entire sky. Super, super cool to see and luckily, I never tripped while I was walking, so that was an added bonus.
Slowly and steadily we made our way to the finish and after 22:02 and very tired, but very, very happy we finished. Finished in 39th place overall, but more importantly, and more fun, I never got passed. At each location that they take your split, they mention what place you are in, and I never hit an aid station in a worse place than the previous location. Now, this isn’t 100% accurate as people dropped so I “passed” them even though they just stopped running before me, but still kind of cool. That’s the race recap.
So, I now am done with two out of the four and trying to recover from Vermont is a lot harder than the recovery from Western States. 10 days later and the back of my knee still hurts and my toe has just gotten to the point that it’s pain free. The good news is that I have a 5 week break between these races and I should be 100% by Leadville race day. The bad news is that I have no idea how I’m going to finish Leadville and then line up for Wasatch 3 weeks later.
For those of you who care about these things, I wore the same 2 pairs of Inov8 shoes as I did at Western States. The Roclite 285 and the X-Talon 212. I ate (when not at the aid stations) Honey Stingers, Gu Chomps, and Clif Blocks. I used a lot of Nuun Tablets as well for my hydration as I don't like Heed. Stomach was great, hydration was great.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I started the Blog because Inov8 was sponsoring us and they wanted us to write up our races and talk about the gear that we were using. Well, Inov8 doesn't sponsor us anymore, but much like a crack dealer, they got me hooked on their gear after the first use, so I'm still using it and the blog goes on. My wife asked me the other day why I even write my blog if I don't tell anyone about it and I didn't really have an answer. I guess the simple answer is that at some point down the road, I might want to remember some of the stuff that I did and at least this way, I've got it all written down.