Monday, September 10, 2012

The Next Big Thing Wasn’t as Big as I Thought

After a summer of pain wrought of angry sun, hot temperatures, and humility filled humidity (like what I did there?), I got a good day to run. 

As I picked up my bib for the 50M, the 100M/k’ers were just beginning their adventures.  The weather was warm.  A few hours later, as darkness crept deeper and deeper into the earth, a rain began to fall.  Thirty percent chance of rain kept raining for the next six or so hours.  Instead of running, I was getting prepared to sleep.  Before I shut my eyes, my thoughts went out to the people who were still running.  

The course breaks down like this.  16.66M per loop.  50M’ers do 3 loops.  Each loop is really four sections which comprise two large loops separated by a dirt road.  The North loop is comprised of the first and fourth sections.  The South loop is comprised of the second and third sections and is the North part of the Poto Trail.  Each section is about 4 miles---ish.  The first section is single track horse trails.  This is the easiest section of the course—despite its several steep hills and difficult terrain—because it included some distance on a rails-to-trails trail.  The joy of the flat and easy path.  The second section is a dirt road to the midway point of the south loop (about 8M).  The third loop has the least amount of elevation change.  The fourth loop has the most amount of elevation change and hands-down the steepest hill.

The Redhead and I awoke early and made our way to Hell Creek Ranch for the 6am start of the 50M/k’ers.  I’ve previously discussed how hard trail running is for me; predictably, it isn’t any easier in the dark.  All the 50-something runners (and their headlamps) were of little help in navigating the path safely.  Not even three miles in I had tweaked both my left and right ankles.  Not long after that I slipped on a very muddy downhill and only avoided a face-plant because I ran into a tree—stopping my momentum.  Fortunately, I guess, I’ve rolled both ankles as often as the Pillsbury Doughboy had rolled…you get where I’m going…so, I was able to make some minor adjustments to my stride and the soreness slowly melted into the overall soreness the rest of my body began to feel. 

The first loop, despite the initial stumbles and darkness, was the easiest simply because I was fresh.  The first loop had lots of 100M/k’ers, plus we were finishing the first loop as many of the marathoners, half-marathoners, and the 5M’ers were finishing.  I just kept telling myself, “Make every loop its own story.”  The first story was titled ‘muddy.’   Very muddy and slick. 

As I finished the first loop I didn’t quite understand how they had organized the finish line and the keep running loop.  I figured I had to cross the mat to record my lap time.  I actually crossed the finish line and had to go back to where the Redhead and several other friends/family were there to cheer me on; I still had two loops to complete.  The Redhead pulled me away to help me change shoes/socks and give me some liquid supplies.  I then went out to chat-up the people who adore my fiancĂ© enough to come and cheer me on ;).  Then off I went for the second loop. 

Leaving to start the second loop, I was walking as I tried to ingest some Gatorade, a Mt. Dew, and half a sandwich.  Right away I come upon an official photographer.  He sees me and yells “Come on and at least make it look like you are running.”  Quality.  I knew the second loop would be my most difficult as my pacers would be joining me on the third—and the number of other runners on the course was going to drop very quickly.  The good thing was that the day remained mostly cloudy but warm enough to dry up the trail, making the footing much better.  I was on a run 45min walk 15min routine.  I stuck to this for the first 25miles.  Then I switched to a run 15 min walk 5min routine.  I did that for an entire loop. 

There were some exceptions to the rule.  Walk up steep hills or down steep hills.  Walk after aid stations to allow for nutrition consumption.  During the second loop it seemed a lot of runners noticed the sock monkey I had hanging from my Camelbak.  Sock Monkey was polite and would say hi to other runners, and sometimes sing his favorite song.  Sung to the tune of Karma Chameleon and goes “Comeand comeand comeand comeand, Comeand eat fig leaves with me.  Sweet leafy figs.  Sweet leafy fiiiiiiiigs.  Live’n is easy when you are swings from the trees.  Cool jungle breeze.  Cool jungle breeze.”     

The song was muffled a bit because he was in a plastic bag.  I kept telling runners, much to the dismay of Sock Money—that the plastic bag wasn’t so much because he wanted to stay dry but because he was into that asphyxiation thing.  (Note: I think the real difference between running a marathon for me and running an ultra is that, in an ultra, I can say all of the things I’m not say during a marathon because I’m trying to preserve energy.)  And so the second loop went. 

Soon I was rounding into the camp and was excited to see more crew members there, including Buck and Bunny (my parents).  I changed shoes and socks but by this point I couldn’t eat anything solid more than a banana.  This meant the delicious bacon had to be left behind—like an unfortunate soul after the rapture.  FN2 

The Redhead was going to join me for the first 5ish miles of the last loop then trade off with my cuz Brian.  As we embarked on my last loop, I told her about the rules. 

·       Follow the 45/15 run/walk ratio 

·       Walk up and down steep hills

·       Only encouraging words unless talking to Sock Monkey

·       Don’t pass runners on the up part of a hill, it is considered rude (a rule I made up and sometimes ignored)

·       Always yell either “Hundies are for Heroes” or “You the Boss” to the other 100M/k’ers

·      Don’t look back to see how I am doing, the trail will punish you for it. 

One stumble taught her the importance of the last rule rather early on. Still, she did a great job of talking and keeping me distracted from the fact that I was sore and every step was a bit of a small ache.  The only real problem was that the South loop went in the opposite direction than she had anticipated, and this meant she had to run much farther than she had anticipated.  Still, she never complained.  Plus, I did get to point out my favorite part of the course to her. 

Finally, we found cuz Brian and he got to bring me home over the most difficult part of the course, the last six miles.  Cuz had an excellent shirt made for the occasion, and it included the part about being the ‘Official sponsor of the second trash bin after the third water station.”  Priceless. 
In the fourth section of the last loop, I did drop down to a run 10, walk 5 rotation but really just tried to run as long as I could until I needed a walk.  I knew I was on target for my 10 to 11 hour finish if I could keep this up.  And, thanks to the help of my pacers, I was able to do the third loop in the same time as I did my first loop.  Finishing—officially—around 10 hours and 40 minutes.  (3:30, 4:00, 3:20). 

Random things:  I couldn’t have done this without the love or support of the Redhead.  The course was marked with pink marking flags (think the small flags typically used to mark buried electrical lines).  In the last mile I picked one up and carried it in with me.  As I crossed the finish, I began to explain to the volunteer that there were thousands of these out there and that I had picked up several hundred of them but they were too many so I just threw them into the woods.  She missed the joke.  I got to sing “This is the song that never ends…” and it wasn’t started by me.  Changing shoes and socks every loop was my only good idea.  My feet are as undamaged as one could hope for.  I struggled with solid food immediately—despite my many McDonalds and Taco Bell stops during my training runs—causing me to almost puke a few times.  I never hit a wall or had a break-down.    Sock Monkey said some pretty awful things, but I said some terrible things back.  We always made up in the end.  Then we would sing together.  Seeing my friends and family was amazing and lifted my spirits.  Hundred milers really are heroes.  I only fell once.  I still want to do 100M.  I never got the chance to punch a deer.  The motivational cards many of you made for me were awesome and hilarious.  The winner of the 100M averaged a faster pace than any mile I ran.  Some people are born to run on tails, I’m more like a T-Rex at a tea party on the trails. 

Sock Monkey sans bag.  A note from Racer she snuck into in my Camelbak for an early training run.  I never took the note out.  And two plastic feet from my newhew.  He earned several of these for running during school.  I carried all of these for the entire 50M.  I'm going to give one plastic foot back.  I plan on giving the other back after I finish 100M. 
That is all for now. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Half 100M is Still Half Good

This brutal summer has taken its toll.  So, after long days of waffling back and forth like a politician, I am dropping down to the 50M race.  This is not only a defeat to my 100M goal, but also a moral defeat to the Redhead, who always championed I attempt the 50M first.  Sure, she made this recommendation out of love, some legitimate concern, and common sense—but I was awfully intent on ignoring all of the above for as long a possible.  I jest.  This is the right choice and the safe choice for me right now.    

Anyway, when I complete a 100M race after we are married, then she will finally have a husband worth bragging about--to a very small and select group of people who may actually care.