Is The P-Word Bad?
So, 43 miles. 16 hours. Not exactly what I wanted for this race but it's still better than my minimum. Why don't we start with my goals. I had a minimum goal of 50k (31 miles or 5 loops). I met and exceeded that. My realistic goal was 50 miles (8 loops) and I missed that by one loop. My not-so-realistic goal was 100k (62 miles or 10 loops). I quickly learned by my 4th loop that I wasn't going to meet that goal so it quickly dropped.
So is the P-Word really that bad? I mean, a pussy can take a pounding by dick heads, bleed every month, and give birth to a new life. So why do we make it sound like a weak thing? I'd think a dick is weaker. Bend it in the wrong direction or try to squeeze a pea-sized stone through it and you'll make a man cry. What does all this have to do with my race? Well, I'm left wondering if I was a pussy or a dick after this race. Parts of me think I was smart to quit and parts of me think I was dumb. My head and my knee are thankful that I stopped when I did. But my heart is just broken that I gave up when I did.
So I started my day with an early wake-up call. I was up at 0430 and gone by 0500. By 0600 I was at the park and parking my car. I had enough time to stop for a small breakfast and coffee before I got there. I also had plenty of time to get my personal aid station set up and settled in. Since it was May 4th, I set up my Stormtrooper helmet as a visual marker just to keep me focused on where I needed to go. It would pay off later. I also got a bead on where we started, where we came/went, and where the bathrooms were. And without much of a wait, we were off and running.
Loop 1 - Introductions - 1:34:10
As I started my first loop, I hung way back to the back just to keep myself out of the way from the front runners. The course was a figure-eight but the Start/Finish portion was so small, everyone just thought of it as a lollipop. From the Start we headed out past the bathrooms, down a trail, along the lake/pond, to the bridge. The scary bridge. The bridge that freaked me out every damn time I crossed it. I'm not afraid of heights but I am afraid of falling. And this bridge made me nervous. From there we ran the stick portion of the lollipop. It was fairly technical with plenty of rocks and narrow single-track trails. This would prove important later in the race as there would be two-way traffic. From the stick we turned to the right to make the loop in a counter-clockwise direction. We continued to follow the stream and most of this section was pretty flat, runnable, and easy. There were a few tougher sections with rocks but nothing too terrible. The halfway point was at a road crossing where there was water, Gatorade, and a bag of chips. But it wasn't set up for the first loop so I had no idea where I was on the route. This meant my first loop I ran through my water faster than expected and had to start to conserve. I knew the loop was 6 miles but a bottle usually lasts me only 3 miles. Well, as I came through 4 miles or so, I was much lower than expected so I started to conserve. I ran out right around the turn back onto the stick part of the course. I wasn't happy but I survived. Anyway, from the first road crossing (what would turn out to be the halfway point), we went about a mile up a gravel access road. It was a gentle slope but it was certainly uphill. We turned onto another trail, passed a small cemetery, then went through some rollers. From the cemetery on things were pretty much up or down. The downs were pretty easy to run and the ups were mostly short and not too painful. We crossed over another road and shortly after that we made it back to the stick where we followed our footsteps back to the dam. From the dam we took a gravel road up to the Start/Finish and aid station.
Loop 2 - Devil's Rock - 1:45:34
There were roughly 13 bridges that we had to cross (three of them we crossed twice) and only two small sections that were slightly muddy. As I was finishing my second loop I came across one of the last bridges and did a little bit of a jump/big step off the end. And promptly landed on a sharp stump with my left foot. Thankfully I didn't face-plant into the large rock right on the other side. Instead I limped and hobbled a bit until the pain lessened. Half a mile away, things were much better and I was able to carry on. This was also about the time I realized I needed to slow down a bit.
Loop 3 - Twerk It - 2:06:24
Sure enough, I slowed down. On purpose. I knew I had 24 hours to get miles in and if I wanted to survive that long, I needed to plan accordingly. This is one of the problems I have with timed-races is trying to manage speed over distance over time. If I do too much of one, I can't do the other. So for this lap I did a lot more walking. I still ran the flats and the down but walked all the hills and generally tried to chill out. I even made a minor detour (all of 20 feet) to check out a suspicious pile of rocks. It was off the marked trail on what was the old trail and it looked very much like a burial mound or cairn. Turns out it was a pet rock spot. Even had a little sign. Anyway, somewhere in this loop, I twerked my knee funny. I took a step, landed funny, and twerked it. Yes, twerked it. I didn't tweak it or twist it, I twerked it. Why did I choose the word twerk? because it looked all find and sexy when it happened but as time went on things just got uglier. Ultimately, my right knee getting twerked would be the reason for me stopping. But at the time, it was just a minor thing that I could push out of my mind.
Loop 4 - Wool Sweater/Friend Zone - 2:25:36
As I went through this loop, I was started to feel my knee a bit more and was started to slow down more. Again I told myself to save some energy for later and that's what I was trying to do. The heat also started to kick in and I started to overheat a bit. I even managed to run a bit without my shirt before eventually putting my tank top back on for fear of scaring the ladies out there. Or attracting Knobby's wife. There were two kids out on the course, one boy and one girl, that I had seen here and there. Both were about 12 or 14 and usually ran with an adult. I thought that was pretty awesome until I heard the girl talking to a lady she was running with (probably her mom). The conversation went something like "So you like Bobby?" "Yeah, I like Bobby, but just as a friend." I wanted to say something to the girl about telling poor Bobby that he was friend-zoned but alas, she was running in the other direction and I doubt her mom would have appreciated it.
Loop 5 - Nap Time - 2:38:36
As I finished 25 miles, I felt zonked. So I took a nap. That's right, I took a mother-fucking-nap. And it was awesome. How awesome? Consider this. My Loop 4 time was 2:25. I did lots of walking and felt like quitting. So when I finished, I laid down and put my feet up for 15 minutes. Then I spent another 15 minutes getting my gear together for another loop. So 30 minutes of my Loop 5 time was spent at the aid station. My Loop 5 time was 2:38. So with the nap factored in, I sped up. And I could feel it. I ran almost all of the first half of Loop 5. I felt like a new person. Maybe it was the coffee, maybe it was the Coke, maybe it was the nap, maybe it was something else. I don't know. But it was awesome. Granted, the second part of that loop wasn't as special, but I still had some run left in me to run most of the downs. I felt great coming in to the aid station again.
Loop 6 - What Lap - 2:41:21
Somewhere on this loop I began to loose my mind. I was still coherent but just couldn't keep things straight. I couldn't do the math in my head and had to spend several miles figuring out how much time I had left to do how many miles before my time was up. The pain in my right knee was gradually increasing which made figuring out the math all that much harder. So I toiled away until I finally figured out that the 100k distance was out of reach. But I felt that 50 miles was still a chance.
Loop 7 - Tab To The Rescue - 2:47:54
As I finished Loop 6, I was happy to see Tab there waiting for me at the Aid Station. We geared up and headed out for a loop. Things were getting dark and I had already started using my headlamp at the end of the last loop but things were really getting dark now. So we ran in the night, talked about everything under the sun, and Tab made me feel like a very special person. In many ways. But don't worry, we kept our clothes on. Except that one time. When I had to pee.
By the time we neared the end of the last loop, I was done and I knew it. My knee just couldn't take it anymore. Well, it could take some of it, but not all of it. The flats were just fine. I could walk with almost no pain. The uphills were okay, I just had no power in my right knee. The downhills were just getting scary. I had to do a zombie-stiff-leg hobble down steps, which were okay, but any sort of downhill grade and it hurt like hell. I know, things are supposed to hurt in an ultra. But this wasn't that kind of a hurt, this was a kind of hurt that didn't feel right. And I decided to err on the side of caution and not jack myself up by being stupid. So I called it quits. I felt horrible for dragging Tab out for all this time just to quit after one lap. So I told her to go pace another guy who was walking just about the same speed as I was. She ended up pacing him for two more loops so that made me feel good that he was able to go that far.
After I quit, I slowly gathered my crap and got things organized. I even took an impromptu shower that didn't get me super clean but it at least got most of the crap off me. I napped a bit, helped crew Tab and her walker Joe as they came through again, then napped some more, then took some stuff to my car.
A few side notes:
- Even though I was dehydrated after my first loop, I hydrated the rest of the race perfectly. I had enough to drink to pee but not too much to pee every mile. I think I averaged a pee break every loop to loop and a half.
- I didn't use any music. While a small victory, it was unplanned. I intended to use music on Loop 6 but I forgot my battery. So I handed it to a kid who was volunteering and he put it back with my gear. I was thankful that he knew what a Stormtrooper helmet was.
- Speaking of Stormtrooper helmets, it made it easy for me to tell Tab where my gear was. I simply said "look for my Stormtrooper helmet" and was safe in knowing I was the only Star Wars geek there celebrating May the Fourth Be With You.
- Speaking of celebrating, I also had a Mexican blanket down for Cinco de Mayo but nobody offered me any Corona. Probably a good thing.
- Tab is a super-awesome person. In many ways what I did wouldn't be possible without her. While the burger was great, the company was even better. We both vented, gossiped, and shared stories. I'd gush more about how great she is but I don't want her head to swell too much.
- Two lights at night is the way to go. I ran a little with just one light before I realized how much I hated it. Two lights, especially at two different levels, gives much better depth perception. I also felt much safer (and smarter) carrying spare batteries. Some guy had his batteries die and he blindly walked a mile or so before somebody loaned him a spare headlamp.
- This race was the first time I had any chafe issues with my T-Star Running shorts. It wasn't bad but I had a seam that started to annoy me after 25 miles or so. I took the buff off my head and put it around my other one and things were good. Well, I didn't wrap it around, I mean, things aren't that big down there. But I tucked it in like a cook or quarterback would tuck in a rag. I'm sure I got some funny looks when people saw it hanging out of my shorts like a funny looking kilt but it worked. It worked awesomely. So awesomely I'm wondering if the design could be improved somehow.
- I really need to train more.
- No, really, I need to train more. I'm starting to wonder if the 8, 24, and 12 hour races will be my goal races in 2014. The 8 hour kicked my ass two years ago and the 24 hour kicked my ass this year. I think I'm starting to grow plans for revenge. Twice I've been vexed by this race series. I want to do better. I need to do better.
- Even though I bailed out at 43 miles, I'm happy I did. Sure, I'm disappointed, but my knee is thankful that I quit when I did.
- My wife is awesome. More awesome than Tab. She dealt with the SAT's, her mother, her sister, our kids, groceries, and me over the weekend. I never heard her complain about it and I'm thankful for it all.
Me getting my pre-race face on.
A selfie because I know Lauren would appreciate it. Too bad I don't smile like she does!
I swear this tree unloaded on the ground. Oh, and that's Joyce in front of me. She killed it out there.
The scary bridge.
Temps started out around 35F to 40F but quickly warmed to about 70F in the afternoon. By sundown and into the night it went back to about 40F. Skies were clear the entire day. Wind was light to moderate.
Fluids and Fuel:
Aside from my slightly dehydrated first loop, everything with my fluids and fuel went perfectly. I was peeing on a regular basis and it was the right color. My fingers were only slightly swollen. I had water, Hammer Fizz, an iced latte, some Coke, some coffee, and a few other things I don't remember. For food, I had some breakfast burritos, pierogies, grilled cheese, and one bottle of Hammer Perpeteum and Hammer Recoverite (mixing them didn't work as well as I had hoped).
Aches and Pains:
Already talked about my right knee. It still hurts but is getting better. Everything else is feeling sore but that's normal. I will say that my legs hurt far less today than they did after Leatherwood.
Nothing too special for the race. Most everything has been tested over time. I started with gloves, t-shirt, two shorts, and a buff. I would eventually cycled through two tank tops before going to a long sleeve shirt and then to a thermal shirt with a t-shirt over it and a winter hat.
I listed them above.
Finish - 43.75 miles - 15:59:35