100mi attempt: 50mi run
I cannot ask for a better weather forecast. Everything is lining up perfectly. I feel great, well rested, and have in the past few months run more than a few very good long runs. I usually know when I'm going to have a good run, and I now know I'm set up for just that: a really good run. Doesn't happen often any more, so I'm enjoying the lead-up, and even a bit anxious, that is... until I feel an irritating little tingle in my throat. Not a good sign at all! Usually, the tingle is a precursor to a cold sickness, but can be just a spot of allergy irritation. Either way, for a throat that's about to be a very important conduit for nutrition and breathing in lots of cold air, it's a very bad sign.
40 hours later, on a cold Saturday morning, my throat is already raw when the race starts. I've been training and planning for this race for a half-year, so I'm excited to finally be going, and can only hope to suffer through the throat pain, because everything else seems to be in excellent working order. Used to be, this race was 100mi & 50mi with just a few relay runners, but this year, a 75mi & 25mi were added. The 75mi is odd, but of little concern, but the 25mi adds a twist I don't care for. Out the gate and up the jeep road, we're packed in tight, until Lucky Peak, where we thin down a bit on the climb. I go over with Kuss, Richard, and January with plenty of room. All this is very familiar and comfortable to us, and it gives us a good 10 to 12 min window with which to enjoy each other's company... until the 25mi pack catches us in the flats.
About 2 miles in, passing near the Lodge (I can hear the noise thru the woods) before I have somebody hot on my ass, clipping my heels. It was 5am when we started and still very dark. I turn and ask if they want to pass. No response! Maybe I'm just an idiot after all, and clipping my heels is her not so subtle way to say, get the hell out of my way! She clips me again, so I step off trail and let her pass, only to realize she's just the first of 40 people... all tucked in nice and tight, with not much room for a full stride between one and the next. Damn! I wanted her off my ass, but don't feel like waiting 5 minutes to start running again. But I do wait because there's no way to get back in without being an ass to somebody else. Eventually, they pass, and I get back on path. With Yaya station in sight, I catch up to Kuss, Richard, and January in time to hear them talking about the same herd that stampeded them, and how glad they're gone. We'll get more later, but in smaller packs than the one huge mob that ran us over. No thanks for the 25 miler! The rabbits just don't merge well with the old established 50 & 100 mile turtles.
Kuss pushes ahead at Yaya to not be seen again, chasing the 25 milers. I forgot he was in the 25mi too. Richard & January have been training together for years, so they're tuned in to one another, running lockstep, while I feel like an interloper. My manner and style is so unorthodox, I don't usually line up with anybody. I tend to switch from pushing the pace to backing down and walking at odd intervals. Might even find me sitting on a rock, taking a sit break here and there, managing my energy as it suits me. I can keep going as long as I don't blow it with a long sustained surge.
Last year I ran the 50mi here in 14:55. I had a great 35 miler before the heat ramped up and kicked me in the teeth. I had a complete meltdown: saw dark spots and near to blacking out. I sat and recovered more than a few times on the climbs. Anyway, its much cooler this year, so I don't expect a meltdown and might even run the first two 25mi laps about the same as last year. I created a timing sheet with last year's splits for Joyce. Even if I'm off, she'll still have a good idea how to track me. I manage to stay near R&J through the flat bottom rock creek, across the road, and into the rock garden (new this year). Chiquita Falls has stepping stones for a dry crossing (which Richard is thankful for), then Bar-O, and 2 mile creek trail that twists in and out of a dry creek all the way to Nachos. This is first of my 3 major drop bags (Nachos, Equestrian, Lodge). I'm using the other two stations (Yaya, Boyles) for drop bags too, but only as emergency stops. I didn't want to set myself up for long delays at every aid station.
I've been using Tailwind in my water from the start, another at Yaya, and again here (Nachos). That and the two bars (coconut & Kind), plus the peanut butter sandwich I walk out with, and I begin to wonder if I'm starting with way too much fuel. The first 9 miles were flat and easy, compared to whats next. The hills begin here and continue to the Lodge (16 miles). R&J pushing the pace out of here, but for now... I have no problem hanging near, even manage to go in front over Ice Cream Hill. A ripple of hills follow Ice Cream Hill, and then up and over to the base of the Sisters. Sharp left to skirt around the girls, only to climb the other side and come back up and over from the other side. R&J get in front on the wraparound road, but Richard stops on top to text his daughters, so I go on without them. Dropping down the other side to the same intersection, and left to the Devils's intersection (6,6,6a). Left again through a nasty little rugged romp to the big superhighway and flat easy jeep road to Equestrian.
Joyce is waiting for me with a smoothie in hand. I forgot how raw my throat was until I had this wonderfully soothing cool balm pour down my throat. I moan with pleasure just as R&J run in. Henry comes in next, surprised to catch me. Thought you'd be at Boyle's by now, he says. Actually, Joyce puts in, ya'll are dead on Joe's splits from last year. You guys are all doing very well. R&J lead me out, but I'm having a bit of a shoe problem, so I stop to fix it. It takes a good bit longer than expected, so when I'm repaired, R&J are gone. There's a lot of places I can see a long way: along the traverse, around the two hills, under the saddle, and down the other side. But, I cant see anybody anywhere. Down the big ol fat jeep road and up the long climb to Sky Island, Henry catches me about the same time I catch R&J. Henry's in the 50, but his plan was to run one 25mi loop and then take a break, then pace me on the 3rd loop. He's in no hurry for a guy who's running well. The four of us make the Sky Island loop and see Nancy Marks going up as we head down. I've know Nancy for a long time and I also know she likes to use me to pull her along, so I tell the gang, she's going to speed up and catch us.
Boyles is next and Henry has a cooler full of cold drinks, so we stop for a quick drink. Nancy comes in within minutes, turns and heads up Boyles Climb with R&J behind her. I'm starting to feel a little low, so the climb is slow and tedious. R&J are moving well and gone again, while Henry and I slowly make our way. I find a soft grassy area on top and it looks so inviting, I lay down flat on my back for a few moments (Reminds both Henry & I of another similar circumstance at the Arkansas 100). I make a grass angel before I get up. The rest of the loop, over and down is a mix walk/run that could have been a lot faster, and should have been, but I'm frazzed. Hate to say it, but its much the same at the next up and over at Cairn's as well. Basically, the entire last 5 miles from Boyle's to the Lodge is a dog fight between me and myself. Loop one is faster than what I ran last year, but not as good a finish as I would have liked.
Joyce has some hot food for me when I arrive. I change shoes and everything else, reload my water bottle, have a reasonable refuel stop, and escape. I had way too much Tailwind on loop one (bloated stomach), so I lay off the substance for loop two. R&J had come in 5 mins ahead of me and leave 5 mins ahead as well. Henry is done for now, so I start loop two alone. Its much hotter now, and I've just eaten, so its hard to run, but I try, so its more of a walk mixed with a few running strides now and again. I pass Ryan just before I reach Cairn's, and then Laz, and over the next 5 miles, many others I know. My dubious run pattern remains the same for much of this section, but does finally get loose and become more of a run across the top and down off Boyle's. Joyce is waiting for me. This is an unplanned surprise. She knew what kind of state I was in when I left Lodge and decided to make this stop to check on me and assist if she can. The avocado she brought is perfect for the moment and I eat the entire thing. She also tells me I made the return trip here faster than I did the earlier loop. This surprises me, as I'm not moving well at all, but how I feel and how I run does not always correlate. Good news is now I'm feeling much better, so the next section over Sky Island goes much better and I arrive at Equestrian well under last year's time. I simply cant see how I'm suddenly ahead of the game, from the 'How-I-Feel' perspective. I also catch R&J again. Joyce has another smoothie for me (strawberries, blueberries, bananas, apple juice). Its hard to describe exactly how good this damn thing tastes and also how good it feels on my throat. It's getting hard to eat anything else. The coconut bars and the Kind bars hurt my throat. The only thing that feels good is anything cold.
The next section is the long one, and I'm worried about running out of water, so I take my hydration pack. I load it with an extra water and a cold sprite. Last year, this is where the meltdown occurred. But the weather's comfortable now: slight cool breeze, not too hot, and I'm once again running well. R&J go out ahead of me from Equestrian and they're much faster than me on the flats, so I don't expect to see them for a bit this time. I run more of the big ol fat jeep road than I thought I was capable of, and also do pretty well up to the Devil's Intersection, and even the Sisters. I seem to be climbing well, and summit quickly, but this is all within a vacuum with nobody else around. More likely, I'm crawling, and my perspective is all whacked out. On top of Sister3, I see R&J on Sister2, so I push a little harder. On Sister2, I see them in the saddle between 2&1. Again, I hump it over and up Sister1. They're just ahead, so I catch R&J with Nancy as well descending off the final Sister.
Once again, we're on the big ol fat jeep road, the section with a hump in it, thru the campsite, up to the intersection switching yard, and down to the trail leading over Ice Cream Hill. I'd been pushing too hard and I'm starting to lose my edge again, so I stop for a sit break and let them go. The Ice Cream trail has a few big rollers on it, like big 30 foot waves between Ice Cream and the Sisters, and I find the perfect sitting rock to take a break. I take the Sprite out and drink it (slowly), then get going again. No blacking out or spots today and I'm glad for it. As much as I'm struggling, I am still so much better than I was last year. I'm getting better at letting the race and the runners go on without me, and taking the time to rest and repair. My energy is low, so I'm not running very far before I walk. It aint pretty, but I can run a hop-a-long rhythm where a grunt defines the transition from run to walk and back again. All in all, I feel pretty good about how it's going when I pass R&J again, and roll into Nachos.
Joyce is once again waiting for me with another glorious smoothie, and Ryan is with her. I wasn't expecting to see him, but there's no reason to even ask, as its pretty obvious: he's out! Damn! I'm sorry to see that. Last I knew he was doing well. R&J as well as Nancy come in soon after. We get what we need. Joyce suggests we take a jacket, we may be coming in after dark. I stuff a jacket and a light in my pack. I tell Joyce not to worry about Yaya. I'll see her next at Lodge at the 50mi point.
R&J lead me out, leaving Nancy behind, still in her drop bag. R&J have their short stride, quick step rhythm going again, and I'm beginning to power down again. I so much hate these flat sections, that my bad attitude might possibly be killing my energy flow. I let them go, but do reconnect now and again. Its probably when they take their own breaks, that I catch up, but whatever it is, we are certainly out of sync. Nancy catches up by Yaya and the four of us are once again together, however disjointedly. The only thing thats been constant all day are R&J. At one point, I realize Richard might be on the same level of drag-ass as I am right now. But January looks strong. I ask her about it: You look strong, so why are still running with us plodders? Can't be more than 15 minutes after, January moves out front, and Nancy goes after her. Richard and I struggle to stay connected. As we approach Lucky Peak, the girls have a big enough gap, I cant see them anymore. I've been dropped many times today, so no surprise, but what is surprising is Richard is no longer lock-step with January.
I've been hearing the chirping of birds for a while, and it takes a while to figure the sound is coming from within. It's my own raw and congested throat. My head and nose are clear, so it has to be some sort of mucus drainage in my throat and chest. I can hear the wheeze clearly and wonder how bad this is going to be tonight when the temp plummets. Daylight begins to fade as we struggle up and over Lucky Peak. It's right at 7pm, and I'd assumed we'd lose light around 7:30, so it surprises me how quickly shadows lengthen while we scramble down. It's getting harder to see as we come off the hill and reach the flat single-track section. And thats exactly where Richard gears up and blows by. When I reach the jeep road at Butterfly Springs, they're gone. I cant seem to do any more than I've already been doing, so I keep on as best I can.
I come in to Lodge and see Henry first, then Joyce. I cross the timing mat, then tell Joyce I need to see Becky about my throat. I'd like for her to look at it and see what sort of trouble I might be in. First I go over to my drop bag and drop a few things, then head to the house to see Becky. I ask her about my throat, about the same time Henry peels off my shoes, and Joyce goes to get some tape to retape my heels. Becky says I'll do that, so she takes her own tape and begins to tape my heels. I try to explain its my throat I want her to check. She says its the dust and the cold. Joyce sees that Becky is doing the tape so she goes to warm some hot food instead, brings back some mac&cheese. I have the bowl in hand and before I take a bite, begin to shake. I give Joyce the bowl back and tell her, maybe I should lay down for some sleep, 15 mins or so. Suddenly I'm exhausted, even nodding off, when I hadn't felt sleepy when I came in. What about my throat? It hurts so bad. I hear more chirping from my chest! What the hell. I'm having a problem communicating now. Becky fires back responses before I get the questions out. My shaking gets worse. On the way to a bed in the next room, they realize, or maybe I realize they already know I'm heading towards hypothermia. I'm herded towards the bed, they cover me, tuck me in. Everybody leaves except Joyce, and she asks if I can eat. Sure would love some smoothie (to ease my throat). No, I don't think thats good for you right now. How about some hot broth? No, sounds awful. Maybe I can stomach some hot chocolate, though. She brings it and I drink only half a small cup. How about the smoothie? No, Becky wont let me give you any. I want to sleep now. The bed is so comfortable, but I cant stop shaking. Joyce checks my hands, arms, head: says I'm frozen. Hell, I wasn't when I came in. Maybe my immune system has tanked due the throat problem. Yea, hey, about my throat? Anybody going to check it? 15 minutes later, I give them my chip, tell Henry I'm out. Joyce takes me to our room 5 miles down the road (Ranch 1077). I take a hot shower, drop into bed, sleep the sleep of the dead for 12 hours.
I feel fine in the morning, but my throat is still raw. I get my damned smoothie out of the freezer and eat it. Hard to believe how quickly my game came undone. Not that I was in A+ shape when I came in, but I felt I was doing pretty well for the damage done. Legs are good. Stomach's ok, not great. I certainly needed more calories, but thats a struggle I always play with. Richard came out a few hours later, also with hypothermia issues. The temps plummeted to freezing that night. January holds on and gets it done. So happy for her. 95% of my body feels great, ready to go right now, but my throat and chest are still dealing with congestion and a raw burn. Still need to heal up before I think past this. Ended up running the 50mi split a little faster than I ran the 50mi last year. Made it easy for Joyce to track me during the race, being so close to the same times I did last year. All is good. Had some big fun. Looking forward to the next one