Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Javelina Jundred 100 mi

I met up with EKP, Paul, and the rest of the crew to drive out to Arizona at lsdchris' favorite Denny's in Beaumont, CA. We had a grand time driving out in an RV that EKP had rented for the occasion. You could literally smell the excitement in the air, or maybe that was my pair of recently broken in Golites waiting for their inaugural race alongside the standby pair of tried and trues from AC. EKP and Paul were both excited and nervous about their first 100 miler. We arrived shortly after 7pm. The official party had ended, but we were warmly received and dinner was thrown together for us. Jamil, the RD, was in good spirits. He made some comment about me seeming to enjoy Arizona races. Hey, if that's where the good desert races are being held. While I was digging through my goody bag and comparing the bib # I had received with the shirt I had on, Running with the Devil, which depicts a devilish figure with a bib #666 pulling a penguin in a rickshaw, Kirk walks up with a lovely brunette who says, "Hey, I know that face and that shirt, too!" To which I responded, "I get to play the devil in this one!" Kirk was a bit taken back that the gal who had asked for his assistance in the parking lot that he was guiding to the registration area happened to be Joyce, the well-known RD for Running with the Devil and a dozen other races in the Nevada area that go under the banner of Calico Racing. An accomplished triathlete, she was here to run her second 100 miler; having just run Boulder in October. Welcome to the dark side! It wasn't long after we hit the sack that it was time to get up and make our way to the start area. Yeah, the night went that fast. Hail, Hail, the gangs all here! The usual pre-ultra excitement was electrifying as we all gathered around the start area waiting for the word that would begin a run whose end was so far out in the future it wasn't worth considering at this point in time. When they say go - just run. Worrying about finishing a 100 miler is like worrying about what you will wear tomorrow and you haven't even gotten out of bed today. Old friends, new friends, runners, pacers, crew, iMichelle, Robo, EKP, Tracy, Paul, Josh, Ashley, Jill, Joyce, Leigh, Gabor, Kirk, all had gathered around for the festivities. All are anxious for the experience of a lifetime. 100s are like births, deaths, marriages, and baptisms. They're profound experiences and you only get so many of them in life. God put two things on this earth to excite, inspire, and humble men; women and 100s, and not necessarily in that order. Substitute whatever floats your boat for any noun in that last sentence except the 100 part. That's the part that united us all on Saturday, the rest are incidental. 3 - 2 - 1 - GO! Off we went - 147 runners into the dark morning in the Arizona desert. What a rush! Tapering sucks! We were like school children heading out onto the playground for recess - such glee! Excited chatter could be heard for hours as we headed out in a clockwise direction that would be experienced three times (for 15.3 miles each) as well as three times in reverse, followed by the oh-so-fun 8.7 mile "victory" lap with a glow necklace wrapped around your neck that bounced around and found its way into your mouth more often than not, but, I'm getting ahead of myself. There are 2 aid stations out on the course, as well as the start/finish area, each separated by approximately 5 miles of various types of desert terrain. There's the long rocky steeper part, although nothing's steep on this course this part is as steep as it gets and it seems to get steeper each visit, regardless of which direction you're headed, and there's the long sloping sandy part followed by several small washes that have slightly deeper sand in them that seem to suck you in like beach sand. It's a beautiful desert. You see enough of it not to get bored, but see it often enough that you start naming places and things; a rock here, a cactus there. As the runners begin to spread out, you become familiar with their placement on the course relative to you, as well. Ok, there's dude with the arrow in his head, should be seeing dude with the wonder woman costume any minute now, yeah, there he is, "Hey baby, couple more passes like this I may just propose, you're looking so fine in those stars and stripes with the little fruit shaped..., Oh, hi Michelle, did you get a look at the guy in the Wonder Woman outfit just up ahead? Silly, huh?!" Did I mention this race was also a costume party? After the first loop I determined that gatorade just wasn't going to be the drink de jour. I ran a 5 mile section without drinking anything just to settle my stomach, don't kill me Dawg, and after a whole banana at the next aid station switched to pure iced water with S-caps for the remainder of the run. It was working. I didn't touch a single Gu on this one. Heading out on the 3rd loop, the midday sun really began to lay in on us. Lots of runners became visibly distressed. One, who will remain nameless, commented that now it was starting to become not so fun anymore. She managed to finish off a nice 100K finish, however. It was about this time that Rob began to have trouble with his hamstring. I found him like the Pirates of the Carribean, sitting on a barrel, sharing a bottle with Kirk, singing drunken sailor songs near the start/finish area at the end of lap 3. Darn Kirk, such a bad influence. Gonna have to send him back to that wild west Inland Empire from whence he came, contributing to the delinquency of Coto's finest; shameful. ...and in front of his young son on his birthday, too! Rob went on to finish another lap for a respectable 100K finish. Heal well and heal quickly, my dear running friend! BTW, loved the star pasties! Somewhere along the way a huge rattle snake found its way onto the course. I counted 8 rattles and guessed him to be about 6 feet long; big fellow. After alerting others, I continued on, only to be startled by a loud shriek that got me turned around just in time to see a runner about 3 feet in the air looking like he was trying to fly. Wow, dude, that's gonna take a toll on your run, probably ended up costing him about 20 minutes off his time in spent energy. He was just so focused he missed the 3 runners standing nearby pointing at it and wondered what the word snake meant - oh, you mean SNAKE! I thought about draping him around my neck and bringing him back to the start/finish area to keep Kirk company during the hours his runners were out on the course, but decided the extra weight wasn't worth it. Sorry Kirk, I'll put some extra cross fit into my training so I can accomodate you next time, especially after your lovely offering of little potatoes so delicately handled with a rubber glove; such a touching moment, umm, never mind. At the end of the fourth loop it began to get dark. I'm not sure how they got there, but someone had left a half dozen horses to hang out in one of the washes. Going on my experience from Man Against Horse, I made sure that I spoke loudly and "let them know I was a person." Rave dude, with his Reggae music blaring, saw me talking to the horses and stopped to ask what it meant. I think he may have thought I had found something good to smoke out there and he wanted to get in on the action. A little further down the trail, I asked Mexican Bandito dude if maybe he had lost his horses. About this time I came into JA aid station and could see some runners were down. One was laid out in a cot and the other was sitting hunched over in a chair draped in a blanket. I didn't want to look. I knew what it meant. Unfortunately, as I reached out to chow down on those pieces of burrito I had craved for the last 2 miles, I heard a voice say very quietly, "LT, it's me I hurt my ankle and can't continue." I knew that voice. It was EKP. It hurt to look up into his face and acknowledge what was. He looked and sounded very dejected. I consoled him as best I could. What does one say in a moment like that? I hope he finds the opportunity to make another attempt. The night came, cool and bright. I had a waist, head, and hand lamp to guide me if necessary. I only really needed them through the rocky section of the course. For over 10 miles in either direction I ran in the dark, allowing the moon and my night vision to keep me upright and headed in the right direction. I shared the night with Scrappy and didn't see too many other runners heading in the same direction. She seemed to thrive on the darkness as I did. We didn't speak much, but did share a few words. We arrived at the aid stations around the same time and she would lead out only to have me catch up each time. It became a game with neither one of us trying all that hard to break away, but eventually I moved on ahead and didn't see her again until the end. She was so cheery - smiled right to the end. No cranky runner there. Three miles out from the start/finish area a group of runners passed me in the opposite direction. It was hard to tell who they were in the dark, but my "howdy" received a gruff, "pick it up LT, quit goofing off!" It startled me and I almost fell over my own two feet, that was Kirk with Michelle. Before I could reply, they were gone. Good luck, Michelle I spoke into the night. At 23:30 hours into the run I came into the start/finish area to begin my "victory" lap. Nonstop I came in and looped back around to head out. I was chased down and told I needed a glow necklace to make the turn onto the shorter trail back to the finish. After taking almost a full minute for it to be attached, it turned out to be nothing but a pain. 'nuff said on the glow necklace. I was about 3 miles into this loop when I came across Jill Childers. We stopped to chat for a few just about the time the sun was beginning to rise. This woman is incredible. How does anyone run so many miles and look so fresh? With not a sweat stain to be seen, no salt rings around her face, a freshly pressed pink running skirt, and a bright and cheery hello, she looked like she was simply running down to the local Starbucks to have a cup of coffee and a scone for breakfast somewhere in San Diego. What a doll. She was pushing mile 88 at this point. She asked me how my run was going. Great, I guess! I still have the shinier side up. I'm ready for the finish, though, I said. Further up the trail I came across Team Spew, Rick Bearden. He had twisted his ankle and was making his way back to the start. I've run several races with Rick, including AC and Running with the Devil, and it was a tough break to see him hobbling along. He's a tough cookie. Heal quickly, running man. Then, in what seemed like the first time in the entire run, I came across Paul E. He seemed a bit quiet, casually mentioned a little blister problem, muttered a few words of grit and determination, and headed on in to get his necklace. I guess it's one of those things that you want and when you get it you wish you didn't have it. I'm not mentioning the necklace again. Finally arriving at JA aid station, I chastised them for moving it further out on the course since I was last there, but thanked them for being such gracious hosts for the last 24 hours and following the man's final instructions I headed 2.7 miles downhill to the Pemberton trail that we had been running on for the past day and then made a left for the final mile to the finish. TQ was an angel. She helped me out after the finish, making sure I got something to eat and drink. She even helped me carry my stuff back to the vehicle. I whined about having to carry my number another couple hundred yards. Only 72 runners finished the full 100 miles. This race has got one heck of an attrition rate for being so "easy". Beware of the Javelina!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Man Against Horse 50 mi

Standing at the start of Man Against Horse was, as usual at ultras, low key. The difference this time was that there were several dozen horses staring down their noses at us runners. I know there are other races where horses are present, however in this race you're actually competing with them. One strange thing I noticed after we started was that it was easy to forget about the riders on the horses. It was almost as if they were an afterthought. OK, there were a couple of them that couldn't be missed in those tight riding pants that they wear, although very few had the physique of a runner; you know, that thin tight butt we all sport from all the miles we put in. Several looked like a double-decker from the rear, if you know what I mean. (Hey, it's my recap, I'm just describing what I saw) I almost had to remind myself not to greet the horses as they passed, but the riders. I'd be eyeballing the horse and talking to the whole object of horse and rider. I guess it works both ways because I had several riders tell me to talk so the horse knew I was a person. The first time I heard it I thought of Kirk and his Yetti jokes, but then remembered I had heard this years ago from riders in Germany. Fortunately, if one would pass me I could remind myself that none of them were in my age group. Horses don't get that old. I guess they don't pace themselves either, as most of the day I passed and was passed by many of the same horses and riders. My pace, if anything, was steadily diminishing until the last 6 miles. The course itself was very technical with lots of rocks and deep sand - not a runner's course, for sure. The climb up Mingus Mountain was very tough and just about the time I started up it the wind started gusting and big raindrops began to fall. I was wearing my usual shorts and sleeveless shirt. I haven't worn a jacket other than for early morning runs in almost ten years. I put on a garbage bag and Moeben sleeves and managed to survive it. It took me ages to ascend. I got so tired at one point I could hardly keep my balance. I was reduced to a slow walk. The three inches of mud collecting on my shoes didn't help. Several runners passed me power walking while I was struggling to get one foot in front of the other. When I got to the top there was a guy in a truck who mumbled through a cracked window that he was measuring 47 degrees, figured the gusts were 30 mph, and if you need anything, check the back of the truck inside the shell. Later, at another aid station, and after the rain had stopped, I found 4 women sitting around in chairs chatting. They noticed me standing there puzzled and pointed at a table 30 feet away with a box on it and said, if you need anything, it's there in the box, take whatever you like. It didn't take long to realize who was the afterthought in this race. Many of the aid stations had water only. As I ran through the mid-30 mile range I really felt weary. I'm not sure if it was the unexpected cold, the lack of sleep, or if I was still recovering from AC 3 weeks ago, or all of the above. I also began to get an ache in my left shin just above my ankle. I actually considered DNFing. I arrived at an aid station that I thought was mile 38 and had my towel ready to hand in. I was so tired I couldn't even throw it in. It was mile 40. I like to say, if you get to mile 40 you only have 10 miles to go. Damn it all, I was going to finish this thing. Six miles out I passed several horses. It was encouraging. There was one last one and a half mile mountain descent, a two mile section of wash, and two miles of open field to go. Coming down the mountain I could see a group of three horses closing in on me about a half mile back. It wasn't the two I had just passed. I pushed. Down in the wash the sand was deep. It was like running on the beach. Years of running in Joshua Tree made this section feel like home. I was averaging 7:45 according to my Garmin. I was not gonna let one single horse pass me now. I can't explain what happened going up that mountain but now something had changed. I was a new man. I could have crawled the last section and made the cutoff. I could have run 4 minute miles and it wouldn't have improved my time any. What mattered now was that the run felt good and I was determined to not let one more horse or runner get ahead of me. It was a race within a lost race. At the end of the wash there was one last aid station. I stopped long enough to fill a bottle. I looked back to see if I could see the three horses, but couldn't. I asked the guy at the aid station where the finish was. As close as I was it had to be in view. He pointed between two hills and said, there, that's your goal. I was off again with only two miles to go. This section was solid dirt. It felt good. My Garmin says I was averaging 6:42. I came across a Javelina on the way. I wasn't going to stop for him. I think he figured this out at the last moment because he bolted just as I got to within ten feet of him. Good thing for both of us. I heard a voice and looked back. The three horses were within view again. It kept me pushing. This was a marathon pace. Where the heck was this energy earlier in the race when I could have used it. I crossed the finish 200 yards ahead of the three horses. There were still at least 2 others out on the trail that I knew of and three runners I had passed in the last section. Overall, it wasn't a race to write home about, but it was very gratifying and I learned a bit about myself. I learned that just because you think your run is over, even though you know your race is over, doesn't mean you need to quit. I run because I love to run. Competition is great fun, but the last few races have reminded me of why I really run. I'm guessing I should spend some quality time recovering if I want to get my race back, but my run is healthy, thank you very much. Hi, my name is LT, and I'm a non-recovering runaholic. It's been two days since I beat at least 5 horses in a 50 mile run...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tahoe 50 mi

I arrived in Carson City in the afternoon, just in time to meet up with Sue and Eric and head over to the Nevada State Capitol building to pick up our race packets and check in. Afterwards, we piled into Sue's car to head over to the starting area to get a feel for the place. Sue and Eric wanted to hang out up at the elevation the race would be run at. I firmly believe it takes more than a few hours the day before the race to adjust to higher elevation, but who am I to stand between runners and their rituals. We drove around the lake a bit, also, and stopped for Chinese food. It's a beautiful area. A lot of runners were hanging around the hotel when we returned. I asked the front desk about breakfast. Sure, it's included with the rooms, said the nice lady at the front desk, starts at 6 a.m. Gee, you're gonna have a lot of empty tables and leftover food. We had to be up and out in the lot to meet the bus that would take us all to the start area at 4:30. We were out there just in time to see a completely packed bus close its doors and leave, as we were told a second bus would be arriving shortly. No more than 6 of us would board that second bus and arrive at the carnival-like atmosphere of the check-in area about 25 minutes later. There were a lot of people. Generators were supplying power for numerous lights. There were tents and tables everywhere. We got our numbers and were told to head over to the starting area. There we were briefed on the usual things. Follow these ribbons, watch for those obstacles. Don't forget there will be a new aid station midway on the 9 1/2 mile out and back for the 50 mile course. It is difficult to get to it, so there will only be water available there. Please don't take more than you will need to get you to the other side. There was a countdown and we were off. It had been 3 weekends since my last 50 and it would be exactly one week until my next. Reminds me of growing up Catholic. Bless me father for I have sinned, it has been 3 weeks since my last ultra. Go in peace my child. For your penance say 5 Hail Mary's, 3 Lord's Prayers, and run another 50 miler this weekend.
The plan was to go out at a pace that would leave me feeling comfortable at the end. I wanted to imagine I would be doing a second loop like the 100 milers who were there that day; part of my training for the Angeles Crest 100 in September. All was going as planned. The aid stations were fantastic. They had huge tents and outdoor carpeting. All had power and covered resting areas. One aid station was even making smoothies in a blender. They were delicious; fresh fruit like strawberries and bananas with Ensure and ice. I should have gotten the recipe. I went around the sandy loop of a trail that drops to the lowest point of the course and climbs back out again; the part of the course with the worst reputation, but I didn't find it to be all that bad. I've seen worse. I got to the aid station just prior to the out and back and filled a 20 oz. bottle that would more than cover me for a distance that was supposed to be no greater than 4 miles. At mile 4 the bottle was empty and I already knew what had happened. Some of the 100 milers who had started earlier that morning were beginning to return and tell us that there was no midway aid station. You had to get to the other side. Great. I knew I couldn't run another 5 miles in the sun with no fluids so I began to walk. By the time I got to within less than a mile of the aid station on the far side, a hiker came along and gave me a 16 oz. bottle of water. I must have looked pretty bad, or sounded really bad. I was cursing the RD for such an egregious oversight. I mean, if there wasn't going to be an aid station, just tell us. I had 3 bottles with me. I would have filled all 3 and been just fine. Does taking that bottle of water count as illegal aid in a race? Somewhere in this section I saw AK and Catra. They were looking great. I hadn't seen them since the Unknown. I think this was like their 8th 100 miler this year. Just as I got to within view of the next aid station I came across Keira. She didn't have anything nice to say about the missing aid station when I mentioned it, but seemed a bit more upbeat now. When I got to it, myself, I mentioned it in passing when they asked. They were well aware of the problem now and I wasn't going to waste my breath on the obvious. There were a lot of people there cheering on their runners and providing a lot of enthusiasm to everyone who came up the trail. The long walk really had me discouraged at this point, though. I wasn't wanting to set any PRs here, but that delay was not in the plan either. I kept telling myself to get used to the unexpected, that's part of my goal of getting experience this year, and that was about as unexpected as it gets. OK, put the coke down, fill all 3 bottles this time, and start back. I really didn't want to put up with listening to myself moan and complain the whole rest of the race about something that couldn't be helped at this point. So, I vowed to mentally drop it and make up for a little lost time on the way back. That seemed to work. AK and Catra were just arriving at the aid station as I left. Somewhere along the way back I came across the now present "missing aid station". Of course, I had enough fluids to run a dozen miles now, but I thanked the guy for making the journey out there for us. By the time I hit the aid station with the smoothies I was my happy go lucky self again. It's amazing what a few miles of running will do for the soul. You really are the person you choose to be. Somewhere along the way the lead runner of the hundred mile race ran by in the other direction. I told him he looked strong and wished him luck. He nodded and continued. Ten minutes later, on a trail so wide it was almost a fire road, another runner came into view. I stayed on my side of the trail fully expecting him to stay on his side of the trail. As he approached, I noticed how muscular he was and that he was now running on my side of the trail, glaring at me. It wasn't until he was about 10 feet out that I realized he wasn't going to move back over and wondered aloud, Oh, you're gonna run me down? He didn't bat an eye and just kept coming. Big mistake dude. We struck each other like we were on the line at a football game. He was flung sideways and over onto his side of the trail and nearly fell as I continued unscathed. As he cursed and muttered about what an idiot I was I told him he should lay off the steroids and do some real strength training. I could hear him hurling insults at me as I continued on. Steroids will do that to you. They make you angry and aggressive, but they also give you big useless muscles and tiny little testicles. I know he was hurting. Last thing I heard him holler was about how he was going to sue me for injuring his shoulder. Save your breath dude, you got over 40 miles of running left to go and by the way, you should have stayed on your own side of the trail. The sad thing is he probably placed in the 100 mile race. Time to start drug testing at ultra events? The next person I came across is a real athlete. I didn't have to worry about Krissy Moehl playing chicken with me on the trail. She looked fantastic. I told her as much. She didn't nod, mumble, or return any pleasantries; just kept running strong. Strangely, I didn't see any other runners along the way until I got much closer to the end and started to pass a few going in my direction.
There are some fantastic views within the last 15 miles of the course, although the last few are relatively dull. There were numerous groups of people heading out to look for their runners, also, which was a little unnerving since it was all single-track at that point. My Garmin had died so I asked one of them how far to the end. He pointed at some trees across the lake and said, Just over there. It was probably another mile and a half before I came around a bend in the trail, the trees and bushes cleared, and there it was, the finish. There were signs indicating that the 50 mile finishers should stay to the left and the 100 milers should go to the right. It wasn't a very exciting finish for me, but I asked myself as I approached, Could I take the right lane and run another loop? I believe the answer is yes, but I veered to the left knowing that it would have to wait for another day.