Sunday, September 26, 2010

Do-Wacka-D’oh!: A Do-Wacka-Do Race Report

Leading with the biggest news from this event; The GreekGrl won first overall female! I am a very proud husband and coach. She is really looking good for Javelina.

The Do-Wacka-Do 50K takes place at Sandy Sanders Wildlife Management Area just outside Erick Oklahoma. Erick is to be found in the south west part of the state and is where Roger Miller grew up. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t have a clue who Roger Miller was prior to this race, which benefits his museum, but you should check him out as he has written a few songs that are instantly recognizable American classics that I suspect 99% of people would not attribute to him.

So, the wildlife that appears to be managed at Sandy Sanders includes tarantulas, millipedes, black snakes of some sort, numerous of large black beetles, grasshoppers as thick as rice at a wedding and three white tail deer. I’m sure there is more, for example the GeekGrl said she saw a variety of giant black beetle with huge orange wings that they were apparently flying around one particular part of the course.

I’ve lived all over Texas, even parts very close to the Oklahoma boarder and generally in the west and southwest most of my life and this is rough country. The wildlife tends not to be fuzzy and snuggly and there is little about the land that is gentle or forgiving.

I was expecting this race to be somewhat difficult if only because of the anticipated heat and humidity. I always do poorly in the heat and I really haven’t ever run anywhere that was humid, at least nothing longer than a 5K. The high temperature for the day was 87 degrees and when the race began it was 90% humidity. For most of the race it remained humid, 82% by 11:00, 74% at noon and still 56% when I finished. For me this was like breathing water. I was soaked within the first couple miles and by the end of the first of two loops my shoes were as wet as if I had been doing stream crossings. The humidity pretty much prevented me from cooling off because, of course, the sweat didn’t evaporate. The only thing that kept me somewhat cool were the lower temperatures that mercifully extended fairly late into the morning because of some early cloud cover.

This was an interesting race for me because I was really only doing it for three reasons, the GeekGrl needed one last tune-up race before Javelina, she also happened to still need an Oklahoma marathon and I really liked the name of the race.

Any name, race information or quirky sounding organization causes me to really want to do the race because I imagine the race director has a laid-back personality and good sense of humor, two qualities that I really love in a race director. This race had it all, the name, a "primitive shower" that ended up being a garden hose and a tarp, and a load of super friendly volinteers all in a small town with home-made food and good conversation after the race. This will end up being one of my more memorible events.

However, beyond these non-reasons for actually doing "a race" I didn’t have any personal goals so I just made two up, one that I could control and one that I couldn’t but was at least related to the first. I decided that I would (1) start by running this race hard (for an ultra) to see how far I could get and (2) try and earn a 50K PR.

The 50K PR was going to be a ridiculous goal to begin with because my 50K PR is on a perfectly flat, non-technical course, that is run at night when it was relatively cool and I was in pretty good shape when I ran it. I’m in better shape now but that course, El Scorcho in Fort Worth Texas, is the easiest course in existence.

The going out hard goal was silly but completely in the spirit of experimentation. I remember one year I hired a triathlon coach just to see if it was worth it and he set up some workouts for me that had me going harder than I had previously thought I could. I was pretty amazed because every time I felt like backing off a bit I could almost feel him standing behind me pushing me to speed up rather than slow down so speed up is what I did and I survived.

I got to wondering, “how hard is too hard for me and how would I know without personal experimentation?” Normally in these things I would go out at a heart rate of 140 and keep it in the low to mid 140s for the entire first half of the race. The next quarter I would let it get into the low to mid 150s and the final quarter I would run in the low to mid 160s with occasional spikes into the low 170s if I’m doing something short lived like a steep climb. This race, I decided to start at a HR in the low to mid 160s and just run that until I finished of blew apart.

The strategy worked for about 21 miles and then…KA-BOOM! It was a glorious explosion the likes of which I have never experienced in a race as short as a 50K. As a matter of fact the only similar experience I have had with such exhaustion was through the heat of the day when I ran the Javelina Jundred though my "run" at Rio Del Lago was a close second. It took me about 2:42 to finish the first loop and then about 4 hours to finish the second. Through about mile 21 I was the first place male and then in a matter of seconds I was in fourth place; there were three guys running side by side the whole race. I passed them in the first mile and as I did I heard one tell the others, "We are going to run just like this for about the next five hours. I thought, "Smart" and then forged ahead into the great unknown.

Anyway, it was fairly miserable for the last 12 miles because I had become badly dehydrated, behind on my nutrition and my stomach wasn’t emptying. The sun came out, the temperature soared but the humidity kept hanging around. Somehow I was able to hold on to 4th overall and won my age group, pretty impressive considering there were 15 people in the 50K and me and one other guy in my age group don’t you think?

So what did I learn? In a 50K or marathon I can probably go out harder than I had previously given myself credit for and if I approach a race fresh and tapered this may result in much faster times. I continue to seem to do disproportionately poorly in the heat. I used to mostly blame that on my size and while I am still, and probably always be a “big” runner, my size has been decreasing more than I think my hot weather running ability has increased. I also learned that, probably also because of the heat, I don’t do well in really humid weather. I know I can do cool and humid I just stay really wet. Hot and dry is bad but hot and humid is the worst.

So, what’s up next? I will be crewing for the GeekGrl and probably JT for the Javelina Jundred and I might try to pick up the state of Louisiana during November in my 50-states quest but other than that the only thing I have planned for this season is three marathons in ten days, December 4th – Death Valley, December 5th – Las Vegas, December 12th – Tucson. Three Marathons, ten days, three states earns me the “Ruthenium” level in the Marathon Maniacs, five stars!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Short and Sweet A Chips & Salsa Half-Marathon Race (Pace) Report

Today was the seventh running of the Chips & Salsa Half-Marathon, a local event that I have never done. In previous years I have always let other things get in the way of showing up at the local running events, other “bigger” races or training for longer races and today it struck me what a shame that is. Local races are fun not to mention convenient and inexpensive. What’s more, they aren’t local races to some people at all. Today when the GeekGrl and I were standing at the start line I overheard two people who are apparently going for their 50 States Half-Marathon tour. I didn’t know people did such things I thought all the 50-staters were marathoners. Just this morning the GeekGrl were wondering if people really did travel to distant cities just to do races that were shorter than a marathon they do.

The other thing that is fun about the shorter distances is all the people who are new to running. You don’t get that in ultras, “Hi, yeah, my name is Candy and this is my very first race! Why did I choose Leadville for my first race? Because it’s so pretty!” Nope, that only occurs at the much shorter distances. I still vividly remember my first half-marathon and it was an amazing experience. I remember getting home and feeling that really good kind of tired. I showered off and lay in bed just saying to myself over and over “I just ran a whole half of a marathon!” It was pretty awesome.

This morning the GeekGrl and I met a woman who was out for her first half-marathon and boy was she excited. She was chattering away trying to calm her nerves. She asked us if we had run many of “these” before to which we replied, “We’ve run a few” and smiled. I didn’t say, “Sure, as a matter of fact I ran 7.65 of them back-to-back last weekend.” I never volunteer my running habits like that so it always makes me wonder who else may be lurking in the crowd, someone I’m sure.
Anyway, this race was part of the GeekGrl’s training plan, kind of an ultrarunning-speedwork day. I went along to see if I could get my legs stretched out and get back into the groove. A week of no running whatsoever is not an easy thing so it felt good to be back out there. I ran alongside the GeekGrl to see if I could help pace her to a half-marathon PR. At the 10K split she broke her 10K PR and by the end of the race she had broken her half-marathon PR by at least a couple minutes. We finished in 2:24:59 according to my Garmin but I think our official time will register a tad faster.

And then, well, then we collected our cool ceramic salsa dish for our finishing prize, went and got my car washed, went home and I mowed the lawn and had plenty of time left over to just lounge around. If I’m not careful I may just discover that you can run AND have a life.
Next up is the inaugural Do-Wacka-Do 50K in Erick Oklahoma…I bet you ALL know exactly where that is without even consulting a map.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Superman Finds His Cape: An Rio Del Lago Finale

I was stunned into bewilderment and my tenuous momentum dissipated like match smoke in a hurricane. Trying to resurface, my mind began a series of silent questions in the hope that it could find some footing. “I have missed the extended cutoff by 15 minutes, 15 minutes, what is the cutoff? What are they telling me? Why are they just staring at me? Fifteen minutes PAST the cutoff?” No foothold was found and I stood there stupidly with my bottles in hand, arms hanging limply by my side. I slowly looked up the trail toward what had so recently been my direction of travel and then dubiously back the way I had come. My mind again retreated to a blissful state of emptiness, a chill shook my body and my feet silently lodged a complaint. Suddenly a large grey beard with broad shoulders sprung from a chair behind the aid table and thrust its face in mine and hissed, “Get out of here, you can’t stop, don’t stop, you cannot stop…EVER.”

In my blunted emotional state my mind achieved a reasonable facsimile of panic and I spun on my heals and bolted from the aid station with the phrase reverberating in my head “you cannot stop…EVER.” As I turned the GeekGrl and RBR were walking toward me and I shouted out “I can’t stop, I need caffeine.” The GeekGrl ran to the car and met me just before I descended the hill atop which Hazel Bluff sits. She thrust two gels at me, both of which contained caffeine and neither of which I had ever tasted before.

Quite frankly I had in mind something more like a quad shot mochaccino with an orange twist, a double tall caramel dulce de leche or, for god’s sake, even a cold cup of burnt Folgers hobo blend but not another F @#%*ing gel! Alas, everyone was doing everything within their powers to keep my ass on the trail and moving forward so I took what I could get and plunged down Hazel Bluff toward the bridge over the American River.

Now I was running on a sidewalk spanning the American River and cars were driving by at irregular intervals. Street lamps lit my way and I moved through the suddenly urban night. My earlier sense of panic had cycled down to a vague anxiety and was now being reborn as determination and focus. “I can’t stop, I can’t stop, I can’t stop” became less the refrain of a frightened animal and more the mantra of a boxer beaten and bruised reentering the ring for one final round.

As you turn off the Bridge over the American River you soon enter a very large, riverside green space complete with shade-covered picnic tables, smooth double-wide “single track” trail and a leisurely looping bike path. It was one of those spaces created by landscape architects that is designed to offer the illusion of being in the wilds but falls well within the survival parameters of our more fleshy and clawless brethren. I found it ironic that I entered such a civilized space at civil twilight and was given a bit of a boost from my newfound affiliation with modernity.

I had about 22 and a half miles to go and with a new day dawning I was finally beginning to return to life. I started to accelerate my walking and to extend my running. I looked at my Garmin and my overall average pace though mile 78 as a whopping 18:58 minute mile. If maintained that would result in a finish time of 31 hours, 41 minutes and 59 seconds. The race had a 30 hour cutoff and I still didn’t know by what amount that time had been extended due to the earlier vandalism on the course. What I did know is that I was firmly within the realm of the walking dead and that I needed to escape.

I was beginning to see people on their return route from the turnaround at Mountain Lion Knoll, very, very few people. The vast majority of those who had at one point been behind me had dropped, all but one. The first person I saw was a man with a heavy Irish brogue that I had met briefly years ago when I was running the Olmstead Loop in Cool California. At that point he was chipper, motoring his way through his first 100 with a smile on his face and a bottle filled with ice. Now he was hobbling painfully and holding onto his pacer’s shoulder in order to keeping himself upright and moving forward. I mustered all my cheer and said, “You’re doing it!” and he just shook his head and hobbled on. I never say the Irishman again.

Next up was Roger. He continued his mincing jog at a dead steady 15 minute pace just like he had the previous 85 miles. He said nary a word as we crossed paths but broke into a broad smile and began to applaud me. I was reminded of what Roger had told me way back at mile 65. “As the night wears on people will get sick, they will continue to drop and our position in the race will get better and better.” I knew this to be a fact having myself dropped at mile 80 in Rocky Raccoon. I have also heard of people dropping as late as mile 90, even mile 93 of a 100 mile race. Now that I was into the new day I knew this would not be my fate. I would have to be pulled or someone would have to shoot me in the face. It was time to turn back the clock.

I picked up my pace further and jogged almost the entire four miles that were left to Mountain Lion Knoll. When I reached the turnaround the GeekGrl and RBR were standing there waiting for me and cheering. The aid station captain looked at his list of runners, looked at my bib number, did a double-take and said, “Well, it looks like Superman finally found his cape.”

The GeekGrl told me she had some caffeine for me that even had some herbal crap in it and I said, “Great, I love me some herbal crap” and with that she handed me a 20 oz Amp Energy drink and I slammed it down like it was a six ounce cup of water. I informed everyone that it was time for me to run and the aid station captain suggested that I drop my hydration pack and one bottle since it was only about three miles between aid station between here and then end of the race. I shed my gear and grabbed my iPod and headed out.

I have put a lot of time and effort into organizing my running playlist since the GeekGrl introduced me to running with music. Even though I rarely race with music I have taken to always carrying my iPod for just the perfect moment. As I left Mountain Knoll for the finish line 17 miles distant Collective Soul’s “Run” slowly began and I could feel myself entering a nice, relaxed running zone. Later the mood shifted to a more determined “Going the Distance” by Cake and I found myself nudging the pace upward. By the time I returned to Hazel Bluff I was ready for blood having just been hit with a dose of “Thunderstruck” and “Hard as a Rock” by AC/DC.

As I reached the top of the bluff there stood the GeekGrl, RBR and Johnny Tri. The aid station volunteer who had earlier told me that I was 15 minutes past the extended cutoff stood staring at me holding his list of runners limply at his side. As if he were

addressing a formerly dead messiah whom he had publically dismissed as a goner he said, “You’ve made up all the time…and gained. Nobody that we let through has done that.” I reminded him of our earlier discourse saying, “Well, you all told me not to stop…ever.”

The GeekGrl came up to me and said, “Are you ready to have JT pace you for a while?” and I said, “Hell yeah!” JT stood there with a huge smile and was ready to rock. The GeekGrl gave me a second Amp, I drank it down then told JT, “Let’s go to work”, we gave each other a high five, pointed ourselves in the direction of the finish line and bolted for the cliff face that was the trail dropping off Hazel Bluff.

At that moment the song “Low Rider” by War came thumping through my headphones. For reasons unknown to me the song Low Rider resonates deeply with me. In my high school year book I was third runner up for “Whitest White Boy of the Senior Class of 1985.” My best friend at the time, Hector Ledesma, used to call me the Campbell’s Soup Kid. Ok, I’m lying, I wasn’t third runner up but I did have a best friend named Hector who, for some reason, could not get enough of the word nalgas.

Anyway, fueled by Amp, by the new day, by the motivation of having JT pacing me and by Low Rider I started to run. I asked JT if there were any runners ahead and how far might they be and he said there were runners ahead but they were quite a way off. I didn’t say anything but my one thought was “Time to go hunting.” My run became faster and faster and I was somehow freed from the shackles of fatigue that had bound me for so long. I ran with abandon, I attacked the hills and went skidding around the turns. I was simultaneously trying to chase down as many people as I could find and trying to outrun JT.

Believe me when I say that I do not know where this strength comes from so late in a race. It comes no matter how badly I have suffered but it is not something I have planned for, it is not a strategy and I don’t secretly hold back until mile 90 and then take off. I do not know from whence it comes but come it does and when it is there I just go like crazy until it is gone.

My morning burst had me flying the entire 4.5 miles from Hazel Bluff to Negro Bar. When I hit Negro Bar the GeekGrl and RBR were still sitting in the car and didn’t have time to do anything but sit there and cheer me on. I filled my bottles and tore off down the trail whooping like an animal. There were several runners strung out through the Negro Bar aid station and beyond and I started picking them off one after another. My running lasted just a little while longer and then I hit yet another hill and ran out of steam. The day had begun to heat up again and I had to conserve what was left to finish the race.

As I walked along I attempted to reflect on my race but I couldn’t put together much in the way of coherent thought. At this point I was also becoming emotionally fried. I just needed someone to be with, someone to walk with me and keep me company because I was not in any shape to be alone. I was swinging from high to low and wanted only to make it to the next aid station, the last aid station. When I arrived the GeekGrl and RBR were there waiting and were aware I had slowed again. I called out to the GeekGrl and asked her to pace me the rest of the way to the finish just like she had at Leadville. She stood by my side and accompanied me to the end.

They say pain is just weakness leaving the body. I’m really not that big on who is “strong” and who is “weak” because we are all both. I enjoy having my weakness. I grapple with it and by knowing it in all its many faces I am able to witness my strength in opposition to it.

One final word. Thank you for reading. I’ve been dying to finish this report specifically because I wanted to thank you. Yes, part of my strength is because, at least in my mind, I know I have weird bloggy peeps who have an interest in me just as I know I have an interest in you.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Deeper Darkness Falls: A Rio Del Lago Race Report Part 2

Gordy was running along at a shuffling gait bare chested with his thick mane of hair and grizzled grey beard looking very much like a lost left-over miner from the California gold strike of 1849. He was wearing some flimsy running shorts that probably came from K-mart, he carried an old-style flashlight that had a regular bulb and probably operated off C or D cell batteries. His flashlight illuminated the trail about as well as an unenthusiastic firefly but there he was putting one foot in front of the other no pretention, no fanfare just Gordy and the darkness; it was amazing.

As he passed us I said “Hey Gordy” and he said “Hi” and just kept on shuffling. I felt humiliated. At that particular moment though I was definitely tired and very sore I was actually feeling ok and all I was doing was taking a brief break to empty my shoes but in all those hours that is when I first saw Gordy. He hadn’t been at the start. Apparently he started about 40 minutes late. He probably woke up and realized that he needed an extra layer of cardboard on the bottom of his Chuck Taylors so was delayed a bit. I put my shoes on as quickly as I could and took off after him with the GeekGrl in my wake. For the first time in hours I was doing something that was a reasonable approximation of running. Within a few minutes I was running stride for stride right behind the Man. He heard me behind him and quietly stepped off the side of the trail to let me pass. I thanked him and he said “no problem” and that was that, I ran with and passed Gordy and it was everything I hoped it would be, he was just a regular guy out there still trying his best, still moving forward after all these years. The heroism of a life well lived has no equal in my book.
Shortly after passing Gordy a headlamp came running up the trail towards us. The runner was yelling “Twin Rocks aid station closes in 15 minutes hurry up!” He blew past us yelling out his warning and suddenly the night was alive with Zombie runners lurching through the dark forest, beams of light swinging wildly as we all did our best to survive yet another aid station closing.

The GeekGrl and I made it in time for me to grab a bit more nutrition and get out. I wasn’t about to stick around to see who all made it and who didn’t and since I was feeling better and I knew the GeekGrl had had a long day I decided to proceed to Cavitt School aid station and the 100K mark on my own.

The next four miles to Cavitt School were completely unremarkable and before I knew it I was running into the school gym and was herded over to the medical check. At weigh-in I was only down by about three pounds so on the whole I was doing good with my nutrition. I was still feeling ok and mostly wanted to just get out of that aid station and get back on the trail. Though nobody was saying anything about cutoff times I knew I was still dangerously close but I didn’t have any idea how close.

I got up out of the medical chair, grabbed my refilled bottles and some food and headed out the door. As soon as I stepped outside I asked the two people standing there which way I was supposed to go. One guy said “I don’t know” and the woman said, “I think you go over the way you came in and then just head out past the fence to the dike.” What the hell? I had just run 62 miles, it was the dead of night and I already knew I had to go back out the way I had come in. What I didn’t know was how to prevent myself from going all the way back EXACTLY the way I had come thus repeating the past 20+ hours of hell. I went back inside the gym and just shouted out to no one in particular, “How do I get out to the lower half of the run?” Just then another runner stood up and said, “Come on, I’ll show you the way.”

I later found out that the runner, Roger, was at that moment planning to drop from the race. He decided he had enough and was going to pack it in when I walked back into the gym lost as a goose. Roger had run Rio Del Lago several times in the past and knew the course like the back of his hand. He decided that he had renewed purpose, to aid a fellow runner in the completion of this monumental task. So Roger and I ambled forth into the night and he embarked on an exhaustive description of the Rio Del Lago 100-mile Endurance Run. As Roger and I departed Cavitt School we again confronted Gordy on the trail. He gave us a wry smile and said “Have a good run.”

Apparently Gordy dropped from the race five minutes later at Cavitt School. I’m sure Gordy will be back but I’m equally sure that he takes immense pleasure in seeing what he has wrought, seeing hundreds of people around the country plumbing the depths of the human spirit all engaged in something he was probably called an idiot for trying in the first place. It was one of the proudest times of my life to have run with Gordy who is not only a kindred spirit but is also the man who first gave full expression to that spirit.

The second half of the course, which really isn’t half the course, was supposed to be flat and mostly on a wide dirt road nest to a bike path. Well, just like the second half isn’t really half it isn’t really flat, or smooth or bike pathy for most of its length. Now, there certainly are wide, smooth sections, flat sections and sections of bike path and these are all wonderful places to run but these sections probably make up no more than 70% of the remaining 38 miles.

You may be thinking “What a big baby complaining about a measly 30%” and maybe you are right, maybe I was just being a big baby but that 30% was comprised of big rolling hills on narrow, rocky, winding, dusty, weed covered single track trail. To make matters worse while on that scraggly trail you could see the nice smooth bike path never more than 30 feet in the distance. The race developer had scrupulously avoided every stretch of easy running at all costs. My legs felt horrible, I was getting very tired and it was exquisitely difficult to stay on the single track and not just hop over and take an easy stroll along the neatly paved bike path.

I kept eyeing the bike path and thinking “Nobody is around and nobody would know if I just hopped on over there and used the bike path instead of this crappy trail. It would be so much easier and anyway, I was promised a flat, easy second half. I have been dreaming about bike path running for about the last 10 hours and that’s exactly what I should get!” But I knew someone who would know, who would never forget, who would confront me daily for the rest of my life for having taken the easy way out; I would know.

As I reluctantly reached this conclusion rather than being self-congratulatory and feeling pious I simply got angry at myself for being such a damn Boy Scout and dejectedly skulked through the night on my crappy trail with my dusty shoes and my beaten legs.

My anger didn’t last long though because I soon began to get really cold and started to shiver. In preparing for RDL I had set up three drop bags with the various things I would need at various points in the race and because the GeekGrl and I were flying in to Sacramento the only extra gear I packed was all in my drop bags. The plan was that if, by chance the GeekGrl and RBR missed me at an aid station I could still access the gear I needed, which I was able to do at the Auburn Dam Overlook. If I was met as planned then my gear would simply be there waiting. The thing I didn’t count on was being more than two hours behind schedule so that my gear ended up being stored at the wrong places at the wrong times. I not only needed a headlamp in a bag at Maidu to avert the walk in the darkness that I experienced between Power Plant and Rattlesnake Bar but I also needed to have my cold weather running gear ready for me at Negro Bar and not Hazel Bluff, which was another 4.5 miles down the trail.

The GeekGrl and RBR met me at Negro Bar and I announced that I was freezing cold and asked of there were any extra clothes lying around. Somehow there was an extra short-sleeve shirt and bandanna so I put those on but was of course still shivering. I was feeling pretty desperate because unlike hypothermia in the heat of the day I could not just slow down. If hypothermia was going to hit me at night then I needed to speed up, something that I was in no position to do at the moment. After considering a few options the GeekGrl offered me the sleeves to her windbreaker. She took off the jacket, unzipped the sleeves and helped wrestle me into them. Getting that thing onto my arms was like stuffing sausages into a straw but somehow we managed and I waddled off into the night with my shoulders and arms straining at the bright yellow fabric of my newly acquired garment.

Much to my amazement I started to warm up and then started to sweat. I began to sweat so much that I stripped off the jacket sleeves for fear that the sweat would once again cause me to cool down. I’m not sure what it is but there is something about covering my arms that heats me up no matter how cold I get.

Now that warmth had returned I was able to focus on new and different challenges and the one that reared its head was sleep deprivation. Because the aid stations were relatively close together and because I had been struggling so much the GeekGrl and RBR had been unable to get to some coffee to mix into my night running drink so I was severely caffeine deficit. Between Negro Bar and Hazel Bluff I was moving at nearly a 30 minute per mile pace. It took me just over two hours to travel four and a half miles. This was the first experience that I had with such feelings of exhaustion. At one point I just sat down on a rock to try and regroup and I ended up falling asleep and I snapped awake as I began to fall off the rock. The only way I was able to keep moving forward was simply because there was nowhere else to go. The GeekGrl and RBR were farther on down the trail and going back wouldn’t gain me anything or get me closer to finishing but at this point I wasn’t thinking about quitting, finishing, pain, trail conditions, nothing; I was completely and utterly consumed with a desire to sleep.

My preoccupation with sleep and emotional flatness all change a couple hundred yards outside of the Hazel Bluff Aid station. The runner I mentioned earlier who had two pacers and a scout suddenly passed me once again, her and her entourage. This brought me to life; this made me angry as hell. I wasn’t angry at her exactly or angry at her crew I was just angry as getting passed by someone who was technically cheating. You are only allowed one pacer at a time and any other crew can only crew you at the aid stations. I resented the fact that I had struggled so hard under so many trying conditions and this was about the third time this runner passed me with her huge array of support. I used my emotional energy to break into a run and I passed her and her gang. I then charged up the steep rocky hill top the Hazel Bluff aid station where I was greeted by the aid station volunteers with a special message.

Their message, you have missed the extended cutoff by 15 minutes. My heart sunk as I stood there in the cold dark and said, “So what are you telling me?”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Locomotion Explosion: A Rio Del Lago Race Report Part One

I’ve never actually started a race report before having started the race but that’s exactly what I am doing now. At this moment I am about 36,000 feet above Southern California on my way to Sacramento and The GeekGrl is napping quietly next to me. This report begins before the beginning because the race began before the beginning. Three weeks ago I ran Leadville in a time of 27:35 and now I will make an attempt on Rio Del Lago tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. Why am I doing this? Well, the answer is pretty simple. If I can ever get into Western States I think I want to make an attempt on the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. In order to complete that undertaking you must complete the four oldest 100s in one year and the pretty much fall within 4 months of each other. I have to figure out how to run a 100, recover somewhat and run again.

There is an article in the September 2010 Ultrarunning that is apropos to my task. The article is “Freedom Run” by Eric Grossman. To quote; “By running long we free ourselves in three ways: we defy the constraint of expectation, we flout the oppression of good reasoning, and we set a course from which we cannot be swayed.” Within those three main ideas there was one quote that resonated with me more than the others but I’ll have to get to it later because the pilot just announced we are 20 minutes from Sacramento and have started our initial descent. Here I sit heading toward an uncertain destiny beginning my own descent into the psychological and physical reserves that I hope will carry me to the finish line of another 100-mile run. The GeekGrl and I will land, pick up Johnny Tri at the airport and hook up with RBR a bit later and then it is go time.

So this quote I was so enamored with fell under the heading “Embracing the Unreasonable” and states “What we are striving for isn’t necessarily tangible, however, and it certainly isn’t reasonable. In fact, by eschewing reason we liberate ourselves from an insidious tyrant.”

By eschewing reason we liberate ourselves from an insidious tyrant; probably one of my all-time favorite quotes. Doing what is reasonable, what is rational is, well, perfectly reasonable and no rational person could argue otherwise but it sort of removes the LIFE from your life. I’m all for reasonable decisions but by the time you have made 20 or 30 reasonable decisions in a row your life starts to become a bit sterile and claustrophobic. You become the person who always makes the reasonable decision and then of course you become weighed down by the expectation that you will again do the reasonable thing in the future. I’ve lived in that trap and on the surface everything was copacetic and everyone was happy but inside was a constant scream covered over by the mask of banality.

In any case, on Saturday morning I set out to eschew reason by running the Rio Del Lago 100-mile Endurance Run after having run a road marathon five days earlier and the Leadville Trail 100 three weeks earlier. I was excited about the race but at the same time I felt pretty ambivalent because, well, because it just seemed like such a bad idea.

I knew the weather was supposed to get hot and I had been tracking the weather all week. The high was supposed to be between 87 and 90 but my one bit of solace was the reports that indicated the day should heat up slowly with temps gradually rising to a peak around 5:00. That seemed a little weird to me being used to temperatures racing upward beginning around 10:00 a.m. and then frying through the day but whatever, I’m not familiar with the Granite Bay area of California so I just planned on a long, cool morning to get in some good distance.

By the time the race started at 6:00 a.m. it was already 70 degrees. Pleasant enough but I was running slowly in shorts and a singlet and could tell it was going to be a hot day. The race starts at Cavitt School (using the RBR convention of naming the start location) and heads for Cool, CA; a poorly named place if ever there was one. It then heads back from Cool past the start and out through various random California towns to a huge lakeside park then back again to the start. The race is run on a mix of dirt road, single track and what appeared to be neatly maintained “single track” that was wide enough for the morning latte crowed to jog along in the pleasant morning cool with their perfume wafting through the air.

The first two miles of the race were nice and easy on wide dirt paths with only gently undulating changes in elevation and then it changed to a very deep single track that funneled runners down the trail. In some places the trail was as much as two feet below the surface of the surrounding ground and through this section it was pretty much impossible to pass. The trail also changed from being gentle and undulating to short, sharp climbs and descents with choppy steps formed of rock and roots. The effect was like running on a flight of stairs designed by a masochistic carpenter with no depth perception.

By the time I was maybe five minutes into this crap my quads gave me a good poke and said, “Hey buddy, we just hauled your ass through a marathon and Leadville before that, what gives?” I looked at my Garmin so I could note the moment when my legs started to complain; I was just into mile three. I was momentarily hit with a sense of panic and then despair started to creep in but I told myself that I was fine, that what was really happening was that my legs were just trying to warm up and that all I needed to do was get past this long line of people I found myself stuck behind for a chance to give my legs a good stretch. I made that pass and got that stretch but my legs didn’t feel any better so I told myself that if they didn’t feel worse by mile 30 or 35 then at least my legs would be appropriately sore just like everyone else. That bit of rationalization worked wonders and I was again free to just zone out and enjoy the morning.

The beginning of the run skirts Folsom Lake at sunrise and you are treated to some beautiful views. You don’t get the breathtaking grandeur of the mountain ultras but instead get comforting pastoral views of gnarled oaks on grassy knolls, spring fed grottos partially hidden under a blanket of wild raspberries and brief glimpses of a placid lake encircled by rolling hills. To add to the beauty was a scent that I loved from my days in the Marine Corps stationed at Camp Pendleton. When I was in the field, usually standing watch in the early morning hours, a coastal fog would roll in and the air would smell a lot like black licorice. That was the experience I was presented with throughout the early morning and it was pretty heavenly.

However, despite the fact that the pastoral scenery remained the magical quality did not. I would say that no later than 9:30 a.m. the temperature was already breaking 80 and the gentle morning sun became a hot eye staring fixedly at me from its perch in an empty blue sky. To make matters worse the trail was extremely dusty. Rock and sand had been pounded into fine talc that floated in the air with the passing of each runner. At one point I was looking down and noticed a dark discoloration between my thighs and though “What the hell is that?!” I am not a hairy man and the hair I do have is relatively fine and light but what I was staring at were masses of thick, black curls akin to the most freakishly coated male I have ever had the misfortune to view in a locker room. The discoloration was, of course, my own hair completely coated in a mixture of sweat and dirt and we hadn’t even come close to the heat of the day nor had we reached the first real climb.

The first climb of the day is called Cardiac Hill. It really isn’t too bad but it will get your attention. According to Garmin it climbs a little over 900 feet in a little more than two miles. Cardiac hill is also dusty and made by the afore mentioned deranged carpenter. However, having just come off Leadville training I was able to scoot up the trail without a problem while I watched other runners straining and gasping.

The climb up Cardiac takes you to a truly wonderful place on the course. The section of trail is called the flume. The flume is called such because it is a trail that runs alongside a, well, a flume. It is completely shaded by an overhanging canopy of oak trees, the path alongside is pretty much perfectly flat and the flume itself carries cool water that creates an almost air-conditioned feeling and a gentle gurgling sound. It only lasts for maybe a mile and a half at most but it is a rejuvenating experience.

The day continued to heat up but I still felt decent and was looking forward to join part of the historic Western States Trail and get to run across No Hands Bridge. On your outbound trip across No Hands Bridge you are high above the American River and look down at beautiful river canyon scenery. On your inbound trip you are baked to a crisp and stare forlornly as the cool blue river mocks you impossibly out of reach.

After crossing outbound No Hands Bridge you have to climb K2. If you look at the profile K2 is the middle, higher and steeper climb between the two climbs of Cardiac Hill. Because of this feature I took to calling K2 “the middle finger” and that’s about what it was. The climb up K2 was reminiscent of the climb up inbound Sugarloaf at Leadville except it had to pack the same amount of elevation gain into about a mile and a quarter so whereas Sugarloaf starts steep and after each false summit is less steep K2 starts steep and after every false summit gets steeper. You are never quite climbing hand over hand but near the top you are doing some serious leaning into the hill. Along the climb there are helpful signs with the posted warning “Caution – Steep Hill” All I could think was “Oh, thank god, that’s why blood is spraying out my eyes from all the internal pressure I’m on a steep hill.”

Fortunately after cresting K2 you are treated to a stroll through the furnace like heat of the optimistically named Cool California. It was at this point that I determined I had run far enough and done enough climbing that I could admit to myself that my legs were actually hurting and not just continuing to warm up. However, it was also here that I noticed something that was truly troubling; I was cold. It was so hot outside that even the dirt on the trail was trying to inch over to grab some shade and I was cold and starting to shiver a bit. All I could think of was Anton Krupicka going super nova the last two years in a row at Leadville with hypothermia during the heat of the day. What was more worrisome was that I really didn’t know how to save myself from this situation. I knew I needed to warm up but I didn’t have any extra clothing and it was already hot outside so I just fell back on an old bit of ultrarunning wisdom, almost anything can be remedied by just going slower.

I slowed my pace, kept drinking water and stopped trying to do anything to keep myself cool. I have taken to wearing a bandanna on my head because I find it keeps the sweat out of my eyes better than a hat and it cools better when I soak it with water. I took that off and left my head bare. I just kept moving forward paying close attention to any fluctuations in my body temperature. After about 20 minutes I noticed a bit of warmth returning and then a few trickles of sweat. I realized that one of my problems was likely that my sunscreen was wearing off and I was starting to burn so I determined to ask for more sunscreen at the next aid station. I was incredibly thankful that this dilemma seemed to be turning around and kept my pace easy to the Cool Fire Station aid station.

When I got to the Cool aid station I refueled and joked around a bit with the aid station volunteers but completely forgot to ask them about sunscreen. I headed out for the seven mile section called the Olmstead Loop. This section of trail is very gentle and mostly on dirt roads. It is a wide open plain of rolling grasslands dotted with groves of oak. There is only one gentle climb during the loop at Knickerbocker Hill everything else would be incredibly fast were it not for the heat and exposed nature of this section. As I was moving through this section I was thinking about all the things the body is trying to do during an ultra. You have to balance your level of exertion to effectively accomplish at least four separate tasks. You have to make sure that you have sufficient blood flow to the skin to keep you cool, sufficient blood flow to the stomach for digestion, sufficient blood flow to your muscles to keep them supplied with nutrients and oxygen and sufficient blood flow to your brain to ensure sufficient oxygen for that critical skill, thinking.

That, I thought, is a lot of considerations to manage. In our everyday life we rarely think how our bodies function in such utilitarian detail but in endurance running you push so close to the limits of what a body can withstand you need to be able to think this way or you simply won’t make it. If you don’t understand the way a body works too many things can go wrong, there become too many questions to answer; why am I so hot? Why am I so cold? Why do my legs feel like lead? Why is my stomach feeling sloshy and bloated? and the list goes on and your mind is often not sharp enough to answer these questions unless the answers have become automatic. By the time I finished the Olmstead Loop I had outlasted repeated fluctuations between feeling cold and then impossibly hot, sweating and being dry and chilled. I returned to the Cool Fire Station to the cheers of Johnny Tri and friends. I was never so relieved to see a familiar face. I remembered to ask the aid station volunteers for sunscreen and they had none but then JT said he thought he has some in his car and he ran to get it. When he returned he sprayed me down with sunscreen and I almost immediately felt better. One bad patch down. On to the next task.

The run down K2 to the No Hands Bridge Aid station was not the uber-steep climb with warning signs but it was a lazy loop around the slide of the hill. I was able to depart the Cool aid station at an easy jog and maybe a mile from the aid station I came across a runner who was really suffering. During our exchange I found out his name was Steve. Steve was probably moving more slowly than anyone I had ever seen and there seemed to be something wrong with his legs or an ankle or something. I jogged up to him and asked if he had rolled an ankle or something and he said, “No, I just can’t get any water from my hydration pack so I can’t take any electrolyte tablets.” Of course he wasn’t so articulate but I got the gist. He really looked like shit and even uselessly proffered his empty hydration pack to add weight to his mutterings. I still had water in my hydration pack and had just filled two bottles with cold water so I offered him my coldest bottle and stood there to make sure he was able to drink it down. I use Ultimate Direction bottles and if you aren’t used to their rubber nipple style tops it can be a bit of a problem.

When Steve first started to try and drink he just shot himself full in the face with a powerful jet of cold water. I’m sure it felt pretty good but was otherwise completely useless for a man with two salt tablets sitting on his dry and swollen tongue. Steve looked startled but resigned to his misery as if he were thinking “What new hell is this, a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing come top mock my suffering.” Apologetically I took my bottle, removed the cap and told him to drink straight from the bottle. Steve drank it down and finally got those electrolytes he so obviously needed. I told him the Cool aid station was only about a mile away and he could fuel up and cool off there and would feel like a new man. He just grunted and said, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it. I think I’m gonna drop.” I told him to just keep moving and try to keep his head up but I knew it would take him as much as 40 minutes to cover that short distance and they were going to be a brutal 40 minutes. Only one “Stephen” finished Rio Del Lago this year and he was 55 years old; not my Steve.

Shortly after leaving Steve to his own devices I came upon Cynthia who was making her first attempt at a 100-mile run. She jumped into this race as a kind of last minute deal basically using the same rational I used when I entered Leadville, “If not now, when?” However, it isn’t like she was untrained because she had already run four 50Ks this summer, good practice races and probably sufficient training mileage for a 100 like RDL. However, she looked really hot and tired and was moving pretty slowly but her head seemed like it was in the right place. She was just moving along at the best pace she could manage. Later I spoke with her husband, David, who was crewing for her and he said that the heat was particularly hard on her but that she was a very good night runner and so he expected that once things cooled off she would speed up and be right back in the game.

Despite all I had been through with the heat and the chills and the legs hurting I was still feeling reasonably good but ahead of me was the climb back up Cardiac Hill to the Auburn Dam Overlook aid station where I finally hoped to see The GeekGrl and RBR. I arrived to Auburn Dam feeling whipped but JT and the same enthusiastic crew of friends was there and yelling and cheering “Go Big B!” With the exception of JT the rest of the crew felt self-conscious yelling out Baboo much less Sweet Baboo so I became Big B for the day. The GeekGrl and RBR were nowhere in sight but JT was right there with me. He ferried me over to the medical check and then took my bottles and hydration pack and made sure they were refilled. He also got me to a chair and then went and grabbed my drop bag. I used cold water and my old bandana and washed the trail dust off my feet, legs, arms and face. The “bath” felt awesome! I then put on fresh socks, shoes, shirt and a hat. I also took a fresh bandana soaked in cold water and tied it around my neck. This was a long but necessary stop. I finally left for the next aid station, Maidu, feeling better. I don’t know exactly what happened but within a couple hundred yards of departing the Auburn Dam aid station I was doubled over on the side of the trail alternately throwing up and dry heaving.

I came stumbling into Maidu again hoping to see The GeekGrl and RBR but nobody was there. JT had other crewing duties and needed to move on with his runner, he had just been helping me out because I was ahead of his runner. In fact, at the outbound Cool Fire Station I was about an hour or more ahead of his runner but by the time I reached Maidu I was maybe 20 minutes behind and falling. I was still eating and drinking well and was looking forward to the pleasant stroll along the flume so I just grabbed what I needed and headed out at a walk. As I moved along the cool and shade of the flume I started feeling better and better and was finally able to start jogging.

The stretch between Maidu and the next aid station is 7.1 miles and it includes the descent off of Cardiac Hill. However, the next aid station is just an unmanned water drop called Power Plant. There really is a little hydroelectric generator right there next to a rushing stream and so nobody is allowed to be there. The only thing that race management is able to work out is to get permission for runners to use the connecting gravel road to pass by and the power plant people take in a few cases of water and drop them on the ground next to the hydroelectric generator. After leaving Maidu you get about a mile and a half along the flume and then within a mile you get the 900 foot descent off Cardiac; it beat me to death. My quads were utterly fried and I could barely remain stable going downhill. I lurched downwards as the pain in my legs increased and my stomach once again began to tighten like a drum.

By the time I reached the Power Plant aid station I was so desperate to stop that I wanted to cry. I went and sat down on the concrete footing of the hydroelectric generator, put my head between my knees and started throwing up. I opened my bottles and dumped the water out over my head and just sat there contemplating simply laying down and stopping. I figured that someone would come in and get me as some point but then again the sun was starting to go down and I still had 2.3 miles to go to the next aid station at Rattlesnake Bar where there were actual people. I knew that if I didn’t get moving soon the decision to drop or continue would be made for me so I got up, refilled my water bottles and drug my sorry butt down the trail toward civilization.

As I moved down the trail I was at least grateful that I was on a gentle section of the trail. A few people were passing me but at this point I was so far back that pretty much anyone behind me was being eaten up by the cutoffs or was dropping. The sun was going down quickly and I was moving slowly. The sun set and I resigned myself to the darkness as I saw the last flicker of light dance off Folsom Lake. I felt completely and utterly alone; it was just me and my few baubles to remind me that I was connected to anything outside the growing darkness.

After a long while a runner and pacer with headlamps and flashlights blazing came up behind me and asked if I could see anything. I said “no” and they passed me and continued down the trail disappearing into the darkness. Too late I thought that I should have told them to ask for Misty or Stacy at the next aid station and ask one of them to run back along the trail with a headlamp for me. Damnit! I trudged along in the darkness. About a half-hour later a female runner came up behind me and also asked if I could see. I said “no” and she passed me and headed down the trail. As I watched her and her bubble of light begin to disappear I yelled out, “Hey, at the next aid station would you please ask for Misty or Stacy and ask one of them to run back along the trail with my headlamp?” She said “Sure” and disappeared into the night.

I short order I saw a headlamp coming towards me at a pretty good clip and I thought “Thank god!” but then it turned out to be some random guy who said, “Good job, keep it up, you are almost to the next aid station.” And then he ran past me heading toward Power Plant. Moments later he passed me followed by a female runner with two pacers. This runner had two pacers and one guy who would drive to the next aid station and run the trail back to meet up with the group and then turn around and lead them onward. I’m sure they were doing this because the course had been heavily vandalized by random people on the trails who had busied themselves by taking down the course markings and hiding them or throwing them away.

The runner, her two pacers and her Scout soon passed me with their lavish array of lights and once again I was left stumbling through the dark. As they disappeared around a corner I heard the crew constantly reassuring the runner how great she looked and that she was “doing it” and was beating all the cutoffs. A good crew is an indispensible thing. With all this going on my emotions were getting pretty frayed and then another blow. Somewhere out of the darkness I thought I heard “Rattlesnake Bar is now closed, all participants must vacate the park” and then there was silence. I kept moving towards Rattlesnake Bar and then it came again “Rattlesnake Bar is now closed; all participants must vacate the park.” “Well, I guess my day is finally over” I said to myself. “I tried but I guess I’m just not the guy who can run two 100-mile races within a month. At least I didn’t drop; I kept going until I got pulled. That’s all I can ask of myself.”

I looked around to try and figure out how the hell I was supposed to “vacate the park” and as I was looking around I saw a headlamp coming up the trail toward me; it was the GeekGrl emerging from the darkness like an angel, a female Prometheus bringing light to humanity.

I told her that I had heard Rattlesnake Bar was closed and she told me there had been some mistake with the park rangers and the permitting and that the race director had decided to extend the cutoffs because so many of the course markings had been pulled down by vandals so I still had enough time to make it. My only thought was “Jesus Christ, this shit just never ends!” I told her, “That’s it, I’m dropping, I just don’t have anything left. My legs literally have nothing left, I haven’t eaten in about two hours and any water that I have been able to drink has been thrown up.” She told me that I wasn’t going to drop and that I just needed to eat and drink a bit and then I’d feel better and would continue. I assured her that was not the case that I was most definitely going to drop at Rattlesnake Bar. The GeekGrl simply said, “Well, ok but first you need to just sit down and eat your sandwich. We got you a sandwich at Subway.”

We got to Rattlesnake Bar and I sat in a chair for a long while, ate my sandwich and drank down several cups of Ginger ale. The GeekGrl propped up my feet on a cooler and gave my legs a rubdown. RBR went and grabbed a sleeping bag because I was complaining of being cold and she wrapped it around my shoulders. I just sat there eating and drinking trying my best to joke around with people because I was glad to finally be done.

After maybe 15 minutes I finally said, “Ok, well, I need to get out of here and head down the trail.” I asked the GeekGrl to come pace me to the next aid station and she went to get some appropriate running gear and I got up and started walking. I told her that I needed to get going or I may never leave and asked that she just get ready and catch up. As I was leaving I latched on to another guy who also had his wife crewing for him. He had wanted to drop too but his wife talked him out of it and he started to hobble down the trail. I told him he looked like shit and asked if he minded if I tagged along and we could look like shit together. He said “sure” and off we went.

We walked and talked the entire way to the next aid station, which was only about two miles away. The GeekGrl finally caught us as we entered the next aid station so I guess we managed to walk at a pretty good clip. It is amazing the difference it makes when you have someone along to talk to or simply to walk in silence with. The aid station, Horseshoe Bar, was the last time I would see that guy. As the GeekGrl and I left he was sitting in a chair, his wife rubbing his legs trying to convince him to continue but he was completely determined to drop right there.

In an ultramarathon you must have enough fight in you to keep going no matter what but at some point you can become so exhausted, so in pain, so sick, so tired that the goal of your “fight” becomes lost and all you are left with is fight without a target. This is when your crew really needs to know what they are doing and needs to “roll with the resistance.” If the crew starts trying to convince the runner to keep going and tries to “motivate” the runner they run the risk of having that blind fight turned against them and the goal of finishing. A runner can just ding in their heels and fight against continuing because they finally have one thing they can control; stopping the forward motion, stopping the pain.

The guy who dropped at Rattlesnake Bar knew exactly what I knew and feared; the almost six mile section of trail ahead of us was brutal. It was that section filled with short, steep, choppy climbs and descents and a multitude of big steps created by rocks, roots and erosion. During the cool of the morning between miles 4 through 10 this section is simply annoying but in the dark of night on trashed legs it is like subjecting yourself to an hour and a half of being beaten with a heavy wooden cudgel. The GeekGrl continued on with me but my mood was rapidly deteriorating and I was pretty unpleasant company. It was somewhere halfway through this section of trail that I found myself sitting on the side of the trail emptying dirt and rocks from my shoes when all of a sudden like a legend emerging from the mists of time Gordy Ansleigh appeared.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Running with Gordy

This weekend I’m running the Rio Del Largo 100-mile endurance run. About a week ago I looked at the website to see that race numbers were assigned so I clicked on the link and I couldn’t believe who was number one. Gordy Ansleigh.

The name Gordy Ansleigh probably doesn’t mean much to 99% of people in this world but it is a huge name in ultrarunning and it is a big deal to me. This is a bit embarrassing for me because I am the anti-hero worship guy. I go so far as to take an instant disliking to pretty much anyone in the public eye that gets too much press or who I hear too many people talking about with awe in their voice. The reason, I suppose, is really just that I strongly feel that too many people spend too much time living vicariously through people who actually do things with their life. My thought; get off your freakin’ ass and go grab life by the throat and never let go.

However, when it comes to Gordy I have to admit being star struck. I surprised myself with my own reaction as seeing his name as one of the registered athletes. I practically started giggling like a school girl. I guess I feel able to admit this because my admiration for Gordy is not based on me sitting on my duff basking in his feats. No, my admiration for Gordy is based on the fact that he blazed the trail that I am on. He led the way but I am hot on his heels.

Gordy Ansleigh briefly held the American record for the fastest marathon run by a Clydesdale athlete back in the early 1970’s and when his horse came up lame just prior to the Tevis Cup and he decided to RUN the 100 miles of trail alongside all the riders on their horses he invented the modern sport of ultra-distance trail running. I’ve bitched before that I’m too big to be an ultrarunner but I forget myself, forget my heritage as a big man…ultra-distance trail running was invented by a Clydesdale.

This weekend I run with a heroic figure in my world; this weekend I run with Gordy Ansleigh.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Running Relaxed: A Turtle Marathon Race Report

This last weekend I decided to run the Turtle Marathon in Roswell, NM. The Turtle marathon is a very a-typical race compared to any other marathon I’ve done. It is really a race that harkens back to the early days of modern marathon running where a few locals in a small running club decided to put on an event mostly for the club and whoever else wanted to show up. The race is very small, very informal and support is limited. Most of the “aid stations” were cases of bottled water sitting on the side of the road, highway 70. These were about every two miles and when you came to one you could just grab a bottle or two. At the turn around point for the half-marathon and then again at the turn around for the full marathon there were aid stations that had Gatorade, water and bananas so you hit one of those three times during the race. I carried two hand-held water bottles, four gels and some packets of salt during the race and never wanted for anything. The GeekGrl carried a hydration pack and some gels and felt the same way. Maybe it sounds kind of scary but it really was a pretty cool little race. I guess it really felt like a marathon as opposed to a circus; a race as opposed to entertainment. If you need to be pampered, need bells and whistles and want a lot of fanfare then this is not the race for you. If you just want to get out and run a New Mexico marathon on the cheap then this is exactly what you are looking for. Roswell is an inexpensive place to stay and the entry fee is $15.

I don’t know if this will end up being detrimental to my Rio Del Largo attempt but I’ll soon find out. I decided to treat this as a training run and tried to maintain a balance of running easy and smooth but tried not to spend an excessive amount of time out on the road. I think I struck a pretty decent balance and still felt good after the race. I ran a total time of 4:01:58 and was able to negative split the run, which was due in part to the fact that it generally climbs on the way out and generally descends on the way back but my pacing was good too.

Not much of a race report but I am pretty focused on Rio Del Largo…where I will be toeing the line with Gordy Ansleigh! I’m sorry but I am totally star struck, to race with the man who literally founded the modern sport of ultra-distance trail running. Too cool!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

I Signed the Napkin

There is a tradition among a certain group of ultrarunners in Albuquerque called signing the napkin. My understanding is that a couple long-time ultrarunners, Kurt and Fred, were having a few drinks and each challenged the other to run Leadville back in the 1980’s. This challenge lead to each of them putting their John Hancock on a bar napkin as a promise they were committing to running Leadville. For years now each new season planning has ended in the signing of the napkin.
So, which napkin did I sign? I signed the Hardrock, a.k.a. “Hardly Walk” napkin. I still need to wait until the lottery opens and then would, by some miracle, need to be selected, but I signed it none-the-less. Actually to be more specific I think Ken signed it on my behalf as I was driving to El Paso to ref a triathlon this weekend during the napkin signing festivities.

The course alternates each year and in 2011 the course will be a 100 mile COUNTER-CLOCKWISE loop through the back country of the San Juan Mountains in beautiful southwestern Colorado. The Hardrock 100 connects or passes near the old mining towns of Silverton, Lake City, Ouray, Telluride and Ophir. With a total elevation gain of approximately 33,000' and an average elevation at near tree line of 11,186', the Hardrock 100 peaks out at over 14,000’ on Handies Peak, one of Colorado’s 14’ers.

I'll leave you with a beloved ultra profile comparison showing Harkrock towering above them all as well as some Hardrock pics. Note the Boston Marathon profile waaay down in the corner with its famed "Heartbreak Hill."