A Tale of 2 Races – the Race That Wasn't, and the Race that Was
I went into Across the Years 48 hours with a big goal in my head. Which could, in retrospect, have been the problem. The problem with big goals is that they can get in the way of why I do this crazy sport in the first place.
Of course, another problem was (sorry Camille)… Camille. Which is to say, when the world 100 mile record holder jumps into a race that you expect to podium in, perhaps even set an age group record in, it messes with your head. Or at least it messed with mine. Benjamin says it’s good for me to have competition and its true. But it kind of felt like an elephant racing a gazelle and all I could picture was Camille lapping me… and lapping me… and lapping me... on her way to the world record.
OK. So – 2 issues. Big goals, and Camille. (Sorry Camille).
The thing is – I was as prepared as I’ve ever been going into a race. My training and performance had been rock solid – and I was getting faster. Just a month earlier I had only been one minute off of my marathon PR, which had been set 5 years previously before I started running ultras. I hadn’t done anything CLOSE to that marathon in the past 5 years.
Of course – I’d also had about the most stressful year excepting the year of the Great Divorce of 2017 in that I'd lost my job unexpectedly in August, conducted a nationwide job hunt, and moved across the country to Seattle. Small stuff.
Anyway – I thought I was in pretty good shape.
BJ had driven since he was going to New Mexico after the race, and also wanted to hang out and watch the 6 and 10 day racers, and I flew in. Shopping had already been done, so really I just needed a good night’s sleep and to set up the morning of the race – which we did.
So – here is another thing about day 1. It had rained for days, and the course was sloppy. Because of my work schedule, I had no ability to adjust my race start day. I didn’t learn until 5 minutes prior to race start that Camille would be starting her race the next day, due to the wet course. I was a little bummed about this – if I was going to be running in a race against Camille Herron, I kind of wanted to be running on the same days.
I went out at what felt like a moderately easy to sustain pace, but which in retrospect was likely too fast. I hit 50 miles in 9 hours, which put me in excellent shape to achieve my goal. For the entire 50, my feet never felt great. My Achilles was bothering me no matter which shoes I switched to. Also, my gut was in bad shape. I was nauseated and couldn’t eat much. This has been happening with regularity and I still don’t have any answers, because without food, I can’t get the energy I need to hit my goals. Also, shortly after I hit 50, the sun went down and the temperature plummeted. I did another couple of laps and got to about 54 miles, and as I was approaching the aid station after coming through the timing tent, I had the strongest feeling I’ve ever had of just wanting… to stop. The Med Tent was right there… my Achilles was screaming, my gut was clenched, and I felt a little dizzy. The though occurred to me that I could just wander into that tent, and ask to lie down because I was dizzy. Then, it wouldn’t be my fault. It would be… a “medical issue”. That always looks better on Facebook.
It was compelling.
I ran past the Med tent. And slowed. And turned around.
In the end, it wasn’t the Med tent where I sought relief. Wanting at least honesty in this thing, I wandered back into the warming tent, and I sat.
Minutes ticked by. I figured I’d better text BJ and let him know I was… sitting.
He, of course, told me to get moving
“You’ve still got this thing. You have plenty of time.”
I sat some more. I looked at my watch. 15 minutes. Now 30. I was sitting here watching my goals swirl down the toilet.
BJ texted again. “Just come to me.” (He was on the other side of the course).
I tried. I headed out of the tent and jogged a little. Good God Damn it was cold. My shirt was wet, I was slow, and after 100 feet or so, shivering uncontrollably, I hobbled back to the warming tent. That shit just wasn’t happening.
I was, however, finally able to eat. Which I did.
I texted Bob Hearn. He asked me if I had any goals left. I replied “Well, I really want to see the Grand Canyon”.
At some point Jubilee came in and I told her I thought I was done. She threw this idea into my head. She asked if I had a hundred mile buckle from ATY. Although I had a 200 and 400 mile buckle, I did not, in fact, have a 100 mile buckle. She suggested I take a break, regroup, get dry and warm, and come back when the sun was up and get my hundred.
That sounded good. It sounded like something I could do. I was profoundly grateful.
With that, I headed back out on to the course and started moving again.
I was moving amazingly well. The food an 90 minute break had given me spring in my step that I thought I’d completely lost. Running again, it felt like maybe I could do this thing.
For about 11 miles. When I lost it again, just out of the blue. I rounded the bend, saw BJ’s car, and got in. For whatever reason, I just didn’t want to be doing this race. At all. I knew what was ahead of me and I just wanted no part of it.
“What the hell are you doing”?
“I want to get off this course. Take me to a restaurant and a hotel”.
We sat. And sat. And sat. Another hour went by and BJ realized I wasn’t going back out there. We headed to a Mexican restaurant and loaded up on food. I posted to Facebook about my situation, and we went back to the course. I slept for 3 hours in the tent, headed out, and got up around 3:45am to finish my hundred miles and get off the damn course.
And that’s just what I did.
The next morning wasn’t pretty. BJ was upset; I was stunned and confused. I just didn’t know for the life of me what had just happened. I’d never had a problem in a multi-day race and out of the blue I DNF’d. I just completely lost my mojo.
For what it's worth, Camille didn't have a great race either, running into hamstring issues after a blazing fast 100K. I've no doubt that one of these days she will be the world record holder at the 48 - but this wasn't that day. I did get to hang out with her after the race and enjoyed getting to know her better.
|The best part of ATY 48 - hanging out with friends afterward. Adam, Eliza and Camille|
|My friend Melinda|
We chilled for that whole day – got in some rest, and visited with the runners still on the course. The next morning I got on a plane back to Seattle. Flying back, I realized it was the first time I’d come home from a multi-day without a trophy. It didn’t feel good. Worse, I needed to figure out just what had happened in my head. I realized I needed another race and needed it fast. And it occurred to me that ATY had a special race it didn’t usually have – a hundred miler, the following weekend. Damn. I could come back and get some redemption on the same course! I was signed up before I arrived back in Seattle.
Although this is a tale of 2 races, it isn’t a tale about the next week’s hundred mile race. Which I came back, and won in 21 hours 11 minutes – my second best 100 mile time ever. It was definitely some consolation for my epic fail the week prior – but it wasn’t a multi-day. So, I still didn’t know how I’d handle my next race over 24 hours.
|ATY 100 miler - ran with joy|
Enter Jackpot. This was a Las Vegas race in February with a 48 hour option. My buddies Jill and Jess were signed up, and it sounded appealing – and pretty easy to get to without burning any vacation time. I signed up.
In the 3 weekends leading up to the race, I did 2 marathons and a 50K as my long training runs. All went well. Ironically, the last Sunday before Jackpot I ran the Rock and Roll Marathon in New Orleans with my friend Deb – my first flight heading out of New Orleans was late and I missed my connection in Vegas. So, a week before I was going to be in Vegas racing, I was there by accident. I did some exploring and bought some chocolate, and figured out where I’d stay the following week.
I did a one week taper going into the race – only ran 5 milers Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Smooth travels Thursday night, and headed out to race start Friday morning.
My entire goal for this race was to just stay on the course until the end of the race. I went in without time goals feeling as if the time goal had really sabotaged my last race. I intended, to the extent possible, to enjoy myself and just take it easy.
The weather promised to be stunning. Sunny and 67 during the day on Friday, low 40’s at night, then sunny and 70 on Saturday with a slightly warmer Saturday night than Friday night. Race start was fun – I got my picture taken with showgirls, Elvis and a pink Cadillac. I said hello to Connie Gardner, Pam Smith, Emily Collins, Marisa Lizak and Pamela Chapman Markle who were all doing the 100 mile championship. I set up my own stuff under a pavilion right next to Jill Hudson. 2 minutes after the 100 mile fasties took off, we started our race.
I started out up front and just ran at an easy pace. Loop 1 is always just getting to know the course. Which, I discovered, was extremely varied. It was a 2.5 mile course in a park – not exactly a loop, but more an out and back where the back came back on a lower path than the out. Within the first mile, there was a gradual perhaps .5 mile uphill followed by a fast down. The course included sections that were dirt and crushed gravel, that were sidewalk, pavement, grass, and the final .3 of a mile was a short rocky and uneven trail. I actually enjoyed the variety quite a bit.
The first 50 miles of this race were very different than the first 50 at ATY. First of all, I intentionally took it slower. It was my theory that by going slower at the start, I’d have more in reserve for the end. I also hoped to minimize the nausea which has seemed to become an inevitable part of my racing by not going out as hard. My entire body felt better on this run – my feet were in good shape, I had no nagging aches or pains, and I felt the pace was maintainable. The one issue I was a bit concerned about was occasional bouts of sharp stabbing gut pain. This was particularly worrisome because the 2.5 mile course only had porto potties in one spot, so if my gut decided to rebel suddenly on the outer loop, I was kind of sunk.
Turned out… I was kind of sunk. 8 or so miles in, the gut emergency hit. The next 1.25 miles to the porto was an exquisite kind of torture. At the porto potties my gut went crazy. I spent some quality time in the little blue telephone booth, left, and immediately trotted back in. Trot being the operative word. Medications were in order.
I always travel with Pepto Bismol, and that was my go to. It was amazingly revolting – and I ended up with a little ring of pink chalkiness around my mouth – but it did the trick. The pain and the trots both subsided relatively quickly. Alas, not so much the nausea. As I continued on the course I realized I was at the point of needing nutrition but my stomach felt just locked up and nothing sounded good. I started losing a bit of energy and just focused on getting calories how I could. Which pretty much was the occasional ginger ale with ice, and 4 orange slices during the first 24 hours. I texted BJ and told him this wasn’t going to be a PR race – which was fine by me because it wasn’t the goal. But, nausea aside, I was enjoying being out there and had no intention or wish to leave the course. I just wanted to be able to eat at some point.
The night passed and it was lovely. It got cold and we all bundled up. I was thrilled to see Marisa finish strong in the 15 hour and change mark. I realized that I was on track for a PR 100 – however, my energy stores were low and I thought I’d be better served by a short lie down than by chasing a 100 mile PR. I went down for 20 minutes, and a couple of hours later decided I needed more, so took 90 more minutes off course sleeping. This is more than I normally do in a 48, but it was what my body seemed to need. My general mantra is to not lie down if I’m not going to actually sleep – but I did sleep both times. I think it was a good call, because getting up from the second nap I had fresh energy. I was able to get my pace back down into the 12’s and 13’s for a while.
As it almost invariably does, dawn brought fresh energy and hope, as well as the knowledge that I was about halfway into this thing. Despite the dawn, though, I was battling a calorie deficit and was starting to feel a little bit woozy. Perhaps around mid-morning I saw Connie Gardner, returned to the course showered and pretty after hitting an age group mark in the hundred. She adopted me for a bit, asking what I needed. For the life of me, all I wanted in the world was a vanilla milkshake. I needed calories and still nothing seemed palatable. Passing Connie she asked how I was doing and I told her I didn’t feel right. “Not right how?”, she asked?
“I don’t know. Not right. I just don’t feel good.”
She helped me put my feet up and asked what I had eaten.
“4 orange slices and some ginger ale…”
Well. Clearly that spelled it out. Connie and Susan Hui scouted around looking for food that my stomach would accept. We finally found a little chocolate pop-tarty thing filled with peanut butter. It tasted dry as hell and I had a hard time washing it down, but my stomach thought it was OK. What’s more, it brought me critically needed energy. I got back out on the course with renewed purpose.
The high point of the morning was seeing Marisa Lizak at the awards ceremony. She had followed through on our brief verbal exchange in the middle of the night and… brought me my milkshake! She ran it over and I gave her a big hug of congratulations and extraordinary gratitude. It was the best milkshake of my life.
Now that I had a good 700 cool frosty calories of sweetness in me, the game was on again. I was moving smoothly and steadily and the day just ticked by. I was thrilled that despite the fact that the weather had been forecasted to be warmer than the previous day, the cloud cover made the sun seem less intense. The day was pure pleasant – at least as pleasant as day 2 in a 48 can be. Sooner than I would have expected, night came again. I didn’t have to bundle up for a while because night 2 was warmer than night 1 had been. Eventually I got cold enough to need tights and a fleece, so threw those on. The best thing (besides the milkshake) about day 2 was that my stomach had loosened up and I could finally eat without feeling nauseated or having anything hurt. My favorite aid station food was cheesecake bites, and also a little cup of Chef Boyardee ravioli. Salty squishy digestible yumminess. I did discover a bit of a foot problem though. As I was running, I started feeling a burning localized pain in my left foot. Taking off my socks and shoes I realized the dryness of the course had sucked all of the moisture out of my feel and left them painfully dry and cracking. I had foolishly forgotten the Run Goo so took this time to slather it on and start healing my poor feet.
I had moved into first place overall sometime late in the daylight on day 2. Behind me in the female field were my new Seattle buddies Jess Mullen and Jill Hudson. Jess was moving astoundingly well considering she was only 5 weeks out from a stunning 10 day debut at ATY and Jill was on her way to a resounding 48 hour PR at 48, also only 5 weeks out from a 6 day. I was also truly enjoying all of the other runners on the course. Perhaps more than any race I’ve been to so far, with the possible exception of ATY, I had many friends on the course, who always perked me up. Tammie Massie, who generously lent me an extra headlamp when my batteries died; Rachel Entrekin, who was well on her way to killing the 24. Fast Eddie, looking for an 80-84 age group record; Bill Dickey – encouraging word every lap. Kim Sergeant, Kit, Shirley and Mark – Tracy Thomas during the first part of her hundred. I’m sure I’m missing folks but all helped move me along.
Night 2 was just steady movement through the night. I was confident in my ability to get through the night. My ups were getting bonky – I had a pretty steady run walk going on, but I needed to shake up some of the run spots because what had worked yesterday was not working today, and was spiking my heart rate into the 150’s. The night moved along – I had more ravioli. I had texted BJ with my goal of 180 – he told me, if I could, to shoot for 300K which was 187. That seemed doable and I set my sights on that. 2 hours before the end I knew I was not only going to hit 300K, but would see 190. I was happy with that.
I spent my last lap on the course will Jill – which seemed fitting as 2 out of my last 3 long training runs were with her in Seattle races. She is one of my new very favorite people. And, even more wonderful, right before we hit the finish line, Jess Mullen jogged up behind us, so the 3 Seattle babes finished together in a sweep – first, second and third place women. It… was amazing.
This race gave me everything I was looking for. My only goal in the race was to stay the course –which I did with relative joy. I found my multi-day again. By moving away from a big mileage goal, I was able to get out there and enjoy the people, the course and the experience – and still do pretty well mileage wise. There will be other races for big numbers. This was not that. This was Elvis and showgirls, a Pink Cadillac and cheesecake bites. Las Vegas dry sunshine, hills, rocks, beautiful sunrises and sunsets and lots and lots of ducks. A rolling fall on the rocky part of the trail, watching the 100 miler fasties hit their records; running into the finish with friends. This race was why I do this thing.
A Tale of Two Races. The one that wasn’t, and the one that was. I think I needed the first to get to the second. In any case, it happened and I can never take it away.
But I’ve found my multi-day again.