Monday, May 17, 2010

Coming Attractions

I hope to write a full report next weekend, but wanted to get the highlights (or lowlights) out while still fresh. If you don't like spoilers then you'll have to wait, but the results are already posted including my personal splits. From those splits, you can clearly see that something happened between the Gap Creek and Visitor Center aid stations. However, the real story started just below Bird Knob.

Despite being totally unprepared for the warm temperatures and, especially, the humidity, I was running well. Oh, I'd taken a few spills; nothing out of the ordinary from what I was told. The super technical trails were a blast on the downhills, but on this course, you can't just let your mind wander once it levels out. On the plane, I'd put together some splits for a 26 hour finish. It seemed aggressive, but Beat had finished this race in 26:22 so I wanted to see what it would look like. I certainly wasn't planning to kill myself for the time goal given my 2 upcoming 100's in the next two months.

I didn't think much about time until Habron Gap, just before mile 50. I was supposed to arrive around 6pm. I was an hour-fifteen early. I took it easy on the next long section as I could feel the heat build-up in my core. I still ended up at the next aid station an hour ahead of schedule. I iced myself a bit and then tried to take it easy some more on the way to Gap Creek, hoping that the promised cool night temps would sweep in to offer a bit of respite.

Mile 68.7 and I am only 16:20 into my race. Ten hours to go 33 miles. It still seemed within reason. I was feeling pretty good, but what is it I've said before about 100-milers? "Nothing you do in any shorter race can prepare you for what may happen after mile 70."

My only real concerns at the time were trying to cool down and a bit of constipation. Shortly after leaving the aid station, the course turned onto a gravel road. I decided to duck into the trees on the right side to see if I could take care of at least one of my worries. With little success, I continued on down the road. I was feeling good on the easy, rolling, non-technical terrain. I didn't see any course markings, but since I hadn't seen any side trails, I figured there was no need. After a while, it occurred to me that someone should have caught up given my little break. I started to get worried and did a stupid thing; I sped up. Since I was feeling strong, my thinking was that I would either be putting some time in the bank that would come out on the upcoming climb or it would help me find out sooner if I'd missed a turn. When I entered the road, there was another runner ahead of me. Surely he would be heading back by now if we were on the wrong path.

The road ended. No flaggings, no reflective strips, no trail, just a dead end. I won't put the curse words here in writing, but, believe me, I said them all. I then did another stupid thing. I ran back. I checked my GPS so I could see how many bonus miles I was logging. When I reached the trail head it had been 1.8 miles from the end of the road (3.6 round trip). The trail was exactly on the opposite side of the road from where I had ducked into the trees. What kind of dumb luck was that? And, speaking of dumb, I continued to push the pace as I headed out on this trail.

Once I reached the climb, I was forced to slow up allowing a couple of runners to pass me and allowing me to regale in my stupidity. I eventually hooked onto a couple of them and made it to the Visitor's Center aid station, mile 77, mostly in tact. Despite what the official chart says, I actually did those 12 miles (should have been 8.4) at an 18:20 pace. According to my calculations I still thought I could target something in the 27 hour range. So, I went ahead and topped off all my stupid acts with one final display. I sucked down an Ensure, took some caffeine, ate some and then grabbed some chips to go for the steep climb to come.

My stomach was sloshing and I still felt warm despite the cooler temps, but I pressed on. The climbing was becoming difficult and a few people passed me as I took a couple of breathers, feeling a little dizzy. After clearing the rockiest section and heading onto a bit wider trail, I checked my elevation to see that I was nearly done with the climbing. I stopped once more to catch my breath before the final push. That's when it hit me.

I went from hands on my knees, to on my hands and knees...retching, then gagging, then vomiting my guts out. I know there were at least a few people who got to enjoy my display as I answered the "you alright?" question more than once. After--I'm not sure how long--I finally got the convulsions to settle, but I had gone from being too warm to now shivering and chattering teeth. I got up and put on my jacket and headed up the trail. In shades of Western States, anything beyond a slow walking pace sent me right back over the edge.

I sat down on the side of the trail, then I laid down and closed my eyes. As if to punctuate my condition, it started to rain. Wallowing in self-pity, I knew my race was over. I eventually got to my feet and started the slow slog to the next aid station, the beginning of a longer, slower slog to come. My "race" was over, but the epic had just begun...


olga said...

Dude, that f*ed up. I was wondering where the shit are you at the finish. Holy crap. Getting lost for so long. I just want to scream - why did you keep going when you didn't see streamers??? I was relying on them every 10 minutes or I'd go back! OK, I am done. I am sure you're kicking yourself enough. Way to tough it out. Hope to see you elsewhere...may be next year at MMT? :)

Anonymous said...

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Ah- the other side of the coin. Olga makes it look so easy, it's good to see how NOT to make a 100 miler go well.

So sorry for the dumb bad luck and miserable experience. But way to tough it out anyway. You're still one of my (ultra)heroes!

Looking forward to the rest of the report and the happy ending!