Recovery from Massanutten took longer than usual, both physically and mentally. I really didn’t feel my body was back in full swing until running my next race at the Mt. Diablo 50K, three weeks later. It was the first truly warm weekend in the Bay Area which promised the usual hot temps heading up the mountain. Perhaps having been bested by the heat at MMT helped me out since I ended up having a relatively good race. In fact, due mainly to others suffering or dropping out from the conditions, I placed much better than expected.
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 popped out a short while later and 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.
The road ended. No flagging. No reflective strips. No trail, just a dead end. I won't commit into writing all the various curse words, but, believe me, I said them all. At that point I did my second stupid thing. I ran back, hard. I did check my GPS so I could see how many bonus miles I was logging. When I reached the missed trail-head it had been 1.8 miles from the end of the road –3.6 for the round trip. To add insult to injury, the trail was exactly on the opposite side of the road from where I’d ducked into the trees. What kind of dumb luck was that? And, speaking of dumb, I then went on to complete my trio of stupid things; I continued pushing the pace as I headed out onto this trail.
Once I reached the climb, I was forced to slow down allowing a couple of runners to pass me and providing me opportunity to regale with my tale of stupidity. I eventually hooked onto a couple of them and made it to the Visitor's Center aid station, mile 77. 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 believed 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 bit more 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. Given what I’d been through and the food, I should have let digestion take its course. This peak was the top one of the course and I had visions of mostly downhill for the final 20 miles. The climbing became difficult and a few people passed me as I stopped for a couple of breathers. I was 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 hill. I stopped once more to catch my breath before the final push.
I went from hands on my knees, to on my hands and knees. First, retching, then gagging, then vomiting my guts out. I know there were at least a few people who got to enjoy the 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 lay down and closed my eyes. As if to punctuate my condition, it began 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.