Sunday, December 18, 2011

Out from under

Immediately upon return from Nepal I was tossed into the throws of work and the holidays. While its only been 2 weeks, it seems ages have passed since the trip. Blogging and running generally go hand-in-hand with me and I've had neither time nor focus for either. However, I have finally imported and sorted my photos from the trip and I'm committing myself to just a single post covering only the very highest of highlights. My TdG report still sits in draft and I've other thoughts to share before 2011 comes to close. At least I have started to think about training more consistently and its a good thing since my next planned adventure is only 6 weeks away!

Monday, November 28, 2011


There is much to be said about the race and the entire experience of the week surrounding it. Pictures will be uploaded and a report written. I don't know that any of it can begin to convey what I have felt at times being in this place. Despite the obvious struggle to retain its values as its fate intermingles with the developed world, there is, in both its people and its natural beauty, a certain character to Nepal that stands apart from any place else I have been. Perhaps the best I can do to explain is to share a thought I had upon first seeing it's awe inspiring peaks. I've been an avowed atheist since the age of 13, but I'm fairly certain that were I ever to find religion it would be here at the foot of the Himalayas.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Waking up in Kathmandu

I'd intended to have completed my TdG race report before this trip, but here I sit in our hotel room in Nepal after a 15-1/2 hour flight followed by a 12-hour layover in Hong Kong and another 5-1/2 hour flight to Nepal. Unfortunately, the other statistic for the trip thus far is a grand total of around 5 hours sleep in the last 48. We've an internal flight to Pokhara today and another day before race check-in; 2 before the start. It's a foggy morning so there isn't much to see outside our hotel window save for a great mass of noisy birds that appear to be playing out a scene from Hitchcock's famous film. All is being made right with the consumption of my morning caffeine and I'm looking forward to the coming adventure.

I won't have internet access once we are out at the campground, but I believe you can follow the race in some form at the event website:

Racing the Planet: Nepal

Given my lack of training and the 24+lb pack I'll be carrying, my goal is for just finishing, enjoying and taking in the scenery. The camera will be in hand.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Darkest before dawn

Top of the relatively easy Col Lazoney (only 2700ft climbing) on a nice warm day.

We came into Gressoney feeling good, maybe even too good. The term "loopy" comes to mind. We'd made it through the dreaded "section 4" and managed a little sleep in Niel before completing a short climb in the heat of the day. This was followed by a long gradual downhill where we got in a bit of running and I even took time to soak my legs in a creek. Conversation died down as we strolled along the road happily approaching the 200K mark, our trekking poles scratching along the pavement. Harry started tapping his in time. Tap....tap....tap, tap, tap. I joined in watching Harry fall into a march, bobbing his head. The silliness continued to grow, culminating with Harry planting his poles at his sides and kicking up his heels as if performing a jig. We both burst into laughter and I regretting not whipping out my camera to video it as there is no way our other friends would be able to properly envision the scene.

Baby lamb during our relaxing descent
The goal was to shoot for 2 hours sleep. Harry wanted to clean up, but I headed straight for the cots after eating. Within 40 minutes I was wide awake. I tried futilely for another 15 minutes, but it was useless. Harry was sleeping soundly and I didn't want to wake him. However, I knew laying around for an hour was not going to do me any good. I tried to explain that I could go on ahead and we would most certainly meet up later, but Harry would have none of it. He'd do with only an hour. We headed out just before sunset feeling mostly OK.

Just as we we were leaving town there was an intersection along the path with no course markings. In retrospect, it was probably quite obvious which was the correct way, but we hadn't quite fully gathered our diminishing wits so were overcautious. We stopped to check the map and our GPS programs. As we stood there, we noticed a couple of blonde women walking towards us from the opposite direction, one wearing a race number. It was all a bit confusing in our stunted state so we didn't recognize that it was Anne from Alaska along with Jill. I'm sure Jill thought we were completely out of it. When she told us of the steep section ahead, we tried to explain that we weren't too worried if it was "only steep" (i.e. not "steep and covered in boulders" or "steep and lined muddy" or...). I think the poorly executed humor was lost.

The course took us through some town that seemed deserted before starting the climb. Of course, the climbing was steep as promised, but nothing too extraordinary for the course. At Alpenzu we enjoyed cappuccinos before heading over Col Pinter in the dark. The climb was unremarkable, but the descent was another of those that began steep and then seemed to stretch for ever before reaching the next checkpoint. We were tired and planned another nap once we reached Refugio Crest. Of course, this made the section seem even longer. It didn't help that upon arriving, the check-in and sleeping quarters were separated by a bit of distance. At any rate, we had a decent little sleep followed by more cappuccino.

Looking tired at the top of Pinter

"What goes up, must come down." However, at TDG it always seems to go up again first. The short section (up and) down into Saint Jacques was tedious. We didn't stay long, but it was clear the race was taking its toll on many as we saw people being taped up and patched up here. The sun was about to rise and we'd another climb in front of us. Travelling along a stream in a protected valley at dawn, the temperature plummeted. Layer upon layer went on as I bundled up for the first time since the initial rain storm on day 1. 

Wasn't I just too warm yesterday?
Gran Tournalin was one of the most magnificent refugios. Large and accommodating, they offered a bit more than the standard race fare. After eating Harry and I both leaned back in our booth and dozed off for a few minutes on the wooden benches. It was just enough to feel refreshed and ready to brave the cold again. Like night and day, the minute we exited the shade of the peak, the layers were stripped off on the climb up Col di Nana.

Wasn't I just too cold a few minutes ago?
A brief descent...
another col...
and we were headed into Valtournenche...
...the second to last "Life Station."

For some reason, my memory of this place is a bit hazy. I don't think we slept as we headed up the next climb again during the hottest part of the day. It wasn't difficult, though I lagged a bit behind Harry here. In fact, he somehow managed to walk right past the first checkpoint causing much confusion and unnecessary stress when he informed the volunteers at the next stop.

After the initial climb, this section remained up high with short climbs over minor passes. Initially I'd been very concerned about the extended time above 8000ft, but we were quite acclimated by this point. I was also worried about a repeat of section 4, but it turned out to be quite nice here with plenty of easy trail. We managed most of it before sunset allowing us to enjoy the amazing vistas.

Part of Monte Rosa, I believe
Matterhorn from the Italian side
It was a bit warm.
Harry and the high, alpine cows
Sunset is coming.
We began the long drop into Close in the dark. Not only did it begin with one of the steepest descents on course, but the trail consisted of soft, loose gravel that slid beneath our feet at every step. We proceeded more by sliding than anything and remaining upright became a challenge. Indeed, I failed to do so on at least one occasion. I did't feel anything significant at the time, but I believe this is where the tightness in the front part of my lower leg was exacerbated into something much more. The steepness and loose dirt eventually subsided. It was replaced instead by a sudden lack of ribbons over a wet, marshy field. We'd been warned of the cows propensity to eat ribbons and had actually witnessed some of it on the high sections. I guess they had been through this field before heading up.

After wandering about for a while, Harry and I each pulled out our phones that contained the program Beat had written for just such an occasion. It found our location on the GPS, overlayed it on a map of the course and indicated where we were with respect to the proper path. Brilliant! In fact, we'd probably of gotten back on route even quicker, but we were joined by a couple of Hungarian racers. Explaining the situation to them took as much time as finding the next marker.

We entered Close on a short climb as the trail dropped below the level of town before reaching it. We were tired and a bit grumpy. We should have slept there. We only saw two beds in the checkpoint and, for some reason, I got it in my head to be closer to the top of the next pass before sleeping. Despite the fact that the volunteers weren't sure of the facilities at the next stop and despite the fact that we passed a big tent that seemed to have more cots in it and despite Harry's question as to whether we might be making a mistake, I pushed on. We walked like zombies up the steep climb through the woods. Stumbling and falling asleep on our feet. We didn't talk much, but I could feel Harry's frustration growing along with my own guilt. 

Bruson L'Arp was little more than a small camp around a fire. There was a single tent setup for sleeping and it was pretty full. The bottom of the tent seemed to be lined with some sort of corrugated tin. Wrapped in nothing but our jackets we tossed and turned for an hour. The worst "sleep" of the entire race was no way to end an already difficult night. Upon waking one of the Hungarians, a young lady I'd seen since day one, was sitting in the chair in the tent. I hadn't witnessed her taking a single picture on the course, but for some reason the sight of Harry and I in that horrible state moved her to record the moment. In broken English she uttered, "You guys can sleep anywhere."

At the top of the climb, I made my own record of my condition at the time. It wasn't pretty.

However, it was morning, we were moving and headed into Ollomont: the final of the major "life station" checkpoints and a name I'd set in my mind. After that, it was "only" 50K to the finish. For the first time in days the end actually seemed conceivable, but the challenges were far from over. With one last look at the sun rising over the valley, we crossed the pass and headed down.

Saturday, October 15, 2011



I slammed my trekking poles to the ground, little concern over whether they might crash splintering to pieces. After hopping around on my good, left leg, I settled onto a boulder by the side of the trail completely deflated. My inability to travel downhill without pain had mounted an ever-increasing frustration. The strain in the front of my calf was aggrevated most with my foot pointed downwards and there was pretty much no other way to navigate these steep descents. Catching my toe on a rock and pulling it back simply put me over the edge. Though, in truth, the frustration was worse than the pain.


For days, I'd dreamt of this final descent. With so little runnable terrain and having held back on the few sections there were, I'd kept plenty reserve in my legs for the final push. Unfortunately, things hadn't quite worked out as I'd imagined. Apparently, if you train running downhills all the time, your legs may not be prepared for walking it. The breaking motion required to descend slopes much steeper than just about anything on my local trails did me in. One section, in particular, was so steep and the dirt so loose that we were basically skiing down it. I slipped onto my ass which is when I believe I strained my anterior tibialis. This was the descent after Col Vessanez, a long downhill and the beginning of our worst night of the race due to a bad decision on my part. That story will have to wait.

The next day we made it to Ollomont, the final "life base" (a major checkpoint with extra support and a large area set up with cots for sleeping). After a quick meal we intended a solid 2 hours sleep, but too much noise and activity allowed Harry and I only about an hour each. It was noon and, upon awaking, we discovered that Martina, Harry's girlfriend, had not only snuck treats into our drop bags, but had also shown up to see us off on the final section of the race. This lifted our spirits a bit. We gathered ourselves and prepared for the final 50K. Matina walked with us up the initial climb, but quickly realized that, at this point, Harry and I had pretty much lost the ability to communicate with anyone but each other. Frankly, I'm not even sure it qualified as communication. It was mostly single words and phrases referring to things that had happened over the previous 5 days eliciting grunts, groans or giggles from us both.

Starting on the final stretch should have brought more excitement, but we had become so accustomed to ignoring anything beyond the immediate challenge in front of us that all emotions were fairly tempered. Besides, those last 30 miles would take almost an entire day. For my part, I was also starting to realize that the pain in the front of my leg was more than just "tightness". The climb up Col Champillon was steep, like all the others, but relatively free of supplementary challenges. The descent likewise. However, it was here that my leg started to become a problem. I could jog a little on the smoother sections, but walking brought pain with each step. Still, Harry and I made good time on this section and stayed ahead of the various groups with whom we'd been constantly trading positions on the climbs and descents.

After the small checkpoint at the base of the hill, the elevation profile showed a long, relatively gradual descent into Saint-Rhemy--the last stop before the final climb of the race. Exhaustion was catching up with us both so we found a nice grassy plot next to a stream above a farmhouse just off trail. It was warm and, laying there, we felt like a couple hikers simply lounging in the mountains enjoying a lazy afternoon. We dozed off for 20 minutes of some of the best sleep all week. There were miles still to go and what showed as a very easy downhill on the map would, of course, begin with more climbing. In fact the profile just seemed plain wrong on this section. The uphill went on much longer than expected, the final downhill was steeper than shown and the checkpoint itself had been moved further outside town than the previous year. After so many days we were quite blase about such minor annoyances. However, my leg was really beginning to hurt.

Arriving at the checkpoint, I asked if there was a medic around while Harry hit the food table. I'd heard good things about the medical help at TdG, but there wasn't much to be done for a simple muscle strain other than trying to relieve the pain so I could manage the final stretch. With less than 20 miles remaining in a 200+ mile race, I was prepared to crawl if I had to. Some ointment, a little ice, a couple of anti-inflammatories and I was ready to go, at least mentally. I went back outside to the food table to find Harry sitting at the bench with his head on the table and his eyes closed.

The right thing to do would have been to take a break and sleep. They had a large, quiet room filled with cots. The next stop would be minimal support with sleeping space on the floor and we were unlikely to make it past that without a rest. The problem was that I just couldn't do it. I told Harry to go get some sleep while I ate. I contemplated trying to convince him again to stay and catch me later, but I knew he wouldn't have it. I didn't want a repeat of the previous night. I also knew that it was exactly what I was leading us into when I woke Harry after 20 minutes. I'd just managed to summon the resolve to push forward on my leg and stopping at this point wasn't an option for me. I offered Harry one last shot to stay and sleep. As expected, we started up the long, last climb together.

Merdeux sat just below the final pass of the course, little more than a shed. Harry and I tossed fitfully on the cold, wood floor in what seemed to be a storage room. When the only other occupant left, freeing up the sole foam pad, I was willing to let Harry have it, but he insisted we share. Head to toe on the tiny cushion, we slept. Another racer arrived after around 40 minutes to find water had spilled on the floor. I gave him the canvas tarp I was using as a blanket and left Harry to hopefully get some better rest. Beyond the initial 5 hours stint where my usual light-sleeping habit failed me, I hadn't gone more than an hour straight without waking. I was anxious to get going on my bum leg, but wanted Harry to get as much rest as possible because, either way, I knew what was in store for me. I sat in the hut drinking tea and talking to one of the volunteers who told me stories of his visits to America in broken English.

Col Malatra stood around 9600ft. We moved well up this final climb with only one small incident where a large group of Italians we'd let pass decided to stop for a photo, holding up a string of us on the rocky, technical section lined with ropes. I could hear Harry cursing beneath his breath as he stood there, but I simply pushed through unwilling to delay my inevitable painful descent. As we headed down the other side, Harry's cursing was drown out by my own as the pain in my leg increased with every downward step, reaching its apex when my toe caught that rock.


All manner of negative thought went through my head as I sat there on the boulder. I still had little doubt that I'd finish the race, but I felt betrayed by my own body at a point where I should have been savoring every moment. Harry walked over to me and put up his hand for a high-five. "That was the last climb. We've got this thing done!" I had to smile. Not only was he right, but the role-reversal of Harry reminding me to get over my defeatist attitude forced me to laugh at myself. The pain was worse, but I was moving again.

Eventually, Harry went ahead to the refugio to see if he could find some pain killers for me. Though we'd stuck  through so much over the previous days, I was actually glad for him to go. Not only did I feel like I was holding him back on some of the most runnable trails we'd seen in days, but I really needed to focus all of my energy internally. It was taking everything I had to ignore the shock that went up my leg each time my foot hit the ground. The extra effort further fueled the tiredness that inevitably hits me just before sunrise. I would need one final nap at the checkpoint encouraging Harry to go on. Finishing on my own was fine by me.

Nothing can take away from the camaraderie that Harry and I shared over the course of this race. But, even together, there's a personal aspect to pushing oneself through these type of challenges that's ever present. Having those final miles on my own to reflect simply punctuated the entire experience.

Besides, it's not like we didn't celebrate at the finish!

I had just enough strength left to grab Harry and lift him off the ground.

Friday, September 23, 2011


As I hobbled towards the finish on my increasingly lame right leg, the morning sun was just beginning to illuminate the Mont Blanc massif. Clouds moved in and a light drizzle fell. Some magic European pain relievers  had kept my strained tibialis at bay for over an hour, but, approaching the final checkpoint, I could feel it re-emerging just in time for the final steep descent into Courmayeur. Despite spending nearly every moment of the past 5 days together, I'd encouraged Harry to go ahead to the finish from Rifugio Bonatti. Not only would my diminished downhill pace have been excruciating since he was feeling good, but I needed one last nap to gather strength before the last stretch. Imagining Harry cruising towards the finish made me smile and helped distract me from the less than optimal final miles.

I crossed the finish line in just under 6 days (143 hours and change); my elation tempered with relief. Still, I've never been happier at the completion of an event and I gave Harry a huge bear hug when I saw him. Looking back, it was hard to comprehend how we'd managed to get ourselves through the course. It still is. Many memories are a jumble and there are gaps where I can't quite piece things together even with the help of my photos. I suppose that's to be expected with not much more than 8 hours sleep for the week and only 5 of any significant quality. Furthermore, there are certain memories--highs as well as lows--that simply fade everything else into the backdrop.

It's been nearly a week since finishing the Tor des Geants and my nights are still filled with dreams of ascending and descending steep rocky trails. Looking back, the race seems alternately to have been one, extremely long day and a trek that lasted months. There were sections where we imagined dragging our tattered bodies through a war-zone (minus the bullets) and others were it seemed we were simply out on a casual (albeit quite extended) hike. Mostly, we were simply struck by two very contrasting sensations: how incredibly difficult the terrain was to traverse and how amazingly beautiful the surroundings were to be in.

Rather than a traditional race report, I am going to try and piece together as much as I can in a series of posts. Working backwards, I'll try to cover the key features and events for each of the sections. While the race itself is broken up by the major "life stations" and then by checkpoints in between these, I will follow a structure that maps more closely to the physical and emotional states that Harry and I navigated as much as we did the course itself.

Not from the race, but our preparation the week before. It's one of my favorites and how I choose to remember The Alps

Saturday, September 10, 2011

And now...

...for something completely frightening.

200 miles of trail. 80,000ft of climbing. A challenge equal to the amazing beauty of the Italian Alps.

Follow along here:


My closest call yet.

I realize I'm tempting fate in writing this, but after 19 100-milers and 60+ Ultra-marathons in total, I still remain without a single DNF (Did Not Finish). I'm well aware that a significant portion of this streak is attributable to luck and at least as much to an unwillingness to push myself too hard. In the end, I guess my only true talent is an unwavering ability to trudge through whatever amount of pain and misery a given race may throw at me. At some point, that simply won't be enough. At Tahoe, it nearly wasn't.

Entering the race, my mindset and physical conditioning were far from optimal. With a 5am start and much of the race above 8000ft, it was far from an ideal setup for me. Then there was my less than optimal experience running the 50 mile version of this event back in 2007. I guess 4 years is long enough to forget since the one thing I do recall from that race is thinking that I would never want to do 2 loops of the course. Yet, here I was about to do just that only on a slightly modified route that promised even more climbing.

Snow in July
I hung back with Jill and Beat during the early miles trying to keep things easy. Jill was undertaking her first "running" 100 miler (she'd finished Susitna in February) and Beat was taking things especially slow since he'd signed up for some crazy race in the French Alps just 10 days after TRT. With 5 pee breaks in the first 10 miles, it was clear my body was not in top form for this race. I tried to distract myself with the inspiring views and precarious-yet-fun snow fields during the early miles. However, by Red House loop, I was already hitting my first low.

Not feeling great coming out of the loop

I always tell myself to ignore any bad spell that comes in the first 4 hours as it has little to do with the rest of the race. Even so, the encouraging words from friends doing the 50 miler did not bouy my spirit as I made the steep climb out of the loop. I was hopeful that pushing past the 4 hour zone would bring me back around, but I also knew I was entering the dreaded "8500 foot" zone. My low dragged on. Harry, starting an hour later in the 50, caught up to me when I was pretty much at rock bottom. While I was unable to convince him that this might be my first drop, I said that maybe I would just end up DFL (Dead F***ing Last). I must have been pretty bad because he looked at me as though it might be a reasonable expectation.

The views offered little help at this point

I thought that if I could just hold it together until the descent to Squaw Peak Lodge, I might recover, but there was a lot of rolling terrain before the descent. I don't usually have major issues going up to altitude, but sustained time at or above 8500ft seems to just drag on me. Somewhere along this section, I devised this little chart in my head to help me deal with it:

ElevationDownhillFlat trailGradual uphillSteep uphill
below 8000ftRunRunShuffle*Walk
above 8500ftRunWalkWalk
*Monitor breathing and heart-rate and walk if necessary

I don't know whether the plan itself worked or whether it was the distraction of the mental exercise, but I made it down to the lodge and felt OK. After a short break and a popsicle, I was ready to take on the massive climb up the ski slope...or so I thought. I had caught up with Jill, so at least my misery had company. The climb started innocuously enough, but as soon as we turned the corner around the lift, the full-on 35% incline presented itself. The slope was unrelentingly steep with multiple false peaks. The only consolation was the amazing view of Lake Tahoe that only improved with each gasping rest I took. Jill is a much better climber so I couldn't quite keep up with her, but I was surprised that more people didn't pass me as I slogged my to the top.


Once at the peak, I knew we had mostly downhill in front of us save for the climb to Snow Valley Peak (high point of the course). This was the same place where I'd made my recovery during the 50 miler 4 years prior so my spirits we looking up. Upon arriving back at Red House I was already feeling better and even looking forward to the snow fields on the way to Hobart. They were very slushy at this point. As I made a "but-slide" down a particularly steep and slippery slope, I promised myself to grab my trekking poles for the return trip at night.

Before I knew it, I was on the climb to Snow Valley with my mind set on the long downhill beyond. As I've  said before, climbing up and over a peak is not usually an issue. Besides, the Eagle Scouts manning this aid station had laid out humorous signs all along the final mile to keep us distracted. They also ran one of the best aid stations I've ever experienced. The Sorbet was especially appreciated, but I did not dally.

The downhill was everything I remembered, but I held back knowing that I'd another half race to go. The generally frustrating last 2 miles of flat to the start/finish area wasn't as bad as I had imagined. My spirits were lifted. I was, as always looking forward to the night. Harry, Martina and Beat were all waiting at the aid station. I came in and sat down filled with smiles. Harry commented on how surprising my recovery was. In fact, I had apparently looked so bad that an accidental call to my wife had created an unnecessary level of concern. Nothing a happy call home couldn't fix.

After stuffing my face and gathering my night gear I was back underway. I headed out alongside a couple whom I had met coming into the aid station. However, they took a break in the first 1/2 mile due to some stomach issues leaving me alone in the dark; my favorite way to travel. I don't recall what thoughts filled my head, but I was enjoying myself immensly.

I knew the section to the first aid station was relatively long, but I didn't recall the exact path as my emotional universe was a quite different from the one through which I travelled in the morning. When a came upon a somewhat confusing intersection it should have given me pause, but there was a large reflective arrow on a sign pointing right so I went right and didn't give it much thought. As I ascended higher and higher through the woods, somewhere back in my conscious was the scratching knowledge that this wasn't right. I've gone off course in a handfull of races and its always the same. It's not the inital mistake, but the tendency to continue on beligerantly pushing doubt to the back of my mind against mounting evidence that has continued to elude me.

As I stood at the top of snowfield staring at one of the little yellow signs set by the scounts, I let out an audible "FUCK!" In truth, I'd known it for some time as there shouldn't have been any snow on the section at all, but I needed the blatent evidence to slap me out of my mental momentum. I was about a mile from the aid station, but the wrong one. I considered continuing there to fill my bladder, but I knew that would be the end of my race. I turned and headed down. By the time I arrived at the correct aid station, I'd gone an extra 4.5 miles only to realize that I had been but a few hundred yards away when I made the wrong turn. As I stood there coming to grips with this realization, the last runner in the race came in. I'd already made my decision to finish the race, but I'd never been at the back before. Chasing cutoffs was a brand new experience.

I made it to Tunnel Creak and put all thoughts out of mind in order to complete the dreaded Red House Loop once again. Arriving back at the aid station I was informed of where I stood. It was nearly 4:00am. The cuttoff at Squaw Valley Peak, they told me, was 7:15am. I had my doubts. In fact, as I headed up the climb to the next aid station--the same spot where I'd had my low the previous morning--I was prepared to just give up the chase, hang out and make my way down to the lodge to end my race. For better or worse, when I arrived, nobody was there. The station was unmanned. I continued.

The long section above 8500ft was not so bad this time. Whether due to the cool, dense night air or some other factor, I made my way towards the descent with relative ease. Just as the trail began heading down I came across Jill sitting on a tree stump in the dim light of the early morning. She looked dejected. Her feet were shot. I was ready to invite her to join me on the long stroll to end our races together, but then she told me the cuttoff was 7:45. She knew her feet weren't up for the task, but encouraged me that I should have no problem. I tried to offer some words, but my spark was already ignighted and I started to push.

As I hit the road at the bottom, Beat was there. "Dude, the cuttoff is 7:35am, you better hurry!" He trotted along side me and I informed him about Jill, but he seemed to already know. We arrived at the aid station 10 minutes before cuttoff. I sucked down a latte, grabbed some other snacks and headed up the monster climb for one last push. I knew if I could make it to the peak without blowing up, I could mount a comeback. I conquered the ascent with continuous steps folllowed by rests. I ignored everything else save the progress below my feet. Eventually, I could see the top of the ski lift. At the peak, I rested breifly gathering the my energy for the final 18 miles.

The remainder of the race was somewhat anti-climatic. I'd gained 15 minutes on the cutoff by Tunnel Creek. Nobody behind me had made it so I was followed by the race sweep to Hobart and then onto the climb (my third) up to Snow Valley Peak. I caught another runner there and stuck with him until the descent after the aid station. On the final downhill, I caught and passed another runner. I finished in 3rd to last with nearly an hour to spare.

At the finish, Beat uttered the now classic line "Steve, you are both the toughest and dumbest person I know."

Humourous though it is, the epithet has sort of stuck in my craw. I've given myself numerous mental "standing orders" to try and avoid such situations. Reminded myself that if there is ever the slightest doubt, I should turn around, go back, and check. However, when I am out there I seem only able to move in a forward direction. Perhaps this perstence--misguided though it occasionally may be--is the same trait responsible for my tendency to always finish what I begin. So much have I trained myself to ignore the doubts, questions and concerns bubbling up from my sub-conscious that I sometimes end up missing those intended to keep me from going wrong. In the grand scheme of things, I guess it's a pretty good trade-off to make. That is, as they say, until it isn't.

Thursday, September 08, 2011


I've a TRT race report half constructed and another finish at Headlands Hundred with no report even in mind. As I sit here typing this in Courmayeur, Italy it is difficult to focus any mental energy on these recent accomplishments. My personal life has undergone a voluntary upheaval in the past few months, but even that is being pushed to the background as I prepare myself mentally for the biggest physical challenge of my life. The Tor des Geants begins in less than 3 days.

The brief recap of our trip so far is that we arrived on Saturday, the 3rd and went to Chamonix, France to spend a couple of days before heading here. After checking into our apartment we headed up for a hike on the first part of the course to stay up in a Refugio for two nights. This gave us a taste of the terrain. It is so far beyond any race in the US that it is difficult to fathom. Our 16 mile trek included well over 8000 feet of climbing. If you can imagine that, then imagine that it only represents 8% of the course we will attempt cover beginning on Sunday.

The only thing that may make it even remotely endurable is that the beauty of the Alps is an equal match to their ruggedness.

Here's a very small taste:

Friday, July 15, 2011


Being a native Californian, tornadoes are not exactly a natural source of analogies for me. However, I have visited areas frequented by such weather patterns and seen one actual twister with my own eyes. There seems no better symbol than those dark skies and thick air preceding such phenomenon to convey a sense of the foreboding. I am in the midst of some major life changes at the moment and while I believe the end result will be a positive outcome, it does feel a bit like a gathering storm at the moment. Between meeting with Realtors, coordinating contractors and packing up the last 10 years of our life, its strange to think that the potential of running a 100 miles overnight through the mountains this weekend, may be the only thing to provide a sense of normalcy. The timing suck, but my wife is supportive, understanding that I probably need this now more than ever and, perhaps, also a bit happy to have me out of the house where I sometimes get in the way as much as I help.

So, here I am in Tahoe while the whirlwind continues back home. This will certainly continue my downward trend in terms of entering 100s with a lack of preparation. I haven't run a step in nearly two weeks, my weight is up, I'm physically tired and mentally exhausted. I'm telling myself that it is good training for my 200 miler in September, but my only real hope is to have a good race and finish. I haven't had time to report on San Diego, but it didn't go great. The trails were beautiful and the race organization top notch, but it was warmer than I was prepared for and an early race over exuberance caught up with me and did my stomach in. I still enjoyed much of the event and managed to keep my spirits up at the end enough to cross the line in a playful 27:27:27.

We shall see what tomorrow brings me. I am expecting it to bring great trails, amazing views and a bit of inspiration during a very stressful time.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

After Mile 70

I signed up for the Santa Barbara Endurance Race 100 miler mainly because of the advertised 30,000+ft if elevation gain and the need to start some serious climb training towards my big end-of-summer goal. After one of the wettest winters in recent California history forced the RD to modify the course mere weeks before the start, I was a little concerned. When the new course included nearly a marathon's worth of road running, I became a bit bummed. However, I reminded myself that 100 miles is still 100 miles and even if it had far less than the advertised ascent, it would be a good launching pad for my series of summer races.

I guess I could handle 25 miles of road if it all included views like this

My plans were further altered when Beat backed out of the race due to a nagging Achilles after finishing his 3rd 100-miler this year at the grueling White Mountains race in Fairbanks, AK (go figure). Some solo time sounded good to me anyways so I headed out of work early Wednesday to stay at our place in Arroyo Grande and then down to the pre-race meeting at Rancho Oso on Thursday. A quirky, but enthusiastic RD, a very cool start/finish venue and an assortment of participants ranging from ultra-elite runner Geoff Roes to the big, smiling Ken Michal with his "All Day" motto and shirt logo, set the tone for this low-key 100-miler.

The early Friday start was preceded by a ceremonial blessing by a member of the local Chumash tribe just before sunrise. We then set off, up the initial climb via the only single track on the course. I'd mapped the route online and followed it a few times via Google Earth, but it's still difficult to get a sense of the steepness. The single track dumped onto the long, gradual--far too runnable--firetrail up to the road. Making it to the initial aid station in an hour and 15 was definitely ahead of pace. While I tried to take it easier along the road to the next aid station, I still arrived at mile 10 right at 2 hours, staring at a long descent down another gradual firetrail to the reservoir.

Being a natural downhiller,I knew I couldn't exactly slow down on this section, but since I generally run at "gravity's pace" I would at least be able to take it easy since it was far from steep. I met up with a few other runners on this section, first a young guy named Mike from Sacramento and then Tiffany Guerra from LA who was the lead woman. Near the bottom we hooked up with another group of guys and we all headed up the short climb before the turnaround together as the leaders came through. Geoff made some comment about not expecting to see a "pack" in this race. We laughed. I commented back to him that this wasn't going to be the best training for his goal race at UTMB. I figured our little pack wouldn't last. I was pretty sure we were all going out too fast and hitting the 20 mile mark in 3:45 was all the confirmation I needed. I swore I would take it easier on the climb back up.

I arrived at the top in 6-1/2 hour for 50K. That did was a bit of a slower pace,, but it was still a pace for a (completely unreasonable) 21 hour finish. The next 6 miles were back on road. My hips began complaining and I began questioning whether I had blown up before even mile 40. Luckily, the asphalt didn't last long. The promised, rugged dirt road at its end  immediately loosened my hips, my legs and my head after a brief descent. Right about mile 40 the climbing started. Given how moderate the initial terrain had been, even if the course went straight up to the turnaround from here, there was no way we were going to accumulate a total of 30,000ft. It didn't go straight up, but it did become significantly steeper.

I fell back in with Mike and Tiffany over the next several miles. It was far from lock-step as Tiffany was quite a the climber, but I could catch up on the interspersed downhills in the early miles. Mike was closer to my pace being only a slightly better climber and keeping nearly my pace on the descents. We chatted a bit. He was fairly new to 100 milers. When talk turned to finishing times, I told him it was far to early to be thinking about that. The race doesn't start until after mile 70. I then regaled him of all my worst 100 mile experiences each of which had degraded north of mile 70.

The three of us exited the Vista Peak aid station together en route to the final 7 miles before the turnaround. At the bottom of the first descent, Geoff Roes came by on his way back. Friendly guy that he is, he stopped to give us some advice to make sure we had plenty of water for the next section. He had drained a full 40oz on his way out. I said I was fine, but probably should have thought a bit deeper on the subject. The day was getting warm and if Geoff had drained 40, I would need at least all of the 50 I had in my bladder. Not that I would have gone back to the aid station and filled up further, but I might have conserved a bit more or simply have taken this as a word of caution that the hardest part of the trail was to come.

If the entire course had been anything like the final stretch to Divide Peak, this would have been a very different race. It's easy to see how the original planned course might have been the beast we all expected. The trails became progressively steeper and more rugged as we approached the peak. Tiffany marched up the first steep climb not to be seen again for until the turnaround. Mike eventually dropped me too as the hills started to weigh on me. Serious doubts began to creep into my psyche about the effects of my early exuberance. 

As the climbs reached their pinnacle of steepness, I drained both the last of my water and my energy reserves. I was seriously bonking and moving up the hills at a snail's pace. At one point I just stopped and sat on a rock. I became upset with myself for having mismanaged my early race so poorly. I resigned to just shuffle it into the aid station and take some time to recover. As I headed up the final climb, Mike and Tiffany came down. I was surprised I hadn't been overtaken by more people.

The excited (and slightly inebriated) volunteers were all abuzz at the aid station. I muttered something about needing to "gather myself", took a seat and asked for soup. As I slurped my chicken noodle, I worked on getting my head straight. The good thing about having experience at the distance is that I knew I had plenty of time to recover. A check of the watch showed that I had arrived at the half way point in less than 11-1/4 hours. Given that the bulk of the climbing was already done, I was still on sub-24 pace, though I had no intention of chasing that goal. I resolved to stay until 11:30 race time. However, as soon as others began arriving, I realized I was already feeling better and decided to get off my butt and head out on the rocky trails.

We weren't the only ones enjoying these rough dirt roads.

Once I hit those technical downhills, it didn't take long for my spirits to lift. It also didn't take long for me to catch back up with Mike. When he complimented me on my recovery, I responded that "I don't know why I ever fret the climbs in the first place." Caught up in my enthusiasm, he began flying down the steeps alongside me and eventually we caught up with Tiffany. When she commented that we were going to leave her in our dust, I joked that I was just trying to "crush Mike's quads before mile 70." For the time being, we pushed each other to keep a good pace. We probably didn't have enough time to make it all the way to the road, but the final miles would be fairly smooth climbing so optimizing daylight to get through the rocky sections was a good plan.

It was certainly dark by the time I reached the road, but I always like to hold off on my flashlight for as long as possible. I turned it on just before entering the aid station at the 100K mark and 14:30 into my race. Mike caught up and I knew he would be leading me out given that he had full crew and was picking up a pacer. Tiffany also came in and out as I was prepping for the night and hoping (unsuccessfully) to take care of some minor GI issues. I figured I was going to be slower along the paved section. It was time to put the brain in "auto" and wake it up at the 70 mile point. For the most part, it went as planned other than a very strong wind sweeping across the ridge. I ended up skipping the intermediate unmanned station and arriving at Angostura Pass on empty.

Tiffany had already passed through and Mike was just leaving when I came in. I took my time knowing the 10 miles of downhill ahead would suite me. I caught up with Mike fairly quickly as he and his pacer had slowed to a walk. He said he was just taking a break. I really hoped my earlier joke hadn't turned prophetic. I cruised through this section catching one other struggling runner near the bottom before the turnaround. I was feeling less than perfect and with 20 miles to go, the 5 remaining hours to break 24 seemed a tall order. I hadn't come to the event in either racing condition or mindset. However, I knew I'd kick myself for my fast pace early in the race if I didn't at least try to finish strong.

On the return I passed Tiffany, but was caught and passed shortly thereafter by another runner who had obviously managed his energy better than I had. A short downhill was coming up and I decided it was just the incentive I needed to kick up the effort level. I leaned forward, picked up my feet and got going. Halfway down the slope, I felt it drop. The minor GI blockage I'd been dealing with all day came to a sudden and urgent resolution. Details will be spared, but the next 15 minutes or so was spent in the bushes with the only conclusion being that you can never have too many Handi-Wipes in a trail race.

Under a mix of relief and discomfort, I made my way up to the next aid station where I hit the porta-john for a final check to assure all was in order. I also learned at this aid station that Mike had dropped from the race. He said his legs were shot. I hate being right about it, but I did warn him about mile 70. I bid him farewell and wished him a strong recovery for his future endeavors as he took a ride out. I made descent time on the climb to the ridge bringing my total climbing time to just over 3 hours even with my diversions. Tiffany was just leaving as I came in. I thought she might be able to breach 24 if she really pushed the final 10 miles. I had no such intention.

"I'm gonna just take my time here so I'm not even tempted to chase sub-24," I told the volunteers with a smile as I stopped to survey the snack table. In truth it was hard not to do the math in my head, knowing that the final 8 miles was almost completely downhill and knowing I could probably make 10 minute miles going down even this late in the race. I decided not to chase the goal, but just see how close I could get without too hard a push. So, when I was handed my filled pack, I put it on, grabbed a few items from the table and headed out.

It wasn't more than a few steps before I felt it. Water running down my back. I stopped, took the pack off, checked the lid and put it back on. More water. I headed back to the checkpoint for a full inspection to find that the bladder had already leaked significantly and the pack was soaked as was my shirt. The next 15 minutes were spent sitting in a chair, under blankets trying to warm back up. Luckily I had an extra shirt and a handheld bottle in my drop bag. I probably should have listened to my own statement when I came into the aid station.

I eventually got back underway and made it to the final stretch of dirt road right around sunrise. With all time pressure off, the final 5-6 miles of gradual, winding downhill was eminently enjoyable. I passed Tiffany near the top as she was having some challenges with the downhills at this point. As light spread over the valley, I maintained a leisurely 10-11 minute pace. As I approached the final miles the speedy 50K, 50mile and 100K runners began passing on their way up offering encouraging words. As always seems the case in 100 miles, you need one final challenge before the finish. For some reason I didn't recall the final mile having so much climbing in it or being so long when I ran it on fresh legs the previous morning.

I crossed the finish line right around 24 hours and 40 minutes. Keeping with the low-key nature of the event, the ranch was empty and quiet. I had to seek someone out in order to report my finish time. I congratulated Mauricio Puerto (the runner who passed me in the night) on his strong finish and sub-24 result. I then waited for Tiffany to come in and congratulated her for being first female before heading to the back of my Jeep for a nice nap. Full results are on UltraSignup. Geoff Roes knocked this thing off in 16-1/2 without even trying. 8 hours back, I took 6th place. It was a good event. I'd probably run it differently if I did it again, but there are no regrets about any aspect of the race as it was.

Once again, I've finished my report just in time for my next big race. San Diego 100 is this in two days. Other than one big weekend where I followed Mission Peak hill repeats by 53 miles of road biking and running the Ohlone 50K on consecutive days, my training has been essentially non-existent. I've no major goals of racing this one either, but it is rumored a relatively moderate course so the challenge will be again not to go out too hard. Regardless, 6 weeks later, I am more than ready for another 100 miles of fun and adventure.

Look for me out there, somewhere after mile 70.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Being Schooled

Since this race report is going to take me some time to complete and since the posts will end up in reverse order from the event time table, I thought I would publish a TOC.

Table of Contents

Being Schooled (lessons learned)


Lesson 19: Looking back is looking forward

I've heard ultrarunning likened to banging one's head against a wall. It doesn't really make sense and most of us aren't totally clear exactly why we do it, but it feels so good when you finally stop. After the finish, I checked into the headquarters cabin and let them know I was done. I congratulated Jamshid on a great finish and headed over to the racer's cabin. Most everyone inside was asleep so I changed clothes in the dark, laid out my sleeping bag and crawled in. I don't think I've ever fallen to sleep quite so quickly in my life. I awoke about an hour later to relieve my bladder and then again after a few hours when Jill and Beat arrived. The remaining hours were spent in blissful slumber until the sun came up.

Bleary-eyed racers began to awake around the cabin and there was Hernan sitting up in one of the beds. We smiled in recognition and congratulations. Brief conversations were shared about the race, but it was clear everyone was still a bit out of it. Eventually, all but Jill, Beat and me headed out. We were waiting for word about Danni when the final racer, a skier, came into the cabin. She said she had spent some time with Danni and had seen her at Flathorn. Apparently, she had accepted a ride to the final checkpoint after deciding her race was over. We would have to wait around for a while to find out what the plan was for getting her out.

I was in no hurry. I felt good and, after putting on my warm jacket, was enjoying simply ambling around the area.  We ate a huge breakfast at the cafe and then I stood outside for a while thinking and reflecting. It seems disingenuous to call the experience "indescribable" after having written so many words about it. But, at the end of these epic events, it's always difficult to characterize the jumble of emotions I feel. In this case it was something like a deep sense of satisfaction coupled with a longing for more given all I'd learned. There was no grumbling or swearing off the race. My thoughts were filled with sled designs and better gear management, the desire for longer adventures and a sense of anticipation for the plans I had in the coming year. Clearly, these harsh lessons had not left me no wiser.

I imagine that anyone who has read this entire report (assuming such exists) is hoping that what I've ultimately learned has something to do with brevity and economy of language. I might say that I'll never write a report this long again, but I've said that before about shorter ones so I think my credibility on such matters is shot. Certainly, two months is a long time to take, but it has given me some insight into why I enjoy writing these. Obviously, a blog is not a private journal. Having an audience, for what feels like a personal indulgence, bears similarity to the reason for running races. It's motivation to finish. In writing, I get to put myself mentally back out there and hang onto the experience. However, if I never complete it, then I can't make the shift from reflection to anticipation. Planning the next big adventure is at least as satisfying as reliving the last.

Lesson 20: Always leave them smiling

There is no "Lesson 20".

Being Schooled (final lessons)

Flathorn - Finish

Lesson 16: It's all uphill in the snow

Being in a hurry can make you stupid. It had warmed up during the day and I had been moving well so I'd taken off my mittens on the final stretch to the checkpoint. I discovered only one upon arrival. I tried not to fret about it. I had the cabin to myself so I rushed around, trying to efficiently take care of business. The first thing I did was to take off my top layers and put them near the stove. While laying out my mid-layer, I waved it too close and it touched the little window. The fabric immediately clung to the hot glass and melting a few nice big holes in my shirt.

I should have recognized this as the first sign my brain wasn't running on all cylinders, but, once again, I just rolled with it. I ate some of the wonderful gumbo, filled my water bladder and stuffed a few more random food items in my mouth, preparing for the final 16 miles. Even though I'd walked through the deep snow to get there, I forgot to grab a change of socks just as I'd done here on my way out. There must be something about Flathorn. Before leaving, I asked the volunteer working the checkpoint about the course. She assured me it was almost completely flat. A little over a mile along the lake then a short climb up to the "faultline" which was a straight shot to the finish.

I headed out in good spirits despite my mistakes, happy to be back on the trail before sundown. I'd decided to mentally split the final stretch into 4 mile sections. I would check my GPS only after I'd covered what felt like a significant distance. I was excited to discover how quickly the first couple miles passed, moving off the lake, through the small moguls and onto the faultline. I'm sure by most standards--including my usual non-snow filled ones--this section would be considered flat. In truth, the entire 16 miles only climbed around 650ft. However, the trail was as straight as could be. I could see for miles in front of me and all I saw was a long, gradual uphill dotted with occasional clusters of trees on either side, only slightly breaking the monotony.

I began selecting trees way off in the distance, trying to guess how far away they were. I then would refuse to look at my GPS until I arrived at the chosen destination. Inevitably, the distance covered would end up significantly less than I had estimated and, inevitably, even more of the long, straight, gradually uphill trail would reveal itself in front of me. By the time I'd covered 2 miles of this terrain to complete my initial 4 mile block, I'd given up. I couldn't stare up at the trail anymore. The more I watched it, the more I felt like I was simply climbing and climbing. Looking up only occasionally was no better as each glance would present a new false summit. I resolved to simply stare down at the snow. The snow had a mind of its own.

Lesson 17: You can be scared without feeling scared

My brain was numb. I knew I was hallucinating. Usually upon realizing my mind is playing tricks on me, the simple knowledge is enough to right my eyes and reveal the reality of the situation. Snow is weird. It doesn't seem to play by the same rules as other elements. Everywhere I looked, every bump, every indentation, appeared as an elaborate 3 dimensional sculpture. It was as if the ground had been littered with little globes each containing a tiny scene captured within. Some looked like cartoons of animals or caricatures of people. Others appeared as detailed and intricate carvings worthy to sit alongside Rodin's best work. After a time it actually became entertaining, like watching a show. It helped the miles pass, but did nothing for my pace.

I noticed a light approaching behind me. It wasn't moving fast enough to be a snowmobile or even a bike, but it was going at a good clip. When it came close enough, I realized it was a runner...actually running! It was Jamshid. As he passed, I offered words of encouragement and attempted to pick up my own pace a bit. I didn't have it in me. It seemed my body was following my mind down its gradual path of degradation. I became aware of how slow I'd been moving. I left Flathorn with the thought that maybe I could cover the final miles in 5 hours to make 36. Half way through, it was clear that was far out of reach. Racing against time--any time--is often a good motivator for me near the end of a race. It was becoming clear that in the final miles of the Susitna 100 I would be racing against something else entirely.

Night fell and it became cold. I could feel that my simple liner gloves inside the shell mittens were not as effective as the fleece I'd worn before. I could also tell my socks needed a change. Stopping seemed distasteful so I tried to pick up the pace again. It helped only slightly. I was wishing I could summon the feeling I'd carried with me through most of this race, just enjoying being out there, touring across the snow. It seemed impossible given this trail's incessant consistency. Then, my wish was granted. A marker indicated a right turn that headed downhill. It descended sharply and turned. I was running. I was happy. I thought that if the trail would continue like this, I could manage it without problem. Unfortunately, it wouldn't.

After about a mile the trail headed sharply up. It was still seemed better than the constant gradual ascent, but at the top of the climb, it turned right onto far too familiar terrain. I looked back left and my heart sunk. This was the same wide path I'd been on. It was like waking from a dream within a dream only to find myself trapped back in the original nightmare from which I thought I'd escaped. There'd been a dark mood growing within me before I'd left this road and now it returned. As I continued slowly onward I felt something looming over me. It wasn't the distinct feeling of an imagined presence following me on the trail at night. That I'd had before; I could shake it off. This was more like some cloudy phantom tugging at the back of my consciousness, refusing to go away. I was also becoming quite cold. I needed to do something about my fingers and toes, but I couldn't convince myself to stop.

A snowmobile drove up alongside and asked how I was. I immediately said "fine" as the mere sight of him made me feel as if I'd just exhaled. A short ways father, he stopped to help another racer up the road: Jamshid. In the presence of others, I was able to finally realize that ignoring my cold digits was no longer an option. I stopped and unzipped my bag. I put on my VBL gloves before undoing my shoes, but they were too big and awkward so I had to work barehanded. I first tried my expedition socks, but couldn't make them work so I tore them off and went for the VBL socks and wool overs. All this messing with gear was taking too long. I could feel the tips of my fingers tingling. They felt as if they were burning. I scrambled, but tried to stay focused. My socks weren't sitting right, I didn't know if the gloves would work, but I had to get moving. I stuffed my old things back in the duffel, zipped it, latched my belt and began dragging my sled as fast as I could go.

The first thing I noticed was my breath, those short, staccato puffs. I was hyperventilating. I tried to slow it down as my body warmed up. Getting my breathing under control, I noticed all the tension in my body starting to relax. I finally realized what had been following me this past miles and, in awareness, hoped to put it to rest. The sneaking spectre of fear had finally apparated into outright panic. Panic, I could handle; I could deal with it head on. I started through my mental checklist. First, keep moving. Watch the trail. Stay warm. Drink. Do I need to eat? Keep moving...

Lesson 18: Forgetting all I'd learned

The road!

A sign at an intersection indicated I was to cross and head alongside the road. I recognized this. I was back at Ayshire for the final 3 miles. I was so happy that I think I let down my guard. While it was much more packed down than it had been when we started the race, it was still far from a fast trail. It also seemed to include much more climbing than it had descent when I'd headed down it a day and a half before. I'd still an hour to go, but 37 was my new number. I was motivated. Focus, however, was another story.

Now that I had conquered fear, exhaustion and its evil twin, sleepiness, had stepped in to fill the void. Not a mile into this trail and I could feel myself beginning to stumble. My hallucinations were in full force as well. Along with the small shapes at my feet, the large piles of snow alongside the trail appeared as giant bodies laying prone in various intertwined positions. Further down the path my headlamp put on a show of its own. I started to see colors. I'd approach what appeared to be walls comprised of various shades of stone only to recognize them as mere shadows of grey against the white snow. I might have found it interesting had I been capable of composing a single coherent thought.

My brain had turned to scrambled eggs. Cognition was a distant memory. Snippets, phrases and half-formed ideas floated around in my mind. I shook my head to keep myself awake. I knew I was almost there. I just had to keep going a little longer, but somehow, that knowledge worked against me, providing a sense of release when constraint was what I needed most. At some point I seemed to lose where I was and then...I was out!

I came too as soon as I hit the snow on the side of the trail. I had never fallen asleep on my feet like that before. It was enough of a shock to bring me immediately to my senses. I got up and started running. I committed to run to the finish. At some point I'd accidentally paused my GPS so I had no idea exactly how far it was. It didn't matter. I pushed and then pushed some more. One more hill and I could see the turn up ahead. I think someone came by on a bike and told me I was almost there, but I'm not really sure. All I recall is "sprinting" down that final hill into an empty lot in the middle of nowhere and crossing the finish line.

I was done.