“Do you need a kick in the ass? Get outta here! GO!!!”
Anywhere else and those would be fighting words. But at the 42.3 mile Buffalo Creek aid station those were the exact words I needed to hear, and they worked to motivate me to finish those last 7.7 miles in just about 1:22. Let me rewind and put that all into context…
…I rolled into said aid station feeling like absolute crap, the last mile-and-a-half prior (about miles 40 to 42) was really tough on me, and a few miles here and there before were also not very nice, starting somewhere around miles 35-36. It was during the climb out of the Tramway Creek water station that I realized I had to run a little harder, I was soaked from the thunderstorm that roared through so I freaked out that I would get hypothermic if I didn’t keep my body heat going (it got kinda cold in there). I say “in there” because that trail was under tree cover and it felt like a tube of damp.
By the time I got to the top, I was wiped out, with 2 runners passing me right before the apex. But then there’s always the downhill. So I charged that and felt really good, I flew into the Shinglemill aid station at mile 38.2, got topped off on fluids, grabbed a gel and a little swish of Sprite and was on my way.
It became a single-file line about a half mile out from Shinglemill, I caught up to my buddy Ben (we had shared seats on the shuttle bus, chatting about various ultras we’d run before the race) and we shared a mile or so together. He said he wasn’t doing so hot and that he probably went out too fast. He was cruising pretty nicely from my vantage point, I made sure to tell him, but he was adamant that his pace was really slowing down. We caught two more runners and another sidled up next to me from behind. We were now five guys moving along down into Buffalo Creek along the Morrison Trail.
It was at the bottom I had my first complete melt down of the race. I think I had gotten too used to that long downhill we all just cruised and I more-or-less fell apart when trying to run the flat. I wanna say it was about a mile, maybe a little less into the next aid station, but as I rounded a little curve I saw it.
“Run it in, man. Run it hard!” The aid station volunteers yelled as they saw me, they were already assuming “aid station position’, you know; pitchers in each hand, all smiles. They were in such a great mood, which immediately caused me to hate their guts, so I ran it in just to spite them. Yes, I am a petty little man.
“Yeah, I’m not doing so good right about now, fellas.” I said. “What seems to be the problem?” they countered. “Oh, everything.” Was all I could offer. My quads were just short of blowing up, my hips hurt, I was slowly dehydrating, there was chafing in spots, I was about to have a DNF-moment.
Just then I realized it had been a long time since I had any caffeine, the most wondrous of all of God’s amazing drugs. “Do you guys have any Coke?” “We have something better, we got Mountain Dew!”, they responded emphatically. I hate to say this about the Dew, but it was frigging delicious. It was exactly what I needed. “Now you gotta give us a huge belch!” they were eager to hear me rip one out, but I fear that after 42-plus miles I wasn’t trying to force a burp right there (I have been known to puke hard on forced burps, ask the dudes I ate lunch with in high school).
Then the one guy told me the most amazing story about a woman running the 50k that had come through there hours before and ripped a burp so hard she farted. That got me laughing really hard. I grabbed a huge handful of the saltiest, most delicious potato chips and jammed them in my mouth. Everything about them was amazing. My spirits were coming around. An apple cinnamon Hammer gel and I was ready to go.
“Do you guys have the time?” I wondered for the first time all race. “Yeah, it’s 3:45…” I did some quick math and deduced I had been out on the trails for 8 hours and 45 minutes. More quick math to figure out that I had 7.7 miles to go. Could it be done? Could I run sub-10 minute miles and finish in under 10 hours? (My “A” goal for the race.)
It was then I heard the “Do you need a kick in the ass? Get outta here! GO!!!”
Just one more climb up Mt. Baldy Trail to the Homestead aid station and then a quick 3.6 miles downhill. I think I can do this.
I started passing runners a few minutes later, I picked up all the guys that had passed me and then some. Every time I went by a runner I offered my lone gel, some water or a salt pill but to no avail. There was carnage, and it was mounting. I felt kinda bad that I had to fly past so many runners but I kept telling myself “you’ve been passed by so many people so many times at the end of races, you deserve to run hard right now”. I ran my race.
I was grunting like a madman too, that had to be funny; the pain was probably the worst it’s ever been- it’s hard to describe. Sort of like an “everything below the waist hurts but it hurts more to walk” kind of thing. It’s a sweet kind of pain, and I think it’s part of the reason I do this stuff. I was able to run that last 7.7 miles in an hour and twenty-two minutes, and damn that felt good.
I ran what I thought was a pretty conservative race, vowing to go completely on feel (it was also the first race I ever left the “toys” at home; no GPS watch- so no idea to know how many miles and at what pace). I hit every aid station and was all about business, no wasted seconds searching for stuff I didn’t need anyway, I reapplied sunscreen and body glide on the run, I was trying to run as minimal as I could. That included calories as well. I think I was able to get by on 4-5 gels, a Justin’s hazelnut butter pack, a few small cups of Sprite / Coke / Mountain Dew and a few slices of watermelon. That’s about 1,000 calories taken in on 5,000 calories spent (more on this later…)
Anyway, that’s about it. I’m running the La Sportiva Table Rock 27k tomorrow up at Stinson Beach in Marin. That should be a great training run. I’ll report back on that race as well as my next 50-mile attempt on August 10th.