…or “When the Shit Goes Down, You Better Be Ready”
What’s up with the double title you may be wondering? Oh, man- things got off to kind of a bad start, and I only have me to thank. More on this later.
They say running an ultra is the ultimate test of one’s endurance, and I feel like I have the “endure” part somewhat handled; but when you add “problem solving” to the equation, it becomes a whole different ballgame.
Let me explain- see, I had initially wanted to get to the race about 7:30-7:45. I think I rolled in at 10 after 8 (for an 8:30 race, no less). All that extra time to use the bathroom, check in, do a little shakeout, open up the hips, etc. Nope. I was back at home for most of that time screwing around with the iPod (long story short: I had to restore the thing to its factory settings, it basically “blue-screened” on me). I should’ve dealt with that Friday night. So there’s issue #1.
Issue #2 was a big one; I left my race vest at home. I LEFT MY RACE VEST AT HOME. How the hell am I going to carry all my nutrition on me? It’s like a shopping list of crap: one Vespa (super concentrate, easy to carry), one water bottle and 2 Hammer flasks of Vitargo for the first loop, then another 20-ounce bottle of UCan and 2 more Vitargo flasks and a few Gu’s for the second loop- yeah, I’m aware I’m not a very minimal runner over here. I had to pack the 2 Vitargos in my Patagonia shorts (lifesavers, huge side pockets!) then the Vespa went into the pouch on my handheld along with a bunch of salt pills. Crisis averted.
Sort of, because for the first few miles I had to literally pull my shorts up every 3 minutes. Sorry if you were running behind me and kept getting a nice view of my coin slot. I finally pulled the drawstring tight and loop-tied it to keep them in place.
Now the actual race; I felt really, really good on that first loop. Was able to hammer up that first big climb from Honker Bay to that sweet eucalyptus single track on Columbine Trail. Passed a bunch of runners just before the first aid, then passed a few more on the downs to the Stone Bridge. Passing more runners up out of the Bort Meadow aid and the last two runners I’d pass all race on the downhill out of the Equestrian Center back to Brandon Trail.
I hit the first loop in about 2:40, five minutes ahead of the pace chart I’d worked out the week prior. I felt so good, but my spirits were kind of dampened when I was waved away from the turn right after the finisher’s area, denying me access to my drop bag.
“50k? You got an aid station right there.”
“But I gotta get to my drop bag…”
“I don’t know what to tell you.”
Really? How about something like “go to your drop bag”. So I ran to the aid station, said I didn’t need anything, turned and ran to my drop bag. I exchanged out my empty flasks for a new one and grabbed a single 22-oz bottle filled with pre-mixed UCan- a mistake that would cost me in the last few miles as I got super dehydrated.
As I ran back past the aid station, the volunteer there apologized. Here’s where I massively screwed up, muttering something about “the design of the course NOT passing through our drop bag area is completely fucked up”. I was heated and definitely shouldn’t have said that, it’s not that guy’s fault. I tried to find him after I finished to apologize but he was long gone.
So I had to get my head back into game mode after all that; it’s amazing that such a minor thing like the comfort of being able to get to your drop bag can sort of mess with your head. Music! Ah, that’ll soothe the savage beast in me…
And off I went, ticking off the miles along the paved bike path on the east side of the lake like no tomorrow, wondering how’d I have to pay for these faster miles later. I only brought the hand-held filled with UCan out on this loops, no water (it was starting to get warm…), one flask of Vitargo and no gels. I wonder what’s going to happen?
So right before the first aid station, about 5 miles into the loop I started getting that weird, frantic feeling like I had missed a turn. I hadn’t seen a flag in a while, and I didn’t remember being on that single-track for this long. So I did what any rational, normal person would’ve done. I stopped and turned around.
Yep, I must’ve missed that turn, let’s go back and find it.
So, I basically ran all the way back until I saw the runners coming up the trail towards me that were like, “dude, turn around!” This was disorienting to say the least. My brain could only manage a “…think someone ripped flags down…” and “…oh, man!” so of course, as I’ve learned before when I’ve gone off course I RAN AS FAST AS I COULD TO MAKE UP THE TIME I JUST LOST. Always a big mistake.
I wondered again how I’d pay for this later?
I only lost about a half mile doing this, or a quarter mile each way; I went back and looked at my Garmin map, which is always a great thing to do WHEN YOU OBSESS OVER SHIT LIKE A CRAZY PERSON and judging from the pace I ran that segment, I again had to wonder how I’d be doing later…
They told me I was sitting in 8th place at the next aid, so of course what do I do with that news? I run harder. My ego is a terrible, terrible thing.
I continued to feel really good right up until the climb to that last aid station, when my arms started doing this little annoying crampy thing. I figured the mild temperature coupled with not drinking any water between miles 18 and 24 might have something to do with this, but I was hitting mile 27 and thought with only 4 more to go I could get away with taking an extra salt pill and a water bottle full of electrolyte drink.
I had been off of caffeine since my morning cup of coffee so I could start taking some in for the home stretch, which was 2 little cups of Mountain Dew and a vanilla bean Gu. They told me at this aid that I was sitting in 4th or 5th (turned out they were mistaken because I didn’t pass anyone since mile 15, and hadn’t even seen anyone since mile 23).
This made me run even harder because I am an idiot and didn’t want to get passed in the last few miles, something that has happened in previous races (Lake Sonoma, Skyline 50k, Dick Collins, et. al.) and I’ll be damned if it’s going to happen again. That’s pretty demoralizing.
That last half mile or so is when it finally hit; the debilitating calf cramps. Part of me knew they were coming and if you saw me on that final stretch you’d probably say I was running a bit too hard. And then I was reduced to that weird short-strided shuffle that I tried to make look like I wasn’t going to die.
Here’s a screen capture form the finish line video (courtesy of ultrasportslive.tv). I’m pretty happy with my 8th place finish (7th male, 2nd men’s 30-39 age group). I’d also like to say that Inside Trail puts on really great races, has really awesome volunteers and generally challenging courses.
So, all in all, a great start to the 2014 season. I’m feeling super pumped up about the coming year.