|In the hotel before Friday's meeting|
|Saturday morning with my dad/crew|
A Kickin' 50K
|Both ready to go after Western States|
|Typical start photo|
Aside: If I had my thinking cap on, I would have looked up my never-finished race report from last year. Here's what it said:
And the hills. They just never ended! Some of the aid stations were at the bottom of long downhills, which means you know what's coming... An uphill. I don't mind so much if it's right then and there, because I can take some food out and eat while I walk up the hill. What gets me is when it's flat out of the station but I walk and eat anyway, and then just as I'm packing away the wreckage, I get to the hill. Sigh.
We all felt good the day before...
But the other stations aren't any better. They're the ones where you finish two or three miles of uphill by reaching an aid station. Then you feel great, and leave the aid station thinking "Cool! I know I'm at the top and I'll get a nice downhill now." But you know what's really coming... An uphill. Especially toward the end of the race.
|Gregg had the most intimidating ankles...|
But that aside, all systems go. Looking back, my fastest segment pace of the whole race came between the second and third aid stations. It was the first big downhill, into Taftsville, and across a wooden covered bridge. I knew we had to be getting to that big uphill in the course profile, but even after crossing the bridge it held flat until the aid station, and my pace was 8:07 -- including the time spent refilling at the station. Crazy! Also, a lot faster than last year (when I was 9:41 on the same segment). I didn't have all these statistics at my fingertips at the time, but looking back, it was probably the first sign of my big strength for the day -- the downhills. They would treat me well.
|Arriving at Pretty House (21.1)|
I was pleased leaving here that my legs still felt good. Last year at about 20 miles my lower legs started to get really sore on the downhills, and I had to adjust my gait to emphasize first one leg, then the other -- it was a bit of a mess. Much nicer this time through when none of that was bothering me! Still, the real shocker came at the next station (named "U-Turn", though it was really more of a right if you ask me). The placard read 25.1 miles, and I got there in 4 hours. You do the math. Obviously I wasn't going to keep up this pace, but at this point, I felt like I was doing just great and I must have been totally recovered from Western States. So maybe the best case 20 hour goal was in reach?
The next section was there waiting to put that in doubt again. We went up, over, and down the Sound of Music hill. What is this? A grassy peak with spectacular views in all directions. Steep going up, and very steep going down. But I had to take a moment at the top just to look around! View aside, it was a really tough part of the course, and I thought about how I had told that guy there weren't any memorable hills until 70 miles. I mean, I didn't remember this at all -- if you had told me afterward that part was added for the first time this year I would have believed it! (And, as far as I can tell, it's just a nickname -- the movie wasn't actually shot there or anything.)
|Arriving at Stage Road (30.1)|
|My support squadron was happy too!|
Revenge of the WS100
Unfortunately, things started to take a turn for the worse from there. The most minor first: I had forgotten sunscreen again. I worried about burning my neck. But beyond that, I hit a bit of a mental low, just wishing to get to Camp Ten Bear. That's the biggest aid station on the course, which you pass twice, and it would be the next time I'd see my dad at 47.2 miles. Getting there would definitely be a lift. I had a brief moment of excitement when we hit a road with fast-moving traffic around 34 miles -- I knew we'd run on Route 106 shortly before hitting Ten Bear. Somehow my brain had fogged and wasn't acknowledging that 34 miles was not shortly before 47 miles. When we hit the aid station marked "Route 12" I realized we just weren't there yet.
Right after this, I just started to feel physically beat too. I had been running great, and I know mental lows are part of the game. You just keep on keepin' on, and things will come around. But this was different -- it went beyond mental. I just felt drained, like someone sucked all the energy right out of me. I remember going up a hill, and I had been doing just fine on hills, and this was not one of the more severe ones. But I had a lot of trouble doing more than a trudge. There was an older guy who jogged on by, very slowly. But he kept up his slow jog for 100% of the hill. Other people walked (faster than me), and occasionally ran (much faster than me). I tried to pick it up to a jog here and there, but it never lasted. That slow-jog guy came from behind and I leapfrogged a bit with any jog I could muster, but he clearly beat me to the top of the hill. Suddenly I was losing places. I picked it up a bit on the downhills, passing the jogging guy again, but it didn't last. I pulled over at the unmanned aid station near 36 miles and more people passed. More ice for the hat helped, but not enough.
We passed another covered bridge close to 40 miles. It was maybe the third of the day? Either this area has a lot more covered bridges than Philly does, or they designed the course to pass through every single one!
About this time, Chris caught up to me. I hadn't really known where he was, except somewhere behind me. I didn't know what kind of goal he had for the race, since he had done more marathon-type training lately. But he looked pretty strong coming up on me there, and I thought he was probably in for a pretty good race. We chatted a bit, and came into an aid station together. I just put fresh ice in the hat and left first, but he caught up quickly as the course trended uphill, and I wished him well as he went on by.
Not long after that, I started having stomach trouble. This was the part of the race where you think "and the hits just keep on comin'…" It was unsettled, and on top of that I felt like I had a lot of gas in there. I wondered where that was coming from -- I was drinking Heed and water, and eating only the gels I've trained with and the occasional watermelon or oranges. Going slower seemed to help. Yay. There was a guy without a shirt on that I was leapfrogging periodically and after about the 10th time we started chatting every time it happened.
Finally I came out to Rt. 106, meaning Ten Bear was close. Not too close -- there was at least one more station beforehand -- but it was a milestone. This was a sunny, hot, uphill mile along the road before turning back onto trails near a big aid station for the horses. At least I was keeping up with the runner ahead of me in the far distance. Some horses passed, but that's to be expected. I got to the turnoff, and passed all the horse trailers and tents at their site. I was doing OK through the grassy climb there, and then the single track that sort of paralleled 106 for a while. It was a funny spot with all kinds of cables rigged through the woods. They seemed to be more than just keeping you on the trail, but not enough for anything else -- except maybe the world's biggest collection of wet laundry. Who knows?
I stopped at the aid station when we came out of the woods. I was surprised to see it was Jenne Farm, only a mile and a half before Ten Bear! I don't know how I was so disoriented I still thought we were close because we had passed 106, but far enough that we wouldn't have been at the last aid station before Ten Bear. Anyway, more people popped out of the woods -- bare chest guy was there, and a woman who charged off up the road. Last year I think I skipped this one, but this time I needed the stop. I pressed on up the hill, trying not to lose too much more ground.
We hit the top and started down, and that was a disaster too. That gas problem turned real bad. Running down a hill just sent stabbing pains into my gut on every step -- but right where I was it was too steep to jog. I walked, and bare chest guy blew on by, trading places again. (I'd see him again at Ten Bear, but he'd leave first.) Thankfully I was eventually able to leave the gas behind and jog on down the hill into the station. I resolved to quit the Heed, as it was the only thing I had been doing different (though I've had it at prior races without trouble), and hoped that would clear up the stomach woes.
|Leaving Camp Ten Bear (47.2);|
At least one of us was happy
First surprise: there was Harris, Jeff's mom, and Jeff cheering me in! I asked Jeff what happened? He said it was a long story. I went on through to the tents.
Meanwhile, back in the present, I looked at my drop bag where I had marked my time last year and my best case goal for this year. Surprisingly, I was still right in the middle. I figured I must have lost a lot in the last 10 miles, but I must have been doing really well before then. Still, I told my dad that Western States had really beat me up, and at this point my time goals were basically out the window. I just planned to go on and finish, in whatever time it happened to be. I still had plenty of time to make a sub-24, but honestly I just wanted to cross the line and keep my Grand Slam attempt alive.
Now here's the other thing about this stop. I sat down on the grass while I was repacking my gels and stuff. It wasn't so bad. There was a bit of a hill there, which made it easy to get up again afterward. I have been scared of ever sitting since my first ultra, where I felt like I spent as much time on my butt as on my feet. But it felt nice to have a minute or two off my feet and then get going again. OK, well, perhaps it cost more than a minute or two, but it wasn't as bad as I might have feared. Some ice in my hat, cold water on my head, and I was at least mobile again.
|My smile for the camera didn't|
reflect my condition at the moment...
At any rate, I headed on. I knew I'd be coming back into Camp Ten Bear this way at 70 miles, so I tried to remember the lay of the land. We headed up for a while, then down a bit, then got to the T where I was leaving to the left and would be returning from the right. So from the point I got there on the return, there'd be a small climb, and a nice downhill. I headed out into a shockingly flat part of the course. I mean, I can't think of really any flat parts of the course, except for this one right here. Jeff, his mom, and Harris drove by and cheered, which was great. I hope that was on purpose and not because they were lost! :)
But the flat didn't last long; there were more uphills ahead. I passed the 50 mile point just over 9 hours. I had to take a moment to think about goals again: under the circumstances I didn't figure I could do the next 50 in 11 hours, but 15 ought to be doable (I mean, I was feeling lousy, but could the second half really be more than 6 hours slower?), so a 24 hour finish could still be within reach. Well, whatever, I figured I'd see what developed.
Signs of a Turnaround
Now the interesting thing was, during the next 10 or 15 miles I started to get to aid stations and see runners standing, sitting, or hanging onto poles for dear life. So I guess I wasn't the only one having trouble out there. That guy who had been the steady jogger up the hills was the first one I recognized as having passed me, and here I was getting him back (I found out later, he did finish, just slowly). It was nice to be the passer instead of the passee for a change!
|Recharging at Tracer Brook (57.0)|
|Practicing my heat-resistance...|
In any case, I was a little sad that some runner asked if they could get a margarita, and someone seemed to be saying yes. I don't drink a lot, but when I do, it's margaritas, so I was almost bummed to be running better again -- with a little more spring in my step I wasn't ready for a margarita. If I had still been hurting, I might have. It sure would have been a nice way to get some extra salt down! I wasn't ready for solid food either, and I heard they've had great cookies. So I feel like I owe Margaritaville an apology: I let you down. Maybe next year!
|Should have had a margarita in hand|
|Scales! That way!|
No problems with the weigh-in
|And this was only like half of my crew!|
|Yeah, it was a shock, but in a good way|
|The beginning of a long 30 miles for Harris|
|West Winds (77.0)|
First time I saw Chris since maybe 39 miles
|You get about 10 steps before it goes straight down...|
I'm sorry to say, the game ended sooner than perhaps they would have liked. Early in this section, there were a lot of trails, with some serious downhill. I blew past a lot of runners, including Chris. He was taking one of the downhills kind of gingerly, which has certainly been my experience there before. I felt bad that I had snagged Harris, but I found out later he had offered to Chris first, so at least I felt a little better about it.
|Yeah, I was feeling good again|
|You look at this mountain ahead|
as you're running toward Bill's...
|Everyone smiles when you get there in daylight!|
|Happy scale, thankfully.|
I did end up sitting around there for a while, packing my last set of gels, having an S-cap and gel and all (which I probably should have done after leaving), and just recovering from the mad dash to get there by 9. But I got up and got my hatful of ice and my dad dumped some cold water on my head. We left at like 9:03, and I asked my dad to have my long sleeve shirt ready for the last station, as we had hit some cooler spots on the course. Then I took 10 steps out and started shivering -- and went right back. "Never mind, I need it now!" I took off my soaking wet T-shirt, put on the long sleeves, and headed out again. Erin confessed later she thought I was a bit crazy, since it was still 80 degrees out when I did that. And yes, I warmed up once I got moving again. But I get cold at night -- I didn't want to take a pee break and have a shivering spell set in or something. It was worth it.
|On my butt again at Bill's (88.6)|
|New shirt felt great|
|Is *this* why we saw them on a random|
back road on the way out of Bill's?
|This is pretty much how I felt by Polly's (95.5)|
|We were all a little tired!|
And then, after 32 minutes, we saw a pile of lights and glow sticks and we were there. So I was really slowing down. But now, I was on the home stretch. We hit the trails and I told Harris I had walked every step from here to the end last year, and this year I just wanted to jog more and walk less. 5 seconds later we hit a really steep part, and I started walking, and had to add, "you know, jog more where it makes sense". That steep part went on for quite a while!
|Finished! With another stellar pacer!|
|Crew captain Dad!|
|Umm, would these help?|
|The awesome ultra family!|
|Picking up my buckle|