Saturday, January 5, 2013

Reminiscing 2012 and Across the Years Race

  Many of you may not know this , but the beginning of 2012 was the beginning of my running career. 7 years earlier I had done a little running but I never tested myself in a race. My obsession with running and racing began with 2 Spartan races which began a snowball effect ,causing me to complete over 15 races of various distances this year.... 5k's , 10k's, half marathons, obstacle races .

  My new found fun on the trails was derailed for several periods of time before the summer due to various injuries and a car accident that left me with a bad back and neck. I eventually bounced back for the most part before Summer. 

Everything changed though when I stumbled across a listing for a 50k race in the mountains. The race, Cuyamaca 3 Peaks, was a few weeks out and sold out already. Jokingly to my friend Jeremy, I said we should put ourselves on the waiting list. Next thing you know I was shooting off an email to the race director , asking to put us on the waiting list. I knew absolutely nothing about ultra marathons at this point, it was definitely not on my radar of being something I would do. I had heard of a character named Dean Karnazes from a book my bro read but that was about the extent of it.  Heck, my longest run had been 14 miles at that point! Lo and behold 8 hrs later in the morning I had gotten a response back from the RD saying he opened 2 spots for us. My impulsive race addiction had me signed up for it the same day!

 Long story short, I did the race in July( 7 months into running), got my butt whooped from the course, heat and my inability to follow course markings( adding distance), but still managed a mid pack finish. I was hooked, I loved everything about it.... the misery, the cool people, and  a sense of accomplishment knowing that I had gone further in a race than most people have.  From that day on in July I lived and breathed everything ultra running related. All the great podcasts, articles and documentaries were fuel to the fire that created the urgency to do another one as soon as possible. And so I  September I did Endure the Bear 50k, shaving over an hour off of my 3 Peaks time and again in October at Lake Hodges 50k, shaving almost an hour and a half off of my Endure the Bear time. To this point , Lake Hodges was my longest continuous run without any walk breaks, 32 miles of mostly a sub 9 minute pace.
  I ended up getting injured at Lake Hodges from overuse of my peroneal muscle and tendon due to a compensation in my foot for another injury. I was on crutches for a bit and my running was derailed once more.

  Right before Lake Hodges 50k, Across the Years race had just come under my radar as something that I would be interested in doing to cap the year off. I liked the idea of giving myself 24 hours to see what kind of distance I could travel. I would never be able to duplicate such an environment to try  outside of a racing environment.  With my foot injury I was unable to get any good running in for about a month and a half, so I withheld entering the race.  Eventually my foot did heal and with the stir craziness of only doing one race while my foot was injured (pr for the half marathon), I impulsively signed up December 12th for Across the Years 24 hour race on December 29th. My Christmas gift to myself was to see what my body was capable of. 

  The allure of getting a 100 mile belt buckle was upon me, but the odds of me going that distance with all the injuries and setbacks I had during the year, on top of it being my very first year of running, placed the odds at least a 1000 to one against it. I knew I had the drive and determination to finish an event like that, and my ability to operate well under extreme exhaustion was an asset. Nevertheless, I had never even been on my feet for that long and my longest run had been around 32 miles! 

 At a Buckle party ( cool event to see other peoples 100 mile finisher's awards) I went to, I received a big confidence booster by my buddy Carlos, who is a multiple 100 mile finisher, when he told me that I definitely could do the 100 miles. I think just hearing one experienced person tell me that changed my mindset. I still had my doubts, but I started to at least believe in the possibility that I could do it somehow. Within that week, the organizer of the Buckle party, Trasie, messaged me , wanting to know about what mileage I was shooting for in the upcoming race. I told her 100 miles, I expected her to laugh but she didn't . She asked me what my longest run was... with hesitation I said 32 miles in a day, I definitely thought she going to say I should shoot for a lower mileage but she didn't. Instead she said that she believed I could do it. I could not have been in a better mindset going into the race. This was essential to my success and I am now a firm believer in how powerful the mind can be.

December 29th was here, it was sunny and 34 degrees outside as we set up our canopy , gear and food. We quickly became friends with our immediate neighbors Jim and Steve . I had every meal planned out since I had planned on being completely self sufficient due to me switching over to a vegan/ plant based diet 2 weeks earlier. The wife was to crew me for the race so I didn't waste anytime rummaging through gear instead of making forward motion. 

9 am : race began and I was not feeling good physically . When I stopped running and began walking on the back half of the course my hip flexors were giving me trouble on the very first mile. Only 95 more laps to go!

3pm: I completed the first 50 k of the course with a run walk strategy of not running most of the turns on the second half of the course.  I was on course time wise with a split schedule I worked up to get to 100 miles on time. Calorie intake proved to be a problem , I had not anticipated having trouble getting down the calories I needed to keep my energy up. My main calorie source was avocado sandwiches with vegennaise, tomatoes and sea salt.

  From my first 50k to mile 40 things were still going great and every step was now the longest distance I had gone in a day.  Once I hit 40 though things went downhill fast. All of the little annoyances were starting to build up and negativity was starting to take hold. It started with the realization that in 10 more miles I will have to do the entire 50 miles over again!! You have got to be freaking kidding me! Instead of breaking the run into 5 mile goals like I had been, I started looking at the entire 100 miles as one big chunk.   I needed a little boost in spirits so I tried to go on Facebook to see everyone's well wishings but instead my phone kept saying I was putting in the wrong password. First I was locked out 1 minute, then 5, then 15 ....Then I swore the timing devices did not capture a few of my laps. By that time I was steaming mad and ready to throw in the towel and quit. 

Mile 40- 50: I did a lot of walking during this time , I figured I needed to press on to see if I could recover from the super low I was having. I reached mile 50 a little off my desired time of sub 10 hrs , but got 10 and a half hours instead.  
Miles 50-62: I experienced my first recovery from a bonk. I had heard of people experiencing such a thing, but experiencing it myself was incredible! I began to feel as fresh as the beginning of the race. Hitting that 50 mile mark felt amazing!  I now had my eyes set on the100k (62 mile) mark, a distance that seemed unfathomable before this race. With fresh motivation, I was able to quickly start cranking out the miles under the light of incandescent lamps running off generators.

Mile 62: Beware the chair.... As the middle of the night approached, the temps dropped down into the 30's and the amount of racers dwindled down. I had completely lost my appetite and my crew, the wifey, settled down for the night in the warming tent. Every lap I would look to the inside of the warming tent and see people napping, conversing, putting their feet up and foam rolling..... I envied them....a lot. I was feeling pretty crappy now and decided to risk taking a break to ice my feet. I plopped myself down on a chair in the warming tent. Sitting down for the first time did not bring about the relief I was expecting......I actually started to feel all of the pains I had been suppressing and it was not pleasant. The second I took the ice packs off of my feet they still felt like they were on fire. After wasting about a half hour I decided resting was not going to do me any good, so I tried to stand up to get going again but I couldn't activate my muscles even with the help of someone pulling my arms.I had to be basically lifted up out of the chair. After getting to  my feet I was unable to walk without stumbling..... everything had tightened up and my chances of finishing were looking bleak..... bonk #2 was in full force and I wanted to quit... I was even given permission by Lauren and other people there that it was ok to quit and that I had still conquered a great amount of distance.
   I headed out for another lap on the 1.0495 mile course to see if I was really done. After a full lap everything began to move again and I was back in the race. My new friend Jim, offered me his timer that beeped every 30 and 45 seconds, signifying when to walk and run. 
My body somehow bounced back once more and I was running again.... very fast in fact. When the timer went off for running I was averaging about a 8 minute pace. People on the course started to tell me I looked very fresh! After pounding out 8 fast laps the surge of energy I had got, tapered off and I was back to a death march. 

Mile 70: After a few slow laps I had a huge surprise waiting for me near our Canopy. I thought I started to hallucinate or go into shock when I saw my good friend Jeremy from San Diego waiting for me to finish the straight part of the course. Luckily I was not having a mental breakdown or dying , instead it turns out he had driven from San Diego to help me out on the course and witness me getting the 100 miles done. He didn't tell us he was coming and it was a great lift to my spirits!

Mile 75:  Another tough lesson learned... I should of listened to my body at the 100k mark when my feet were burning. I should have reapplied skin lubricant to my feet or changed socks because now I had an onslaught of blisters on the bottom of my feet. I literally could not walk another step so I decided to take a break to see the medic on duty. Of course they were with someone else and taking a long time to treat their feet. After what seemed like eternity he took a look at my feet and told me he couldn't do much for me since draining them would make the pain worse.

 After taping up my feet he told me that my race was pretty much over and that I should reassess my goals since I was not going to make it to 100 miles. This was not what I wanted to hear at mile 75....
I decided to press on even after wasting 45 minutes in the medic tent and being told that my race was over. I knew with all the wasted time and being unable to run on the blisters, that my chance of finishing 25 miles in 7 hours was unlikely in my condition.... I just couldn't walk fast enough.

One thing that should be known about me is that if I am told that if I cannot do something, it kicks my determination into high gear and I will do everything possible to prove that person wrong and prove to myself that I am capable of anything!

I needed both my wife and Jeremy to pull me out of the chair since my body had shut down even more so since the first chair incident. I was unable to walk on my own and had to keep my hand on Jeremy's shoulder for stability on the first lap. We were moving so slow that I started to get a really bad chill, I took Jeremy's jacket and was then wearing a shirt, beanie, 3 jackets, shorts, pants, gloves,and ear warmers. Even with all of that I was still chilled to the bone and feared that I would get hypothermia. Luckily it eventually passed and I slowly eeked out the miles through the night with excruciating foot pain.

Mile 86: After a long night of accompanying me on my death march and getting a blister of his own, Jeremy had to return his night bib at 6am and he went to his car to get some sleep. I was on my own for 3 more hours and I could see her sleeping on the ground in the warming tent. When she woke up we talked about my new goal for the race. I told her I wanted to complete the 24 hours as my primary goal and to go into the 48 hour race so I can make sure I finish the 100 miles as my secondary goal. The organizers were super cool and put me into the longer race for no charge since I would not go the whole next day. I decided to see what I could do in the remaining 3 hours.

Mile 92: Done yet not done..... I had made it through the 24 hour race with 92 miles! What an accomplishment, almost 3 times my longest distance to date! I thought I would keep going but I only made it to the turn where our canopy was. I was moving at about a 30 min/mile pace so it made sense to rest for a bit. I laid down on the grass and went in and out of sleep for about an hour. It was not at all restful as I had some of my new running friends yelling at me to get up and keep going. They were not experiencing my pain, they had no idea what i was going through....and they definitely didn't know the pain from not reaching my original goal in the 24 hour period. I got up anyways and started shuffling around the course on my mutilated feet.

Mile 97:  Only 3 laps left yet I could not go another step due to my blisters multiplying through the night and day. I decided to get my right foot treated by the medic before continuing. The blisters were under much of my toes, heel and one even popped under my big toe. The medic made her drain out one of the blisters on my foot, lucky her!

MILE 100! This was it, the pain was about to stop and I was going to join the small fraction of the population who are 100 mile finishers. My wife and Jeremy both joined me on the final, 96th lap. 
I did it! and on a Vegan / Plant only diet that I had not tried out in any training !

2012 was officially over for me and I had proved to myself and all my friends/family that anything was possible(and that skeptical medic).. I thought I would be emotional at the end of the race, but I had nothing left.... I left it all on the course. 

Thank you to Jeremy White, Jim Tello, Steve Kissell, Ryan Weidert, and Anastasia, you were all instrumental to my success in getting the 100 mile buckle. A thank you to everyone who believed I could do it (you know who you are), and extra thanks to Jeremy for sacrificing his money and weekend to come to the race....and especially to my wife, for her support of all my athletic endeavors this year and for taking care of me during the race, without her support I would have never finished.

The injuries are mostly minimal and will heal with time...Hello 2013! Bring it! 

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