Friday, June 13, 2014

2014 San Diego 100, my first mountain 100.

2:50 am, Alarm Goes Off.

  So many thoughts rushed through my head as I woke up. Will my injuries hold up? Will I get sick in the heat? Am I forgetting a critical piece of gear? Will my pacers show up? Will my drop bags go to the wrong aid station? Will I even remember that I have drop bags out there?  Will I disappoint myself and my friends/family by not finishing?

  These thoughts I was having at 3 in the morning were nothing new for the week. Everything bad that could happen in the week leading up to the race, did.  Instead of tapering, I was operating a jackhammer, tearing out my wood and stone flooring, and a removing a section of my foundation. Instead of resting, I was icing my sore back from handling the jackhammer. Instead of resting my mind, I was stressed about finances.
This was not how I envisioned race week when I had signed up 6 months prior.  The one thing you learn in doing ultras is that you have to learn to adapt and overcome the challenges that arise

3:00 am , Time to Focus and Test my foot.

  Bad news, my right heal is still excruciatingly painful when standing. I hurt it the day before, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to race today. I got ready for the race anyways, packed my bags, applied sunscreen, and lubricated all my friction points.  Even during the drive, my foot was in unbearable pain.

4:40 am, Arrival .

  After I put my drop bags in the appropriate places, I went back to the car to rest. I did the only thing I could do at this point, which was to pray for a miracle that my foot would be better. And that is what I did. I also set a bunch of alarms to give myself a quick snooze before the race began.

5:30 am, Time to get moving.

  I get out of the car to get the day started. My foot feels ok when I stand and walk. My prayer was answered.

6:00 am, The Adventure Begins.

  I placed myself off at the very back of the pack.  We were off and I was running pain free!  During the first mile I thanked God for healing my foot, and prayed for the health and safety of the other runners. When the second mile started to click away, I decided I would say thanks and pray for each body part individually, both for my own and for the other racers, and I also prayed for the people who are not so fortunate to have that body part in good working order. One mile after the other, working my way up the body. Toes, feet, ankles,shins, calves, knees, quads, hamstrings,  etc etc.

Mile 6.8, Paso Pichacho . I came through in a hour and half and in 121st place after spending a good deal of time in a Conga line on the singletrack. I was still ahead of my desired split goal by 4 minutes. I really enjoyed that section of trail, but it was time to let my competitive juices flow a bit. I took off full steam ahead to stonewall peak. I ran every step of the climb to the top and started to pass a whole bunch of people. I started blazing down the backside until I felt a buzzing on my neck, I swatted at it and got stung by a bee! I hadn’t been stung since I was a little kid, so I didn’t know how my body would react. As you would expect  in a ultra, the guy from behind stopped and helped me get the stinger out of my neck. Holy smokes, that was some uncomfortable running after that!

Mile 12.5, Chambers 1.  I came through here at 8:36am and in 91st place. Everything was starting to flow perfectly, and I was starting to feel unstoppable. I was on top of my nutrition and hydration, following the plan I had created. After running past the lake I was running off into uncharted trails for me. The rest of the race would be new trails with the exception of Noble Canyon. This is when  it started to get really hot and very exposed. The course was starting to show its true colors, between the heat and its runnability, I can see how people get into trouble out there. It is so easy to get overheated!

Mile 18.5 Pedro Fages. I came through here at 9:43am and in 76th place. I started to mix in some hiking and take my heat management very seriously. I was really looking forward to running the coming sections of the PCT. I don’t remember much about this section. I was so mentally focused on self management that  the time and miles just started to slip by.

Mile 23.2 Sunrise 1.  I came through here  at 10:35am and in 66th place. The beauty of the trails on the PCT  was a real treat. The views of Anza Borrego were amazing! It is a shame that it took doing a race to get out there. I ended up getting making the mistake of racing too early in this section. It felt like it was in the 90’s , and I think this was the beginning of digging myself a hole.

Mile 30.4 Pioneer Mall 1. I came through here at 12:08 and in 51st place. At this point in the race I had grown my 4 minute gap under my desired split at the first aid station to 42 minutes ahead of 24 hour pace by this aid station. I got caught up in the idea of putting time in the bank that I could use later in the race(what a mistake.) Luckily, I was still able to eat at this point, and switching to a hat meant I could start putting ice in my hat for better heat management. The canyons were so blazing hot that it was hard to think clearly. The lack of heat and elevation training were making me lose focus. I thought I was lost several times through this section, and I started to lose it mentally.

Mile 34.4 Penny Pines 1. I came though here at 12:58pm and in 43rd place.
 It was a boost to see my pacer that would I would be running with later, at the aid station. I was still feeling good here, and I was out of the aid station in less than 2 minutes. I had to make my predictions as to when I would be at mile 56 , to meet up with her. I made the bold prediction of covering the next 22 in 4 hours.

Mile 39.6 Todd’s Cabin. I came through here at 2:13pm, in 37th place, and 47 minutes ahead of my goal time. This section will be known as my last good one before my race went to crap. I started running all of the hills and was feeling very strong. I had finally caught up with and passed a few runners that I knew were much better than I.

mile 38, feeling good

Mile 44.7 Red Tail Roost. I came through here at 3:25 pm and in 30th place. 43 minutes ahead of my goal split *
 Around mile 42 was when things started to go bad. I started to get very nauseous , and I was unable to eat anything. I was unable to run for longer than a minute at a time. I started alternating with 2 minutes of hiking and 1 minute of running. By the time I got to the aid station, even that slow pace became daunting. The bouncing motion of running was just getting me more sick. I had made the ridiculous error of putting my headlamp , gloves, and hat in this drop bag. So not only was I carrying 70 oz of electrolyte and a ton of food that I wasn’t able to eat, I had to lug around my headlamp and night gear.  I was now unable to run and everything started tightening up and hurting. My feet felt like they were on fire, but I decided I would not look at them. I had never been in this situation of feeling sick while running before. I witnessed one guy on the side of the trail forcing himself to throw up. I wondered if I should be doing the same, but I was too afraid it would make me weak. I started to see my time slipping away as I got closer to mile 51.1.

Mile 51.1 Meadows.  I came through here at 5:15pm, in 46th place and 20 minutes ahead of my goal split. 
On any given day I would be happy with a 10 hour , 50 mile split in the mountains but not today, not after getting passed by 16 people in such a short span of time. I finally sat down for the first time and decided I was done moving for now. I sat down for what seemed like an eternity, but I think it was only 10 minutes. Jim , the medical volunteer and the a/s volunteers catered to my needs wonderfully as I sat there. I got doused in cold water and was served endless cups of ginger ale. Jim talked me into getting my butt in gear and to go meet my pacer at the next station.

mile 50, feeling really bad

Mile 56.3 Penny Pines 2.  I came through here at 6:44pm, 46th and 6 minutes ahead of my goal split.
 I had attached myself to a runner and  pacer between Meadows and Penny Pines, in hopes of keeping me motivated to keep moving forward. The runner wanted to sit down after about 2 miles, so I was on my own again. Thank goodness for my awesome pacer, Kathryn, who decided to run out onto the trail and meet me at mile 54. I no longer had any motivation to take care of myself out there, so having someone else force feed me and distract me from my misery was a welcome break. Mile 56 aid station was another 10 minute sitting break for me.

Mile 64 Pine Creek. I came through here at 8:47pm, 45th and 22 minutes behind
We were finally back on familiar trail for me. The good ‘ol Noble Canyon descent was ahead of us. I was still not wanting to run, but Kathryn talked me into making an attempt to do so. I am glad we did, because I ended up running almost half of it. The rocks completely tore up our sore feet and ankles. We did the last bit of the trail to 64 with no headlamps as the sky  became dark. My back/neck were so beat up at this point, but I knew I made a good choice of pacer when she did some active release massage on my neck. J

Mile 72.1 Pioneer Mall 2. I came through here at 11:32pm,  43rd and 32 minutes behind.
Oh my goodness, how can a little 2000 foot climb over 8 miles be so difficult. The combination of darkness and everything hurting was a recipe for extremely slow movement onwards and upwards. My hiking speed was still quite strong though, and my pacer had trouble keeping up with me in the steep sections.  I was relieved to make it to mile 72, but I was also worried at the same time. I was relieved in that I knew almost for certain I would be able to finish now. I  even pep talked myself into believing sub 24 was still possible, and I decided I would make a go of it. On the flip side, I was pretty overwhelmed with worry  about having to do the next 15 miles through the canyons, without a pacer. I also had to try and shrug off the fact there was a mountain lion on the course a few miles back. After exchanging a few items at my 3rd drop bag, I had to say goodbye to my pacer.

Mile 79.3 Sunrise 2. I came through here at 1:36am, 39th place , and 51minutes behind my goal time.
I was running alone from mile 72 to 75, motivated  by the idea of hitting my goal time. This quickly came to a halt when I had a few nasty falls, causing my knee to hyper extend and put a huge strain on my left Achilles and knee. I was able to hike slowly through the canyons until 1 mile before the aid station, when the Achilles and knee blew up. I was suddenly unable to even walk. I somehow managed to hobble it in to the aid station. I started to freak out about having to do the 8 mile section ahead. I hadn’t seen anyone on the trail for 3 hours, and the thought of walking another 8 miles into the moonless night was not a pleasant thought.I considered dropping out due to injury, but I decided to keep moving on even though it didn't seem smart to do so. I  also forgot to take into consideration that my rechargeable headlamp was well past its maximum usage time. Oops.

Mile 87.9 Chambers 2. I came through here at 4:51am, 46th, and 2hrs and 6 minutes behind my goal.
Miles 79.3 to 87.9 were the beginning of the worst pain in my life. I started to make the 8 mile trek, but the only way I was able to move forward was to keep my left leg completely straight at all times and not use it at all to propel myself forward. I’d have to do the remaining 20 miles on one leg. As the hours passed at my slow 19 minute a mile pace, I started to worry more and more about my headlamp. I used my cell phone to plead with my pacer to run out onto the trail to meet me. My worries were not misplaced, because as I predicted, my headlamp died. It was so dark that I could not see my hand when holding it a few inches from my face. I had to start using my phone flashlight which only had 20 percent battery left on it. I sent out my final SOS to my pacer, Jeremy, and put the thing on airplane mode. After almost  4 hours of not seeing anyone, a runner finally came up from behind. I told him about my situation and pleaded that he help me. He was moving pretty well and said he couldn’t stop,  but his pacer might be able to. I waited about 15 minutes for the pacer to come to where I was. I couldn’t believe how dim his flashlight was. How was that even possible?!  I was still relieved nonetheless,  and he agreed to walk it in with me until I found Jeremy.  He was even so kind as to offer me some “Herbal Medicine.” I politely declined after realizing he meant marijuana.   After finding Jeremy, we started the most painful hike of my life to the next aid station. My knee was hurting so bad, that the burning of all the blisters and hotspots under my feet were a nice distraction from the bigger problem.  I finally made it to the aid station after 3 hours and 8 miles of walking like a one legged pirate. How fitting that the name of the aid station was “Pirates Cove.” I finally got to sit down again, and I removed my shoes and socks for the first time.I had my blisters drained and bandaged, and off we a blistering fast 25 minutes a mile pace....

Mile 94.4 Paso Picacho . I came through here at 7:47am, 63rd, and 3 hours and 12 minutes behind my goal. I knew in the back of my mind that the 3 hours of pegleg walking over 8 miles of flat terrain would be child’s play compared to this next section. I had to climb up and down a very rocky Stonewall peak with a leg that couldn’t bend. I really wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits, but I didn't want to let my pacers down after such a enormous effort to help me finish. I also felt like it would have been a waste of months of training to not finish my race. Besides, my “C” goal was to just finish, and I had 6 hours to do a half marathon. I could move almost at 30 minutes a mile and still come close to being under the cutoff.
Climbing up Stone wall peak caused the most pain I had ever been in.  I had to propel myself up the trail and over rocks with one leg at a 25 to 30 minutes a mile pace. Every time my left shoe would tap a rock, a feeling of my knee being ripped in half sent me into minor shock, and I would have to take a break to catch my breath and regain my composure. It ended up taking a total of 3 hours to do the 6 mile section. That was at my absolute max effort!

Mile 100.2 The Finish.
 The heat was back in full force again early in the morning, and I had 5.8 miles to go. I was emotionally drained from the torture of the last section. The last section had less climbing, but the cumulative fatigue and injuries became too much to bear. Sleep deprivation was also becoming an issue. It was the longest I had ever been awake.From the drive the previous day until now, I had  been on the go for 29 hours. Every rock  in those 5.8 miles looked like a plush mattress. My leg never did get better, but I was able to push through the heat and pain to find the finish line. Although it was albeit slower than I had wanted,  the feeling of finishing my first mountain 100 with 20% of it on one leg, was unbelievable.

Feeling sorry for myself would never have got me to that finish line. Ultimately, I just had to stay in the present and keep on taking one more step. Taking one more step was all I knew how to do.

 Finish time of  28:25:51 

  Many thanks to my pacers, Kathryn and Jeremy, you both were amazing for many reasons ,and thanks to all of the amazing volunteers that got me in and out of the aid stations fast.