I’ve been eagerly awaiting to find time to get this post out. If there is one thing I hate more than clowns and crooked picture frames, it is failure. It was bad enough when I unexpectedly went down during a training run several years back (link here), but when I had to take my first ever DNF at a race it was like a dagger to my pride. The Cry Me a River fiasco (link here) will probably never be forgotten from a big ol’ blemish on a fairly successful running career and even more from a health scare perspective 17 years of racing and not one DNF graced the results page. That changed of course when my first 50K attempt decided to coincide with some wicked heat.
Linda can confirm I tried everything I could to get back in that race. Pleaded with the emergency room doctors to clear me to go back to the race. My argument that I was in the best possible condition I could be in being they had filled me up with 4 IV bags and another bag of straight magnesium. Ambulance drivers said “hell no”, nurses said “you are nuts” and the doctor initially scolded me only to eventually concede that “they were open 7×24”. Later that day, Linda went back to collect some gear I had dropped. “Hey, take me with you, you are going there anyway and I only have 15 miles to go!!” Imagine a piercing evil stare of disgust in return. Next morning I was nearly on my knees begging to return – now rested, still full on the fluids and feeling fine with the exception of the head wound. “15 miles and you won’t have to hear about this again”…which brought a reminder than when she relayed my desire to the race coordinators the day before they put me in the certifiably nuts category. Arggggggghhhhhh. Well, there was only one thing to do… sign up for another 50K 3 months later in October. Take that medical professionals!
Hit the jump to find out if there was redemption or not!
That gave me three months to do two things. One to get myself back in shape to finish this damn distance. They wouldn’t let me train with the staples in the head fearing dirt from the trails and what would happen if I caught a root and smacked the ground. That cost me 10 days along with the taper and then Linda’s surgery , so there would really only be about two months to recover and get my internal thermostat calibrated again (definite concern as the training run drop took me a good four years to feel confident it was back to normal). So I ran every chance I got, after work, on the weekends, many times in breaks during Linda’s surgery stay in Minnesota and more dead of night runs than I can count. At the end I was doing two long runs a day to simulate starting and stopping per my race day strategy. There were some ankle scares resulting from slips on rocks and those evil root clips, however for the most part it went well. The biggest change was to the hydration approach. Now educated on Hammer’s HEED product, I was using it exclusively during the training runs with amazing results.
As with the Cry race, we were able to take our RV out and stay at the starting line the night before. Nothing beats being able to get a few more winks in before the start of a big race. This also eliminates all the concerns of getting to the race. There was a big difference from the previous attempt – the temps had dropped significantly. That night we were down into the high 20’s low 30’s compared to the 100+ heat index that was facing me on the previous attempt. Excellent news – had finally caught a break from the race gods. The longer distances (50m and 100m) took off before the sunrise giving them extra time to get those insane amount of miles in. Got the gear on, filled the hydration pack and headed out for redemption. I was a little concerned when they announced a course change – no longer a 10 mile loops, they decided to go with double ~12-13 mile long figure eight layout followed by a repeat of the second loop to close out the 30 mile course. This meant a quick recalc of my rest/energy replenishment strategy. Instead of the 10 mile long break it would be at the 18-19 range and then another one before starting the final repeat loop.
The first loop of the figure eight went well, and probably fortunately very slow thanks to be trapped behind a line of people that were taking the trails way too cautious. Eventually made it around them right before hitting the first water crossing. This one I knew was there as it was in my training runs – what I didn’t expect was how high the water was (well up to calves) and more shocking how cold it was. Body did not appreciate that at all and glad when that water drained out over the next couple of miles. Eventually grouped up with two men, one probably at my age and another likely 10 years older. As you do in trail runs we started chatting as we pounded the dirt and mud. One of them brought up the Cry Me race. Relayed that I had not done my best there which resulted in one of them saying “Are you the one that dropped at Green Valley!?!” A long sigh and then I admitted to the fiasco. Turns out they had arrived just after they took me away relaying how the ambulance and firetruck had gotten lost getting there and other things I wasn’t aware of. He did admit it was absolutely brutal out and he barely made it through himself. A few miles later he asks “Is it true you begged to go back to the race?” “YES!!” I then gave my reasoning and they completely agreed with me – I had won their admiration and this was immediately relayed to Linda at the first break ha! What I didn’t expect on that same loop was a second water crossing – this time the water came up just below the knees and again unappreciated by the body which was now just getting warmed up.
At the end of that loop decided to drop the running sweats and go with just shorts. If I failed it was not going to be due to heat that day. The second half of that loop went well. No water crossings, but one wicked ass hill that I nearly had to crawl up using roots to help stabilize. Got to the top only to note I was going to have to do that twice more. Closed out that loop without a lot of trouble – took a few minutes to make sure there were no issues with the body thanks to a few jolts from clipped roots and headed out to complete the water loop again. No one to talk to on this part as we were beginning to get spaced out. This one went faster thanks to not having to deal with the slower runners – both crossings were still head clearing cold and with the feet already damp took a lot longer to get the new water pressed out. After that loop I was ready for the long mid-race break to get some fuel and rest. Linda made me some sliders and mac ‘n cheese which hit the spot. Gathered up my things and headed out for the second half of the second loop. This time the hill was a lot more difficult thanks to tired legs and closing in on the longest distance I had ever ran. Eventually hit the mind numbing flat across the dam which meant I was nearly done with the full loops. Decided to take a short break before going out on the final half of the repeat loop so I could remember who I was and what the hell I was doing.
After sitting a few minutes realized that my legs were starting to cramp – not good. Told Linda I had to go immediately before the legs locked up. Grabbed a few more cookies and headed out – now only 5/6 miles stood between me and my redemption. It would be an understatement to say that last loop was difficult – more like hell. Having completed the marathon, I was fully aware of the mental wall – I was more than 4 miles past the 20 mile wall I hit at the marathon and still had many miles to go… oh, and that devil spawn of a hill. Getting to the top of that took everything I had and then some. I had to stop for a minute at the top to get my gasping for air under control. That experience immediately went to the “never to forget” list.
There is something to be said about the mental boost that you get when you realize you’ve just accomplished a difficult task. That hill climb gave me a pop of energy (once I got my breathing back under control). That along with the excitement that I was close to actually getting this life list entry checked off got the legs going again. By now I had caught up to another 50 miler that was starting to fade fast. I ran with him for a couple of miles until the dam crossing. By now I wanted done and decided the only way to do that was to release the energy reserves. Gradually increase the leg cadence and pulled away. One big hill and then a series of rolls brought me to the finish line — except there was one problem.
This was a 30 mile race and for those who know their metric units, that is a mile short of a 50K. Trail race courses never have an exact length because nature doesn’t give you the privilege of adding and taking away sections of road to hit the exact distance – you would not appreciate it if they just left you out in the woods some distance from the starting line. As a result you will find the true distances short or more likely longer than the stated distance. Racing is a personal sport – I was okay with the actual distance being different as long as the stated distance was where I needed to be .. in this case I was a mile short. Being fully aware of this I had accounted for this in my strategy. As soon as I crossed the line, I looked at the watch and headed back out to finish an extra mile. I saw weird stares from other participants/bystanders and Linda asked me repeatedly if I really wanted to do it being close enough – I needed redemption and more importantly I wouldn’t feel good about putting the magnet on.
ONE more very difficult mile AND I was officially DONE. Oh, you thought the post title meant I was “one and done” at that distance – ha. You think I would actually let that Cry Me race beat me? Time will tell, but right now my plan is enter that July race again. I am smarter now, have a better hydration plan and know exactly what it takes to make it through – now just need to spend the months leading up to it working to convince Linda I will be okay – wish me luck. Just to close out, I came in 27th overall and third in my age group. Kudos to the 63 year old that kicked my ass. No worries, I have a finisher brick I get to look at every day to remind me life has its bumps, but there are no limits.
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