Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kicking Off 2012 Like I Know What I'm Doing

First person race recaps that don't start with disclaimers or excuses are always best - for both the reader and the author - and I'm proud to say that I have no preface for my 2012 Rocky Raccoon 100 race synapsis, so here we go!

With the repetitive nature of a loop course, I doubt anybody wants to read a mile-by-mile play-by-play, so instead, I'll mention the highlights and time-splits that broke the monotony of suffering for a long time. (Also, after a while the scenery and distance all starts to blend together into a rain-soaked mush, so I couldn't get too detailed if I tried.)

To get things rolling, race morning began with a reinactment of The Flood, minus Noah and ark full of animals. Holly, Eric (crew chief extraordinaire), and I sat in the car counting down the final minutes before the race start, all the while in complete awe of the storm. We'd almost gone off the road while driving 10 mph, so how in the world was running 100 miles going to treat a guy?! Coupled with the fierce lightning, at least I had the backup option of getting electricuted early and not having to suffer all day and night...

Lap 1 - Splish Splash
20 Mile Time: 2:32

Around mile 2.5 the rain had backed off slightly and the feet were still dry, which was my main goal for lap 1. The longer I could delay the onset of blisters, the better, but when it came time to negotiate the first major flash-flood, I tripped on a hidden root and went face first into the water. Every square inch of my body was submersed... so much for dry feet. This was a blessing in disguise though, because now I could just take the path of least resistance when I encountered mud or water and didn't need to pussy-foot around.

The downside(s)? Apparently my Timex lost it's waterproof-ness when I recently changed the battery, and water tends to fry electronics. So much for knowing my splits or when to eat and take salt. From here on, I had to rely on feel and just listen to my body, and use the aid stations as a rough estimate of time.

This little swim also jacked up my headlamp, and it was now out of commission for night duties later on. I had to survive about 35 more minutes with terrible light and rolled my ankle several times. I made a mental note to high-step more than usual and that I better not sprain my ankle less than 10 miles into a 100. Apparently it worked, because after the sun came up, I didn't really have ANY more falls or close calls!

Lap 2 - Finding a Rhythm
40 Mile Time: 5:17

This stretch was all about backing off and setting a comfortable (using the term loosely), sustainable pace. Going out in 2:32 had been a bit of a risk, but then again, you can't have epic success without risking epic failure. I ended up doing this lap in a more comfortable 2:45 with the only noteworthy events being a brief break from the rainfall, along with my 2nd poo break of the day. I could already tell my bowels were going to hold up much better than at Leadville last summer.

Lap 3 - PR and Pain
60 Mile Time: 8:14

At this point I realized lap 3 brought with it the incentive of a new 50 mile PR, but not having a watch anymore, I could only guess what that actual number might be. From asking other runners and the aid station volunteers, it appears I went through 50 in about 6:39. Here I realized that I would most likely get my goal of 16:30 - barring any disasters.

Shortly after mile 53-ish, the blisters that had been forming on a couple of my toes decided to burst and ooze... yet, I surprisingly just didn't care. I was running strong - having not walked a step yet - and realized from my past experiences, that while painful, blisters shouldn't be a major concern or hinderance. So on I pushed...

Lap 4 - I Hate Josh
80 Mile Time: 11:28

I continued my pattern of changing socks after each lap (which ended up costing me an extra 17 minutes over the course of the day), and hit the course again. This time, while telling my crew what I needed before heading back out, I informed them that I needed a pacer to at least get me to the first aid station, otherwise, I would not be able to get going again. Eric volunteered, and after the now-traditional kiss and "I love you" to Holly, we started running again as I braced myself for what I remember as the toughest lap in 2010.

To my surprise, my legs were able to start turning over again, and I soon was running solo after about a mile. My next huge mental boost came when I passed Ian Sharman and his pacer just before the Nature Center (mile 63). It was unfortunate to see him in that condition, but it gave me the surge I needed to continue on. I still hadn't walked a step, and was now determined to keep that streak alive until at least mile 80.

(Still running at 63 miles)

Shortly thereafter, I encountered Josh Katzman for what was probably the 5th or 6th time of the day. We had never been more than 5 minutes apart at any point, and we ended up running the remainder of lap #4 together. It was both fatiguing and motivating at the same time: On the one hand it was great to have someone to commiserate with off and on for close to 80 miles, but on the other, it made me push myself way past my comfort zone when I really didn't care to.

My favorite part was when we both had our pacers beside us and were running up one of the steeper hills towards the end of lap 4. Josh asked: "How are you feeling?", to which I clearly lied "Great!", in more of a grunt than spoken word. I reciprocated: "You?", to which I received the same lie "Great!"... it got a laugh from the pacers, and now that I'm not suffering, I can look back and laugh at it as well. Ah, the psychological games...

In all honesty, it was great having Josh around for so much of the day, and I'd like to think we both pushed each other to our very respectable times of 14:58 and 15:36. (He held on for 5th place.)

Lap 5 - I Hate Meredith
Final Time: 14:58

When I saw that I was only at 11:28 for 80 miles, I decided to forego the last sock change in hopes of getting the pain over with sooner. I also knew that Meredith Terranova - who had paced Ian Sharman to his win last year - was going to be helping me once I got to mile 83. She had brought me through the last few miles of lap 4 after Ian dropped, and had told me she would pace me for the rest of the race as long as she got a quick break to grab some food and a headlamp.

I had STILL not walked a step, and she was determined to keep it that way, even though I was not! At mile 86, she needed to take a quick pit-stop, and told me not to wait for her, but that she would catch up with me in a mile or so. Why did I soon hate Meredith? That mile turned into 6. We finally reconvened at mile 92, and I was not in a very talkative mood. Not only had I just endured a pity-party for almost an hour, but I'd crapped my pants in the process... literally.

About 5 minutes later I told her how much I hated her, but after some negotiating, we decided that a sub-15:30 would be her redemption, and that she would achieve BFF status if she helped make it happen.

At mile 95.5-ish I saw my crew for the last time, and asked the time as we were heading out of the aid station: 14:20. I said my goodbyes and resumed running. I dreaded it, but I was now going to push through the pain and run every step, no matter what. The mental exhaustion of pushing when every fiber of your body is seizing up and begging for relief, is indescribable. While this course is no Leadville, my desire to go fast made me suffer and hurt more than at any point in my 3 Leadville finishes. I'd like to think I'm now a stronger person because of it.

At long last we crested the final hill and I tossed my water bottle and went into sprint-mode. Meredith had avoided the question of time for the last 4.5 miles and so I really didn't know what to expect when the race clock finally came into view... 14:58.xx... I couldn't believe it!

Oh yeah, in case you're wondering, I don't hate Meredith anymore!
Results can be found here: http://tejastrails.com/docs/Rocky_res_2012.html

(Post-race boatramp reinactment)

(In the medical tent with one of my biggest motivations!)

In conclusion, it was the race of my life so far. Not only because of my time, but because of the great people I got to spend the weekend with. Having Holly, Eric, Marc, Amanda, Dan, Karen, Andy, Melissa, and Amy as housemates, crew members, and fellow racers was a blast!

(Post race toe-carnage. At least 4 nails are goners...)

Everyone who's run a marathon (or farther) will appreciate this one:

While I ran the whole race without music, I did have a good one stuck in my head:


Alex Gillespie said...

Awesome result at the top end of the field!

Doug Novy said...

Fuck You, Timex!

Sean O'Day said...

Wow - even your race report didn't suck!

Congrats again, man.

Anonymous said...

Did you throw away your shorts? I crapped in my shorts once and had to throw away the shorts... They were my favorite shorts. Congrats on a killer time and top 5 finnish!

GZ said...

Way to do work! And apparently TEAM SHART LIVES.

Jim P. said...

Really impressive effort and result. Congrats!

Running Shadow said...

Absolutely amazing and incredibly inspiring!

luray va accommodations said...

You must be having good time really. In good time you have covered lots of distance.