DNF @ ~66 miles in 23 hours.
Here are Mike and I at the start. Mike went on to finish 12th. Mike has always been a strong supporter of mine and I was stoked to see him nail this race.
At the last minute, I threw my GoPro in my pack. I haven’t videoed or photographed a race in years and I thought it might be fun to kind of do a short video diary throughout the day. Gave me a slight distraction to help ease the time out there alone.
Not really sure how to start this post. A failed race is never that exciting. Usually they are more instructive. In this one, I am not really sure what I learned so maybe that is the therapy session you will get here as I try and think through and post-process what happened for some clarity.
Rewind. Leading up the race I hadn’t been working as hard as I have in prior years for events of this magnitude. Life stuff. Lack of motivation. I had set low goals. I just wanted to go and finish so get my Hardrock qualifier. The course is up in Wyoming and that is like the elevation of the Boulder trails. This will be easy. And you get 34 hours! I wanted to just enjoy it. I lost respect for the distance I think.
Then I got injured with that fall in May — the peak of training. That was nearly 3 weeks of no running. My fitness took a big nose dive. In retrospect, I should have just cut my losses and dropped to the 50 miler. I could have seen the whole course. Probably finished solid. And still had a fun weekend. But the goal was that qualifier and the 50 wouldn’t deliver that, so I stayed the course.
Fast forward to race day. I had been pretty solid mentally until now. I woke up in some weird panic state. Like I had never done this before. My stomach was in a knot. My mind was racing. I started crying walking out to the car to leave for the race. Total meltdown. Once we got to the briefing and start line, all that emotion and ache was gone. I was back in my element and I was ready to get moving.
We got started at 11 AM which is an oddly late start time. It was sort of nice. The temps were like in the 70s at the start so it was a toasty send off. Plenty of sunshine. I fell in the long conga line of people exiting the canyon. They were not moving that quick but I was enjoying the effortless pace. Veterans had told me to just go slow on that first climb so I did. Barely breaking a sweat but seemingly losing some valuable time.
The aid stations were much more frequent than LT100 which was nice. I went with my AK vest and just 2 bottles. Working to drain both between each stop. I wasn’t doing a great job at that to start but got better as I got into the rhythm of the race. I was using UCANN for my drink for the first time ever in a race. Trained with it some. It felt pretty great. With the late start, my stomach was solid. The drink wasn’t bugging it either. And no sugar mouth! I was hitting blocks and gels too but would wash those down with the UCANN nicely. Felt like I was onto something. But I knew I still wasn’t really eating enough as I ultimately should someday in these races. But I was really excited that it was working in the positive direction.
The mileage seemed slow at this race. Tight singletrack with brush hitting you in the shins all the time. The sweetest part was that nobody was coming up behind me. And I was rolling along passing people every few minutes. Now I wasn’t moving that fast, but they were slower. It was a decent feeling but had me worried I went out slow. Took about 8 hours to make it to the Footbridge aid station which is at mile 30. That is a major point in the race. The place looked a little nasty. People everywhere trying to work out situations. I sat with my drop bag and was in and out pretty quick. Changed socks, shoes, clothes. Restocked. They told us that we should take warm clothes at this point to get to the turn around. Expected temps were 20 degrees up there after midnight. So I took pants, a windbreaker, and an extra layer. It was probably 50 or so at this moment so it was hard to fathom it being so cold. The key fail here was that I should have put on my pants right then while I had easy access with my shoes off. I did sweat a bunch running up the next portion of the hill but I think I made the wrong move. Everybody was in shorts anyway.
From there, we are climbing up the “wall” I think it was called on the race shirt. Whatever. It wasn’t any Hope Pass. It was rolling upwards. It was all runnable for me. And I am not proud of my fitness at the moment. Again, I was rolling people up. This was a euphoric point in the race but it was being tarnish by my kidneys. Miles back my hip was flaring up so I took an Advil. Hip was back in motion literally 5 minutes later. Good as new. But I paid the price with lower pain and not being able to get any pee out. Straining to make a cap full of dark yellow urine. I really got on the drinks at that point. Stopped at an aid station and drank water like I was in a contest. It wasn’t going to fix itself quick but I was doing what I could. I figured another Advil later in the day would be required and I wasn’t going there unless I got things flowing well.
Nightfall set in and my pace slowed. Tiny little rutted animal path. Sucky footing. Mud and water crossings started increasing. Finally got the point where you give up trying to keep your feet dry. Pointless. Then came the lightening. Bright and it filled the sky. Kind of freaky. In Colorado, I would have run for cover. There was nowhere to go here and I thought “we are low at only 7,000 feet” so I kept going on like everyone else. Then came the rain. Driving rain. The parts of the trail that were dry when to slick. I was not having fun at that moment. But it goes with the territory. I never take rain gear. Don’t think any of my races ever even have it in the forecast. So I used my water repelling wind breaker to cut the wetness and moved on.
I thought we would never get to the turn. Mile 42-48 sucked. Pretty low point mentally. I had OK energy but I just kept playing some game of “its around the next corner” only to be disappointed by darkness. It was a sloppy mess getting into the aid station. Crossing major mud. My entire ankle was submerged many times. My shoelaces where invisible in a layer of mud on top of my shoes. I was sliding every which way on the trail. My footing was working over time. And I was cold. Real cold. The wetness combined with the drop in temps and wind was doing me in. I couldn’t run fast enough in the mud to get body heat going. Ugh.
Finally, I got to the turn and they moved us into a big heated tent. It wasn’t that warm but it was something. I wrapped up in a huge blanket and sat in a chair. Kind of glazed over for 5 minutes with a cup of hot chocolate. Watching the carnage around me. Guy next to me was dropping. He looked like he should go home so I did nothing to motivate him in any direction. I got some food and ate and got my temps under control. I changed out my clothes for dry ones. I was going to change my soaking wet shoes and socks but opted not too. In under a mile after leaving they would be soaked again, no point in ruining 2 pairs of shoes tonight.
I started getting interested in leaving as time passed. Finally they started talking about cut-off times and I was up and on my feet. I gotta get the hell out of here. It was some flashback to Twin Lakes last summer when I was just before the cutoff. I gotta get out of here. NOW. So I flew out of the tent and went out into the darkness. It was freezing cold again outside but I was dry and figured I could get better with movement. But something was wrong. My right leg hurt. It was my knee. I recalled nothing prior in the day there but it suddenly felt like somebody hit me with a hammer. Right where your knees touch if you squeeze both of them together. WTF. I got out to the road/gate where cars where and dropped down to my knees and tried to stretch it out. Suddenly I had a recollection of running in Boulder on the Mesa Trail with the dogs…in the sloppy rain…and my knee hurt. All that sliding around into Jaws tweaked that knee. Son of a bitch.
Well, if there as a crux moment of that race it was there. I stood up and literally looked back in the direction I came. 1 mile back to the aid stations where I could try and get help. But I will get cut for time soon. Or continue. What to do. What to do. I stood there for a minute wracking my brain. Maybe another Advil would dull this out. Maybe the footing will get better and things will come back. Not 2 DNFs in a row. Blah blah blah. I continued forward.
The race is a huge mental game and I used a lot of chips on that decision. In retrospect, it was a dumb move. The pain was sharp enough that it was not going away. And it was a really long way to the next spot to drop. Like 18 miles. And the crews have to driving to fucking Montana to access it. What was I thinking? Oh well.
So I kept moving. I warmed up as I saw the sunrise. I was pretty alone. Random people passing every once in a while. I had been waiting for the 50 mile race to start back at the turn and them to come flying past me. My watch was dead so I was using those folks as some sort of tortoise and the hair thing to keep my occupied. But all in all, I could not run. And I could not go down anything with steps without major effort. I wasn’t going to be able to reclimb out of Footbridge nor run 15 miles back into town. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do damage to the knee or not. I didn’t really care. I just knew the end result would be being cut at the next aid station when I got there or the one after that. So I threw in the towel mentally and just tried to work myself the rest of the 15 miles or so to a place to drop. At 2-3 miles an hour walking, that took forever.
When I got to Footbridge, I limped in. Handed the captain my bib and continued to the parking area. I found 3 Texas dudes crewing for a lady who had just passed me at the aid station. She was barely ahead of the cutoff and was determined. She was actually moving while I was not. Great for her! I bummed a ride off these guys back to the race start. They were super nice and let me use a phone to call Kim. Kim had no clue where I was as the race tracking sucked as usual for ultras. They dropped me at a gas station in town and my wife drove up and picked me up. I got in and the kids were happy to see me. They asked me why I couldn’t finish and I told them my knee was pretty hurt. Conversation turned to what they had been doing since yesterday when I left them and life went on.
It always run to wrap up these race posts talking about what’s next. So since I didn’t finish, I didn’t get the Hardrock qualifier I was after. That means that dream is on hold for now. I will not have an entry for 2015. And you know what? I am OK with that here today. Maybe I could have been fitter or more prepared or whatever but I still opted out. Hardrock surely would have tested me like that several times over and I didn’t rise to it this time. Maybe it would be different on any given day but its cool for now.
If you watched the video, you heard me say maybe I should just give it a rest for a while. My wife likes to tell me that I run 50 mile races within 100 mile races…so I should just stick to 50s for a while. That might be pretty insightful. Maybe I should spend some more time at that distance for a while and work on it. Or maybe do something else.
I still feel like I peaked back in 2011 and have been on a downward trajectory since. Slower. Tighter. Whinier. I am turning 40 this year. But I absolutely hate when people try and sympathize and say something about age. Tweaks me because I am out there working against the age clock staying fit. Sure there are plenty of ways to stay fit but there is something magical about this distance. And while I don’t mind not finishing from time to time (because it goes with the territory), I don’t want to be the guy that can’t ever get one done anymore.
So I could end this with some cliffhanger or some drama. But I won’t. You deserve better.