Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bryce Canyon 100

So happy yet so disappointed

At mile 94 or so I was so pissed off I was ready to sit down and just wait for my knee to start  feeling better.  The forth or fifth person in the last three miles had just passed me asking if I was ok as I waved them on. I wasn't going to quit of course but I was trying to figure out how to be positive and it was extremely hard, when something bad happens early in a race I have just taken some time and corrected.  I have never really had anything hurt so bad late in a race all alone. Probably won't be the last time so I had best do a better job next time. Let me start a little earlier, just wanted to throw in some dramatic flair as I was happy with 85% of this race. 

I wish I could start somewhere near the beginning, I can't really remember why I wanted to run 100 miles. I think part of it is I don't like going to races and doing the hardest part of it (e.g. doing a 50k at a 50k / 100k event), just something about how I have wired myself recently (yes I have a problem).  Another reason is I really admire the folks that can do this and I wanted to try, I am still nowhere in my friends league, they are more accomplished runners but I am going to get better at this come hell or high water, having a 100 mile under my belt now gives me a better appreciation for the highs and lows and what to take care of or what works for me. I know every race is different, but it is a start. 

I met with my friend / mentor / coach John Burton at the beginning of the year to go over the race / training schedule leading up to this because this was my "A" race. I wanted a pretty first 100, in retrospect that probably wasn't the best strategy, I have a history of bad first ultra distance picks though, nothing ever super easy.  SOB 50k race in Ashland Oregon last July being my first ultra wasn't easy starting at 6500 feet (I thought it was going to start at Ashland - lesson learned), then North Face 50m in Marin 10,000 feet of climb and soooo cold all day. None of these are the hardest in their class but they sure don't seem like a beginners courses.  This 100 falls right in line, starting at 8500 feet with 19,000 feet or so of climb not the hardest, but not a good starter 100 (if there is such a thing).

Here are some of the pictures that made me think this was a good idea :). Beautiful course!

Picture of course - credit to Ultra Adventures facebook sitePicture of course - credit to Ultra Adventures facebook site
Picture of course - credit to Ultra Adventures facebook sitePicture of course - credit to Ultra Adventures facebook site
Not of course but we saw this on a hike the next day and it looked a lot like some of the outlooks we saw during the runNot of course but we saw this on a hike the next day and it looked a lot like some of the outlooks we saw during the run

Once I decided then we started to work around a family vacation with it, I mention it to Dana and he and the family were in as well.  It was going to be great fun, we could do some hiking and sightseeing in both Zion and Bryce so we rented a house between both of them. 

Training (both races and weekly running) went well no significant injuries or issues. Since this is my first ultra year, it has been exciting getting personal bests (PBs) every time I did a race, I know this can't continue too much longer, so enjoy it while it lasts. My biggest 3 weeks before Bryce I combined to do 240 miles with over 45k of climbing, I felt pretty good about this, I know it isn't as much as some veteran racers put in but my goal was finishing so "better undertrained than injured." (jb quote to me)

Taper weeks are pretty interesting, hard to slow your training after running so much for the previous weeks. We started our road trip to Utah getting there about 4 days before the race, exactly the wrong time according veteran ultra runners, but no choice.  We went on a few hikes crazy beautiful at Zion and Bryce!  Here are a few more pictures;

Packet pickup went well, I also dropped off my drop bags hoping I got things right. I made 6 drop bags, 3 larger ones for the last 3 aid stations (except one at 45/55), and 3 baggies with just bare bones supplies for the first / last aid stations.  I was able to deliver the drop bag stuff that Satchin had given me, we chatted for a bit and hopefully able to meet at the start.  I went to bed early and was able to get some sleep (rare, but I hadn't been sleeping well a few nights before), Dana got up early with me the morning of the race and we made the drive to the start. 

There was a lot of milling around the fire barrels, I have decided that ultra runners are the nicest folks ever except when jockeying for a spot in front of a fire pit :) This is when Sachin and I met up trying to stay warm in front of a fire barrel.  Sachin had been beating up Mission Peak hard to get ready for this.  The 50 milers and 100 milers started at 6am so a few minutes before we milled over to the start and started out running together. He was great to remind me to slow down at the beginning.  I wanted to slow the first 50 miles quite a bit, since the altitude at the start was 8500 and went from 7500 to 9000 or so and this was my first race at this altitude I was shooting for 12 hours (2 hours slower than my 50 mile pace). 

The first couple of miles were dirt roads, then we got into single track and a conga line. This is when I lost Sachin, he got stuck behind some folks. This trail led us to "Thunder Mountain" and the first of many times I wish I had my camera (followed by relief I didn't because that would have slowed me down even more).  People stepped off the path to take pictures and I sure didn't blame them. 

It was quite a ways to the first aid station, 10 miles in but I was able to just fill water and grab something and go. At this point and most of the way through the race I did well with nutrition, gu and honey stingers with random aid station food. I did water only with some tailwind at the beginning and end to get some calories in. I did take salt tabs as needed - this was a first I hadn't noticed cramping in a race before. 

Besides some great views the first half of the race went well, I made it to the 50 mile mark in 12:03, I sat down and got my light long sleeve shirt and a little headlamp in case I need it before my mile 60 drop bag (main drop bag).  I also grabbed an extra belt bottle ( I never ended up needing it but nice to have.). By this time I had met another runner and we decided since our pace was similar (he had me playing lead blocker most of the time), if we could we would run through the night together. 

Mark and I left the aid station and I was still jogging what I could and power walking where I couldn't all the hills mostly. I felt better than I have at the end of any other 50 miler so far. Slowing down by 2 hours really helped. We had some steep downhills then a few nice gentle ones that kept things moving well. Rolled into the next aid station quickly and left. About at this point I noticed my hot spot on my left big toe. This would make or break things I thought. I didn't know what to do, should I ignore it and let it run it's course? Or should I stop at 60 aid station and take care of it. My partner has done Wasatch 10 times, so I bugged him about it a bit. He thought if we did want to take care of it we would pop it and tape it, or depending on how bad just ignore it. He had the stuff to do so...  As we rolled into 60 I decided to run with it. It didn't hurt too bad and we were just about to go into the night so I hoped slowing down would help a bit. (Maybe a piss poor decision)

We grabbed some headlamps and warmer clothes and headed out into the twilight. This part had a few miles of fire roads and we easily jogged a bit of it just keeping moving. Nothing really eventful happened thorough this section, we did pass the Koerner's at some point here and would play leap frog with them for awhile. I was having a hard time eating real food at aid stations so I was using my baggies of tailwind and gels to keep the calories up.  

I felt ok going at night I wish I would have pushed it a bit more, I need to work on that for the next. I didn't jog / trot as much as I could and I think I could have. Around mile 78 or so we hit some big descents (bouldering) and some hard climbs, I just put my head down and climbed.

After we came out of that section we it some flats and I was getting a bit dizzy running so I decided that I would take this aid station and sit for 5 to 7 minutes eat something and sit by the fire. As it turned out this was a fun aid station, Hal and Carly were here sitting for a bit, so we were able or chat.  After getting some potatoes and bacon (great aid station food).  It was hard to leave the fire, but Mark and I stood up and started down the path. It started getting light so that was a good pick me up. I tried to get Mark to head out without me so he could make his goals. After awhile I had to remove jackets and get settled for the last push about 15 some odd miles or so, I took my time and told Mark I would try to catch up...

I think I almost caught him at the 90 mile aid station but just missed. So I went through my stuff and donated any gels I didn't need to the aid station. Then had a wonderful combination of eggs and bacon. :). Asked the aid station people if they could send Dana a text, at this point I thought I could make 28:15 or so, I was able to ask one of the aid station person to send Dana a text. 

Leaving  this aid station with just 10 miles to go, I was feeling good only a small couple of climbs to go. About a mile from the aid station my leg started to hurt badly right around the knee it couldn't even walk the flats...  This was very maddening, but only having 9 miles or so to go (no watch so I couldn't even figure out exactly how far), climbing up to thunder mountain was tough but I just wanted to keep moving. I started getting passed by people, and at about mile 94 is when I hit a bit of a low, I had been limping / walking for 3 miles and had another 6 to go and getting passed. 

Finally got to the road leading into the finish, 2.3 miles left, after about a mile I could see the finish.  I kept looking back to see if anybody was going to pass me at the end. I saw someone about 500 yards from the finish and found out I it was about a ten to noon I pulled it together so I could still finish under 30 hours.

That is it in a nutshell (a large nutshell) - I visited with a few folks, I got to chat with Hal and Carly Koerner - I threatened Tim Olson if he passed me again (after the third time), I was going to tackle him :)  Saw some beautiful sites, a great first 100 miler and now I can start working harder with some time goals.  I learned a lot for sure, and that brings me to the next section...
Post race - I can't put weight on my right leg :)Post race - I can't put weight on my right leg :)

What I did right

  • Drop bags - I had one main drop bag and then just used a couple of back packs and then baggies at the smaller aid stations
  • Aid Station Management - This one always makes me happy - I spent very very little time in aid stations - except when I was feeling a bit dizzy in the middle of the night
  • Shoes - Nike Wildhorse worked well I dropped down to a size 11 and I didn't feel the pain in my feet (except the blister) like I did at Lake Sonoma
  • Nutrition - I feel like I did well here - I was trying to stay on a schedule of gels every 30 minutes then grab something solid at aid stations - I forgot a baggie to bring so I could grab some food for later but I think for the most part it worked out
  • Glasses - I normally wouldn't call this out but I love my new glasses for running - they are photochromic and I wore them the entire time - Julbo Trail version and at night they were practically clear so I didn't need to take them off
  • Handhelds - I used two handhelds the entire time - I don't know if this was good or bad so I am putting it in the good category it worked I drank pretty well
  • Insoles - This makes shoes better for me - I scrunch my toes when I run and over time that rubs the regular stock insoles wrong so adding "SOLE" insoles really helped they don't move and formed to my feet well
  • Salt - I took salt tablets on as needed basis vs. a schedule and that worked great
  • First 50 miles - I couldn't have done that any better if I wanted too I slowed way down from my 50 mile pace and got to and left the turn around in good spirits

What I could do better next time

  • Night time "running" - I just got lazy I was pulling someone along and I didn't have anybody to push so I just walked fast or trotted - I think there was some more runnable stuff that I could have done better with at night.
  • Blister management - I had never really gotten a blister before so now I know
  • Better emergency drugs - I am wondering if I brought something stronger than advil if I could have gotten through my knee pain issue (maybe horse tranquilizer)
  • Maybe drink more - The blister could have been caused a bit by dehydration as well so I will need to watch that
  • Change socks / body glide - I will do that for TRT to take care of blisters better!

Huge thanks to everyone that helped my - I was able to do this in just over 2 years of starting to put my running shoes on, and under a year of my first ultra.  

First and foremost my wife and kids - I am getting better at balance, but they keep putting up with me
John and Amy Burton - I would have still attempted this without them but I would have never have finished or even been close
The Hanson Clan - It was great going on a fun vacation with them and they were so nice after the race in getting me back to 100% 
Quicksilver Running Club - again I could have attempted this but without the mutual support and well wishes I can't imagine I would have finished
Dan Burton - He calls himself the "slow Burton" but he is great to run with and has been there helping me every step of the way
And everyone, I could have kept calling people out but I just don't have the patience (and my conference call is ending and I want to wrap this up), so many people have given me great advice and helped motivate me. Thank you!

And a week later I am feeling okAnd a week later I am feeling ok