Sunday, September 11, 2011

Humbled but happy :)

So, yesterday I set out to find out if I could complete a 100 Mile Ultramarathon with next to zero training. Well, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Meaning that I accomplished the mission by finding out that I couldn't. Not even fucking close! I dropped out somewhere around the 42 mile mark after a nasty tumble, and actually had to hitch a ride with a volunteer from an aid station.

Here is my brief race summary:

  • arrived Friday evening at 6:30pm, awesome pre-race meal of spaghetti and salad, lots of very nice folks. Got checked in, weighed in, briefed, etc.
  • slept in back of truck, after a tall-boy Stella, hitting the hay about 11pm
  • up at 5:30am, breakfast of coffee and bagels, bathroom visit, into race gear. Running in tights, shorts, Mud Mafia t-shirt, compression hi-socks over ankle dri-fits, ballcap and low-tech shoes. Camelback with water, tons of gels, extra socks and my lamp.
  • 6am start. Still dark. 100 milers, 50 milers and 50km all starting together (25km starting at 9am)
  • gorgeous morning - 10C? Sun came up as we rounded a lake, so beautiful. Day warmed up but never too hot.
  • course was very hilly and technical. 20% forest roads and 20% biking trails. Lots of rocks and roots and uneven footing.
  • awesome aid stations - well stocked with food and water and electrolyte drinks. Very encouraging, friendly volunteers.
  • I felt phenomenal the whole way "out" ... the course was 25 miles out, then back, then repeat. My cardio was perfect, never winded at all and very solid energy. My legs were definitely feeling the steep hills, though, and my feet were very sore - especially the 5th metatarsals on both ... where I have big bunion issues and stress fracture worries from earlier this year. Was still confident I could press through.
  • A few miles after the aid station at the 30 mile (50km) mark, disaster struck ... I was running full-stride, in one of the very few flat, open stretches of trail. Suddenly I was falling hard. My right foot had gone straight into the loop of an exposed root and stopped dead. My whole body twisted and I landed on the outside of my left foot, feeling an awful crunch before landing squarely on my face in the dirt. I stood up and dusted off and tested my weight on my foot. It seemed reasonably ok, all things considered, so I started running again but had a significant hobble. In short order I knew that I was not finishing my hundred. I decided to finish the first 50 and call it a day. After several more miles, even that truncated plan became moot, as my foot throbbed to the point of hop/walking to the next aid station. When I arrived I asked them to mark me DNF and sat at the picnic table. There was no way I was taking my shoe off (in fact, it stayed on until I had driven all the way to Orillia), but I snacked and hydrated and visited until another volunteer arrived and one of them could drive me back to base.
  • So, less than 12 hours after starting what was to be a 24 hour race, I was driving back to Orillia.
And, I can honestly say that I am OK with that. For starters, I did not deserve to finish. I had not put in the work and was being a bit foolhardy. Which is totally okay - that is not an unusual strategy for me! Sometimes it works out ... this time, not so much. I could try to blame the DNF on a fluke accident, but the fact is that my legs were terribly fatigued and I'd already dodged the bullets of several trips and stumbles on the rugged terrain - it was only a matter of time until one of them caused an injury.

In my last post I quoted Dean Karnazes saying, “A good athlete, a strong athlete ... can fake their way through a marathon. They can kind of grunt it out. It might not be pretty, but they can kind of get there. With an ultramarathon, you can’t skimp on your training. It will lay you flat.” To which I reply, "Right you are my friend!"

I truly loved this Facebook comment from Kristin Lundy last night, just after I announced my DNF, "Congrats on 42! Hope your ankle gets better soon. Anyway, now I can tell you, you have to TRAIN for a 100 miler silly! You wouldn't have been able to walk for a week!!!! Let me know when the next one is ;)". I met Kristin and her partner Jack Cary at the McNaughton Ultra in Vermont in May. I was training for The Death Race and Jack (a 2-time Death Race finisher) was crewing for Kristin in her 30 mile ultra. She then went on to do something unbelievable ... she just kept on running and completed a full 100 miles. Just because. No official result. No belt buckle. She HAD done the work, and was planning a 100 later in the summer, but she "felt it" and went for it and did it. THAT is a rock star move :) And I honestly appreciate that she didn't offer me her advice before my race. Very cool to let me learn it on my own.

A beautiful moment for me... During the hobbling stretch at the end, an old fellow caught up to me. I am guessing he had to be in his seventies, white hair and white beard. He was moving at a fast walk and as he pulled alongside he said, "You look like you're in a bit of trouble my friend." I explained what had happened and that I was done for the day. I asked how he was doing and he said, "Oh, I don't know really." To which I replied, "Where are you at?" (Meaning, "What's up that has you uncertain?") ... His answer was awesome - "Well, right this second I am exactly one foot ahead of you in a one hundred mile race!"

Irish Joe is his name, and he is fantastic. I picked up my pace to be able to enjoy his company, and he shared with me that he knew he could finish the hundred miles but was worried he wouldn't make the 30 hour cutoff. He has run the Haliburton Ultra 15 of the 18 years it's been held, but had never stepped up to the biggest distance until now. We chatted about other races he has competed in and I was thrilled when he mentioned a 100 mile snowshoe race in Vermont. Turns out we are both huge fans of the crew at Peak Races, and shared stories about Andy Weinberg and Joe DeSena and their awesome crew down in Pittsfield. When we arrived at the aid station, we parted ways - my race was over and he steamed on, but not before giving me a big hug and insisting that I email him before heading down next to VT so he can join me. I hope, and sincerely believe, that I will see his name among the 100 mile finishers when the list gets posted.

Today I am very comfortable with my decision to withdraw. My feet are sore but salvageable - which may not have been the case after many more miles. I have an even greater respect for my ultra friends. I am still so new to all of this - ultras, marathons, obstacle running - and took for granted how hard they work and how amazing their accomplishments are. And I am re-inspired to buckle down and build the skills and stamina to run alongside them. I will absolutely be back in Haliburton next September to take care of this unfinished business.

But first, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is my next race. It was my first ever race, of any kind, in 2009 when I finished in 5:21. I returned last year and improved to 4:36. This year I would love to see a 3:59. As Dean pointed out, I can still fake my way through another marathon, but after that the real works starts!!

1 comment:

  1. Gotta love a guy who can run so far so fast *and* cobble together a phrase like: "even that truncated plan became moot"