Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review of 2012's Big Events and Expectations for 2013

The last three years have been focused for the most part on running and completing the trek to Auburn via the Western States Trail. I fortunately wrapped up almost all my running goals and a couple of life goals in a pretty little bow this year, completed, done.....finished! Though not all of those goals/events have been related to running, I can say running has helped me either achieve them, or find my way through them all. Consequently my heavy focus on running has led to delaying action on other parts of my life that needed tending to. 

My personal, professional and athletic components of my life are in need of a better balance. This next year I want to concentrate on my life as a whole not just a single part. I've spent the better part of the last couple months delving deep into my soul and my brain to try to figure out what, if anything, is missing from my life. The answer.....goals. I'm goal oriented, I need something to strive for in order to make sense of my life. I've realized over the last three years I have lacked clear and concise professional and personal goals, to go along with my athletic goals. 

I intend on attacking every aspect of my life that I currently deem unacceptable and replacing it with something I am either passionate about or that increases my happiness. I have come to realize I'm pretty darn happy with a pair of shoes and a route to run, my four legged children and my gal by my side. At one time I felt I needed a lot of "things" to be happy. I now believe I felt that way because I lacked some fundamental components in my life and I used those materialistic things to fill the void. I've made a list of what I do not like in my life, and I've started taking steps to cross the first one off the list. I suspect come this time next year, my life is going to be drastically different, in all areas.

I'm still going to toe the line at races, and I intend on running the TRT100 as long as I can train properly for it. I want to give back to the running community that has given me so much over the last few years. I'd like to share my knowledge as well as spend more time volunteering with races, clubs and helping anyone who wants to run. I've wanted to organize a hill climb up Peavine mountain on a certain route that is sure to bring even the most fit to their knees and I want to give Reno a taste of the classic "Beer Mile" with a little BDey twist. However, next year I'm going to minor in running, next year is all about change. I do not like change, but if running has taught me anything it is that you need to get a little uncomfortable to figure out how great you can be, I've spent the last decade being comfortable. It is time to take some calculated risks, and see where things fall.

I've had an amazing year in 2012. Most that know me would probably say that finally running and finishing Western States was the highlight of the year, but in reality it pales in comparison to two other events. Without those two events occurring, I would not have the courage to make the changes I intend on making in 2013.

#1....I got over my fear of commitment in one key area. I actually made the move to ask my long time girlfriend to marry me. For reasons that go all the way back to childhood I have had marriage issues. My parents were divorced and it was ugly, it got to the point I really did not want to be with or around either of them. 

Fortunately for me she said yes! I'm positive that one word answer and the journey to get there, has helped me more than she will ever understand. That answer, for what ever reason, validated me. While the thought of such a long term commitment scares the heck out of me, at the same time, I now realize that this commitment has brought with it a partner to share in both my successes and failures. I'm not going at life alone anymore. Coming from someone who genuinely likes to be alone and to do things by himself, this has been an unexpected revelation. Since 10/01/05 when we became official, I've had the best partner I could have ever imagined. She makes me a better person, she's changed my outlook on life, and she’s taught me to stop and smell the roses rather than be so completely focused on the goal or directive I'm obsessing about at that moment. She's taught me to travel and to take things (especially myself) not so seriously. Taught me that I will never be perfect no matter how hard I try, so perhaps a new barometer for success is needed. Most of all, she has stood by me through all that I've been through for so long. She's never tried to change me, she's never asked for anything other than what I could give. I simply can not imagine my life without her. I'm usually an early adopter...but damn it took me a long time to figure out the riches I had beside me the whole time. 
We said our vows to each other at the same place we met in 2005. Not a real wedding in the strictest sense, but it was to us. 

#2....My mom finally took her life back. My mom had been a chain smoker for close to 60 years. Most of my memories of her have a cigarette in her hand. 3 days before Western States I got a call no child wants to ever get. Unfortunately, I've gotten that same call so many times for the last decade. This one was different though, the end was truly near. My mom was dying, she'd been dying for years and to cope with it I made the decision to be ambivalent about it. We all knew that smoking was the culprit, but I chose to stand idly by, while it killed her. I rationalized it in my mind, that it's her decision to smoke and I'll support her if it is what she wants to do. Right or wrong, that was what I did. That call upset me greatly; I was a wreck, to the point I considered scrapping my Western States run in only 3 days and taking a plane to St George to go see her. 

Obviously, I did not make that decision. It was an act of selfishness, that to this day, I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I like to think that some of my running and the struggles I have had getting to the WS start line, my ability to never accept circumstances and to make my own way despite what I may have been told by the "experts" helped my mom realize she that she too had power. The power to quit smoking. 

Since that phone call, my mom has not had a single smoke. Of all my accomplishments, none of them compare to what she has done in taking her life back and quitting smoking. In the last 6 months I have seen her turn into the woman I remember from my childhood, but now, without the cigarette. I recently had the chance to spend her birthday with her and it was the best week I've had with her in my adult life. She’s motivated, happy and healthy. She's my mom again. I'm not sure what role I really played in her journey, or what role I'll play going forward, but I've been given some extra time on this earth with her and I'm not about to take it for-granted. My mom has taught me through this experience that it is never too late to make a change, and the longer you wait to make it, the more time you lose. Life is simply too short to waste time accepting undesirable circumstances that you have the power to change yourself.
My mom going for a hike at 8700 feet, it was tough for her but she did great.
#3....I finally made it to Western States, I ran it and finished. I've always dreamed of a sub 24 hour finish on the track in Auburn. I still dream of it, but sitting on the lawn inside the track with so many friends around me sharing in my accomplishment, I realized how great things were. It may be a fault, but I'm a perfectionist, I can not run from that, excuse the pun. I'll always look at what could have been done better, for any task. On this day though, I was content, I really had all that I needed. Of course sitting on the couch 24 hours later I was already making changes to my plan for the next one. I have a Western States binder, 2 inches of strategy, course data and all the information I can find on the race. The pursuit of perfection is ingrained into me. I have, however, learned that there are many ways to measure success and I am very proud of the effort I put forth on that day and my training leading up to it. I'll be back someday and I will go sub 24. For now though, I'm content to be a part of the event that is the Western States Endurance Run, in any capacity I can. I've spent so many years thinking about Western States, my journey to get there has been so cathartic, that I want to keep it in my life. The culture of the event breeds awesomeness. I can say for certain, once you experience it, you realize you are capable of much more than you thought. While that thought may not be a pleasurable experience, it will change you and how you view what you do.

Super Awesome with a side of Tu-Tu!
Running, rather my pursuit of finishing that run from Squaw to Auburn has shown me how to improve my life, not just my time in an event. You push hard, let yourself regress while you build back up the strength to push past that previous limit again. Repeat this over and over like the waves in the ocean. Eventually you look back and realize the gains that have been made.

In the last year I've come to realize how good I have it, how far I have come and of course, how far I have to go. For now though I'm content knowing I'm able...  to do anything I wish, to run to my hearts content, to do what I've always dreamed of, to love, to be loved, to sort through my problems, to take care of, to be taken care of, to learn, to motivate, to lead, to follow, to succeed and most importantly to fail. A lot of those things I was incapable of doing just 12 months ago. 12 months from now I hope to be better at all of those things and maybe add a couple new one's to the list.

As the New Year approaches, you owe it to yourself to find one of the many things you've been putting off for so long and take the steps to make it happen. I promise, this time next year, you'll be happy you did. Call it a resolution, a goal or a mid life crisis, but act on it. It may not turn out as you envisioned, but you'll be proud of journey and all that came from it. Break it into small steps, start with a plan and execute it. You are going to fail at some point, but you have the power to get back up and fix the failings. It's at that point the goal becomes a reality. I'm convinced, if you are committed enough to fail and get back up to try again, you are committed enough to succeed. You will get there, it is just a matter of time and considerable effort. 

She said yes! Feb 14th
1600 miles run
197,415 feet climbed
Average pace of 4.4 MPH
W.S. 27h19m15s

Sunday, December 9, 2012

California International Marathon 2012

I've run a lot of miles in the last 3 years. One thing I'm consistently amazed about this sport, is one's ability to learn from every run.  I've raced 7 marathons and another 8 ultra-marathons in the last 3 years. I've run further than 26.2 miles 17 times this year alone, in various training runs and races. You would think, with that amount of training at the distance, I would be fairly proficient at it. You would, of course, be wrong about that.

I certainly do not discount the distance, in fact I have a huge amount of respect for any marathon or marathoner, but let's be honest here. I've run, twice now, 100 miles. Both of those races were over entire mountain ranges, at altitude and in conditions that most would not find favorable. I can run 26 miles, and within an hour of finishing, be ready for any challenge life can throw at me, be it physical or mental as long as I pace myself. I've even joked to friends that I could finish a marathon hungover or gasp....still drunk. I may or may not have partied a little too hard for this years Rockin River Marathon in Reno, the result of which spawned my idea to run to the event from my house and over the spine of Peavine mountain, adding an extra 8 miles to the endeavor.

Yet with all this experience, I had never actually trained for, and raced, a marathon. I've always had "bigger" for lack of a better word, goals for each of my marathons. I treated all of them except my virgin one in 2004, like training runs. No taper, no specificity of training, just go out there and do it.

Upon leaning that the "Doc", who was 1/4 of my outstanding crew for Western States was running CIM, and looking for her Boston Qualifying time of 3:35, I made it a point to get my rear in gear and race. I trained well for CIM this year. I had a lot of speed training and plenty of 20+ milers to get myself into good shape.

The Doc, my lovely wife to be, and I set out for Sacramento last Saturday hoping mother nature would grant us 3.5 hours of great weather. My goal was to help get the Doc her BQ, and to somehow repay the massive debt I felt I owed for her giving up 30+ hours of her life so I could accomplish a dream at Western States. We were warned numerous times that things would not be as we hoped. Before we hit I-80 a massive killer tumble weed nearly wrecked us, then just past Gold Ranch a ladder was on the freeway and seconds later a huge truck from which the ladder fell, was off to the side. The driver was standing in the middle of the slow lane screwing with his vehicle. Once we got to Sacramento the adventure to get to the convention center started with a torrential rain storm the likes only seen from near the equator. It was at that point I realized this would not be the typical marathon experience. This would be my third CIM. I was trained properly and racing for the first time, of course the weather was going to be sloppy, messy and difficult! Those who know me well, will undoubtedly understand this next statement.

I love bad weather! My days spent in a downhill suit alpine skiing prepared me for anything mother nature can throw at me. Trust me on this one, being in a 100% spandex suit and sitting on a chairlift in below freezing temps with no other clothing to speak of for half an hour, just plain sucks. Add to that the fact you just expended the most amount of energy you can in 2.5 minutes, you are in a snow storm, and your ass is sticking to the chair, you tend to toughen up pretty quickly.

So upon the news that CIM would be wet and windy I was, of course, overjoyed. I'm rarely one to scoff at things getting more difficult, I relish in the enjoyment of beating the circumstances as much as I do the accomplishment of the goal. Plus, I ran from Squaw Valley to Robinson Flat in far worse weather (I thought) and had a blast, there was no way measly Sacramento weather was going to derail me.

We got to the hotel and found out that we got a free VIP tent at the start for purchasing the room. We made a quick video for our friend who's birthday party we were missing, watched the movie TED and turned the lights off around 10. As has been my unfortunate routine nearly everyday for almost 6 months now I slept very little. Maybe 2 solid hours of sleep, and a lot of hamster power turning the wheels attempting to get back to sleep before the alarm went off at 4:30 AM. To say the least, I've been having horrendous sleeping issues since July. It is what it is and my refusal to take any kind of medication, or reduce the stress of my life means I just have to deal with it as best I can. Fortunately I've never been one that needs a lot of sleep so most of the time it is a non issue. I generally just chalk it up to yet another circumstance to overcome, it may be a fact but it is never an excuse. I hate that word and I cringe anytime I hear someone use it.

The alarm went off and I got dressed, had my pre-race bagel and cream cheese and we made our way to the bus that would take us to the start. Upon arrival we made our way to the VIP tent which was fantastic, we then learned we had our own potties! It was fabulous. We had an hour to kill and I started probing the Doc to see where her head was at. The tent was rocking back and fourth, winds were at least 35mph + and it was raining quite hard. We talked about the possibility of not making the goal, I tried to inject enthusiasm for the conditions into the conversation. The weather was in reality, much worse than what I experienced at Western States and rivaled all but my worst training days in the snow over the years. Any person who started this race has earned my respect, the conditions were brutal.

CIM 2012, a fantastic 26.2 mile adventure!
We made our way out to the start and I could not contain my enjoyment. I was bouncing around like a little kid going to the park for the first time. The gun went off and I took off. It was wet and messy for most of the race. I ditched my jacket and poncho around mile 2 just after I lost sight of the Doc, and ran the rest of the race in a shirt and shorts with arm sleeves. I passed the half marathon mark in a personal best time. I was hauling ass! Twice I saw my friends Scott and Michelle on the side of the road cheering all the Reno runners and each time it was a massive boost in the speed department. They were braving the weather to cheer me on, certainly I could go a bit faster.

I had caught myself numerous times running near the middle of the road by the reflectors that separate lanes. I kept telling myself not to go there because of the slight chance I might hit one, in that perfect little spot on my left foot that has derailed me 3 times now. Unfortunately I kept ending up right back there because it was the one place there was little to no water. Cars do not travel on that part of the road very often so there are no indentations from the weight of them, unlike a foot to either side of that line. I passed mile 17 and realized if I ran the next 8 miles at a 10 minute pace I was going to finish the marathon in a personal best, and minute under my goal time.

It was at this point I got cocky, I had this in the bag. 9 miles to go nothing was going to stop me. No reason to worry about the road or the conditions at this point, I mean, what could happen? Yep I had that exact thought, I figured I'd run far too many miles to need to worry about anything at this point.

A couple minutes later I found myself once again running near the little reflectors on the road in a pack of 5. You might be able to guess by now what happened, I stepped on one of the square road reflectors and despite the ample cushioning of my Hoka One One shoes I popped that freaking toe out of the socket once again. I did the same thing back in February while in Physical Therapy for my Plantar Faciitis. That time, my therapist did it trying to stretch the toe, this time an idiotic cocky me, did it to myself. Instantly I yelled out Mother F&^%*R! The pack of 5 turned their heads as I made my way to the side of the road, I apologized as they ran away.

I knew then my day of racing was over and the question was now what to do about the toe. I've had this happen enough times (3 in the last 14 months) that I knew it's a pain tolerance thing. I could finish without damaging anything but it was going to hurt, each step would push the toe in an uncomfortable direction. The only thing that can be done is to pull it straight out and pop it back into place, which once done leaves me unable to run for quite a few days. Nearly every step I take on a run I am mindful of this possibility and up until this last mile I've paid great attention to where I foot strike. My damn mentality caused me to make the decision that nothing could happen on the road and boy was I wrong about that. I kept jogging for a bit and pulled over to the side of the road at about 18.5 miles to walk. Just then my buddy whom I will be pacing at AR 50 next year came up and patted me on the back.

"Are you injured or are you hurting" he asked then motioned me to get back in the game. I thought about this for a second and said some kind of jibberish "um not sure uh....ok I'll keep up". I started running again just under 9 minute pace like he was. I had this almost epic surge of adrenalin and for about 3 minutes I thought there was no reason I could not handle the pain for 7 more miles. However, the body has a strange way of coping with pain. It finds, most of the time without your knowing, the least possible path of resistance. I was favoring the foot by using my other leg to push off of more so than normal. This, combined with my fast start and already tired state, and now loss of the adrenalin started the cramping in my good leg. I chose to slow down and let my friend go. I said I was sorry but I had to slow down and wished him well. I'm pretty sure he got himself a PR in all that slop, and he looked great when I saw him. I was psyched at how well he was running.

I continued on jogging and walking at random intervals as best I could and just enjoyed the last 7 miles of the course. The rain stopped about 3 miles from the finish, the sun came out and the day turned beautiful. I never saw the Doc after mile 2, given the conditions she had an excellent run. Not a BQ, but not many people were running their best out there on that day. I can say for certain in the coming years she will take great joy in telling friends and family about her adventure at CIM 2012, as will most everyone who raced that day.

I finished in 4 hours and 10 minutes, and despite all the issues and weather, it was my favorite marathon I've ever run. I've grown a lot in the last 3 years, I did not accomplish my goal, but one thing all these foot issues has taught me is that it is a blessing to be able to run. Any day I run, even a little bit, is a good day no matter how bad things might get. I've spent roughly 16 months out of the last 36 wanting to run and not being able for various reasons. 3 years ago I would have considered the day a failure, a goal not met, months of training worthless and I would have beat myself up for weeks or months. Those last 7 miles hurt, I was limping pretty bad by the time I got to the finish. However, the slower pace allowed me to take in the moment, I saw so many people living their dream and accomplishing their goals much like I did at Western States this year. Those last 7 miles reminded me that goals are great, they focus you, but at the same time they can eliminate your ability to recognize the greatness that is happening around you every minute of the day. This day I was fortunate to have been out there in epic weather watching so many people push their limits.

In the end I'm going to look back on this day with great satisfaction, it was not my fastest race nor the furthest. I did not meet my goals. I experienced a lot of joy, some pain and a lot of rain and wind. The real gem though, is the knowledge that I really have turned the corner mentally and I'm on the right track. I'm back to being able to find the good in almost anything, somewhere in my twenties I lost that trait. I've learned from my time on my feet and I look forward to getting schooled once again, because, I'm quite certain, there will be another race or training run that goes wrong and I'll grow from it as well. It has been a week since CIM and today I went for my first run since. I popped my toe back into place shortly after the finish and other than being a little sore still, it is feeling fine and I think it is ready for some pounding.

The Western States lottery was yesterday. It seems crazy that just a year ago I was on the verge of completing a goal that stood for 16 years. I sit here now today eager for the next one. I did not make it into the race this year but I will be a part of it come this June. For now my main goal for next year is to do all that I can to give my wife to be, the wedding she wants and deserves. I have a pretty crazy solo run I've been thinking about for 10 years that if everything falls just right I will attempt in August. For now though, I just look forward to my next run and all that I'll learn from it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

6 Days to CIM

I'm feeling good with only 6 day to go. I think 3:45 is a strong possibility with something under 3:40 possible if I have my best day out there. I've had an up and down training cycle these last two months but I can feel my form is much better than it has been in a year.

I did 10-12 hard 8 mile tempo runs, 3 22+ mile training runs and I've run almost everyday at least a mile for the last 3 months. I was shooting for a running streak but i seem to get to about 30 days and i miss one. All told I've missed 3 days of running since Burning Man.

Easily the most consistent 3 months of running I have ever had.

On to Folsom on Saturday then a nice run to the California State Capitol on Sunday.

Giddy up!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Week 1 of 6 to CIM

CIM 26.2 Miles- December 2nd- Goal 3:34:59

I made a resolution last year to try to keep up with the "Doc" at this years CIM so she could qualify for Boston. She was a scant 35 seconds from qualifying at this race last year so I know she is quite capable. Her time to beat is 3:35:00. My fastest marathon was at last years CIM 3:57:50. That is a huge drop in time, and if my last couple workouts are any indication I'm no where near the shape I should be in to get the job done. I'm up in weight since Western States cause the running has gone down and the the eating has stayed the same. I've been keeping runs under 10 miles and just a comfortable pace, exploring and generally just having fun with no purpose what so ever. It's been quite enjoyable actually, but now is the time to put down the fork and shot glass, follow a routine and get this body moving efficiently again.

The Doc (and three other brave souls) crewed me exceptionally at States, put up with a couple of my temper tantrums, rain and a lot of waiting around for little ole me, so I am dead set on returning the favor. If I can get my fitness up to it, I'd like to pace her the first 20 then hang on for dear life the last 10k.

So I have 6 weeks to train hard for CIM, then a 10 or so day taper. I'm going to try to stick to a strategy that worked for States with some Marathon tweaks. 3 premium workouts a week with easy paced runs filled in between. Instead of hill days it will be speed work, which I can already tell you I'm going to have a rough go with. The long runs of up to 24 or so miles will be done at a pace that will be uncomfortable but not so fast it's a tempo run and the other workout is going to be an 8 to 10 mile tempo run. I'm going to shoot for one session a week of plyometrics, bounding and strength training, hopefully that will be enough. In any event it will be a much different type of fitness level after 6 weeks than I've had in years and I look forward to the results, but I'm a bit scared of the journey. This is going to be a much different type of pain than training for 100 miles. I've done that solely for 2+ years now, my body is accustomed to slowing down when it gets tired. Trying to redline it for 3+ hours seems like a tall order. A goal though, I am excited to go for. I do not see any 100 mile races on the horizon for a while, so I'd like to take this time off from them to get faster.

So on tap for this weekend is a 15-20 mile run to see where my long run fitness is at and develop some paces to train at to get me to the goal. Then come Monday morning, back onto the training wagon!

Side note...

I love Electronic music, it's 95% of what I listen to and always what I have on when I run. This set by Daft Punk from 1997 is one of the first times I ever heard music of this type, and it was all over after that. This is an absolute GEM from way back in the day.

Daft Punk Radio 1 Essential Mix

Friday, August 17, 2012

Green Gate to Auburn

It was deep into the night when Goldie started talking about this memorial. It was built for a runner who was killed by a mountain lion on the trail some years ago. I'd heard about it but never seen it. We both wanted to show our respect to a fallen comrade. Of course, as was the case the entire night, neither of us knew exactly where we were, or where what we were looking for, was. We rounded a bend and saw some lights. I realized we had almost reached ALT. We had left Green Gate about an hour and a half earlier. I was excited to get to some food and see if I could put anything down.

Auburn Lake Trails ALT (85.2 miles) 3:56am
Per our routine Goldie slowed down and told me to go ahead. The aid station was only a couple hundred yards around the bend, so I scampered as fast as I could to it. We had gained another 10 minutes on my splits and were now up 1:52. Upon entering I was greeted by a medic who escorted me to the scale. Like clockwork I was still hovering right around 189. I had trouble standing still on the scale because my feet hurt. I got off the scale and had this conversation with the medic.

Medic:"are you feeling OK".
Me: Jokingly  "you'll need to talk to my slave driving pacer..she's kicking my ass with all this running" as I rocked back and forth and side to side.
Medic: "You need to sit down" he exclaimed.
Me: "No thanks, I need to get out of here no time to waste"
Medic: "No really, you are hypoglycemic, I need you to sit down"
Me: "Hypo what.....? I'm fine, just need to get some food."
Medic: "Sit down and I'll get you some"
Me: "No! I'm fine, why do you think I am not?"
Medic: "You cant even stand up on your feet, please sit down."
Me "No, talk to my pacer, I'm doing fine, I just have some blisters that hurt".....I left him and went to the food table.

At that point Goldie showed up and I overheard her and the medic talking. Something about he's fine he just has bad blisters and is having trouble standing still. A couple of seconds later they both came over to me and I started to get very defensive. Goldie asked me how I was doing and I once again said fine. I looked at the medic and he did something that is generally not wise if you want me to stay calm. Tell me I can't do something.

Medic: "Look you won't make it 20 feet out of this aid station in the state you are in"
Me: Then how the (might have been an bad word thrown in here) did I just run 30 miles on these feet?
Medic: I'll need to see your feet then.

I looked at Goldie and said "I'm done, I can not make this decision, what do I do?" I'm not even sure Goldie had a chance to say anything before I realized I could do nothing. He was not going to let me leave so I just had to give in and sit down. He grabbed a chair and took off my left shoe, took my sock off and nodded.

Medic "Yep you got some blisters there"
Me: Holding back swear words and not nice things...."yep"
Medic: "Let me redress this."
Me: "No.....ahhh whatever."

I'd finally given in to the chair and the medic. He redressed the wounds (poorly I might add) that the awesome foot doc had given me at Michigan Bluff and put the shoe back on. Meanwhile Goldie had grabbed some fruit and broth for me to sip. On the bright side, those went down just fine, my stomach was back. Then the medic grabbed my other foot and did the same. Once he finished, they got me back on my feet and I was shivering like you could not believe. Goldie and the medic escorted me over to the bonfire and wrapped me up with one of those silver emergency blankets.

You could not imagine what was going through my head. I'm sitting there shivering with 15 miles to go. It's a good thing I was shivering because I was shaking my head because I was so mad. I have dreamed of this race for half my life, and I'm basically sitting around a campfire like a third grader listening to campfire stories. This was not the way I had imagined things. The medic kept saying "you have a ton of time just rest a bit" or something close to that. I finally could not take it anymore and stood up and said "lets do this".

Before I move on from this, I need to make it clear that the medic did everything right. He was wise to question me. I do not doubt for a minute that runners will attempt to deceive them so they can leave and in doing so put themselves at a health risk (I know I would). The race is then at risk, the medic himself is also at risk, should something actually go wrong. He and I both could have handled things much better, heck had I even known at that point what hypoglycemic meant (low sugar) I could have eaten a ton of fruit to shut him up. This was confusion by circumstance, thinking back on it afterwards, it just adds to the flavor of the experience. I would be wise to remember this the next time I have a conflict with a volunteer at a race.

That being said, I do not know how long I was there but it felt like 20-30 minutes. It may have been 5 or 15 really, but the fact I lost nearly 20 minutes on my next split, leads me to believe it was a while. The grand total of sitting on my rear end because of the blisters at Michigan Bluff and ALT was easily over an hour.

Goldie and I set out down the hill leading to the the next aid station at Browns Bar. I had a full head of angry steam built up. My feet now hurt again because of the redressing, as well as having been off them for so long. Normally when I am really mad I have a rush of adrenaline that I just can not handle. This time it was much different. I went from coherent and an adult, to totally discombobulated and a young child at that aid station. The frustration of the aid station zapped all my strength and energy. The entire race I had strategically run well, now I had no ability to think. I could not make a decision, and could barely answer questions when Goldie asked them. Our conversations consisted of 1 to 4 word answers from me. This was now the time Goldie was going to earn her keep. I would need her from here on out to get me through to the finish. I was in no shape to do it myself, at this point.

I do not remember much about this section other than it being green and full of trees. We kept looking for the monument but did not see it. What I do remember is for the first time since Michigan Bluff someone passed me, he was being paced by a local runner from Reno. This older gentleman known for running with a feather in his cap is a fantastic runner, something of a legend in Reno, and he really had his runner moving along. I could not keep up. We passed them about a mile later and I had brief thought of being a stud for having run them down, only to realize they must have just pulled off to go to the bathroom. They promtly passed me a minute after I had passed them, then they were gone and Goldie and I were alone again.

Browns Bar (89.9 miles) 5:28am
Finally after about an hour we started to hear the Browns Bar aid station. Like many of the aid stations the volunteers here were up all night. They are known for playing loud rock music and  having a couple of drinks while they work. Once again we pulled into the aid station with me in front and Goldie meeting me a minute or two later. I was now only up 1:37 on my splits, I had lost 15 minutes over those 4 miles. I actually think we ran faster than we had been so I would say 20 minutes is about right, all from the last aid station. I was able to get some broth and some cookies down and refilled my pack. I was starting to have a really hard time getting moving at this point.

We reached the road by the river that leads to the quarry and it started to get light outside. Goldie could sense my mental demise and she actually started asking me if I wanted to stop and walk. My response would always be the same. "Yes please, could we please?", I had officially become a child mentally. I finally, after one of the many stops apologized to Goldie. "I'm so sorry for how slow we are going, I just feel horrible" I said. I figured what would come out of her mouth would be something like, "that's OK, just keep chugging along". However, that is not what she said.

Goldie looked back at me almost angrily and said. "You do NOT feel horrible, you are still running. You are doing great, now take a gel and lets go!" Tough love, but ohhhhh so correct. She was right, I really did not feel any worse than say the last 2-3 hours, I just was stuck thinking about it, every step I took. Probably because I was low on energy, hence her telling me to take a gel. Once again, the experience she had in her head was truly magnificent. It's crazy how after that long expending energy time starts to blend together. Minutes can feel like hours, hours can feel like seconds and seconds can also feel like forever. I think it is highly mood based. It is so easy to get caught up on what is around you and forget about the things it takes for you to keep going. I hope someday I can pass along the knowledge I gained from this experience to someone else, and also one day, repay Goldie by running her into the ground!

This road by the river sucks, it winds with the river and goes up and down. Nothing serious just enough to frustrate at 88 miles on your feet. We finally got to the point where you get back on to some single track and Goldie made her only mistake of the entire race. We slowed to a halt and she pointed up to the top of the mountain. She said "Brandon, your crew is right there waiting for you, we are almost there"
My Crew at Hwy 49 Aid Station about 5 in the morning.

I looked at Goldie with what I would imagine was a most gruesome face. Like someone who just watched their dog get run over by a car in the street right in front of them. I said " That does not make me feel any better". What Goldie did not know was I am a data freak and I knew exactly how far and how far UP my crew was. 3 miles and 1500 feet of climbing. When she pointed to the spot, my initial thought was "great that's 3 miles, then I have another 7 to the finish.10 freaking miles is 1/10 of the race I still have a whole tenth of the race to go". I saw Goldie's face go from happy to "Oh crap what did I just do" in a split second. I felt so bad, but I could not get the words out to apologize. I knew she was just trying to get me fired up.

Fortunately I still had climbing legs and we pushed the pace up that hill to my crew. All told, of my 3 training partners who all finished well ahead of me I climbed that section the fastest. Of course the fact I did not run the first 88 miles as fast surely is the reason but I was actually moving pretty quick. I do not remember a single thing about the climb until we got to the chain link fence separating us from the quarry. You could hear the cars from the road and Goldie yelled out "we are here Brandon".
This was the point I was done with running.

We had finally hit the point where I no longer wanted to run, I had assumed I was far enough in front of the cutoff's that I could walk it in. This is what I love most about 100 mile races, they break you mentally and physically. I've learned through the years that I like to push my limits and see where I break. Most people have never seen me just give up, it is a very rare event. Both hundreds I've run though,  I reached that point. The point where I said enough is enough, I quit. This day at Western States I made it 93.4 miles before I gave up, I know the exact place I made the decision I did not want to run anymore. About 40 feet before we crossed Hwy 49 to get to the aid station. I saw my crew and all I wanted to do was sit with them. I wanted Queen Doom to hold me and tell me that everything was alright. I wanted the race to be over, the pain to stop, but mostly I wanted someone to supply me with a reason to make stopping OK.

Hwy 49 Aid Station (93.5 miles) 6:33am
Get this pack off of me, get me weighed and let me sit down!

We entered the aid station and had gained back 28 minutes on my splits giving us a cool buffer of 2 hours and 5 minutes on them. It was morning now and my crew looked great. I, however, felt like someone hit me with a truck and kept backing up and pulling forward over me with every step. I got on the scales and hit my mark then turned around and walked over to Queen Doom. The emotions of the night, the fact I was just over 6 miles from the finish and the sight of my friends who were crewing me was too much to handle. I wanted to continue on, but by walking not running. I just did not see the point. I had made a promise to my crew that at this aid station I would put on a TuTu in thanks for their efforts through the day and night. I went over to them and they put it on the ground and asked me to step into it.
Not my happy face.

I just looked at them and said "no, I cant lift my feet that high you have to put it on over my head".  I now had entered into the wussy stage of my run. I'm standing there looking at them just hoping someone says that I look so bad I should stop. Of course no one does. More words of wisdom come flying out of Goldie's mouth. "Take your pack off you are going light the rest of the way. Take this hand bottle. I want you to drain that by the time we get to the next aid station. I need you to drink Brandon".

Jesus, can anyone just take some pity on me? Do any of you know how bad I feel right now, I kept thinking to myself. Of course they knew, but like a great crew and pacer they also knew how much this meant to me and that I just was not thinking clearly. I was in no health danger I just felt bad, exhausted, like everyone does at this point. That is what having a great pacer and crew is all about, they keep you going even when you do not want to, or, do not think you can. At that moment I did not think it possible for me to take another running step.

With TuTu and hand bottle, I left for the steep incline out of the aid station. All I could hear was my crew cheering for me. "You are going to finish Brandon", one of them yelled. I heard it, I felt it, I realized at that moment, yes I was going to finish and complete my dream. Instantly my mood went from sour to not so sour. I did a little booty shake with the TuTu. Later I was told by my crew they were very worried about me the entire time I was at that aid station until that moment, then they all turned around an knew I was OK. I was coming back from the dead so to speak.
Heading out of the aid station.

You have to climb up this steep but short hill leaving Hwy 49. We crested the top to the beautiful meadow and saw another runner. All through the night we had been literally right in between two packs of runners one on each side of us. We were faster than the trailing pack and not quite as fast as the leading one. We really did not see anyone on the trail save for just a few. Seeing a runner got me a little bit jazzed and we started jogging. Mood shifts happen often and quickly in these races if you could not tell all ready. We passed the runner and his pacer, said "good job" and moved on. Goldie was now pushing the pace more than I could handle and I was getting irritated. Not at her, just at the fact I could not keep up. She asked if I wanted to stop and walk and in a very snarky way I said "you do know what the answer is, if you ask me that........don't you?" Fortunately she did not drop me right there.

A couple minutes later the second runner to pass me since Michigan Bluff, blew right past me. This lady was running so hard and fast and I could not fathom how she was doing it. Goldie looked at me and knew, there was no way I could muster that kind of effort at that point. We let her go and I never saw her again. Somehow Goldie kept me moving swiftly. I did not want to run, heck I did not want to even walk fast, but whatever methods she used she kept me going at a pretty fast pace. We walked often on this stretch, but really only for a couple of steps then she would start an ultra jog. We rinsed and repeated this so many times and it worked, but I did not like much of this stretch.

We finally hit No Hands Bridge and I filled my bottle, at least I was still listening to Goldie. She told me to drain it and I did. I knew now, with only 3.4 miles to go, exactly what I was in for. A tough climb to the next aid station then we run through Auburn on the street. We got to the base of the climb and Goldie told me to stay strong. I said something like, "you just make sure to tell me what I need to do and I'll do it." I had not yet gotten all my mojo back but I could feel it coming on. I knew once we crested that hill things would be alright.

We got within a couple hundred feet of Robie Point, the last aid station just 1.3 miles away. I chose not to stop in favor of getting things over with. Goldie stopped to talk to one of the workers then ran up to me. She was so excited and said "Brandon, it's 8:05".

I looked at her and said "what does that mean?" I was so out of it mentally, I could not figure out what time that was in the race. 27 hours was the actual race time, and Goldie just simply said "you are going to finish fast!" She meant, fast, as in way faster than my goal time, what I heard, was get going you need to finish fast. Still, like a child listening to their parent, I took off in a jog up the hill. She said something like "OK we can run if you want", but all I heard was RUN!

I saw two of my crew members near the top of the hill, the Doc and Half Iron Woman had jogged down to meet me. I was so happy to have glasses on at this point and to be sweating profusely from the face. No one could tell I had tears falling from my eyes. Near the top of the hill there are flags hanging from a line way above our heads. Goldie had told me about this earlier and so I ran under the American flag kissed my hand and blew it up to the flag. Just like I did all day, I paid homage to the course one last time.

Goldie and my two crew members were trailing me by a couple of feet. I remember Goldie saying something like "When I tell you too, run hard, Brandon". Like all night I did exactly what she said, and like most of the last hours I misinterpreted what she meant. I still thought I was close to the cut offs, I thought she was telling me to run for fear of things being too close. When Goldie yelled "RUN BRANDON" I took off like bull charging a matador. We were running down the street, I was breathing harder than at any point in the race, we made the final two turns and entered the track at Placer High School. I saw Scotch Man to the side of the track but I did not stop for him. I could not hear anything, I had tunnel vision. All I knew was I had to get to that line as quick as possible. I ended up dropping my crew on the track! I rounded the last turn on the track and saw the timing board.

Placer High School Track, Auburn CA (100.2 Miles) 8:19:15am
What the hell? I thought to myself, that is not right they must have started it late. 27 hours 19 minutes 0 seconds the clock read as I ran towards it. I'm in complete disbelief, there is no way with the day I had I was nearly 3 hours ahead of the 30 hour cutoff. I ran through the finish in 27:19:15 (thank you cool weather!).

I did my happy dance that I had been waiting so long to do on that track.  My first coach AJW, was there to give me my medal. Just like he did at my first 50 mile race.

Queen Doom was there to greet me in the medic tent as they took some vitals. I hugged her. I said something I have been waiting to say for so long. "I'm so proud of myself, we did it baby. We actually got me to the finish line, can you believe it?" That hug lasted a century and it's my most happy moment of the entire event. This singular event had morphed from a solo mission, to a team of people helping me achieve something I wanted so badly, the chief driving force of that group was Queen Doom.

The next 15 minutes were the most perfect of my life. My entire crew was there waiting for me, many people from Reno Running and Fitness were there cheering me on and to my surprise a lot of my burning man friends had made the trip down so early in the morning to share in my accomplishment.
The Deyglofarians!

I said some hello's and got some hugs, took pictures and such. Then right there just off to the side of the finish area I sat down (which hurt like hell) and took off my shoes. My feet were an absolute mess, but I did not care. My rear end hurt like nothing I have ever felt (and would for weeks), my legs were sore, but all I could do was sit there and bask in the glory of accomplishing my goal. I'd have gladly taken 10 times the pain for that moment. Knowing all the issues I'd overcome in the three years of running, it was all worth it for that moment of greatness. This was the most epic thing I'd ever done. I'd stayed true to myself, I battled everything life threw at me and I finally had come out the other side successful. I would imagine each and every runner felt like I did. I've learned so much from this experience and I have so many to thank (that will have to be a post on it's own).

I never intended running to become a permanent fixture in my life. I started this with the goal of finishing States and moving on. I learned, that I really love to run, and I love to run far. I'm never going to be an elite athlete at this sport, the best I can hope to achieve is constantly challenging myself. I now know, I do not need to be the best out there to be proud, I just need to be the best that I can be. I had all these epiphanies while on that 27 hour run. They may seem small to you, but they are my own mountains to conquer. Devil's Thumb and the other climbs were not the only hurdles I needed to get over this day. It's really true what they say, in a 100 mile foot race you will go through a lifetime of emotions. I'll also add, if you are fortunate enough to get to the finish you will be a better person than when you started.

Sitting at that finish on the grass with so many friends around me I finally figured something out. I knew right then and there, I needed to change. I no longer could hold onto the regrets I'd had for so many years. I needed to cut myself some slack. Had I not gone through those things, I would not be here today. Today I loved exactly where I was, who I was, and everyone who was around me.

I am going to do some outrageous things in running for the rest of my life. I intend on pushing myself beyond my current limits to see what happens. I have plans already for my next run and while it will not live up to this one (I doubt any run ever will), it will be special in it's own right. I feel like there is a whole new world of possibilities that I am capable of achieving, and that's a hell of a place to be 1/3 of the way through my life.

I will be back someday and I will get that Silver 24 hour "100 miles in 1 day" buckle! But for now....this one looks damn good!
The bronze 100 mile buckle! 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Foresthill to Green Gate

1/4 mile out of the Foresthill Aid Station 9:24pm

2 minutes, Who's on the clock? Goldie my pacer yelled.

I was sitting down, trying to figure out how to eat the rest of my Subway Sandwich. The "Doc" was massaging my shoulders and neck and while it felt so good, it was relaxing me and I was afraid it would make me sleepy. After all, I had been running at that point since 5am, it was dark and we still had 38 miles to go. She was great, she knew exactly what she was doing. I felt bad for saying no to her each time she asked if she could rub this or that, but the reality was I needed to get out of there. Goldie was on point and raring to go.

I saw that my Garmin watch was about to die and I had another little temper tantrum that ended up in me throwing the watch at the chair. These were still the effects of the forgotten bag at Michigan Bluff. I was going to charge my watch while I ran to Foresthill. Since I could not, my watch died and I lost all the data for the run. It's a bummer but not having the watch was one of the better things that could have happened. I had no idea what time it was from when we left my crew until 1.3 miles from the finish. I spent the next 37 miles thinking I was near the cutoffs, basically scared to walk.

Goldie finally could not take it anymore and insisted we leave, this was why I asked her to pace me. Not only had she run this race before and finished, but I had heard she was very no nonsense pacer. She was an experienced hundred miler. I knew she would not be intimidated by me. After spending so many hours with her I can say for certain.....nobody intimidates Goldie! I tried briefly and she put me in my place. We are talking about one very trail tough chic. The second we got away from my crew she broke everything down for me. "You are going to eat and drink when I tell you to. Don't ask anyone what time it is, leave that to me." Basically saying let me do my job and get you to the finish as fast as possible, you worry about running. I am something of a control freak, so having someone take my destiny into their hands is not a comforting thought. I'm not sure if Goldie knew all this but she was great at comforting me and keeping me posted on what she needed from me. Basically that meant eat drink and follow!

She wanted to be careful about our pace so we took it easy on Cal street (16 mile stretch mostly downhill to the river). I think she realized that I had run much harder to Foresthill from Michigan Bluff than I should have, and she did not want to exacerbate the problem by letting me keep up the torrid pace. I, of course was oblivious to this. I remember thinking when we left my crew that it must be 11pm and we were within 45 minutes of the cutoff. Of course the reality was we were an hour and a half ahead of that time. I wanted to run. She held me back. I remember one moment very clearly. Roughly a mile from Foreshill you enter the trail that takes you down to the river. We stopped because I had to go to the bathroom. Once finished, she barked out some orders, and I immediately made the decision to turn off my brain and do everything Goldie said. I'm not sure why, at that moment, I suddenly became comfortable with giving up the control but I did. The next 10 hours all I did was focus my headlamp on her feet and try to match my foot steps with hers. I drank when she told me, did what she said at aid stations and hoped I was man enough to keep up. Goldie is in my running circle of friends and the last thing I wanted was to have her go telling everyone what a whining whimpering wussy I was! I stayed quiet, and just ran. It was a freaking beautiful thing.

As we made our way down the endless switchbacks towards the river the steeper sections were really tearing up my feet. It did not really hurt at this point unless we stopped. Standing still caused the most pain so I would rock back, forth, left and right when we were still. It felt like not being on any one part of the foot for very long, much like when you run, was the most painless way. About 15 miles from where we were, those actions would have me back in a chair again. This time having the medic look at my feet against my wishes and losing valuable time on the clock.

Dardanelles (Cal 1 Mile 65.7) No time Split

We hit Cal 1 quickly it seemed to me and I remember saying "wow that did not take long at all" This is akin to saying "boy everything is going perfectly!" You know what happens next. Things started taking a damn long time. It felt as though the second I said that I got tired. All the sudden minor rolls that were easy to run over got difficult. I was still able to run through this section for the most part, but it was much more difficult than it should have been.

Meanwhile Goldie and I had developed a great pattern. She would tell me to drink, not sip, fill my entire mouth up with water and breath through my nose. Not only did this keep me hydrated but breathing through my nose as we ran, kept me at the perfect effort level to sustain a jog. I think we probably moved at about 11 minutes a mile, a little less on the downs. I would jog until one of three things happened, either I had to pee again, we hit a hill to walk or when I just could not take it anymore and needed a small breather. I knew the more small breathers I took cost me time and increased the likelihood I was a wuss. So I tried to only pull that card with her when I absolutely felt like I needed to walk. Near the end of the race I did think for a second about just saying I had to pee to walk but figured I would get caught and then I'd have to hold it until the finish.

Peachstone- (Cal 2 Mile 70.7) 11:29 pm
Down more switchbacks and up a couple of hills and we finally pulled into Cal 2. We had gained 38 minutes in those 8 miles back on my splits and were up almost an hour and 40 minutes. We made the 10 miles in 2 hours, not usually a blistering time but after 70 miles I am quite happy with that. The 62 mile mark was the start of the 9 hour walk of death at TRT last year and we were past that. I, of course being without a watch, did not know this. All I knew was, it was dark and if I did not leave quickly I was losing valuable time. It was right about here Goldie nailed down an aid station pattern for us. She would tell me just before the aid to go on ahead. She would wait or go to the bathroom and I had until she finished up at the aid station before we had to leave. I would scramble like hell to get into the aid stations, grab my food or drink sit down and gobble up as many calories as possible. She would show up, get her food and liquids handled, and about a minute later off we went. She would ask what I ate and drank and I gave a detailed description. Then we ran, at some point a half hour to 45 minutes later and about 10 times of her telling me to "DRINK.....FILL YOUR MOUTH BRANDON" those words would be replaced by "TAKE A GEL...NOW DRINK".

I really can not communicate how little I had to think about other than expending effort to run. It was awesome. There is a very steep hill bewteen this point and the river and neither of us could remember exactly where it was. It's called the Elevator Shaft and after having run down for so long it's a real bitch to get up at night. It twists and turns off two roads, and you really have no idea how far you have gone up it or where it goes until you are right at an intersection. I think doing this in the daylight like most of the elite athletes would be a small bit easier just from the aspect of being able to gauge your effort level vs distance. Goldie dropped me on this climb, this was the first hill I started to regress into my old slogging ways. I had no energy to get up it, my breathing was so labored and everything was hurting. It was also here that my rear end started to hurt. The missing skin was now growing and moving south. We were about 2 miles from the next aid station and I really needed some lube.

Rucky Chucky Near (The River Crossing Mile 78.1)
Just before we take to the ropes to cross the mighty American River!
You can hear this aid station from pretty far away, so it tugs on your brain knowing you have a mile to go but see lights so close. By this point I knew my feet were thrashed and the water was not going to make it any better. My rear end was on fire and I just wanted to get somewhere to sit down. We entered the aid station up 1:42 and had gained another 4 minutes on my splits those 7 miles. I saw some friends at this aid station. My main goal was to find a jar of lube.  I correctly shoved food in my mouth before I found the lube then grabbed the entire container off the table, got a huge gob and coated what needed to be coated. Ahhhhhh relief.

Goldie at the other side of the river getting ready to run.
The river felt so good. It woke me up, cooled my hot legs down and actually made my feet feel pretty good. At one point the river got up to my waist but for the most part the ropes were more of a luxury than a need. I had been a bit worried about the river crossing so a couple weeks before the race I went down the to the  Truckee river in Reno and crossed it 20 times. This evening I would zip right across the river, I did not wait for Goldie as I climbed up the bank to the next aid station. I knew she would be right behind me and I wanted to take a brief rest before we hit the last tough climb of the race.  Getting to the green gate aid station requires us to climb for almost 2 miles.

I sat down to go through my drop bag and fish out a clean long sleeve shirt. I did not have a change of shoes here and I wondered if I had would I have changed them. I still think doing only one shoe change was the way to go. Goldie came up the hill a minute or two later and I hurried to finish up. Feeling rejuvenated by the magical water of the American River we set out on the last tough climb up to Green Gate. When we left, I saw a guy in a full on ballerina costume, pink tutu and all. My crew told me at Foresthill he came by almost an hour ahead of me which meant I had gained an hour on him in 16 miles. This was the first time during the night I had an inkling of understanding about my real pace. We took off up the hill and unlike on the Elevator Shaft, I had my climbing legs again and we pushed the pace quite a bit with some hard power hiking. At this point in the race there was no more running uphill, only slogging or power hiking. We got almost to the top and I realized I should have at least changed my socks. The wet socks, taped blisters and prune feet were starting to create a mess inside my shoes. I felt like I was walking with duct tape on my feet. The outer skin felt like it moved along the foot freely while the skin underneath held solid. We entered green gate to a medical ward like atmosphere. People were strewn all around the aid area in cots and chairs, most shivering from the river crossing. I was fortunate to have a bit more beef on me than most so I was pleasantly cool.

I had told Goldie in my team meeting that I wanted to go hard those last 20 miles. I knew I had a good finishing 7 miles but had been working hard all year to extend that to 20 miles. I told her to ride me as hard as she felt I could handle and as a great pacer should she did exactly that. The last 20 miles are mostly flat or downhill save for a couple of steep but short hills near the end. I tried some potato soup at the aid station and could not get it down, then I tried the broth and felt sick. It appeared at that point my stomach was finally fighting back and for the rest of the race I could no longer stuff my face full of anything I wanted. I needed to stick with easily digestible foods which meant gels. We took off into the darkness and I secretly was hoping that I had banked enough calories through out the day to get me to Auburn. I'm horrible at taking gels as my sole source of calories. I was figuring on a 6 hour last 20 miles, I knew that would be no less than 12 gels and if that is all I took, that probably was not going to be enough. however nothing could be done and we were about an hour away from the next aid station. I figured I'd try again at the next aid and if my stomach was still upset at that point I'd need to tell Goldie so we could come up with a plan. Fortunately by the time we got to the next aid station I could once again take in some broth and a little bit of fruit, however, unfortunately my feet would once again derail my progress and I was stuck in a chair, this time mostly against my will.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Devil's Thumb Climb-Foresthill

Bottom of Devil's Thumb (46 miles)

My legs felt like bricks and my quads felt like they were going into an anaerobic state. I passed a medical/sweeper at the bottom as well as a gentleman who kept passing me while I was in the aid stations. I had to do something to stop thinking about my body. I knew it was just a down time for me but if I kept thinking about it I was going to drive myself nuts. I popped in the other ear bud and adjusted my iPod to the one set of music I knew would fire me up. I set it so the mix would end in 50 minutes and told myself to get up the climb before it ended. With duel ear buds in, my world was now focused. I tried to think about the notes I made when I came down to this climb on my birthday in April. There were 3 switchbacks I felt comfortable hard power hiking and the rest I figured I would just get up as best I could. I knew this was mostly a state of mind type climb, it's difficult, steep and slow. However I'd been up it enough times that I knew I am in control of how I will feel going up it. Stay positive, have a good time and it will pass quickly, fret and be negative and its going to take forever.

The set hit 1:08:12 about 4 minutes into the climb, and the magic happened. This has never happened on a run, and only a few times in the car with no one watching. Epic thoughts of awesomeness filled my head, my confidence increased as the elevation did and I started hand dancing while power hiking. Hand dancing is basically what happens when you are sitting down and the music moves you so much you lose control of your upper limbs. I'm sure I looked like quite the fool to anyone watching me, but I did not care. In my normal non running life I would never make such a spectacle of myself for fear of looking stupid. On this day though, I needed to give in to whatever was working and working this was......I was hauling ass up that hill. I caught one person, then another. I got a "damn you are strong on the hills" comment from a guy I passed. With each successive pass confidence grew. Half way up the hill I started running, I ran 3 switchbacks on Devil's Thumb! I still get goosebumps when I think about the moment I realized, "I can finish this race". Up to that point, in all my training I never actually felt I could. 47 miles into a 100 mile race and I was just starting to hit my stride. I made my way up the remaining 15 or so switchbacks like a man possessed. All told I passed 12 people going up that hill. I rounded the last turn still absent from reality and firmly entrenched in my  own world. I looked up to find two volunteers standing there with a worried look on their faces asking me if I was OK. I realized, a split second later, my hand antics probably looked to them, like I was convulsing from dehydration. I looked at them and tried to cover up my crazy ways by saying "I'm so happy to see you all, I do not think I'll ever have as easy a climb up that sucker again!"

Devil's Thumb (47.8 miles) 5:06 pm

The second I hit the aid station they had me on the scale and once again I hit my mark this time at 188. I was now up an hour and 18 minutes on my splits. I gained nearly 45 minutes in 4 miles and all of it was due to my climbing abilities on the day. I do not have splits for the actual climb but I am positive I did it 10 minutes faster than I ever have in training. I made my way through the line up of food and grabbed a couple of pb&j's then made my way over to the popsicle area. I'd heard about this part of the race, on hot days it's truly a treat to have a popsicle. I took a minute or two to pose with some of the aid workers for pictures as they were all really excited to see my hair. They commented that I was one of the more upbeat runners that they had seen in a while. With sandwich and popsicle in hand I left the aid station. Within a couple hundred feet I noticed off to the left another porta potty. I had not had any issues since my last stop but felt it would be wise to take another minute to clean out any of the dirt and grime I may have missed. Thankfully this was the last time I needed to worry about sitting down to go to the bathroom, however the damage had been done and I was bleeding from the skin that had been rubbed off the previous 48 miles.

I still felt fresh and knew that my strategy was working, once again I chose to run slow on the huge downhill to El Dorado canyon where we would cross the river once again. I was starting to feel that hot spot I had up at Robinson grow into a full on blister and knew I needed to tend to it. However, I felt I could make it the 8 or so miles to Michigan Bluff where I would see my crew again. I took out one ear bud and made my way down the slope. I really was shocked to be running so well at this point, I was already 8 miles farther than my furthest run of the entire year and I felt like things were just starting to get good. I was passed by a couple of runners but for the most part I held my ground. I was fairly positive the climb up to Michigan Bluff would mirror the Devil's Thumb climb. I hit the bottom of the canyon and the ball of my left foot was on fire and my right heel was not far behind it. I had 2.5 miles and 2500 feet to climb. I knew at that point I would need to have a medic check the foot as I am not proficient enough on large blisters to take care of it myself, nor anyone on my crew. The blister felt like it ran the entire width of my foot on the ball portion. Fortunately for me Michigan Bluff is a major aid station and they had a world renown foot guy there to help out.

Feeding off my climb up Devil's Thumb I popped the other ear bud back in and once again set the music to some tunes that would fire me up. Izak Engel would lead me all the way up from his decks. I left for the climb behind a small Asian lady and an older gentleman. The Asian lady took off up the climb and left the two of us in the dust. "She's light we will not see her again" the older gentleman shouted. I really did not care, I had a plan. It's steep to the first dry creek about a mile in, this is where I take it easy. Once we hit the creek-bed I put a little giddy up in my step for the next .6 miles to the next creek-bed. At that point we are only a mile (22 minutes) from the aid station and it's all about getting up it in decent shape.

Just before we hit the first creek, I passed the older gentleman. He wished me well and I did the same. I now had a goal, I was going to catch that Asian lady by the top. I set off running up the hill. In April I could not run a single step of the climb, today I ran the entire .6 miles to the next creek. I passed the Asian lady just before it and kept on going! I felt that good. The trail gets steeper as you near the top and I slowed to a power hike. I was 1/10th of a mile from the top when it happened. I took a step and felt a rip in my shoe. Instantly my foot was wet and I realized I just ripped that blister right off the foot. There was now nothing but open skin on the ball of my foot, and every step I took with that foot, the dirt in the shoe was penetrating the wound. I slowed to an elderly walk. I could not believe how close I'd made it to Michigan Bluff before it happened. It took a good 5 minutes for the foot to go numb so I could run on it again. I hoofed it into Michigan Bluff still an hour an 35 minutes up on my splits. Even with the blister issue I demolished my personal best time up that climb by 5 minutes....I set that personal best after having run 2.5 miles back in April. I finally realized I was in better shape fitness wise than I had ever been in my short running life. I got on the scale and shouted to my crew that I needed to see the medic. Weight 189.

Michigan Bluff (55.7 miles) 7:14 pm
Just to the right out of the picture is my Pacer from TRT.

If I had a down point mentally it was during the events of the next 30 minutes. I sat down on the chair for the medic to deal with my feet, looked over to the right of me and my heart sank to the deepest depths of my body.

Me, My TRT Pacer and Big D pre-race 3/4ths of the my training partners all year.
 My pacer from TRT, one of my best running friends and a guy who was capable of finishing this race in 18 hours was sitting in the chair next to me. I started to get emotional and had I taken my glasses off at that point, you could have seen the tears starting to form as I realized something had gone terribly wrong with his day. Our eyes locked and though we did not say anything to each other we both felt what the other was feeling. I asked him how he was doing and the answer he gave is typical of his outlook on life. Most would complain, give excuses or in some way eschew responsibility of their demise off themselves. He simply said "today is not my day Brandon". Of course, I knew he was hurt, he was a good 5-6 hours slower than he should have been. Upon seeing me though, he got up and got back in the race. He later confided in me that if I had passed him he might have quit. I knew it then...we had a race on our hands. The only time I'd ever be a threat to him in a race was now!

He of course knew how competitive I am, he also knew that no matter if you are female, young, old, injured or special needs, if you are in front of me, I'm going to do everything in my power to beat you. He used that as motivation and would still finish the race limping the whole way in 26 hours. He limped for 81 miles, I respect him so much for sticking it out. Many would quit knowing the result was no where near their potential. I know he did not get the race he wanted, but I also know he found out a lot about himself that day and how deep he could dig. He will be back, and he will show the rest of the world what a brilliant mountain runner he is, I am certain of that.

This guy saved my race!

The most pain I felt in the entire race was while the medic worked on my feet. He inserted the knife to cut the skin on 4 blisters on my left foot and 3 on my right.
Great shot at the perfect time by Queen Doom.
This took nearly 30 minutes, I shivered the whole time and could not eat or drink. Once complete, I tried to find the doc to thank him but he was busy with a bunch of others that needed help. The people of this race really are special. I headed for the food tables to grab what looked good but nothing did. I left the aid station and headed for my crew who had been patiently waiting for me. I was dejected and unmotivated to move fast. I worked so hard all day and like that I lost 30 minutes. It took me another 20 minutes to get out of there. Before I left I made the biggest mistake of the entire race. I was an absolute DICK to my crew. They forgot a very minor bag and I pretty much blew up at Queen Doom. I really wanted that bag but the reality was it was a luxury not an item that would help my performance. I will forever regret the way I acted, here they were helping me and I'm an ass to them. Unfortunately for me this would stay with me for the next hour and a half.
New shoes felt like the old ones at this point, but later I would really appreciate them.

New shoes and socks on but a pretty crappy mental attitude I would set off for Foresthill. My crew, plus another buddy would walk me out to the trail from the road. I tried for at least 10 minutes to run but my feet hurt so bad I could not. I was pissed, my race was unraveling and I had no control over it. Finally after 10-15 minutes my feet went numb again and I could jog. I decided right there I was going to make up all that lost time (52 minutes) on this next section. I ran hard, I ran fast. I blew by people at about an 8-9 minute clip. Screw this pacing crap I kept thinking I need to make up time. I got to the bottom of Volcano Canyon and jumped over the stream. I made my way up the hill to the Bath road aid station where I would find at least one of my crew with a radio. I made sure to tell them ahead of time to be there because I was picking up my pacer at Foresthill and she would not let me "hang" there. I needed the 10 minutes it would take to get to Foresthill from Bath road to figure out what I had to consume at the aid stop. They could quiz me and then radio the answers to the rest of the crew.

I entered the Bath road aid station with no lights and it was nearly dark. My crew was absent and once again I got pissed off. Though I did not know it at the time, they had a hard time getting back to Foresthill via the shuttle. They did not have enough time to get to Bath road, it was not their fault. Though at the time, that would not have comforted me either. I ran the hill up to the highway and once I hit the descent I started pushing hard. I was running sub 8 minute mile pace because I had no lights. All I wanted to do was get to my crew and lay into them. How could they forget me like this, I kept thinking.

Foresthill (62 miles) 9:19
I entered the Foresthill aid station and was greeted by my buddy, the same one who introduced me to Reno Running and Fitness. While at the time I did not realize it, that was truly such an honor to have met him there. That was where we first met and I'll always remember his help. I was confused, angry, and scared. It was dark and I knew I needed to be here in the light to ensure a finish. Everyone slows down from here. You do not hold the same pace as you had the first 62 miles and I thought that stupid blister session was the death of me. I also knew my pacer would be waiting for me and I was petrified by what she might say to me. I was late, behind and slow. All I wanted to do was sit down and gather myself. I got off the scale at perfect weight once again. Before I knew it there was Goldie my pacer. C'mon, lets go she yelled.
My Pacer Goldie... exiting the river 16 miles from where I picked her up.

We exited the aid station en route to my crew about a half mile down the road. I was still so confused I could not gather my thoughts or emotions. I did not know what I needed, no one was asking the right questions and now I had a team of people following me. Many of my friends were at this aid station and the excitement was too much for me. Everyone wanted to know how I was doing and all I could think about was how bad I felt. How my race was in the trash can and that I was going to let them all down by missing a cutoff later in the race. I just wanted to be alone. I'm always comfortable alone.....and in control. I had neither, and it was really messing with my psyche.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Robinson to Swinging Bridge

Robinson Flat (30 miles) 12:36 pm
Do I really lie to this guy? A stupid thought since my weight was written on the band around my wrist, but one I considered for a second. You can not imagine the ridiculous thoughts you have when running all day. I hung my head low, like my dog when he gets caught doing something naughty. "189.4" I said, hoping he would think I said 199.4. "A little heavy, but everyone is, we think it's the rain. You are good to go, just watch yourself" he said.

Instantly a rush of relief flowed through my veins, but at the same time, I really needed to figure out if it was the rain or if I’d been taking in more salt than needed. Perhaps it was the cocktail weenies from Red Star Ridge mixed with three S! Caps (electrolyte pills) I'd taken already. Perhaps all my gear was just waterlogged, either way I had about 12 miles to figure it out.

My crew from left to right: Queen Doom, Scotch Man, Half Iron Woman and the Doc.

I left the weigh station and practically sprinted the couple hundred yards to where my crew was. Talk about a boost of adrenaline! I looked at my crew and said, "I'm having a great time! I just ran through rain, snow, hail, huge winds and I feel great! I'm doing awesome!" My crew along with all the other crews and spectators within earshot just stood there silently looking at me. I later found out, most people that were coming in were having a tough day with the conditions on the course. I was doing great, although I did start to have a bit of a hot spot on my left foot. Hot spots are the precursor to a blister; you may or may not be able to stop it at that point. I get blisters when I run more than about 45 miles. At the TRT100 in 2011 I ended up with 7 rather large blisters that I had to run on from mile 62 to the finish. I hoped today I could curtail any blisters with preventative measures.

I sat down took my left shoe and sock off and found the foot of a 90 year old. Lovely pale white shriveled up skin, all wrinkly and waterlogged. I grabbed a gob of Bag Balm and coated my foot, threw the sock back on and then the shoe. I drank about 12oz of juice that I’d had my crew bring then got up out of the chair.  I put my jacket back on then my pack. Something felt wrong, and then I realized I made the same mistake again with the order of things. Today the pack needed to be under the jacket! I quickly regrouped and grabbed the 6 inch turkey, bacon and avocado Subway sandwich that I had my crew buy for me.

It was somewhere around this time that I saw Scotch Man! He along with Half Iron Woman, the Doc and my fiance Queen Doom were my crew. Up until 3 pm the day before the race I thought Scotch man was going to be AWOL. 48 hours before the race he was at work and a piece of wood exploded and a sliver went into his eye! He spent 9 hours in the emergency room then boarded a train from LA to meet the rest of my crew in Reno. That is some serious dedication and it really fired me up. I would use his pain as a motivator each time I started to feel sorry for myself.....if Scotch Man could hang with wood in his eye, I can certainly keep moving forward.

Unfortunately this news came with a drawback; I was so excited I forgot to do some things. I left with sandwich in hand and made my way out of the aid station. I waived to my crew turned around and took off. I got about a half mile up the road and totally freaked out. Quite a few swear words came flying out of my mouth as I realized what I'd forgotten to do. Go to the bathroom and....wait for it......get more toilet paper from my crew. Dunce move of the day right there folks. I would not see them for 25 more miles and the toughest, gnarliest part of the course was ahead of me. I also forgot lube! Once again I had to do some damage control, I did not need to go at that moment but if I did, I was plumb out of luck. We had descended to a point where only pine trees lived, no more perfect little plants like I had found before. I decided to be on the lookout and just make my way as best I could. Fortunately like I was able to do all day, I put it out of my mind.

I had roughly 12 miles of solid downhill in front of me and I made the decision to keep on with the laxed pace. I tried to run 10-12 minute miles and made sure to drink and eat as much as possible. After a mile or so I started catching people, I paid no attention to it until we reached the fire roads. At that point I saw tons of runners and I was passing them in bunches. I looked at my watch; nope I'm not going any faster, so they must be going slower.

Millers Defeat (34.4 miles) 1:51 pm

I hit the M.D. aid station up 56 minutes on my pace sheet, I only stopped long enough for two cups of electrolyte drink and a cup of soup. I passed 5 people in this aid station. It was at this time I started to realize I'd never felt this good after 35 miles before. Could I really be in that much better shape than last year? No, I thought, I must be pacing better. I decided if it was working and I was gaining on my splits don't try to fix what is not broken. I left the aid station ready to roll; I took the left hand turn to the single track and started really getting into a groove. I turned my iPod on for the first time and put one ear bud in.

I had a secret weapon, I had roughly 6 hours of music that I have a deep connection with. I have two friends who go to Burning Man with me that are DJ's (DJ Izak Engel and Liquid Neon). Listening to their music takes the pain away. I can not explain it, it just makes me happy and hours go by like it’s only a split second. I'm instantly transported to the Playa and thoughts of dancing, art, and dust fill my head.

Dusty Corners (38 miles) 2:39 pm

With the constant beat of electronic dance music in my ear I flew into the next aid station at Dusty Corners 50 minutes up. I stayed an extra minute or two there because they all were asking me if I was hot. I was so far out of it (thanks iPod), I had not realized it was now sunny and warm. I'd probably run for half an hour all bundled up. I thought it would be good to really hit the hydration given the circumstances.

I left the aid station going towards pucker point. This was ironic since the second I passed that vista, puckering would be all I was doing for the next 4 miles. Yep that costly TP mistake was now back to haunt me. I was not sure if the next aid station would have any supplies but hoped they might have a porta-potty. It's out in the middle of nowhere and I thought maybe the volunteers would need something to go in. I had to slow down on this section and I passed at least 2 other guys who were taking care of their business. It seemed odd and inappropriate to pull over and ask them for supplies during their private moment, so I just meandered on to the next aid station.

Last Chance (43.3 miles) 3:49 pm
The toughest section of the run, while you are not going to make your race here, you can end it in a hurry!

I entered Last Chance 43 minutes up on my splits. I had to really slow down given my issues and when I looked to the left of the aid station I saw a potty. YES! I exclaimed loudly as I ran past all the food. "WAIT!", I heard behind me, "you have to be weighed". Give me a second; this is an emergency I shouted. I threw my pack, jacket and long sleeve on the ground outside and jumped into the blue box of awesomeness. Never in my life have I been so excited to see a stinky hot mobile john. You would think from the way I reacted I just won the lottery. A couple minutes later all things were once again right with my world. I suspected the worst was now behind me (excuse the pun). I went over to the weigh station and like that 190.2. Back on track! It really was the rain.

One of the best things about Western States are the aid stations, the only thing better than the food they serve are the people serving you. I've been on that side of the race before and for a volunteer, hearing a runner thank you is something special. I tried at each aid station to bring a little joy into the day of whoever was helping me by thanking them. I grabbed what amounted to 2 full grilled cheese sandwiches for the road, expressed my deepest gratitude and got the hell out of there. I was now only about 30 minutes up on my splits due to my stop and I still had to deal with the toughest 12 miles of the entire race. I'd have to descend a couple thousand feet in 4 miles then make the huge climb up to Devils Thumb.

I knew this part of the course well; I'd spent many hours this year learning every turn, rock and stream crossing to cool down at. I knew my downhill legs were good, but my slow pace while descending was working so well for me, I once again chose not to push it. I figured there might be a chance that my climbing would still be above par and maybe I could make up some time on the hills. Even if I did not, I had a half hour in the bag. Any energy saved now would pay huge dividends around mile 80 when it gets flat and running is a must.

I set off to Devils Thumb feeling great, 45 miles into the race and I still felt like I'd only run 20. I finally hit the bottom of the canyon which is the start of the Devils Thumb climb. I started getting nervous; I've done this climb many times but never with 46 miles in my legs. As is customary with these races one mile you feel like a champ and the next like a chump. I hoped it would be a good climb, but from the start, my quads felt tight and my breathing was forced. I started to think the "easy times" were over and my fears of the long 9 hour slog from TRT started to penetrate my head. I was mentally sabotaging myself and I had no idea of how to stop it.