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.