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.