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!