Saturday, June 29, 2013

Back into the fiery furnace. Dances With Dirt 2013

               I am ready to go at it again. Round 2 of Dances With Dirt for me. Last year this was my first ultra. I finished with about 5 minutes to spare. I want to finish in 12 hours or less. This race is hot, humid, and not for the timid. There is a serious amount of climbing and decent for not being a mountain race. There is a small amount of bush-whacking, and last year I ran about 40 miles with a bee stinger in my left shoulder from said bush-whacking. I loved every minute of it. I've done a  fair amount of conditioning  in peak sun to get my body ready for running hot, humid, stagnant-aired conditions. I've run in downpour as well, since anything is possible, and I have faced such situations in the past. I've focused  primarily on the section that runs from Parfrey's Glen to Devil's Lake, doing out and backs to get the most out of the climbing. There is some technical trail there as well where you can't move too terribly fast or you twist and/or break your ankle, or other very important body part. The more I run it, the faster I can move over time.  This part of the trail takes a ton of concentration. It can be mentally, as well as physically draining in this capacity. That is what makes this the toughest 50 I've ever run. Another aspect of the mental drain comes from having to attend to fluid and intake with far more fine focus than any other race I've run. I can't imagine what the Badwater maniacs have to endure. I'm running a 'fart in the wind' in comparison. I ran a 10 miler Wednesday at 87°, and a 16 miler yesterday, 86° to start, eventually down-pouring very heavy, and clearing to heat up again. I'm moving pretty freely, and with accurate footing. I'm ready. I'm stoked. July 13th will not come fast enough.  See you in the dirt.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kettle Moraine 100

               The Kettle Moraine 100 has come and gone and it was a success in many ways, but I fell short of the full distance. I could blame it on the heat through the meadows. I could blame it on the choice of drink because it didn't sit well with me. I might have taken too long of a break to eat, eating too much too quickly. I might not have eaten enough. I might not have had the needed resolve, which after a couple days, one has time to second-guess themselves. I'll figure it out and press onward. I'm not easily defeated, nor do I regularly leave business unfinished. Right now my mind plays tricks on me in the aftermath. So, let's talk about what I know.
               I started the race out feeling absolutely fabulous. As I predicted, once I started running I had no nervous distractions and felt focused and ready. It was perfect for running trail albeit a bit humid. After the 24.1 aid station I did a check of my faculties and I still felt great; lots of kick, stayed on top of my electrolytes, fluids, food, it was getting a little warmer and was still very humid. Not long after, I took an extended break at the first drop bag as I was a little ahead of time. I loaded up on potatoes, some fruit, and the Powerade Zero I have always used in my ultras. Although this time, after a few miles, I could feel it fight inside of me. It was my first time drinking the fruit punch during a race. It wasn't planned this way, I just realized it later. I pressed onward knowing I may or may not vomit, get it over with, and continue on. I've been down this road. Without fail, I feel better after.
               I got to the open prairies and meadows that I knew were coming and a wave of heat blasted me the minute I exited the brush. I don't know what the temperature was. It didn't seem unbearable. The humidity made it harder to breathe and I could literally feel myself heating up so I played it safe and walked the prairies because I'm a pretty heavy sweater. Once I got back to the brush at mile 34 the first wave of vomiting began. It was all red, and almost all the fruit punch that didn't sit well inside me. It was quite impressive as the stream was bigger than my head. (Ahh, the things you take note of in such situations.) I felt a little better but there was more to be ejected. I walked another 300 yards or so, and again....impressive projection. After that, I checked myself and with not a drop on me I took a few drinks of water and pressed onward feeling pretty good. It should also be said that I used the Salt Stick caffeinated capsules every hour up to this point. I am starting to think that they were a little much for me and next time I will alternate to every 90 minutes. It's possible they messed with my mojo.
               I went back out to the prairies again after that short respite in the brush and I felt like my head was pounding pretty good so I stayed on my fluids and closely kept tabs. I got back to the brush again and I think somewhere about 37 miles in and before 38 I got sick again. This time it was different. Not much came up and it was more of a dry heave and a bit painful. A little fluid left from the fruit punch which was good in that I was retaining the other fluids I was taking. This led me to think it was indeed that goddamned fruit punch that will never cross my lips again. I'm sure the heat played a part but I've been in far hotter races and still managed to drag my ass.
               I got to the next drop bag and, again, I took some extra time to eat, skipping any Powerade Zero just in case every flavor was going to mess with me. I drank water instead and this powder that is made by Emergen-C that is strictly electrolytes. (I must say, it's awesome stuff. Next time it is only that. I have tried Heed at previous races. That stuff nauseates me. This, on the other hand is barely noticeable on the stomach. I've got a winning ticket.)
               Once I finished eating and drinking I got back out, walked a bit more, and finally started running again. Once I got to the first part of Horseriders Camp it started to rain, then pour. It felt great and I took full advantage of it. I had pulled off my socks some time back and started using Vasaline to grease up my feet to prevent friction. I was not collecting too much water for this reason. So I hauled through that stretch feeling great, not slipping at all, and easy to get out of the boggy areas in the trail where it is usually extremely tough to get around, not to mention a bit time consuming. In this situation, because of the rain and the water pooling and moving down the trail, I could go right through the boggy stuff without getting stuck. I have to say here that the Sketchers GoRun line is awesome and a bit under-rated. They have a zero-drop, a negative heal to ensure a mid-foot strike, which is great for longer runs when you are feeling a bit tired and sometimes a bit lazy, it helps you maintain proper strike a lot longer. They have sock liners so no socks needed. They are extremely light yet retain plenty of cushioning. The GoTrail, which I used for this race, is every bit as padded and protected as the Brooks Cascadia, a fraction of the weight, and has an amazing amount of traction. I did not slip once in the mud, water, loose leaves, or the like. I'll be using these for a good, long while. To think I almost blew a wad of cash on the Hokas. I got the GoTrails on sale online for under $50 a pair, and I picked up 2 pair, shipped for just under $100. Woot!
              ...And we're back.. So I go through that fine. Then as I was making my ascent up a roughly 40 degree incline a little later, I got hit with a wave of light-headedness. It spooked me pretty good. Stopped me dead in my tracks as a matter of fact. I had a couple of  Clif Builder Bars, luckily, and ate those. It got me moving again and I shuffled onward. From there I could feel my body slowly getting beat down. The toll was paid. At mile 55 I was mentally beat because I realized that I may have a few miles left but, I wasn't even sure I was going to make it to 100k. I had left my headlamps at the next stop, and it was getting dark quick. That's when a guy next to me lent me his headlamp and had me put it back in his drop bag at 62/100k. I had to push on. 7 more miles. I ran a little, then walked the last 5, running into fellow MUDR, Kay Drew. I didn't know that at the time though. I heard her singing Thunder Road to herself to keep herself awake, so we talked as we walked, keeping our minds off the last few miles as much as possible. I didn't have any kick left, and didn't want to pass out somewhere on the trail, and she too was afraid of the same. I had resigned to the fact that I was 90% sure I had to pull out at 100k. In the back of my mind I was hoping I would miraculously feel better and be able to continue, but the truth was that at this point I may have made it another 5, 10, 15, maybe even 20 miles, but I needed 38. That's all there was to it. If I couldn't run, that meant I had to walk in 38 miles in 13 hours. Could it be done? Of course it could be done. I just wasn't sure it could have been done under these circumstances. The only sensible option was to resign and not place myself, or anyone else for that matter, in danger. I ran 62 miles in under 17 hours. This is the furthest distance I have traversed thus far. I learned a lot from this, and I have a score to settle with the Kettles next year. It was a success on many fronts. As a matter of fact, resigning, for me, was also a success, for the simple fact I have a very hard time making a sensible decision under circumstances such as these, being that I am extremely stubborn. I will say that in the past it has absolutely served me well, but at the same time, it has gotten me into situations that were...let's say undesirable, to be kind to the senses. So it is a lesson in the art of good judgement. Until this time next year, I will have a complex. I will be completely obsessed with tearing the face off of 'The Stone Elephant'. This will not go down this way again. I'll take my lumps now, but next year, it's on again.