Monday, February 7, 2011
OK, you're here to see how the race went so I'll spare some of y'all the details and get straight to the point; another DNF at 60 miles. If you're interested in reading more please feel free but I have to start this report a few days before the race.
The week leading up to the race wasn't the best in the world as the DFW area had plenty of ice and snow and had me a little stressed about the little things getting ready for the race. I had business meetings in Frisco Monday-Wednesday and that always seems to wear me out, but I did a good job of not eating too much, staying off my feet and staying away from the alcohol that gets consumed at night during these meetings.
I felt really good going into this week and was about as prepared physically and mentally as I could be. I even felt well rested as I was even sleeping better than normal. That is until Thursday night when the slight dusting of snow we were supposed to get turned into several inches, which turned the roads into a icy nightmare. I paced the house most of the morning Friday wondering how the road conditions were and took a few trips out of the neighborhood to see what the Interstate looked like, and didn't like the results. I'd seen in other forums where runners were stuck in airports, and some that decided that the roads just weren't safe enough to make the trip down to Huntsville. The temps weren't going to get above freezing and with the cloud cover and lack of vehicles on the roads I was starting to think I wasn't going to make it either.
Then a break started about 11am when the sun started to shine and I was looking at weather reports so I decided to go for it, if the roads go bad I would turn around, but I at least wanted to give it a shot. I threw my gear and stuff together real quick and headed out the door and headed south on I-35. The right lane was in good condition, the sun was shining so I was feeling good. I then headed east on 67 and the roads weren't as good but still able to feel good about the drive until some idiot in a pickup passed me in the left lane and then spun out into the ditch! This was something I would see 4-5 times during this little trip. Next I headed southeast on 287 and here the roads were solid white, covered in snow and ice. Driving from here to I-45 was not fun, saw a few cars in the ditch and was driving about 20-25mph the whole way with a death grip on the steering wheel. When I made it to I-45 I was surprised to see that the interstate wasn't in any better condition and when you add in the big rigs flying by at 50 mph it pretty much scared the sh@t out me and this is where I got off the road, stopped at a convenience store and came real close to turning around and heading home. I'm glad I didn't because the road conditions slowly got better a couple of miles down the road and by the time I made it to Huntsville the roads were in great shape. I was glad to make it, but I could feel the stress and pressure in my neck and arms from the long drive.
I checked into my hotel and went to packet pickup and then met Mark for some dinner at a little Mexican restaurant in town. We were both ready to get this race going and looking forward to the next day. Back at the hotel I got my bag ready, showered and taped my feet. I was ready to go.
On race morning it was cold, like 20F! I made my way to the park and dropped off my bag, and made my way back to car where I had the heater running. I stayed there until 10 minutes before race start. I made my way to the middle of the pack, saw a few runners that I knew, made some small talk and then it was time to go!
Race starts at 6am and I'm off running through the dark forest with my headlamp along with about 350 other runners. The first few miles are going great, I'm going at a nice slow pace and getting in a rhythm. The only concern is the wooden bridges scattered though the course that are covered in ice making for uneasy crossings. As the sun starts to come up and the sun shines on the pine needles covered in ice, it makes for an almost unreal scene as we run down the trail. by about mile 10 though I notice that my right IT band is starting to bother me some on all the down hill sections. I'm not too worried about it as it's been almost a week since I've run and figure that my legs are just getting used to running again and everything will loosen up by the end of the first loop. (BTW, the course is made up of 5 loops at 20 miles each.) By the end of the first loop it starts to warm up, at least to the runners so I strip down a few layers and get ready to reload on supplies and take in some more calories. I finish the 1st lap at 9:50am and I'm right on the schedule I had come up with before the race. With my knee bothering me I also take some ibuprofen and rub some Bengay all around my knee and outer thigh hoping the ITB will loosen up some.
I headed out on the second lap and everything was going good with fluids, calories and salt intake. I was in a rhythm and moving along at a pretty good pace on the flats, walking the sections that needed to be but those dang down hills were really starting to make my leg hurt. I was just thinking of making it from aid station to aid station. On my second loop I saw my buddy Dan at the Damnation aid station with a twisted ankle. I felt bad for him as he was moving at a pretty good clip and knew he was determined to finish this race in a great time. The roots at Rocky can bring down the best runners when they appear from out of nowhere or hide under a fallen leaf. The second lap went like the first and was still on track even though I was starting to kick a few more roots as my right leg was having difficulties. It started off as bothering me and I was able to control the pain with some meds but it would be my down fall before the day was over. I knew my wife would be waiting for at the end of lap 2, so I was looking forward to that pick me up that comes with seeing her at a race. My brother was nice enough to drive her down to the race so she could stay at the race and drive me home when it was over. I finish the 2nd lap at 2:45pm and it was great to see them, but I didn't want to hang around for very long so I was out of there in about 10 minutes, so I've started the 3rd loop around 3pm. Last year I started the 3rd loop at 4pm so I was a hour ahead and feeling good about getting the 3rd loop done by 9pm, which would give me 15 hours to get the last 40 miles done. That was my goal from the start and felt I had a good shot of finishing if I could get that done. Prior to heading out I took some more ibuprofen to deal with the right knee and was doing good.
The 3rd loop started off good, I was getting my calories, fluids and salt and getting on down the trail. I reached the 50 mile mark at 11:10 and was enjoying the sights of the trail as the sun was beginning to set. That is always my favorite time of the day to run. I guess I should also mention that the leaders passed me about this time as they were headed back to the finish line. The winner won the race in 12:44, which is a 7:38 pace. That is a fast for any distance, much less a 100 miles!
At the damnation aid station at about the 100k distance the sun was going down and it's amazing how fast the temps drop out there when it does. Just moments earlier I'm running in short sleeves shirts, running hat and feeling good, 10 minutes later I have gloves, arm sleeves, beanie and starting to get real cold, real fast. The only way to stay warm is to keep moving and moving for me has become a real struggle. As the day progressed my right leg started to shuffle more and more which meant kicking more and more roots as I went along. There were several kicks where I stopped and cussed, looked at my foot and wondered if I just broke my big toe! Movement got slower and slower the more it got dark, which made me get colder and tighten up even more. I don't see that great at night anyway, but with a gimpy right leg I was even more cautious than before. I knew at mile 56 that I was done. I had given up! I was getting to 60 miles and calling it a race. I couldn't see myself moving like that for another 14-15 hours. I crossed the timing mat at 8:50pm and my wife comes up to me and the first thing I say to her is "I got to take this thing off" as I pointed to my timing chip. I didn't want anyone to try and get me to go out for another loop, I was done. I turned in my chip, gathered my bag and gear and we took it back to the hotel.
Last year when I hurt my knee I still felt good at the time and think I could have gone farther with out the injury, this year I knew I was done and just didn't have anything left.
Looking back I'm not sure why this year was so bad. I've never had ITB problems with my right leg in my 35+years of running. Was it the stress of the meetings, the weather, the stressful drive down, not sure? One thing I'm sure of is that this will be my last attempt at 100 miles. I don't think my body is meant for the distance, and I've got 4 kids and a wife that I missed a lot during these past few months getting ready for this race. I'll continue to run trail ultras as they are hard but tons of fun with some great people, but I'm going to stick to races 100k and less. I would also like to work on a little more speed and see what kind of marathon times I could run. I used to be able to run 3:40's when I was younger and would like to see if I could do that again. So for now it's time to get some rest and see what is next on the race schedule.
See you on the road or trail!