Thursday, September 10, 2009

Roller coaster of a run that ends in a derailment

I stopped at mile 56.

In the next breath, or under my breath, I'll say I failed at mile 56.

Around 2am Sunday morning, I wobbly stood up out of my chair, steadied myself, and was about to continue on before hearing, "Why are you going on? You're hurting and you're not having fun."

So I sat back down and finished my PBJ.

She was right. My feet were hurting me. I could feel the hot spots across the balls of both feet, my second toe on both feet were sensitive (blisters under the nails, I figured), I had hot spots on the outside of both pinky toes, and definite blisters on my right foot - on the inside near the ball as well as on the outside of my heel. Stopping to adjust the tongue and retie my shoes were helping some, but the water and salt imbalance and affected me again, ending my day.

I have mixed feelings about not finishing The Ring. I figure I was on pace for a 24 hour finish, but who knows if I would've been able to stay on track the last 13 or so miles as the state of my feet deteriorated. I was worse off last year at this point and forged on, but had my sights set on the Reverse Ring in February and had to finish in order to run that. Now there's no incentive to finish besides pride and an improved time.

There was some good to take away from it all, and that is how good I felt and I well I did up until that point. Weather wise, it was hot out and we were running up on the eastern ridge exposed to the sun most of the day. We were fortunate to have aid at miles 8.7 (Veach) and 13.2 (Milford Gap) or else everyone would've probably dropped at Camp Roosevelt (mile 25). Going that long in that heat would not have been a good idea, so we were thankful for all the volunteers who trudged aid to those remote locals. Hydration has been a problem of mine, so I had a plan to take a few sips of water ever couple of songs on my iPod. I knew I wouldn't be getting enough water, but I would be getting some consistently and not draining my 2L pack when I felt thirsty. I was also trying Clif Shot Blocks for the firs time, and had no problem digesting those in the heat. I did forget (or thought I forgot) my Succeed salt tabs. It wasn't until mile 35 (Crisman Hollow Rd) that we found where I had packed them. I had been getting some salt via the Shot Blocks and Pringles, but I wasn't OD-ing.. yet. I could still see the veins and bones in my hand, so I figured I wasn't retaining water.

I maintained my 'song for a drink' mantra from Roosevelt to Crisman Hollow Rd, but was a little more conservative since it was 9 miles that ran long with a sick climb up Waterfall with less than a mile to go. I wanted to make sure I had enough left at that point even though most of Duncan Hollow is exposed to the sun due to the controlled burn that went on in the Spring. A hot, tough section I couldn't really find a rhythm on, but mentally forged my way through. When I reached the intersection with Scothorn I moved as quickly as possible as well as took advantage of whatever water was available at the creek crossings to cool off my arms, legs, and neck to keep my core body temperature down. Every little bit helped and I was ready to go when I hit the turn at the south end of the trail and headed up Waterfall.

I was wearing my Garmin out there and it tracked my mile pace as just under 30 minutes. I was fine with that and kept plugging away, rarely looking up. I thought of a workout I did the other week - 3x through of 1000m row, 21 thrusters (65#) - that was really tough. I thought of how I felt during those thrusters and how this climb didn't compare to that awfulness. I would survive, and I did. My hydration bladder had about 1/4 tank left and I helped out a fellow runner on the climb who was overheating. I alerted the volunteers at the aid station and a couple of them headed out with some water to make sure he made it in okay. I know if I were the one in trouble, someone would've been there to help me.

At Crisman Hollow I feasted on fruit and a couple slices of turkey. I was also able to get a couple Succeed salt tabs before finding my own. I grabbed some more Shot Blocks and moved on. I had Kerns to cross before the sun went down and I was sure I'd make it with time to spare, but now the game was getting there as fast as possible. I was moving at a good clip before spotting 2-3 bears on the trail about 50ft in front of me. I stopped in my tracks and grabbed a couple rocks to bang together to make as much noise as possible to scare them off. It's my first time every seeing bears there and I figured it was the thing to do even if I looked stupid. When I figured they were gone, I scurried by and made my way across Kerns and down to the Moreland aid station at mile 40.

I ate fruit again (couldn't get enough of it!) and a mix of mashed hard boiled eggs and avocado. Time for a shoe and sock change, too. I was feeling hot spots and wanted to wipe down my feet and put on a fresh pair of socks. It was about 12 hours into the run at this point and my Garmin was almost done, so I switched to my regular Timex watch. I knew the iPod shuffle was almost done, but figured I'd switch out at Edinburg. As soon as I left I got the 'battery low' announcement. Great.

It was around 7:30pm when I headed out and went sans head light until 8:10pm. It was nice to run and make the climb in total darkness. Once I turned my headlamp on I was wishing I would've had my handheld light. The trail can be confusing even with blazes, but it was overgrown, and I'm lead by the look of the trail and not the blazes. Meaning I basically guess where the trail is and go by instinct instead of stopping to look for the blazes. I have a general idea of the trails pattern and follow what I think it right before looking for blazes. I wish I had the handheld since I spent a lot of time looking up and down - at my footing and for blazes on the trees - and was getting a nice kink in my neck. I moved as quickly as I could with a plan to get to Edinburg in 2:30. I got there in 2:44 at 10:16pm, which was over 2 hours faster than last year. I was doing well, but feeling blah. The ipod died 40 minutes prior and I was dehydrated.

Short Mountain just drains me every time leaving little energy to conquer the next section. When I was ready to go I got up and hobbled down the road toward the trail head - a mix of sore feet and looking like I had crapped my pants. I used my usual landmarks to know where I was and how far I'd gone, but wasn't moving quickly at all. I figured this section would take me 3:15 and I was walking a lot, to the point that making it in 3:15 would be close. I got to Woodstock in 3:10 and gingerly sat down and called it a day.

I'm not training for any late season 100 milers and I'm already in the Fellowship, so why go on? Pride? A faster time? Sure, but at what cost? The ability to walk was in the back of my mind, as was the potential damage I could be doing by covering 13 miles on swollen and blistered feet. I did it last year and I didn't want to do it again. If it were a 100 I would go until they pulled me off the course or I missed an aid station cut off time (MMT 2008). Not this time. Sounds like an easy decision to make, but I still wonder...

I'm happy that I was able to cover so much with such little distance running. Most people are regular 15-20 mile weekend runners, whereas I ran just about 30 miles total the month and a half leading up to The Ring. I did a few 5-6 mile runs as my 'long runs', but mostly stuck with intervals that totaled just over 6 miles. Some might say foot conditioning led to my drop, but I say dehydration capped with too much salt when I started taking it (mile 40). My feet, knees and ankles, felt fine until Moreland. I was moving well, strong, but I still wonder..

So much for dwelling on the past as I have to move on to this coming weekend and the Women's Half Marathon put on by the VHTRC. I will be running it with my GF, who will be doing her first ever running race - trail or road. It's probably good that I didn't do those last 13 miles as I had to save something for this weekend. Just out there to have fun and help her to her first finish.


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