Tuesday, October 05, 2010

100 miles in the bag

It took just over a day and a half, but I completed the Grindstone 100 in 36:32. The accomplishment hasn't really sunk in yet as I'm still pretty tired from a lack of sleep as far back as Thursday when I was up until close to midnight packing with the alarm set to go off at 5AM. I was able to nap on the drive down to the race site, and then again in the tent before the race, but being awake for 40 hours straight wrecks havoc on the body.

And being on your feet that long takes a toll, too. We were fortunate to have incredible weather for the entire weekend with cool temps during the day and overnight. I came away with zero blisters, but some tender toes - still blackened from MMB 50k back in August - and a sore left ankle. If I lose any toe nails, it won't be for another month or two. My low back is a little tender, too, but a trip to the chiropractor 26 hours post race and some Kinesio tape seems to be helping. As is some ibuporfen, which I usually try to stay away from, but I needed some help being able to sit up/sit down/stand/walk pain free, and this did the trick. I'm working on rolling out my glutes and hammies and have another appointment this week, so hopefully I'll be in better shape by this coming weekend as I have a 5K run with my father planned.

Back to Gstone, I honestly thought within the first 5 miles that I would be a DNF. I felt out of shape (which I was), slow, things were already hurting, and everyone was passing me! I didn't want to be chasing aid station cut off times as I did at MMT in 2007; that is no fun. People were chatting with me, so I felt the need to ask the obligitory question, "Soo.. have you been here before?" I'm not much of a trail-talker as I think it wastes too much energy - save it for your legs - but I did meet up with someone early on who I latched onto for most of the run, and saw from time to time at the aid station where we'd catch up with each other. Did we talk? Rarely. Did we know each others name? Nope. He was 97, I was 57, and we ran together. We checked in on each other at aid stations or when he passed me on the up hills and I passed him on thd downhills. He cautioned me to save my legs yet took off on a nice 5k stretch into aid station #4 at mile 31. We talked about the previous section, fueled up, then pressed on in the dark, in silence.

The witching hours of 4-7am on Saturday were tough as I tried to will the sun to rise during my long 7 mile climb. The lead runners started to pass as they started the inbound course back to the start, so it was nice to see others and cheer them on even if they would be finishing HOURS before me.

I finally reached the turnaround around breakfast time and enjoyed some fruit, bacon, and hard boiled eggs. I could only tolerate the whites as swallowing wasn't easy and food wasn't sounding very good. At this point things started to go downhill even though I picked up my pacer who ran/walked with me the rest of the way.

She was great in encouraging me to run/shuffle along, reminding me to drink or try to eat something, and just saying what a good pace we were moving at. I had a general idea of what time I wanted to finish it, but didn't really think or care about that until that last few aid stations since SO much can happen in those last 50 miles.

Instead of eating 250-300 calories an hour, I was probably eating that many (or less) between aid stations, and my time between aid stations was 2-4 hours. I was also drinking barely 20 ounces from my hydration pack, yet I was regularly going to the bathroom. My feet were tender, but a complete shoe and sock change along with a cleaning of the feet at mile 66 felt WONDERFUL. Worse of all were my puffy hands, which looked like Mickey Mouse hands when I put on my white gloves.

The hallucinations got worse as the sun set for the second time during the race. I saw bubble wrap, the complete Star Wars starcraft fleet from all the movies, mobile of handcuffs, bears carved into tree trucks by chainsaws, and at one point the entire trail was covered with bow ties, dead rats, wooden kids toys, and wooden puzzle pieces. It was coming alive!! My pacer got to experience my hallcinations when I asked her what was ahead, and pointed to the raised tent/tall sculpture. She explained to me that it was a tree. Later, she saw me flinch at what I thought was a tree branch snapping back and nearly hitting me in the face, yet nothing was there.
I couldn't move my lights off the trail to investigate things I (thought I) saw or I would get disoriented and start to lose my balance. I had to keep my lights on the trail and deal with the creepiness, and remind myself that none of it was real!!

We were making good time and reached the top of a long, draining 3 mile climb where we rested for a few minutes before moving on. It didn't look right. No, I wasn't hallucinating, but I didn't see any blazes. We went back and retraced our steps, and did this more than once, losing precious time. It's not that I was in jeopardy of missing the final cutoff, but I wanted to do better than I had hoped, and that was slipping away because someone decided to vadalize the course and take down the trail markings. There weren't other trails we could take, but the trail we were supposed to be on wasn't very clear. Markings were found every half-mile or so, so we were going the correct way the entire time. I was furious as we made our way into the aid station and vented about the lack of markings.

I let that eat away at me instead of actually eating food for another long stretch. I noshed on some dried mangos and turkey while keeping a sense of humor around the fire by practicing my mime routine with my enlarged hands. It seemed to amuse others around the fire. Finally we left for another long stretch that lasted 3:45.

I had hoped aid station #15 was the finish because I was done even with 5 miles to go. I could've stopped right there, but slowly pressed on. Even though I covered this section 34 hours before, very little of it looked familiar. It felt like a scavenger hunt as we crossed a small stream, piles of rocks, and followed green glowsticks that took us over a small stream and more piles of rocks. Were we going the right way? Too bad my Garmin died 2 hours ago because I would LOVE to see the last 5 miles mapped out. We reached the back of the camp and knew the finish line was just on the other side of the showers, but still had over 1.5 miles to go. What a tease! At this point I was shuffling slowly. Even the '1 mile to go' sign didn't motivate me to pick up the pace. Heck, if someone wanted to sprint it out for 65th place, I was more than happy to let them have it because we all got the same color buckle. It was nearing 6:30am, yet another sunrise, and my pacer and I slowly made our way around the lake toward the camp entrance. All was quiet and we kept walking, hoping no one would spot us. When the hecklers (crew) shouted for us to 'stop lollygagging' and 'quit your talking', I started a slow trot to the finish as my pacer peeled off to the side.

Above is the traditional totem pole hug done by every finisher. My Hamburger Helper hand is in full view.

I'm glad I did this race. It was a bit of redemption for having to withdraw from MMT back in May because I could barely run. I never really started training until mid June when I finally started figuring out what had been hurting me since October, and I ran 2-4x a week, my longest run was 35 miles, and my nutrition/hydration/salt intake was a mess. So how in the world did I finish? I was surrounded by a fantastic group made up by my GF as my crew chief, friend Gaynor as first mate and pacer, and friend Betsy, who was at the last 3 aid stations to provide humor for me and the exhausted aid station volunteers. It was her first taste of the ultra scene and she got to see (and smell) what it's all about.

Many lessons learned and so much to improve on. Now it's on to other adventures!


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