Good news first: I learned why I get so tried at night during the last two 100 mile races, my brain thinks its time for sleep. When I go to bed every night, I don’t drink caffeine after about 5 pm, I turn the lights out, and I turn on NPR or some other ‘people talking’ sounds to go to bed. After mile 50, when the sun went down, I did all three things. I forgot to drink caffeine, I decided to not turn on my headlamp (it was bright enough to see the track) and I listened not to catchy techno, but to people talking. From mile 50 on, my brain was saying ‘Umm, its bedtime, why are we running?!’ I put this up front as a reminder for when I look back on this race I do not forget that VERY valuable lesson. Now, on to the normal blog entry…
Last year, I did this trip with my friend, crew and pacer Ryan but he was unable to make it this year. I did get to drive with another good friend, Kai. While we were good acquaintances before this trip, we learned we have quite a bit in common and had great conversation while visiting foreign lands (Canada for 4.5 hours) together. He is totally cool, and an awesome ultra runner. War stories with him are entertaining and informative. Since we were both running the race sans crew we had large plastic containers with our gear for the start/finish area and the turn 12.5 miles away. The course is a simple 12.5 out, 12.5 back x 4 times. Not as mindless as you might think, but different than a trail point to point, no doubt. We both brought way more clothes and gear than needed, but in these conditions, you never know what you need. So the more, the better.
We got there late in the afternoon with the sun still up. A quick glance at the track gave us confidence that it was gonna be a good day. We checked in quick at the Holiday Inn and then headed to the unofficial race dinner at a local Irish pub and met some really crazy people (all running the next day) swapped stories, compared races, good conversation. Service of restaurant was not so hot, but there were 20+ of us, so…
We go back to the hotel and went to bed at 8ish, got up at 6ish and slowly prepared for our 10 am start. We left hotel at 8:15 and stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts and then get to race start and check in with plenty of time. I tried desperately to find a mocha (even a McDonald’s one would have worked) within 15 miles and there were none. Well, there was one fancy coffee shop but it was closed on Saturdays. They should be out of business just for that fact. My lack of real caffeine (found total crap cup of coffee finally) was what those literary people refer to as ‘foreshadowing’.
The RD is totally trying to make this race a big name event, so he went all out including the swag back. Instead of yet another technical shirt, we got a awesome running hat, gloves, backpack, key chain and rubber bracelet, all of which said ‘Beast of Burden Ultramarathon’ He is using us all as advertisers I guess. This race is very well run and deserves the respect it is quickly attaining.
I ran this race last year and did quite well, finishing second place to Valmir Nunes (who would run a sub 15 this day) and my training had gone well, doing 35-40 mile -days- almost weekly. I admit, I got a little cocky, and was talking smack the night before. Whenever I seem to go into a race with big expectations (BR 2010, another great example) I do very poorly. This race was yet more evidence of such a correlation. Train hard, and just finish the race. You ain’t world class, get over yourself, ya doorknob…
We got to the starting area with an hour or so to go and they were still getting the start set up. Kai and I did our final prep, choosing which clothes to wear on first lap, double checking drop boxes, trying to just stay relaxed before we were out to run all day. The start was kindof funny. There was a big clock over the start line which read all zeros and we are all ready, but nobody is within 20 feet of the line. With no warning, the clock starts. Nobody moves or says anything (they testing?). After about 5 seconds, the Race Directors wife says ‘Go! The clock’s running’, so I cross the start line first, about 8 seconds into the race. Obviously, 100 mile races are a little different than say, a 5K.
I started out in front, because I don’t how to not do that. I refused to take the lead but I wanted to keep the leader close. There is an aid station at mile 6ish (~halfway between start and the 12.5 mile turn), but I ignored that aid station altogether until after mile 50. I planned _MY_ race without depending on that aid station except near the end. I had decided to focus on slightly longer stops every 12.5 miles, checking cloths, shoes, getting all my fuel, etc. I really think that part of the operation worked. The lead pack all got to the turn at about the same time, all moving quickly to grab stuff and get back out.
The weather was very nice (way better than last year) and I actually wore my racing sunglasses instead of ski goggles for first 25 miles. There was about 3” of snow at start 1” of them fresh and maybe another 0.5” during the day. The temperature was in mid 20s at start, and got down to single digits wind chill at night. This had been a mild winter here in New York as well as back home, so I had been training in these conditions. Honestly, at no point was weather ever really a problem for me and most of the rest of the field.
Since it is the middle of winter, in up state New York, the weather can change, and since I have a incredible amount of running clothes, especially (race) shirts, I brought so many shirts I could have changed out two shirts every 12.5 miles. Stay dry and stay warm was my mantra. At every turn, I did a quick evaluation of my attire, prepared to do full costume changes at any point needed. I changed socks 6 times and shoes 4 times during the race. Instead of changing my shirts, all I did was slowly over the course of the race was add layers. I started the race with two layers and by the end of it I was wearing six, three shirts covered by three running jackets. While I did not use all those shirts I brought, I am glad I had them on reserve. At race start, I had one pair of running gloves on and by the end of the race, I had two sets of gloves on with big ski mittens over those. I guess it did get colder…
The first two laps, I am sorry, were just unexciting. I crossed mile 50 at 7:41 (good pace) and was about 3 minutes out of 2nd place. I felt pretty good, just a little tired (sun just going down) eating well, stomach felt great, etc. As soon as I took off for the back 50, The engine kept going, but the driver stopped paying attention. I had plenty of fuel, was eating good, but forgot to consume at least SOME caffeine. I drank no soda nor coffee all day, except for that horrible cup of coffee at 9am that morning. I know I know, I’m dumb, shut up.
The two other big problems were listening to talking (podcasts I follow) and not turning on my headlamp (hard to explain that last one, just trust me) which made my brain do the things it does when I go to bed. When I jogged, it was not my body telling me to go back walking, it was my brain telling me it was bed time. I was giving it no other stimulus except the ‘keep moving’ command, which just wasn’t enough. My legs weren’t even that tired (85% recovery after 2 days) but no matter what I did, the command of ‘get moving’ was never loud enough. I honestly believe that a pacer would not even have helped that much. I need to go all out, listen to techno and run with a spotlight on my head which sucking down Jolt cola.
Mile 75 in 13:40, which meant I did miles 50-75 miles in 6 hours flat, and I still had 25 miles to go. Ugh. One death march, coming up! When I was at the mile 75 aid station I ate some food, got up from a short 2 minute rest and got light headed, almost passing out. I decided to extend my sit rest to 2 more minutes. Then I could at least stand, and get back to moving, which I did but very slowly. One key to finishing 100’s is never linger at aid stations. 10 min of sitting you would think would be good rest, but your muscles tighten up. If you wait too long, it is almost impossible to get going again. At Burning River, people were dropping at aid stations beyond mile 90 for just that reason. Once I got back on the track, I tried to pump my arms to move a little quicker, but it barely had any effect.
I did the last 25 miles is ~6:25, which is only slightly slower than miles 50-75 and even jogged much of the last mile (some adrenaline due to finish line proximity is my guess) emphasizing that it was my brain that slowed me down, not my body. Sunrise was a coming as I crossed the finish line not with a bang, but a wimper.
By the time I got to the finish tent, Kai had been there an hour already and was reading a book. I got my buckle and after a quick chit chat with the RD and with my tail between my legs, Kai and I left. We headed back to hotel just as the sun was getting bright and took a quick 4 hour nap before we headed home. Another trip through Canada and I was home by 6:30, dejected and tired. By the time I went to bed, Misty had helped be triage the event and my spirits were lifted, knowing pretty much immediately what I had done wrong during the race.
Marathons are easy to me now, but the 100 milers will never be easy. They must always be respected and can kick your ass in new and unusual ways. Maybe that is why I enjoy them, for the thrill of the internal struggle. I told the RD last year I would never run the Winter 100 ever again. This year I told him the same thing. We will see if I lied to him again….