This weekend I ate pie, humble pie to be exact, and it tastes yucky.
I headed out this past weekend to attempt 102 miles in the desert southwest. Weather looked to be warm and sunny, clear and perfect. The Aravapai Race directing crew, Nick and Jamil Coury, their family and dozens of volunteers, planned another great event under the October full moon!
|View to the west, JJ Headquarters, credit Brendan Trimboli|
Lap 1: 2:20 / 6:00am - 8:20am / Mile 0 - 15.4The race started at 6:00am under a setting moon. It was a fairly uneventful lap; beautiful to see the sun come up over the desert. All the runners were talkative and no one hurt too bad making it easy to chat with other runners. I hooked up at the start with my friend Jeremy Duncan from Carbondale and for the first 8-9 miles we talked about life and all things running. My experience on this course last year taught me to make sure and go slower than I wanted and specifically to watch the first descent down to the starting line. It’s not that this course has crazy elevation but for whatever reason, the dry dirt, the exposure the rolling hills, it just sucks the life out of you if don’t respect it!
|First or Second Lap. Notice the Smile. :) credit B. Trimboli|
Lap 2: 2:50 / 8:20am - 10:45am / Mile 15.4 - 30.8Still feeling good, I slowed a bit but was eating and taking in lots of water. I dropped off my hat and gloves at JackAss aid station which is the halfway point and inadvertently left my EFS (nutrition!) in my drop bag. I had some backup food with me but didn’t want to do anything else but EFS for the first 3 laps, or approximately 8-9 hours. Towards the end of this lap, it already started to get warm and I started having running cramps all along the inferior edge of my rib cage. The cramps were uncomfortable but bearable and so I just kept going figuring they would stop. (they didn’t!)
Lap 3: 3:05 / 10:45am - 1:50pm / Mile 30.8 - 46.2
The cramping continued and got worse. I also started to notice the tell-tale signs of my legs cramping too, generally for me that is the adductors, ankle evertors and plantarflexors.. I increased my salt intake and that seemed to help but the stomach and rib cramping was intensifying which also made eating a bother. All in all though, Lap 3 was uneventful, just kept going. The heat started to amplify and I slowed more, but never felt like I was hurting, I just knew that I needed to keep a steady pace if I wanted to make it through the heat.
By the time I got to the end of this lap, it was hot, really hot. The daytime high got into the low 90’s during the afternoon. My pacer, Brendan, doused me with cold water from a bucket, my dad filled my bottles with ice cold water and volunteers were everywhere spraying down runners with cold water as they went by. It felt great and honestly probably helped safe my race. Cooling down during the heat of the day and letting the body recoup is really important.
Lap 4: 3:20 / 1:50pm - 5:10pm / Mile 46.2 - 61.6
I don’t remember Lap 4 much. It was hot, I was slow, my stomach and ribs were just killing me and I was grumpy. I didn’t have any inkling of stopping, in fact, it hadn’t even crossed my mind, but I was uncomfortable and irritated that my stomach would not stop hurting. I felt good enough to run faster but just could not pull it together so I slowed more and tried to focus on getting rid of the running cramps. From about mid way through the 2nd lap, when the cramping started, I stopped eating anything but fruit. I ate a ton of fruit but that’s about all I could handle.
I was also about ready to cross over to no-man’s land. I’d never run past 62 miles, I’d never run past about 12 hours straight so this was all going to be new and I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up. I didn’t stay long at the start/finish between lap 4 and 5 but got going. I didn’t want to even tempt fate.
Lap 5: 4:05 / 5:10pm - 9:15pm / Mile 61.6 - 77
I told Brendan right off the bat that I needed to slow down and probably walk some. The short little downhills were irritating my cramping and I was tired. The only thing I really remember about this loop is that the sun went down, we saw the leaders come by us on their way to the final loop, and I began to notice my feet hurting.
It stayed fairly warm through this lap but by 9pm it did finally start to cool down. The colder air would fill the small draws and valleys so there was this constant flux between hot air and cold air which was a strange sensation.
Lap 6: 4:20 / 9:10pm - 1:30am / Mile 77 - 92.4
I started out this lap strong but by the 3 mile aid station started to come apart. I was getting cold, I hadn’t been eating and after a good 3 mile push with 11:30min/miles back to back, I was toast. Brendan correctly deduced that I was being a weenie and hadn’t eaten and promptly began feeding me. Just a side note – Brendan was a PHENOMENAL pacer! He did a great job of getting me to do what I didn’t want to do.
Unfortunately it was right about this point that I noticed the medial side of my right knee start to hurt. I waited about 10 minutes but thought I’d better mention it to Brendan. It got worse very fast and within 15 minutes I couldn’t run anymore. I’m guessing that my running mechanics had become so sloppy from fatigue that my knees just couldn’t compensate anymore and I got a nasty case of patellafemoral syndrome within about a mile. I tried several times throughout the rest of the evening to run but the pain told me to walk. No reason to jack up my knee for the next several months to save a couple hours in the long run, and I didn’t want to risk irritating it enough so that even walking was impossible.
It had started to cool down and by the time we hit the midway point, I’d started to shiver and was getting cold. I’d thought I’d put my jacket in my dropbag but hadn’t so Brendan convinced the aid station to give me a large black trash bag. We put a hold for my head and my arms and I power walked for almost 9 miles in a trashbag – but – it saved me! I think I would have probably ended up dealing with hypothermia too had it not been for Brendan’s creativity and the aid station’s helpfulness.
FINAL Lap: 2:47 / 1:30am - 4:17am / Mile 92.4 - 101.4
At the end of this lap, all I had to do was finish another 9 miles and I was done. I was pretty bummed by how many people passed me in the final 10-15 miles but there was part of me that was okay with it too. This was my first 100 miler, I was going to finish, and I had learned some incredible lessons.
For the final lap you are given a glow in the dark necklace so the aid station crew at the loop cutoff know that you are on your final lap. I’ve never been so proud to wear a piece of equipment. Your mind plays all sorts of tricks on you when you’ve been up for that long doing the same thing for almost 22 hours. I was so tired, I just wanted to stop.
I arrived at the finish line and just stood for a moment. Completely overwhelmed with exhaustion and emotion. I didn’t start crying…until I called my wife, and then because the first thing that crossed my mind was the little girl that we are adopting in 3 months and I couldn’t contain myself. Weird, but after 102 miles of running the first thing that crossed my mind when I heard my wife’s voice was our coming child. Amazing how things change.
It takes a team:I couldn’t have done this without my crew chief, my dad Matt, and my pacer and friend, Brendan. My dad drove the whole way out to the race and back and allowed Brendan and I to sleep in preparation and in recovery. He covered meals for us and overall made sure that all I had to do was run and not stop.
Brendan knew from experience how I would feel at varying parts of the day, what my moods would be and knew how to handle them. He was able to coax me to eat when necessary and knew when to back off and let me be. He blended the perfect amount of encouragement with quiet support.
I had no idea what I was doingBack to my humble pie comment, 100 miles is nothing like a 50 miler. I put together this elaborate pacing chart and had a solid A, B and C goal for finishing but in the back of my head was pretty sure I’d be able to hit somewhere between my A and B goal for sure. Maybe I would have been if my knee had stayed together but irregardless, my mental picture of how hard a 100 miles is was drastically shy of reality. A 100-miler is a beast of it’s own. Now I understand that.
Cool-down in the Heat of the DayDon’t be afraid to stop and get your core temp down if the weather is hot. You are not going to loose that much time in the long run and it can save your race. This is only my first 100-miler but I imagine it’s similar to the advice I give the triathletes I train, don’t go out to hard in the swim, it’s probably not where you are going to win the race, but if you go out too hard, it’s certainly where you can loose it.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Eating and Replenishing LiquidsI ate and drank a ton of water and overall thing I did a pretty good job but in the heat of the dry desert, did not take in enough salt to replenish what I was losing and to keep a balance with the amount of water I was drinking. This is something I need to continue to work on in training.
Make sure you have a jacket, hat and gloves in your dropbag!
Average pace: 13:11min/mile.
Overall elevation gain: ~4800’Place: 24th overall and 21st in my gender and 10th in my age group