Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Greetings again,

Well, it’s the beginning of a new week. Here's a Silver State 50 Race Report......Myself, along with (I think) at least 3 other 50 mile participants (including Hal Koerner), missed the 50Mile race/50k race split (9.4 mile mark) and kept careening down the hillside into Boomtown. It was an unintended detour of about 4 miles. I had stopped to ask earlier on, but was waved on in the same direction. Needless to say, I arrived with two other runners at the 2:19 mark of the race, which was a 10:32 pace for those first approx. 13.2 miles. Of course, once I got down there, I was faced with a decision. Either finish the 50k or high tail it the approx. 4 miles back up the hill (approx. climb of 1600 ft. from 4900 ft. to 6500 ft.). I briefly paused and began leaving the aid station 100 ft. down the road for the 50k when I stopped, turned around, and started back up the hill. The intent of the run, for me, was to get ready for Western States, so in my mind the longer the better. I didn’t like having to make that decision, but the competitor in me wanted to go for it. What made it even more difficult was the soft, malleable trail I was climbing. For the most part, it was a moist sand, narrowly hemmed in to the hillside. It was probably the end result of each year’s snow/rain cycles. On the downhill, it was superb for taking the pounding off the joints as you kick up the dirt with each stride. On the uphill, it made for a more laborious climb, each foot sinking downward as the other foot was trying to climb upward. The other runner who initially was going up the hill with me ended up turning around at the sight of his father who was doing the 50k. He wanted to help him finish, which was understandable. Me? I was left with a race against the clock and a sense of urgency to push myself to get through. The aid station at Ranch Creek had doubts, but I pushed on to catch up to the aid stations and stay ahead of the course sweeper.

Even in the midst of hurrying up, there are always those moments which make you pause. Passing by a Boy Scout camp in the hills, I heard a number of Scouts yelling “Rattler”. To avoid the embarrassment of running into the snake unannounced, I asked the scouts where it was. They pointed to a fat, 8 ft. (I think) long snake shaded underneath a parked van 15 ft. away. It was not coiled and for the most part looked as if it just needed a cool place to slither to. The rattler was fattened, probably from a few meals of mice with it’s body expanded at various points across the length. After calmly walking past, I continued on my merry way. My stomach was growing quesy from who knows what food or drink or whatever, but I tried to ignore the nausea and continued to feed my body. Before heading into Boomtown, I had taken Rolaids and coke to calm it temporarily.

Boomtown- Mile Marker 29.5 Miles + almost 8 mile detour
Checkpoint cutoff time: 7 hours
Checkpoint arrival time: 7 hours
Perfect timing, I guess. It put me at around an 11:12 min/mile pace at that point, including the detour. I felt pretty darn good about that, considering that the race was meant as a test of a sub-24 hour WS run. The bad part? Going up that hill was the biggest pain in the arse ever. When you’re already nauseous, the last thing you want is to get a whiff of someone else’s nausea. Climbing up from Boomtown that 4000 ft. climb, I passed another runner who looked in obvious pain from throwing up. Watching someone throw up from afar is one thing, but being up close and personal is another. It’s not that I didn’t have sympathy for the man. But pragmatically, I didn’t want to get too close for fear that it would trigger my own reaction. For the most part, it kept the nausea at bay. I felt close to the edge, but far enough away that I could continue to put out the effort to keep climbing. Once I had finished the major climbs and had gotten back on the fire trail, I felt it coming again. This time, with only a quarter-mile until the aid station, everything came up. I had had very little solid food in the past 2 hours, so what came up was mostly water and a little bit of stomach bile to top it off. I was like a washing machine being drained of its dirty water after a full load. After a few iterations, I was done and sighed in relief.

It did nothing to address my lack of nutrition, but pulling my head up again to look around, the world seemed a bit more cheery. Heading into the aid station another quarter mile, there was a surprising spring in my step. I felt the overwhelming weight of the crud that was in my stomach removed. At a quick few minute stop at the aid station, I tried to stuff some solid food into my stomach such as turkey sandwich and jelly beans, and move on. Even after downing 20 oz. worth of water to rehydrate myself, I felt fine until I was back on the trail again moving onward. Once again, the struggle continued. After the first mile and a half, I felt it coming in my stomach. It was time for the washing machine to be drained once again. Again, a concoction of sports drink, water, and bile flowed from me like a Greek fountain. Not fun, not fun indeed. I kept moving, but continue to stop to rest on nearby rocks. After reaching another fire road, I let the course sweeps go ahead. They would get the next aid station employees to come on up and pick me up.

Even with plenty of electrolyte fluid on me, I stopped to get refreshed by eating some ice, carefully shaving off the top. Once again, this left me nauseous and once again, my body was having none of that. After picking it up a little to get closer to the aid station, the aid station crew picked me at the 42 mile mark after about 12 hours elapsed. At that point, I was content to go, having finished my “50 mile training run” including the detour. 12,000 ft. of climbing was enough one day. Heck, I didn’t even get to enjoy the downhills. My muscles felt fine, my body in good condition otherwise (minus nausea), and my training run over. The first time EVER I had not finished a race that I started. The only thing left bruised was inside. I was smiling, imagining how just last summer I had meandered through Death Valley without a care in the world, and here I end up getting sick. Are there things to re-evaluate? Are there ways to improve? Are there foods I tried for the first time that I won’t try again? Of course. I think that there’s this innate stigma attached to “not finishing” which is ultimately equated with “quitting”. Could I have chosen to go on? I probably would’ve kept going and finished if the time limit was different, even with my stomach calamities. Could I have made decisions along the way that would have made the difference? By making decisions to sit and rest and not “pushing through”, was I choosing not to finish? It’s true that I was sick and that on a relative scale, I was not anywhere near 100%. I don’t know about everyone, but I do know that for many of us who have seen people or things close to us fail, there is a general disdain for failure that develops. It’s not so much the expectation that I always have to “win at everything”, but rather the profound feeling of not measuring up that day. There’s room for improvement in everything that we do and although I’d love to win a couple races along the way, winning is also a product of the natural growth curve of our God-given talent as well as our character. Finishing, on the other hand, is often viewed as more a testament of our character rather than innate talent. The only thing left is to say I did most of what I wanted and the experience will elevate my performances later this year at Western and Badwater. The goal is still the same; finish Western in sub-24 and Badwater in sub-36. The bruising now will only make me callous over with strength for later. Thank God, that as always, I live to fight another day.

Alright, that’s all from me for now. I'm preparing for Western States and still training. Prepping for a dynamite run at the San Diego Marathon, maybe a P.R. around 3 hours now that my right knee feels good again. I have a garage sale at the end of next month to benefit my fundraising drive for World Harvest Mission. It's a lot of work, but definitely well worth it. Stay strong and keep movin’. God bless.


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