On July 20, 2013 at 4am I set off on my first 100 mile adventure. 11hr 58 min and 51.4 miles later, I was sitting in a chair, dejected having just pulled my self out of the race.
Two weeks have passed and I’ve tried to process what happened, and why it happened. Everytime I start, I get angry and walk away from it. I have constantly tried to rationalize what happened and just keep blocking it, convincing myself its better to ignore it than deal with it.
Two weeks later and its still haunting me. My decision to quit.
Days after the event, I was on a work trip to San Diego, hoping this would be a good distraction, or a good time for reflection. It wasn’t.
I came back from San Diego to resume my interrupted vacation. I thought this would be a good time for reflection and dealing with it. It wasn’t.
No, my “dealing with it” came in the form of dreams, and frustrations and anger.
Dealing with the fact, that I quit. I gave up. I failed.
This picture best sums it up:
I guess I should go back to how it unfolded huh?
After an amazing week that capped off the end of a long training cycle for me, my family and I jumped into the car on Friday morning to make our trip out to Vermont. The trip itself was pretty uneventful aside from the fact we took a nice scenic route into Vermont that sent the tone for the sights for the weekend. We arrived at our hotel shortly before noon, got settled, checked in and got some lunch then made the journey down to the event area.
When we arrived it was really backwoods no where, horses and farms dotted the way. A big tent in the middle of an empty field was race HQ. We got checked in, medical check and then wandered around for a bit. After that was done, we took the girls back to Elyse’s parents so that we could go to the race meeting and not have them interrupting it. When we returned I was able to finally meet the ultra coach I had been working with, Ian Sharman. We sat and talked with him for a little bit before the meeting started. He offering up bits of final advice me soaking it in.
As the meeting started, Nick Clark came and sat with us and Ian. It was pretty cool to have these two guys there. I was not very present during the prerace as I was already day dreaming about what the following day would hold. Going into the race weekend I was nervous. Nervous about the rain, weather, sleep, my kids behavior, being on dirt roads rather than trails, my training, my preparation. You name it, …it was most likely on the nerves list. We left the race HQ and met up with the parents and kids and sat down to eat a good meal at a local cafe.
It was around this time the migraine started. Like a cicada buzzing, getting louder and louder and more piercing as time wore on. Eventually just cut dinner short and went back to the hotel. Got my gear set for the early 2am wakeup and then went to bed. Sleep ended up being better than I thought it would be.
Right before the 4am start to race organizers decided they had a special treat. FIREWORKS! at 4am in the morning. I was quite impressed (but also shocked at how they could get permission at 4am — only later to find out there was a lapse in communication with residents and it wasn’t okay-ed. WHOOPS!)
And then….we were off.
It probably didn’t help that the first mile was a downhill as I tried to hold back the pace. Eventually we made our way to some trail and I found my race pace. I knew going in that up until mile 15.4 it would be a faster pace than my average as I wouldn’t need to stop as much. So I just let it happen. I just tried to stay in control. There were a couple downhills that I just flew down, and in retrospect, probably a bit too hard. I walked/hiked every uphill and surprisingly passed a bunch of people this way as they would run until they stopped and then I would pass them. There were a couple unmanned Aid Stations that I stopped at and started to drink Coke at (a welcome surprise for an unmanned). I just tried to stay in control.
Coming into Woodstock we turned off some trail and onto a downhill road section that just felt nasty. I should’ve noticed the signs here. Going thru Woodstock I saw Elyse for the first time.
15.4 Miles / 2:43 (10:35 pace – 17:38/100mi 8:49/50mi) 127th place.
Aid Station: 1:45
A little…ok a lot faster than my planned overall, but what I expected thru the first until I would begin to slow. A completely unsustainable pace. I stopped, focus on my food and nutrition and then continued on. I was still smiling. I was running 100 miles today.
Ok, well SORT OF smiling. The sun was starting to come out, making some of the fields a bit steamy and some roads a bit warmer. I was starting to develop a hotspot in my left foot and made the decision to change shoes at the next AS where I would see my wife (crew). As I began the next section and tried to keep myself in control the hills began to become a bit more noticeable. And so did the hotspot. Somewhere in this section the first horses started to pass me. It was pretty cool to see them and get the encouragement from the passing riders.
Coming into Pretty Horse Aid Station I got my next split:
22.5 Miles / 4:12 (11:12 pace – 18:40/100mi 9:20/50mi) 129th place.
Aid Station: 8:52
Once I pulled into the AS I quickly changed my shoes, and shirt and hat so I could start out semi dry. Took a bathroom break and this AS quickly turned out to be a bit longer than intended. I was still on pace and things were good. Said good by to the wife and made my way out. I didn’t realize I lost 32 spots during this time (HOLY CRAP!)
For the most part, I think I was still doing ok. I was still in control. Until the Sound of Music hill at 27.5 that is. Up until this point heat was not a factor. I was grabbing ice at every aid station and shoving it in my buff around my neck. I was drinking my water and umping it over me before every AS and putting ice in with my drink everytime I filled up. Slowed me down a little but I thought the gains would counter act this and for the most part they did. But for some reason it was like walking into an oven when we hit the meadow leading up to SOM hill. My body just completely shut down for a half mile and I just trudged up to the top of hit. Passed a woman who was having some issues (we would pass each other several times until I finally gave up). On the other side of SOM hill was the first big sign of trouble. A really long downhill that my legs were having trouble with. It was steep, I would run but then had to walk because of the pain that began to boil up. I finished the downhill and into the AS to see my wife.
31.4 Miles / 6:25 (12:15 pace – 20:25/100mi 10:12/50mi) 161st place.
Aid Station: 6:36
This would be the last time I would be able to see Elyse until Camp 10 bear where I would also see Jamie. It was going to be a long time to go from 31.4 to 47.6 without any encouragement from them. I tossed her my phone to hold onto. Regretting not being able to have headphones (race rule) and then went on my way. It would be a long lonely 16 miles. I don’t remember much about the 16 miles except that shortly after Lincoln covered bridges (39.6) I jumped into a creek and just laid there for a bout 5 mins. The pain in my legs gradually got worse, starting with the knees and expanding out to my quads and calves. I hoped that the cold creek would help my calves a bit.
34.3 Miles / 7:21 (12:51 pace – 21:25/100mi 10:42/50mi) 168th place.
Aid Station: 3:55
39.6 Miles / 8:28 (12:49 pace – 21:21/100mi 10:40/50mi) 165th place.
Aid Station: 2:50
43.9 Miles / 9:35 (13:05 pace – 21:48/100mi 10:54/50mi) 162nd place.
Aid Station: 3:38
47.6 Miles / 10:15 (12:55 pace – 21:31/100mi 10:45/50mi) 147th place.
Aid Station: 19:00
Like I said, most of it became a blur. And then I saw Jamie. He was waiting at a turn as I came down into 10 Bear. I told him how I was feeling and we set about trying to fix it.
I came in, changed pretty much everything, restocked, and tried to work out some of the kinks before I left. Looking back, I should have kept this under 10 mins, but I was convinced I needed to spend the little extra time and deal with what was bugging me. Shortly after I came in, Yoshi came in. Jamie convinced me to leave with him, but Yoshi got out just sooner and then it was “catch up to him!” I tried.
Shortly after an uphill we turned a corner and Yoshi was a half mile up the road. Somewhere at this point I made the decision to try my 4:1 run/walk on some flatter sections. All was going well.
Until I hit Agony Hill.
There were bigger climbs.
There were longer climbs.
But for me, the mile long 13%+ grade in the sun was the undoing of me. I didn’t slowdown, I kept trudging to the top. I passed a guy who looked how I felt. He said he was ok. Then I passed the 50 mile sign. Up until this point I had been pretty spot on with my distance on the watch vs the course. Around 10hrs my footpod had decided to stop working and then my distances were off, but they were off consistently so I didn’t worry. But for some reason I was all of the sudden 2 miles off. I thought I was doing well, and it just dawned on me how long it took to climb that hill. Well over 20 minutes. suddenly my legs stopped working. Frozen. I shuffled along the trail and got some movement. The trail basically went into what I could only gather as someones driveway.
I felt lost. I couldn’t see a sign anywhere.
Did I get lost? Really? I continued down the trail and found the signs again. But things got worse. I could no longer run. My body was saying to, but I couldn’t. The pain had overwhelmed me and everything shutdown. Shortly after 50 miles…I gave up. I couldn’t deal with what I was going thru. Mentally, physically.
But I still had nearly a mile and a half to go. I had to still get there.
I tried. I failed. The body would no longer respond.
28 minutes later, I arrived at the aid station and announced my intentions.
I worked so hard to get to 100 miles, only to give in a 51.4.
I had gone farther, endured worse, yet here I was sitting on a chair. Defeated. How did this happen?
51.4 Miles / 11:58 (13:58 pace – 23:16/100mi 11:38/50mi) DNF.
So in quick summation I was still on track for a 10:45 50 mile (realistic) and a 21:31 100 mile (unrealistic) when I came into Camp 10 bear. With the Aid Station stop and the next 3.8 miles, I dropped to a 11:38/23:16 respectively. I reached 50 miles at 11:30 and it took me 28 minutes to go the next 1.4 miles. My body shutdown. I spent a total time in the manned Aid Stations of 46:36. This does not include the time I spent at the unmanned ones, grabbing cokes, cookies, ice.
Many people have said “you’re not a failure” ” you went 50+ miles!” and etc.
But its hard to explain to them. I didn’t train for 50 miles, I trained for 100. I already ran a 50, and a 100K, I KNOW I can do that distance.
It is like training for a marathon and going a half marathon.
Training for a 10 and dropping at 3 miles.
Or a 5K and dropping 1.5.
Or better yet walking out to your car and stopping at the sidewalk because its too hard to go that last little bit.
Its disappointing, its frustrating and its heartbreaking.
Once again I was surrounded by people, family and friends who threw so much support my way. A loving wife who was there by my side the whole day. An amazing friend who never got the chance to pace me, but then selflessly gave of his time and went to pace someone else.
I let many people down, but more importantly myself.
I joined Jamie the next morning and watched the last finishers who didn’t give in, who fought all the way thru.
100 milers are a special breed. Very special. I hope to one day join them. This day was not mine.
I’m running with a chip on my shoulder.
I will not fail again.
2 weeks later, I am not over it. And I know I won’t be until my next “success”. Its just who I am.
Thank you my friends for your support.