Sunday, March 14, 2010

You win some, you lose some, and then sometimes you face plant in the mud.

Alas! It's Friday, March 12th and finally heading out of Blacksburg on spring break! Worked all spring break to save up a little cash and now the fun part, Land Between The Lakes 60k. A nine hour drive later I was fortunate enough to have found some folks Michael and Crystal in Paducah, KY that were going to let me couch surf for night. This was my first couch surfing experience but it turned out great, in fact, i'm afraid to try it again this worked out so well. Michael and Crystal, by coincidence were mountain bikers and gave me the low down on the Canal Loop trail and what I had in store for me on my run the next day. I got to bed around 10:30 or so and set 4 alarms for my 4:45 AM wake up.

Arriving at Grand Rivers, KY Saturday morning my mind had been set on breaking the course record for the past week. After all coming home with a 1,000 dollar purse would be pretty nice. I got to the race start 30 minutes early and long story short, lesson #1, this will be the last time I bank on using race port-o-potties to take care of my needs before a race. A little tidbit of wisdom to any racers reading. Use the bathroom at the closest gas station to the race start before you arrive. Race port-o-potties WILL have a line and the people in line are not in line to go #1, if you catch my drift . . .or maybe i hope you don't after waiting in that line.

So I started the race, mentally prepared this time but not physically. Sadly enough, to toe the starting line, I had to leave the bathroom before it was my turn. I thought not much of it at the time as I had done great in Alabama with a similar situation.

The race consisted of a 23k, Marathon, 60k, and 50 miler and all 350 of these people started at the same time. Sticking up in the front of the pack, the race started pretty fast but this was typical for me and I was comfortable with my pace knowing that most of the guys ahead of me were probably in the 23k. Coming through the first mile I was at a 6:45/mile pace, a bit fast for my goal pace of 7:19/mile so I cut back a bit as we entered the 11.1 mile canal loop which we would now do 3 times. The fanny pack I was wearing ended up being a tad bit bouncy on my back so I dropped it off at the second aid station and grabbed some Jelly Belly Sport Beans for the road, yummm. My pace felt all to comfortable and I was psyched mentally because I hadn't felt this motivated to stay in the lead of a race for a long time! A runner caught up to me and we were back and forth on the uphills and downhills for a while, him catching me on the downhills and me pulling away again on the uphills, the monotony of it was almost calming. Here I will give you a little trip through my brain at this point . . .

Calm, calm, ooooh pretty Kentucky lake, calm, calm, oooh fun single track trail, calm, calm, oooh tasty gu energy drink, calm, calm, man this is perfect running weather, calm calm, this trail couldn't be more fun, hop over a root, zoom around a banked turn. . .calm, calm, ouch, OUCH , WTF, stomach cramp, oh no, I should have waited in the port-o-pottie line, ouch ouch, aid station up ahead you can make it, OUCH OUCH.

Well, all in all, I did not make it to the aid station and was challenged with obstacle number one . . stopping and finding a place to use the bathroom that would not be right next to the trail. Ok ok well we won't go into detail here but this always makes an ultra race interesting. Getting back out onto the trail I found myself running right in front of a pretty intense looking runner and felt like he had a great pace going so I tried to stick just in front of him.

We ran along for a good two miles and crested a hill with a huge radio tower and this is where I had my dream come true. Throughout all of the ultras I've run I always see people coming across the finish line with bloody knees or elbows and have read so many stories about nasty spills and wondered just how does this happen so much? Well I can tell you now, it happens real quick. I went from "Henry with a runners high sprinting down a muddy trail" to "Henry face full of mud and mud all over his water bottles while lying sideways watching people run by" faster than you can say "Can't touch this". It was a true epic fail kodak moment but probably the most fun I had all day. I got back up and tried to run probably looking a lot like like this guy and held with it until the next aid station where . . yes . . i needed another bathroom break. Once again, details excluded but I will never be having a Chai Latte the night before a race again.

At this point I was 13 miles into the race and at a time of 1 hour 42 mins. I was running just over my goal pace, problem was with all the stops, once again my trusty knee had locked up and I was forced to make a decision. Try to run and risk injury for the rest of the season? Or suck it up, walk the rest of the way and drop down from the 60k down to the marathon distance. Well I decided to walk and as irritating as it was seeing my goals for the day fade away after such a long drive, the second half of the race ended up being a great experience thanks to a few folks.

Walking along I got a bit fed up with the amount of trash that I saw along the trail. Trash from this race alone! Therefore I designated myself as the official Energy Gel Pack/Heed Energy Cup/Various Nutrient Bar trash picker upper. This is one thing I have recently not been so impressed with at ultras. The trail side is not your trash can for the race and many of the people that pick these races do so because of the surroundings, lets keep them gu energy pack free already!

On the other hand I have always only had good things to say about people I meet at these events and I continue to do so here. As I was walking my second lap of the Canal Loop I would say at least 90% of people asked me if I was doing alright, 50% of the people asked me if I needed an ibuprofen or offered me various ultramarthoner essentials, and a few people even stopped to talk and walk with me. Two people stood out in my mind on Saturday.

First was a man that came running by and asked me "you doing alright?" I said, "yeah, yeah just locked up my knee" so he said "well which race are you running?" . . "I was signed up for the 60k but i think I'm just going to have to do the marathon" . . . as he faded off into the distance he shouted back "You know, that's the amazing thing about what we're doing out here, you're JUST going to do the marathon!" This runners comment and congratulations to me coming through the finish line put a lot into perspective for me on the second lap and throughout the car ride home.

Second was Dean Deziel. Dean came running up behind me towards the end of my second lap and shouted my name. I immediately turned around thinking "who the h*ll in Kentucky knows that I am here??" Dean walked with me for a few minutes and we shared stories from the Holiday Lake 50k++. Often being one of the younger participants in the ultra races and trying to work my way into a sponsor I wonder a lot about how I fit in and if all the efforts I am putting in will finally add up. Dean was full of enthusiasm and only had inspiring and encouraging things to say that also helped put these things into a new light for me.

To sum up the race I ended up walking the whole second lap with my knee locked up. I dropped down to the marathon race instead of doing a third lap to complete the 60k and finished in a time of about 5 hours and 56 minutes. Walking across the finish line I thought I had lost complete confidence in myself and my goals at these races yet thinking back to the things that people said to me throughout this race I realized... that you win some, you lose some, and then sometimes you face plant in the mud.

Totals on the Day-
Miles = 26.2
Time = 5 hours 56 mins 40 secs
Shoutouts - Dean Deziel, nice to meet you and thanks for your words of encouragement. Also, cheers for challenging yourself to do the 60k, you're a great runner to have out there on the trails.
Michael and Crystal - Thanks again for the couch surf! I'll make sure I get to an international soccer game ASAP!

1 comment:

  1. HENRY, I know this is a bit late...but thanks for the shout out...I see your very motivated for this year...I hope all goes well, and hope that you attain all that you aspire to...I'm sure I'll be seeing you again in the near future..I am old enough to be your father and I've been running distance for years..but my ultra-running career is pretty much just starting also...better late than never..stay strong and healthy..keep up the good work...take care, DEAN DEZIEL,KNOXVILLE,TN