“If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research.” — Albert Einstein
Even though I really wanted some solid redemption (which was ultimately achieved) from last year’s battle, this year I was there to conduct a little research, collect some data, and figure out what modifications I need to make as I progress my training for Fat Dog 120. Even my taper was experimental. Sure, I had some lofty goals that I figured I could hit if I had a great day but this day my major focus was the journey not the destination. I knew it was going to be a hot day and I came prepared with all the tricks I had picked up from Western States last year.
The race started and the plan was to lay low for the first hour or so then start slowly kicking in to gear. On top of trying to save my legs for later I was also trying to take in more calories than I ever have before during a race (or a training run for that matter). I had my doubts about how I would be able to stomach them (hah!) when the heat turned on. I was relaxed and slowly ramping up my efforts when I began the long gravel road climb to the halfway aid station. This is where the cool light breeze that was helping me all morning disappeared and was replaced with the morning sigh of Satan. Whisps of heat would surround me for moments then I would run through the quick respite of a shadow from a tree. I love those trees. I have pinpointed this moment as to what caused me problems later on. Because I was focusing on keeping a solid pace in the ever increasing heat, my calorie intake began to dwindle. When I begin to heat up, I find it really difficult to eat or drink. I thought I was getting really close to the aid station so I decided to hold off on taking a gel at the risk of having it come immediately back up. Unfortunately, I underestimated how much further I had to go and every time I told myself it was time to eat, I brushed it aside that I was so close to getting water thrown on me to cool down and then I would eat.
I made it to the AS and the volunteer dumped the entire jug of water on me as I began to down gels and shots of cola. I knew the next section was going to be hotter but also had some fun downhills. At this point a lot of the 50km runners were starting to show up. I got lost in the fun of descending and realized I was passing a lot of people; that is, until the trail turned and went up another steep hot climb. I went back to my chug-a-long pace and was greeted with many compliments on my downhill speed and fluidity from some 50km racers charging up the hill.
I kept a steady pace and made my way up the hot climb to the Sun Mountain Lodge. Again, the heat pressed down on me and taking in calories was tough. At the top I saw Julie, who had taken me out on my very first trail run back in 2009 with our mutual friend, Ruari. After a quick catch-up and a hug I was off in search of the water station. It was just a drinking fountain beside a tennis court, BUT it had a spout off the side for filling dog bowls, attaching a hose, etc. I sat underneath it and turned the handle. The cold water immediately started working its magic on me.
Heading down to the last AS, the heat overtook the chill from the water at the tennis courts and brought me to a halt. I did not want to be walking any of this but I had zero energy left. The caloric deficit was finally sinking in and I knew what I had to do. I immediately ate a couple gels and some nut butter and continued walking a little bit more to wash it all down and make sure it stayed put. Once I finally made it to the AS I had to sit in the shade, pour more water over me and devour some watermelon.
The final climb was not that bad, but my full stomach in the heat was not a fun combination to try to push uphill. Once on the ridge, clouds came. Sweet, fluffy, glorious clouds. And wind. The chill in the air wrapped itself around me like a hug from an old friend. I was back. Revitalized. Jonathan and Darnelle were at the turnaround, gave me some gummies and told me that the total run time was 7:45. Knowing I had missed my lofty goal of 7:30, I decided I would try my hardest to finish in under 8:30.
I took off, aided by my iPod (on random) playing the best possible songs to hammer out a finish.
Outkast – “Rosa Parks”
Woodkid – “Run Boy Run”
Muse – “Supremacy”
The Human Abstract – “Faust”
Crossing the finish line, I gave RD James Varner a hug and was greeted by many familiar faces; my trail running family.
I was able to finish in 8:14:36, a PR for a 50 miler and a PB on the Sun Mountain course. The experiments went well. I did not trash my legs. I did not have to suffer or knock on the door of the dark place.
It was not a perfect race. I made mistakes, but that’s what I went there to do.
Awesome jobs and wise decisions were made by all my friends.