Monday, August 15, 2011
In "The Hunted", a 1995 Christopher Lambert movie, a ninja gives a woman (played by Joan Chen) the option of dying a slow or quick death. "I want to die a slow and painful death. So that I may remember how it was to live." And it wasn't just what she said, but how she said it - defiantly laughing in the face of her death. Its something that I'll never forget, maybe because I want to face death as defiantly while embracing life as passionately. Running ultras can have plenty of slow and painful moments, but that suffering helps us remember everything else that is important to us in life. When you are in pain or when you suffer, you are forced to dig deep; to reacquaint yourself with the things and people that inspire you. In those slow and painful moments, you can be consumed by your negativity or you can rise up and just smile defiantly in the face of any beast - death, pain, fatigue, or despair.
In my last race, I got to see some beautiful sights ranging from majestic sunrises to fields of brilliantly colored wildflowers. This race had less spectacular sights, but when you have good company and good friends, both new and old, to share the trails with, you have all the trail animals you could ever want right there beside you. And you don't even have to say much to feel the camaraderie and friendship from people you barely know! I even got to chat with Catra Corbett for a short while (mentioned in Born to Run, who has run 54 official 100-mile races including the Headlands 100 the week before, and plans on running the Badwater race next year).
Miles 1-17 blew by in a blur. Most of this was shaded and cool. I ran a lot, even up many of the rolling hills, that I would normally walk. It all just felt so good! And since I won't be racing often, I wanted to "go for broke" and shoot for a good time, even though I knew it would warm up later.
Miles 17-25 became progressively more difficult. With the course out in the open and under direct sunlight, it got HOT. Cramping started in my calves and worked its way into my quads. So I began to take electrolyte pills more often, and tried to drink more. I stopping running the inclines and the declines started to feel much more difficult. At mile 22 I met a new friend in Anna Sophia. Her name reminded me of my newborn baby, Grace Annabelle. I hung with her for probably about a mile, chatting about ultras and life (what else is there to talk about?). She was feeling worse than me, but by hanging out and suffering together, I think we both helped each other feel better. I eventually took off to run the downhills, and she unfortunately ended up DNFing at mile 25. I was hoping she'd be able to tough out the final 7 miles, but the decision to drop is a very personal thing and should always be respected.
Miles 25-31.89 were tough. My heart and chest felt fatigued. Nothing at the aid station looked appetizing. And yet I started to feel really hungry at mile 28. I had flashbacks of my misery in my failed 100-mile race 11 months ago, where the heat and my cramping quads beat me down after only 44 miles.
With about 3 miles to go, I ran with Chuck Wilson, who had started an hour earlier than everyone else (at 8am). He was aiming for a sub-8 hour finish, and urged me to shoot for a sub-7 hour finish. My quads were toast, but he inspired me to push a little harder in these last few miles. I pushed myself to run more and reached the 50K point (31.25 miles) at 6:58, but this 50K ran a little long at 31.89 miles. Once I realized that a sub-7 wasn't going to happen, I walked more, and just ran the final 100 meters in for a 7:08 finish.
In those final moments, I questioned myself and why I even run these suffering-laden races. But then I reflected on all of the ultras I had run, and realized I had many more positive, fun races, than these small, insignificant moments of suffering. In fact, the suffering is usually forgotten at the finish line, and replaced with the memories of good friends, great sights, and awesome volunteers.
I used a 2 servings of Vespa, 4 scoops of Perpetuem, Coke and watermelon at the aid stations. I topped off my one water bottle 4 times. I wore compression tights, with shorts on top of them, La Sportiva Crosslites, and a white singlet that I took off at mile 18. It was the first time that I've gone "topless" in a race, and mainly because of the heat and some chafing. I clearly need a tan. I'd include an "indecent exposure" picture, but I don't want to offend any virgin eyes! Before the race I was tempted to add a few miles to make a total of 35 miles (my 35th birthday was on the 16th), but I changed my mind due to the heat. Our race numbers were written on the backsides of our hands since it was a free race and no race bibs were provided. I played some tennis doubles the day after the race and ran 6 miles 3 days after the race, so I feel recovered already. I'll try to keep building my training miles for my next race, possibly the North Face 50 Miler in December.