Friday, June 30, 2006

Finally the Race Report

01. Initial Thoughts
02. Image Links and Postrace Rant
03. More Ranting but not by Me:)
04. My All-Time Favorite Running Picture

So about 5 years ago, after another year of training for and running marathons and being injured at the end of it, I decided to call it quits with the marathon thing. They just hurt my legs - constant problems with my IT band. So I made the decision to focus primarily on trail running. I bought myself a book, researched the sport and aimed for the most popular event, the Western States 100 miler. I came up with a 3 year plan. First year I was going to run 50k's and 50-milers. Second year I was going to move up to 100k's and qualify for the WS lottery, get chosen and then on the third year run WS. Sound plan and everything was going well but I didn't get in to WS my third year, nor my fourth. Nevertheless I used those years to continue training and racing, each year I didn't get in I ran a different 100-mile race. Last count we have about 40 I00-mile races in the country. Finally got in to WS for the 5th year and the rest is history. It's been a long journey and a huge accomplishment. Kind of a crazy journey but oh so worth it, blisters and all:)

Before I go any further I would like to thank everyone involved with the race. Simply amazing! From registration to finish line to awards ceremony. Second I would like to give a huge shout out to my crew; Jason, Serena and Lisa. You guys gave up your weekend to support my race and I will be always grateful for that. You crewed, you paced, you put my needs above yours - priceless. Third to all the other folks that supported me; family, friends, and teammates.

Jason and I were sipping our Wienerschnitzel milkshakes, (my first, Jason's 2nd), laughing at how warm it was at 8PM. This is going to hurt tomorrow, I said to myself. Ladies didn't get in until 11:30PM. I know because I couldn't sleep. Managed to get 1.5 hours before I got up at 11:30 and stayed awake till 2PM, which was when I showered and got ready. I split my time with the bed and the balcony, looking at the hills I would soon Never been much of a sleeper the night before a race.

Started with an hour drive from our motel in Auburn. Got a chance to talk and hang with the crew for a bit on the drive over. Next time I will get rooms in Squaw then in Auburn for the finish, next time. It was fine for me but it was rough on my crew getting up an hour earlier than was needed. Start was very busy, met up with friends, fellow runners. Jason got busy talking to the other folks that he knew. Lisa was just talking it all in, absorbing everything. Serena was focused on me, she was on mother mode. She was excited, worried, proud of me all at the same time. I finally had to tell her to stop staring at me cause she was making me nervous:)

2 minutes to go, Lisa takes off to get a spot for a picture and Jason is nowhere to be found. I hand off my long sleeve shirt to Serena with a big hug and I'm off to find Georgia. I find her just in time before the gun goes off. We are both slow starters. Up and up we went, mostly a hike for us in this crowd. No one wants to waste precious energy this early in the race. We are just trying to survive and hoping for an under 24 hour finish. On the way up we chat with a guy from Canada, he had no heat or hill training - ooff. He picked a good race to test his perseverance.

Snow! So much snow at the top. I was told it was less than last year's but that means nothing to me since it's my first WS. It was tough going; slow, slippery and wet. It was a march. Lot's of slipping. Finally we summit, altitude didn't bother me but we were only there for a short time and I drove in just the day before. At the top we were greeted by photographers and run patrol. Took some pictures, got some pictures taken of me. Then down the backside we went, where we encountered even more snow. This time the white stuff was mixed with mud and water, soaking our shoes, socks and feet. The seeds of doom for my feet were planted here. Damn you Squaw, damn you.

Then the heat. As the day went on it got warmer and warmer but not as hot as I expected it to be, but enough to slow me down. There was a breeze that helped cool things down. I was very well prepared for the heat, but I wasn't sure until then. I tried entering some races that were historically warm and hot and to no avail. Our long winter season kept things cool. Ohlone 50k it was windy and rainy and Mt. Diablo 50k only got up to a measely 90 degrees. However since March I've been attending a spin class every thursday night that is just stinkin' hot. By the time my hour is up I am always completely drenched and would have consumed 50 ounces of water, not counting the 10-15 ounces I drink before the start of class. My body in short was used to drinking, sweating, drinking, sweating in warm conditions. I also choose to sit in the hottest sections of the room:), up front away from the door. Other things that I did to help mitigate the effect of the heat; took advantage of all the "sponge baths" at the aid stations, had my bottles filled with ice at every opportunity, used my bandana to soak up water in the streams, wiped my face constantly with cold water, wrapped ice with my bandana which I would use to ice the carotid arteries in my neck (thank you Lisa Bliss MD) and relentless drinking of H20 and Carbo Pro along with salt tablets(Succeed Salt Tabs, 341mg of sodium per tablet), once every hour initially then once every :45 minutes. Succeed is 4 times more potent than Endurolytes my triathlete friends, you might want to make the switch so you're not popping an E-cap 4 times an hour. Just a thought. In short I did very well in the heat, not bad for a guy whose idea of perfect running temperature is 60 degrees. As the day wore on I got faster and faster, my typical M.O. I'm a slow starter but a strong finisher, just like Olga, Georgia, Brian and Karalee to name a few. I know my crowd:) From mile 10 I started passing people. I was behind the 24 hour splits when I started and gradually gained time. Halfway through the race I was in my groove and on schedule for a 24 hr. finish. I was feeling very strong, not just on the downhills but also the uphills, where I am usually at my weakest. My nutrition was also right on. One bottle of Carbo Pro per hour, one bottle of H20, GU energy gel, and a small helping of peanuts...yes peanuts - not a lot just enough protein to slow down the digestive system. Carbo Pro unlike Accelerade has no protein in it's mix. I decided that my nutrition should be in liquid form to avoid any stomach issues in the heat. Guys it worked like a charm, energy was not a problem and hydration was not a problem. Coming out of the first canyon I dropped a bunch of folks. Heart rate this whole time was for the most part 20-25 below maximum, nothing crazy, a pace to get me to 100 miles under 24h.

Then it started. It began as a hot spot, a little pain in the ball of my left foot, on the long descent to the bottom of the second canyon. My first thought was, "how is this possible with duct tape". Fall of last year I saw a fellow runner use duct tape on his feet at the Cascade Crest 100-miler in Washington. Tested it for my Grand Canyon run, used it for Miwok 100k this year and other shorter races and had no problems with my feet. I found my magic cure. So confident was I that I left my blister kit with my crew at the Foresthill station at mile 62. Luckily I had my pocket knife with me, so I made the decision to lance the blisters before it got any bigger. Sitting down by the side of the trail I found the extent of the damage. Duct tape was no longer attached when I pulled the sock off. My feet were all shriveled and white from the moisture, the tough outer layer of my skin was now soft and had the beginnings of other blisters - too small to lance but painful. Did what I could and moved on. Slicing with a the blade of a knife without antibiotic is NOT and ideal situation, but I had to make do with what I had. Never dwell on what you should/don't have, use what you what you've got. This applies for the mental and physical, the intangible and tangible. From here on out it was downhill for my feet which eventually took me out of contention for the 24 hour mark. The thought of which still makes me angry.

By the time I got to Foresthill aid station at the 62 mile mark I was in considerable pain but it was sooo good to finally see the gang. Not only were they a sight for sore eyes but they had my back pack which contained all my backup supplies. I also had fresh socks and shoes there. It took me awhile to leave the station. I had to do some blister repair and reloading of supplies. I was too embarrassed to seek medical help. My feet looked horrendous. Huge mistake, should have gone with the professionals who dealt with this all day. Leaving the station with fresh socks and new shoes did help though, for a bit anyway. What followed was some of the best running I did all day. My first pacer was Jason and we ran hard at first. In fact there were 4 sections where we went all out, at least I was. Flying down the single track, quietly with no one around, I would throw in sprints - swoosshhhh through trees, leaves, rocks, roots and dust, laughing as we went. It was getting dark and I wanted to take advantage of the remaining daylight. I was also just so high having a pacer, having the company of a friend after so many solo miles. Burn, burn, burn. Burn those carbs baby, I've got more in my pocket.

However as the sun set so did my chances at finishing under 24h. New blisters have formed, because of the existing blisters I wasn't able to reapply duct tape on my feet and they were left unprotected. My feet were also swollen which made things worse. New blisters everywhere. This time Jason knocked some sense into me and I sought medical help, 3 separate times! This was a low point for me, I felt like I had let my crew down, my pacer down. I never saw the race as "my" race but "our" race and I was no longer doing my part. By the time I dropped off Jason and picked up Serena my pace had dropped considerably. All the people I passed had passed me back and I knew deep down that while I had the energy to chase my feet were done. They were actually done 10 miles ago, now I just had to survive the next 20 with some dignity and deal with the guilt of doing so poorly later! Block out the pain, I said to myself. You are not going to DNF (did not finish), one day you will but not here and not now, I yelled silently to myself. Unless you break something you are not QUITTING this race, they would have to time you out to do so. You did not journey 5 years only to quit, move runner move...

Serena's section was 13.7 miles. I felt so bad that she had to babysit. It was a run, jog the whole way. There were moments where she only had to walk to keep up with me running. Sometimes she would lead, sometimes she would follow. At this point I stopped drinking, kept eating but not drinking. I was so bloated. I was no longer sweating heavily but was still taking in 20-25 ounces an hour. Weigh-ins pretty much confirmed my suspicion, I was over 2 pounds. So I stopped drinking for awhile and let nature take it's course, must have pee'd 5 times, eventually I felt better. Sorry Serena:) Nevertheless we had a good time. She had hiked at night before but nothing like this. Now this is the most memorable part of the race; feeling very exhausted and sleepy I asked if we could sit for a bit. We sat on the side of the narrow trail, turned off our lights and just stared at the stars. It was like being in the center of a storm. Here we were blissfully, quietly enjoying the environment in the middle of the drama and activity of the Western States 100. Didn't last very long though as other runners caught up to us. That break was well worth it however. It was here that Georgia and her pacer Brian caught me. This woman is amazing. Battling the after effects of a stomach virus she hung on and kept fighting. She would end up finishing a good two hours ahead of me, just plain impressive. The sun came up as we were finishing our run....beautiful.

Lisa was next, a measely 6.5 miles left on the whole race - took forever!!! Ughhh...feet in really bad shape now. Besides the blisters I had slammed by left foot into some rocks. I was no longer picking up my feet because of the blisters and as a consequence I nailed a few nice rocks with my left foot. My big toenail was throbbing, I knew I lost it and the pain was just so bad. Pain on top, pain on the bottom, pain on the back and pain on the front. This was the most painful ultra I've ever done! I could just graze a root and it would send waves of pain up my leg. Lisa led most of the way, several times I would call her back because she would pull away. Getting to "No Hands Bridge" took forever and a day. I was at my shortest here, a part of me just wanted to scream - "Where is this F'ing Bridge". Eventually, thankfully we made it to the bridge. Aid station volunteer thought I had shot quads, nope I said - shot feet. At the end of the bridge I had to sit down, world spun for a minute....whew what was that. It was here that Karen passed me, she was hurting at Duncan Canyon when I passed her on the first half of the race, now here she was charging like Georgia, inspiring. At the top of the climb we run into Mike heading down the hill looking for Olga. His question snapped me out of my stupor, "what do you mean where's Olga, isn't she up there?". Oh boy, a stronger runner having a worse day than mine's? It really must have been bad out there. The last mile is on pavement. Guys I have never ever been so happy to see pavement in my life and I told my crew so. Serena and Jason were waiting for us at the top. Pavement felt good and I punched it, muscles were fine it was the feet. Ran hard, my fastest most comfortable speed. Surprised myself, had so much left that I wasn't able to use earlier. Smile crept back to my face! I was in a groove as I hit the track. Another runner from San Francisco preceded me to the finish line. As I round the track, lots of clapping and hooting from the people who were left. Soon as I finished I am greeted by Brian and Georgia, such good sports they are. I love them. I hope I get to compete with them again soon enough. I got my medal, was weighed in and had my blood drawn. We didn't waste anytime at all. Took off right away, didn't mean to be anti-social but I had to attend to my feet asap.

Cleaning up was so painful! oof. Painful, painful, painful. We had two rooms but everyone was crowded in my room. By the time I got up Jason was out in his bed, Serena was out on my bed. As I was putting away stuff, Lisa came in and joined Serena and soon she was out too. I had a room full of tired crew! So I laid down on the floor and promptly slept for a couple of hours. My crew deserves the bed anyway, absolutely. If people come to serve you, they should have the best. The floor was just fine. After we finally got up we headed out to the awards ceremony. It was stinkin' hot. I was dehydrated, peeing very dark yellow. Serena was the first to fade, apparently she was dehydrated too. So I made the decision to take off as soon as I got my buckle. I would have loved to have stayed and socialize some more, watch other worthy runners get their buckle but I was fading and so was one of my crew. I was the last to leave, spent time looking for Olga but couldn't find her. Eventually I gave up and hobbled off the field in the middle of the festivities.

Late lunch was at Sizzler. The food and drink made us feel a whole lot better, so did the conversation. After a Mocha Frappucinno Jason drove my rental home. Serena drove Lisa home. After dropping off Jason I picked up Serena so she could help me with my bags. San Francisco is not a good place when you are hurting, ahahahah. With all our hills, stairs and no parking, you are ensured a painful walk. Serena was smart enough to anticipate my need and offered her help. I let her carry all the heavy stuff:) Evening saw me pasaed out in the middle of a movie.

It was an awesome, awesome race. Memorable! Your first you never forget they say, chances are I won't forget this one. I am eternally grateful to my crew/pacers. I can't say enough to convey my gratitude. I am disappointed with my effort, but disappointment only makes me work harder. I hope to be back. WS, till next time. It was a an unbelievably good time.

Folks you'll hear it here first. Jason wants to run WS as well...and Lisa and Serena is looking forward to running their first 50k.


  1. stephen goldmann9:29 AM

    congratulations again rick. great write up.

  2. Thanks Goldmann. Will see you guys when I get back.

  3. Much Respect.

    Good show at Western States.

    Training for Mountain Masochist 50-mile in November. 100 miles is still a bit surreal.