Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Mile - Race Report

Wake up at 1:30am and eat 2 peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches. Throw the kids into the car and speed away from the house by 4am. Get to Lake Chabot by 5am. Start running by 5:30am. Run 50 miles on trails for 13 hours 45 minutes and finish just before 7:30pm. It all sounds so easy when I can summarize a race down to the tangible parts.

On 10/12/2013 I ran my first 50-miler on trails in a time of 13 hours 45 minutes. I opted for the early 5:30am start because I knew I would need all the time I could get. The sad truth is that I didn’t train for this race as much as I should have. I did a 35 mile run back in July and a 13 mile run sometime in September. Work made sure that there was not much more to my training than that.

Fast forward to 10/12/2013, and I find myself staring into the darkness at 5:30 am at Lake Chabot. Three of my teammates were there with me, Yvonne, Angela, and Donna. The first few miles were illuminated by headlamps which eventually gave way to the rising sun. I ran with Angela and Yvonne for a good portion of the morning hours. Angela soon shot ahead and then it was just me and Yvonne. At Skyline Gate I lost Yvonne at the porta-potties, but I knew she would catch up to me quickly. It was on that portion that it seemed like things for me went downhill… literally.

From Skyline Gate there was a really fast downhill portion. I was navigating it pretty well when my right foot found an immovable rock in the trail. I soon found myself flying into the side of the trail while my legs simultaneously decided to cramp up. Another runner helped me up (he had no choice since I was blocking the trail). I quickly got running while trying to take stock of the numerous scrapes on my legs, the splinters in my hands, and the cramps in my legs that were now slowing me down.

Not long after that Yvonne caught up to me. She stayed with me for a little while to make sure I was okay, but she eventually had to go. Soon, Donna caught up to me and passed me as well. I was having a hard time climbing the uphill portions. Both my quads were cramping which seriously hindered my ability to bend my legs. I popped some salt tablets which did not help at all. Then I decided to tie the bandanas I had with me around my thighs. The compression seemed to do the trick and pretty soon I was climbing again.

I saw Josh and Mama Lisa around the Steam Trains. Mama Lisa asked how I was doing (Yvonne had told her I was having trouble with leg cramps). Apparently Josh was having some similar problem. Mama Lisa sprayed our collective legs with BioFreeze which felt good and excruciatingly painful (remember the scrapes) all at the same time. I also told her that I had consumed 12 salt tabs, which caused her to have a horrified look on her face. She said I needed to flush out that salt or else my kidneys would shut down. Got it, no more salt and take in a little more water.

On my way to the turnaround point I was happy to hear Brian’s voice. It was nice to have company for a bit, and he helped pace me to the turnaround point at Lone Oak Picnic area. We saw Angela, Yvonne, and Donna heading towards us coming from the turnaround point. At Lone Oak Mama Lisa told me I had 20 minutes to get out of there due to the cutoff time. I should have done more research, because I did not know about the cutoff time. I dumped a water bottle into my drop-off bag and had two cups of chicken soup. As I look back on it, the chicken soup was the thing that got rid of the leg cramps. I said goodbye to Mama Lisa and left Lone Oak. It was now around 12:15pm and I had an uphill climb with 1 hour 45 minutes to my next cutoff point 4 miles away. I remember thinking at this point, “You just did a marathon, now you have to do another one. Suck it up! You can do this.” I think my inner voice is crazy.

Pretty soon that inner voice was followed by a text from my wife, Victoria, which said, “You can do this, no more DNFs.” That got me going.

I got to the next point with about 20 minutes to spare. This is where it got good. Cyndi who is part of the Ultra Team said she could pace me the rest of the way. I was really happy, because my mind was getting really negative at that point. Every aid station until the end had a cutoff time. Cyndi got me to each and every one of them. She pushed me to run when I needed it. She gave me candy or energy bites when my brain was falling asleep. And at every single aid station, Mama Lisa was there.

I made it to the last aid station/cutoff with about 10 minutes to spare. Mama Lisa met us a little ways before the aid station to tell us that we had little time left to the cutoff. At this point we picked up the pace. Cyndi and Mama Lisa flanked me on either side as we strode for about a quarter-mile at a 7:33 minute/mile pace. As I saw the aid station in the distance my stupid right foot hit another immovable rock and I went flying… again. Mama Lisa and Cyndi picked me up and I checked in. I now had 6 miles left.

It was 5:45pm and I had 6 miles to cover before the 7:30pm race cutoff. I had already run 44 miles. I knew I just had to finish. The strategy for running these races was to run the downhill and flat portions and walk the uphill portions. I can’t remember when I made the decision, but I was just going to run as much as I could… even the uphill portions. I remember after one uphill portion that we ran Cyndi saying something about “Beast Mode.”

It was now dark, but I remember seeing the welcome sight of lights from the marina in the distance. We were now on pavement which made my footing a little surer. It wasn’t too much longer when I heard cowbells. Pretty soon I had a little entourage consisting of Mama Lisa, Cyndi, and Vickee. The UltraTeam was there too cheering me on. I sprinted the last few yards and crossed the finish line 15 minutes before the race cutoff.

There are so many people who I would like to thank. First of all I would like to thank all of you that contributed to my fundraising. With your help I raised over $3000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I would like to thank my wife and best friend, Vickee, for letting me be me no matter how crazy I sound. I would like to thank all of my UltraTeam mates for all the support over the past year; especially my fabulous mentor, Yvonne. Extra special thanks to Cyndi for pacing me… honestly I don’t think I could have finished without you. Mama Lisa, you believed in me… all the thanks in the world cannot adequately convey how grateful I am.

I promise next year I’ll train better!