Dustin and I were driving home. We’re cruising along @ 84 miles per hour for several hours. It starts raining, and then its an intense downpour. I slow down to 60. It suddenly feels like we’re crawling. I ask Dustin how fast he thinks we’re going. He thinks 30 or 40.
When you’re used to going a certain speed for so long, a change can seem way more dramatic than it really is.
I was really looking forward to seeing my splits for the portion where I finally caught up to Gerardo. However, I was greatly disappointed. Instead of the sub 8’s I thought I was doing – even if for only a mile or two – turns out my fastest mile for that section was only 9:48 (with a grade adjusted pace of 10:44 since it was downhill.) I could swear I saw a pace faster than that. Regardless, that just shows how unreliable our perception of time and pace can be. After averaging 17 or 18 minute miles for the last 30 hours, 10 minute miles seem like you’re flying.
Before the race, I tried to plan and be as prepared as I could for the race so that I could go into the race feeling confident. I wanted to take out any the usual stresses of preparing for the race so that I could focus on just running. I made my list and shared it with Julie, Dustin and Jake.
Driving up, I ate half a Subway footlong for breakfast, a Whataburger meal for lunch , and some Mexican food for dinner. I definitely think all those calories helped fuel me.
(Of course I shat a dozen times during the race, but that’s part of the deal.)
When our race began, all I could think about was how incredibly crazy windy it was during the start of the 50K in September.
I ran with Dustin for the first loop. I met him at Cactus Rose two years ago. He was doing the 100 miler… on 15 miles a week. I don’t know how he managed that. Apparently, he was doing Lone Star on even fewer miles. He said he has an unusually low resting heart rate, so maybe that has something to do with it. We’ve run several races together, but we weren’t sure if this was going to be a full bromance.
The afternoon was beautiful, but it got a bit too warm for comfort. Dustin has had heat related issues before, so we ran super easy. The course is extremely exposed, so whenever we came across some shade we took a short break. We looked for shade that included slabs of rock because the shaded rocks themselves were cool to the touch. We called these “premium” shade. We saw several runners with only a single water bottle, which seemed like a bad idea.
I was feeling pretty good. Ice bandana was going its job. Dustin had gotten quiet and was slowing down. We talked and I was going to take off on my own for loop 2.
I changed both pairs of socks, my shirts and my shorts. Trying to change into compression shorts with your shoes still on inside of a porta potty is not easy.
I spent a good chunk of time at the aid station. When I left, I saw that I was right at 10 hours.
I always start out in front of Julie, but she always catches up and passes me. I caught up to her and was feeling good, so I pressed on, trying to put some distance between us. I stopped at an aid station and not a minute after I got there, Julie shows up. I kept trying to outrun her, but she somehow kept making up the distance. We leapfrogged a few times. Joe updated us that Julie and I were fourth and fifth. Since Julie always beats me, I was content with fifth place.
But I kept pressing. I was still ahead of Julie. She admitted that climbing was not one of her strengths. Joe gave us more updates about more people dropping. The third place guy was not doing well and was borderline DNF. I found myself in third. I tested out my new iPod entertainment: full audio of Simpsons episodes! There were some funny ones, but it didn’t motivate me to run fast. One of the lead guys dropped, I was in second.
Starting the third Loop, Rob confirmed that I was in second. He said that Gerardo was 40 minutes ahead, but wasn’t moving well / or was hurt / something to that effect. I told Rob, “I want to catch that guy.” 30 miles to make up a 40 minute lead seemed doable.
There was a section of huge rocks right before the peak that made progress glacial, which made staying awake difficult. So I laid down on the trail and took a “nap.” It was probably just two or three minutes, but it allowed my brain to reset and my heart rate to come down a bit. During the night, I took probably about a dozen of these naps.
Climbing the peak takes long enough as it is. And all I could think of was his lead was growing every second. Finally, I meet the guy as he’s coming down the peak.
It was the guy who’d given me a low five in passing. Struck me as odd the first time. Most runners just say “good job” or whatever, but this guy was making an actual physical connection and low fiving.
He asked me if I was doing my second or third loop. When I said third loop, we both knew. I said, “You’re the guy I’ve been chasing!” I’m not sure if he cared, but he took off downhill, he looked to be moving pretty well. I figured maybe he had gotten a second wind with the dawn. I saw Joe and he told me the guy was at Mundy’s at 6:55. When I left, it was like 7:30 (or so). I knew how much time I had to make up and began the hardest run I’ve ever done this late in a race.
For some dumb reason, I kept expecting him to be just around the corner, and of course he wasn’t. Several times I mistook other runners for him. I kept looking for signs of movement, hoping for just a glimpse of him in the distance. Nothing.
At the start of the loop, I was certain I would catch him. At the aid stations, I asked the volunteers how far ahead he was, and they told me about 30 minutes. And that he was walking. That gave me more hope. (But then I realized of course you walk from the aid station, he was probably still eating something.) I asked a 100Ker running toward me, how far ahead the other guy was, he was way ahead and made it seem like it would be impossible to catch him. Then I saw a couple and they told me he was moving really well. That further diminished my hopes. I vacillated between thoughts of “I can do this” to “second place is still pretty good.”
Julie had lent me a book, How bad do you want it? and that’s what I asked myself. I knew this was going to be a hard race just to finish, and here I was with an opportunity to actually win it?? Did I want to win – or settle for second? I decided to push till I either caught the guy or blew up. I was running at a pace that I thought was unsustainable. I knew there was no way that he was running as fast as I was because that would just be dumb. I put on my music and felt exhilarated as I was flying down the trail.
The motivation to actually win a race and set a course record was so energizing. I envisioned my name on Ultrasignup as a “top performer”, getting a 100% rating for once. I have no doubt someone will set a much faster record next year, but this year would belong to me! I kept pushing, occasionally taking walk breaks.
I was waiting to bonk because I was having a hard time taking in calories. My source of calories were watered down coke, Gatorade, and a pitiful amount of M&M’s. Hardly the material to fuel 12 more miles of this intensity. I didn’t know how long I could keep this up, and even if I did catch him, would I be able to stay in the lead?
And then it happened, I see someone up ahead, it’s him. I blast my music to catch up to him, he sees me and he stops and waits for me. Not quite the showdown I imagined. I stop and we chat just a bit. I don’t remember what we said to each other, but he doesn’t seem to mind that I caught him. I am super amped on adrenaline, I shake his hand and take off in full sprint. I want to put as much distance between us as possible, because there is still a huge chunk of mileage to go and I could still manage to bonk.
I’m constantly looking over my shoulder, but there is no one. I drop my pace. No one is going to catch me, I just have to finish. The wind picks up and for the last 10 miles, LITERALLY DOES NOT STOP BLOWING FOR THE REST OF THE RACE. FOR REALS: NON STOP WIND.
One section was scary because I was heading for the pavilion, heading up this huge climb. I didn’t recall this way before, I thought I had taken wrong turn. My heart sank thinking I would lose the race because I didn’t pay enough attention to the signs. I was so far along, I couldn’t turn around, so I kept on going. Luckily, it was the right way.
As I got close to the top and this girl comes down. She asks me which way I came from, I said, “I don’t know, whichever the hell way I’m supposed to.” “Everyone else has been coming from the left and you came from the right…” “I’m not doing the 100K.” And then I continued up the hill.
The last 1.4 miles.
I got to the top of the pavilion (last year’s finish) and got some cheers from the volunteers. I still have some juice in me, so I put on some music and I sprint up the hill. I make it about half way before I realize I peter out and realize that I need to be careful. The wind is literally blowing me to the right.
During the 50K in September, we had to face the wind at the start of the race while we were fresh. And it eventually died off. But this is even worse. The wind is stronger, I just ran 100 miles, and there is absolutely no break in the wind. I am so close to the finish, and I practically have to crawl there. Oh and did I mention all the cactus I’m trying to avoid stepping in or being blown into?
Hill after hill, this 1.4 mile section feels like 14. But then finally I can see the finish. A lump forms in my throat. I always get emotional after long races, this one has felt especially long. I run to the finish, never in my life have I been so happy to hear a cowbell.