Tag Archives: getting lost

FFS!! Cactus Rose Clusterfunk

DSC_0356
The start line. That cool little guy is playing guitar, I believe.

I’ve come to realize that during extended periods of running, my heart must be diverting blood and oxygen headed for my brain to my legs, because my mental capacity bottoms out. I made logistical mistakes that slowed me down, but one huge demoralizing blunder earned me the Einstein title: I took a wrong turn.

DSC_0355
The field where I “camped.”

I got to the park, dropped off my stuff, and picked up my packet. I ate some food, pinned on my bib, got my clothes ready. Even though it was still daylight, I figured I might as well try and go to sleep. Later in the evening, it started to sprinkle. It was off and on for a few hours, and I was glad to not be in a tent. Then I realized that the drop bag with my change of clothes and my rain jacket were just outside of the aid station tent, exposed to the rain. Even though it hadn’t full on rained, I figured my clothes were soaking wet by now. The only thing I could do was to accept it and know that I’d be running in the same clothes all day.

As I lay there, tossing and turning trying to get comfortable, I remember thinking, “Jeez, right now I’m just laying here trying to sleep, but tomorrow I’ll actually be running.” And then bam! It’s 4:55 a.m. I’m standing in a small crowd and some lady is yelling, “It’s 5 minutes till the start!”

The countdown commenced 4, 3, 2, 1 and away goes the pack! The first 14 miles went by pretty quickly, as this is the easiest part of the course, and I was still pumped up. When I picked up my first food bag, I discovered that I put the wrong bag in the cooler, and so I had the wrong split information. No big deal. I ate up everything in my food bag and was feeling good about that. Extra bonus was being able to blast a duke while it was still dark. Fortunately, other than being slightly hungry, I had no stomach issues at all during the race.

At the second aid station, Nachos, I wanted some cold water. Three giant Gatorade coolers and I’m looking around for cups. “Cups?” I ask. Guy replies, “Not at this race.” I was at a loss, and was going to just open my mouth under the spigot, but thankfully the same guy let me borrow his cup. (I had no idea that they weren’t going to provide cups! And I thought that there weren’t any volunteers, but that had to be wrong. No doubt many of the people were spectators waiting for friends / family, but there were definitely some volunteers.) Next aid station: Equestrian B.

I had one food bag that was supposed to be for the Lodge aid station (Mile 25). In an effort to simplify the drop bag business, I decided to leave that bag at Equestrian B. My plan was to grab two food bags when I went through. No big deal, right? Well not if you remember to grab the bag! Which I didn’t! It would be much later until I realized I’d fudged up.

I start working on food bag #2. Power Bar brand gels are freaking sweet, and not in a good way. The vanilla tastes like vanilla frosting. And normally I like Chips Ahoy cookies, but they tasted extremely weird and chemically. The pretzels were pretty rocking, probably due to the salt. The tropical lifesavers were good for keeping dry mouth at bay and tasted yummy. But the big winner was the cola flavored gummies. AWESOME!

By this point in the race, the field of runners was spread out. It seemed like I was the only one out there. Somewhere in there I ran with Ed Brown for a little while. He, in his insanity, was doing the 100 mile. I thought he was going too fast, and so did he. But he was having a good time and was super upbeat.

Miles 18-24 were the big hills. Strangely, they didn’t seem so bad. I was pretty stoked around Mile 23, knowing that I was almost halfway done. And then I got to Mile 24ish. The course came to a tee. There were two signs, one said LOOP 1&3, the other LOOP 2&4. I stopped and looked at the signs, confused. I asked some runner, “Is this the way for loop 1?” I now realize he was probably just as confused as I was. He said, “Yes.” What I should have asked him was, “Which way to the Lodge?” Or better yet, the sign should have said (for the benefit of Einsteins like myself) LODGE with a big fat arrow pointing right. Instead, I went left.

I saw trail markers and thought that was a positive sign. But I didn’t see any runners behind me, in front of me, or coming from the other direction. (When you reach the Lodge at Mile 25, you turn around and go back. So there was two way traffic on the trail.) After 3.5 miles, I came across two ladies on horseback. They’d stopped because one of the horses was taking a huge dump. I asked them where the Lodge was and they told me it was behind me. My heart sunk.

Backtracking was absolutely dreadful because it was hard not to dwell on my mistake. I really wanted to quit. Why did it take me so long to realize I was going the wrong way? Why didn’t I figure that out sooner? Why didn’t I just ask that guy, “Where’s the Lodge?” 

Coming down Lucky’s Peak, I slipped and fell on my butt. I got up and two steps later fell on my butt again. I sat there for a minute. I felt like a baby. I thought for sure I was going to cry. I really wanted to cry, to get all the anger and frustration. But for some reason, I couldn’t. Since I couldn’t get myself to cry, I tried to push all the negative thoughts aside and shift my focus to the trail directly in front of me. That helped. My spirits were lifted when I finally reached the Lodge, but there was still plenty of running to do.

The

next

ten

miles

felt

like

this.

It was soooo slow. Now I understand what they mean when they say you have to train yourself to run on tired legs. It’s like your legs blow a fuse and refuse to run. As a result, I walked a lot. But you can push the reset / manual override and tell your legs to keep running. Provided you are consuming enough calories.

Ah, calories. I was very fortunate that they had gels available at the Lodge. I grabbed only two because I didn’t want to take more than my fair share, but I should have grabbed like four.  As a result, Course Miles 25-35 were tough because I was short on calories. I was actually licking my arms for salt. It would have been way worse without those gels. And I will say this about Hammer Apple Cinnamon gels: as much as I’m not generally a big fan of apple cinnamon flavor, they are the perfect amount of sweetness.

When I finally made it to the Equestrian B aid station, I immediately went to my cooler and gorged: massive instant gratification by chugging a chocolate protein drink, then starting in on some watermelon, and a string cheese, a sip of coke, and chase it all with coconut water…. Glorious! There were several Rockhoppers there that checked up on me and offered assistance. Weirdly, I’d see them again at the next three aid stations. (I believe they were following a runner behind me.)

Having finally consumed some much needed calories, I was able to run some of the last 15 miles. They weren’t fast miles by any means, but speed was the last thing I was concerned with. It was all about finishing.

At this time I, came to the conclusion that I must have kicked every single rock in the park. Twice. I thought about coming back with a sledgehammer and smashing some of those damn rocks, a la Office Space. But rocks are like Gremlins, if you smash one, they turn into more rocks.

My toes were getting pretty beat up, and my shoes felt tighter than usual. Going downhill became a new challenge. I had to be very slow and deliberate with my foot placement, and it was still painful because my toes would get all jammed up in the toe box. I think the Cascadia’s I was wearing simply DO NOT have a large enough toe box. I thought for sure when I finally peeled off my socks, all my toenails would be black. Surprisingly, as of now, I have only one.

Amazingly though, I got not a single blister! I attribute that feat to my double sock method. Injinji toe socks “liners” with Drymax super trail socks. (The Drymax were like $25, but worth every penny.) And I’m not too big of a sweater, so normally chafing isn’t a problem. But I did chafe –ahem this might be TMI– on my nutsack. That has never happened before, and was quite unpleasant.

When I made it to the last aid station, all I could think was, “I’d be done by now.” I tried to enjoy the fact that the finish was close. Maybe an hour. Tim helped fill my Camelback and reminded that, “The rest of the course is easy, it’s all flat.” Except of course, for Lucky’s Peak. Criminy! Just when you think you’re done, the course gives you the finger one more time.

But I finally found my way to the finish line in 12:51. (By my Garmin, official results still pending.)

Jiminy Christmas, the Finish!!!
Jiminy Christmas, the Finish!!!

*   *   *   *   *

So what did I learn?

Planning & Organization = Success. The importance of having your ducks in a row before the race cannot be understated, especially with an undertaking so complicated. I thought I was organized, boy was I wrong!

Make sure your calories and hydration are positioned where and when you need them. Eating solid food early in the race was a little difficult. The food bag was a nice concept, and somewhat successful. However, consuming calories in liquid form is way more efficient. I didn’t drink the Perpetuem like I had planned, so I don’t know how my stomach will handle that. But now I can test it out in training. And I’ll save solid food for the end of the race.

Study the course. Bring a map. You’ll never regret it. If you do get lost or turned around, just concentrate on what’s 5 feet in front of you until you are back on track. Don’t dwell on mistakes and don’t let a time goal be the end-all; sometimes it’s just about finishing. Once you’re finished, you can think of your excursion as “bonus” miles.

Finally, your attitude makes all the difference. You might feel overwhelmed by the difficulties you are facing, but try and remember that it’s the difficulties that make you stronger. Get out of your head and focus five feet in front of you and just keep running.

Cactus Rose Medal. I really earned this one!
Cactus Rose Medal. I really earned this one!

The Good News Part III

FINDING BUDDHA, GETTING LOST

The Buddha I "discovered"
The Buddha I “discovered”

One day I really went exploring. I went down a road I noticed running home from the zoo. Ten minutes into the run, I stumbled upon this Buddha statue. I took some photos (with my iPod, which is why the pictures all these picture are so crummy) and as I made my way onward, I realized this was the backside of a temple my cousin had taken me to. I’d just never seen the Buddha statue.

DSC_0061

DSC_0056

DSC_0067 DSC_0059Now I had a vague idea of where I was. I made my way around a small pond and lo and behold it’s the same pond we’ve been getting water for the farm from! Now I had a much better idea where I was, but that would change soon enough.

I found some really awesome trails made not by runners, but people walking and riding motorbikes. (They ride those things EVERYWHERE.) The trail just seemed to keep going, and even better, it was uphill. Wherever the trail split off, I tried my damnedest to remember where I’d went. I encountered a few people foraging for food, and one guy with a really long, skinny rifle. I think he was hunting birds.

After following the trails for at least an hour, my water supply told me it would be wise to head back home. Attempting to make my way back out, I got myself all turned around and lost. I tried to conjure up some hunter tracking skills looking for my footprints, but couldn’t conjure any results.

I remembered the find-your-way-back GPS function on my Garmin. I had no idea how to use it, but I sort of figured it out. However, I think it just tells you how to backtrack, without regard for where you are in relation to the start/finish, and there was no way I was going to re-run the entire distance. So it may have been more dumb luck than anything, but I did somehow get un-lost.

I was pretty stoked about discovering these trails, and even more stoked about finding my way back home. When I unpacked my Camelback, I saw it was one pull away from completely empty.

THE LONGEST RUN AND GETTING LOST AGAIN

My longest run was 12.3 miles, but it was an awesome 12.3.

I started down another road I’d passed by several times. Going down the dirt road, it came to a T. I went left and saw a trail leading into the woods. After a few minutes, I came upon a pond I’d never seen before. I sat down on the bank. There were some other people there: two kids playing in the water and some guys hanging out on their motorbikes, smoking- which would seem to be the national past time for Thai men.

I sat and relaxed for a spell, watching the kids have fun splashing around in the water. I would love to come back and take a dip here. I’m sure the neighborhood kids would too. I knew I was relatively close to the house, so I was surprised no one had ever taken me here or even told me about it. Are ponds are boring?

Not wanting to get too relaxed, I took off looking for the road the smoking motorbike guys rode in on. Once I found it, I followed it. It ran along side the boundary fence of the zoo. Then into more farming territory. I passed a small hut which appeared to be abandoned.

Up the road, a dog barked and started toward me. Luckily it’s owner, a guy I recognized from the neighborhood, appeared and called the dog off. I thanked him and continued on. I came to a point where I wasn’t sure where to run. I noticed some footprints in the sand [my delayed hunter tracker skills!] and decided to follow them. They took me by a tree farm and then I took a short exploratory detour into the trees. My anal retentive nature loved the orderliness of the trees in rows and had to document it. It’s nowhere near as cool as the real thing.

Again following the footprints, the farmland gave way to a road which offered a small dose of relief. I thought I knew the road, but decided I didn’t. I could flag someone down and ask for directions or a ride if I needed to. Unsure which way to go, I spotted a temple in the distance and decided to go check it out. I saw a truck in the distance heading toward me; I thought it was my Uncle. I kept running, waiting for the truck to pass me, expecting to hear a honk any moment.

The truck passed, it wasn’t my Uncle.

IMG_1055 IMG_1058 IMG_1059

I wasn’t in the mood, so I didn’t enter the temple, as I figured taking a few photos was enough excitement. I’ve come to realize these small temples are pretty common, so no big deal. I continued on, and heard prayer chanting coming from… somewhere. I stopped and listened, trying to determine the source. I thought it might be a function related to the temple.

It would be cool to witness whatever ritual was going on. I headed down the street and entered a residential area. I heard the prayer chant growing louder and louder and then I found it – coming from a loudspeaker. It was a recording.

Slightly amused, I continued through the neighborhood. The garbage was being collected. They still did it the old fashioned way, the poor saps have to pick up each bin by hand. Those guys must be pretty strong. That has got to be a hell of a workout. Hmmm….

Along the way, I did a little garbage collecting of my own. I make collaged postcards using “trash”or “litter,” however you call it. I told my running group that I would send one to whoever wanted one. ( I made about 10 for the group. ) As I ran through the neighborhood, I found some interesting wrappers and assorted trash. I stuffed them into my Camelback. With limited space, I had to be choosy about what trash to pickup. (How ridiculous does that sound?!)

DSC_0024DSC_0042DSC_0039

I ran by some people in the neighborhood, and they all gave me that WTF look. I passed one guy and he just smiled. Then there were two seriously pissed off dogs. I turned around and started walking the other way. The guy I’d just passed had also turned around and was walking back toward me; they were his dogs. I guess he knew the dogs wouldn’t like me.

I tried my best to ask him how to get to Moo 9 (our neighborhood). He hollered at some lady laying in a hammock, I assume he was asking her where Moo 9 was. She said something and then he said something to me. I didn’t understand either of them but then he pointed. The pointing was enough for me. That and corraling his dogs. Off I went, with only the vaguest notion of where I was going.

I turned the corner and saw train tracks. The tracks were a welcome sight because they would lead me to the train station, which is very close to the house… If I just knew which direction the train station was. I had a 50/50 chance of guessing right. I immediately gave up on the tracks and just ran. I ran under a small bridge and was back in a another residential area.

IMG_1063
Khao Suan Kwang sign

Things were seeming pretty hopeless, until I came to this sign. I’d never been so happy to see a road sign. I still didn’t know where I was, but this was concrete proof I was headed in the right direction. I kept running and eventually figured out where I was. I was flooded with relief once I knew exactly where I was. And i was absolutely thrilled about getting lost, and finding my way.

Tired, sweaty, and hungry, I stopped by one of the roadside restaurants near the house. I had eaten there yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed the meal. I told the lady that I would be back for more. She was happy to see me, and quite amused by my running get-up, and the fact that I had just been running. I mean, who does that? I know that’s what she was thinking.

The food was, whether by virtue of hunger or otherwise, absolutely marvelous. Soup never tasted so good. I almost ordered a second bowl, but didn’t have enough cash on me. I walked the rest of the way home, content with another awesome run.

The Good News Part II

THE ZOO

Sadly, the entrance is the best part of the zoo
Sadly, the entrance is the best part.

The first week I ran up to the zoo. I’d run there once on a previous visit, so I knew I’d be safe. There are just a few houses on the way to the zoo, and thus the dog threat diminished, but I was still leery. Only once I got passed the gates did I feel at ease.

IMG_1002
The beginning of the hill…
The hill at the zoo
In case you didn’t realize the hill was steep, here’s a sign.

Inside the gates, all I had to worry about was dying from exertion trying to make it up the hill. It was a pretty decent grade, gaining almost 400 ft elevation over two miles, which might be peanuts to some folks, but it was a tough workout for me.

IMG_0994
The small shrine at the zoo
Offerings
Offering stage

One of my cousins works at the zoo. I was chugging up the hill and I saw her at the small shrine where the workers make offerings. When I saw her, I was like, “She looks familiar. Do I know her…Oh snap, that’s my cousin!” I waved. She didn’t recognize me at first either. I didn’t stop to chat, which I later realized is really is rude, sorry, but lesson learned.

The downhill run was super fun though. It was hard to slow down. I was flying! I’m sure the workers there were thinking “Crazy Farang (foreigner).” Actually, most of Thai people that saw me running had a confused look on their face, that I understood as, “What is that idiot doing?”

THROUGH FARMLAND AND THE WOODS

My earliest run. It was awesome!
My earliest run. The sun was a super intense orange, simply awesome.

The next few runs were out through some farmland. I wanted to be adventurous and go explore. Running in an unfamiliar location is thrilling in that you have no idea where you are, so it’s very easy to get lost – and that’s the best part! You just go. You don’t know where you’re going or what you’ll run into, but you’ll find out when you get there.

I  followed this dirt road for what seemed like eternity. Running unfamiliar locations has that effect, making distances seem greater than they actually are. Eventually the road ended and I turned around. The next time I ran the same course, but ventured out a bit more at the end of the road. And I ran the course a third time and ventured even further.

Thrilling as it was, the idea of getting lost was scary. After all, I couldn’t exactly tell anyone where I was going, since I didn’t know myself. So they wouldn’t know where to look for me if something happened. Often, I was in the middle of nowhere and if I had been injured, it would be hours or days before I saw a person.

IMG_1333
Much of the area had recently burned.
IMG_1014
For all I know, the sign says, “TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT”

I tried to take mental notes about where I was running. I figured worst case scenario, I could simply backtrack. But after a certain point, my brain could recall only so many  “unique” rocks or trees or whatever. And when it’s a million degrees and you’ve been running for an hour… all of a sudden backtracking isn’t so easy. I also had an idea of leaving a trail of bits of torn up neon colored paper, but I tried it and that wasn’t as good an idea in practice as in theory. Big surprise there!

A posted sign however, is unmistakable. This sign was my landmark for where the “road” ended and I ventured off into the woods. There was always a sense of relief when I saw the sign on my way back. I was cautious on those runs and didn’t get lost. So naturally, I stopped being cautious.