13 June 2011

San Diego 100 Mile Race Report: Tales from the Crypt

Hard earned sub 24 buckle, yeah.
What a weekend for the San Diego 100 Endurance Run. I flew into San Diego Thursday and my friend (up to this trip just blogging and email friend), Matt and his son, Jack, picked me up and headed to their place where I met his awesome wife, Angela. 

Instead of driving out to Mt Laguna Friday for the prerace stuff (Matt would have to make 3 trips out there for me already), we went for a short morning run, then putzed around SD where Matt showed me the area where he grew up by the ocean. It was a really relaxing, fun day to spend time with him and his son. Matt and I realized and acknowledged that we are eerily similar in many regards, so I can't point out any quirky observations of him since it would be a reflection of myself. Actually, we had a great time and I truly enjoyed spending time with him and his beautiful family. 

Matt and Jack.  Thanks so much to you guys and Angela for the great weekend and your generous hospitality and the fun conversation and laughs.

As with most of my races, I was fairly relaxed going into this one. I had conservative splits planned, the weather looked good, I felt good, and I was eager to spend the day on the trails. 

Race morning I saw fellow Coloradan and genuinely nice guy, Dylan Bowman and we chatted a bit. I picked him to win but didn't tell him lest it put some voodoo on the boy beforehand. 

Dylan giving the thumbs up, which must mean "1" as in first place.
Race Director, Scott Mills, giving last minute instructions just before the 7am start.  On the line, Dylan Bowman, Rod Bein, Topher Gaylord, Ben Hian with Krissy Moehl, the female dominating force lurking around the front as well.

From the start I eased into a soft pace around 10th place and spent most of the first hour talking with a couple guys. I hit the first aid station at 7.4 miles at 1:07 into the race and felt good. Things continued like this and by the 31.3 mile aid station I was up on my splits by about 50 mins, hitting the 50k point in right around 5 hours. 

Enjoying the early hours of the race in my summer-y white McDavid calf sleeves.

Chatting with Matt as he's taking pics.
The San Diego 100 holds back on nothing.  Super hard, well marked course, stocked elaborate aid stations, very high quality items given to participants (embroidered sweatshirt, Patagonia tech shirt, socks, bag, nutrition bottle, nice sub 24 buckle, finisher medal.  Really spectacular race.

From here at mile 31.3 we head out for a hilly 5 mile loop that comes back to the same aid station. I made the mistake of not eating there or grabbing any gel for the loop. I think at this point I started transitioning into a racing mindset and was more concerned with moving up on people, so overlooked fundamental things like food and water. That loop was awful. It was hot and exposed with swarms of horseflies. I got so frustrated by trying to keep them off me that I just let them come along for the ride and bite me. 

I reached the end of the loop and the aid station again, now mile 36ish. I was spent from no calories over the last couple hours so I ate a gel a the station and grabbed two for the climb out. I felt weak but not worried. The next section would be the crux of the race and lead to the culmination of mistakes I'd made and was about to make. 

This next section is a monster climb on a small exposed road that would make Alberto Contador cringe. I drained my bottle early into the climb, crawled to the top (about 4 miles to 6000 ft), then had another 12 miles on exposed trails (now in the heat of the day) to reach the 51 mile aid. So I had been out of water for about four hours. 

I staggered into the aid station, stepped on the scale and it took a minute to do the math so I showed the lady my wrist band with my start weight and we looked at the display, 15 lbs down. I could see the alarm on their faces and they had EMT come over. There was no doubt my race was over because my legs were so painful and locked with cramps that I couldn't stay standing and my skin was dry and pale. 

I felt so mentally out of it and depressed (not another fucking dnf!). I thought about how stupid I felt when Darren pushed through and finished antelope 100 when I had quit at mile 50. I didn't want that but I knew I couldn't keep going; there just didn't seem to be any way I could. I figured losing so much weight that people would understand and that I could justify the dnf somehow. 

A lady Named Anne (veteran ultra runner herself) started working on me, water, Ensure, electrolyte drink, over and over. I was just lying on the ground mat they had cramping and feeling miserable. After about 45 mins she got me to my feet and helped me hobble around trying to get my legs to stop seizing and loosen up. It was not looking good. Finally, I figured I better go if I was going to try because it would be late and cold by the time I reached my night drop bag a long 13 miles away. I left 51 at a bit after 6:30pm, 11 hrs and 30 mins since I started the race. 

Once I got moving and the 50+ ounces of liquid and fuel i had consumed took effect, I felt better. The severe cramping had strained tendons behind my knees but the pain was manageable. Soon, I was passing people like they were standing still. I must have passed 30-40 people. Everyone commented on how I passed them. "where'd you come from?". "Whoa, This isn't a 10k". "Take it easy, you've got 42 miles to go." I just had this driving one track mindset and was all push! push!! push!!!

It went on like this through the night, endless rocky, narrow cliff trails climbs, descents, aid stations like an oasis with light and warmth, in and out quickly back into the cold blackness. I was into a rhythm and happy to be moving. 

Matt was to meet me at mile 91.5 and jog in with me to the finish. He hadn't been running for quite a while due to injuries but he and I felt that he'd do fine with my anticipated slow pace after 90+ miles in my body. We ran it in steadily from there and suddenly I was done, 15th place in 22:46 (I'm willing to bet I ran one of the fastest times of the day with Matt that last 8.5 mile section - we were moving pretty well). The whole experience hasn't sunk in yet. It's like someone taking away something you value deeply then giving it back unexpectedly, so your level of appreciation is indescribable. I learned more in that one day about the sport, the human body, and myself than I've experienced in several years. 

It's difficult to find the words to express how grateful I am to the aid I received.  I could (should) be sitting here now typing excuses for not finishing.  I owe this race to the aid given me at Sunrise Aid Station.  Anne wouldn't give up on me and I'm glad I didn't give up either.