Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Money in da bank!"

Pre-race with the best crew chief ever.
Guts Reactor Run 100 mile trail run.  Sat March 5th 0630.  The course was a figure eight with the large loop being 13 miles and the small loop being 7.3 and completing each five times.  Total mileage by my calculations was 101.5 miles with total elevation gain around 11,000.  Rain and chilly air greeted us at the start line and would prove to be the theme of the day.  Scratch that.  On second thought the theme of the day was MUD!  The course was 80% single track and 20% jeep roads.  The single track sections were pure mud.  Shoe sucking, flowing over the top, no way to go around it mud.  The jeep roads were semi hard pack gravel which quickly turned to more mud once enough rain fell.  Some of the mud was squishy.  Some of the mud was slippery making uphill climbs next to impossible and downhill descents more like skiing than actual running.  Some of the mud was the sticky kind that layered over and over on the bottom of the shoes.  Some of the mud was pure suction that continually tugged at the shoes attempting to claim them as a prize.  Some of the mud was deep enough to flow over into the shoes even with gators on and then squirt back out on the next step only to repeat the process.  I even think some of the mud was slipping and sliding on itself, but this was never verified.  Ok moving on.  Did I mention it was muddy?


I won’t bore you with details of each lap.  I ran all the run able sections and walked most of the hills right from the word go.  This was very hard to do for me but I knew I had the longest day of my racing career in front of me so no need to rush it.  I came into the race with two goals.  The first, as always with any challenge of this magnitude, was to finish.  Short of a bone poking through the skin, I was pretty sure I had this one in the bag even before the first step.  The second was to finish in less than 24 hours.  Once the rain was falling and I saw just how bad the conditions on the trail were, I wasn’t too sure about this one.  In order to keep me on track for this, I devised a timing plan that I labeled "The Bank".  Five twenty mile laps gave me 4 hour and 48 mins to complete each.  So I gave myself 3 hours for the big loop and 1:48 to the small loop.  Every minute under those times would be extra time in my bank.  So the plan was to put time in the bank at the beginning and not withdraw too much by the end to keep me under 24.  My crew chief and totally awesome girlfriend was in charge of keeping track and it worked like a charm.  I assumed I would be withdrawing time out of this bank after the half way point, but when I kept coming in under the allotted time for each lap, I was getting more and more excited. 

In my job and in the areas that I work, I come across a lot of music that I really don’t consider "music" and requires no talent at all to "compose".  Yet somehow these songs get stuck in my head and become inside jokes with friends and coworkers.  One in particular became an inside joke with me and my brother.  The song's main (and I think only) lyrics are:  "I got money in the bank, shawty whatcha drank." (if you haven’t heard this, you tube "Lil Scrappy Money in the bank" to get the full effect at your own risk).  This became a line between me and my brother (also a cop) anytime we would talk about money or banks.  It was to the point where it was almost uncontrollable and would be stuck in our heads for the remainder of the day after one of us sang it.  So half way through the race when I realized I was still putting time in my 24 hour bank, this lyric popped up and became the theme of each stop at my crew area.  It was probably more for me to help take my mind off of the growing miles and to keep up with my positive attitude during the later miles in the race.  Either way it worked as I was able to keep putting "money in the bank" for every lap on the course.  Side note, at this point, I was still 100% upright for the race.  No falls.

The later miles came with a bit more rain and dropping temps, but my attitude stayed positive and I was able to make pretty fast crew stops and get back out on the trail.  I never hit "the wall" and never found the "dark place" that are famous in ultra marathons.  Probably the lowest point was at mile 53 when I came in the crew tent.  I had a shoes and socks change that slowed my stationary time down a bit and I quickly became extremely cold.  That’s when I could actually feel my mind shutting down.  I was having a hard time making the words in my head come out and was told that my eyes looked very distant.  Probably had the early stages of hypothermia.  So being the awesome crew that I had, they realized this, threw me gloves, stuck a beanie on my head and got me back on my way with a couple pacers one lap earlier than we had originally planned.  No worries since so many good friends showed up to help out that I still had plenty left for the remainder.  Joe and Lauren weren’t even actual scheduled pacers and ended up being a perfect fit.  The cloudy head and even the beanie only lasted a half a mile.  I ripped off the hat and stuck it in my pocket and was feeling great again once I got warmed back up on the trail.  Contrary to my worries about the pacers being miserable, they were actually having a great time and enjoying the crazy conditions.  Kind of speaks to what kind of friends I have.  Positive attitudes and crazy personalities.  Joe fell and semi took out Lauren, but we didn’t count it against Lauren as a fall.  I still kept my wheels down.

Quick fuel stop and still smiling!

That was the last lap in the light.  I got back at mile 60 and did a much faster crew stop and headed out with my brother with headlamps and small flashlights in hand.  I had come out a few weeks earlier and did a 25 mile training run on this course at night to see how different it would be.  I never once got lost or even questioned where I was even with criss crossing trails, hidden trail heads and crossing jeep trails everywhere.  So I was pretty confident headed out in the dark.  May have been a little over confident.  What I didn’t plan on was running it at night in the fog and rain and mud after 60 miles of fatigue were in my legs and head.  This proved to be a bit more challenging than my night training run.  The trail’s turns and intersections were not very well marked due to weak chem lights in the fog and I found myself second guessing a few of the turns.  We never got all the way lost, but it definitely had more of my attention.  Either way I was again pleased to know that my pacer was having a blast as he had never run in any of the above conditions.  Yet another positive attitude and happy go lucky loop.  Steve fell more than anyone, but to his credit, he was hardcore (hard headed) enough to come out with road shoes.  Me?  Still upright.

Chuck bleeds!

Back in at 73 for what seemed like an even faster crew stop, although this might be my imagination by now.  I headed back out with my new pacer Chuck.  We are both doing Umstead in April so he already had 30 miles in his legs from earlier in the day and still came out to haul me around another 7 in the mud.  Yet again another great loop and we were both having a blast and talking smack.  Chuck fell too, just saying.  In fact, he managed the most mangled injury of the night and with only a quarter mile left in his pacing loop.  Congrats Chuck!  You win the “Doh” award of the night.

Jill after her mud swan dive
At mile 80 I was excited to know I was picking up Jill the "Poonstar" Poon.  She was possibly the most excited about coming out and crewing and pacing for the race short of my girlfriend Dani.  And I love to feed off of other peoples positive vibes.  She is full of them so I knew I was in for a good loop.  Within half a mile I heard a voice behind us and I thought "Damn I must be slowing down cause I’m about to get looped."   I was relieved to find out it was Yvonne.  When she realized how much fun everyone was having out on the course, she quickly stole Lauren's trail shoes and tracked us down.  The very motivating theme of this loop?  Last time I've got to do this hill/climb/decent/aid station/turn/whatever.  And just as I thought, both ladies helped keep me in good spirits.  Who wouldn’t be happy running with two lovely ladies in the dark, right?  Jill had an ever so graceful swan dive into a puddle and wins best fall of the night.  Im pretty sure she actually disappeared for a full second under mud and water when I heard her trip and turned around to see.  Yvonne stayed upright and I was now just one loop away from keeping my feet facing the mud the whole time.

Crew stop at mile 93 was more like NASCAR tire change.  Hand me two bottles and giddy up.  I headed out with Leeb and my girlfriend/crew chief/best sherpa in the world, Dani.  I owe her so much for this race I can’t even begin to thank her.  She was the only one there from start to finish and actually ended up with around 40 hours straight of no sleep.  Course that might have been the overdose of 5 hour energy, ripped fuel, red bulls and chocolate covered espresso beans.  Well she had probably the most fun out of all the pacers while she was jumping into puddles two feet at a time like an 8 year old in galoshes.  Leeb was excited too as he thought he was going to get to pace someone earlier in the night that needed help but they bagged the lap a quarter mile in.  So halfway through the loop I started asking about time and doing some math.  At this point I knew I would be able to crawl it in under 24 hours, but had no clue I was about to blow it away.  I asked the aid station volunteers if the rumor my crew was getting was correct and that I was in second place.  They verified and so I took off again with paranoid thoughts of getting caught at the end and losing a place.  I had no dreams of placing at all but once it was there, I wasn’t going to give it away.  The rest of the loop I was asking Dani and Leeb if they saw any lights coming up behind us.  They kept reassuring me I was fine and would hopefully not have to pull out a sprint finish.  Leeb took off at the end of this loop with about a half a mile to go to let my peeps know I was on my way to the finish.  What an amazing feeling!  The smile on my face says it all.  I’m pretty sure that if it got any bigger it would swallow my whole face.  See video below.  Dani fell several times.  Leeb stayed up.  And me?  Hell yes.  Stayed on my feet in the slick, muddy ass, dark, tired, wet, cold, technical conditions for 101.5 miles.  There should be an award just for that.

Many thanks to all that came out in support.  Jill Poon, Chuck Mathison, Joe Whitwell, Lauren and Rudy Cortjens, Yvonne Bedell, Stephen Leeb,  the older OB, Steve and Tat Spencer, Sarah Bell and always special thanks to the one and only Dani Grabol.  I would’ve done it either way, but you guys made it faster and 100 times more fun.  I’m very proud to call you wild and crazy folks my friends.  Congrats in order to all finishers of all distances in such tough conditions.  Thanks to Tony the RD for putting on the race and assuring that we were not short changed on mileage.  Thanks to Alex Poon for taking care of the boys while Jill came and played in the mud.  Thanks to All3Sports for the tent and gear.  Without that tent, it may have been a totally different story.  And you can never say enough thanks to all the volunteers that braved those conditions and keep us going all night.  They could have just as easily stayed at home in a warm bed but their dedication out there is always much appreciated.

The  OB CREW!!

Race stats: Official time 21:41:47.  2nd place overall.  45 people did not start.  54 started the 100, only 17 finished.  9 DNF and the rest dropped down to shorter distance.  The winner was an hour and a half ahead of me.  Third place was an hour and half behind me.  Apparently those paranoid thoughts were misplaced on the last lap, but you never know.  I just knew I was going to hear Dan Arnett’s voice coming up behind me at the end.

Lessons Learned: 
1.      If a body part even has a fleeting thought of rubbing another body part, put body glide, vaseline, chamois butter, spit, snot, something, anything on it.
2.  Just because conditions are horrible, doesn’t necessarily mean     attitudes have to be.
3.  When you think your flashlight is dying, try wiping the mud off the lens first, DUH.
4.  In a cold, rainy and wet ultra, don’t ever ever ever forget nipple band aids.  Ever.
5.  Good friends make everything better.
6.  Injinji socks rock in any conditions.  Feet should’ve been hamburger.  Not one blister.
7.  Danielle Grabol is the most dedicated girlfriend in the world, hands down.  End of discussion.

An awesome poem quote that kept my attitude positive:
“It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

Up Next??  Umstead…..Bitches!