Black Canyon 100k 2017
|February 23, 2017||Posted by Melinda under Event Report, Ultra Running|
I don’t have a clue where to start this story.
At the last aid station when I told Ashley I had 2 hours to make the last 7 miles in the freezing, wind-driven rain and then I was going to die of hypothermia?
Or do I describe how the mud and water running over the trail was so epic that I don’t the words to describe to you the chocolate milkshake soup I ran through for hours and hours and hours?
Or do I start at the beginning armed with a pace chart that is nothing more than a complete guess on a course I’ve never seen, on a distance I’ve never run, on legs that have ran 2x in 3 weeks?
Or the end when I’m sitting in the gym shaking so badly from cold I can’t keep coffee in a cup for an hour staring at the runners in medical laying on cots and wrapped in sleeping bags, wondering how cold I have to be qualify for one of those spots?
It’s now 4 (and now 5….) days post race and I still don’t have a cohesive story to share with you. The problem is I want to skip to the end and brag about all the things I got right and how it proved to me that the 100 miler last year wasn’t a fluke.
You don’t need to run a ton of miles to run ultras and have fun. You can have a family, a job, and other responsibilities and still do this. It was a gnarly and challenging course and I put my head down, kept moving and got it done. Despite the stress of evacuation the week before, being sick during my normal peak of the training cycle, and various other challenges that popped up I was able to to finish within the 17 hour cut off needed for it to count as a Western States 100 mile qualifier.
When I reflect on the weekend I don’t really have a good story to tell you besides how beautiful the course was, how wonderful my pacer was (she actually checked me into my Southwest flight while we were running down the trail in the dark!!!!!!!), and how very challenging the mud made everything. Fortunately Ashley has written *her* version of this story and it can be found here. Since she did such a good job of describing all the important bits, I’m skipping straight to the 3×3’s. To make up for that, I’ll elaborate more than usual on my 3×3 run-down, and I’m not promising to limit myself to three things. Ready for the Good, the Bad, and the
1. Shoes and socks
So….I’m pretty sure if I ran 62 miles in the mud and the water without a single moment of dryness, without shoe or sock changes, and not a single blisters that this gear is dialed in. I have another brand new pair of Hoka Challenger 2’s sitting in a box – after that I’ll have to see whether the 3’s work as well for me.
2.Words are power
I needed to finish this race in 17 hours or less so that’s what I said would hapen. Truthfully I was feeling uneasy about being able to do that as the race got closer and my training was…..
inadequate non-existant. When the course change occurred at the last minute so that the river crossing was avoided, I arbitrarily decided that the new course was easier.
Ummm…it wasn’t. In good weather the alternative course *would* have been an easier course than the original. In this weather the original course was un-doable, and this alternate course was probably right in line or a little more difficult than the original course.
But that’s not what I had in my mind and so that’s not what I was telling myself.
Did I know that a little form of self trickery was probably in play? Yeah. Did I care? Nope. So I continued to say it as many times as I had a chance. “Now that the course has changed I give myself a good chance of getting a sub-17 hour. ”
Here’s the crazy thing…..on race day I was hitting splits on my pace chart that were COMPLETELY MADE UP without ANY DATA as I sat on the couch in my living room. They were splits that would get me to 16:30 finish and I wasn’t more than a couple minutes off either way ALL DAY, even though this was my first 100k race ever, on a course I’d never seen.
Here’s my take away lesson: Ignorance is bliss and conviction of word is powerful. Never underestimate the power of putting down your expectations and then ignoring all other reality checks that suggest that something else will happen.
Overall I was very happy with my pacing. That 100 miler wasn’t a fluke, I do have a good sense for pacing and running by “feel”. At this race I ran with significantly more effort than ideal in the first half because of the mud and terrain but I was able to adapt and get it done.
I think I credit my success in pacing and my ability to go forward in long races to a curious mixture of optimism and pessimism.
I am by nature an optimist. Optimism is what gets me to sign up for races and is why I have this infallible belief that I can *always* put one foot in front of the other. What’s the big deal? Just do it! It will be an adventure!
What gets the credit for me actually executing a race properly is the uncharacteristic pessimism that rears it’s head about 1 week before big races. “WHAAATTT????? What am I doing???? I am in no way trained for this. OK. Damage control time. Go out conservatively, if I hit these relatively easy paces I’ll still be under the time I need to qualify. This is going to be so hard. Insanely hard. The hardest thing you’ve ever done. It’s going to hurt so bad. Just go out and run easy and smell the flowers. If you are still on track half way through maybe push. But not much. Save something for the last 10 miles. This is still doable if you run smart and safe and aren’t stupid. Next time you really do need to train more. ARE YOU LISTENING?????? NEXT TIME YOU WILL ACTUALLY BE READY FOR THIS SHIT. ”
And then of course everything is fine because I didn’t blow out my legs in the first third, it actually doesn’t hurt that bad (when you are prepared for it to feel like bilateral limb amputation without anesthesia your mind is really set up well for “not that bad!”), and I’m “running so much better than I thought I would be!” (again not difficult when the visualization pre-race was a death slog done partially on hands and knees”.
Optimism with a bit of frantic panic….it’s a good recipe so far!
3. I can manage my nutrition and stomach LIKE A BOSS
To be fair, I didn’t have significant problems with nutrition/elytes until after the 60 mile point of the 100, but I feel like the cold weather and slick footing had me working far harder earlier in the race than my 100 miler. Also, just because something was managed well at the last race doesn’t mean I actually know what I’m doing. I could have just gotten lucky.
In general I followed exactly the same strategies as my 100 miler. A snack every 30 min whether I was hungry or not. If I didn’t feel like eating I sometimes took an extra elyte capsule with the food. Pigged out at the aid stations. Drank a combination of perpectuem and water – whatever sounded best.
4. Saw the Sights
This is the first time that I’ve flown anywhere and ran somewhere that was completely new. I flew in really early on Friday and explored the Phoenix Art Museum with a friend, did some shopping, and ate icecream. It was a wonderful visit. I also learned that I’m much more in the mood to do this prior to the race than afterwards!
1. I got cold.
Really cold. I’m not even sure what I could have done differently. I had a new Columbia water-proof, wind-proof, breathable jacket and was clammy and wet 100% of the time. I didn’t actually get cold until the end and by that time the wind was whipping around and through everything – except the jacket, which actually was windproof thank God. It wasn’t just me that spent the whole race sopping wet. I asked most of the people around me who were wearing various levels of jackets – name brand, off brand, water proof, $300, $10, trashbags – we were all wet. Every single one of us. Water was still beading off the surface of the jacket even when I was wet, so I think perhaps it was a combination of water getting into the jacket around the collar when I didn’t have the hood up, and from my body heat?
The long sleeve wool running shirt went a long ways to keeping me warm most of the day.
Tights would not have helped
I was wearing knit gloves and and even wet they made a huge difference.
I had a half-buff on my head and ears. Maybe if I had my full size buff it would have made a marginal amount of difference?
I dunno. At the end with 7 miles to go and the worst mud in front of us I couldn’t move down the trail fast enough to keep warm unless we were going uphill. I didn’t eat or drink in that last 7 miles because if I stopped to pee, I would freeze to death and die. If I moved my arms around inside of my cold wet jacket to open food packets, or check the time on my watch, or scratch my nose, I would freeze and die. I was convinced that if anything happened that caused us to stop on the trail, or have to stay out there longer than two hours, I was going to be truly hypothermic and would probably die.
I suppose that with the conditions, I should just be grateful that for over 50 miles I was wet but relatively comfortable.
This is the second coldest I’ve been in my life. The coldest was during a 50 miler on Minx early in my endurance career where it was raining…and I didn’t own *anything* that was waterproof. I’d never needed to! I ended up with some PTSD for a couple of years after that anytime my body started to get cold or I saw rain drops while riding.
2. I started taking ibuprofen 20 miles into the race.
Absolutely unacceptable. In fact, I’d love to leave this little tidbit out, but that’s not what I do here on the blog. The truth is, after 20 miles of battling the mud and the cold, on legs that hadn’t run in over a week I was already starting to get stiff and sore. Don’t be like Mel. Be more prepared for your races!
In the days of my road marathons I used to take ibuprofen before, during, and after a race. Since then I’ve REALLY backed off. It’s not good for my kidney’s, my GI tract, or muscle adaptation. Since running my last road marathon over 10 years ago, the *only* race I’ve used ibuprofen in was my 100 miler, starting around mile 60. Mile 20??????????? That just goes to show how very borderline I was for this race.
I’m immensely grateful for an OTC medication that undoubtably allowed me to finish both this race and the 100 miler a couple months ago. But I’ll continue to view this as a “last resort” measure.
3. No finish line bag
As unbelievable as it sounds, I didn’t have a finish line bag. I had a ziplock of dry clothes that were actually my change of clothes for during the race that I didn’t use….so I was able to put on dry tights and a t-shirt at the end. What I *should* have brought was a towel and sandals that could have doubled as shower shoes, and soft comfy warm sweats.
Here’s the problem.
I wanted everything to fit in a carry on for my flight and I was a little overwhelmed during packing with zero sleep and I underestimated how very cold, wet, and terrible the finish was going to be. I also don’t own good comfy finish line clothes. But that isn’t an excuse and neither is “it wouldn’t fit”, because how hard would it have been to go to a department store in AZ and buy a pair of sweat pants?
4. Should have left on an earlier flight
The drive home after getting off the slightly delayed flight and getting home at 10pm was rough. I wish I had grabbed an earlier flight home. Especially having to be at work the next morning at 8am. This is a note for future Melinda.
- Challenger ATR Hoka 2. No shoe change, wore the same pair all the way through.
- Balagra enduro socks
- Calf sleeves
- Smartwool PhD running shirt (long sleeved) with a zip neck.
- Spandits Boardie length shorts
- Random Target bra (and it didn’t work!!!!! chafing at arm pits)
- Salamon 3L race vest with 2 500ml soft bottles. Generally one mixed with perpecteum, one water
- Applesauce and chewy granola bars, with the occasional package of mentos. Fuel timer every 30 minutes.
- Aid station food that was especially tasty: refried bean tortilla rollups, ramen noodle soup.
- Hammer caps. Took very few over the course of the race – maybe a total of 5? Would take whenever stomach felt NQR, or when it was time to eat and I didn’t feel like eating.
- Hammer perpectuem. About 2 scoops per 500 ml. Sometimes diluted more because I would add water on of it. 3 scoops for 500 ml tasted too concentrated in this weather.
- Cheap knit gloves. At some point I need to go raid the dollar store for more.
- 1/2 buff
- Fenix flashlight. Once again borrowed from my husband. Once again it was da bomb.
- Petzel headlamp (old). Chose the battery operated one over my newer rechargeable one. It’s and oldie but a goodie and keeps on going. The strap is getting very worn, is actually tied together, AND is stretched out….do they even replace old straps?????
- Columbia rain jacket. I don’t think it was the jacket’s fault that it didn’t keep me dry and toasty. It kept the wind out later in the day, was lightweight, didn’t interfere with my running. Under the circumstances I really believe it did the best it could to do the job.
- Drop bags – gallon ziplocks with “My Little Pony” duct-tape on them courtesy of Ashley. Which was PERFECT. I waltzed into one check and told the volunteer about the duct-tape, and in HUNDREDS of drop bags she said “Oh, I know EXACTLY where that one is”. LOL!!!!!!!!! The sharpie with my name and number completely rubbed off but the ridiculous pony tape stayed!
As usual I’ll do the “ask me anything” post in a couple of days if anyone has any questions related to this race, running, training, etc. No question too small, stupid, or embarassing – if you are wondering about it, I’ll answer it.
If there’s no questions I’ll move onto other things!