There’s a blister on my ladybits and other stories from Loco100k
|June 5, 2018||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
“You want me to check WHAT?” my husband looked at me incredulously. Now is probably the time to reiterate that my husband is not an ultrarunner, not a runner, and not interested in how far the limits of a human body can be pushed.
Unfortunately he is married to a person who is.
“I hate your sport, how the hell do you get a blister down THERE?”
A hint to you all out there. Being on either side of undercarriage inspection post 100k isn’t fun for either party. Not sexy. Not in the least. But I really needed to know that the probably-is-a-blister that I discovered around mile 24 was actually a blister.
I tried to tell him over all the amount of chafing wasn’t THAT bad (“What the hell happened to you?!”), but I suppose for a non-runner, the reassurance that I was able to wear underwear just 12 hours post race without screaming, and look honey, after only 24 hours I can sit down on the toilet without grabbing on to anything like a normal person – wasn’t exactly….compelling. (Now at 48 hours the only thing that hurts is a bit of crunchiness in my right achilles. EXCELLENT).
I’m 48 hours from the finish of the the Loco Go Big or Go Home Challenge 100k. I’m gradually transitioning from embarrassment of my finish (my slowest min/mile pace ever for race and everyone had to wait for me at the finish line…..), to suspecting I just might be a baddass in disguise and might have actually completed the best 100 mile prep run ever.
I showed up at Loco expecting a moderate difficulty 100k based on the elevation profile, previous finish results and all the other data I could get my hands on for this race. You gotta respect the distance, but hey! With a relatively low feet of climbing per mile average compared to most of my races, most people finishing in the 16th hour, and a cut off of 17 hours 42 minutes (not very generous for 100k, which usually means that the RD doesn’t think their course needs extra time), I really thought it wouldn’t be a problem for me to finish the race sometimes between 16-17 hours. After all, I had finished a Western States 100k qualifier last year in TERRIBLE weather conditions in 16 hours and some change.
Yep, sounds like it’s time for the universe to open up a big ‘ole can of whoop ass.
*Insert hysterical laughter*
At the 18 hour mark I was still running. And still had 2 miles to go. And lest you think I had been taking it easy and perhaps not taking this as seriously as I should, let me assure you that I worked me ASS OFF all day. I pushed as fast and as hard as I dared all day. And yet here I was.
So what the hell happened?
I was actually running right on expected pace (although it was a harder to hit my marks than I expected) and I was on track to finish before the cut off up until the last 10 miles.
At which point my feet were hamburger and waved a white flag of submission.
You see, what the elevation map and all my other stats had failed to warn me about was the footing. Ever run in scree fields? I got a whole education last Saturday. I’ve deleted about three paragraphs trying to describe different types of scree fields (my own classification, thank you very much) but really you don’t care. So let’s summarize it as this: running in scree is hard. Not sure where I could make time, mid way through the race I pushed through some of the scree fields faster than I wanted to stay on track for time which further used up my finite about of physical and mental energy (oops).
It wasn’t all scree of course, but overall it was difficult to make up time on this trail. Some of the technical trail (climbing over downed trees, water crossings) that was included made for slow going. Let me be clear this is NOT a complaint. I LOVED the technical sections. Every single crawl-on-my-belly underneath a downed tree, and the boulder ladened water crossings that soaked me to the knees and sometimes brought me down to my actual knees. It just took additional time. Now add in a little more extra time making sure I stayed on course because the course markings for turns weren’t always intuitive. Better to take extra time with NO extra miles, then go the wrong way.
Finally, there was the weather. I don’t remember it being THAT *hot but it must have been just hot enough with the elevation, combined with me pushing to make the splits to finish that I was on edge metabolically. There were lots of **signs that a bonk was right around the corner, ready to pounce. I kept that bonk monster at bay the whole day and anytime my brain started to despair (faced with yet another uphill sun exposed scree field for example), I just reminded myself that the only thing I could do was to eat, drink, and keep moving forward. It worked. The sun set, the miles passed, and I actually pretty good…except for the poor abused feet. Did I mention there was a lot of rock?
*Everyone else was complaining about the heat so it was probably hot? It’s been a hundred degrees where I live and my car air conditioning doesn’t work and I don’t like the windows down because the blowing air irritates my contacts so….thank you heat training?
**If you read my bonk post I mentioned some of what happens when I’m ready to bonk big time, but in case you are curious – not wanting to eat when my timer goes off, no peeing frequently enough, getting sleepy, and having a hard time doing positive self-cheerleading are my big early-bonk signs.
It’s time to return to the Saturday’s Mel, running in the dark and practicing what what she was going to say if a *bear blocked the trail and jumping over scorpions on the trail. As this point in our story Mel still as aspirations of actually finishing before the 11:42 (17 hour 42 minute) cut off.
*I settled on “Bear get the @#@@#$(* out of my way, I don’t have time for this!”
After climbing 5 miles up to Colby Mountain lookout (yes, a solid 5 miles of climbing), I could still make it to the finish line 6 miles away before the cut off if I averaged 15 minutes per mile.
There was a problem.
Originally I had marked this section of the course as a section I would not be able to make time on. It was a steep down hill with loose rocks and lots of loose dirt. But in a show of tenacious optimism, armed with poles I had picked up at the aid station, I figured with proper motivation, and with enough sheer determination I could force myself to JUST DO IT.
Spoiler alert. It didn’t happen. Apparently I can’t do all things through force of will.
I stumbled and tripped down the hill as fast as I could, dust clouding up my headlight lamp and almost going down over and over as my ankles twisted and turned over those wretched rocks and the bottoms of my feet hit rock after rock. When I got to the bottom of that drama I tried to run the next mile or two that had a lot of medium sized (bigger than gravel) rock scattered over the road with the same result – lots of stumbling and almost falls in the dark. I would have been better off conserving my feet and my energy to run the last 3 miles in on the road, but I couldn’t remember how runnable that jeep road and damnit, I was going to give this my all.
Finally at midnight (17 minutes past cut off) faced with the last 3 miles of (finally) runnable gravel dirt road, I was finished. I wasn’t quitting – I learned my lesson at Pioneer that you don’t quit until someone actually pulls you – But my brain couldn’t convince my battered feet to do more than hike briskly in. I was pissed at myself. Pacing is something I usually do impeccably well at ultras and I feel like I had screwed it up.
I didn’t know it then, but I wasn’t the only runner that struggled. Another friend told me that runners she knew at the event were HOURS behind their expected pace. Last year all finishers except two finished before the 17 hour mark. This year there were still TEN people on course at the 17 hour mark with 42 minutes to go to cut off. That’s a LOT of people when only 16 people total finished. I didn’t have my best running day ever, but it wasn’t just me. I wondered a lot during the run whether I was under conditioned or just a wimp? Maybe neither. Turns out pretty much everyone was having a difficult day, and the course was proving far harder than last year. The moderate race that I think most of us were expecting had transformed into a big hulking beast of a challenge.
In the end as I was speed shuffling the last few miles into the finish, a truck came past me and told me that the two runners behind me had pulled at the last aid station and it was just me. Was I OK? I told them I had a 100 miler in 6 weeks and I knew I was overtime but I could really use the miles, was “metabolically OK” (much to the amusement of everyone, I was later told). The truck guy was convinced and threw the sweeper out of the truck to keep me company the last 2 miles.
Race management decided to honor me at the end for the miles run and gave me my awesome custom leather belt and a finish. They didn’t have to do extend to me any sort of recognition at all, but I was SO grateful they did. I really wanted that belt. They told me to come back next year (and finish before midnight please, LOL!!!!!).
Loco100k reminded me of what ultra running might have felt like 15 or 20 years ago prior to big race companies, lotteries, and hundreds of runners on course. The entry list for the 100k was capped at 40 participants and as of race week there were still 11 spots open (28 people actually started) which meant plenty of time in the woods alone. The nearest town (Chico) was about 30 minutes away and lots of us were camping within 1/2-1 mile of the race start/finish in campgrounds, cabins, and private RV lots.
They sheer physical-ness of this race, the mental games, and metabolic management (not to mention long hours on my feet) was perfect for a major pre-100 mile training run. If I had known it was going to be this hard, I probably would have wimped out but I’m damn proud of finishing those miles on Saturday. I’ve been making a point of not doing repeat races – life is short and there’s lots of trails to see – but I have a feeling I’ll be back for this one. It’s worth a blister or two, no matter where it is.
I’m not done writing about Loco100k – I will of course do my favorite post-race analysis of what went well and what…didn’t. As usual, if you have any question please ask away!
Even though I will definitely be talking about her in the next Loco post, I want to to make sure that anyone reading this knows I owe this race to my awesome friend, Aurora. She made this race possible for me and treated me like a queen with her impeccable crewing skills. I’m truly the luckiest person in the world to have the friends that support me in this craziness. I registered for it in January hoping my hip injury would be resolved, never dreaming that this race would be so pivotable in my 100 mile training this year.