August 15, 2008

Stormy Part 2, The Finish

I got out of the aid station as quickly as possible for two reasons, 1) I was hurting and I knew if I decided to sit down or loose my focus it would only get worse, 2) I had no idea what my lead consisted of and I wanted to be gone before second place could catch a glimpse of me. As mentioned I changed my shirt and shorts, but I had also set aside a fresh pair of Helly Hansen Lifa boxers that I wanted to change into, yet they had gone missing somewhere in transit. I set out for the first aid station and realized that I needed to keep pushing at a decent pace before the sun fully set on us.

I managed to reach the first aid station, for the second time, in 53 minutes, just three minutes slower than my first lap. I had illusions of a possible sub 17hr race and after doing some math realized I could afford to put in a second lap time of about 10% slower than my first. With this in mind, I was right on schedule. Thankfully as I came in Jackie was standing there swinging my lifa compression boxers in the air and with a huge smile on her face! I ducked behind my car, switched it up, lathered myself in Bodyglide and was off and running feeling like a completely new man! I knew this would be the last time I'd see Jackie until the finish line and after thanking her I told her to get some sleep and not to worry about me out there.

It was now closing in on 9pm and the headlamp was a necessity. I knew that by using my Princeton Tec Apex, combined with a handheld Tec 40 that I would get the best of both world's and not have to worry about slowing down due to inadequate lighting. I was heading into my strongest discipline, nighttime running!

Years of adventure racing has prepared me well for running at night. I have quite literally logged hundreds of hours of night running and riding, and as the temperatures dropped I was feeling quite at home in the solitude of it all. Something I forgot to mention in my initial posting was the heat of the first lap. The temps had climbed up towards thirty degrees in the first fifty miles and I made sure to stay on top of my electrolytes from the get go.

The cooling effect of the evening made it feel like I was being given a second life. I perked up substantially as my body was no longer dealing with trying to cool itself so relentlessly, and approaching the second aid station I was again riding a wave of a high.

As I came through the start finish I consumed over a liter of flat coke, along with some real food, electrolytes and some fruit juice. I had stayed on top of my nutritional plan right from the first km of the race, having consumed Carbo Pro 1200, Carbo Pro, Clif Shots, Clif Shot Bloks, Sesame Snaps, Thermolytes, Sushi, and Coke. The formula was working, but as I arrived at the second aid station I found that I desired but one thing...more Coke! I chugged some back, downed some watermelon, and filled one bottle with water and one with Coke before heading off into the darkness again. I had no intention of following this 'fuel plan', but knew better than to argue with what my body was demanding!

I continued to listen to my body but fully expected it to eventually reject this combination. My stomach issues had not worsened, but still persisted with regular stops along the way. I came through the third aid station feeling great and looking forward to some well needed human interaction, but the aid had been downgraded to a self serve. I topped up a bottle of coke and again headed into the very technical 'Entrail' and 'Marc My Word'. This was where I switched on my hand held light for the first time, tucking my other empty hand held bottle into my empty Nathan vestpack that I was wearing for the front pocket access to food. I thoroughly liked this set up as the vest pack weighs literally a few ounces and allowed me to free up my hands more for the night running. Throughout the first lap I switched between a vest pack for the longer sections and hand held bottles for the shorter ones.

With both Princeton Tec lights shining like spotlights in the night I ran these technical routes almost as fast as I did on my first lap, 105km prior. By the time I reached aid station number four, which was once again back on Perth Road, my boxer drop area, I was dying to have an actual conversation with someone. I had literally taken to speaking out loud on numerous occasions just to fill the void of the night!

The aid station crew asked if I was alright.

"Feeling great, why?"

"Well, you seem to be vibrating!"

As I was chugging back more Coke,

"Ummm, I've consumed about 3.5 liters of Coke so far...must be the caffeine! Hey, any idea of what kind of time gap there might be till second place?"

"Well, when you came through here the first time, a few hours ago, you had a 1h05m lead."

"Sweet, thanks!"

After specifically thanking them for spending the night out on course I proceeded down the road and back towards the university. I was always conscious of my calorie and electrolyte intake and was forcing down 100 calories at regular intervals, and easily swallowing a salt tablet every thirty minutes. Although sore and tired, I was actually feeling quite strong!

I hit the Uni aid station and had a quick but fun conversation with the volunteers there. I had a backup headlamp in my drop bag, so instead of wasting time changing batteries I simply swapped them out, downed more Coke and watermelon and was off and running.

I ran the impending hill on the first lap but did not see the point here on the second lap. At this point it was great to have a time and distance device upon my body and I used the pacing feature to force myself into a faster than normal power hike. My watch initially read just under a ten minute /km pace, but with focusing just on the watch itself, and not on the non technical terrain under foot, I was able to consistently bring my hiking pace down to almost exactly eight minutes /km. I thought this to be a very impressive pace considering the grade I was tackling and I focused on nothing but this pace until I reached the top.

Again my light allowed me to bomb down through the Pseudo Tsuga's without slowing down at all, and I hit up the aid station after a loop time of 52min. I have not seen official on course splits yet, but I know this is only slightly slower than my first lap time of around 45min. I noticed early on that most aid stations were not expecting me when I arrived, so I got into the habit of hooting and hollering as I approached each area, and I would always look forward to the hollering responses.

We had a candid exchange on my second time through, which ended with me jokingly stating,
"The f#$king wine selection here sucks!"

I was a few hundred meters down the road before I realized that I had forgotten my hand held light. I did not have spare batteries on me and after a quick mental fight realized that I had no choice but to turn back for risk of blowing my entire race if my one light died on me for some reason.

"Hi me again, any chance you got that Merlot in stock again yet?"

By this point I was again struggling to keep my body running over the flattish terrain, and I was actually internally cursing at myself not to stop.

"Less than 7km till that damn nine mile hill again. Keep your head down and your feet moving...don't you dare quite on me now!"

I was happy to come across an unexpected friend now manning the following aid station at The Powerhouse, and after a quick chat, and some more Coke and watermelon, I was off to tackle the infamous 'Nine Mile Hill' for the second and final time.

I never listen to music when I run, yet I always have a song in my head while I'm out there. In a typical 50km race I go over the chorus of a single song again and again as a segway between other thoughts throughout the race. For my first 100 miler I managed to squeeze in a few songs. First and foremost was the new Gavin Rossdale song, 'Love Remains The Same', and that was followed up with a full version of 'The Fintstones'...and as if that wasn't random enough I somehow pulled out the full Monkees album from deep within my cerebrum. I remember stealing this tape from my Father in the eighties at some point and don't know that I've heard any of the songs since...definitely some deep memory release occurring as I went deeper into my run...maybe with a 200 mile run I could remember my own birth!!

I had been counting down for a few hours until reaching the top of Nine Mile...I was counting down to my hugs from Cheryl and Rhonda. Their congratulations, smiles, and hugs were as genuine and vigorous as they had been ten hours earlier. I glanced at my watch and realized that if I could somehow match my first lap time over the remaining distance that I would in fact eclipse the magical 17hr banner.

"Sorry ladies, I'd love to stay but I'm still harboring illusions of a sub 17hr run. Thanks so much for everything!"

After eclipsing the final pitch over 'The Lava Flow', I entered 'The Ring Creek Rip' again. I was all of three hundred meters into it before I realized that the sub 17hr time was indeed as I had suspected, an illusion. The rocks seemed bigger, the terrain tougher, and my feet were now fully swollen and smacking against the end of my shoes with each and every step. I suffered my way down the mountain and glided into 'The Powerhouse' for the fourth and final time.

I was greeted by a second familiar and friendly face, Glenn Pace had now joined Michael Wardas...the only problem here was that Glenn was himself running in the 100 miler.

"You shouldn't be here! Not that I don't like seeing ya, but what's up?"

He briefly explained that he had to drop, which surprised me more than most other dnf's as Glenn has a lengthy and accomplished resume, but again, 100 miles is a long ways to run and anything can happen over that distance.

"I'd love to hang with you guys but I have to put this thing to rest. I'll hopefully see ya at the finish area later today!"

The congratulated me and cheered me on as I forced my legs to run the few hundred meters into the hiking terrain through 'Crumpit Woods'. I ate up this area, and 'The Farther Side' as I could almost smell the finish line, but again upon hitting 'Seven Stitches' and 'Summerside' I was really gutting it out. The terrain would be tough to run at the best of times and I was struggling to hold a decent hiking pace this late in the race.

I was constantly checking my watch as I was fully aware of one thing. To finish sub 18hr meant a hero's welcome as the fifty milers would just be lining up to start their own race, to finish anything over 18hrs meant crossing the line amongst a group of three or four people associated with the race itself. It was like comparing a rock concert to a dusty ghost town with tumbleweed blowing down the main street.

I put in a solid effort over the last climb of the entire 100 miles...I was going to do it, only four km to go...I ran the whole thing not feeling an ounce of pain, as I could now envision the finish line and I knew that Jackie, Roxy, and about 65 runners would be there to cheer me in.

4km...3km...2km...1km...700m...600m...500m...400m...I could see the start - finish and I let out the biggest scream of my life,


300m, 200m, 100m, 17hr39min, PURE ELATION!!!!!!! I know I would have cried had I been able to! Jackie snapped a pic and grabbed me as I crossed the line, Roxy wasn't far behind, the Wendy, Enzo, Jackson, and on and on. I had covered the final, technical and challenging, 10.5km just 11 minutes slower than my first lap! I FELT IN..CRED..I..BLE!

Over six liters of coke, thirteen bathroom breaks, fifty thermolytes, and one experience that will last first 100 Miler!

My Gear:
-Montrail Streaks
-Helly Hansen Lifa Boxers and Trail Wizard Shorts
-Carbo Pro, Carbo Pro 1200, and Thermolytes
-Princeton Tec Apex and Tec 40
-Kinesys Performance Sunscreen
-Rudy Project Ekynox glasses


Anonymous said...

Great blog. I can see the second half was a bit of a blurrrr. Congrats to you and Jackie both. Good thing you have a physio for a GF. Mind you, as a physio myself, my husband doesn't get any....Physio that is! ha ha! Well, now I'm psyched to do diez vista 50 nxt spring. Thanks for the motivation.


garobbins said...

Thanks Heather, glad you made it through the entire report!
Yeah, not much home physio for me either...only when I break down and cry!
Might see you at DV next year, it's a great race!

Dr. Sukhi Muker said...

Nice Work Gary! You truly rocked that course. Look forward to crossing paths soon!

garobbins said...

Dude, you finished 4th in YOUR first 100 miler as well! Very impressive Sukhi, I'm sure we'll see each other on the trails in the near future!