A week or so out from their Pinhoti, Lee and Beth reflect on their race that wasn't.
Up until me sitting down to pen this final Pinhoti write-up I haven't spent too much time thinking about last Saturday...other than a few conversations and texts with people. Seems strange since it's been a fairly time consuming part of my life the past few months but I guess that's how this pea brain works. Past is in the past!
Unfortunately, the race didn't go as I would've liked. It definitely warmed up that day and my body doesn't enjoy racing in the heat. Could I have done things differently? Surely. Would I have done things differently? Hell no. I don't care about belt buckles or just finishing. It doesn't make me feel any better or enlightened to just cross a line. I don't know if this is a good way to put it because it seems a bit harsh but when I race I like to crush souls or crush my own. In this instance, mine got dominated. In my 20's I didn't have the short term memory I have now. Nowadays, I don't let some race...or much else...bother me for too long.
First things first. There are a few people I need to thank for the past few months of selfishness.
Angela for putting up with this nonsense the past few months. It's tough (and fun) having your job and hobby be the same thing as much of our lives revolve around running running running. I very much appreciate the support during the training and attempt. She told me if I finish I could head out to Oregon and hit up a football game. Nothing aggravates me more than that not happening!
Eric May (and Astrid) - I can't say enough about this man taking his whole weekend from family to come down and crew. Thank you, Eric! Initially, I was reluctant to have a crew but I'm glad I did (especially with how things ended up). I felt horrible he had to trek down there for me only finishing 52% of the race but am very appreciative of him being there. Probably doesn't want to see any more stomach bile for a long time!
Beth Meadows - Thank you for allowing me to tag along on some runs over the past few months. Lots of miles and tons of laughs sprinkled in. I like to think we had a pretty fun time training for this bad boy. I wish I could've mustered the energy at 45 to run some miles with you.
Store Crew - I very much appreciate you guys letting me slack off more than normal during this training! I always say that I could die tomorrow and the store would be fine because of you...thank you!!
Here goes...It'd been a while since I'd raced an "ultra". I felt alive. It was awesome. I love to compete and it was going to be hours and hours of competing! The best and most funny part of the first few miles were a few guys racing up next to Karl Meltzer (legend and eventual winner) to chat with him and love on him. I don't know how any of you are BUT I hate that crap. I felt bad for him because you could tell it annoyed him. I was running right behind him and he just wanted to race. This isn't a social scene, gents...it's a damn race. Get the hell out of the way! He had his headphones in so that allowed him to not hear them or "act" like it. Soon enough, their jonesing ways dispersed.
The race started out at a decent pace and I was averaging around 10:20ish miles for the first 40 and it felt easy...really easy. Right where I wanted to be because I knew I'd slow down on the back half and potentially average about where I wanted...11-12 min/miles. There was a pack of 6-7 of us running together for the first 10 miles and that soon became five. I decided to run with Johnny Clemons (eventual third place finisher) and we worked together (sitting in 4th and 5th)...chatting, hiking almost every incline and cruising the flats and downhills. I knew he'd raced a 100 before and did well so using his experience couldn't hurt and I knew from the past few years we were a similar level. We ran 15-20 miles together or within probably a minute or so of each other and it helped that time fly by and I just focused on staying hydrated and eating. At the Mile 13 Aid Station my hip that has been bugging me reared up but that quickly went away, thankfully. Eric quickly filled up my water bottle and away we went. I saw a pic of me at that aid station sticking my tongue out and dripping water (that was not sweat, folks, that was an awesome wet icy towel that Phil Zimmerman so kindly handed me to cool off...thanks, Phil!).
In the mid to late 20's three of us (Ryan...eventual 2nd, Johnny and me) seemed hit a 1-2 mile wall. I caught Ryan who had slowed it down. I knew this would be the first of a handful of walls so I slowed it down, regrouped and made it to Mile 27 Aid Station. Shortly after, we passed Aaron Saft who was walking. I asked him if he was ok and he said he'd fallen a few times. I later learned he dropped because he banged up his knee. Unfortunate, because I feel he was the only one that could've given Karl a run for his money.
The trails were amazing. I was impressed with how nice they were. Pretty flat for the first 1/3 of the race. A ton of pine needles which made for a lot of soft trail. Myself and Ryan were running 2nd and 3rd when we hit Mile 36 Aid Station. Johnny couldn't have been too far behind. The next four miles were a gradual incline to the top of Mt. Cheaha which I planned to mainly hike and conserve. It was heading up Cheaha that I opened up a gel and realized I didn't want it. Crap, I thought, not good. I held it for those four miles and slowly tried to take it down...it wouldn't take...and my body didn't want anything. In the meantime, I tried to drink and that wasn't going too well, either. I was getting a bit worried knowing that if I didn't get anything in me I'd be in trouble. The climb up Cheaha was easy. I hiked almost the entire thing and felt like I could've sprinted up it. About half way up Ryan pulled away which was nice because he liked to talk more than I was in the mood for since at that point I hadn't eaten anything for almost two hours and I was pissed knowing I was behind the 8-ball. Not good at all. It was frustrating because in all of my prep I thought Cheaha would take some energy out of me and it didn't at all...it was the heat and not being able to consume food/water.
I got to the top of Cheaha sitting in 3rd place. Once I got to the boardwalk I saw Breck Phillips (Nashvillian and RunWILDer) and told him I hadn't eaten and nothing was going down. He and his friend walked with me to where Eric was located (as well as a ton of friends from Nashville that were there Crewing and Pacing) so it was great seeing them. Along the walk, I was saying a few choice words to Breck knowing from past experience I was in a rabbit hole. I got to Eric and he handed me some grapes and a Gatorade (since my training hydration of Grape Roctane nor water sounded enticing). The Gatorade went down for about 30 seconds...then it all came right back up. I think I ate a couple of small things but can't recall. I stayed there for maybe 10 minutes before I wanted to get going and away from the crowd. I chatted quickly with Eric and he told me just to hike these next few miles to regroup and he'd see me at 45. Sounded like a plan and I was hopeful I'd be able to start drinking and eating as I hiked. Ryne Anderson and Peter Kleuser were nice enough to walk with me for about 1/2 mile, listening to more choice words from me, and sending me off. I was not happy. I knew if I didn't get my gut in the right manner things would not end well.
In my mind I figured I'd hike for a bit, continue to conserve and just force liquids down. Well, I definitely hiked BUT still couldn't take anything down to re-energize. The backside of Cheaha is slow moving for 1/2 mile with big rocks so I took that easy. I got to the paved road which was quite a long section and I attempted to jog a bit...jog/hike/jog/hike. I finally hit the gravel road leading to the Mile 45 Aid Station. Along that I puked again. These past 2-3 miles were purely frustrating not only because I couldn't get back on top of it but it was flat and a piece of the race I should've been going a decent pace. I tried running again but ended up hiking the rest of the way in. I was still in 3rd and figured I'd sit at 45, rest up, slowly get liquids and food in then get back at it.
I could write 10 pages about sitting at Mile 45 for 3.5 hours or so...trying to drink, then puking, trying to eat, then puking. Repeat. Nothing. Watching runners go by. I thought maybe I could regain enough strength to run with Beth when she came by...nope...she comes by going "hey friend" (twice...the first one I ignored because I wasn't in the mood) and about wanted to kick her ass for smiling at me :) She looked good and strong, though, and I was hopeful that she'd continue to crush it and finish well! Then I figured I'd see if I could muster up enough energy to run with Cheyenne. Nope. Hunter. Nope. Zilch. I think it was about four hours into sitting there where I finally kept some broth down. Good sign. I drank some liquids for about 20 minutes with Eric, Peter and Daryl Ann Patton taking care of me. Thank you, Peter and Daryl Ann for helping out...and special thanks to you, Daryl Ann, for the awesome back rub!
There were many times in those 3.5-4 hours that I wanted to quit but I kept thinking...I trained a decent amount for this, Eric spent his whole weekend to help me, etc so I should see if, at some point, I can go again. Eric, Peter and Daryl Ann were able to get my unwilling self onto the trail to see if I could make it to 52. About 1/2 mile into the trail I felt like turning back. I figured even if Eric had left for the next aid station that I could hitch a ride. I didn't...a small percentage of me thought maybe since it was cooler and dark that I'd snap out of it.
They say that distance is 6.82 miles from 45 to 52 but I beg to differ. Seemed like eternity. I didn't run a single step. It was dark which made me even more mad because initially that was the part of the race I was most excited about. I love running in the dark where senses are heightened, it's extremely peaceful and the temps are cooler. It was painful hiking to 52. I was cussing Eric, Peter and Daryl Ann relentlessly! I had two full bottles of Roctane and both made me want to puke. I was "hiking' along with one runner for a while and I asked him if I could have a drink from his pack. He said, "if you don't mind my cooties, sure". At that point, I didn't care if his pack was spitting out flames. I needed it. I was hopeful it was water. Nope. It was HEED...and I just about hurled. I told him thanks and he took off. I do hope that he finished because he was a good dude! I wish I would've gotten his name.
Once I finally got to 52 I told the woman who was checking off bib numbers that I was done. If there was an aid station to drop and hang out for a while...52 was it. Those folks (none of them runners, they say) had that place dialed in. TV with football on. Any type of food you'd want. Medical gear up the wazoo. Music. Restroom solely for women. In my opinion, the best part was a sensor they had set down the trail about 100 meters that chimed at the aid station. When it chimed it would allow the volunteers to know when a runner was coming and for them to be ready for anything that runner needed. It was awesome! Of course, as I sat/laid there licking my wounds that chime was the most annoying thing in the world. Everyone there was great and kept asking me what I needed. The fluids they brought kept coming back up so there wasn't much they could do for me, unfortunately.
Unfortunately, 52 was also an aid station that Crew did not have access to. The next Aid Station was only 3ish miles away but I didn't care if it was 10 steps...I would've rather stayed overnight in the woods. Luckily, there was cell service and I was able to call Angela who then called Eric who was able to come rescue my poor soul. Another thing I won't forget about that aid station were these two dogs that just amazing. They just laid nearby and every time I hurled they'd come my way...partly, because they wanted to investigate my fluids but mainly because they wanted to help. After a bit, one of the dogs wanted to lay by me and I told the owner it was fine. That dog curled up right next to my head and you could tell just wanted to help out any way she could. Very neat!
Obviously, I felt like total crap from 40-52. I knew there'd be multiple spots during the race I'd feel horrible but I didn't think I'd get dehydrated. I was hoping there'd be a point I'd hallucinate because I've never been into drugs and wanted to see what it felt like. Since I only made it halfway I didn't get to feel some of the pain I was thinking I would and, in a way, looking forward to. I wanted to compare it to some of the other physical pain I've been through in my life.
I've received calls, texts and verbal "I'm sorry" from friends which I appreciate, but there's no need to feel sorry. Pretty sure I'm still alive, although day by day I'm a shell of the man I once was...I don't run as much, I don't party as hard, I don't read as much, I don't work as hard. I'm lazier. I have many goals but my primary focus in life is to ensure that Lila gets her breakfast, lunch, dinner, bath, to and from school, climbing trees, reading books, riding bikes, and getting her in to Stanford ;) Once Monday rolled around it was game on for school and work. Shoes and 100 milers are just a blip.
Will I attempt another? Probably not. It was fun training and getting some fitness back to run this race. I can sit here and be frustrated forever but I don't do that. It's a waste of time...Dwell and Die!!
It has been enjoyable doing a write-up every so often for Pinhoti. I'll miss that a bit because it allowed me to reflect on the previous weeks and see the good and bad of running, training, selfishness, etc and I hope you guys got a kick out of me and Beth's writing. I guess I could do write-ups on me and Lila's car rides to and from school. Those are interesting and fun most of the time...
Pinhoti had been on my radar since I was still on crutches last summer. Not necessarily as a solidified goal but definitely as an amorphous notion floating around in the ether of my ADD running/racing consciousness. When Lee threw out that he was thinking of doing it as well, I knew that it was perfect timing for me. I’d have a training partner and would at least know someone down there. Little did I know that half of Nashville would have the same grand plan! After months of training, planning, talking about training, and training some more, the first weekend of November rolled around, and the trek to the Land of Champions commenced.
Saturday morning, my crew of Phil, Jobie, Khette, and Jess took me to the start line where we promptly saw a lot of the RunWILD crew. I gave a wave to Lee who was scores of racers ahead of me and like that we were off. I was nestled in between Kurt, Lauren, Cheyenne, and Kimmy for the first couple of miles. It felt like a regular Saturday morning run, and as Kurt pointed out, he’d come down there to make friends and not to run with us! We had a nice easy pace going, but after about 4 miles, I wanted to try and spread out some. I moved on ahead and promptly got stuck in a long train. The pace was fine, especially since I wanted to be conservative, but the nature of the train caused a lot of herky jerky, stop-and-go action that was frankly exhausting. After another couple of miles, I tried to separate from the crowd. Somewhere between the first and second aid station, I realized just how good I felt. Obviously, it was extremely early in the race, but this was more than just fresh legs from tapering. It also hit me that I wanted to actually RACE, albeit intelligently. This fire in my belly, for lack of a better phrase, had been absent for so long, and I was more than happy to welcome it back like an old friend. When I came into the second aid station (first time to see my crew), I knew I had crushed it in the crew selection department. They had all my gear and food ready, and I quickly told them what I needed at the next stop. Having a crew is a weird dynamic because I hate telling people what I need or what they should do for me. However, my desire to have the best race possible coupled with the fact they (hopefully) knew what they were in for helped me power through that uncomfortableness. The aid station was located right by some train tracks, and I traded in a train on the trail for an actual train. While we waited, I turned to Phil and Jobie relaying that I wanted this race and I wanted it badly. As Phil later pointed out, it was probably for the best that we had to wait on the train because I was ready to sprint my happy ass up the next hill. Once the train passed, I left them my friends and ducked back onto the trail, happy to have shed the congested conga line of other racers.
Further along, I came up on a group of three guys who were running the perfect pace. I settled in behind them silently listening to their conversations, piping in every now and then if prompted (I mean, not in a creeper sort of way. I just didn’t feel like chatting. They knew I was there. I think.). As we ran, I’d look every now and then at the pace chart Phil made me. I was a couple of minutes ahead of sub-24 pace which was surprising, but since I already felt like I was conserving a lot, I decided to just go with it. The miles rolled on nice and easy, the pinestraw-laden trails only accentuating how good I felt. We made it the mile 18 aid station pretty quickly, and I, once again, found my peeps. They loaded my pack down with goodies as this would be the last time I’d see them until mile 40. I put in my “orders” for the next aid station and took off.
The next miles went down smooth and easy as well; I cruised through the next aid station and then carried on. By this time, it was high noon, and the heat was turned up. I’m so thankful to have discovered GU Roctane drink because I did not feel like eating much. I didn’t feel sick or anything and could choke down gels, but it was nice being able to just sip my calories. Soon, the terrain became a bit rockier, and we made our way to the BUTS aid station at mile 27. I was thrilled to see Season and Jeff there. I asked how Lee was and if he were 2 hours ahead of me – according to Season, he was at least that far ahead and in 5th place. Awesome! I proceeded to tell Jeff I hadn’t peed since before the start. He had me chug some water and gave me a popsicle. I dilly-dallied a bit more before heading out. Even though I felt good going in, it was a nice interlude and reinvigorated me even more.
The next stretch was supposedly the longest in between aid stations, but the miles, yet again, ticked off. I still felt strong, even forcing myself to slow it down. I knew Cheaha would be coming up soon and wanted my legs feeling as good as possible. I also finally peed! (hooray) I filled up with water and Heed at the next station. I’ve never trained with Heed and was a bit nervous about using something different. However, the saltiness was delightful and got the job done. I headed back down the trail until the rocks became more frequent and the grade a little steeper. In my mind Cheaha was quite the climb, but this was pretty gradual. I hiked the whole thing but at a faster pace than I anticipated. Along the way, I kept checking my pace chart. I had slowed down some but still ahead of sub-24. I climbed and climbed some more. I ran most of the previous 5-6 miles solo which was really nice. I’m not a big talker in races, and I was even more focused that day. I also just wanted to be in my own head, work through my own things, and just be stripped down out there without the “comforts” of mindless chatting. After a few more miles, I came up behind a chick who looked strong. I stayed behind her as we made our way to the top. We saw some people hanging out on boulders, and I figured we were getting close. I heard someone call my name – it was Lori who works with my dad. Too cool. Soon, I saw Ryne, and we ran up the boardwalk towards my crew. I passed my mom who was hanging out too. I made it to the crew who took to me like a NASCAR pit crew. I knew I had gained some ground and was currently about 30 mins under 24 pace. This meant I could take my time here, but also made me want to get in and out as quickly as possible to keep up that cushion. I sat down, and all of a sudden, folks went to work. My feet were lubed up and socks changed. My legs were rolled out. My pack was restocked and refilled. All of this while I chowed down on a cheeseburger my parents had brought me. Gyps was there too. Freaking amazing aid station! After a few minutes, Phil gave me a two minute warning. I didn’t want to fall into the trap of being too comfortable and needed to get back out there as soon as possible. I bid adieu to everyone and eased on down the road towards Blue Hell.
Blue Hell is exactly that – hellish, rocky terrain emblazoned with blue. It’s slow going, and I simply tried not to break a bone. After that, it was primarily jeep road which, frankly, was pleasant. I was able to run around 9:30-10:00 pace, and before I knew it, I was at the next stop. I wanted some coke, and as I was stopped getting some, I was pumped to see someone wearing a shirt from NRC’s Dark Sky 50 . . . until I realized it was Eric May, Lee’s sole crew member. I yelled “what the hell are you doing here?” to which he responded “let me show you.” We walked out of the aid station, and there was Lee laid back in a camping chair, half asleep, and looking like death. My heart sank for him; I would’ve felt less bad had I seen the circle of puke surrounding him. I chatted with him briefly but was optimistic he’d get back out there. I hopped back onto the trail.
As I ran, I did a mental assessment on how everything felt, pausing to reflect that my ankle didn’t hurt a bit . . . and BAM! Toe hit a rock, and ankle rolled outward. I almost puked myself from the pain. Hoping it was one of those “walk it off” turns, I just kept moving and hiking. And hiking. And hiking. Even a shuffle hurt. The next 5.8 miles were the longest ever. Tons of people passed me; it became dark quickly, and I had to throw on a headlamp. Creek crossings popped out of nowhere, and just staying upright on the slick rocks seemed impossible. I kept waiting for the pain to let up; instead it progressively worsened. I kept hiking. Every minute or so, I thought I could hear the jocularity of the nearing aid station. Most of these were just sounds of my own making, but FINALLY, the aid station came into view. As I came in, the nicest lady asked what I needed. While she was talking, I noticed a dog to her side. All I said was, “can I pet your dog?” bending down to hug this sweet pup. I wanted to never let go. She showed me around the aid station – yes, the aid station was that big and awesome, that I needed a tour. I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since hurting my ankle and still didn’t feel like it. I filled up my water bottle and hobbled over to the big screen tv set up where my Bama boys were playing. The guys offered me a seat, but I knew it was time to move on. All I wanted was my crew. I started my way out of the aid station and off on three dark, lonely, painful miles.
Again, the whole time, I thought I could hear the aid station in the distance. My ankle and foot started hurting worse. The fact that I, stupidly, didn’t eat or drink anything for almost 10 miles was taking its toll. I was out of it and didn’t have much energy to even hike. Just make it to the aid station. About a mile to go, I heard “hey lady” and knew Kimmy was behind me. I had been waiting on her to pass me for a while. She sweetly asked what was wrong and if I wanted her to stay with me. She looked so strong, and I told “no way. Go crush it.” She basically skipped off, and I kept hiking, hoping the aid station wasn’t far. When a lady appeared with giant lighted mardi gras beads, I knew I was close. Phil and Khette grabbed me as soon as I was off the trail and led me to our set-up. I sat down, telling them what was wrong, and I lost it. I hate crying, and it makes me uncomfortable when others do it. However, I couldn’t stop the tears as we tried to figure out next steps. I was terrified because it was the ankle I’ve struggled with and had surgery on less than two years ago. I tried walking around which hurt. My crew was great and didn’t push for a decision either way. While the pain was rough, I didn’t want to irreparably damage my ankle. As I sat there trying to decide DNF vs. keeping on, I saw Cheyenne, Lauren, and Hunter come through. . . and my dream of that day come to an end. I nodded to Khette who knew what that meant, and she turned my chip in for me. Peter and Daryl looked at my ankle. Nathan gave me a brace. Jobie and Phil strategized for me. Phil walked with me as I tried to decide, letting me cry it out. Jess and Khette rubbed my back. Season came over, and damn if she’s not going to make a great mama, giving me some amazing words of encouragement. Jeff gave his sage and reasonable input and validated the fact that maybe I wasn’t just being soft. Eric offered support before going to whisk Lee away from the previous aid station in his Crosstek carriage. Sam and Robert gave me score updates (we won, but more importantly Ohio State lost!). Chris and Brian provided kinds words as well. I’ll forever be grateful for all of them. And so, I sat there disappointed, pissed off, and inspired.
My race had started so well and so fun, and just like that, it was over. I’ve replayed the scene at the final aid station over and over, second guessing myself, wondering if I was just being a wuss and should’ve pushed through. But, what I’ve replayed more, are those first 45 miles, where I felt amazing, felt like I could do anything (except math so thank god for Phil’s pace chart), felt like the old Beth. Now, I’m simply taking a break to get my ankle healed up. After that, I’m ready. Ready to hit the ground running, ready to build up my fitness even more, ready to see where this body can go. I had a blast training this time around, and I can’t wait to get back at it. Maybe I con Lee into at least training with me for something else, even if he is retired. Jobie was right, the fire is running red hot right now, and I’m ready to light the world up. (and by world, I mean local trail races every now and then).
The biggest of thank yous go out to my crew – I couldn’t have made it 55 miles without nor would I have wanted to. You all are amazing.