|4 days in AZ and this is the only picture I took. Lame.|
Seeing numerous shooting stars perform my own private firework show over the Superstition Mountains with a full moon - while a pack of coyotes howl less than a mile away is pretty awesome - and something most people won’t ever experience. Mere words will never justify this sensation; the sights, smells, and euphoric calm of those moments of clarity in a semi delusional state of heat induced exhaustion – my own Thoreau-like Walden existence if only for this brief moment within my life. I give myself high expectations that I constantly fail to meet at this distance as far as results are concerned – and sometimes forget that I could care less about racing as an entity in and of itself. Once in a while I need reminding it’s the journey that gets me there that I enjoy more than the race. I honestly could care less about racing against other people, the only thing I am trying to achieve is the internal goals I set for myself. Next year should be pretty cool. With some friends we are planning some pretty cool multi-day runs, getting the details worked out and schedules aligned will be difficult but we’ll give it a whirl, and whatever I come up on my own will bring me to new places and new experiences. But before I get off on that tangent, here’s how it all went down in the desert of Arizona.
Another 100, another DNF for me @ this distance. Not sure what it is but I cannot seem to figure this distance out. Although I was disappointed of dying a painful heat induced death, there were still many moments that were cool for me.
This was not a typical 100 mile setting for me (or any distance for that matter) so I’m not real stoked to write about this run. Without a “normal” tree (cactus are not normal to someone currently living in the northwest) in sight I may as well have been running on the moon. I like trees. I like real dirt. I like clouds. And sometimes I really likes me some rain. I would have loved some tall shade trees or rain in Arizona. But nope, I was in a desert, and sure as shit it doesn’t rain in the desert, and not much grows there either. I am not a sunshine person, I like it ok, but I am not one for the heat unless I’m sitting on my ass doing nothing; which doesn’t happen all that much, and if it I'm sitting it won’t be for long. Anyway, here’s my JJ story….
The flight down was pretty chill, got to see the grand canyon from the sky which was really cool, picked up the rental car and made my way to the shady motel I was to spend the next 4 nights. I was not too impressed with Mesa, not a very visually appealing town. A million strip malls, flat, brown, quite a few golf courses that I’m sure require enough water to maintain that could hydrate an entire 3rd world country – per golf course! The weather was decent, warm, but not overly so. I just chilled out Thursday, read some of Tyler Hamilton’s book about the mob like mentality (and Lance IS the don) doping of bike racing, and that’s about it. Friday morning I went and ran a couple miles because my legs haven’t been feeling all that decent, had lunch, went to packet pick up, ate some pizza for dinner, then tried my best to sleep.
Saturday morning rolls around and it’s off to the races. I did not have my head firmly planted in this run for whatever reason. Maybe it was the knee injury I have been trying to deny and fix, or something else was amiss. The prior 2 weeks I was not able to run like I wanted to, and I felt like my fitness was suffering because of it. In mid –August I felt really fit. I would run 10 miles of single track on Tuesday, and easy 6-8 on Wednesday, then run a 26.2 mile training run in 3:15-3:20 for the fun of it on Thursday, and then run another long run on Saturday. But I also know how this running stuff is super mental and was trying to talk myself in to the run. Mentally it’s easy enough to flip a switch, physically you can only do so much.
6 laps plus a shorter lap. Off I go. Run starts in the dark but lights were only needed for about 1.5 miles. The landscape was completely different than anything I’ve ever run in before. Even eastern WA is nothing like this. And the intensity of the sun as it climbed to its perch in the sky is unlike anything I’ve ever felt. The oppressing heat was ridiculous. By end of lap 2 I was looking for somewhere to duck and cover. Nowhere to hide, just have to run. I’ve run plenty of warm races, some with triple digits like Ironman Coeur d’Alene in '03 when it hit 105, but this was way worse. CdA has shade. The desert does not. This was like leaving an oven burner on and holding your hand 2” above it. Just brutal. OK, now that I’m done whining there isn’t much to write about : ) When the sun finally dropped behind the mountains to the west I got a huge emotional lift, and ran pretty steadily to finish lap 4 and 62 miles. And took off on 5 feeling slightly upbeat but I was physically really tired but was hoping I would snap out of it. What’s funny is my parents were at the race (they were on vacation in the area already) and after I saw my mom she said I looked really well at this point. Said my face has good color, etc. But looking back on that now I think it was just the sunburn. I was feeling pretty hollow. I was trying to force anything with nutritional value in my stomach, but to no avail. It just wasn’t working. It either wouldn’t go down or would make its way back up. And at about mile 67 I sat on the side of the trail and was not at all worried about snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, or anything else that could make me pee my pants as easily as a 3 year old sitting on Santa’s lap. I decided to try to get to the next aid station which was mile 69 or 70. Walked the rest of the way there except for downhills. Finally made it to said aid station and promptly took a nap. Woke up an hour later hoping I would feel better but I was completely exhausted like I have never felt before. I walked/ran, walked and walked some more trying to cover ground as best as I could. But I was just so tired; exhausted. Not sure what the deal was with this complete lack of energy, and it wasn’t even that. It was the “I need to go to bed” tired. I never feel like that - ever! As someone that never slept much for my first 40 years this is a bad time to have this creep up on me, although in hindsight for the past 8 months I probably have had the most consistent sleep I ever had. Scraping shit off the bottom of your shoes (so to speak) will help that. I ran into a lady at about mile 72 that was a complete mess. She was shivering uncontrollably, barely able to hold herself up, leaning on another runner. I had my run jacket tied around my waist so I put it on her and zipped it up also, just like I do for my 3 year old. She was completely unable to take care of herself. I talked to her pacer as the runner was unable to speak and told them I would send help back from the next aid station which was only a mile ahead. I wish I knew who it was because now I have to buy another jacket. I hope she enjoys it, but it was the right thing to do and as bad as I was she was worse. I ran (ok, a crazy slow jog as this is not really running anymore but still moving FW but only kinda sorta) to the next aid, talked to them and then ran a couple more 11 minute miles until I crossed the road which I knew was 1.5 miles to the end of the loop. Made it there and I was done. The last 15.5 miles took me 7 hours. But on the bright side my knee was pretty good; there’s always positives if you sort through enough poop.
Drove back to the hotel and slept for about 5 hours, then vowed to never run a 100. Now it’s about 10 days later and I am already figuring out how to better prepare for one and checking the schedule of where I’d like to go and try. I’m not sure what it is about running 100 miles that is the allure for me. I suck at this distance. Anything after mile 70 completely sucks. I’ve run I don’t know how any marathons and ultras, enough that I’ve lost count but if I had to guess I would say 50, and probably another 35 or more in training. But I am pretty determined to figure this distance out. I really believe that I have the physical capability to run a pretty good one, at least one that would be satisfying to myself, and really that’s all I ask for. I basically have 2 options, either quit this distance, run 50K and 50 milers that I know I can run and can usually guess within 5 minutes how I will finish, or continue to try to conquer my personal “final frontier.” Not really much of a question is it?