Sunday, May 13, 2012

In a Ray of Light - 3 Days at the Fair Report

This picture at the start gives a hint of how I feel inside. Can you see the ray of light around me?

At the start of a long day. I am beaming.

The venue is fantastic, good places to park along the course to set up your aid station, great bathrooms with nice showers, good tent space, 25 ft elevation change for each lap, mostly paved, well lit at night, full kitchen in the food court, a screen showing you distance every lap.

Great bathrooms with nice showers right on course:

The nice down hill:

Food court and timing area:

Tent area near my car, but you could put a tent anywhere:

Swag: a nice jacket.

I came to this race a little by surprise. As a timed ultra addict, I had looked several times at the web page for this race. But this year, with a 50k in Missouri at the end of April and a trip to Ottawa ON planned at the end of May, I just didn't have time to squeeze this in. But, about 4 weeks ago, my boss informed me that he was getting his gall bladder operated on and that I'd have to go to Sheffield Mass. to do a week of training. It turns out, this week after this race. Well, now that I HAVE to go to that part of the country, I might as well enter this race. My boss gave me permission to fly on Friday, so no vacation days used (also no airfare or rental car). Sweet!

I am not really trained for a 24 hour race, but no harm in seeing what I can do. I always go into things with high hopes but am good at accepting whatever happens.

I spent nearly all day getting from Houston to Albany NY. then a 2.5 hour drive to Sussex County NJ. I didn't get lost for once, which surprises me. I get to the race site for a look see about 7 pm. I think I decide where I want to park and set up my chair and food. No rain in the forecast.

Then I drive 6 miles down the road to the town where my hotel is. I go to the world's worst WalMart; but they do a have styro cooler which I need for tomorrow. Then I find a good food store and stock up on other items. Owing to the fact that I was traveling all day, I was under-hydrated. Therefore, I slept a solid 6 hours without getting up.

In met the wife of one of the runners in the hotel the next morning. This already formed a relationship between me and husband. I get to the race site about 8. Set up my things. I am parked next to one guy who has already been there 2 days and another guy who just got there (he eventually went 120 miles in 24 ours!). We all start chatting. then I pick up my number and swag. Then I check my number and see that it registers on the tower display. Cool: every lap, my distance and time is distance and time flash on the screen. This is great since one lap is 0.85xxx miles.

The race has 72 hours, 48 hours, 24 hours, 12 hours and 6 hours. The people who started before me are on course and mostly walking at various speeds. Some just barely moving forward. Some older folks seem listing at the waist. The scene is pretty grim. Even the leader is walking, though in steady fashion. These people are determined to stay on course no matter what. I am somewhat inspired. I think, "I can do that. I will do that." At 9 am, the 24 hour people start.

I follow everyone around. I notice that there is a horse show in the arenas on one side of the course. Lap number 2, I get to the back side and don't see any one in front of me. Sudden confusion as I need to turn but can't remember which place. Then, those behind me point the way. Haha, got lost on a 0.85xx mile course which I've already done once.

I meet some other people from Texas. I meet with Fred, a guy I've met at other ultras. I'm working on nutrition. The afternoon gets up of high of 80F, no shade.

At 39 miles (maybe 10 hours into race), my little left toe suddenly blew up. I went from doing pretty good to can't hardly walk in an instant. Luckily, my car was only about a quarter of a mile away. I went there and sat down. I didn't know what I would do about the toe, but something must be done. A blister under the toe nail and broke the toe nail loose. I am in trouble.

I try to pop it without much luck. Other people ask if I need help. I ask if anyone knows more about blister than me. Turns out blinter man has gone home, but a physical therapist who works on her husbands feet is willing to help me. This is good because PTs are willing to inflict pain. We discuss and try various things. Eventually we get it drained "some" and she puts 3 or 4 more blister pads around it. I put on one thin sock and ask someone to cut a hole in my shoe by that toe. During this time, my body is freezing up. My quads start quivering. I got thru a bit of nausea. I doubt I'll be continuing on.

After about an hour, I stand up. Oh look, I'm standing. Great effort is put into one step and then another. The toe hurts like a mother, but I hobble onto the course. What? Why? After about 0.25 mile, things settle down a little. As the lap wears on, things get better. As the sun goes down, I put on jackets and pants and find I am walking pretty good. Since I am beyond the point where I would normally have packed it in, each lap I finish seems like a miracle. I usually don't keep going. I have a hotel room to go to. I don't have to be out there.

There is a wedding in one area and people show up dressed to the nines. this gives us conversation about women's shoes. Later, it gives us conversation about drunk young couples behaving that way. There is a catered auction in another building. The restrooms suddenly have restroom attendants who clean the place up, light candles, spray freshener, put on music and collect tips. Some items at the auction are pretty high dollar. We talk about that. People inside the auction come out to smoke. The race organizers, quickly get them away from the course. We talk about that. Some drunk or well dressed tipsy people are asking who we racers are and what we are doing. Exclamations are forthcoming.

Best joke was when I was walking with Fred. Another man comes out of the men's restroom and says, "Hey Fred, when was the last time you were at an ultra with bathroom attendants?" Fred and I bust up. It is ludicrous. Mostly, we use bushes and portas at races.

About 10:30 pm, I am walking along the back side of the course. Up on the highway, I hear the screech of brakes and a loud bang. My hands involuntarily fly to my head. Soon, I think I hear screams. Not long later, sirens. I decide to keep walking until the drunks get home. Its much safer destroying my feet and legs on a track than driving. lol!

I walk for 13 miles. But I find I have no goals. My original goal is gone. Now, I am just walking. I hurt enough that I don't think I need to walk all night. I wonder which lap will be my last. I walk with a woman and we discuss the "why" question; as in why do we do this. Neither of us know. We just know that pretty soon, we'll be clicking submit and doing it again.

I finish a lap and look at the screen. I have finished 2 marathons: 52.xx miles. I have been at this for 15h45min. I realize that I am done. I'm not willing to just keep hurting and causing myself more injury. 2 marathons is a good. I tell the RD I'm leaving so they don't wonder where I am. she gives me a look like, "You should keep walking." I know that other guys hurting much worse than me are in fact still shuffling around. I don't really see why I should continue to beat myself up. At 1 am, I head for the hotel.

I can't sleep. First, I am too wound up. Second, my body hurts in too many places. I find that I am damn glad I stopped when I did. I'm happy with what I did. My bladder is working great so I find myself having to get up. Walking 15 steps to the bathroom is difficult.

Two weeks ago, I finished a 50k (31 mile) race. Now, I see how much more damage is caused by 50 miles. The difference is significant, a step change.

Now, I just drove 3 hours through beautiful New York State to the little town where I'll be doing business this week. I realized something different about myself. I don't feel like a failure because I pulled the plug on my pain and didn't stay out walking til the bitter end. I have felt bad about that in the past. Now, I don't feel like this is a flaw in my makeup that needs to be fixed. I just realize I am different. I don't have to be like the others. I can be happy with the chance to go 52 miles and almost 16 hours. I'd never do that by myself, which is why I go to these races.
Good food: Primal fuel mixed with Heed, Vanilla soymilk in little purple boxes, Starbuck's bottled lattes, Oikos strawberry yogurt, gala apples, Cuties mandarins, Raw Revolution lemon bars.

OK food: Clif double espresso gel, veggie burgers on pita, Bolton Farms vanilla chai protein drink.

Forgot: cranberries, Luna lemon bars, Almond nut thins.


Alene Gone Bad said...

Ultra Monk, Way to tough out a tough day! You never know what you can do until you do it, and you have to do something more than once before you can learn how to do it. Good job, good effort, and you can certainly chalk this one up to the learning curve! Definitely figure out what happened with the toenail, as that is something you don't want to haunt you in the future. John Vonhof's book Fixing Your Feet is a good place to start! Congratulations on your first 24 hour.

Rick McNulty said...

Great write up and it was nice to meet you. I like your line about the bathroom attendants versus porta potties and bushes.
Hope to see you again in future years.

Rob Horton said...

Sounds like a very cool event; kudos on the miles.