Thursday, May 28, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
There's another sort of bonk, however. One that many a Houstonian knows all too well: the Heat Bonk. More accurately, the Heat & Humidity Bonk. Yesterday had all the elements. Heat? Check - between 83-87 degrees for the duration of the run (not July hot, but then I'm not July heat acclimated either). Humidity? Big check. There's a reason the Memorial Park trails have names like Laos and Ho Chi Minh. Poor run management? Check. Didn't feel like I was setting a very fast pace, but that's the challenge in dealing with the heat. You have to pull back on the reigns significantly and from the get-go, because unlike the calorie bonk, it's damn near impossible to come back from the heat bonk. Once you're cooked, you might as well cash it in. After about 2 slightly too fast hours, I was cooked. Every tiny uphill became a mountain, every short stretch of shuffling felt like speed work. A 5-minute stop back at the car (complete with electrolytes, ice water, and a gel) helped only temporarily. As soon as I tried running again, it became obvious there was nothing left. 10 degrees cooler and 20% less humid and I'm sure I could have churned out another couple of hours. But it wasn't the end of April, it was the end of May. And so I staggered back to my car, a little woozy and a bit nauseated. Not exactly a confidence-builder for Rocky Hill Ranch 50K in a couple of weeks.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
A month or two ago Mariela asked if I'd be interested in running the aid station because she would be off conquering the Jemez 50 Mile in & around beautiful Los Alamos, NM. I agreed without hesitation. I immediately contacted my buddy Chris to see if he was interested in co-captaining the aid station. Fortunately, I think he was even more geeked about it than I was. After a mad scramble late Friday to get everything together (tables, coolers, canopy, beer, cutting board, knives, beer, extra munchies, folding chairs, beer) it was off to bed for maybe 5 hours of sleep. Up at 3:00, organize and load up, pick up Chris, and hit the park shortly after 5:30.
My car was already pretty full, so it was nice to run into Jaime (and his big, empty van) at the Lodge. With three sets of hands at this point, set-up goes pretty fast. Lynnor stopped by and dropped off her terrific exchange student, Feli, and shortly thereafter Mary and Denise pull up. With all this help, by 7:00 we were fully stocked and ready to roll. The 2 lead runners came blazing through at about 7:45 (the race started 10-12 minutes late, I think), and then there was a 5-10 minute lull until another group came through (including eventual chick's 50K winner, Meredith Terranova). It's just amazing how fresh all these lead runners look after pushing hard for nearly 13 miles in the Burmese-jungle-heat. Traffic sporadic until maybe 8:15 when the pace of visitors really picked up. I knew from past experience that the runners tend to come in waves and once the fast 25K-ers started mixing in with the slower 50K-ers, we were filling cups and bottles and making PB&J quarters at top speed.
A little later, Chris and I grabbed 5 gallons of water and trekked out to a back-course, unmanned water table Paul had set up about a mile before our aid station. This was our first real taste of warm-day carnage & it didn't disappoint. At least half a dozen people stopped us en route nearly begging for water because "there's no water back there." You don't say. It was indeed fortunate then that Chris and I just happened to be carrying 5 gallons of water on our stroll. When we made it to the table (now with maybe 4.5 gallons of water), it was a little disspiriting to see how many folks had not even attempted to throw their used cups in the easily-accessible garbage bag next to the table. Okay, it was more than a little disspiriting. [Note of trail running etiquette: put your f-ing garbage in the f-ing garbage bag.]
Once back at the aid station, beer-drinking and pain-watching began in earnest, as many runners staggered in as if they'd just crossed the Mojave in July. Appallingly, many of these runners (mostly 25K-ers but some 50K-ers!) weren't carrying any water bottles at all. Hello! It's a week before Memorial Day. In Texas. Might be hot, ya know. Oh well, I'm happy to report that we were prepared for such stupidity, er, oversights and loaded up with lots of ice and extra Coke & Mountain Dew. Needless to say, ice was a popular commodity. As the flow of runners slowed down, many started hanging around the aid station a bit longer before they went out to tackle the final 2.86 miles. As much as I enjoyed providing aid for the "racers" who wasted little time at the aid station, the dawdlers (with whom I share a common bond) are often very entertaining folks. A few took a seat for a few minutes but only a couple dropped.
By 1:45, our job was done and we managed to break everything down and clean up in no time. Dumped the remains of our provisions back at the Lodge with Paul and headed home, exhausted but with a definite feeling of satisfaction. If anyone is considering volunteering at a race, I can't recommend it strongly enough. Not only do you gain a valuable perspective on how much work is involved in making these things happen, but it's also a blast. More pics of The Aid Station That Was Formerly Site 174 (But Is Now Site 142, or something like that) below.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
American River 2006
In my case that thought was . . . Coke. Make it to the aid station so I can have Coke. Get aid station for Coke. AidstationCoke. Sure, Chris would do what good pacers do and say positive things. "We're close." "You don't look too bad." "Do you realize this is that longest you've ever run? That's awesome." At least I suspect he was saying things like that. I know his lips moved. But all I knew was . . . Coke. Here's the funny part. We knew the aid station was maybe only 3 miles away. Probably less. But in my frame of mind, units of measure begin to lose relevance. They become unmoored from the tangible, the known. To me, 3 miles was a loop around Memorial Park. 3o minutes on a bad day. But this 3 miles was not that 3 miles. Seriously, this 3 miles shared not one similarity with that 3 miles. Because, you see, this 3 miles NEVER FUCKING ENDED. At some point, even Chris's positive pacer demeanor failed as he began to wonder where the fucking aid station was, to proclaim profound thoughts like "3 miles my ass." And then hours (days?) later, when I literally was on the verge of passing out on the trail, we caught sight of it. The Highway 1 Aid Station. A shining beacon on the hill. Well, really just a folding table and a couple of dudes chilling out. The volunteers (saavy ultra veterans no doubt) would not let me sit down ("beware the chair"). Instead, they treated me to multiple cups of, yes, COKE, the miracle drug. And PopTarts (frosted, with sprinkles). And then they sent us on our way.
I felt only marginally better as we walked out to tackle the final 8 miles or so, but caffeine and sugar are God's gifts and they did not let me down. Soon, I was reborn yet again. Maybe we didn't run much during those final miles, but we ran a little. I finished. Called the spouse to let her know I was alive. Ate some real food. Got some swag. Cheered for the very few runners finishing after me. All was right in the world. That is, until a few months ago and the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler. But that's a subject for it's own post. For now, I'll let the picture at the top of this post suffice: Mile 60. The end of my day.