Another race where my health was very much in question. The left knee and shin thing is sticking around. Rest (9 miles combined last 2 weeks), twice daily ice baths and even the dreaded NSAIDs were deployed. I just hoped it was strong enough to get a few miles in at a good pace and warm up, like it did at Robie.
B and I showed up 45 minutes prior after a casual drive from McCall to Council. I was in my usual brooding, hood up/ eyes down pre-race mood. A quick jog confirmed I was feeling good enough to go out at the planned 6:30-ish pace. The morning was a nice sunny low-40 deg F, so I stripped down to the short shorts, shades, and no shirt anticipating a hot one out there in the windless canyons and open sage country. I drew lots of looks as much of the field was clad in tights, long sleeves, hats and gloves. You can not imagine the dehydration I would experience if I dressed like that. If in a race, even for a short time, I perspire liquid sweat...I'M TOAST. I kissed B good luck and we took our mark.
Horn blast and we're off. I dart ahead to the lead and seconds later I am equaled by a smooth looking older dude. I say to him, "so you must be the doctor?" I had done my homework on the field and it was the reigning champ and he was definitely fit and ready to win it again. We were both glad to have some company as we put a huge gap on the field. We ran solid 6:30-6-40 splits for many miles while carrying on a really good conversation. We talked nutrition, training and pointed out the animals we saw along the way. Around mile 18, we started to jockey a little for position. Each made small moves and opened up the stride, just to be reeled back in within a minute or two, only to resume the conversation.
At mile 21, my worst fear for the race began to manifest. My left shin/knee/lower calf area began to show signs of an impending cramp. This weak area would surely be the place to go, given its infirmity over the last months. I am a champion cramper, so I know when a cramp is coming and I know how long I have to survive before it seizes. I filled my bottle at the 21.1 aid station and on to mile 23.5 I pounded as much fluid as I could. At 23.5, the cramp seized fully and I abruptly stopped and let out a yelp of pain. The doctor pulled away and put probably 150 yards on me. I pulled on my toes for several seconds and it finally released. I began running again at an 8 min pace. I ate a few big mouthfuls of First Endurance EFS gel and tried to keep the pace. I made a deal with myself to run my best and not be mentally defeated. I reminded myself that it is a long race, lots can happen, and there was plenty of time for redemption. Mercifully, the doctor began to slow just when I did. I picked up the pace slowly and around mile 25 I pulled up just 10 feet behind him. I used his pace to determine my cadence, speeding and slowing as he did, just trying to stay with him.
My emotional side entered here as it often does in long runs. Not sure why. At the Leadville 100, when I passed under Mt. Elbert, my first "big" mountain climb with the Old Man, I could feel this buzz. It was as though he was right there with me, pushing me along that remaining 35 miles. On this day, I vividly pictured my Old Man with his arms crossed standing by the track with a stopwatch timing my intervals. He wore a big smile and nodded his head in approval. He whispered, "strength and honor," our family motto. All he ever wanted me to be was a runner and here I was running on nothing more than guts. A huge smile crossed my lips as tears streaked my face. I knew I would give whatever it took from that moment to the finish. A massive adrenaline dump instantly knocked a full minute off my pace and I surged to a lead I would not relinquish. I pulled into the final aid station 100 yards ahead, which was nice to set the tone for the final 5 miles.
I jettisoned my empty 20oz hand bottle and the 2 flasks of EFS gel I carried from the start in my short's pockets. I pounded 3 small dixie cups of cold water and left within 10 seconds of arrival carrying nothing. I warned myself to run my own race and enjoy myself, but within a few miles I caught myself looking back which had good and bad consequences. The GOOD was that I recognized I was expanding my lead to a quarter mile or so. The BAD was that when I turned around to look, the cramping returned to my calf and expanded to my hamstring, hip flexor, and oblique muscles. Bascially, my entire left side was a cramp. Apparently, these muscles were too tight and when I turned around, the tension broke and they balled up. Lesson learned.
The last few miles were anticlimactic. The heat of competition was off, the trail was mellow and I was pretty spent- physically and emotionally. I just cruised along at 7:15 pace reminding myself that I was exactly where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to do. I crossed the line in 3:27:42. Two minutes off the course record. But, with the course being lengthened by about a mile this year, I feel no shame in claiming a new record. Why not? I've paid my dues in ultras as a mid-packer. Every dog has his day. Results: http://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=12235
I tended to my cramping needs with some recovery drink and some finger foods. A few high-test Cokes were nice too. I chatted with lots of nice people and waited for my love to finish. I was happy to see her running well down the last stretch to the finish. She had a rough go out there which involved cramps and vomiting. But I'll let her tell that story. A 4th place female finish is solid and she should be proud, as there were some strong gals from Boise in the field. We had a nice time in this well organized event.
I am quite happy with my time and discipline in holding together. I did manage a marathon PR of just under 3 hours which is pretty cool. My nutrition was as good as could be and I will certainly use EFS products in future races. I consumed about 65 oz of fluid with approx 300 calories in sports drink and another 700 from the gel flask. The cramping I experienced was from serious undertraining and weakness in the lower left leg and some heat in the later stages of the day. I have run only 405 miles in 2011!!! Lots of cross training, but I need more miles for my next outing in the Pocatello 50 Mile on 5/28. Time to recover and get psyched for the Pokey.