At the 75 mile Aid Station I had added some more clothes to my wardrobe…basically everything I had went on, it was cold and due to my speed (or lack thereof!) I was really feeling it, so Lori and I left with me wearing three shirts, armwarmers a North Face Gortex Jacket and a Marmot Jacket as well as a beanie and gloves, I also took the opportunity to pick up my Fenix flashlight.
Immediately departing the Aid Station we had a long climb I remember making pretty good timing here just by power walking uphill and actually passed a few runners with pacers. I have always said that going uphill in the dark is good because you can’t see the top and after an hour we were at it. It had taken more out of me than I realized and after we hit the level ground I took my foot off the gas and slowed down, it was here that I started to feel tired and I was also starting to have some minor…well maybe major hallucinations, the floodlight shape of my flashlight was looking remarkably like a fried egg which, for some reason, I was not allowed to step into, I was also playing Pong with the light from my headlamp vs. the light from my flashlight making them bounce off each other on the trail in front of me! I saw somebody standing by the side of the trail holding two horses! And the triumph was a head sat on a falling tree smiling at me!
By this stage I was wobbling a bit on the trail, I remember weaving and catching my feet on the sides of it which jarred my knee and woke me up. We had slowed down so much that someone who we had passed then passed us and offered me a caffeine tablet which I took, I am not sure if it was the caffeine or the placebo effect but it worked and I managed to say in straighter line after that, this was around 3:30am so I had been awake for 24 hours and racing for 22.5 hours, this I knew as the alarm went off on my watch set for the previous morning’s start!
Onward we went some up but mostly down. I ran walked/walked ran, counting to 50 paces and changing pace, shorten my gait the offset my knee which was really making its presence known. From the 75 mile checkpoint we had until 10:00am to make the cutoff which gave me 8 hours to cover 25 miles! Easy right! I spent a lot of time doing pace math in my head, we reached another checkpoint and I had calculated that we needed to be doing 4 mph and we were doing 3mph so I tried to speed up and push for longer or faster running sections. I experienced something that I have only ever been on the giving end of before which was to hear Lori simply lengthen her walking stride as I basically ‘ran’ as fast as I could! On the ups I adopted the mantra of ‘keep moving’ which hissed between my teeth at every stride.
We reversed our way through the same Aid Stations that I had been through on the way out and I had somehow got them all muddled up, some we stopped at and other we blew through not needing to refill anything. I knew in my mind that once the sun rose I would get a new lease of life and eventually it did. We reached third from last Aid Stations who told us we had 16.4 miles to the Finish I think I blew through that one and before I knew it we were at the next one at least a mile earlier than I had anticipated. At this point I realized that I had made a mental arithmetic error and had reduced our time buy an hour so we had about 2.5 hours to the last 7-8 miles. A struggle at the approx 20 minute per mile pace we were holding but if we speeded up a bit…
Around this point my 305 decided to give up the ghost, in its defense it had been running for 13 hours which is way beyond its rating, of course this meant I had no idea about pace or anything. We got to the bottom of a 6 mile downhill section which had been pretty bad on my quad and crossed a bridge, on the other side there was short sharp steep section, basically a old river bank eroded away over time and here I twisted my ankle. I felt a twinge and didn’t think anything of it really but it quickly became painful quickly. Additionally the trail decided to take an uphill turn and this began what was a painful, long climb to the penultimate Aid Station. Here I hit a new low as I saw the time trickle away and tried to ignore the pain from my ankle and knee (on the same leg!) as well as a burst blister on the other foot and what felt like a blister on toes but turned out to be nothing? Onwards we went, Lori did her best to keep my spirits up but I am sure she can taste the frustration that seemed to be seeping out of every pore. We finally made it and found that they were breaking it down, which was no real surprise. They told us that we had the Sweepers on our tail and that we had about 5 miles to the finish.
I’ll be honest and say that I can’t remember how much time we had left but I do remember say to Lori that a 10k could be run in about 40-45 minutes…just not today! Sometime after that my watch chimed 10 O’clock and I was timed out! We were walking and had been pretty much for the last 10 miles or so. My ankle was really painful as was my knee and I asked Lori to pick up a stick for me so I could use it as a crutch, we carried on and I suggested that she run on to at least get a run for the day, but she stuck with me. I was passed by another runner who I had left at Mile 75 sleeping or suffering from the cold I asked him to tell Robyn, I described her, that I was on my way slowly. More time passed and for the second time I said to Lori I needed to sit down on a log and rest I really was in a lot of pain, walking was difficult and mentally I was pretty much tapped out. I suggested that she run on to the end of the trail to (a) see how far it was and (b) see if someone could pick me up at the end in a car. She ran on and I sat. I finally got my act together and before I had gone very far she came back with Robyn and a Paramedic, whose name I never got but who was a great guy!
After a quick consult they picked me up either side and started to carry me out. The Sweepers passed at this point and with a cry of ‘bad luck’ they were gone. Putting my ankle on the floor was really hurting and we discussed the options, ambulance, helicopter and the like. We decided that calling and ambulance would at least give me more options of getting to the end of the trail. And so the paramedic left to make the call with Robyn to keep me company, we chatted about all things running and Robyn mentioned that I really wasn’t so far from the end of the trail, maybe two miles and so given that the race was actually 102 miles long, I am going to claim a 100 mile distance finish, not a race finish but a distance one!
Time trickled by and some people came by on horses, I was wearing the paramedics jacket as I was cold, and they mistook me for a medic, Robyn explained my dilemma, they moseyed on by but later one of them came back and offered me her padded vest to keep my legs warm and brought some mini bagels, Satsuma’s and water, I was pretty hungry and the thought of another gel was not very appetizing. There was some talk of using the horses to get me out, the problem was that I was technically still on the Reservation and there was a lot red tape needed to ‘officially’ drive on the land; in the end I think this was simply ignored. It wasn’t till I was sat down and chatting with Robyn that the swelling was really noticeable and it really was about three times it’s normal size! Lori came back with her husband and two children who had patiently been waiting for us to finish… “so much for an exciting adrenaline filled ultra race” I commented, for poor Lori it had essentially been a 26 mile hike! I thanked them all for their effort and support.
Some time after and the paramedic returned with two more colleagues, they splinted my knee, packed it in ice and immobilized my ankle, between them carried my the short way out to their ambulance. We discussed options and their concern was that I had torn something and it would get worse rather than simply having pulled or twisted something or things! With some hesitation I agreed to go to hospital to get at least an X-ray. I was loaded onto the gurney, Robyn dropped my bags in the ambulance, everyone took photos, said their thanks and goodbyes and we set off.
On the way I was tested fro the usual set of stats, blood pressure, resting HR and all that, and it turns out I am quite healthy! I asked the paramedic to pass me my cellphone so I could call my wife; I dialed the number and she answered; “hi, it’s me don’t panic I’m fine but I’m in an ambulance on the way to hospital…hello hello”! Thanks TMobile! We reconnected and I explained the events and said I would call her later.
We arrived at the hospital and I was checked in, X-rayed – a lot! Made comfy and that was it, I think they actually let me sleep a bit, I had been awake for 34 hours or so at this point, and when I came around it was 6:30pm!
I’ll save you all the details but here’s the prognosis, twisted knee and sprained ankle, that’s it really nothing more nothing less. I have an Air-Cast and crutches, the crutches are a real pain and got ditched day 2. RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation) 800mg of Ibuprofen 3 x a day and prescription for Vicodin if I need it. Three days later the swelling on my knee is receding nicely; I can see my knee cap…always a bonus I think, although my quad is tender as well. My ankle is still really sore so I am limping about in; you guessed it, running shoes! Other minor niggles include nasty mess on my heel from the burst blister, a blister on my arm from my iPod case I think. The back of my bad knee is very tender where all the KTTape pulled off chunks of skin when they remove it in the hospital and I probably loose one maybe two toenails! Actually recovery wise I was not stiff or sore but this was probably due to the amount of walking rather then running I did!
So after reading this you’ll probably be thinking I’ll be hanging up my trail shoes, well kinda sorta. The commitment to the distance is huge, from both me and from my family, basically four months were spent training for this race and three months for Leona Divide last April (which was a qualifier for AC100) so out of 9 months this year I have been training for 7 of them. In reality I don’t have the physique to knock out these distances every weekend and it is about finding some balance. I have promised my wife that there will be no 100s next year (she didn’t say anything about 2011) and she has told me that I need to focus of running faster this includes some trail PRs that need to be beaten and maybe a trip to Beantown…we’ll see! So that’s the plan and more of that in another post.
Would I go back to 100 in the Hood, yes I would, this was the inaugural year and all things considered it was well run (hah, well not be me) and well executed, I was a bit surprised that the Sweepers, literally swept by, but in reality I was with company and they probably didn’t know exactly what was going on. I am sure if the RD knew what was happening she would have made an effort to assist or maybe not, but whatever I was surrounded by people who cared enough to be there in the good times and in the bad times and to be honest that’s what counts.
So thank you for your patience in reading this to the end and a massive thank you to Robyn, her Mum (I still don’t know here name!), Lori and her family, Christine, who despite her best efforts never found me and to the paramedics, doctors and nurses, who diagnosed and patched me up and who I am sure will never read this…well you never know!
You can see the Garmin Connect data in the right hand margin and there are some photos and video, so when I have time I’ll edit it and post them