Friday, October 28, 2011

Angeles Crest 100 Recap Part 2

"If you start to feel good during an ultra, don't worry you will get over it."

Gene Thibeault

Running the last bit of Cooper Canyon

BOOM.  I came up the hill into Cloudburst feeling amazing.  When I saw and heard everybody cheering for me it's like I got an adrenaline shot straight into my muscles.  I had been feeling better already, but this solidified it.  It was GO TIME.  So I'd stuffed my face a little with an avocado tortilla, until I couldn't eat anymore, had my crew all riled up and cheering me on and I put on my headphones.  Don't Wanna Be A Playa by Big Punisher was the song that came on when I hit play, and it was at that moment the best song I had ever heard.  My body was new, fresh, and ready to pounce on this course.  Annie ran along with me until I crossed the highway and flew down the trail on the other side.  I almost ran into another runner getting his shit together at the trail head but I ran up the side of the mountain a little to avoid him.  My whole body felt so so so good.  My feet didn't really hurt anymore, my legs felt like I hadn't run a step, and I had to contain myself as I looked down at my watch and was running at 7 minute pace, which was way too fast.  I slowed it down to an 8 30 or so, and I'm thinking:  How long will this last?  20 minutes?  20 Miles?  30 Miles?  Is this what Tom Nielsen was talking about?  Is this really happening?  I was so excited to be feeling good after 38 Miles.  My music was awesome, I felt awesome.  Endorphins kicking in.  A PERFECT moment on the trails.
Getting ready to Rumble.

I passed a girl I had talked to on the climb out of Cooper Canyon on the way down to the first highway crossing, then after the crossing I passed another guy who was walking.  I remember thinking that there was a huge contrast between the way I felt and the way the people I was passing looked.  Right after I passed the guy, there was a huge tree down over the trail and I jumped on top of and over it like there was nothing there.  I turned around about 15 seconds later and saw the guy I had passed slowly climbing over it.  When I ran this section with Jimmy in training, he jumped over it and I slowly climbed over.  I remembered that and how during that run I was only 7 miles in and struggling, but now I was 40 miles in and flying.  It is amazing how non-linear this sport is.  I continued running on the soft single track trail.  The section was very runnable and soft, and as I passed Sean O'Brien again some really great house music had come on my Ipod.  I took one of my headphones out so I could say hi to Sean and cheer him on as I passed, then put my headphone back in.  My stomach turned over a little bit more, but I didn't worry about it.  I slowed down when it rumbled and ran once it stopped.  This would be the pattern for the rest of my race.  I passed another guy a little down the trail from that, and continued to party to the music blaring through my headphones.

When I listen to good house music, especially stuff that is recorded live, I can imagine myself there at the club or the arena dancing with all of the people.  This was Calvin Harris live from Carlisle in the UK.  The set was awesome, and the cheers/music coming through my headphones blended so well with the gorgeous scenery and the endorphins pumping through my veins.  In the next mile or so I passed Katie DeSplinter and said hi.  She was looking good and running well, but said she'd slowed down a little because of the heat.  At Cloudburst my crew said she'd come through looking better than anybody all day, so the fact that I had caught up to her felt good since they said she was on 24 hr pace.  I ran on along and knew that Three Points aid station was around the corner.  I could feel some blisters forming on my toes so I made sure to remember to tell my crew as I cruised up to the aid station at mile 42.75.  I felt the energy and love from my crew and the other people at the aid station as I came in, and the music was still great in my headphones.  Bev very quickly duct taped the blisters on my toes and gave me a change of socks and I got right back on the trail with my pack and a handheld.  The next section is rolling and downhill and I ran most of it, and passed another few people as I pushed through the hills.  My left foot felt like it may cramp at a few points but I again focused on how beautiful it was and how well I was able to run.  I had remembered running this section with Broman and Jimmy, and remembered how both Broman and I had both said how we hoped we could still run at this point in the race because it was so fun.  Windy and soft and run-able, and Jimmy had said it would be a good place to run the short little uphills and make up time.
Ice.  Water.  Awesome.

My spread at every crew point.
My stomach continued to churn around, and I made sure to stay on top of my salt and my eating.  I passed Tiffany Guerra in this section, and she was running well.  I told her she looked great and to keep it up, and she told me she wasn't feeling so hot, and I looked even better since I was passing her and to keep it up.  I told her I was just riding the wave as long as I could and that I was sure she'd feel better again and hang in there.  I kept going and had a few energy lulls but stayed focused and calm, enjoying my music still and making sure I ate.  I couldn't wait until I got to Mt. Hillyer, because then i was only 3 or 4 miles from Chilao and I'd be over halfway there and could pick up my first pacer.  I knew also, that I had made up some time, and that I should be heading in to Chilao in just about 12 hours and 30 minutes which would still give me a chance at Sub 24.

As I got closer to the 2 mile road climb leading up to Hillyer my stomach grew increasingly upset.  Every time I ate anything solid it would sort of turn over and I'd feel like I was about to crap my shorts.  I would walk a little then start running again.  I knew that it would probably feel better if I just went to the bathroom, so I took my first outdoor relief of the day.  Thankfully, Annie had me stocked with a coupe of Summer's Eve feminine wipes to make the entire experience so absolutely pleasant!  Ha.  JK.  Actually I just found a spot a little off the trail behind the biggest shrub I could find and hoped nobody came along.  I wasn't very well guarded but at that point I was almost 50 miles deep so I didn't really give a shit!  No pun intended.  Anyway, that only took a minute or two so I pulled up my shorts and jogged up the trail towards the road.  I passed an Asian couple who didn't seam to speak much English, and they asked me if they were headed the right way to the big parking lot.  I told them sorry, that I didn't know as I'd run there from nearly 50 miles away and wasn't super familiar with the area.  This reminds me of something I forgot to mention earlier in this story, which is that throughout the morning I saw a lot of hikers along the trails, and I remember wandering if they had any idea what the runners along the trail were doing that day.  We'd seen a few Boy Scouts who knew what we were up to and cheered us on, but you sort of wonder.

Anyway, my music was still good when I got to the road and as I walked up the hill by myself, I made sure that I stayed alert and kept my eye out so that I wouldn't get hit by a car.  The road was narrow and my music was too loud for me to really hear a car approaching until it was close.  I didn't have the same problem that I'd had on this road the time I'd hiked it in training with Mosquito's swarming my face, and I recalled Jimmy's story about walking up this hill backwards to give his quads a rest when he ran the race his first year.  The climb definitely seemed longer then it did on my training run, which was a trend that became more and more present as my legs grew tired.  I was still optimistic, nonetheless, and was curious as to what position I was in.  I had passed a good number of people at this point, and felt strong still.  I kept on moving up the hill at a decent pace and used the water in my handhelds to drench my hair and face as the heat continued its assault.  I knew that sooner or later I'd get to the top of the hill, and from there to Chilao was what I remembered as a pretty easy stretch.  I was having a couple of issues at this point with the volume buttons on my iPod and it was a hassle to try and take it out of the waterproof case that it was in, so I just left one headphone out for a bit.  Finally I took it out of the case and adjusted the volume but I had a feeling that the iPod would begin testing my patience as time went on.  I rounded a corner and could see the Mt. Hillyer aid station at the top of the hill, and I took out one of my headphones so I could hear the volunteers as I got closer.

It was definitely not as exciting as the other stations, as my crew wasn't there, but the RD Hal Winton was there and I was able to find out how Jimmy and Dom were doing.  I was happy to eat some more chips and solid food and try and get my stomach to settle, and they gave me some more ice for my had and wristbands to cool me down.  I asked Hal if he thought I could still make sub 24 and he told me that he couldn't say.  Then he said "I'll put it this way.  Each year no more than 15 or 20 people finish in 24.  You have about 23 or 24 people ahead of you.  Now, that's not to say that 3 of those people aren't puking on the side of the trail a half a mile from here.  How many hours have you been running?"  I told him 11 hours and 39 Minutes.  He said "Well, the good news is you're half way in under 12 hours.  The bad news is it only gets harder from here.  If you have a chance at it then you're gonna have to run like hell."  I laughed, and said I'd better get moving then.  I ran off up the trail at a slow jog and hiked again when it got a little steeper.  I started being conscious of my position in the race at this point, and didn't want to get passed.

Right as I hit the steep part of the last climb to the top of Hillyer, "Whoop that Trick" by Three 6 Mafia came on in my headphones (from Hustle and Flow) and the adrenaline kicked in again.  I CHARGED up the hill and ran the entire flat/rolling stretch on the top.  As I crested and began my decent I passed another couple of people, and then I saw even more people as I got to the road going into Chilao.  I ran harder, feeling a flood of endorphins as I realized that I felt better at this moment than %100 of the people I saw running.  Admittedly, this felt pretty good.  I almost felt like my crew wasn't expecting me there so quickly when I ran up the road, as they had been at the entry to every aid station before and I couldn't see them here, but I didn't sweat it and ran past a few runners on my way into the aid station.  Annie was there right next to the scale to take my hydration pack and I weighed in at an even 200 lbs again and hustled over towards the AS exit where my crew had a chair and a burger waiting for me.  I had made it farther than I'd ever run before, and felt pretty good still considering.  As I sat in the chair my boss, Steve, approached.  I'd given him splits and let him know what times I'd be coming through each aid station.  I tried to make conversation as I felt bad that he'd come all the way out to see me and I'd be leaving so soon.  I wanted to get moving quickly, the chair was feeling nice to sit in, and my crew was trying to get me to eat as much solid food as I could.  I drank some coke and had some french fries.  I remembered wondering how I would feel at this point.  Although I felt like I had run 50 miles, I felt relatively good.  My legs weren't cramping, nor had they been all day.  Although my stomach had been iffy I still had energy.  I had a long way to go, but the trail to Chantry was a lot of downhill and I'd been really enjoying those sections up to this point.  I asked Bev how I was doing for pacing and she said I was running a perfect race.  I felt good, and I still felt like I had a shot at 24.  As I got up and got ready to go, I felt a rush of energy again.  Every time I left an aid station I felt like I was on a mission.  The cheers from my crew pushed me out on to the trails and made me feel so supported, and helped me to keep believing in myself.  My feet definitely hurt, and my body was tired, but I had 48 miles left to run and I never thought it was going to be easy or feel good, so that didn't get me down.

Burger and Fries at mile 52.3 - Priceless.
Getting the tunes Situated.
As Pedro and I left the aid station my stomach got funny again, and I had a feeling things may begin to get a little touchy.  It was cool to have someone there with me, though, and I was glad I could have somebody to talk to.  We charged out pretty quickly (at least I felt like it was quickly) and I ran out in front.  After losing the trail about 50 yards in, we turned around and finally got our bearings.  It was a little embarrassing, but hey, I had just run 53 miles to get here.  I cut myself some slack.

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