Friday, October 28, 2011

Angeles Crest 100 Recap - Part 3

"In the first 50 miles of a hundred miler, don't be an idiot.  In the second 50 miles, don't be a wimp." -Unknown

Pedro and I charged out of Chilao and began the first small climb of the section.  I told Pedro to lead for the time being, but his pace was BLAZIN' fast for a tired guy like me (his nickname is BLAZE) so I decided to run in front to eliminate his guesswork.  I know that the Blazin' fast thing is cheesy, btw, but that's why you like me, right?  Anyway, we got to the top of the first small hill and began the rolling section that leads down to the Charleton Flats fire road.  By the time we reached the road my stomach started really f'ing with me.  I knew that I'd have to stop pretty soon to go poop, but I held out as long as I could.  When we got to the top of the first concrete grade, I found a spot off the road behind a tree and let loose.  We were probably stopped for 3 or 4 minutes, and another runner and his pacer came up as I was pulling up my shorts.  They were moving well and passed us.  There was a gentle climb that felt much harder than it should at this moment, and I hit the second deep low point of my day.  We were about 55 or 56 miles in, and climbing up a road.  My energy felt like it was running out, and the heat was starting to get to me.  I told Pedro and he told me that I would get through it, and that at the top of the hill we got to run down for a long time.  I knew that already, but the reminder helped me try to get back in a positive space.  We kept charging up the hill and eventually got back to the single track that lead to the to of the ridge.

When we got to the top, I could see over the valley to the next aid station, Shortcut Saddle, and knew that it was just a nice mile or so descent and a mile or so climb to get to the other side.  The sun was far off in the Western sky, but it was still hot and burning down.  There was a nice breeze, though, as we started our descent.  It was CRAZY the way my legs went from feeling heavy to feeling fresh again as we started running down hill.  It was technical, but SO MUCH FUN.  My feet were hurting but I took my mind off the pain by running faster and focusing on the breeze hitting my skin and on the music pumping through my headphones.  I had both of them in and was focused on descending.  I remembered the turns like we had run them the day before, but it had been 3 weeks since I'd been here.  I thought about Annie and I and how we were taking pictures.  I wondered what Pedro was thinking as he followed me.  How did I look?  At points, I felt like I was out of control.  Was Pedro worried I'd fall over?  We passed a few guys on the descent into the canyon and Pedro commented on how fresh I looked.  When we reached the rolling canyon floor I slowed down a bit but kept up my jog, until the climb up the other side started.  Pedro reminded me to eat another gel, and as I did my stomach gurgled.

It was so STRANGE to me at this point to feel the way I felt. On the descent I felt incredible.  Fresh.  Unstoppable.  On the climb, the heat sucked the energy out of me and my legs grew tired.  My legs felt like lead.  I took one of my headphones out and talked with Pedro a little on the climb.  He was really encouraging and pointed out that he and I had run together for the first time less than a year ago when we were training for Bulldog.  About how I hadn't even run a 50k at this point last year, and that I had almost run 100K already today as we climbed the hill.  It made me feel good, and I longed for the sun to go down as I anticipated it would cool off and make the climbs a bit easier.  As we neared the top of the climb, Pedro told me I should run the rest of it, so I did.  Running into Shortcut I got choked up.  There was so much EMOTION running through me.  There were so many people there lining the trail as I ran in and people taking pictures and cheering.  Annie was there to take my pack and people were looking at me as I got my aid.  It was so strange.  I felt like I was some kind of TV show that people were watching.  There were people all around me that I didn't know and it seemed like they were all interested in what was going on with my crew.  I sat down in the chair they had set up for me and started taking in some calories.  I told them how I was feeling and they changed me into some dry clothes in case it got cold.

May have been crying under the shades.  So happy to see Annie.
Mom: "How do you feel?"  Me:  "Shitty!"
I looked behind me and notice some cots layed out and one or two people laying in them.  I felt AWFUL at this point in the race.  This is when I really started to feel fatigued.  I was getting sleepy, things became difficult to process mentally.  I was getting tired.  My stomach was shitty, but I still had hope I could turn it around.  I knew that I needed to get to Chantry by 10 PM to have a real shot at 24 hrs, but for the first time I doubted my ability to do that.  I knew I could run, but if my stomach didn't turn around it may not happen.  Crispin looked eager to finally get to run.  I got Annie's IPod and drank a little bit of Redbull and some more water.  My mom asked me how I felt.  I'm pretty sure I said I felt shitty.  Bev put a cold towel over my head for a little and I wiped my face off.  I remember looking at Bev and telling her the chair was starting to feel good.  I wanted her to know I needed to get moving.  She told everybody time for me to go, and got my butt out of the chair.  I put my headphones in and ran across the Highway with Crispin by my side.  I'm not sure when I got it in my head during the race, but I kept coming back to a quote that Bev had told me before the race.
Bev and Annie makin' it happen.
Crispin waiting to roll out.  Redbull gave me gas. 

"In the first 50 miles of a hundred miler, don't be an idiot.  In the second 50 miles, don't be a wimp."

As I ran towards the trail head with Crispin, I looked over to Annie who was running us out.  She had a huge smile on her face and was cheering me on.  I knew how much she had cared about making EVERYTHING that I wanted to happen, happen.  She was there for me.  I said " I love you!" to her, and Crispin and I veered off down the single track towards Newcombe's Saddle.
Saying goodbye to Annie.

I had my music in and was running along but I could already feel my stomach turning.  I didn't really know how fast we needed to be going, but I knew if we kept up our current pace I was going to shit myself.  I took my headphones out and told Crispin what was going on.  We ended up stopping about a mile down the road and I dropped heat again.  We got back on the road and for the rest of the descent tried to bring our average pace for the section down to around a 10 minute mile.  My stomach was so awful at this point, and it became so frustrating.  I WANTED to run faster.  My legs COULD have run faster.  My stomach wouldn't let me.  It FUCKING SUCKED.  I knew that I wasn't making the time I wanted to make for this section.  Even though we passed a few people and were going back and forth with a few people it was just tough.  Mentally I was struggling and Crispin kept me moving.  I went to the bathroom again at the bottom of the hill next to the creek crossing, and was out of wipes so I used some smooth stones.  I remember there were ants crawling around and I was praying that they wouldn't crawl up my legs.  I just had to go.

Crispin is getting the crew riled up.
I walked through the water with Crispin, and looking back I should've spent more time putting water all over my head to cool down, but at this point I just wanted to get moving.  People had passed us while I was pooping and I wanted to start the climb up to Newcomb's as fast as we could.  We got going and Crispin cracked the whip like a champ for the entire climb.  He set a good pace and kept me motivated the whole time.  I was in a lot of pain.  My feet had blisters on the bottoms of them that I could feel, and it was hot, but I tried to focus on Crispin's feet and just power up the hill.  It got dark enough for us to turn on our headlamps at this point, so we both switched them on as we climbed.  I remembered power hiking this section with Kev during training.  I tried to stay on top of the food and eat, the gels continued to kill my stomach.  The caffeine definitely helped, though, and when we got to the top of the hill, we passed both the runners who had caught us while I was shitting.  We started to run when we got to the rolling section that was around the corner from the aid station, and first the first time saw the glittering lights of LOS ANGELES off to our left.  It was BEAUTIFUL.  It felt so surreal to be seeing the city after being in the wilderness all day.  I had wondered what this moment would feel like, as Dom had told me it was pretty strange.

Newcomb's saddle is the most remote of all of the aid stations, as it takes 45 minutes to get there from the Angeles Crest Freeway on rutted out mountain roads.  What is TOTALLY AWESOME about this aid station , is that even though it has no crew access, they have a video conferencing system set up between there and the next aid station at Chantry Flats.  As the crow flies I think they are only a mile apart, but by trail it is 6.5 miles.  When I got into the aid station I asked about the conference and they gave me a microphone and let me talk into the camera.  There was a TV monitor of Chantry Flats, and I could hear them on the microphone at Chantry calling out my bib number to alert my crew that I was on the monitor.  I felt SO BAD at this point, and my stomach was terrible.  My feet needed taping, I had to poop again, and I was getting tired.  Seeing my crew there definitely made me smile and cheered me up a bit, and my roomie Elya showed up, too.  That was pretty awesome of him, as he'd even gone to Shortcut (right after I left!) which is out of the way as well.  I said hello for a little bit and then went to poop, and while pooping out in the brush away from the station I could see Crispin doing some kind of crazy dance on the screen.  When I came back, I sat down and had some broth for a little bit.  My whole crew was urging me to get up and keep moving so they could see me again.  Annie even FLASHED ME!  Every other guy sitting in front of the monitor was pretty stoked about that... I told them she was the best girlfriend ever.  I knew I needed to get moving, so I slowly pulled myself out of my chair and put on my pack.

2 Way TV!
I took a hand full of  chips to eat on the way out of the aid station, and Crispin and I started walking along a fire road for a half mile or so.  The city was still glowing off to the left, and I started talking about how it would be tough to get sub 24 at this point, but that I still wanted to finish strong.  I told Crispin about how Jimmy and I had done our trail work on the upcoming single track section, and how I was looking forward to being able to run it.  Crispin reminded me how hard I trained and all of injuries I'd overcome to be here, to be in this place at this time.  I thought about all of the time I'd spent on the stationary bike daydreaming about this moment.  Wondering if I would be strong in these moments or if I would break.  As we approached that single track section my adrenaline kicked in, and we let out a charge.  Howling in the night, we ran to the single track trail and dove down into the darkness.  I felt so free as I let go of the pain and let my legs go as they pleased, moving faster and faster down the tree covered mountain trail.  I knew that this section was going to get very technical, and I yelled out to Crispin behind me to keep focused on the trail and not me, as it was going to get rocky.

I could see the trail dropping off in places on my left as we went winding along the side of the mountain and down into the canyon.  There were some places where we had to make aggressive moves as the rocks would come into the beam of our headlamps just before our feet would get to them.  We were making incredible time on this section, and I focused on the trail and on keeping as relaxed as I could.  We came around a corner and all of a sudden my foot hit a rock and I TRIPPED.  Face first I fell towards the trail, only a few feet wide in this spot, and the left half of my body landed off the trail as I held myself on with my right leg and arm.  Crispin shouted "you're ok" to calm me down.  I scrambled and got up.  I was shaken, and had to slow down at this point to gather myself.    I could see blood on my hand coming from a few places, but the adrenaline was still flowing and I forgot about the pain again.  We slowed our pace still as we ran further and further down into the canyon.  I realized that to run faster than I could see the rocks at this point was too great a risk.  I had come too far to ruin my chances of finishing by being careless.

Dom had told me that the 4.5 rolling miles from Sturtevant camp to Chantry are the longest 4.5 miles ever.  The trail is very rocky and technical, and you keep crossing over a creek.  It seems to go on FOREVER.  As Crispin and I made our way along the canyon floor, my stomach continued to gurgle.  I had to stop AGAIN and this time right away.  I was too tired to waste any energy finding a place to squat off the trail, so I just stepped to the side of the trail and dropped trow.  I looked around as I released for something to wipe with, and all I could see were dead leaves.  A few hikers came up on us as I was going and I told them sorry and that they should look away or be scarred for life.  They must've been told about the race, as they all said keep it up and don't give up.  I was too tired to even be embarrassed.  I hoped that the dry leaves weren't weren't poison oak, and even asked Crispin.  He said probably not.  Then I wiped.  Then he said "better safe than sorry though, so maybe don't wipe with those leaves."  Haha.  Too late.  I pulled up my shorts and we began running faster now that I had relieved myself.  In addition to just having to go, my core was now hurting from running/pooping so much.  I had only wiped with one leave and felt like I probably had shit all over my compression shorts.  I felt disgustingly dirty and unclean, as I imagined that the chaffed portions of my ass and my legs would get infected by the bacteria in my crap.  I remember thinking that nobody ever told me about this part of running 100 miles.  It isn't just pain.  It is also gross shit.

We continued running along, getting faster every mile.  We passed Andy Kumeda and a guy running without a pacer named Skinny from Run With Us (Pasadena Ultra Club).  I got into a pretty good rhythm and started feeling good again.  We were getting close to Chantry.  Mentally this was a place I wanted to get to because it was the last leg.  The last marathon.  I was familiar with it, and had Chandelous waiting for me at Chantry to carry me to the finish.  I knew that this was going to be a hard stretch, but I dug deep and I prepared myself for what I needed to do.  I was ready to give it my all.  Crispin and I hit a pretty fast pace leading up to the bitch of a concrete grade right before Chantry, then power hiked fast and purposefully to the top of the hill.  When I saw the lights at the top of the hill I got choked up again.  I let out a howl and heard people cheering as we came up to the stairs.  I was so beat up but so ready to go.

I had a mental to-do list that I rattled off to my crew the second I saw them.  I needed the blisters on my feet taped and to see if I could do something about my stomach.  I needed my hand to get cleaned up.  I needed a change of shorts.  I weighed in at 190, 10 pounds underweight, and went over to the chair to start getting shit taken care of.  The guy looked at my hand a little and put some hydrogen peroxide on it, but said I'd be ok to finish with it without any bandages or further cleaning.  My crew had me eat some apple sauce and down some cups of chicken noodle.  I drank some water and then medical had me come over to the table to tape up my feet.  As he taped them I ate a tortilla with avocado and people kept coming by to check on me.  Leading up to this point, I was so utterly focused.  I was in pain, but I felt motivated and felt strong.  I felt like I could get back out there.  All of a sudden, I had been sitting for too long.

I was FUCKING FREEZING all of a sudden.  Annie and Bev found a blanket for me and tried to get the guy to hurry up taping my feet.  I appreciated that he was trying to be gentle, as he knew I was in pain, but I was also in a hurry.  The longer I sat there the colder I got.  When he was finally done, I got up to go to the bathroom and change shorts and when I stood up I almost fell over.  This was NOT GOOD.  I was DIZZY.  I felt like I was gonna start puking any second.  Annie came into the bathroom with me, but the second we got in there I had to poop again so I kicked her out as I changed my shorts and let one go.  When I got out of the bathroom I could barely walk.  The world was spinning, and I felt out of control of my body.  This was one of the lowest feelings of the race.  Up until this point, I was ready to take on any challenge.  All of a sudden, I needed to SIT.  And fast.  I told Bev how I was feeling as Annie walked me back towards my crew.  Then I started to lose my legs.

This is when shit got real.

1 comment:

  1. What a freaking cliff-hanger!
    Great report George, but even better race... you were really dealing with some crap out there, and I didn't mean that as a pun but I guess it is. What a strong race you ran. Great job! And pretty great crew too :)