Friday, June 19, 2009

Our Most EXCELLENT Adventure

In a nutshell, it was the San Diego 100 mile Endurance Run...minus a few miles. And, it was an adventure, from the very start...
Rick got in a bike ride...over a hundred miles up a mountain in a ride called the "Breathless Agony".
Right after that, the OC Marathon, and SD 100 application time.
Training runs were scheduled. A few of us squeezed into a Mini Cooper and tried to get in a night run somewhere along the SD course. We slept(?) in Jean's Mini, waiting for the other runners to arrive. It ended up being over 100 miles of driving, to run 8 miles! We trained on hills in the heat, I ran on the road, in the heat. We were training for 100 miles of hot weather!
One last long run of about 24 miles to Santiago Peak, the Monday before the race, finished up the training. We hit REI to look at headlamps, flashlights and socks. We discussed drop bags, did we need them? Cutoff times, what pace did we need to maintain to meet them? Shoes, one pair or two? What was the weather forecast? Rain?! Let's not even go there!!! What to drink, eat and carry. The list of things to do was endless.
Matt agreed to help us out by being our crew. I went over the maps with him, gave him boxes of stuff to bring down and a timeline, where to meet us and when. I think crews have a very hard and thankless job...they only get to see the runners for a short period of time and are expected to have everything ready and waiting. Not alot of time to sleep either.
Back to the weather forecast...The PCT 50 mile run, was moved to the SD100 mile course after a military helicopter crashed on the original course. Those runners, while getting to preview the 100 mile course endured high temps. One of the reason for all the hot weather training runs...
But, the forecast for the 100 mile run was cool weather. In fact as the weekend neared, the temps dropped. 75, then 73 and the final posting for Saturday was 65! With the possibility of rain. Did i ever mention I hate mud? We made some last minute clothing adjustments, threw everything in Karen's SUV(Rick's wife) and headed south to Camp Cuyamaca to the race briefing.
The race began at 0600, with very cool weather. Excitement building, we huddled at the start with the other runners. A few minutes to wish others good luck and then we were off running...for at least a mile! Then the hiking/fast walking began. The first 20 miles were mostly gradual climbs, a portion of it on the PCT. We fought against some wind, but over all made good time finishing in about 4 1/2 hours. At the Camp, we shed our long sleeves and tights, refilled bottles, added more gels to our packs and headed out to start the 30 mile loop. A quick assessment of how we felt after 20? Really strong and ready for finishing the first 50. 6 miles later, we catch up with Matt at the Paso Picacho aid station. We refill, make adjustments and continue on happily. We must have been too happy, because about 20 min. later we realized we had missed a trailmarker! After looking around for the missed marker, asking hikers if they'd seen pink ribbons and arrows, our only option was to backtrack down the hill. What we found was, 10 yards from the last AS was a well marked turn least 20 pink ribbons and 10 flour arrows. How did we miss that!!!
What stands out in my memory about the 30 mile loop? Hills. Rocky hills. One section, a long downhill full of shale, we started out trying to run, but ended up walking. I twisted my ankle, probably more than once.
And the wind picked up. At the milk ranch AS, the temps dropped as the clouds rolled in and the wind blew. As i mentioned earlier, the first 20 miles we finished in 4.5 hours. The next 30 took 9. Back at Camp Cuyamaca again, the end of the first 50, our finish time about 13.5 hours. 1 hour under the cutoff. We picked up windbreakers and gel. I dug out my hiking poles. My right ankle was starting to hurt, probably from twisting it on the rocks. Heading out to rerun the 20 mile loop we felt good, strong and a bit anxious. As the last bit of sun set, the winds really kicked in. There were portions of the trail we had to stop and wait for the wind to die down other wise risk being blown off the trail. It was slow going. and cold. But in an odd and crazy way, exciting! We could see other runners in the distance with their headlamps. We were all in this adventure together! Running when we could, trying not to fall into holes or off the trail, our minds were set on just making the next aid station, where there would be familiar faces, warm food and hot coffee-courtesy of Matt. We were passing people on the 20 mile loop, and it looked like we would make the 70 mile time cutoff. My ankle was getting to be a problem, but the poles were helping. We arrived at Camp Cuyamaca, the 70 mile AS at 0212. 45 min. before the cutoff.
We were greeted by Scott the RD, he pulled us aside and quietly told us the weather conditions on the last 30 had deteriorated. There was snow, high winds and sleet by the Milk Ranch AS. If we didn't leave immediately we probably wouldn't make the final cutoff. He suggested that this would be a good time and place to drop. We did some quick calculations...9 hours for the first 30 miles loop, in daylight. could we finish the same 30 mile loop at night in horrible conditions? Plus we still needed about half an hour to tape blisters, gather more clothing, eat and refill bottles. One option was to continue on, try to make it to the next AS and see how we feel. But, I think we both felt that our goal, to finish, was no longer within our grasp. While physically we both were doing pretty good, the time it would take us to finish was just beyond the cutoff.
So at mile 70, with reservations, we dropped.
Then dirty, smelly and exhausted we climbed into the back of the SUV and took a nap. 3 hours later we woke up to sunlight and cheers. Runners were still coming in and crossing the finish line, about 20 yards away from the truck. We slowly crawled out and tenderly took our first steps. We saw a few people we knew, chatted about the run and vowed to come back next year and finish the full 100.
We drove away still smiling, we didn't finish 100 miles... but we did finish 70 feeling pretty darn good. It's not what we didn't do, it's what we did. And that will carry us on to our next race.