My first 100k - Born To Run Ultra Marathon
|Photography by Larry Gassan - Mile 50 Heading out on my last loop. |
I'm surprised he caught me with half a smile on my face.
My post race restless sleep was interrupted by either the throbbing in my legs or the occasional runner being assisted by friends and family on their way in from their last loop. Salsa music blared late into the night while runners were still being announced by Luis Escobar himself as they finished their loops or headed back out. It was the music and party at the finish line that lured me in from those last miles. And the way that the cheering and music glided over the hills through the dense dark was seriously seductive, pushing me on to run the last four miles to the finish without stopping. That was my most vivid memory of my first 100k ultra marathon.
I had an eery confidence about this race. I wasn't nervous. I wasn't worried. Yeah. Sixty-two miles seemed like a long way to go, but for some insane reason I wasn't really all that messed up in my head about it. Since the course consisted of two ten-mile loops I looked at it like a regular workover - in terms of sets rather than the mileage as a whole. At any ten mile point I could just bail and drink beer. I just had to complete six sets of ten. Surely, I could do three sets and then I was half-way there, right?
|Me with my ultra-running buds|
Patrick Sweeney &
Alex (my not-so-serial-killer new friend)
|Picking up my race packet |
and welcome necklace
Tarahumara ball races.
Shortly after picking up my race packet and grabbing a cold beer, race director Luis Escobar briefed us on the course loops, ribbons, and signage. He made it perfectly clear to everyone that there would be no whiners at this race. I loved his tough love attitude. "If you get hurt, lost or die its your own damn fault" our host announced over the loudspeaker. We would be repeating the Caballo Blanko oath again the next morning as part of our pre-race ritual. And I loved it when Luis said... "This is not Wildflower. We are not pretty people. We are dirty, gritty, ultra runners." (or something like that) I loved this guy. He was honest and genuine. And a hard ass. I can appreciate that.
|Hanging out by the campfire. |
Caleb looks happy to see fire. Ha!
(Photo credit: Anthony Sanders)
|Someone was carb loading |
the night before.
|Me and Caity McCardell|
(Photo credit: Patrick Sweeney)
The gunshot cracked the crisp air and we were off.
|Heading out on the first pink loop.|
(Photo credit: Anthony Sanders)
Initially my goal for this 100k was just to finish regardless of time. But, after I had completed the first lap of the yellow loop my goal had evolved. I really wanted to make it to the finish line before dark. There was a very short but pretty steep section of single-track just after the last ridgeline that was dubious in daylight with strong legs let alone the depth deprived darkness after fifty-five miles. The last thing I wanted was to end up on my head at the bottom of the hill at mile fifty-eight. Ugggh.
I was lucky enough to have somehow caught up with Anthony Sanders (one of the Luna guys and a United States Marine) who was also running the 100k. My pace locked in with his and he was my metronome for 30 miles until his knee laid down the smackdown and he was forced to DNF somewhere around the 40 mile mark.
Its not often that I get to run with people. Running with Anthony was really nice. There's something oddly calming and meditative when your pace matches up with a fellow runner's. It was also nice having someone to chat with and keep me on trail when I missed the turn. Yeah. I did that. Glad someone was there to keep me on track.
Zaps Threads Shirt!
|Stuffing my face and coming out |
of the Barbie Aid Station.
Photo credit: Anthony Sanders
Funny how it took me until about mile 20 to realize that I had no knee pain, no hip pain and the tight hamstring I was worried about had loosened up and was a total non-issue. I had my fiyah!
Admittedly though, my right foot was feeling pretty beat up by mile twenty-five. This, I kind of expected and has been pretty much par for the course for most of my races. The ground was hard-pack and gravelly with smaller sections of grassy, holey, uneven bits. My brand spankin' new, barely worn Merrell Pace Gloves worked like a champ, but the thinner sole of the minimal shoes still felt every sharp and jabby rock. My left foot was good. My right foot... not so much. The pain in my foot came and went. Apparently, that foot still pronates slightly which is probably why I ended up with an inconsequential blister on the bottom midfoot below my big toe. The small bunion on that foot gives me trouble from time to time when I run. By mile 25 the bones felt like they were separating when I landed and I would get a few sharp pains every now and then. I also had weird sensations like bleeding between my toes and tingling. As long as the pain wasn't consistent I was going to keep running. So I did.
|The guys back at camp.|
Flint, Alex, Caleb and Patrick
Besides the ice cold denim drape, the shoulder and neck massage I got at the Barbie aid station was fabulous! They even made Vanessa and Caity mimosas to take with them while they literally inched their way barefoot back to the start line. It was a brutal course for 100% barefoot. I have total respect for both Caity and Vanessa. With the way my feet felt IN SHOES I can only imagine the pain that would ensue barefoot. Those girls were TOUGH!
The aid station volunteers were an amazing, caring, motivating and an observant crew. They were truly watching out for each and every runner out there. Words can't describe how thankful and grateful I was to each and every one of those people. My heart was filled with gratitude each and every time I left an aid station.
|Coming in to mile 50. |
Photo credit: Patrick Sweeney
Speaking of expectations... my hope was to not only complete this 100k, but to also have some kind of transcending experience. I wanted to dig deep with this race. I wanted to suffer and push through. I wanted that experience. I've never hit a wall. I haven't even really had to struggle too much mentally with the longer distances and was, in a strange sadistic way, hoping to find my limit somewhere within 62 miles.
So did I find my limit?
Well... it was hard heading out on that last yellow loop and walking away from camp (the top black and white picture was taken as I was heading out on my last loop and was shot by Larry Gassan (firstname.lastname@example.org) a professional fine art photojournalist who photographs endurance athletes) All my buddies were hanging out at the finish line getting dinner and beers and cheering people on. The salsa music had started and people were getting their party on. Not only was I hungry for a big ol' fat burger, but my eyes had started getting droopy and I was feeling a very large nap coming on. It was hard not knowing what the last 12 miles would be like especially knowing that I was on my own, in my own head and would be solo in the dark at some point (I was hoping I wouldn't need my headlamp until after I got down from that last ridgeline). But, never for a moment did I doubt that I could finish. In fact, during the last 15 miles that was all that I could think about. That I was going to do this. And I did.
|Start/Finish Line and the funky manequin|
|My 100k finish!|
(Photo credit: Patrick Sweeney)
Coming in to the finish line I had only a small two-mile out and back to the funky lingerie manequin to do. I was re-energized by the cheering and the music which made those last two miles tolerable. Everybody was salsa dancing and partying. It looked like a fun place to be.
|My Kukini finisher's amulet|
Wha??? You say.
Oh yes. Hula hoop. With a big, ginormous hula hoop.
So I did. I had no idea I could hula hoop after 62 miles. Then the hot shirtless guy with the pink skirt (I think his name was Jacob) tied the amulet around my neck, picked me up and spun me around until I was sufficiently dizzy. Honestly, dude could'a just put a beer in my hand and called it good. After setting me down, he had to hold on to me for a few seconds to keep me from falling on my ass.
I wish I had party in me left to stay at the finish line and join the cheering crowd as the other 100k finishers and 100 mile runners were coming through, but honestly, there was good beer waiting in my cooler back at camp and once I sat down to enjoy my Torpedo IPA it was all over. That's OK, though, because I'll be back again next year.
|Who knew I could hula hoop after 62 miles!|
The video above is Caity McCardell's video of the weekend shenanigans. She also captured me finishing my 100k and hula hooping. (Fast forward to 3:30) She also got video of Maria's tattoo, ball racing, and the salsa dancing party at the finish line.
I can wholeheartedly say now that my training is working for me. I'm staying uninjured. I'm strong. I'm well prepared and in shape for these long miles (though, I have some strengthening in my right foot to do) and I've got serious fiyah. I'm able to achieve distances I never thought were even possible. It amazes me just how far I've come (literally) just within the last six months. Words can't even describe how thankful I am to my coach, Seth, for putting up with me and all my doubts. Lets just see where this takes me from here.
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Check out more of Larry Gassan's photography from the Born To Run Ultra Marathons.