Sunday, May 16, 2010

What I learned at the Redmond Watershed Preserve 12-hour Run 5/15/2010:

I woke up shortly after 3 AM with a start, ridiculously nervous. My first attempt at the 50 mile distance, and I seriously feared missing my goal. I try to avoid having time goals because it seems to just make me slower (e.g. Zurich), but for this one I can’t afford to dillydally too much. It would be close- if I did a 5 hour 1st marathon and 6 hour 2nd marathon, with a 3 minute break each loop and 10 minutes to change clothes halfway, well, that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room. Even though I had just run 13 marathons in 12 weeks, I felt out of shape (particularly after crawling up Montreux with Crash on Wednesday). Overtrained? Nah- taper, schmaper. Fat and out of shape? Yep. The longest I had run before was 50k in December, my last double was nearly 2 months ago, and struggling on short runs in Discovery Park last weekend didn’t boost my confidence. Need to sleep. Need to sleep. Forget it. Got up, did a couple pushups hoping it wasn’t too late to reduce chafage from spillage, showered, then applied about half a stick of Body Glide.

The Redmond Watershed is a beautiful rolling forest trail, and we were to do as many loops (comprised of a longer, 4.66 mile loop followed by a shorter, 0.72 mile loop) as possible in under 12 hours, with the option of just repeating just the short loop the last 2 hours. It was nice to see familiar Maniac faces, and some superstar runners like Van “pigtails” Phan who has the course record of 71 miles.

The first 2 loops went an hour apiece, right on target. Pleasant chatting with Monte, one of my favorite Maniacs, who was doing his “favorite double”. He’s doing Capitol City Sunday (where I am told Joan Benoit Samuelson, who still cranks out sub-3’s, won her Olympic trials in 1984), so probably stopping at WP12 after a “mere” marathon or 50k. Hard not to linger too long at the rest stop, which is stocked with excellent ultra fare, potatoes and salt, cola, fruit, and birthday cake. I kept passing then being passed by #82, who happens to be 81 years old, because I kept losing time at the rest stops, eating and reapplying Body Glide.

Early into the 3rd loop, out of nowhere, I had a sudden sharp pain under my right lateral malleolus (ankle), so bad it stopped me in my tracks. I started sweating, it reminded me of my stress fracture on the other ankle 4 years ago. Great, my race is over before it started. I looked around for a place to sit, nowhere to sit except for the next pile of horse crap and some shrubs downhill. Couldn’t sit on the path, since I’d be blocking all those runners who were now passing me (including #82). I looked for a tree to hold onto so I could try rotating my ankle- maybe I just had a tendon strain or an air bubble, like a knuckle that needed cracking. I ended up doing the stork for 5 minutes, stretching/ massaging then gingerly and gradually putting weight back on it. After about 20 minutes I was able to hobble, but I felt myself limping and getting pain in my left calf. This went on until the end of the 3rd loop, when I was able to down some advil, sit and massage my foot, which seemed to take care of the pain.

Back in the game, but now seriously behind. 4th loop went OK, but started to feel some chafage on my left side. I wasn’t wearing a belt, and it was well above my shorts, but just to be safe I rolled the seam outward on my shorts and kept tugging down the left corner so it wouldn’t ride up to the burn. Early in the 5th loop, it was getting up to 70 degrees and I was starting too feel chafage all around my gut. I peeped under my shirt, dang! There was blood coming from my right flank, and my entire belly, which was protruding even more than usual from the litres of cola I was downing, was all red and raw from chafing against my now wet shirt. That must surely be something ultrarunners don’t contend with often, “muffin top” chafage.

At the end of the marathon distance, I got a bandaid from the aid station, where the guy looked at my bloody shirt and asked if 1 bandaid was all I wanted. I knew after I changed and put more body glide, nothing was going to stick to me anyway. It took ridiculously long to pry off the 2 sports bras (yes, double bagging helps protect the girls from chafage) and lube up my entire torso. Then I ate a turkey sandwich and set off on loop #6, dry and still optimistic.

Felt pretty good after 50k but getting slower and slower. Loop #7 walked all the hills, Loop #8 walked the entire first half mile with a ham sandwich, and all the hills. I began to realize that I would not make the 50 mile goal, started to do some mental calculations, though my brain was starting to feel fuzzy and stupid. Nope, there was no way. Oh well, at least I’ll get 40 miles in.

Then halfway through the small loop- OOFF! Face-plant, wind knocked out of me. Nice road rash on my right side. Actually it was like a furry woodchip shirt because everything was sticking to the Body Glide. That’s it. I’m quitting. I’m a quitter. There’s 1:50 left to do ?8 more miles? No way.

I emerged from the forest and saw… VVN and her husband Tom. What were they doing there? They had been hiking earlier and came to watch the race. Actually, VVN had hoped to run one of the big loops with me, and was wondering where I was, had not even done 8 loops in over 10 hours. I washed the woodchip arm and tried to eat some food but just felt drained to the bone, physically, mentally, spiritually. What’s the point, I wasn’t going to make 50 miles, not this time, not this year. I don’t give a crap. I’m a quitter. A loser.

It turned out, I had already done 43 miles, but in my mind there was no way I could do another long loop even with 1:40 left to spare. VVN convinced me to run a couple short loops with her. Amazingly, I started to wake up, and actually sped up. Seeing other runners still slogging it out to the end, race volunteers, Tom, and other Maniacs cheering you on, and VVN telling me intresting running stories kept me going. I lost track of the small loops, but she says I got up to 48.8 miles. About 1.5 short loops or 13 minutes short of my goal. But I had to admit, I sure was glad I kept running.

Afterwards, I got to meet another Maniac whom VVN knew from their gym, and whom I’d seen romping on the trail with his children. He still looked fresh as a daisy. Apparently he had done the H.U.R.T (a 100 mile race in Hawaii) 6 times, and in fact, got into the Maniacs by doing 4x 100 mile races in a month! He said (I’ll paraphrase) “I hate running, I only do races… 100-milers are the only way to go. OK, you feel shitty from miles 45-61, but after 100k you’re so high there is no pain. Nothing can hurt you.” He added some other gems, like, it’s easier to have the required mental fortitude after the age of 45 (there's still hope for me?), and after 50 miles it has nothing to do with your athletic ability but all about your skill keeping up your nutrition status, something I’ve heard about Ironmen before. Or in my case, keeping chafage under control. Or not listening to my stupid brain when it wants to quit; in the end it’s all mental.

And, we all need friends. Thanks VVN.


  1. Thanks for sharing your WSP 12 hour ultra. I too was there and it was my first ultra ever. I was fortunate enough to have picked this ultra as everyone was kind and supportive. Congrats on your mailage! I was able to rack up 44.44 miles wit 7 minutes to spare. Will you be participating in the Lake youngs ultra in June?


  2. 44.44, poetic! Congrats, antil0ck, awesome job for first ultra, you a MM? I hear Lake Youngs is awesome, and closeby too, but I will be in Argentina for work, and running the Rosario marathon the following week.

  3. You might want to check out & verify your geneaology. I'm almost certain there's a connection to the Tarahumaras...

  4. Thanks SO much for your post! Congratulations for keeping on keeping on. This was my first official ultra (I came up short of my goal, but had a great time) - and much of what you wrote resonated with me AND gave me hope that I can do better next time. Thanks!!