Monday, May 28, 2012


This is the 2nd of 5 planned 100 milers for the year, the first and only local one I’m likely to do, because it is the only non-technical one. 10-1/2 loops around Lake Youngs in Renton, 9.4 miles, 900 ft elevation and 2 aid stations per loop. It was designed by Pigtails, a local ultrarunner and race director (RD) around my age who has never once DNFd in her 20-or so 100 milers, and won at least 1 race in every distance between marathon and 150 miles. She had to invent a 200 miler so she could run it. You have the options of running 200, 150, or 100 (a.k.a. the “half two hundred”). Believe me, I had crazy thoughts of attempting the 150 but I have too many planned days off work for other races to take another Friday off. This was advertised as a PR (personal record) opportunity which it certainly was, but as I’ve said before, there’s no such thing as an easy 100.

Fellow Maniac Francine drove down with her husband from Rossland BC (7 hours away, just north of Spokane) and stayed with me. We had met at Quadzilla and run several Spokane races together. Last year at 54, she had done Cascade Crest, a highly technical 100 in Easton. That race starts at 10 AM just to guarantee that even the front runners have to do some running in the dark, and put the “Five Miles of Hell” at the end of the course, where runners have to pick through fallen trees, mud/ water, with chin-scraping elevation gain. That’s not even as hard as the Plain 100 near Leavenworth which has a 36 hour time limit and is advertised NO AID STATIONS, NO PACERS. WATER FROM STREAMS SO BRING YOUR FILTER. Unlike marathoners or triathletes who always seem to have some excuse as to why they didn’t have the perfect day, ultrarunners all know that anything can go wrong, and something hurts somewhere all the time. I don’t believe I’ve descended a flight of stairs in the normal way (i.e. facing forward, one foot per step) in 2 years. They make up for it by choosing harder and harder courses and priding themselves on “no whining”.  Most ultrarunners are quietly unassuming, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t proud- for some, the more obstacles, the more suffering, the better.

Many of my Maniac friends lamented about how undertrained they were. You would laugh if you saw their mileage. I felt pretty underprepared myself, mainly from lack of sleep related to moving/ changing jobs and returning from Europe just in the last week, and dietary indiscretion (no excuse there….). I had not even put together my drop bag by 8 pm the night before… thankfully it was a loop course so only 1 drop bag station to worry about. All my best intentions of having the dream blister kit ready after RR100 succumbed to my procrastination tendencies, though I did manage many new important items, including caffeine tablets, cornstarch, and tincture of benzoin. The drop bag list is >30 items long and though I emailed myself to NOT FORGET THE IPOD, I managed to forget that crucial item. In a panic, I texted Ocean Man, whom I had convinced to bring me warm food at midnight and left a spare key for Casa Leschi. “can you bring my ipod”.

It was a beautiful day, albeit a tad warmer than ideal at a sunny 74 degrees, laughably comfortable by ultra standards. Arrived at 4:45 am and people from the 200 and 150 were already doing their laps (and one guy had already finished his 200 in 43 hours!), and most of the 100 milers were already unloading supplies their cars. I surreptitiously observed the other runners’ gear and made notes to self- coolers work better if you put ice in them, and I must get folding chairs next time so I can change socks without having to get up from the ground which is difficult to do after 70+ miles. It's a "washing machine loop" course, i.e. switches directions every loop, so you can see familiar faces and say "good job" a couple hundred times. I realized I knew a majority of the runners already, including Jill (the high school principal who can outrun her students) who ran with me at ATY and doing great after turning vegan, Francesca with whom I'd run Javelina and was doing the 150, and Monte, Rob, and Guy who were doing their first 100.

One of these is Larry C, the guy from Spokane who runs with his ultradog Abby (see March 2011 entry, "37 miles to 9 mile") who last year at 71 set an age group course record at the Yakima marathon (3:44, when I PRd at 3:57). I convinced him last January at the Pullman Winter Ultra #2 that he should do Pigtails. His last 100 was at Western States 11 years prior; he thought he had one more in him. I latched on to him early on, as I enjoy running and chatting with experienced runners and hearing tales about their past life and running adventures, getting tips and advice. He ran without a water bottle, which to me seemed crazy as some of the aid stations were >5 miles apart (at our pace on trail, over an hour). The aid stations only had tiny dentist-size paper cups which had to be refilled 10 times to get a real gulp of water. Rest stops are where a lot of novices lose time- easy to do as the day goes on and they serve pizza and soup, but just 2-3 minutes at each stop kills over an hour over 100 miles. But I didn’t mind taking a breather at the rest stops, and I was well used to being near the back of the pack of trail runs. 

Then I remembered I had cans of coke at home, maybe Ocean Man could bring those with my ipod. Texted while running “can you bring some cans of coke and beer”. Then I thought my backpack might get too hot but I didn’t bring any bottles, “can you bring my handheld”. Then "can you bring some bags of ice", then finally “can you just call me when you get there”. Very generously he offers to make a day of it, came down with Ocean Jr. at 4:30 PM to catch dinner/ movie so I wouldn’t have to wait until midnight for my iPod. Turns out I didn’t need it until dusk and then I forgot it anyway... 

The first 5 loops went fairly well, aside from a pinky blister at mile 33. Forgot my nail clipper so was initiated into the "popped blisters with the pins off my race bib" club. Better to get it over with, ignoring your feet is the knell of death. Foolishly didn't change my damp socks but just poured more anti-MonkeyButt powder in, and some down my cleavage for good measure. Mile 43 for me is always the death zone. Larry was starting to struggle a bit as well; he had an overtraining injury a couple months back and hadn't done any long runs in 7 weeks. Then I got a sharp abdominal pain. Gotta go but uh-oh, at least 5 miles until the porta potty. Wish I had brought some TP.... could I reliably identify poison oak? Hmmm, those ferns look kinda soft, but kinda holey.... Made it to the bushes and got a couple pounds lighter after the diarrhea. The cramps came back again, but this time I made it to porta potty. Geez, maybe packing 9 dairy-based protein shakes in my drop bag was not so bright, though it didn't bother me at RR100. Thankfully they had wipes at the aid station (another item to bring next time) so I could clean up, and I took several with me since I was constantly applying body glide to my muffintop armpit and chest chafe marks which hadn't fully healed from my last 3 weeks of running.

Saw Ocean Man and Ocean Jr. at base camp around 5 pm, with ice cold coke cans and turkey sandwiches. Apparently Ocean Jr., on studying the race board had 2 questions, "So, she's only running the half?" and to Ocean, "why did you run marathons?". 

At the 100k mark dusk was setting in, and mosquitoes. I thought I would make it back to camp for my headlamp and warm clothes before dark, but Larry and I were each struggling and slowing, but Larry was slowing more. I knew I'd be much better off staying with Larry than going it alone but I also knew he was just walking now and I'm a disaster on trail in the dark without a lamp, so I made the decision to run ahead of him. Maybe bad race karma would hit me for leaving him, but the first rule of survival is to survive. Went to porta potty and changed out of tight, wet sportsbras into dry clothes and took stock of chafage. Changed socks- dang, more blisters, including a blood blister the size of my pinky toe and the start of mild heat rash.

Met up with VVN, with whom I'd run the TransRockies. She brilliantly had lined up a couple friends who brought in McDonald's and were her pacers. She looked very fresh in her Hokas and they were about to take off. Larry did not look well and I wanted to latch on to VVN and not run alone, but in my haste forgot my ipod. Fatal mistake because as usual I'm slow as molasses in dark and could not keep up, then found myself alone in the dark for 10 miles without tunes. It was getting colder, I tried to walk briskly but the chafage discouraged armswinging. I took caffeine. I took advil. Did I already take caffeine? Texted Ocean Man that I probably wouldn't make it back to the aid station before 12:30, he answered that Ocean Jr. had to go to bed but he left turkey sandwiches and coffee at my cooler. Got slower, slower, weaving... nearly fell backwards climbing the last hill back to the aid station. I told the lap counters I was going to sit in my car for 30 min to warm up (have to tell them if you take a break otherwise they send a search and rescue out if your loops take too long). My whole body was shaking and jerking, too much caffeine? Better drink more coffee. Made sure to put my feet up as I could feel they were swollen but I didn't want to take my shoes off, ate a turkey sandwich... 

I hear a knock on my window. Go away. Knock knock, you ok? Oh yeah, I'm in the middle of a race. Oddly, I simultaneously had absolutely no thought of DNFing, yet no desire to get back on the course. I just did not give a flying F- whether I finished or not. I just didn't want to get up. I looked at my watch. Crap 2 hours had gone by. Yet there was so much time left.... got up to check in at the counters desk and get more coffee. Pigtails was there volunteering at 2:45 AM, and she had just run 200 miles in 52 hours! John, another volunteer I'd met at ATY offered to pace me. People are always asking me if I'm OK, guess I didn't look so good. Picked up my iPod though this time I had company. We actually ran a bit, but sitting in my cold damp filth for 2 hours had cranked up my chafage and I was pretty cranky. We talked about upcoming races, and he generously offered to pace me in the future, since I clearly need pacing!

Then Ocean Man texted me at 4 AM. Apparently he had texted me at 1 AM but I was asleep and didn't answer, so he got worried. Offered to pace me for a lap and bring me coffee and Egg McMuffins! Hallelujah, what a sight for sore eyes. Left for loop #9 just at the Buttcrack of Dawn. He listened to me ramble, ran when I ran, walked when I walked, even claimed that he was starting to see why people run these things. I remembered when he paced me to my Maniacs qualifying race 5 years ago, how we should chant the army alphabet and other marching songs to keep going. 

More blister popping. More diarrhea but by then I was almost empty. Another Egg McMuffin. I could feel every rock on the bottom of my feet and the itch from heat rash, but no matter, I was ridiculously happy just to be on my bell lap. Ocean Man had not run in 6 months, so only planned to pace 1 lap. I took off on my last lap alone and realized I could still break 29 hours, which was my original goal. Most of my Maniac friends were well on their way to huge PRs, and since I was so behind I got a chance to see them all on their bell laps too.

I got to the last aid station 4.5 miles away in under an hour, and Ocean Man was there. I asked him to meet me a couple miles from the end to finish with me. The dude is a natural runner, whipped out 12-13 miles like nothing. My last 2 miles were the fastest of the entire race, and I finished the last loop in 2:10, for 28:20 overall, well under the 32 hour cutoff.

Got my finisher's buckle and a pin that says "100 mile finisher- I only did the half!" Drove home and made sure to have a couple shots of whisky before attempting to remove my bloody sock, which thanks to the benzoin had adhered tightly to my toe, and braced for chafage burn in the shower. Felt a little down as can happen after a day like that... but at least I have the Leschi Food Eating Club to look forward to! 

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