Sunday, November 4, 2012

Opposite George

JJ100- attempt #2 (October 27-28, 2012)
Normally there is nothing I look forward to more after a demoralizing week at work than a good long run on the weekend. Usually 7-10 hours is enough to prevent withdrawal, but as soon as the toenails start growing back the thought of 100’s start creeping back. I have no great explanation for why I keep signing up for them. There’s not much to see at 2 AM. It’s not “peaceful” to be lost for hours alone in the dark in the desert/ forest/ mountain, freezing, starving, sore. I don’t get the huge sense of accomplishment that others speak of; I don’t even lose any weight.

Is it purely to suffer more to achieve a greater sense of relief afterward? Or the sense of hope at getting a 2nd chance at redemption? Sure, it made me feel better to sign up for another try after DNFing at VT100 (mile 62) and JJ100 (mile 70) last year. It sounded good in theory, but when it came down to pay up race week, I dreaded it.

That said, I can say I’ve not made the same mistakes repeatedly. But “learning” from my mistakes has somehow not increased my success rate. This is because I’m Opposite George.

“if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right” (George Costanza, May 1994)

I’ve gone out too fast and trashed my quads. I then went out slower and proceeded to miss cut-offs. I wore too tight socks and got heat rash. I wore loose socks and got blisters. I hurried through rest stops to save time and starved/ froze. I dilly dallied and overate, gotten stiff, missed cutoffs.

Arrived at the race headquarters an hour outside Phoenix by 6 pm. Picked up my packet and settled to my routine of eating alone in a hotel bar, explaining to the waitress that I did indeed want both the burger and the turkey avocado sandwich with onion rings, and yes on the 2rd glass of wine.

Next morning got up at 3 AM to dress, pack my drop bags, and drive to the race. The start was crazy crowded, nearly 400 runners in Halloween costumes and headlamps. 

I started to be aware of my toes rubbing the box of my shoes less than 10 miles in. That’s weird, I had carefully taped each toe with KT tape before putting on 5-toe socks filled with anti-Monkey Butt powder. I knew that to ignore feet was death, so I resolved to check my feet at the next rest stop at mile 15.5.

No chairs so sat on the sand, eased my sock off.  I could feel blisters forming already on the medial aspects of my great toes. Re-doing the tape would be a project, but I took a look and tried to pop it with my bib pin. Under all that callous, no liquid would come out. Powdered the feet and and put the socks back on, not too damp yet. Looked inside my shoes for the rocks I had felt. Where were the insoles? Must’ve been pulled out when I took the shoes off, but…. There were no insoles, only a stiff plastic bottom with holes. Sinking feeling with dread as I realized that I had packed only one pair of shoes, which I was committed to running the next 86 miles in. Crap crap crap. I had taken out the soaking insoles to dry after LeGrizz and forgotten to put them back in. 

Started 2nd lap shaken but kept moving. It was already hot at 10 AM, getting close to 90 by early afternoon. I lamented to another runner who was very sympathetic about my insole gaffe, though she was herself a barefoot runner wearing just sandals.

Got back to the main station at 50k anxious to change my socks and care for blisters. Bigger blisters, now something to pop, and the tape was falling off, had to cut new tape. Did I listen to Francine and let the medics fix it? No. Killed another 20 minutes retaping, looked for a clean pair of socks…. Where were those 3 pairs of socks I packed? I realized I had put them in the remote drop back with my flashlight batteries. Put my damp, stinky socks back on, popped more advil, and kept going.

Still made 100k in better time than last year (sub 16h), stopped to change into warm clothes so as not to freeze like last year and took a ½ a Provigil so I wouldn’t fall asleep, but overheated and slowed exponentially in the dark. Was passed by nearly everyone, including the 70 year olds and walkers. Made the mile 77 cut-off with over an hour to spare, still had 7:45 to run just 24 more miles. 

Then suddenly there was no one around. The same place I got lost last year, incredibly on the 6th loop I got lost again, wandering around for 90 minutes looking for trail markers, backtracking, despite 3 lamps. When they say, “it’s darkest before the dawn” they weren’t kidding. After the moon sets and before the sun rises, it was darker than dark for nearly 2 hours. Time ticking, every wrong turn I made, panic. Asked the mile 80 aid station people for new batteries. Was I still under the cutoff? I had made the last hard cutoff, they said.

The sun came up. Started seeing runners on their last lap coming the other way, and I knew I was in last place, but that I could finish. A jeep drove by me filled with DNFd runners, probably the same one I rode last year. I sped up, feeling good. Reached the mile 93 stop with 2:20 left to do the last 8 miles, but was told I missed the last cutoff by 10 minutes and would not be allowed to continue.

Went to the shower, and as soon as I sat felt dizzy, opened my mouth and the last liter of water I had chugged came up silently, mixed with with what I suspected was a little banana. My pee was brownish, not a good sign. Tried to smile feebly as I got my consolation buckle and looked for food that I wouldn’t upchuck so I could drive the hour back to the airport without bonking. 

Ocean checked back with me to see if my mood had crashed as it usually does after a race, but oddly, it hadn't. I don't think it had anything to do with the fact that I didn't technically quit; to go on in the face of certain failure is a trait I still lack. Maybe repeatedly failing makes it easier. Maybe my definition of failure is changing. I may be 2 for 6 now, but I'm still moving.

1 comment:

  1. Before I comment, I just want to say, that I am master of my domain... Let it be known, 2013 Team VT 100 will not tolerate any of these logistical errors. Getting lost, lollygagging minutes away during pit stops, and missed insoles will not be issues. We'll spray paint "NO" under all our in insoles... Per our conversation at Carkeek, I'm intrigued with the question whether instinct can ever be wrong. I'm still wondering if that is a non-judgable item?