Monday, October 09, 2006

50 miles...

I went to bed Friday night still debating whether or not I was well enough to run. It had been about 8 days since my previous run and I was pretty wiped out from my cold. With all of that going through my head, I didn't get to sleep until midnight.

My alarm went off at 4:45am. I hit snooze and laid back in bed. If I was to run the 50 miles, I would have to get going. I grabbed the energy drink that I put next to the bed, just in case I did decide to run. Cracked it open and took a few sips from it. I swear the caffeine went to work in seconds. I got really revved up and hopped out of bed and into the shower. I like to take shower before a run to help me wake up and loosen my muscles up.

I was eating my bowl of cereal and banana by 5am. I planned to get to the start line by 5:30am to sign-up, stretch, stand in line for the bathroom for a 6:30am start. By the time I finished trimming my toenails, covering my feet in bodyglide, and getting dressed, it was 5:45am! I was a little freaked out, but that early in the morning, there's no traffic and I was driving, so...we arrived at the Lake Chabot marina by 6:00am (in about 8 minutes!!)

It was still very dark as I made my way down to the registration table. I grabbed a registration form, filled it out, filled out my check and got my number, 178. I ran into Georgia, a runner I ran with at Mike Palmer's 50k. I was excited to see people that I knew, sort of help keep me calm. I put on my number and quickly ran over to the bathroom to stand in line. I was there for some time before it was finally my turn. As I was returning to the start line, I ran into Paula, another person that I ran with at Mike Palmer's 50k and at the Mt. Diablo 50k. She was taking her jacket back to her car. Since I didn't have a car to put my stuff in, she offered to hold my jacket for me. As we went over to her car, she was saying hi to a lot of people. The more races you run, the more people you start to know.

As we made it back to the start line area, we noticed that there were few people around...Holy Crap! I said. They were lining up at the start line, receiving last minute instructions. We dashed over the footbridge to the start just in time to start our watches and go!

The first three miles flew by. I checked my watch to see how long it took....I realized I never started my watch! I pushed start and was trying to figure out how much time had past and how far we had gone. I never really knew...I decided to be on the safe side and tell myself that my watch was 30 minutes behind. That would at least give me a mental push near the end.

Walk the hills, don't run too fast, steady forward motion. (And don't take long at the aid stations!) That was my mantra. Paula and I talked and talked and talked. She is originally from Iowa (or Illinois?) so we have a lot to talk about. Iowa food, Iowa people, Iowa politics, Iowa this and Iowa that. The first 10.5 miles flew by with almost no thought!

Then the real hills started! Coming out of the Big Bear aid station, it is a climb...straight up! I walk hills...and this was no exception. I was able to keep up with Paula after this big hill, but I was starting to hurt. (NOT GOOD!) I was barely at 15 miles with 35 more to go and my legs felt like they were going to give up. I needed to stretch. The back of my legs were one big tight muscle. I stopped and bent over, trying to loosen them up a bit. I was able to catch back up with Paula, but I knew that it wouldn't be too soon before I would have to slow down and run my own race. I keep making the mistake of going out too fast and this time I was going to not let that happen.

I got to Skyline Gate (the turn around point for the Skyline 50k) and thought about how I would not be turning around but I would have to keep going. I felt very determined to keep going, I was not going to give up, not yet. Grabbed some potatoes, a brownie, salt pill and with my full water bottles I was off. And not very quickly.

All I remember from this point was the trail always seemed like it was going up...and up. Forward motion. Every so often a runner would come up behind me and pass me on the uphill. On the downhill I would pass them. This seem to go on and then on the next downhill they would be gone. I started getting the feeling that I was going to be slowly passed by everyone and I would come in dead last.

There was a detour this year. I'm not quite sure which part it was, but I remember hearing people say that it seemed harder. I think it had more steep hills. Not sure. But there was a section of trail that just seem to go straight up. Thank god I bought new trail running shoes. I think I would have been slipping and sliding if I was wearing my road shoes.

The trail started to open up on the ridge and I could see Mt. Diablo to the east and the bay to the west. And the sun was starting to heat things up. And then a group of 3 women and one man came up from behind and past me. While running near them, I heard them mention that they didn't think that they would be able to break 10 hours like they planned, but would have to work hard just to break 11 hours. Now I went into this race telling myself that if I finished that it would be a great accomplishment. Then during the race I thought 12 hours seemed like a good goal (one hour from the cut-off). Well, these 4 were going for a new goal of 11 hours, and I thought, hmmm, if they can do it, I can do it. So I kept this group in my sight. In one of the last downhills (which was a very long one) to the turn around point, I opened up a little more thinking I could rest at the bottom of the hill at the turnaround point. I came in very strong. 25-26 miles done. I quickly grabbed some food, filled up my water bottles and turned right around. It had been about 5:30 hours and if I was going to finish at 11 hours, I would have to run with the same level of effort as I did in the beginning. Not always an easy thing to do and with my history, I figured I would need at least an extra 30 minutes on the second half of my run.

I started the VERY long climb out of the turnaround aid station. I had "red shirt guy" in front of me that I kept in my sights. I walked when he did, I ran when he did. I passed him once but once we hit another hill, he slowly pulled away. That's when the group that I had worked hard to keep up with came up from behind. They slowly passed me on hill and stayed ahead of me until the next aid station. I quickly grabbed some food, filled water bottles and out I went. I was well ahead of them when they came up behind me again and passed me. This happened for the next couple of aid stations. I would get out quickly, they would slowly pass me and then I would catch them at the next aid station. Until they were gone. I reached one of the aid stations and they were not there (I had stopped to use the bathroom before the aid station). They left before I got there.

There was a long stretch of trail, I think it was when I was going over highway 24 when I was all alone. Very weird. For most of the race, there was someone ahead of me, someone next to me, and someone behind me. At this point, there was no one. Of course my first thought is that I was on the wrong trail, but just as I was starting to freak myself out, I would see a pink ribbon that marked the course. My legs were hurting, I was feeling tired and I knew that I was only at ~28 mile mark. Still a long ways to go. My shoes had been cutting into the top of my foot and I was starting to think that perhaps it had cut into the skin. I untied my shoe, pulled my sock up and was anticipating that feeling of my sock ripping away from my torn flesh. Luckily, I didn't have that feeling (but I was too scared to look). I retied my shoe hoping this time I would get it right and it would stop cutting into my foot. Not such luck.

At this point, it had been a good 10-15 minutes and I hadn't seen anyone. I started telling myself that if I was going to finish, I need to put the foot pain out of mind. I started thinking about what I would tell people when they would ask me what I was thinking about during the race. Kind of funny, thinking about things that I would tell people of the things that I thought about. It worked...I didn't notice my foot pain until several miles later.

For some reason at about 31 miles, I got a new push of energy and was really pushing myself along the trail. I was even running some of the short hills. I caught up with "red shirt guy" who I found out was Ofer. I think I may have met him before at the Angel Island run. This was his first 50 mile run too. We chatted for a bit (it was sooo nice to finally see someone!) We reached a fairly long downhill section and he took off. I couldn't run very fast downhill because it caused my shoe to dig deeper into the top of my shoe. Not good! I had no choice but to slowdown. This was starting to get me down. The 11 hour group of people were nowhere in sight, Ofer, the "red shirt guy" that I had chased out of the turnaround point was now long gone and I was back to myself again.

Again, I tried to retie my shoes. Finally, I got them to a point that they weren't too lose, but were finally not cutting so badly. I started to wonder if it was going to be possible to finish under 11 hours. I could just work on finishing under 12 hours, like I initially planned. Then the words Western States popped into my head. If I finish under 11 hours, I qualify to run at next year's Western States 100 mile Endurance Run. Even if I didn't get selected in the lottery, even if I didn't put my name in the lottery, I could still say I qualify for the WS100! My legs picked up the pace. I was not going to come in one minute over 11 hours. I was the 11 hour sweep. I am 11 hours. I will have 11 hours. That kept going through my head. I started to pass people again. I felt great. I caught up with Ofer at the Skyline Gate aid station (37 miles) and we took off together. At the bottom of the hill, there was the "11 hour group". They had taken a bathroom break and Ofer thought it would be a good idea to stop also. I waved goodbye and pushed along. That would be last time I saw Ofer until the finish line. The next section of trail is in a valley with redwood trees and along a stream. I booked through here. Then another long hill! I was working hard. The 11 hour group had caught up with me again, this time they were no longer 5, but only 3.

Once I finally got up that long hill, the trail turned into rolling hills. I kept to my walking uphill, run downhill. The 11 hour group moved along. I wouldn't catch them again until the Bort Meadows aid station. It was 6 miles to the finish. I knew that I needed to keep a good pace of 11 min/mile if I was going to finish under 11 hours. Doable, yet I had my doubts. And as the 11 hour group passed me, then another guy, and then two other women...I slowly doubted that I was going to be able to do it. Ahead of me was a group of about 8 runners and they were just out of my reach. Thoughts of I don't belong here, I'm not a real athlete started to cross my mind. I had to work really hard to tell myself that I just started running less than 2 years ago, this was my first 50 miler, I was sick, I didn't train for this. I moved back into thoughts that this was my race, that I was running my own race, not competing with others, only myself and the clock. I began to chant 11 hours in my head. Get to the next (and last) aid station in 30 minutes and you will get in under 11 hours. 11 hours. That's all that matter.

I got to the Bass Cove aid station. There were a couple of runners from the group that was ahead of me still there. One was having cramping issues, another was slowing way down and trying to get some of his strength back. I got a little food in me for the last 3 miles and asked them if was going to possible for me to break 11 hours. They said it's only 3'll do just fine. Concerned that I was running out of time, I quickly left the aid station and made my way to the Marina, the finish line.

When I first started running, I use to run this exact part of the trail almost everyday. It had been a long time since I had run it, but I knew every turn, every hill that was coming my way. Walk the uphill, run the downhill. I kept pushing and slowly I passed a few more people. With only 1 mile left, I came up on the 11 hour group. I yelled, "We are going to break 11 hours!" and one of them let out a whoop! I pushed my legs even faster and pulled away from the group. The guy yelled some encouragement (I have no idea what he said!) and I ran faster. As I was rounding the last corner, I picked the runner in front of me and told myself to catch him. I poured it on. I was going to beat him. I came up on the marina almost at a sprint and someone yelled "Go 178! Looking strong!" I gave it everything I had and crossed the finish line at 10:28:00. I couldn't believe it! I had no idea that I actually was a whole 30 minutes faster!

I was amazed! I couldn't believe that I finished in under 10 1/2 hours!

Some preliminary stats:

50 Miles
+7,820 ft
-7,820 ft
162 starters
150 finishers
Placed 79th

I have one black toenail (sure to fall off soon)
5 blisters
1 blood blister on the tip of my toe
two sore feet
two sore legs
One Happy Self!

What's next? Maybe the Whiskeytown 50k on October 21st. Not sure yet. I have to see if I can convince Johan to come up with me. I would like to try a 12-hour run on October 28th, but we have a few commitments later on that evening, so it might not be a good idea.

Oh, and I made it to church the next morning to direct/play piano/sing with Otto Voci. A little slow getting around, but managed!

Happy Trails!


Blogger Debbie said...

Great job! Saw your comment on Catra's site and traveled over to your blog. I'm pretty amazed.

12:13 PM  
Blogger olga said...

What an adventure! Congrats on first 50 and qualifying for States! Pretty damn good time there!

12:25 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

Thanks Debbie! I was pretty amazed myself!

1:10 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

Thanks Olga! I'm still debating whether or not to enter for WS100. I think I'm more scared of being out in the dark in the wilderness more than anything!

1:10 PM  
Blogger Scott Dunlap said...

Congratulations! Great finish.

I say DEFINITELY sign up for Western States! You're much closer than you think if you can do Fire Trails in less than 11 hours.


4:39 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

This may sound a little gushy, but over a year ago, I found your blog and remember reading all of the entries thinking what an amazing person you are and maybe someday I'll be able to run an ultramarathon like you and in the distant future run Western States. Now to have you post on my blog and encourage me to sign-up is amazing to me!
Thank you!

4:47 PM  
Blogger Eudemus said...

Way to go Brad! Nice job and a great race report! I shared many of the same thoughts during the day, though I am jealous you got to sleep in until 4:45am before the race :-).

I think you passed me somewere on the ridge before Fern Dale which is where I really started having trouble. I actually hooked up with Ofer after Bort Meadows and he gave me some Advil. He really saved me and allowed me to run the last 5 miles. Were you wearing a blue Brooks shirt by any chance? Anyway, I have the same thoughts about WS100. I want to run 100 before I turn 40 which is only in 2 years so maybe I should get into the lottery now...

5:28 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

Steve, Yep, that was me with the blue brooks shirt. Maybe I'll send in my app. for WS100...we'll see.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Feminist Runner said...

Brad, congrats! Rock on. You want to hear cheesy? You are totally inspiring me to do more than I ever thought I could. Look at you running so many ultras in such a short time span.
I've been waffling on training plans for myself but you are kicking my ass into high gear. Thanks for doing it.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Eudemus said...

Brad, I was sitting on the bench right next to you after the race. We chatted for a short bit, but I didn't realize who you were. As for signing up for WS100, I'll do it if you do ;-)

3:14 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

Ah, you were the guy that didn't want to sit down right away. I've printed out my application for WS100! I decided that if I get picked, then it means that I'm ready!

4:42 PM  
Blogger Erick said...

You're awesome! Congratulations. Your adventures, and blog always inspire me. If you can go so far in such a short period of time, I can get through my first marathon. Thanks!

10:43 AM  
Blogger Brad said...

I think if I can do it...anyone can do it!

10:53 AM  

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