Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Canyons Endurance Runs 100K: Quesadilla toothbrush

“I have to brush my teeth” I mumbled to noone in particular as I shambled my way towards the Cal 2 aid station. It was getting dark, and I had been shoving sugary food into my mouth since before the sun rose that morning. (In other words, I was having a great day!) But now my teeth felt fuzzy and I was convinced I could feel my enamel eroding away. I was supposed to fix that all down at the river, but in my sun baked haze, that determination had slipped away when I spotted something shiny.

Thank goodness for the kind folks at Cal 2! Before long, I found myself being gently but firmly evicted from the aid station with a warm quesadilla in my hand. I looked down and a light bulb turned on. Before I knew it, I was rubbing that warm savory treat over my teeth and gums like the finest uncut Colombian. It was bliss. And it worked! Instead of being coated in sugary gunk, my mouth now was cheddar fresh and ready to rumble.

What the hell, I decided to go for broke and take in some gooey, cheesy calories. I started enthusiastically chomping away on my makeshift dental device. At this point, my stomach immediately (and urgently) chimed in to remind me that dairy REALLY wasn’t a good idea in my current state. Point taken.

Out came a wad of chewed quesadilla off the side of the trail, followed by the rest of the unchewed quesadilla for good measure. And off I went up yet another hill.

And don’t let anyone tell you that ultrarunning isn’t glamorous!

Tl;dr: No, *that* was the toughest thing I’ve ever done

PS: Remember when I claimed trail races were easier on the body than road marathons? Well, it turns out in this particular case

Abstract: The stars aligned. I was fortunate to come into this race rested, healthy, and trained. And thank goodness, because it was damned mean course. I made some relatively good decisions throughout the day and managed to slip in at 15:50:34 to nab my B goal and a States Qualifier. But man, that hurt. Elevation gain and heat made for a soul crushing combo. But on the bright side, that was excellent training for the big dance.

The Story:
The Canyons 100K is a double out and back along arguably the toughest parts of the Western States course. I thought it would be either a great qualifier or a dress rehearsal for the big dance.
And that’s how I ended up signing up for the race while crouched in an Osaka open air market. I was joined by Meredith (who did me one better by staying up late to sign up after running the JFK50) and ultrabuddies Matt and Kristin. This was especially awesome because I’d met Matt and Kristin on these very trails in the uber hot Overlook 50 mile race in what I’d termed “the Canyons of Death” between Foresthill and RuckaChucky.
Since I’d managed to DNS Headlands Hundred (and then unofficially Rio Del Lago and Rocky Raccoon), more than a year had elapsed since my last ultra at Gorges 100K. But thanks to Natalie (http://barbellblondie.com/), I was fortunate enough to toe the line last Saturday uninjured and well trained. I’d been able to hit above 80 mile weeks several times, so I knew that if I could make it to ForestHill healthy I’d have an excellent chance of nabbing my States qualifier. It seemed appropriate to do it on the States trails!

Everything was coming together on race day. The gang and I scored a sweet house 2 miles from the start/finish in ForestHill. Which was handy, since the alarm went off at 4 am. Despite the lovely warm weather we were having, there was still a chill in the air when we set out with all our drop bags to the famous ForestHill elementary school gym. The last time I had set foot there (see: previous post) was to wait for Meredith to come running on down Cal street.  

Look at all the happy faces! We were so naive :-D

I had a brief moment of panic at about T-8 minutes where my quick lacing system slipped out. But thanks to help from some strangers (and, strangely, a strand of uncooked spaghetti intended for use as a coffee stirrer), I was back in track in no time. Thankfully, this would be the only shoe issues I had all day!

I rolled on outside, chatted with my peeps, gave a few high fives, and before we knew it, we were off!

We ran a mile or so on flat pavement and then said goodbye to our quads as we entered some sweet singletrack plunging down, down, down.

Runner traffic! Volcano creek crossing at mile 3. This was the biggest water crossing we'd see all day, but we were getting our feet wet on a surprisingly regular basis.
The race company did a great job conditioning the trail, but the heavy wind and rain meant that there were always plenty of obstacles on the course to keep us on our toes. Yes, the trail goes directly over that log.

The first climb of the day wasn't too bad! I got into a chat with some nice folks. I had a delightful chat with Karen from Sacramento who was telling me all about the Ironmans (Ironmen?) she had completed and how she felt about multisport vs trail running vs road running. It definitely helped pass the time!

With a leg crushing 15K of elevation gain over the day, you'd think I'd be smart enough to take it out easy. You really would. Instead, I thought I'd bank some time when it was cool by running a good portion of the first 50K. This led to some great adrenaline driven moments as I danced my way down some gnarly descents with loose footing. Amazingly, I didn't eat it and made some great progress. The only problem was that the first half of the race was, terrainwise, the more challenging portion with >60% of the climbing and descending. How much climbing was that again?

Image result for over 9000

Oh right, thanks Vegeta! What does that look like? A lot of this. A LOT. This particular shot was from the legendary climb up to Devil's Thumb. Thankfully, it wasn't that hot...yet. But on a grade this steep, any uphill motion requires a fairly high level of exertion. Definitely power hiking material.

This climb was 1700 feet of gain in 1.5 miles. That's roughly 2X Land's End's worth of climbing in the space of a track warmup.

Thankfully the aid stations were awesome! One might say...magical?

 Something finally just *clicked* in miles 19-22, and I threw down some fast miles on the soft, runnable, downhills. Flow? Yes please! I was laughing maniacally the whole time and super proud to have a sub 8 mile on an ultra. Spoiler alert: not gonna happen the rest of the day.

Some more fun obstacles to maneuver over.

High on adrenaline, I was poised to tackle the uphill with plenty of fuel and good cheer. I rounded the corner, bounded up the hill...and promptly cramped. Oy. I'd been dosing consistently with salt pills and calories and I was still peeing, so I'm chalking it up to the climb up from El Dorado Creek being just plain nasty. Lots of this. Lots and lots of this. Say goodbye to running for a while!

The Michigan Bluff aid station was full of good cheer and ice. Thank goodness because it was heating up!
 After some more interminable climbs punctuated by gorgeous views...

 I finally decided I had to pull myself out of self pity mode and at least pretend like I knew what I was doing when I faced my crew. Glad they're there to hold me accountable! I came in at about 7:15 elapsed. Not bad for a murderous first half!

And in no time at all, they have my pack swapped out, an ice bandana around my neck, and my spirits lifted enough to run down Cal street, doing my best impressions from Unbreakable. Thanks everyone!

 Back down to the canyons of death! This was the infamous section of Overlook that turned Levi's shirt into a science experiment and the rest of us into overheated zombies. This year I was definitely maxing out my 2 L bladder and ice bandana!

My plan was to run the next 16 miles down to the river hard to give myself a nice buffer. It's downhill, right? Should be easy. Well...it's mid to upper 80's. And exposed. With plenty of rocks and nasty footing (at least compared to the buttery singletrack of the Marin Headlands) While I was packing in as much ice water as I could, I started to feel a sluggishness take hold. I could run, maybe, if I really wanted to. Do I want to? Why am I doing this again? This isn't fun right now. Oh right, I signed up for this!

After lots of thankfully internal whining and an eternity of walking, I finally made it to the river and the RuckaChucky aid station.

No shots of the aid station because I was too busy trying to get my legs back in gear. But just turning back towards home was a huge morale booster. I love being on the "back" part of an out and back.

And besides, the river was so pretty.

But dat obstacle course tho...

Lots of hiking, some actual running, and a quesadilla toothbrush later, the sun was finally setting. And I finally realized how much the heat put in me into a funk! I cranked the tunes and at least pretended to stride up the hill.
The final 3.5 miles lasted just this side of forever. I had no more patience and no more reserves. I just kept it at a manageable heartrate and plugged away, but it's turn after turn after turn of dark hills leading up into the distance. At this point in the race, I knew I was going to make the cutoffs. Whew! But without this motivation, I was grinding away in low gear until I smell the barn (aka turn onto the street for the final sprint/shamble)

I cross that line and I am DONE in 15:50:34. I was pretty spot on my B goal of 16 hours. Reasonably even splits (less climbing in the back half helped) of a 7:15 50K followed by a 7:35 "50K" (by all reports, the back half is a little long) I should have been more stoked, but I was just TOAST.

My crew helped me into a chair and I went instantly from sweating to freezing. I packed on all my layers and packed in some great mexican food at the end. I was enjoying it, I swear. Even though I'd been religiously eating 200+ calories an hour the entire day, I ravenously downed about 1200+ calories without blinking. Then I go passed out in the car for a while.
We spent some time that evening and the next morning swapping stories and trying to come to terms with a tough day. I was thankfully uninjured, but I had never been this mentally or physically depleted. I hear bacon helps with both of those. And beer.

 Thanks, Foresthill! Hopefully the next time I see you, I'll be coming through on foot for States!
 Huge thanks to Doris, Natalie, and Jeremy for the awesome crewing! Congrats to Matt, Kristin, and Samir for gutting it through a tough day. Kudos to Meredith for making the right call and pulling out after "only" running the toughest 50K so far due to cramping. You've got bigger fish to fry. Mmm...fried fish.

Also huge thanks to the RD for putting on a well supported (so much ice!), well marked, tough as nails race. I have only good things to say about everyone I interacted with along the way! Highly recommended.

The report card:

Nutrition/Hydration: A-
I kept strictly to a "100 calories or more every 30 mins or less" schedule while wearing 2 watches like a madman. But it worked! Even in the hot section, I was putting calories down and keeping them down. They were barely enough. In my pack, I had chia gels, margarita shotblocks, epic bars, pop tarts, and picky bars. I packed some tailwind for the first half (and probably could have kept it up in the second!) At aid stations, I started with pb & J, fig bars and chips. Later on, I switched to broth with rice and potato chips. I would love to train my body to take in more calories, but I'm quite pleased I didn't puke (or bonk too hard) throughout the day

Points off for fiddling too much with carbo loading the days leading into the race. Just eat what works, dude. Don't fiddle with white rice and pasta if your system can't take it.

Gear: A-
Ice Bandana and sunsleeves were a godsend. The pack swap was also a good call (2 20 oz amphipods + Mountain Hardwear Fluid race vest for 50K, then a 2L bladder and a Nathan elevate pack to finish) It was nice to seamlessly switch between setups and the two packs used different muscles. Minus just a tick for trying to carry too much near the end, but after getting burned at Overlook there was NO WAY I was running out of water again. Hoka One One Mafate 4 + injinji medium weight toesocks were flawless. I was constantly tramping through stream and over rocks but the Mafate 4's just ate them up. I gave up agility, but I felt like a tank. Minor calluses and blisters. Huge shoutout to Kathy (http://www.drkatherinechou.com/) for fitting with an awesome pair of insoles!

Training: A
Yes. This worked. The long hours on the stairmill in the gym paid off. I was used to plodding uphill in the heat surrounded by people dropping in and out. And, more importantly, NO PAIN IN MY KNEES AT ALL. On some of the most rugged, toughest terrain I've faced down. THANK YOU NATALIE! I do like the 2 weeks high volume, 1 week rest routine for each training mesocycle and I think I'll continue that in the future.

Pacing and Execution: B+
Well, maybe this is a little harsh. I did hit my B goal. But I felt like I was spinning my wheels a bit in the rougher terrain of the second half. I definitely walked when I didn't need so, so I need to toughen up a bit. In the words of Coach Sam, "don't be a @*$% out there." My mental game needs work when I'm flying solo. How do people embrace the suck? I'd keep on moving slowly and pray for a second (third, fourth etc.) wind, but it seemed like other folks were staying more engaged for longer periods of time. I'll need to work on that!

Amusingly, I found my "faster running" muscles were relatively ok at mile 50+. It hurt to go slowly, but surprisingly not to accelerate. This led to some sections where I was alternating between walking and "sprinting" (aka 10 minute miles) Sorry to anyone who was following me.

Overall, I made some good preparations for being out of my mind. I went off course briefly at one point, but managed to turn myself around in less than 400m. Win! I also anticipated being braindead at the aid stations and packed a checklist into my drop bag. This helped me not forget my headlamp! That would have been real bad.

I executed well on a difficult race. I think I'm done with major changes to my routine; bring on the Kettle Moraine 100M! It's 32 days away, not that I'm counting :-P 3 days later, I'm walking down stairs like a grandparent (or like a road marathoner) but I can decidedly hold my head up high.

The Minutia:
My packing list, if you're curious

Happy trails!


Any questions?

Image result for harvey dent can he be trusted

Ok, not that one.

No comments:

Post a Comment