Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Irreverent, Pain in the Ass, and Proud of It!

I went on my truth-seeking mission this past weekend in Iowa. The simple truths revealed: I'm irreverent and a pain in the ass, capable of running over 100 miles in 24 hours, absolved of blame, and there's more than just pork in Iowa.

I could end the blogpost right here. But I'll add some stories and pictures to fill in the details. It was fun, it was a great event, great race, I got everything I could have asked for: nice weather, good competition, a challenge, met lots of great people, got to hang out with Doug & Marji from Fort Collins, and other than having to drive so far, it was perfect.

In Colorado they say if you don't like the weather, wait a minute. In the midwest, you can have totally different conditions that change almost instantly, from foggy and humid to hot and humid, to overcast and humid, to windy and raining, to thunderstorms, or tornadoes. Fortunately on race day the weather gods smiled on us and we only had foggy, hot, overcast, and windy. There was a brief, barely noticeable sprinkle of rain a few times at night. And of course, humid all the time. But I can't complain about heat and humidity. I've set my last two 100 mile PRs in hot, humid conditions.

I slept well the night before the race. Slept through the night, and woke up 5 minutes before my alarm went off. I threw some clothes on and went down to the little breakfast area in the hotel, and mixed up my coffee: Starbucks Via instant, which is better than any hotel coffee except for maybe the Ritz Carlton. Not that I've ever stayed at the Ritz Carlton.

I got my stuff loaded in the car and went to McDonalds for my 1000 calories grease bomb, then to a gas station to top off the ice in the coolers. It was 62 degrees and foggy, with a breeze. It looked like it could rain, or maybe not.

At the track I started carrying my stuff over and set up my table in lane 1. Doug and Marji showed up soon after me, and I sat there in my chair, relaxing. It was so humid that my socks and shoes were already damp, so I changed my socks before the start. That was one thing I should have done differently- worn a different pair of shoes over to the track than the ones I would run in. I learned a lot about humidity- it gets into everything. My foot box and first aid kit were full of condensation and I had to dry everything out later.

Karl gave a brief pre-race briefing, and that's important- a briefing is supposed to be brief. And it was. That's another nice thing about these homegrown, low-key, unsullied by corporate sponsorship and frills. You get what you need, and no bullshit. These days, races like this are becoming rare, and that's why they are the gems to seek out.

We met our first shift lap counters, and I asked each of my successive lap counters throughout the day to confirm my total number of laps with me each time I came around, that way there was never any confusion or a missed lap, and it could be addressed right away if something got screwed up. Fortunately it never did.

There was this wooden runner dude on the track with a bright yellow Cornbelt Running Club shirt who was always faced in the direction that the runners were going, to keep us from getting confused if we left the track and they switched directions.

We would switch directions every 3 hours after the first switch which was at 4 hours. This was done to facilitate lap counter shift changes, so it avoided the confusion of having a new lap counter coming on at the same time that we were switching directions. Very smart idea.

There was a major timing system failure at the NC24 in Ohio the same day, and I felt like I picked the right race. That would have been a horrible disaster. When the old lap counting system is done right, and with a reasonable number of runners present and plenty of volunteers available, it's actually more fun than using the chip timing. I haven't run a 24 hour race without the chip timing in a long time, and I forgot that having the human beings at the timing table adds a nice touch.

From the beginning I stuck to a plan. I ran 4 laps, then walked one. I was completely methodical about it and stuck to this pattern through 50 miles. I reached 50 in 10:40, which was only slightly faster than I'd planned. I figured on 11 hours. I found that I was running a fast pace during my running laps, maybe because of the low altitude, the cool temperatures early in the morning with the fog, but I've been working on my running pace so it didn't surprise me. I was struggling with the walk pace, though, because I haven't done much walking in training. I was managing 14 minute mile walk pace without working too hard, but I knew it would make me sore.

I stopped every 2 hours to eat a sandwich and some good calories, and even though it was foggy, it was warm, and I kept adding 2 S caps to my drinks. I didn't get puffy, I was peeing every hour, and my hydration seemed to be perfect all day. I forgot to take off my wedding ring before the race, something I normally do because my fingers get swollen, but I never got so puffy that I couldn't twist the ring off.

The sun came out at 11:00 and stayed out all day until about 6 pm when the clouds moved in again. According to the weather reports, we only had a high of 76 degrees, with 71 % humidity most of the day. It felt a lot warmer in the direct sunshine. I never needed ice on my body, I drank my cold drinks and I felt fine with the temperature. A lot of people were grabbing ice and complaining about the heat. It felt comfortable to me.

After 50 miles I reminded myself not to go over 55 miles in the first 12 hours, so I took a break, changed my socks, took a look at my feet, which were great- no issues, just a little damp. Things don't dry in the midwest like they do in Colorado. I wiped my feet off with alcohol and it took a minute or so to dry. I'd been having problems getting track dust in my shoes so I finally put my gaiters on.

I wasn't super hungry but I knew I needed the calories. I tried some pretzels but they were too dry. I didn't feel like another sandwich yet. I tried a chocolate covered donut, and that was okay but one was all could eat. I got back on the track and was stiff and slow. I knew I needed calories, but nothing sounded good. I kept drinking and started taking in some drinks with sugar to get a few calories. I tried a banana. Too sweet.

I kept moving but I'd slowed down a lot and I knew it was all about getting my blood sugar back up. I was having a bad patch and I needed to eat my way through it. Finally, about the time I hit 100 K, I managed to get enough calories in that I was feeling better. Then I started moving well again. I changed my pattern to running 2 laps out of every 5. I concentrated on the walking pace and was able to get down to 13 minute per mile pace on that.

I also started taking in the caffeine, with iced tea, and then Starbucks doubleshots. I didn't feel that afternoon weariness that I often feel, even when I'm not running. I was still peeing, getting plenty of hill repeats in with the bathroom across the track. It was closer to the track than the other bathroom, but necessitated a hill climb and descent on the grass. It was getting more difficult to descend the hill each time, but it as a nice break from the flats.

At 50 miles, Bonnie had about a 3 lap lead on me. By the end of my bad patch, she had gained 20 laps on me. I wasn't concerned about place, it was still early and my goal was really about making 100+ miles. Soon I narrowed her lead to 17 laps, then 14, then 11 by the end. Bonnie is strong and consistent. It was fun to watch her on the track, and we spent a good bit of time talking too.

There were some other women in the race who looked strong. Danielle from Iowa was moving really well in the first half. We talked for a while and ran together. There was also Karen, from Minnesota, who was a strong walker, but was also running a lot. She was moving along, too.

A few hours later Danielle came to me and told me she hadn't peed and her stomach was sloshy, and she'd been vomiting. I suggested that she get in the shade and cool down for a while and see if that helped things. A few laps later I saw that she was back out on the track, and I asked her what happened. She said she peed a little but not much, but I knew she couldn't have cooled down very much, either. I explained to her about what happens at Badwater when people get into a cool environment and things start working again. Then she did get off the track for a while.

She never started feeling better, though, and she was really disappointed in herself. She came back to the track trying to put in a few more laps, not wanting to give up, but she knew better. I told her it wasn't her day, that there are so many lessons to be learned, and that her health is more important. I told her the story of Lisa Smith-Batchen at Badwater last year, how any runner, even the most experienced, can run into problems in the heat, and what happened with Lisa going into acute renal failure. I told Danielle that there will be so many other races, and that she learned an important lesson here, and it's not worth it to risk your health.

I continued having my own struggles but my hydration wasn't an issue. I just couldn't get interested in food all afternoon, and I knew I needed the calories to get through the night. Once I hit 100 K, I decided it wasn't worth it to stop anymore for any real breaks, because it was too hard to get started again once I stopped. I'd end up wasting more time doing two laps of waddling through my stiffness than if I just slowed down and ate or drank while moving forward.

At night when it was cooler, I did a little better with the food, but I was still struggling. I tried to eat the pizza they brought to the track but the cheese gagged me. I did have a baked potato. I ate all the yogurts I had, I should have thought to stock up on those since they worked so well at Badwater. But I only had 4 in the cooler and I went through those. They would have been perfect. Lesson learned.

Doug struggled with the heat at mid-day too, I think everyone did. He continued to look strong. I had no idea he was in the lead, though. I didn't know where anyone's overall places were until morning.

Around 6 pm some clouds moved in and the sun was no longer beating down on us, but it didn't cool off at the track until around 8 pm. I was not happy to see the clouds for two reasons: one was that they could mean rain, and the other was that it would block our view of the "super moon", the full moon that was supposed to be huge. But during the night the clouds moved away enough that we got a great view of the moon and some stars, too. I was too busy concentrating on running by that point and never took a picture.

It did get windy a few times and I put on a long sleeved shirt, and then a jacket at times. Other people were still in tshirts. I was freezing. My feet were holding up well, my hands weren't puffy, and other than trying to stay ahead of a calorie deficit, things were going extremely well.

We switched lap counters and directions every three hours, and that was the mental focus- getting through to each direction change. When we only had about 8 hours to go, I knew I had my goal, as long as I could keep everything together. I cranked up the tunes and got focused, and the laps flew by. I had great lap counters all day. I wish I could remember all their names. They cheered for the runners each time we hit 50 miles, 100K, or whatever other milestone: 200 laps, 300 laps, etc.

I never got sleepy at all. I drank iced tea and only two doubleshots all night, it didn't take much caffeine. The more I run these 24 hour/100 mile races, I realize that the struggles I used to have, years ago, with staying awake must have been from my thyroid. It's fun to re-discover the distances I used to struggle with.

When I hit 90 miles, I knew I had my goal in the bag. I started moving a little faster, doing a little more running. I had stayed on the 2 out of 5 lap pattern of running and walking, and it was working great.

Paul was my last lap counter and he cheered me on through my last 10 miles or so. He got all the lap counters to cheer for me when I passed my old PR of 90.4 miles. He was funny, he kept making these wisecracks every few laps, so I would give it back. When I hit 100 miles I still had time to go to make at least another whole mile, so I kept going, but I did ask him if it would be irreverent if I Tebowed.

As soon as I said it I realized how silly that was, it would have required bending and kneeling, which are impossible at that point in the race and for the next several days. Maybe it wasn't so irreverent, Iowa is the Cornbelt, but not so much the Bible Belt.

My 100 mile split was 23:47:17. Mission accomplished. Finally, after 22 years of running ultras, a sub-24 hour 100 miler. That took long enough!

I flew through the next mile and had time to spare, I passed 101 and there were still a few minutes on the clock, and I picked it up. I ran 400 meters in what felt like 6 minute pace but I'm sure it was more like 10. I passed the next lap before the gun went off, and made it about a quarter of the way around the track before Karl shot the gun and we had to stop and wait for him to measure the portion of the final lap we did.

Afterwards everyone helped break stuff down and helped me carry all my stuff to the car, I broke down the tent with Doug's help, and we all headed back to the hotel to shower before breakfast. When I was getting out of my car, I happened to notice two pieces of metal in the tread of my left front tire. I looked closer and realized I had two nails in the tire! Crap.

The tire didn't seem to be deflated, but I wasn't about to try to kneel down with the pressure gauge then. I figured I would go find a garage in town and have them look at it before I left town in the morning, and hopefully my tire would stay inflated until then. I was too brain-dead to deal with it.

When I took off my racing clothes, all I had was some heat rash in my armpits, and all over my feet. Very little chafing anywhere, and no blisters whatsoever. My feet held up so well, and they really haven't been sore, just swollen from gravity.

We went to the post race breakfast and ate huge amounts of food, and Doug got a nice hourglass trophy for his win. I guess he can't blame me now, he said he should be thanking me, but I'm not sure his body was thanking me.

Bonnie was funny. I told her I was so impressed with her, she's so strong. I was so glad I had the competition, so many of these races don't have much in the way of people who are close enough to you to give you a challenge. She jokingly said, "You're a pain in the ass!" I guess I made her work for it. I'll be seeing her at Badwater this summer, she's crewing another runner this year. I hope I get to run with her again in the future, she was awesome.

I stayed in the hotel on Sunday, uploaded photos, and took two naps, managed to make up 5 hours of sleep in the afternoon. I went out to get a hamburger and a beer at Lancers around 5 pm and it was the greasiest burger I've had in maybe all my life, but it tasted damn good! I skipped the fries, that would have put me over the edge in grease tolerance.

I slept through the night again. We had thunderstorms and lots of rain. The weather gods definitely liked us this weekend, we managed to catch the hole in the storms. Monday morning it was drizzly and overcast. I took the car over to the local auto shop and they inspected the tires. There were little tacks in the tread of just that one tire, but they didn't puncture the tire. They didn't charge me anything to do it, either. They were so nice, and I was on the road by 8:30 am.

Driving back was another long haul and Nebraska was forever. But I cranked the tunes again and looked at the farmland, cursed the road work, stopped for gas in various armpit-like places along the way, and I don't know what I thought about, but somehow I eventually made it through Iowa, Nebraska and back home in 12 1/2 hours.

One thing I did notice in Iowa, is that I saw absolutely no Romney or Santorum or Gingrich or any other bumper stickers other than Obama, except for one: Cain. Yes, I saw a Herman Cain sticker on a car in Iowa. I did see lots of Obama stickers, and people wearing Obama t-shirts. Interesting.

Tuesday I spent the day unpacking and then went to visit a friend, talked all afternoon, and then I came home. Dennis and I went out for sushi, and I was in bed by 7:30. My feet are still swollen but the stairs are easier. I'll get on the bike today and do some walking, get rid of the swelling already so I can get back to running soon! Only 6 weeks to the Double Mick!


giraffy said...

holy crap. I can't even fathom that distance. Congratulations on your PR!!

Mike said...

Great race report and pics. Congrats on your sub-24hr 100 miles.

Alene Gone Bad said...

Thanks, Mike and Heather!

Ultra Monk said...

Nice report. Reminded me to add yogurt to my ice chest, which I will buy at WalMart after I get off the airplane.

This weekend is MY truth seeking mission. Luv it!

Alene Gone Bad said...

Good luck, Ultra Monk! WalMart, yogurt, and truth seeking...they go together! Have FUN and let me know how it goes!

wildknits said...

Congrats on your PR!

Danielle said...

Alene I am so happy to hear that you were able to hit over 100, it is such an accomplishment! I also wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed getting to talk to you during the race and for your help. Ended up with IV fluids, but all is good now. Hope to run with you again...Danielle

Alene Gone Bad said...

Thanks,Lisa! Danielle, I'm glad to ehar you went to get some medical help afterwards, that was a good thing to do. There will be other races, you will have much better days, and I hope I get to cross paths with you again!

Wayne said...

Congratulations, Alene... it was fun watching you go for 100 and make it! Way to come back after struggling a bit.

-Wayne, the guy helping Karen and hanging out under the blue canopy.

Alene Gone Bad said...

Thanks Wayne! It was always nice to run by you because you gave me that extra little boost. I hope to see you at a future race!

Ultra Monk said...


Alene Gone Bad said...

UltraMonk, Congratulations on your effort! I sent you a comment at your blog.Thanks for sharing!