Monday, June 22, 2009

Highlands Sky 2009 = DNF

After running 64 or so ultra marathons within the last 6 years, I suppose I should have known it would happen sometime. I did not finish what I started during Saturday’s Highland’s Sky 40 mile run in Dolly Sods, WV.

The race started at 6am. By 6:30am it was thundering and raining hard. Windy too. We ran through stinging nettles, forded generous, fast-moving creeks and ran /slopped along a trail that was overflowing with water, knee deep in some places. At times the rain stopped and mist enveloped the Highlands and the trail. “Wild Wet and Wrocky” was the perfect motto for the conditions on Saturday.

After Aid Station 2, there is a very fun downhill. I loved running over that on Saturday. When I got to the bottom of the hill, it was somewhere about 2:45 into the run, and my run ended. I fell. I am not sure what order things happened- if I fell on a rock and hit my leg and my entire calf spasmed (Charley-Horsed) and radiated into my hamstring and butt-or if my leg spasmed and I fell. It is not exaggerating to say that the first minutes of this was some of the most severe pain I have ever experienced. I remember runners coming by and I waved them on-though they had to step over me. When I thought I could get up, a kind runner in grey gave me a hand and I stepped to the side of the trail to inventory the “damage”. Right calf swollen and muscle still twitching. Puncture cut below knee. I hobbled and ate some Clif Bar. My calf felt stiff and heavy, much like April of 2008 when something similar happened. I tried to run. Very stiff and sore and heavy feeling.

I walked to the next aid station, trying to “run” every now and then. Discomfort and fear of making it worse reduced me to a shuffle. I felt disgusted and disappointed because this was the end of a lot of fun! I took off my race number at AS #3 and walked out to the main road and caught a ride to AS #4 where Tammy Gray generously gave me a ride back to my car.

I never really considered pressing on. The Vermont 100 next month is this summer’s focus race and to continue meant taking more a risk of serious injury than I was willing to. I hope by pulling out of HS when I did that I’ll be running again in a couple of days. I am icing my calf several times a day and wearing double compression sleeves. I’ll try an elliptical workout later this afternoon and hoping be able to do some stretching tomorrow.

Fast girl Jill Perry emailed me this morning with a reframe for DNFing, “ Did Nothing Fatal”. I hope this is true! Highlands Sky Results here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rockmont Relay 2009: 12 Hour Solo

Photos above are from Montreat files showing parts of the relay course.

I left home in Jefferson NC at 6:12am 5/30/09 for the 2.5 hour drive to Black Mountain to run the 2009 Rockmont Relay scheduled to start at 10am. Several days prior to the event, I spoke with race director Richard Handy who informed me the event, due to severe erosive conditions had to be moved. The new venue would be the Black Mountain Campus of Montreat College.

Arriving with plenty of time to “build” an aid station, I hauled plastic folding table, canopy, chair, cooler, fluids, baubles and misc stuff and food down the hill and into the field which was tent city. (And also the start/finish/ handoff/timing center). The event information advertised a community dinner on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday-so with this being primarily a relay event (though I later learned there were approx 35 registered solo runners) I brought everything I needed and more.

I hoped I find a kindred spirit or two to share my space. Very quickly Scot Hayward and Richard Lily and I had a great little space. (Both these guys and I have shared trail/pavement for many wonderful and excruciating hours in different venues! Richard, like me would run the 12 hour. Scot the 24. Richard would crew for Scot after the completion of the 12 hour. I would wish everyone well, and go home!

Many teams gathered. Scot and I met Brian from Gainsville, GA running his first solo 12 hour. I hope the advice we shared about lueco tape and body glide worked for him! Allison Bryant was there. I briefly said hi to long time acquaintance and super cool woman Erin Sommers…there were other familiar faces and many new young (1/3 my age young faces who were undoubtedly the fast boys and girls on the big teams!)

I wont’ say much about my “plans” or approach. Just to keep running for 12 hours. I didn’t know the course or how my body and attitude would do. Just I wanted to run ‘till the end. Vaguely I expected 100k if the terrain wasn’t too technical. So I ran.

The first 4 hours, I ran every step, averaging just less than 30 min per loop. I drank 1 20oz bottle of Clif, water or Nuun every 2 laps. I ate pretzels, Clif Shot Blocks, Clif gels, almond butter /apple butter sandwich quarters and parts of a Clif Bar and a few fig bars throughout. By 2pm it was warmer. I took time to add ice and choose 2 uphill sections of the course to hike. Not long sections but helpful. I dunked my body and shirt in a creek to try and stay cool. The “intestinal over activity” (i.e. diarrhea) I’d experienced vaguely earlier started to kick in and I felt like I was spending more time collecting leaves and finding discreet places off the trail each lap than running. I was frustrated.

The course was fun! A mixture of flat trails, trails with roots and inclines, gravel roads, grassy fields, packed dirt trails and a tiny bit of paved path. The course was wonderfully varied-and as the hours passed the challenges became predictable. The color I remember is vivid spring green! The smell: honeysuckle! The sounds: The wind, cheers from a nearby ball park and bass vibrations of the bands playing at this event! The smell: the drying mud hole in the weedy fields! The sights: runners from teenage to those of us with hair dye and wrinkles frolicking and slogging around the 3.17miles for hours at a time.

Eventually my physical discomfort got the best of me. And after debating for a couple hours, I took a dose of Imodium (anti-diarrhea medicine). I didn’t know how many to take so I started with one. After 1.5 more hours, there was little improvement and I ate another. This triggered some change and although my situation was far from ideal, I could keep plugging away.

I ran a bit with many people: Lucy, Charlie, Drew, Anita, Tracey, Allison, a few young men from Sage Academy to name a few. Richard Lilly and I spent the most trail time together. I don’t know him well off trail, yet on the trail he is a tough runner and fun companion-we spent time together this year already at Freedom Park 24-Hour and Frosty 50k.

The 12 hours did past quickly. I listened to my ipod for parts of the last 3 laps. I was joined by Melinda from the winning 12 hour team during the last ½ mile because her flashlight quit. She was anxious because she wanted to get in with enough time for her teammate to make one more lap. We both finished strong and got in at 11:37. (9:37pm) Her teammate took off (he finished the lap with a minute to spare!). Since partial laps in this set up were not possible, I was finished with a total of 22 laps or 69.74 miles.

Richard was the 1st solo guy with 21 laps or 66.57miles.
I think Anita and Allison were 2nd and 3rd…yet I pitifully don’t remember their mileage!

The team mentioned above ran 30 laps or 95.1 miles.

I have little information on the 24-Hour Race and results are not yet posted (6/2 10am EST) on the race website.,however partial results are online at Asheville Citizen Times.

For me this was good prep for Vermont 100 and a day of fun in the Western North Carolina Mountains.