Sunday, April 17, 2011

Seaton Mud Puppies 52Km

I could lie to you and say that I didn't enjoy yesterday's race. Sure, it was 4C (40F), with howling winds bringing down branches and trees on the course, sideways pissin' rain, mud everywhere except in the ice cold lakes and rivers that grew at every laps, sucking the life out of our feet. Still, I found myself enjoying the race.

All week I'd been looking at the long range forecasts. When I first saw that they called for 25mm of rain on Saturday, I wasn't worried. It'll shift to Sunday, I told myself. Poor stupid bastard. All that changed was the probability of rain, moving from 80% to 100%, the amount of rain going up to 40mm and finally the wind speeds kept creeping up. When I went to bed on Friday, the windows in my bedroom were shaking and I knew the race would be interesting.

Kim and Chris picked me up at 5:45 AM and we got there with plenty of time. It was exciting to see all the people we hadn't seen since last year. Derrick and Sarah were there also, as well as David. We didn't have much time to talk but it was nice to see them. The rain started as we got our bibs. The wind was already blowing. I look around and I see people looking ridiculously under-dressed. I guess they plan to run hard. Still, it's friggin' freezin' out there.

We all huddled under trees near the start. A bit after 7AM, after some words that I missed completely, someone said GO and we started running. My race plan was simple: go slow. My time last year was around 6:40 and I wanted to go slower than that (that turned out not to be a problem). I felt like I was barely ready to tackle a 50k race. I just haven't built up much mileage yet other than last weekend's 2 loops at Sulphur and that might actually play against me because I just finished my biggest week of training yet this year. My legs are a bit tired. So this is a training run for me.

I start running with Adi and Steve at a pretty conservative pace. Immediately, we're too hot and we're questioning our clothing selections. The trails are in fair shape. It's raining, but not too hard. We get our feet a bit wet before the river crossing but not too much. The river is about 25 meters, I would say. The current is pretty strong, with lot's of rounds rocks and the footing is questionable. I would be surprised if it's temperature was much above 5C. By the time I got to the other side, my feet were in pain! Holy shit! I wouldn't want to fall in that!

The first aid station is pretty far, almost an hour of running. By the time we get there, the rain is really coming down and I'm definitely not too hot anymore. I could find my wind-breaker gloves last night and now my liner gloves are just soaked. My hands are a bit cold. I'm wearing a merino wool base and a waterproof shell. I'm not warm but somehow my base is totally wet. I grab a potato wedge and we go. I'm feeling pretty damn good for some reason.

Before I can even think about it, we're at the next aid station.  I'm trying to remember that section but it seems like nothing. The rain was really coming down. Adi was running a bit behind with Diane and Steve is starting to get worried that he's falling too far behind. He's running the 50 miles and the way things are going, this first loop is going to take us close to 4 hours. The time limit is 12 hours so that's a bit close. Me, I know I can't keep up with him but I could pick it up a bit. The rain is still falling sideways, hard, specially when you get to the more exposed portions of the course.

We get to the turnaround, 14.5km really quick. The rain seems to stop for a while but it doesn't last. A few minutes later, Steve picks it up and disappears. I slowly pull ahead of the girls. The course seems totally changed. There's water and mud everywhere. On the way out, I remember battling the rain and wind but now the course is just a mess. Sections that were dry are now rivers and lakes. Uphills and downhills are covered in mud. Anyone in road shoes must be planning their trail shoe purchase right now. The run back is a blur. At some point I start meeting the 29K runners, who started at 9AM. They didn't get to enjoy any of the dryer course. I'm running by myself and I'm enjoying the run.

As I get closer to the big river crossing, there are a number times where you have to cross major water features that freeze your feet to the bone, so when I get to the river, my feet are already frozen. The river seems awful high now, and you can't see the bottom at all. I start crossing, almost trip but recover and just as I think my feet are about to fall off I reach the other side. The pain increases for a few seconds, I swear like a trucker, and then it subsides and I start running.

The conditions are now bordering on ridiculous. My hands are a bit of an issue. Should I change my gloves? They're in the car so that means 5 or 10 minutes and how long are they going to stay dry really? Despite the gaiters, finer particles of mud accumulate on the insole of my shoes and create little uncomfortable bumps under my feet. Should I attempt to clean my feet? How long is that going to last?  I get to the start/finish and it's a sad sight. People are dropping like flies. I consider it but other than being a bit cold I don't really have a reason to drop so I refill, take a piece of banana and get out of there before I change my mind.

29 km done, 23 to go. I turned around at exactly 4 hours. Holy shit, this is going to be a long one. I press the "lap" button on my watch but actually that was the "stop" button but I don't notice.  Jeez my hands are cold. I have a handheld bottle, so I start keeping the other hand inside my sleeve to keep it out of the wind. It works well, but the hand holding the bottle gets cold really fast. I loosen the strap as much as I can, pull my sleeve over my hand and stuff the whole thing into the hand slot. That's better. Not perfect but better. I get to the river. Is it my imagination or it's even bigger? I cross. Fuck it's cold. A few minutes from there, as I get to the bottom of a switchback turn, I see Hans jumping over the logs that were put there to prevent people from taking a wrong turn and start running down on the wrong trail. What's his name??? "BUDDY, HEY BUDDY!!!" He stops and sees me. I tell him he's going the wrong way and he gets back on the trail. I hear he's not the only one who made that mistake.

I now have a sharp pain somewhere in my pelvic area. It makes my running a bit painful. I'm also experiencing a bit of a low point. Despite the apparent impossibility, the course keeps getting worse. Doesn't the water drain anywhere? Wait, yes, it drains on the friggin' course! The trail is completely trashed. Thank God, on this loop I only need to go up to aid station 2. At the speed I'm going, that shorter loop is going to take me 4 hours as well!

My ass (aka pelvic area) is killing me. That's now all I can think about. That and my freezing hands. Do I have a stress fracture of the pelvis? The pain doesn't seem to be on the foot strike. I the sensory deprived bubble in which I run, all I can think of is my ass (well, the pain), my hands, the mud build up under my toes and the water and mud that keeps accumulating on the course. Why didn't I bring some Tylenol? After what seems like forever, I reach aid station 1. I tried to look at the time but noticed I had stopped the timer instead of lapping it. I grab a cup of e-load to save what I have in my bottle and scoot.

On the first loop, this section passed so fast that I can't even remember it. This time, it's taking forever. St least, my pelvic fracture seems to be on the mend. Now I'm just tired. After a while, I see Kim who's on the return leg of her 29K. I ask her how far the aid station is and she says about 10-15 minutes. Gulp, I thought it was closer. I'm still enjoying the race, but the conditions are indeed a bit harsh and I can't say that I'll be sorry to be done. I get to the aid station and I'm a bit surprised that I haven't seen any of the guys coming back from the 50M turnaround. Given that I'm thinking I will finish in 8 hours total, I don't see how any of them plan on finishing the 50 miles in less than 12 hours.

At the aid station, I get a cup of warm chicken broth and it feels fantastic. I refill for the last time and get out of Dodge. Let's get this done. Two hours to go. I'm running better now. The pain in my ass is all but gone. That's good because even though it sees impossible, the course if even worse. I don't even want to talk about it anymore. I run by myself although chick number 129 is hanging back somewhere and sometimes gets close enough for us to exchange a few words. I get in a zone where all that exists is my cold hands, my painful feet, my shrunken dick and the ridiculous course. Except for a few exceptionally nasty lakes, I run straight through. A few times, it takes longer to get your feet our of the water than to cross the river. And then there's another one just as large. I really hurt.

After a unknown amount of time, I get at the river at the same time as chick 129 and some other runner. There's nobody minding the crossing so we wait until everyone is safely across before moving on. The river is huge now and I wouldn't want to do the crossing by myself. I'm feeling pretty good so I decide to push on to the finish. I get into a good pace and lose the two other runners. I pass a couple of people and eventually I see the power lines. Alleluhia! I see the grass, I RUN up the fucking hill, run around the track and I'm done!

The shower feels SO hot I'm wondering if I'm going to get blisters. Fantastic! My feet are fine. NO blister or anything. I grab some food and wait for the others. I'm pretty sure they're going to drop because there's no way they can finish in time. That's what happens. We shoot the shit for an hour or so and head home.

This was one for the books.


Derrick said...

Very well said always.

Congrats on your race. You looked very strong out there. Fun day.

Born To Endure said...

Congrats, that is hard core!

chris mcpeake said...

well done JD
I must now finish my post about my DNF shame.
Whos the whimp now ... LOL

Sara Montgomery said...

Good job, JD. Nice seeing you briefly out there. I always look forward to your reports.

Pierre said...

Well done, all of you! I ran a measly 13K on Saturday and could not help but think of the Seatonites. Your next race will seem tame.

Unknown said...

there was warm chicken broth at the aid station? damn! I could'a used some of that!

Gailanne said...

Awesome job out there... This goes to show what we ultrarunners are about. Next Race Please!

Ken said...

Wow, Great report JD. I feel the pain of the run in your words. AND Damn that river was high and fast! See you out there.