IntroductionI went into this race knowing it would be a challenge. As a law student classes and particularly finals are my first priority. May is the time of the year that brings flowers for most of the country and nervous breakdowns for 1Ls. One final exam determines the grade for the class and spilling your brain onto the paper in IRAC form is the only way to succeed. (IRAC - Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion, then repeat for every issue/element…forever). I was fueled either by frustratingly high amounts of coffee or decompressing with generous pours of scotch; or both. Ultra training was disastrously low on the priority chart. Regardless of the stress, 32 miles per week was my average going into this race. Those miles were quality trail miles so my legs could reap the benefits of the hills and the subtlety of the terrain, but the race course on the other hand was deceptively simple. A one mile loop 100 times.
Victory Design Bear Drop Bag ( link )
Tailwind Nutrition ( link )
Headsweats Visor (day) / Buff -(night) (link)
Oakley Radar Glasses
Perl Izumi Arm Coolers (day) / MoBen Arm Warmers (night)
Patagonia Tech Tee (Capilene 1, silk weight)
NorthFace Flite Series 5" short (day) / Sugoi Tight Shorts (night)
Tevasphere Trail Shoes (25 Miles) Altra Running Lone Peak Trail Shoe (56 miles)
Drymax Trail Socks (grey)
BodyGlide Anti-Chafe + BodyGlide Skin Glide (blister protection)
Fenix Headlamp / Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
Ultimate Direction Handheld ( Review )
Nanny Goat 100
The one mile loop is on a horse ranch in Riverside, Ca. It is deceptively easy as far as courses go which is the problem. The first few miles I was cruising along at a relatively quick pace for a 100 miler. Around mile 4 my knees began aching. How could my knees hurt on a course with no elevation and not even a 10k into it? The answer lay in the courses deceptively tricky flatness. The temperatures at the start were perfect; high 50s-low 60s and overcast so everyone went out a little quickly to take advantage of the conditions. That fact coupled with a grassy section about .2-.3 that sucked the unsuspecting runners into a false sense of security only to reward them with twisted ankles or in my case achy knees. Shoes sunk into sponge like obscurity and before you realized it the pain sets in and its a patch job style race from that point on. After 6 miles I began walking a part of this section and by mile 25 I was walking the whole grass section, lesson learned.
At mile 25 I took a break. I felt great but knew I was running too quickly. I had been running steady with no aches and pains after making the grassy section adjustment. I began chatting with another runner named Arturo and it turns out he is going to be taking on the Headlands 100 in September. A few days after the race I got an email from him telling me he had to drop because his daughter, who was there to support him, fainted and had to be taken to the hospital. At the time I was blissfully unaware the heat was crushing all of us. I should have been more cognizant given I saw an older man fall backwards on his head in the middle of the afternoon, but of course you never think it could be you…so wrong.
But, by mile 10 I was not urinating on schedule. Its a weird thing to talk about but in ultra running it's your personal tracking system. I drink a lot of liquids. My urination schedule is pretty regular and even on the hottest days out in Griffith Park I am clear with a slightly yellow tint, i.e. hydrated. Sorry for the details. Race day consuming copious amounts of liquids and still nada. Approximately 4-5 hours into the run I noticed that my urine was an ice tea color; not a good sign that early into a 100 miler. The overcast perfect running conditions heated up in a heartbeat and I missed the adjustment. The next 6 hours I tried to consume more liquids and re-hydrate but the urine got darker and darker. By the 50 mile mark I was not at coke color level, but pretty dam close to it. I ran the first fifty in about ten and a half hours. I was on pace to break 24 hours, which is the magical number for ultra runners but the hydration was a problem a bigger one that I thought.
Mile 60 Al joined me to pace for a few miles. Al was there at my first hundred and was the first person to see me hallucinate from exhaustion ( Rocky Road 100 - Report ) live and in technicolor and has been one of my biggest supporters since I started running ultras. He saw me drop 50+ lbs. and increasingly become healthier and happier. We ran for a few miles and I told him my plan was to run hard from 1 am - 3 am and make up lost time. He asked how my hydration was doing and I answered, fine. I probably should have been more forthcoming but I did not want to have him come out to Riverside to walk a few miles in the dead of night. So we jogged a little and he left me after midnight. I did end up running from 1 am - 3 am, but that was all the gas I had in the tank.
My body had not adjusted the hydration issue despite my best efforts Throughout the day I met amazing people. Everyone, as is typical in an ultra, suffered together and rejoiced in each others accomplishments. It would be impossible to list everyone, but if you look at the Nanny Goat 100 facebook group you will see what I am talking about. A solid group of people who are all about cheering for each other. Despite all of these positive vibes I decided to drop at mile 81.
The body took a toll and I did not want to push beyond my limits. I knew that my hydration was off and this was just not the day to push the red line any further. Arriving at the main aid station and announced that I was dropping. The RD told me I could walk a mile an hour and still make cut-offs, but I reiterated that I was done. He suggested I sit for half an hour and decide after that. I agreed...
I sat on a cooler leaned my head back and felt a tremendous weight come over me. I woke up to a few people slapping my face asking if I was okay? I asked what happened and the answer was "you blacked out." My initial thought was; bull****. There is no way I blacked out. Blacking out it is a college drinking story not a seasoned ultra runner story. I tried getting up and lost consciousness again. Then it sunk in, my body was agreeing with my decision to drop and it was not taking any other answer.
The volunteers, particularly Jean, really saved me. Knowing my personality I would have tried to keep moving and probably collapsed somewhere, but they brought a cot and had me lay down. Once I laid on the cot my body was alternating between strip into nothing hot then shivering cold. Jean placed a heater and placed it near me and then tried getting me to consume water. I was so miserable and I could do nothing about it.
My breathing labored and naturally could not get comfortable. My legs were complaining with the pain that sets in once you stop. I went from feeling confused and disoriented to achy and cramping then back to confused. It was akin to a boxer being knocked out. It just came upon me in a flash and I had to ride it out. Some time later, honestly I have no idea how much time because I was confused, Jean brought a pillow. It was fluffy and white.
I tried to complain that I was gross and would ruin it to which she answered, don't worry about it we are ultra runners. I finally fell asleep.
I woke up feeling nauseous but years better than I had a few hours before. I thought; what if I had sat somewhere on the course? What if i had opted to keep going regardless? The questions naturally will never have answers but just the thought of those answers is scary. I learned a lot of valuable lessons, but more than that I am proud I listened to my body and decided to drop. My body obviously overjoyed with the prospect of stopping (read as survival) showed agreement by passing out. It took me a few hours to get back into a good mental place, such a good mental place that I signed up for another 100 in August. I respect the Headlands too much not not dial in everything before it. Most of my non-runner friends think I am nuts and should take the experience as my chance to retire from the ultras. Giving up is not my style. I look at the experience as a gift. I was given a lesson and a bunch of new friends with 81 miles thrown in. Failing is only failing if you don't get up and I think its my duty as member of this community to get up and get motivated.