I said before in one of my previous posts/race recaps that this year has become about learning about my limits. I’m still there.
In a fit of caving to running peer pressure, because runners always play that game, I went and registered for the 60 K. I drove out to the ranch Friday afternoon, thinking it would be crowded and hard to find a parking spot. I was so wrong, you couldn’t even see wrong from the wrong hill I stood on. There were 3 other people there when I arrived; a couple with a sweet dog (Fraggle), and Peter. Peter was gearing up to get a run in the night before the race, “I’m going to go out there and get lost for 12 hours” because he was volunteering at the Gate aid station. He didn’t have a map, so I gave him my park map, as I didn’t need it. Peter is much like all the other volunteers in these races, just a fat slab of awesome. I watched him go as I started to set up camp in the best spot, flat, right next to the showers with a great view of the lake.
I had enough time to go dip in the lake a bit, then the pool, after which I was cooled down enough to get to work on a sandwich. I took it and a beer up to the roof top deck and watched the sunset. I kept thinking people would roll in anytime, but only one other couple arrived that I know of. It was odd. The ranch is beautiful! Why would you not camp there?!?
My sleeping arrangements were minimal, but with a nod to the numerous and varied ant species, as I’d learned from my time in the Canyon that no tent is the best tent – cot on top of ground cover. It was a beautiful, clear night, and I drifted watching the stars and satellites. I didn’t sleep as well as I’d hoped; I kept imagining things were biting me, but I never saw these mysterious insects, nor evidence of biting. Until after midnight when I found the ants by my feet. I just needed to move the tie straps from my sleeping pad, and no more ants. And I did eventually crawl under my sheet and sleep.
Just after 7am there was a staggering amount of noise. I wasn’t sure for awhile how awake I was, because there was an entire freaking high school outside my camp. GOOD MORNING! SURPRISE CROSS COUNTRY MEET BITCHES!!!!!! Vol, the ranch owner, asked if they woke me, and said later they’d be gone by the end of the morning. I watched them run around the lake while I ate my breakfast, then went to the pavilion to steal some power. That’s when I met Vol, and overheard him talking to Joe (the race director) about Peter. Turns out Peter is training for a 100 miler, I think perhaps his first. I really hope he makes it! He was sick for his potential 1st one and is making a second go of it. Go Peter!
I took a bathroom break and brushed my teeth, and that’s when I realized I didn’t imagine the biting. Red dots all over my face and hands. In fact, by the end of my Reveille Ranch experience I had at least 3 different sets of bites. I am still itchy, especially from the larger ants, the ones that were hanging out at the ends of the blades of grass, jumping on defenseless runners in the dark and biting us as we ran off with their horrible maws stuck to our legs. Fuck off, ants.
I waited for my phone to charge for awhile, watching the young runners and Joe start to set up for the night’s race. After a pause in the action, I put my phone away, introduced myself to Joe and asked if I could help, as there didn’t seem to be other folks around. I have to admit that I carefully considered this, because I didn’t want to wear myself out before the evening, but running is about community, and you help when you can, and I decided helping would be the right thing to do and I would just try not to overdo it in the heat. I have no regrets. Joe is the nicest man, and I’ve really enjoyed the Cap’n Karl races. So I helped string flags for the start/finish chute, packed and carried gear for the aid station there and the packet pickup area, and hung banners. Somewhere in there, carrying one of the plastic tubs, I tweaked my back. I thought it would be an issue later, but I managed to work it out with the pool jet and the foam roller.
Midday came along and when setup paused I went and had some lunch. A lot of lunch. I was trying to fuel for the evening. I also had that dip in the pool, and a rinse in the shower, and flopped down on my cot for a nap soaking wet and cool (that’s another trick I learned from the Canyon). I napped for a bit, but it wasn’t as deep a sleep as I’d hoped. Even with ear plugs the human activity woke me. I finally went and took a proper shower, with soap and everything, and changed into my running clothes for the evening. The HATR’s started to show up shortly thereafter, and there were more of us than I anticipated! Rob, José, Mark, Jeremy, Kevin, and Gordon all rolled in to camp in the #1 spot I’d secured, and I was even more glad I’d showed up the night before! At this point, I declared the HATR convention was my own personal sausagefest, and the tone degenerated precipitously from there. Much trash talk was had. It was beautiful. In the hottest part of the day, Gordon reappears in his own shower and declares that the section over the dome was “brutal.” He’d run the 10K course as a warm up …for the 10K… and to get the feel of the thing. Of course he says it in his accent, because he is Not Texan, so you just kind of have to imagine this was funny.
We gear up and start moving to the HATR tent near the start/finish gate. There were 4 60K’ers, Jeremy, Mark, José, and me, and we all realized we were in a similar predicament with respect to the PRD. (The rest of this paragraph is about poop so now’s your chance to stop reading.) We made a pact to update each other with shit status notifications. José declared that we were bitches for not having proper control over our own bodies, because he can fire one out at will. We hated him less after he told us the story of using rocks as TP at Bandera. José is not good at the outdoors. At half an hour to start, Jeremy and I had given up, but Mark quietly nodded, smiled, and gestured, that he’d done a small one and was feeling good. Jeremy was afflicted in lap 3, and has a pretty good story about it, so ask him about his “crapus interruptus” on the trail. I realize now I never updated the guys, but I am all about the clock, and didn’t have anything going on until coffee the next morning after 7am, and then after our giant breakfast at Magnolia, when I heard José exiting the bathroom next door apologizing to the next person to go in there. Heh. There you go. You’re welcome.
The 30K’ers, Laura, Cesar, and Mark (Tall Mark, as opposed to “The Real Mark” – more trash talk) popped into the tent, and we just kind of hung out for awhile and took some pictures before the race. (The 10K’ers were Eric, Gordon and Kevin – there were a few other runners around, maybe HATR’s or known to Rob and José, but I didn’t meet them.) I loaded up on ice from my cooler before the start, and never got overheated or dehydrated like at CO Bend. I was still worried about my ankle, which wasn’t fully healed, but Paul and my team at Valeo did stellar work on me in the week prior to the race, and the ankle was never an issue during my run!
And then there we went. I was in my usual back of the pack spot, but feeling good and enjoying the day. I loaded up on more ice and Gatorade at the Gate aid station, and amused the volunteers by having them dump ice right into my shorts. The “freeze your junk off” technique is something I learned from Pam Smith, winner of Western States, and she’s right. The only thing about the shorts full of ice is that my socks got very squishy by the 2nd aid station. My Salomons tend to hold water. (I’m still not sure about those shoes.) Also after the 2nd aid station, I got an ice cube right up in my business. I mean, way up there. That ice cube was my new boyfriend. I started singing about it, and I bet José thought I was losing my mind.
Soon we started our ascent up the dome. I loved the dome! (They call it “granite,” though it’s a metagranite at best. I didn’t ladle on the science too much for José, though at one point he exclaimed, “fuck Billy Nye, I’ve got Lisa!!!” Aw!) I asked José if he had really neglected to bring a headlamp for the first loop, because he threatened to not and push me to do the 20K in an hour. I told him he was a dumbass. Up on the dome he said he left it at the start, and that led to this:
me: So you went full retard on that.
him: Yep. Full. Retard.
him: Yep. In the dictionary, I want there to be a picture of me next to “full retard.”
me: We should just call it “Full José” then.
Somewhere up there we started to be passed by the 10K’ers, and Gordon must’ve been so fast that I didn’t even see him go by. On the descent, we got word one of the 10K’ers was down and hurt, and it took awhile to get to that person. We kept at it, and ended up running with Bik, from Dallas, for much of the remainder of the loop. José was an excellent pacer, even when I was cursing him for being a shitty pacer, he wasn’t. He was at times ahead of me, pushing me to keep up, and then behind me, giving me a break but still telling me to move my ass. The fact that I can pee standing up still delights him. I was fighting fatigue starting at around mile 3, not like at CO Bend where it was a wall crashing on me – this was like the tide rolling in, and I was fighting it all the way.
There was much more runnable trail than at CO Bend, and this was my favorite trail to run on to date – Rob was right about how great this trail was. Somewhere before the 2nd aid station, it got dark enough to turn on headlamps, so I tried my 2 lamp technique for first time. (I hadn’t had a chance to test it out.) Visibility was better for me than at CO Bend, and once I got my lamp placed around my hips, my light stabilized. The reflection off my bib number was annoying, so next time I’ll just pin it out of the way somewhere. Soon thereafter, I noticed a light coming from José. Fucker played me! But at least I didn’t have to feel sorry for his stupidity.
I only fell once, when it was still light out, and I managed not to do more than take a chunk out of the side of my right hand as I fell in the dirt at the side of the trail. José gave me shit about tripping over a tree root, the one thing on that trail we can actually train for, but he got his later. He was ahead of me and I saw his light go rolling off to the left. He popped back up and yelled “rock!” José can roll. I am still impressed. “I’ve got falling down to an art,” he says.
We did encounter a rattle snake – I heard to go off as José ran past, and then again for me. I learned later there was another one close by but we didn’t see or hear it. Someone posted pics of it on Facebook. José freaked out and reminded me, “you’re supposed to protect me from wildlife!” I said I couldn’t protect him if he was in front of me, so I got to take the lead again. He was still pissed about the “giant spiders,” the harvestmen that came out on the dome at sunset that I didn’t warn him about. I told him I was proud of him for not screaming like a little bitch. He said he was on the inside. He said we’re all screaming on the inside – it’s how we know we’re alive. We laughed about that for awhile.
We joked and talked through the miles, going into some deep and serious shit. Only the trail will hear about it, because that’s one of the reasons we’re out there, running through all the shit that builds up in our heads. I will say that José is just 6 different kinds awesome, and we left some stories for the next time. I may have not mentioned it yet, but the whole reason he was doing this race was to run with me, and that right there makes me tear up every time I think about it, that someone is willing to run at least 10 hours, all through the night, just to help me get to my running goal. It’s humbling.
By the time we looped back to the Gate, I knew I was in serious trouble. I was working overtime just to stay vertical. The fatigue was getting me, and I was worried I’d reached a point where I couldn’t put it off anymore. Sometimes I can, at a price, but the rent was due on this. I thought I’d wait and see what the clock said before deciding what to do next. By the time we got back to the start, I was staggering, and trying not to collapse. I’d already been through the first part of my shutdown, where my brain stopped being able to do certain tasks, and communication was a monumental effort. An aid station volunteer thought he was being helpful by urging me to go to the next aid station before deciding what to do, but I knew there was no way I should be out on the dome. José had asked me several times if there was anything I should be doing to help. I’d been eating all the things I knew to eat, and keeping my electrolytes up, and I’d even had aspirin. This was just me expiring, because my new body kind of sucks in ways other people’s don’t. The aid station volunteer kept at it, and I was unable to communicate to him the seriousness of my situation, so I just grabbed some food after he handed me back my pack and staggered back out onto the course and headed for the Gate again. José caught up with me and we talked for awhile as we walked. I think. Actually things become kind of hazy at this point. I do remember concentrating really hard on the ground, and I didn’t fall over. Eventually José told me that we should stop (I think, again). So we went back.
So I only made it 20K before my stupid body had a complete fatigue shutdown. I flopped down on a cot and was asleep by the time José brought me a burger and a Coke. (He’s the best!) That gave me enough recovery to go cry in the shower for awhile and then come back and have a beer with José. Stopping after the 1st loop was extra difficult because we were 20 minutes ahead of what I thought! I saw Laura and Cesar finish strong, and Mark come in at the end of his 2nd lap, still looking very good! Then I went right to the camp and passed out. I don’t remember anything after that until getting up just after 7.
We slowly broke camp and made a plan for HATR breakfast in Austin at Magnolia Café. Jeremy told us an excellent story about a scare he had with his junk in loop 3, and you should ask him about it. Gordon told us the story of having his toenails removed twice, because he’s hardcore like that. Good times were had at breakfast, and we made our way back to the swamp.
To recap, I know what I need to work on in the gym and technique wise in the coming months, but that wasn’t a limiting factor. Still need to get faster, but if you project my 30K time, I was almost an hour faster than at CO Bend! I can feel that, though, as I’m orders of magnitude more tired and sore than after CO Bend. In general I think I didn’t get enough high quality sleep before this race. I really tried, but a grown ass adult that needs at least 9 hours of sleep a day is fighting the rest of the world on this one. In the 24 hours after returning home I slept for 12. I’ll probably mention this to my oncologist again, but I’m doing everything the Fatigue Clinic would tell me to do, and anyone that can run as much as I do is considered a clinical success in their books. Mentally, this is really preying on me, because if shit goes horribly wrong for me (which it could at any time) the only thing I will feel is missing, the only thing I feel is left undone is that I haven’t been able to complete a 50 miler. The need to do get there gnaws at me. I’m working on it, but it so pisses me off that my body just won’t do this one fucking thing for me already!
Top of Utah Marathon is next!
I’m still not sure what I want to do for my birthday/2nd survival anniversary this year. I’ll take any suggestions from the readers! (It’s Nov. 16th, as a reminder.) Wild Hare is that weekend, but I’m always open to running peer pressure. Obviously.
I do need to close with a mention of how much I love the HATR’s. This was the first time I’ve felt like I really was part of a running community bigger than just me and my bullshit, and it was wonderful. I hope I get to do many more races with them. I’m so lucky to have found this group of people! I love you fuckers!!!!!!