So, it’s been a while since I actually sat down and blogged – basically since my Rocky Raccoon recap over a month ago. I would apologize, but you get what you pay for around here. Besides, if you’ve been hanging on pins and needles to find out what’s been going on in my life, you probably should be questioning your life.
Anyways, so here’s a very random recap of what’s been going on. No rhyme or rhythm, but I did include pictures – that has to count for something, right?
I’ve got a sprint tri coming up in five weeks. Yikes. I really need to start swimming! More importantly, I need to drop a few pounds. I’m going to need my wetsuit for this race, and there is currently zero chance that I’d be able to zip that baby up around me right now. If I drop seven pounds, I think I’ll make it in. So there’s my goal. Seven pounds in five weeks.
Speaking of house projects, I feel like that’s all I’ve been doing lately. But they count as cross-training, right? We had a leak in the main water line that feeds our house, which lead to a weekend of plumbing for me (I like most house projects, but plumbing is never something I’ve enjoyed). I called some plumbers out to find and fix the leak, but they got real shady on me so I told them to leave. Glad I did since they were wrong about where the leak was. So I ended up digging up part of our front yard and running a new water line through the attic. I only had to cut holes in the drywall in three rooms to run the new line.
And then there is our bathroom remodel, which hasn’t exactly been going as planned.
The bathroom is still a work in progress. I’ve made more trips to Home Depot in the last two weeks than any person should have to make in a lifetime. Seriously, I think I’ll count up my credit card receipts sometime. I must be somewhere around 24 trips. Once it’s all finished, I may post a before and after.
But the one project that did go “as planned” around here was the new wood floors in our bedroom. The bedrooms are the only rooms with carpet in them, but having three big dogs isn’t very conducive to carpet anywhere. So, we decided to spend the rest of our tax refund on some new flooring for our bedroom. My wife and I have laid hardwood floors together at least three times. And by hardwood floors, I mean the true hardwood floors that need to be nailed down to the subfloor. When we moved in two years ago, we put down hand-scraped bamboo in most of the main living areas. This round, we went with “engineered hardwoods” that click together. Holy sh*t, what a difference! I helped Natasha with the first two rows, and then went into the bathroom to work. Before I knew it, she had pretty much finished the entire bedroom by herself.
It looks a lot better in there now, and I feel cleaner without the carpet. Hopefully this coming weekend I can finish up our bathroom, and then we can stop living in a construction zone. I’m getting tired of tripping over my tools every time I turn around!
Twelve years ago, I married the love of my life. We were both very young, but we were in love. Natasha had the wonderful idea of taking a photo every year on our anniversary, and writing a little something about what we did the past year. Our album is slowly growing, but there are still plenty of empty pages yet to be filled.
(pardon the glare on the photos – I took most pictures of the pictures in the album)
Today, we will once again set up the tripod in the living room, and snap another family photo (ok, so it usually takes us about 20 tries to get the dogs in the photo). Then we’ll sit down, and write a little bit about what we’ve done the past year. It’s always funny for me to look back and see how much we’ve changed (and changed our minds!) over the years. But, we’ve always changed together, and that’s the most important thing. I’m looking forward to many, many more anniversary photos with the most wonderful, supportive, intelligent, and beautiful woman in the world.
Continuing my recap of my DNF (“did not finish”) at mile 63 of the Rocky Raccoon 100. In case you missed part 1 of my recap, you can find it here. I’ve spent way too long trying to write this recap – in the end, the words will never come out the way I want them, and I’ll never be able to fully convey how I really feel about the race. But here’s my attempt anyway. It’s somewhat disjointed, and I know I’m not conveying much emotion, but I’m tired of trying to write this and just need to call it “done.”
I also wanted to say thank you for all the comments and words of support, before the race, during, and after. I really do appreciate it.
When I tearfully called my wife to let her know I was turning in my timing chip, I already knew where I had gone wrong. As I told her from the trail, as much as I DNF’d the race, what it really comes down to is that I DNF’d my training. I didn’t prepare well for this race at all. I’ve looked for an eloquent way to explain what happened, but really it just boils down to an old proverb: Pride Comes Before The Fall
In some ways, I feel like I’m a humble runner. I don’t really like to talk much about my running accomplishments, and I don’t really talk much about running (outside of the blog world), except to my wife. The only people at my work who knew I was racing this past weekend were a couple of guys that I see regularly in the locker room who asked me if I had any races coming up. Unless someone specifically asks me about running, I just don’t bring it up. On the other hand though, I’ve had a lot of (relative) running success without a whole lot work on my part. And that’s caused me to become arrogant.
My first 100 miler, the Lost Soul Ultra, was on a course significantly more challenging than Rocky Raccoon. Rocky is known for being a great first-timer course, while the Lost Soul is known for being anything but beginner friendly (the course record for the Lost Soul is almost 10 hours longer than the course record for Rocky). It took me almost 34 sleepless hours, but I finished the Lost Soul. There’s no real need for me to go into great details of my training for Rocky compared with my training for the Lost Soul, but I will say that I ran more miles per week going into Rocky, not that it was difficult to average more than 22 miles per week. Most of those miles, however, were junk miles, at least in terms of completing an ultra. I didn’t put enough effort into the training that really matters (long runs), and instead arrogantly thought that my overall weekly volume would be enough (forgetting that my weekly average was still below the normal long run training distance for a 100).
I wasn’t a high school or college athlete. I was an overweight kid growing up. I started running when I was 28 years old as a means to gain control my unhealthy life. I worked hard at my running for the first three years. Since the Lost Soul though, I haven’t really put much effort into any training. Despite that, I’ve still managed to stand on the age group podium at all three of my races last year (2nd at the half-marathon, 1st at the aquathlon, and 3rd at the triathlon). And that has allowed me to become arrogant with my abilities. Since I finished the Lost Soul, I thought that surely I could finish Rocky. I mean what’s the big deal, it’s an “easy” course? Obviously I was way over-estimating myself.
I wish that I could have blamed my DNF on something else. Weather. Blisters. Anything. But in the end, I have no one to blame for my DNF except myself. And that sucks. But it is my own fault. I chose not to train enough. I thought I didn’t need to.
I could drag this post on and on. I’ve already spent WAY too much time writing and deleting and re-writing. But the bottom line as to why I didn’t finish is arrogance. Sure, there are other questions that linger in my mind, especially now that my legs are beginning to feel better. Did I drop too early? If my mental game was better, would I have finished? If my crew/pacer had been able to make it, would that have changed things? What if my wife was there in person? In the end though, I need to realize that I’m lucky to have made it to mile 63, considering I ran one 20 miler as my longest training run for the Rocky Raccoon.
I hope I don’t forget this humbling lesson anytime soon.
I’ve decided to break up the race report into two parts – this one, where I’ll talk about the race itself, and then later I’ll write another post where I’ll discuss what went wrong. This post is long, so if you only really care about what I did wrong, just wait until my next post. Also, in case you missed the earlier post, I dropped out of the race at about mile 63.
I got down to Huntsville State Park after the optional pre-race briefing on Friday night, but still early enough to leave a drop bag for the Damnation aid station. That aid station is the most remote, and they drive the drop bags out the night before the race. Since I’d pass through Damnation two times during each 20 mile loop, I wanted to make sure I had a bag there to get food and different clothes (if needed). After eating a glamorous Taco Bell dinner, I settled into my tent for the night (I camped at the park, about 1/3 mile from the start/finish line).
Race morning, I made it to the starting line with maybe 5 minutes to spare. And that was fine, since I didn’t have any reason to get there early anyway. I dropped my big bin of food/clothing/random shit in the drop bag area at the starting line, and joined the crowd for the start.
Loop 1 (miles 1-20):
It was still dark at the start (6am), so we were all running by headlamp for the first few miles. I managed to find my groove surprisingly early, particularly for a trail race with a field so large (there are often bad bottlenecks near the start of trail races, as everyone funnels down onto singletrack). Within the first few miles, a runner (Wael) came up from behind me and noticed the shirt I was wearing (from a Kansas City trail race). While I didn’t recognize him, we had run some of the same races when I lived in KC, and we ended up sticking together for the vast majority of the first loop. We were going at a remarkably similar pace, although he was running more of the hills than I was, but I could walk faster than him so we always seemed to join back up at the top of the hills. Right near the end of loop 1, I decided to surge ahead a little, and so we parted ways.
Coming into the start/finish area after the first loop, I was caught off guard by two people coming towards me saying “Are you Jesse? What do you need? What can we help you with?” These two, Larry and Sherrie, were also from KC, and my friend Indi had let them know that my crew/pacer fell through and that I was running solo. As it turns out, Larry was Wael’s pacer for the last 40 (and Sherrie would be pacing someone that I didn’t meet). They were super awesome, and I would end up seeing them at most of the aid stations from this point on.
Overall, the first 20 went quite well. It was getting to be surprisingly warm by the end of the loop, but I had been able to eat at every aid station and was hydrating well. The first 20 took me 3:37:55, or roughly 10:30/mile. I was pleased with that time, particularly since I had already been incorporating a hefty number of walk breaks into the first loop, trying to save my legs for the many miles to come.
Loop 2 (miles 21-40):
Early on this loop, I took my first fall. I had tripped on roots a couple of times during the first loop, but had managed to catch myself each time. I was glad to have a fellow runner witness this fall though, as I somehow managed to successfully navigate a parkour-esque roll and kept myself from getting hurt. I didn’t pop back up onto my feet, but at least I didn’t do a face-plant.
Most of this loop went quite well, although my legs were really starting to hurt relatively early on – the pain was a lot more intense earlier in the race compared with my previous 100-miler. But, I tried not to worry about it too much since my hydration and nutrition was going so much smoother than my first 100. I was keeping to regular walk breaks (mostly up the hills), and did my best to ignore the growing pain in my quads. I was still feeling confident of my ability to finish.
Near the end of the second loop, the pain in my quads became significantly worse. Walking wasn’t too painful, but running definitely was. I did the math, and realized that if I power-walked the rest of the time, I’d still have a shot at a sub-24 hour finish. I completed loop 2 in 3:55:32 (~11:45/mile).
Loop 3 (miles 41-60):
At mile 42, I had the distinct pleasure of being lapped by the current course record holder, Ian Sharman. So, he had managed to run 62 miles in the time it took me to run 42, although in the end he came out in second place.
I started to have a couple of blisters on my feet, so at the aid station around mile 43, Sherrie and Larry stepped in to tape them up for me. I kind of thought that they would just hand me tape to take care of it myself, but they really stepped right in. Sherrie didn’t shy away from touching my disgusting feet, and taped them right up for me. It took no time, and I was on my way.
By about mile 46, I was really in a lot of pain. My quads were not doing well at all. I ended up doing a lot more walking (good thing I’m a fast walker, and can hold a 12:xx/mile walking pace on flat terrain). I was still eating and drinking well, and my blisters weren’t overly painful, but my quads – sh*t did they hurt. As the miles progressed, I was able to short stints of running on flat trails without any roots, but picking up my legs over the incessant roots proved to be a challenge. My hopes of a sub-24 hour finish drifted away, and my hope to simply finish kicked in. I have a video that I took around mile 53, and in it I’m trying really hard to not start crying as I’m talking about how I’m feeling.
Late in this loop, Wael caught back up to me. He told me that we could stick together, and that we’d pick up Larry as our pacer at the end of this loop (pacers can start anytime after mile 60). We were on a section of course that was jeep trails, and so with minimal roots I was able to keep up with him for a bit. But I knew as soon as the trail turned back into root-covered singletrack, I wouldn’t be able to keep pace. I told him to go on and run his race, and wished him well (he went on to a strong sub-24 hour finish!)
I came into the aid station at the end of the loop in immense pain and feeling defeated. I took the time to change my socks, and had some wonderful help re-taping my feet from some random people who were waiting for their runner to come in. I rolled my quads for a few minutes, using a rolling pin that Wael had let me borrow.
I finished the third loop in 4:50:10 (14:30/mile).
Loop 4 (miles 61-63ish):
As I left the aid station for the start of the fourth loop, I pulled out my phone and called my wife. I tearfully told her that I didn’t think I was going to finish the race. I knew that the aid station at the start/finish area would be the easiest (translation = worst) place for me to make that decision though, so I told her I was going to keep going at least until the next aid station. I don’t think I was able to run a single step during that section, and my walking slowed way down. By the time I reached the next aid station, ~3 miles into the loop, I knew my race was over. I stepped to the side of the aid station, and called Natasha to tell her I was dropping. I’m sure if was hard for her to understand me through my crying (and the poor cell signal!). She did her best to talk me out of it, and after realizing that my mind was made up, she did her best to console me. I already knew where I had went wrong, and at the time I felt good about my decision to DNF. I didn’t like it, and definitely wasn’t proud of it, but I was ok with it.
I told the aid station leader I was dropping, and some members of a runners’ crew offered to give me a ride back to the start area as soon as their runner passed through. So I laid down on a log (not real comfortable), and did my best not to become even more of a crying mess in front of everyone. Shortly thereafter, I turned in my timing chip at the main aid station and walked (slowly and painfully) back to my tent.
Here’s a mental note for future reference: getting in and out of a tent when you’re legs are completely trashed is a very, very difficult thing to do. It probably took me at least 15 minutes to unzip the rain fly, crawl into my tent, and zip it back up. I laid there for a while before getting the strength up to go take a shower. Getting back into the tent afterwards wasn’t any easier. I’ll be honest, when I felt the call of nature after I had laid back down, the thought of getting back up for something so trivial as peeing was more than I could take. So I moved myself over to the door, and did my business without ever leaving the tent. I was thankful for being a guy.
I woke up at 1am, and was really hungry. Hungry enough to make me go through the painful ordeal of getting out my bed and into the car (which took another 15 minutes to move literally 10 feet). Thank goodness for fourth-meal at Taco Bell. I don’t think I’ve ever devoured that much Taco Bell in such a short period of time.
I had to stick around the next morning until 11am to have my drop bag from Damnation returned. It was extremely difficult for me to wait around at the race site, listening to the cheers for runners still finishing up. I could have waited in the heated area that they had at the start/finish area, but chose to isolate myself in my car instead. I was able to keep most of my tears from flowing until Sarah McLaughlin’s ‘Angel’ song came on the radio (seriously, has there ever been a more depressing song? Or maybe it’s only depressing because of all of the SPCA commercials. Regardless, not a song I want to hear when I’m trying to hold back tears).
Anyways, I grabbed my drop bag as soon as it was delivered, and got myself out of there as quick as I could.
Next up, I’ll talk about what went wrong. And I’ll be sure to keep Sarah McLaughlin off my iTunes rotation while I’m writing that post.
Not the post I wanted to write, but I dropped at mile 63. Will write more later. I appreciate all the support for this crazy endeavor.
I’m settled into my tent for the night, but I feel far from ready for the race tomorrow. I’ve had an emotionally draining 24 hours, and I’m just not sure I’ve got it in me to power through the mental aspect of the race tomorrow. The way I’m feeling, I put the odds of a dnf at 60%. I hate saying that, but that’s how I’m feeling. Adding to that, my crew/pacer (2 friends) weren’t able to make it due to a family emergency. So I’m completely solo down here. Yes, I know that I have people supporting me from afar, but no one here to look me in the eye and tell me to suck it up and get moving.
Hopefully I wake up feeling better in the morning (although the odds of me feeling good at 4:30 any morning are slim!). The only hope I’m really feeling right now rests in the fact that I’ve covered this distance once before. My friend Bill made me a stone necklace thing when I finished my first 100. I’ll be wearing it tomorrow as a reminder of that successful race.