Sunday, April 15, 2012

First Dance with Trail Demons: Oriflamme 50K

It's been just over a week since I ran my first ultramarathon. I hesistate to call myself an ultramarathoner though until I finish my first 50 mile run. My prep for this was shameful, and my body paid the price. I ignored a 5-pound weight drop in the week leading up to the run mainly because my milk supply never seemed to suffer so it didn't seem to warrant serious thought. My daughter was getting plenty of milk, and I was able to leave plenty of milk behind for while I was gone. I was letting stressors from my personal life ruin my appetite though, and I'm certain I was dehydrated before even setting foot out in the Laguna Mountain range. Not to mention since my last long run of 15 miles 6 weeks prior to this run I basically stopped running (jokingly referring to this as an "extended taper"). Thank goodness running amnesia takes place so quickly because I sure as heck felt like I was a failure during this run and yet here today I'm fantasizing about 50 mile and 100 mile runs! 

Carrying on with my run we go!

Total Distance: 31.4 miles
Time: 8:01:06
Elevation Gain: some 4700 feet (taken from a running companion's GPS summary)
Starting Temperature: 31° F
Ending Temperature: 64° F
Quote of the Day: “I'm still moving forward, right?” AND "The pain is only temporary."

Pre-run Consumption
·         Steel cut oats with coconut-almond milk and 1/2 banana
·         Coffee with coconut-almond milk 
·         Mayesa, Cacao Mint

Run Consumption
·         ½ Honey Stinger Waffle, Vanilla
·         ¼ banana
·         ½ Honey Stinger Waffle, Vanilla
·         ¼ banana
·         Mayesa, Cacao Original
·         ½ Honey Stinger Waffle, Honey
·         Mayesa, Cacao Mint 
·         Some coke and a handful of plain chips
·         Approximately 160 oz water
·         12+ Metasalt Capsules

Immediate Post-run Consumption
·         2 slices of pizza
·         Slice of chocolate cake
·         Fritos
·         1½ bottles of Peroni
·         ½ coke 

After arriving at the Sunset Trail Head I quickly went to register at the start line, changed into my gear, and dashed back to the starting line. No standing around for me as they were already counting down upon my approach - 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1! I didn't even have my pack strapped on yet as I headed out on my first 50K journey. On the single track the gentleman I was nestled behind unnerved me a bit. It was dark when we started, and my knuckle light was shining right behind his path lighting his ankles just enough for me to see him roll them three times. We hadn't even gone one mile. I made it a point to pass him at the S1 crossing.

The single track to the jeep trail was familiar from my preview run and that was pretty comforting. Every other race I have ever run has started off on completely new ground for me. I found a comfortable cruise and took only quick glimpses of the sunrise. Nothing beats a sunrise over the mountains. The sun was heating things up quickly. Thankfully the bite in the air was waning. Running through heat pockets in between bushes was a wonderful sensation. I've run through pockets like these before but not to this degree. After a quick pass through the first aid station I made my way down the rocky jeep trail. I struck up a conversation with a man (blasted I can't recall his name) who was an ultrarunning veteran. In fact, he ran this very course the day it was canceled due to the winter storm a few weeks prior. I was in awe as he described the wicked conditions and how that did not deter him. He was also experienced running the PCT50 so I picked his brain about his strategy to conquer it. I would be a fool not to take his words to heart, especially considering how this run would end up.

At the bottom - didn't make it this far on the preview run
I started struggling on the course at the bottom of Oriflamme Canyon. My legs were not tuned in to sand running. Anytime I do a beach run I avoid the soft sand and skirt along until I touch something firmer so running on soft desert track killed me. I. Hate. Soft. Sand. But I couldn't blame the sand when others so easily floated past me. Tie together the soft sand with the false flat and this quickly turned into a power struggle. I was exerting an awful lot of energy trying to navigate the sand. I pressed on though because at the time it didn't feel that tough. My ignorance was shining far too brightly to worry about it any further.

First time running on desert terrain

Breezing through the second aid station only to empty my shoes (I need to get some Dirty Girl Gaiters!) I entered Box Canyon. I had to stop for a moment to take in the beauty of it.

Box Canyon
At 15.7 miles in I reached the turnaround point. I had to avoid looking at the family and friends waiting for their runner well aware that my daughter would not be in the small gathering. Other than missing her I was feeling super fantastic. I had no clue that I would not be able to run the distance back.

Halfway mark
Running the soft sand down was easy-peasy at first. I returned to the second aid station and emptied my shoes again while graciously letting someone refill my water. Shortly after taking off I ran into some Dirt Devils, complained about the sand, then pressed on. Not even a half mile later, somewhere between mile 18 and 19 I think, I went from cocky to humble in a second flat. My muscles crapped out on me with a sudden DERP! I've only had minor muscle cramps during runs that did nothing more than threaten my pace so when my whole lower body shut down I was completely stunned. I kept walking knowing full well if I just stood there I would be in more trouble. I slapped at my leg muscles. I had no idea muscles could get that hard. The amusement quickly faded though as the pain crept through every muscle fiber. I kept walking forward even though the muscle seizure was relentless. I slammed more water and completely ignored my salt pills at this point. To be honest I can't remember the last time I took any. I rubbed my aching lower back and was taken aback by how damp my back was under the camel back, totally oblivious to the fact that the desert was wicking away my sweat before I could register that I was in fact sweating like a mad woman. 

So oblivious. So terribly oblivious to what was happening. 

I started to sink into a deep hole. I questioned everything about my training. I questioned why I thought I could handle something so immense. I questioned why didn't I just freakin' walk from the beginning. Then I questioned the one thing I did not want to think about during the race...I questioned why my marriage failed. To ruminate on this topic left me feeling horribly defeated. There was nothing left to fix, nothing to gain from thinking about it and yet it plagued my mind. I kept telling myself shut up, shut up, SHUT UP! I was totally consumed in thought but at least I could still will myself forward.

I started the ascent and let my pace dwindle to barely moving, pushing through the pain as fast as my body allowed. Somewhere during the death march a lady passed by and asked how I was holding up just like everyone else that was passing me (people really look out for you on trail runs). I was choking back tears while trying to convince her I was fine. She was not fooled. I assured her I really was fine. She offered ginger chews. She was so kind. I again assured her it wasn't my stomach or anything, it was these darn mental demons in my head. She smiled and said it probably wasn't all mental as we were walking up a wall at this point and with that she continued on leaving me behind with my demons. 

Demons? What the heck was I referring to when I sputtered that out? I suppose I had many demons that day, many challenges to face. For instance, the pain demon kept trying to get me to quit, to surrender, but I kept pushing. At one point I welcomed the demon of physical pain because it was more bearable to deal with that then that stubborn demon that reminded me of my failed marriage. Physical pain is only temporary after all. 

Shortly after hitting the home stretch my muscles gloriously relaxed (I swear it was the combination of Coke and salty potato chips that saved me!). I even felt like I could run and did so for maybe 3/4 mile until deciding to walk most of the way. 

It all came to an end at 31.4 miles in 8:01:06. I foolishly forgot sunscreen (very reminiscent of a Christmas Eve bike ride with friends in Africa in which I ended up utterly fried - when will I learn?). Other than the sunburn I actually felt pretty good afterwards.  Boiling it down the Oriflamme 50K was really a supported training run, one in which I learned a lot from. I have just under a month before my first 50 mile trail run. Ready to take it on!

Back home nursing my 14-month-old
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