Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunmart Texas Trail Endurance 50 mile Run

Huntsville State Park, Saturday - December 8, 2007

7am and we're off. The first of four 12.5 mile loops to go. It's a warm day already. The heat has started early. (Not a good thing.) With an expected high in the mid-80's and humidity around 80% I knew I couldn't think about the weather I just had to run.

The first loop was great. Starting with my group, listening to friends chat, going out easy... thinking about all the miles and miles of training runs and countless hours on my feet that all went into being out here in the park. Running through the trees around the lake. I was happy.

Quickly I begun breaking the loop out into sections... The first few miles are quick, then you cross the park entry road, next you hit the jeep road, a long straight section. The hills on the road were gradual, but with 50 miles to go, you learn quickly that there's little advantage to running up any inclines. A brisk walk and you're good. Next, you go through some more small sections and you hit the dam. It's the half way point in the loop. About a half mile later you actually hit the other side of the damn, then you cruise a few hundred yards down a straight path parallel to the lake. Most of us hated this part, as you could see and hear the finish directly across the lake, but you knew it might be another hour and a half or two hours until you would be there. Cruel, but sometimes it would give me the little inspiration I needed to keep going. A turn after that and you made it to the opposite end of the lake and to 'bridge land' a collection of wooden springy bridges that carry you over the marshes across the edge of Lake Raven. At this point you have around 4 miles to wonder through the trees and your back at home. Rinse and repeat.

After the first loop, I felt hot, tired, a bit nauseous and ready to lay down - but wait, I had about 38 miles more to go! And boom, after a quick stop at pit crew central (with Caitlin, Rob, John, Hank, and the gang) I was off on my second loop. It's a mind game at this point. Break the race into the most manageable pieces tolerable. You can't think - "shit! I have to run almost 40 miles more, how in the hell am I going to do this??" No, you have to think about it one lap at a time, one section of each lap at a time, maybe even every aid station or conversation at a time.

The 2nd loop.

I don't really remember that much about it, other than I wanted to stop. I kept trying to find my love for the sport, but the heat was melting my mind. I couldn't get enough ice to cool me down and even running 25 miles (two loops) was seeming to be quite the impossible task. Okay then, the 2nd loop is done. I get back to my crew and my mind is thinking, alright I'm going to put on the biggest smile and tell everyone I feel awesome, then I get there and I actually look worn to shit my speech is starting to slur. Not sure if it was the salt, lack of calories, mild dehydration, or just pure exhaustion, but I didn't look pretty and it was just the half way point.

The 3rd loop.

I realize that I'm hitting a wall. No, not hitting, I just collided with a wall and I'm accessing how to pack things up and get out of this without loosing too much respect. I'm ready to quit. I went almost a week without eating a solid meal before this race. I had the stomach flue for almost 5 days and here I was trying to run the longest distance ever in my life. No, I didn't want to die today. This wasn't worth it. And right when I'm feeling about as pouty as you can be... Here comes Mike, one of my friends from Rogue. I perk up, throw a thumbs up and tell him that I'm trying, but I'm feeling low. He gives me some good words, and I move forward. Somehow a prayer was answered and a random guy named John, who just ran the Leadville 100 miler (and extremely difficult trail race in the Colorado mountains), decides that I'm a worthy cause and gets me to follow him, keep his pace and continue on. I follow for about 10 minutes then get stuck feeding at an aid station. Not wanting to hold John back, and not like I have a choice, I see him go. I realize about a minute later that if I don't catch up with him, I'm toast. I muster up some strength and try to catch up for about 5 minutes. I'm sure this changed my speed walk into a hobbling jog, but I felt like I was really picking up the pace. Then BAM, I hit a root and go down. Adrenaline fills my system and I book ahead to find John and his friend Penny up ahead. A few moments after that and I realize John was about at the same point I was earlier, but he's injured and knows he can't finish, especially in time for the cut off. CUT OFF! Shit, the cut off to start the 3rd lap is at 3:30pm . By this time. I had started with a 2:20 (2 hour 20 minute) lap, then a 2:30, but my 3rd lap was looking like it was going to be over 3 hours. If I didn't try harder I was going to come close to being pulled from the race. Well, as you guessed it. Something worked and I made it.

The 4th loop.

I stopped by to greet my crew and I was nothing but slurs and stutters. Okay, not time to talk... gotta go do this thing. I have to go finish. I want to get this over. Now, not later. Now. And I'm off. More like walking, then trotting, then a steady jog. Miles and more miles pass. 40, 42, 44 - hey I'm at the dam again. 46 - I just turned around the lake. 47 - night takes over. Headlamp on. Trees become shadows. The dark surrounds me. Bushes move. Shapes take form. I hear weird sounds. My heart races. I picture my finish and I loose my breathe. Quickly I must go. I need to leave this place and get home. I run. I run. I run. Then I see lights. The end is near. I whistle for my crew. Drop my bag and run, fast... real fast, so fast I feel like I'm about to win the whole race and I cross the finish line. 11 hours and change. Holy shit. I'm so glad this is done.

A HUGE, HUGE, HUGE thanks to my perfect wife Caitlin for all of her loving support, to my brothers John and Rob for keeping me laughing, to Hank for keeping it real, and to Trish and her family for being the extra support I needed on my last lap. Sometimes it really takes your family and friends to realize how much you appreciate life. Without them, I don't think I would have been able to finish and to them and God I say a BIG thanks!

P.S. Join me on my next adventure in less than 4 weeks when I attempt a race in Bandera, TX. I signed up for the 100K, but I'm beat. I mean real beat. It may be time to finally rest. But hey, I can still run the 50K right? Who knows. Stay tuned.