Hallucination 100 Race Report
So this race report will be a bit different than most, as I modify it to try to help “non-ulta” folks get a feel for an event such as this, This run was a bit unique, in that I asked friends and relatives to offer up pledges, all donated directly to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, for every mile that I’m able to make. Pretty encouraging, as I was able to pull together just over $12 per mile in total, so this run, unlike others this year, had some level of inspiration to keep moving! Background is that it’s been a terrible year so far, with each race ending at a disappointing 62 miles, or some even less; frankly I was nearly to the point of convincing myself that 100 miles is simply out of my range – on the other hand each of those failures were surrounded by the usual for me; excessive heat and dehydration. In any case, for anyone interested, here are the gory details.
Friday PM – we arrived at the start area a bit early in Pinckney and pupped our tent, checked in, pinned on my bib – the usual really. This year there would be about 150 One Hundred mile runners starting; usually about half drop eventually, and this year would be no exception. So the course is fairly simple; six loops around a 16.8 mile trail route. There’s an aide station at miles 4 (call it a minor station, but still somewhat stocked), a station at 8 (marking the midway point, very well stocked, and in fact I have a drop bag there, stuffed with anything I could think of), and a last station at mile 12, which actually was the same station as the one at mile 4. Of course “home base” included a fairly large station as well. The course was on the “Poto” trail in Pinckney, although some I think was on the Silver Lake trail as well. Fairly hilly, rocky and lined with tree roots (but not nearly as brutal as Leadville!)
So after the usual social work with friends and the race organizers (it’s a relatively small community of us idiots), the gun went off Friday, at 4:00 PM, and off we went.
Loop 1: I was by myself for loop one, and started with my iPod on. Of course I did hook up with folks from time to time and talked, but loop one was generally fairly quick; I (we) would walk up the very steep hills, run up the smaller ones, and run pretty much the entirety of the remainder. At about 2 miles in, I was stung (as were about 5 of us) by a swarm of what appeared to be killer bee’s – I was nailed on the back of my right calf, and it hurt for about 5 more miles! Other drama included the 4 mile aide station not being ready for the runners quite yet, so I rationed my single water bottle until mile 8, and the “burr” incident. This happened when I decided to make a pit stop in the woods and of course went back about 20 feet, only to discover I had gone right through a patch of small burrs that were now completely covering my shirt and pants! And these suckers scratched like crazy! By the time I hit the mile 8 station I changed my shirt, and at the end of the loop I changed my pants (spares I had brought). I had targeted 3 Hours 30 Minutes for this loop, and came in at about 3:20. The sun was hot, but the air cool, so all was good – especially knowing that their “might” be some refreshing rain coming in the evening hours!
Loop 2: 16 miles in my pace had slowed, but not too badly – the day was young yet. Headlamp on it was now dusk, then night, and I was moving along fairly well. I was drinking about a water bottle of light Gatorade between each station, and somehow discovered that a half banana was doing my stomach wonders! In fact I ate a half banana at EVERY station for the entire run; 12 bananas in total! Also I would pick at flat Coke, potatoes dipped in salt, the occasional cracker, and even an Ensure or two (kept in my drop bag). Ah yes, life was good really as the sun went down and my headlight came on – and then it started to “sprinkle”. Of course sprinkle turned to rain, and by the loop 2, mile 8 station, it was a complete monsoon downpour! The trails were becoming beyond recognition, and the temperature had dropped about 20 degrees – a number of runners gathered in the station under a makeshift tent waiting for a ride as they planned to drop out – I of course stupidly got my banana, filled up my bottle, and dredged out into the pitch black downpour on trails that were quickly becoming “un-runnable”. The trick was to stay sure footed, use your light to see directly in front of you, and mostly I found prayer to be of help. No getting around it, this part of the run sucked! Only 24 miles in, and this was miserable. On I trenched – I think my time ended up being about 4.5 hours for this loop, which was miraculous considering the conditions – finally made it back to home base, to get ready for loop 3.
Loop 3: Loop 3 was going to be very cool, as Caryn’s co-workers, and my friends as well Garrett and Andrea were going to pace me (for that loop). I had run a “practice” night run with them at the local park, and they were nothing if not enthusiastic and supportive. My goal of showing them how awesome ultra-running through a beautiful park at night, tearing up the trails at a blinding (loop 1 like) pace, was replaced by seemingly endless trudging through a steady heavy rain down trails that were for the most part unusable and destroyed. We ran some, but not much, and it was COLD! But both Garrett and Andrea were AWESOME! They were great company, and tough! Not a SINGLE complaint at all (unlike me, who complained most the entire time). This ended up being by far my slowest loop at nearly 6 hours, but in hindsight it simply was not going to get any quicker with the conditions as they were. Midway through the loop my batteries died on my headlamp, but we waited until we made the next station before Garrett put in my spares. Seriously, this run belongs to these guys as much as me – they were encouraging, and simply fun to watch due to their energy! (Which was clearly starting to wane by about mile 12, but I suspect that was more due to the awful conditions than tiredness). So nearly 6 hours for this loop – nearly twice as long as loop 1, but it’s hard to change the weather. Word on the trail by this time was that a great deal of the field had dropped. Except me…. 50 miles done – heck how bad can it get???? (Never ask that…)
Loop 4: Loop 4 was cool as well, in that my coworker and friend Mike volunteered to join me. Starting out a few hours before sunrise, he was set with his headlight and white shoes (which stayed white for about 5 steps!). As we headed off the rain was FINALLY stopping, but the trails were still a sloppy, muddy mess. To make things worse, I was at a “low” point. Maybe low sugar level, I don’t know, but I dragged butt for the first 4 miles, walking WAY too much! Mike was patient though, and eventually I gave him the word that he can push harder if he wanted – I was just getting lazy. And push he did! Amazing the turn around, but soon we were running a considerable percentage, and clearly making back lost time. Mike as always was great, a very sharp and simply good person. We talked about work, but not much – about Germany and the world in general. Mike made the loop go by fast, and we had the fun of watching the sun rise; by the time we were done it was Saturday morning, and it looked like the weather problems were past us. I was still feeling relatively good, maintaining my banana and gator aide diet, only being sick about once a loop (which most always makes my stomach feel better), and while there were ups and downs, the company of the last two loops was very cool and helpful. Unfortunately that was about to end, as I watched Mike walk away after our finish, I knew that it was just me again. We finished very close to 5 hours, which actually turned out to be my time for loops 5 and 6 as well.
Loop 5: Uneventful really, except frankly I was getting tired, and starting to show “mechanical” problems such as my feet, and basically every other muscle in my body. I maintained the 5 hour pace though, and the weather while sunny, was not overly hot, so my usual problem of dehydration was non-existent (I was making pit stops frequently as well; a VERY good sign). But this loop was were the mental part came into play, and unfortunately my hallucinations started back up on me (I seem to be very susceptible to this – cool how the mind can take simple shapes, turn them into an entire “scene” and add its own detail such as people, and a number of not so cool things). Frankly, I was ready to be done, but reminded myself - $12 per mile – “Ed, you’re lucky enough to be able to do this – many others are not; do this for them, just keep moving forward”. And I did. And did. And did. Loop 5, 5 hours.
Loop 6: Ah the final loop! And by far the worst. Rocks in shoes that wouldn’t go away. Screaming feet, and now screaming quads. EVERY muscle in my body hurt. I knew from a time standpoint I could literally walk this entire loop and still make the 30 hour cutoff time (I had about 7 hours to spare), but I was driven by one thing now, simply to be done – the sun had gone down for the second time on this jog, and I was now using my headlight that I picked back out of my mile 8 aide station drop bag. I ran as hard as I could, but uphill’s sent my heart rate through the roof, and downhill’s pounded on aching feet and screaming quads. I did the old “pain is just a feeling, embrace it, you’re almost done”. Of course this lasted about 10 minutes! But after again almost exactly 5 hours I crossed a very busy and party like finish line! I must say, the support at this event was incredible, as many other people were running lower distance events such as marathons, half marathons, 10K, 5 Mile, and 5K runs – you bumped into these folks from time to time as trails were sometimes shared for short distances. Always the same questions about sleeping, food, “you’re my hero”, and “what the hell is wrong with you?!” But they all were very supportive of the 100 mile runners, and that always feels good, especially after hours of solitary running is dark, wet, vacant woods.
When I finished at just about 8:30 PM Saturday night, I was actually able to sit and listen to the band playing 60’s cover music (very well in fact!) and simply enjoy being done. A gal I’ve seen before came up to me and asked “Wow, what an awesome feeling of accomplishment crossing that finish line must be for you?” Mine back simply was “I guess, but to me it was more an overwhelming feeling of YES, I’M FINALLY DONE!” And then the usual body temperature changes; going from roasting to freezing, and repeat. Barely able to move which led to an interesting drive home while Caryn drove. I fell asleep Saturday evening in about 1 minute after hitting the bed, and Sunday (today) feel a bit hazed over, and continued sore, but that will pass soon – as I have the DWD 50 mile Ultra in two weeks! A good day(s), and finally a decent finish (28 hours and about 36 minutes, I think). Actually any pre-cutoff finish is a good one as far as I’m concerned! The field seemed to scatter during the rain as quite a few people dropped, and it was incredible how much friends can impact success; and I know of no other way to put everything out of your mind such as work, a dissertation, and many other problem than losing them all on the trail.
Yea, I guess the feeling of accomplishment is pretty cool, but really the $1,200 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society is even cooler. And of course I barely mentioned the person that always is my biggest supporter, Caryn. Without her I would never even find the start line – she is always there at aide stations for me (if not captaining the station personally) knowing what to give me and generally “thinking” for me when I’m no longer capable – then shoving me out of the station when I need to be shoved out. Caryn means the world to me, and without her none of this crazy hobby could ever happen. Thanks to everyone who offered up donations to the LLS, Garrett, Andrea, and Mike who came up during some pretty ugly times (whether the ugly times were relentless rain, or watching Ed do the “ultra-death march” for nearly 4 miles.) Thanks to all. Time for a nap! :)