Friday, July 20, 2012

Western States 100miler!!!

Ok.. just one mile to go…   but it was the most brutal mile in the world.    People kept telling me,  it is ALL downhill from here….  Unfortunately at this moment the last thing I wanted was a downhill, uphill, flat or whatever.  I was ready to be done..   I barely could feel my feet, all I was feeling was pain, horrible sharp pain… my whole body was in pain and my hands… OMFG,  they were BIG…  There was a disproportion between the size of my hands and the rest of my body,  they were so damn big.. more on that later.
When I  learned that  I have gotten into the WS lottery,   I couldn’t believe my luck and I was really happy I did,  but I was really scared of the whole thing.   The idea of running 100 miles in hell like conditions, for some reason, scared the hell out of me. I always heard of this incredible ultrarunning party and I had been invited…   ooohhyyeaa!! 

My training had been, I thought, right on the money.   I ran a lot and for the last month I had been doing some “heat training” which consisted of sitting in a sauna everyday for as long as I could endure..  well.. that wasn’t the whole truth..   The reality is that I could endure more but I had so much to do that the only time I could afford was ½ hour.   I recently got a membership at 24 fitness with the sole purpose of making my body accustomed to extreme heat. I even, once, wore running clothes into the heat room,  that didn’t work well because I  sweat like a mofo so the clothes were drenched and.. well..  it wasn’t wise and advisable..     But in any event,  I actually completed almost a month of heat training in preparation for the run…  and I had adapted my body to the heat so I was ready…  
The night before the race, I managed to go to bed early.   Sometime at night, I felt some sort of “shake”,  I heard a friend of mine describe his “religious” experience at WS,  an experience that was, according to him, a defining moment in his race.   I thought my wife had come to bed, and when I realized that she hadn’t, I thought, perhaps this is it,  this was my “experience”.   It turns out, as I learned the next day, that we had a small earthquake in Squaw Valley.  Nothing major, big strong enough to wake me up and made me believe something that I couldn’t explain and with that thought in my mind, I went back to sleep…. 

At 3:00am in the morning race day,  I woke up and  ate my breakfast, which was cooked the night before.   I drank some tea, got dressed and went back to sleep for a little bit.  My beautiful wife had gotten up with me and while I was getting dressed, she prepared my breakfast.  I have never experience having a crew before,  In all of my racing I was solo or with Janet, and both racing.   Later, Janet got up, and the three of us walked to the starting line.   Now, this is something I have never experienced in an ultramarathon,  the bib handing experience was awesome,  I got mine is a very short time, pinned to my shorts and I was ready to rock and roll..     The weather, as we learned the day before, was going to cooler than usual.  Because of that prediction, I went the day before and bought myself a hat and a pair of arm warmers.   I thought, as soon as we start running I am going to get hot, but  I was wrong…  so… very wrong.    

All the runners congregated at the started line and then…  the countdown started..  10..9..  Ok..  ready or not here goes nothing..  8..7..6..4… oohhh yyyeaahhh!!!  3..2..1..  Goooooo.    And everybody starts running, everybody is excited and then a few meters into the race, everybody, but the elites starts walking.    The first few miles of the race are a very steep section.   From the base of squaw to escarpment, there are about 4 miles,  but they are really steep.   It takes the leaders about 40 minutes to reach the top, it took me 1:20,  I am already 40 minutes behind the leaders, and that is just 4 miles into the race.   As we reached the top,  we are also at the highest elevation of the race,  about  9,000 feet above sea level.  My breathing is very heavy,  it reminds me of the multiple times I used my elevation training mask while doing CF…. but at CF,  I wore that mask for no more than 15 minutes,  here,  it was going to be a loooong time.    It was like breathing with a sock in your mouth..  and I kept telling myself  keep climbing, keep going..  it will eventually end..  and it did…  Ok, I thought, it is all downhill from here…    As soon as we reached the top, my face was hurting because of the cold and the intermittent hail was painful as well… the trail was very technical,  I was glad I wore my tough shoes… and then it happened..   I hit a rock with my left foot… pain shoot through my foot and I knew that I probably I was going to lose a toenail,  I just hoped that it wasn’t going to be so painful the rest of the way… I only had 95 miles to go.. 

I kept moving and talking to people.  I knew that soon the field was going to spread so much that I would not have much company at all.    I was expecting hot and got cold,  but hey..   I kept thinking as soon as we get down to the Canyons it will be hot and then you will get your money’s worth.   I made it through the first aid stations with easy; my goal was not to spend more than a few minutes in each one of them.   I kept my promise for the first few as it was easier to keep moving that staying in one place and be cold.  People couldn’t believe it how cold it was, and most of us weren’t prepared for these conditions, in fact we were prepared for the totally opposite.  My hands were numb at this time…  my fingers were in pain, my face was numb,  I thought I was going to freeze…  and my foot..  OMG..

I reached the aid station where I was supposed to meet Janet and Rujeko.  I assumed they were going to be there and had a jacket for me or something..  Sadly, I bet them to the aid station.  They weren’t there when I arrived.  I asked the aid station people if they had a garbage bag I could use to make a raincoat…   no luck… somebody told me there was one in the garbage can so I dug some and ...  SCORE... I found one...  but it was too damaged to be of any use..  Damn it… oh well!!   This was the lowest point of my race, at this moment I thought of quitting, the cold was unbearable, and my foot was in so much pain…  and then it hit me…   how about some Ibuprofen Luis..     I reached into my funny-pack and spent a lot time trying to get the pills out of the bag, my fingers were numb, but I managed to get them out and took my first 4… I kept on running and a little while later I started to feel a lot better.  Foot wasn’t as painful anymore and it stopped raining and the weather seemed to be getting warmer.   I was soaked, but I was moving well..   I was back…  wooohooo!!!

The next aid station that was memorable and was heaven,  was “Dusty Corners” at mile 38.  I was looking forward to this aid station as it was where some of my friends were volunteering.   When I came to the aid Station,  I was really happy and my spirits were up.  The weather had changed for the better and I was feeling awesome.   I ate the awesome aid station food that included watermelon, oreos, boiled potatoes and salt oh..  and for the last few aid stations they were serving chicken broth…  now that was a treat. 

My strategy was always made sure I had plenty to eat, I wasn’t going too fast and I had my salt intake under control.   I set my watch to beep every hour… and at every hour, I would take two salt pills.  During the first 38 miles I noticed that my hands were beginning to swell.   It was my understanding that I was retaining water because I needed more salt.  So I kept taking salt every hour and my hands and feet kept getting bigger and bigger and my wedding ring started to get really tight.    However,  at the aid stations, where I had to check my weight,  it was OK.. I wasn’t feeling bad, and I wasn’t losing or gaining any considerably weight, so I assumed things were OK.  Other than my hands getting big, nothing else was out of the ordinary.  I was even peeing constantly, and my pee was clear, a good sign. 

I kept moving along pretty well, and at mile 55.7, aid station Michigan Bluff, I saw my wonderful wife and her sisters.  They came to cheer me up,  at this aid station, I actually change clothes.   It felt good to have a dried shirt on,  and I knew soon I will see Janet (my pacer), and having her company was going to be awesome.   My wonderful wife was encouraging and she told me that she was scared that I had dropped due to the rain and cold.   I am glad I did not disappoint her.   After she helped me change and remove my wedding ring from my fat fingers,  I continued forward.   I was feeling OK,  not great, but enough to keep plowing along  It is funny,  at this moment I really can’t recall much of the run as I was probably “in the zone”  but I do remember kissing my wife entering the aid station,  that was the encouragement I needed to keep on going. 

After I met my pacer at “Forest Hill” mile 60, and taken care of a blister issue on my right foot, I was ready to go.  I was happy to have Janet with me as she was giving me the encouragement and the juice that I needed to keep going.  We chatted about everything and about nothing like we usually do when we are running long distances.   A funny thing happened in the trail..  you see, I had to go #2, and I realized that there was no way in the world I could hold it until the next aid station.  So I stepped out of the trail to do my business and after I was done,  I was about to retake the trail when I saw a couple of runners, they couldn’t see me, but they sure could hear me.   When they finally saw me,  they were stopped on their tracks and told me they thought I was a bear.  I thought that was funny.   I joined Janet and we continue moving along quite well… the sun was down and nighttime was upon us.

Running at night is awesome; I think that is my favorite time to run. For some reason in WS, it wasn’t as enjoyable as I had experienced in other places.   It was probably the fact that my foot was hurting,  I felt like a water balloon and I had been running all day long…    When we finally arrived at Rucky Chucky, the river crossing, my spirits were already at an alltime low.  For some reason I was not looking forward to the river as I knew the water was going to be cold… and it was.  I managed not to fall in the river as that was my biggest fear, when I got to the other side,  I quickly was giving my dropbag and I proceeded to change clothes... and shoes.   It was great to feel dry again and the new socks and shoes felt great as well.   Janet did not change,  I don’t understand how she did it,  I was freezing and she was in great spirits and smiling all the way.  I knew she was concerned about me, as this time I had become a bit rude and my level of energy had decreased a lot.    Once I finished changing my clothes,  I was ready to get going,  I didn’t want to stay there too,  and for some reason I was looking forward to get to aid station at mile 85 where many of my friends would be stationed.  

I told Janet as we were approaching mile 85, that I wanted to take a break there.   When we arrived, I was put on a scale… and I had gained so much weight.   They Aid station people were concerned about me and told me NOT to drink anymore water and stop taking salt pills.   As I explained in the beginning, I was taking two salt pills every hour, thus my body was retaining water.   Although I was peeing constantly, I was also drinking quite a bit.   The thought of not continuing was a nice thought, and then I was greeted by George Miller and his group and Leigh Moser.   They were awesome, I sat by the fire and they quickly brought me warm pancakes and orange juice as I had requested. I let my body warm a bit and I don’t remember how long I was there, but then I felt the need to get going again.   I recompose myself, had a few more bites of my pancakes and other fun aid station food and just like that we were in our way again.
The last 15 miles were the slowest and the hardest.   When I got to aid station "Highway 49 crossing", (mile 93.5) I saw my beautiful wife and that made me feel a lot better, albeit, shortly.    I knew I was getting chaffed in an unmentionable place and I was beginning to hurt.   I told Janet I needed some Vaseline, she brought me some and I went to the bathroom to get it in all crevices.   It did hurt, but I knew it was a small price to pay if I wanted to be able to take a shower the next few days.   I couldn’t believe I only had one more aid station before the finish line…   and it was sunny again..  I changed clothes once again, from my warm night clothes to a more comfortable shirt and hat.   I told my wife, I will see you at the finish line and with that we were off again.    The views were magnificent, but at this moment I was ready to be done, I did not have the desire or the time to stop and smell the roses and appreciate the views.  All I wanted is to be able to fly and finish as soon as possible, but my legs were spent.  They say that in an ultra, you run the first 50 miles with your legs and the next 25 with your brain and the final 25 with your heart.  I don’t know what kept me going, because my brain and my heart were telling me to stop and my legs barely were able to move.    And then… a wonderful view…   No hands bridge..  mile 96.8 just a few from the finish line, and I had plenty of time to spare.   I started to move well again,  I passed several people and all seemed to hurting, just like me.  The final ascent to town wasn’t as bad, but it was slow, very slow.  I knew I was going to finish…  I just needed to move and even if I crawl, I would probably finish within the cutoff time.   I had no desire nor I could run anymore..   I was dragging myself to the finish line… somehow.   When I finally got to Robie point (mile 98.9), I didn’t even stop.  I kept on going, walking mostly, all the way to the end.   Funny thing is that at this point many people are about to start their day and they kept telling me… “go go go.. it is all downhill from here”.   They were right,  but downhill, uphill, flat… they all would hurt the same and I was not going to change my pace…  slow pace that was.    My beautiful wife and friends were waiting for me just before the finish line, they “ran” with me for the remaining of the race and just like that that, I entered the finish chute..   just 28+ hours after I started this incredible adventure.    I told my wife and pacer, “I am done with 100’s,  I am retiring”.... but as those words were coming out of my mouth,  not even I believed them.  

I recently got some news that puts things into a much bigger perspective, I hope I can do this again, otherwise, I can say I DID IT….

The prize... 

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