I’m beginning to look at how far I can go, and it looks good. When I commence my course of full force strengthening and rehab next week, I’m going back to the Red Hot next year, and going sub-6 hrs.
And there I go fucking it all up by attaching a goal. Weak.
I love running, and I’ll love running more because it slams me straight up against a major character flaw: I am not good at sustaining a goal in the face of pressure and the lack of instant gratification. Thus the need in these cases to use goals judiciously. While running the Chicago marathon in 2002, I had serious knee issues. A tight IT band coupled with weak abductors (inner thigh muscles) create tracking irregularities in my knees (visible in the patella going outward) brought on under muscles fatigue. A year of procrastination, chiropractors, orthotics, and physical therapy got me back to square one, and the last two years of hiking, biking, and occasional running have not stressed the knees enough in the right way to bring the hurt. Until two days ago.
I did everything right. M took over driving around 2100 in Kayenta, and I slept for 3 hours in the back of the truck until we pulled over on the Anticline Overlook road and crashed until 0500. The stars were unreal; the milky way to most visible I’ve ever seen. I got up and drove 30 minutes into Denny’s, drank lots of coffee and ate lots of calories, crapped twice, and registered early. I spent an hour cruising around looking at cars and people, getting prepped, and using the head. I hydrated well but not excessively. I brought exactly the right gear, including a couple very unobtrusive emergency items I didn’t use. I had no chaffing, no blisters, my feet were never even sore (brand new socks and good shoes). All the details fell in together perfectly with just enough and not too much attention.
I smoked the first 17 miles in three hours flat, slowing down intentionally on numerous occasions. Life was good. I chatted with a Brenda, a 46 year old mom, physical therapist, tele skier, and ultra runner from Steamboat (of course) who’s 14 year old son is on the Freeskiing Junior Olympic team and is sponsored by Moots, for the first hour. I dropped her on the big climb when she stopped to pee. She would later diagnose my knee issues in 6 sentences when she caught me late in the race, and prescribe treatment in 4. Lamentably, she did not come to the post-race gig.
I plugged in the artificial moral-booster (iPod) going up the first grinds on Gold Bar, as per schedule. I was beginning to drag, and my knees were starting to complain on descents (heretofore I had been dropping everyone going down), and I was all alone. NBD, I wrote it off to the lull before the second wind, and concentrated on pushing up the hike (now) at a steady pace. The four miles from aid 3 to 4 (the summit of GB) took 80 minutes, and I still caught a couple guys near the top.
As I sat, keeping company with a full mormomesque family of 20 in six jeeps, enjoying the view and some garlic bagel chips (placing them at that aid station, but not the others, was unintentional genius), it seemed that my knees weren’t quite right. It was a murky yet unmistakable tightness and twinge. And I was done. Stubbornness of any magnitude aside, I was not going to make this worse and fuck up the rest of the year and my plans. Then again, it was 1230 on a gorgeous day, and the hike back to the beginning was almost as long as the rest of the course and would allow me only to hitchhike to the Poison Spider trailhead to wait for M. I elected to view the rest as a 13 mile hike, and relish the very real possibility that my fast start had even now put my 8 hour goal within reach. I tanked up on water and Cytomax and pushed off.
I had warned a couple folks earlier that the second half would be way harder, and the 7 miles along the Gold Bar rim fulfilled that. In the last three years, I’ve put in many many miles over rough rough terrain, and a multitude of cross country canyoneering approaches served me well. The many dips and returns to the rim got a bit old towards the end, but in the midst of that I caught Quentin from Salt Lake, who had simply bonked hard and was dragging along for the finish. I felt and looked (I hope) quite chipper, in spite of the enforced hike, and chatted a bit before he fell off the pace. I was still able to push the ups hard at a hiking pace, and power-walk the flats, but going down with any dynamic movement was quite uncomfortable. I rationed my one bottle of dilute Cytomax, did what I could, and tried to not be frustrated at moving slower than I was aerobically capable off, familiar territory from Chicago years before.
My patience was somewhat tested when at the beginning of the descent towards the wash south on Gold Spike a big pack caught Quentin and me. Brenda was among them, and seemed to be orchestrating a 50/50 jog/walk pace. I yoyoed off the back as we segued into steep slickrock domes, getting dropped on the descents and catching back on with every climb. I had to beat down the ego a few times, but the one occasion I tried to trot along in the sand affirmed that patience and moderation were good things for me.
When we began to see motos, jeeps, and two cyclists I knew the last aid station and Poison Spider were close. Brenda et al grabbed fluids and moved out quickly, I abandoned haste and sat down with water and pretzels to chat with the two ladies from the Moab 4×4 club manning the station. Quentin limped up and joined me, and the ladies complemented us on providing them with “an excellent excuse to go wheelin’.” A sorry excuse indeed. The trap of lethargy loomed large, and the carrot of the 8 hour barrier. I was off at my race-walking pace, though not without stopping to watch a couple jeeps burn rubber on steep slickrock slabs. It was the first day I’ve ever had the leisure to pay attention to such things, and combined with the “highlight reel” playing at the brewery that evening I’ve concluded that jeepers and fucking nuts. Just what geared riders say to SSers, SSers to fixers, and any cyclist to a runner.
I suffered the indignity of getting dust-blown by the aforementioned jeepers on the flat miles of PS, but had the nobility of suffering in silence, as Brenda and her crew were far out of sight. I eventually resorted to the iPod to break the monotony, and just as I was realizing that 8 hours was indeed within reach, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” came on and I reached the first descents on PS, the fun steps down the cliffbands. At that moment I rationalized that the psychological boost was greater in the grand scheme of health than moderation, and with a whoop tore off.
This is why I run. I passed everyone. All the jeeps, all the runners who had passed me in the last hour. With ease. I love technical running, and descending is absolutely a skill (bit of a change from cycling!) I have. For 5-8 minutes I was rocking it in nirvana, though when I hit the sand I decided to slow down and walk and not get carried away. It taxed the knees, but my assessment was correct. The last two miles passed easily, Brenda’s group caught me, and I finished as a foursome in 7 hours 46 minutes.
I’ll be back, and THIS TIME I’m coming all the way.
-Anxious to know how Chris fared at OP with the DNF. Hope you’re ok!
-Race schedule will be revised soon. Zane Grey and Transiowa are both off the slate, I’m concentrating on knee fixing and the Rim Ride and KTR until the Kaibab MC in June.
-Pike’s is getting the boot, too many people, too much BS: I’ll do a solo run this summer. The logistics don’t merit the fee, unlike this weekend.
-The road section along 313 of the Rim Ride has me all confused, as does the water situation. Looks like we’ll be hauling it all, which is a lot if it’s hot! More likely now to make the trip in a few weeks to check things out.
-Snow tonight! M and I had a killer Thai dinner in Prescott, and drove back with a good inch on the ground. Happy.
-I’ve been a bottomless pit of instant gastro-gratification in the last 48 hours: when I’m hungry I need to eat NOW!
-I used a trekking pole as a cane to get around at work today, the usual quad ache makes going down steep hills very problematic. The girls were amused.
-Salute the founders, yo.