A part of me didn't want to recap this race at all. Certainly not how I've recapped races in the past. How can I provide a good recap of a race I didn't finish? But after thinking about it and reading this article about failure today, I felt I had to share my experiences. I'm not the first person to DNF a 100-miler and I certainly won't be the last. It sucks and I'm sad-mad, but it's part of running. And with a race as long as 100 miles, there's a lot of room for something to go wrong.
My partner in crime, Vanessa, and I headed out to Lake Cuyamaca on Thursday afternoon. The race didn't start until Friday but there was a pre-race briefing on Thursday. So we loaded the car and off we went. We got to the Lake just in time to hear the great Scotty Mills, race director, talk about the dos and don'ts of running this race. Rule number one is to not jeopardize your health and safety to finish the race. If that's Rule #1, do I really need to know the other rules? Eek! After about an hour of somewhat uplifting but absolutely terrifying race info, it was time to head to dinner. We went to the Descanso Junction, which may be my new favorite pre-race-in-the-mountains dinner spot (sorry Calvin's).
|All the stuff for a 100-miler|
|Ready to go!|
|Pre-race check in|
Race morning arrived at 3:30am. We needed to check in by 5:00am to get our race bibs, drop off our drop bags and get started at 6:00am. We were both feeling ok. A little shell-shocked but ok. The temperatures were cool and we were happy about that. Last year the temps were about 30 degrees warmer, so we were glad to have that on our side.
Go-time arrived and we were on our way. The trail was super tight in the beginning and we were in a conga line getting around the lake. We decided before the race to treat every section between aid stations as "legs" and focus only on that mileage and how much time we had to get there. So it was 7.5 miles until the first aid station and that's what we focused on. There was some decent climbing in this leg and my hamstrings were already talking to me. But we just moved forward and enjoyed the atmosphere. Everyone was excited and in good spirits, which we knew wouldn't last long, so we just enjoyed it while it was there.
We got to the first aid station and saw our friends from Running Skirts, as well as Smitha and Jenn. It was nice to see friendly faces, though we didn't stay long. We decided to spend little time at the aid stations we didn't need to change socks or use the bathroom. So we got some fuel, some hugs and went on.
|First aid station with Smitha|
After this aid station, we made our way up Stonewall Peak. This was the first of three big climbs of the race. It wasn't too bad, as we've done it before and the race didn't actually take us all the way to the top. So back down we went and made our way to the next aid station. This part of the course took us back by the lake, which is much higher this year from all the rain over the winter. It was so beautiful.
|Livin the dream!|
We went into the next aid as quickly as possible and made our way back out, over the the lake, and then back on the trail towards the next aid. This section wasn't horrible but it was getting warmer and there was little shade. And we did happen upon a rattle snake during this section. Thankfully the people ahead of us made some noise and got it to move off the trail. But not before it angrily rattled at us. That was LOUD!!
At this point, it was around mile 20. We were trying not to focus on the entire distance left to run but only how much we had to run to get to the next aid station. I think this was a good strategy and I'd recommend it to anyone with a big race ahead of them. Take it in chunks rather than try to deal with it in its entirety. It's too overwhelming. Anyway, we were making our way towards Noble Canyon, which is notoriously hot and dry and we were trying to keep our heads in the moment and not get too far ahead of ourselves. We still had an aid station to get to before running to Noble, so we were trying to focus on that. But it was in my head, for sure. At this point, I was feeling ok. My hamstrings were starting to feel a little better and I was happy with how everything else was feeling. I was eating well and hydrating like a maniac. This was the only section of the race I wasn't 100% familiar with so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. So we just went with it.
We made it to the next aid station and changed our socks. I was definitely beginning to feel some hot spots on the bottom of my feet. The trails are extremely rocky here in San Diego and it seemed as though someone came out and dumped more rocks on the trails just for us. In actuality, I think the rains have gutted the trails and rocks that were once embedded were now exposed. It's very hard to run on rocks, but more discouragingly, it hurts a lot. It doesn't matter what trail shoes you wear, those rocks hurt. And after hours and hours, my feet began to fall apart. But more on that later. Here I slathered some RunGoo, put on the new socks and made my way out of the aid station.
Next, we made our way through Champagne Pass, which is a section of the Noble Canyon 50K course. It is also known as the soul-crushing section. Lots and lots of rocks. Hot and dry. Basically a joy to run through. Finally we made it out of that section but onto a paved road. What the? While there weren't rocks to contend with, we didn't love running on the paved road either. But we powered through it and it wasn't too bad, despite the bees that came out of no where and seemed to be following us for a bit. Lots of screaming and running like Phoebe ensued. That was pretty funny.
Finally we got to the next aid station, blew through that and made our way toward Noble Canyon. Climbing out of the canyon was the second of the three big climbs. I've run this trail so many times, I know it like the back of my hand. I knew it would be hot, I knew it would be rocky and I knew it would suck. And it did not disappoint. Here we saw a few people turn back and call it quits. We said to each other that we needed to talk a lot about whatever just to keep our minds off of what we were doing. So this section was the deep conversation section and we talked about a lot of stuff we hadn't already talked about (I know, surprising considering how much time Vanessa and I spend together). That helped keep our minds off of what we were doing and before we knew it, we were at Penny Pines and the 44 mile point. Here we changed socks again, slathered with RunGoo and went on our way. I felt pretty good coming out of that aid station and we geared up to begin our trek during the night.
Heading towards the next aid station and ultimately the night running, we donned our long sleeves, head lamps and began charging our watches. We were about 10 miles from seeing our crew and we were excited about that. Our friends, Smitha, Alexis, Leslie and Jenn all graciously agreed to give up their sleep and time in order to run the last 45 miles with us. We were so happy when they agreed and after almost 50 miles, we were really looking forward to seeing them and getting some much needed care.
After making our way through the next aid station, we set our sights on the Red Tailed Roost aid station because that's where the crew would be. At this point, my feet were not happy. In fact, they were screaming at me. The balls of my feet were upset and my right heel was mad too. I had to put on a blister band aid at Penny Pines and was just hoping it would stay on and prevent mayhem from erupting. And then, finally, we made it to Red Tailed Roost. There were the girls and they each took us to get what we needed. Alexis helped me to a chair to get my feet taken care of and Smitha helped Vanessa. Leslie then took over for me and sprayed my feet with some more anti-blister stuff. I knew my feet were goners. But I tried to keep it positive. I went to the bathroom, had some chicken soup and we left. At this point, not only were my feet giving me worries, but my stomach was as well. I was having trouble taking in food because my stomach was gurgling and telling me not to eat anything. I knew I needed to, but was really having trouble.
Anyway, at this point, we needed to make our way down to the turnaround point at Cibbets Flat. This was the last aid station at the end of the out-and-back section of the PCT portion of the course. We had to run down about 2400 feet only to turn around and go back up. Smitha was our pacer for this section and off we went. Because this was a turn around, there were runners coming back at us, which made it difficult to maneuver on the tight single track. In the dark. On tired legs. And angry feet. But we tried. Smitha was in front helping to light the trail so we could see all the rocks. Yes, ALL the rocks. My feet were so freaking mad from not only having to run downhill but downhill on rocks. My stomach also gave out and I had to make a pitstop about a tenth of a mile from the aid station. Not to be too graphic, but I knew I was in trouble.
We went through the aid station at the bottom and then made our way back up. Again, I was having trouble eating without my stomach revolting. Here, Alexis was our pacer and she really pushed us up that hill. I was having a hard time keeping up as my feet were burning with every step. And I couldn't eat. I'd nibble on something and immediately have to make a pitstop. It was miserable. I told them to go on ahead when I had to stop but I kept them in my sights and tried to keep up. I finally got back to them and we really pushed it to the next aid station as we were getting close to the cutoff. You must get to each aid station by a specific time in order to continue with the race. We made it to the next station in time but I was really not sure I could make it to the next one in time. Alexis and the aid station volunteers pushed me out of the aid station and we left for the next one - the 75-mile aid station at Todd's Cabin. Todd's Cabin is literally a cabin owned by a guy named Todd. He donates the use of his cabin to the running group that puts on these races along the PCT. Super nice guy and amazing that he does this. Anyway, that was the next goal: get to Todd's Cabin by 6am. At this point, I really didn't want to hold Vanessa back and told her to go on ahead of me. I needed to make another pit stop and didn't want to have her wait for me. Alexis stayed with me until I convinced her to go help Vanessa. So I had the next 3 miles to myself and they were super weird.
I've run this section of the PCT a million times, and yet I had no idea where I was. I was seeing things at this point. I mistook some tree stumps for people. I swear they were doubled over people...but no, they were tree stumps. I convinced myself that I hadn't seen an orange ribbon course markings and was off track (I wasn't). But I just kept moving. I didn't stop. I knew I wasn't going to make it, but I kept going. I checked my phone and saw I had cell service so I called John to let him know what was going on. And I lost it. I cried and told him how sorry I was for not finishing. That I knew I let everyone down and I was sorry. But he told me I hadn't let anyone down and I ran 75 miles! How could that let anyone down? I was still moving. I hadn't stopped even though I was in pain. I saw Alexis and told John I would call him back. Alexis and Vanessa made it to the next aid station but didn't make it in time to continue. So Vanessa was out too. I cried and told Alexis how sorry I was for letting everyone down. She, too, told me not to think that way. That no one in their right mind would think badly of us for this. We tried our best. We did everything we could and it wasn't enough today. Alexis and I both cried a little and then made our way back to the Cabin. We made arrangements with the rest of the crew to get home and then that was it.
Once I got home, there were a lot of tears. My family was so sweet and really just gave me the love I needed. The girls got an old race medal and gave it to me and said that was my medal. That I was ok and I didn't need to cry. My son was upset for me but he told me I did a good job and to not be sad. Oh man. Getting advice and comfort from your kids is humbling. I really felt like I had let everyone down. But everyone was so nice about it and supportive. Everyone told me I should be proud of the 75 miles. And I am. That is the longest I've ever run before. But it wasn't the result I was hoping for.
How do I feel 4 days out? I am still upset but I can talk about it without crying. Well, at least not right away. I need some time to grieve. I feel like I've lost something. I'm also really really mad. My body was feeling ok. I am not sore and aside from some calf tightness the day after, I've felt good. It's my feet that let me down. And I taped them going into this. I read up on how to take care of your feet before something like this. I got all the stuff, practiced taping and knew what was working for me. But I don't think anything could have helped me with those rocks. Both heels are blistered on both sides and then the bottoms of my feet are blistered and bruised from the toes down about 2 inches. It's about 2 inches by 2 inches of blistering and bruising. Painful! So that I need to figure out before I try this again. And then my stomach. I don't know about that either. I haven't had issues like this in a long time. I will experiment with a few things and go from there. I normally drink CarboPro and Ultima mixed together and then eat a Lara Bar every hour. I think I'm going to get rid of the solid food and see if that helps.
And yes, there will be a next time. I just don't know where or when. I need some time to rest, regroup and get over this. My body already has, it's my mind that needs to recover. It's hard not to feel like a failure. I know I'm not a failure but I did fail in reaching my goal of a 100-mile finish. My friend Jenny commented to me that "it isn't failure, it's unfinished success." That is how I'm going to look at this. I did run my longest distance by 12 miles, so there's that. I did survive running for 24+ hours, so there's that. My body feels good post-race (aside from blisters), so I know my training was good. Which is also frustrating but I'm not going to dwell on that right now. I'm just going to say the 2017 SD 100 was a bittersweet experience and leave it at that.
The Pros of this race:
- excellent communication from race organizers.
- course markings were plentiful.
- volunteers were outstanding. I believe there were over 300.
- the course was breathtaking at times.
- participants received Patagonia tech shirts, stickers, Orange Mud water bottles, Injinji socks, Clif products and Squirrel Nut Butter anti-chafing cream.
- finishers received race hoodie, hat, buckle, medal and coffee mug.
The Cons of this race:
- the course is brutal.
- the weather is typically very hot. We lucked out.
Thanks so much for reading. It was a hard one to write and I appreciate you hanging in there! I'm linking up with Susie from the Suzlyfe, Lora Marie from Crazy Running Girl, Debbie from Coach Debbie Runs and Rachel from Running on Happy for the Coaches' Corner blog link up. Check these awesome ladies when you're done here!
I'm also linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday Link Up with Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama, Jen from Pretty Little Grub and Nicole at Fitful Focus. Check these badass women out!