Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pigtails Run

I've neglected this blog, but I'm still alive and still toiling away. The recent toil was at the Pigtails Run today.

Event: Pigtails Run
Location: Lake Youngs, Renton, WA
Course: 9.6 mi loop trail, rolling hills and lots of mud, 900 feet elevation gain/loss per loop.
Total Distance: 19.2 miles (2 loops)
Total Time: 4:34:38 (Non-official time)

Loop 1: 1:54:10
Loop 2: 2:40:27

Comments: This run was a huge jump in mileage for me since I had been running about 9-10 miles for my long runs so far. This was also some serious humbling running since I consider myself to be a seasoned runner. However, just because I have past experience with long distance running, there are lessons that need to be re-learned and re-learned hard.

I got to the race location 30 minutes before the early starters were supposed to run (6:30am) and tried to lend a hand to the race director to setup their home base. Now, this trail I am no stranger to. I have ran at Lake Youngs many times and it was one of my first ultramarathons I ever ran. My goal for this race was simple:

1.) Finish the distance of 19.2 miles that I signed up for. I didn't sign up for the 50k since I didn't want to do a serious jump in mileage from doing 9-10 mile long runs to a 31 mile long run. That would be just be retarded to commit to from the start.

2.) Finish the first loop within 2 hours or less and push to get through the second loop. If after finishing up the two loops and I'm feeling good and got enough time (the course cutoff time is 7 hours), I would go for the final loop with the 2.2 mile out-n-back to get a 50k.

After the early starters took off, I tried to help out some more and got ready for the run. The event was pretty full and there were plenty of familiar faces to get re-acquainted with. Soon, the race was on and I was moving. I tried not to push my pace too much, but I found myself running the uphills for most of the event and hit the flats and the downhills smoothly with speed. Although the course was muddy, this didn't slow me down much thanks to my Gore-Tex shoes that kept me dry and clean. Before I knew it, I had finished off the first loop and within an hour and 54 minutes! I was seriously stoked and seriously HUNGRY. I had chowed down on a bunch of Pringles and drank up several cups of Gatorade. I should have realized that my thirst needs were a sign of what was to come.

I must have spent about 5-6 minutes at the aid station and the port-a-potty before heading back out. One loop down, one to go.

Now, when I prepped for this race, I took only one 24 ounce bottle with a waist pack and about six GU energy gels and a Jelly Belly Sports Beans for some more carbs on the trail. I also had some S!Caps electrolytes and some Aleve with some Canadian 222's for pain management. The single bottle would be my fatal flaw. Since I have been doing one long run in my training and only ran about 9-10 miles at most, I would usually only use one bottle of water. This is why I was able to get through the first loop. 9.6 miles on one bottle is pretty much what my body was use to. Now I was going to go beyond what I have been use to and this was going to be the real test.

I ran out for loop 2 and after the first mile, my calves started to cramp up. I knew I had enough electrolytes. This was a different cramping. In my experience, you have two kinds of cramps - electrolyte imbalance cramps that can be fixed by taking hits of salt/electrolytes or pain cramps that are caused by physical fatigue that is beyond what your muscles are use to. This was the physical kind and I was in a world of hurt that I had not been in for quite some time since White River and Cascade Crest.

I immediately took action and popped a combo of two Aleve and two Canadian 222's. I needed to kill this pain quickly if I was going to get through this second loop and survive. I drank more from my bottle and pushed my walking pace uphill until I got to mile 3 in the loop. When doing any kind of races, if you push yourself to a "nothing to lose" point, you have no choice but to keep going until you're done. Since the course was a 9.6 mile loop, this means that once you get past mile 3, it's pointless to turn around to cover another 3 more miles usually. You might as well keep going and finish it all. Now I got past mile 3 and I had continued to do my usual pattern of walking the ups and running the downs and flats as my body would permit. Once I got to mile 5 though, I did find myself more parched and realized that I was sucking down my water too fast. 4.6 miles to go to finish off the loop and I'm now without any kind of hydration. In a race, this isn't good. People die from lack of hydration. I had to now be careful. If I ran too much, I would sweat more and dehydrate faster. If I walked, my sweating would be less but I would be slower. I opted to run where it was feasible but mostly power-walk everything else.

As I passed by each mile marker on the trail, I was more elated. 4 miles became 3.5...3.5 became 3 and so on. However, as each marker passed, I was really feeling the effects of not having anything to drink. My body was going to really let me know the consequences of 'running dry'. Like someone cracking my legs with a bamboo cane, my calves were cramping horribly along with my hamstrings. The pain was unbearable on a whole new level. This was a combo of electrolyte cramping and muscle fatigue cramping. Every step I took was agony. But I knew I just couldn't lay down. I was so close to finishing. I didn't care anymore about doing a third loop to get a 50k in or to get in a second loop in under or near 2 hours again. I just wanted to be done and not get to the point of possible organ failure from dehydration. I cussed up a storm with every step I took to power up the hills and attempting to run down hill and on the last set of flats. I looked at the puddles on the ground that were in the mud and was resisting the urge to get on the ground and drink from them. I kept telling myself, "You don't need to get dysentery. Just keep moving. Keep moving. KEEP MOVING! SHUT UP AND KEEP MOVING!!!" 1.5 miles near the finish and a runner who was in great shape had given me the last bits of what was in his bottle. It wasn't much, but I was grateful (it's stuff like this that others do in ultras that makes me come back to the sport - you don't get this from other sports). Around this point, my legs couldn't walk anymore and my knees locked up. I had to throw my hips back and forth and walk like I was a tin soldier to cover more distance until my knees would unlock from the pain and cramping.

With a half-mile to go, I tried to run as much as I could and rolled into the finish. Second loop time of 2 hours and 40 minutes. I was really really slow compared to the first loop.

So a total time of 4 hours and 34 minutes and I technically had enough time to do one more loop to get a 50k in. But with how much difficulty I had to endure, I couldn't do any extra credit and accepted that I finished what I set out to start.

The things I learned from my stupidity:

1.) MORE LONG RUNS. I remember my body use to do two of those loops without any difficulties easily. This showed me that if I train on a 9-10 mile training run, I will only do well for a 9-10 mile course. If I want to do well on longer distances, I need to do more longer distance training. PERIOD.
2.) One bottle of water for every hour I'm out on a course. The more bottles or water sources, the better.
3.) Practice more even pacing. I went out too fast in the first loop and I think that created some fatigue issues in the second.

Things that I realized were cool:

1.) Gore-tex shoes are awesome in muddy and wet conditions.
2.) Canadian 222's are a must for anyone to have.
3.) Some people are cool enough to help you out if you ask for help.

Now that's in the books, time to recover and get back into the mix again.