Monday, June 2, 2008

The Worst I've Ever Raced

I’ll begin with a question: If every bad run is just a good learning experience, why don’t I teach this stuff?

Everything at the 20th Century 100k began all right. I was running right at or just faster than my goal time up through the Garcia Station at mile 19.6 and was keeping very close to Tim Englund and Lisa Bliss. Up through Garcia I was averaging 9:38 per mile, right on track to achieve my goal of sub 10:30 or possibly a sub 10hr race. Everything was great, I was feeling good, I was healthy, and I was getting enough food and water in me, but then I inexplicably just died.

The next 5.6 miles up to Bandera were a battle. I wanted to run it, but I couldn’t. There were a couple points along the way in which my quads even began spasming, but I pressed on with people passing me right and left. It all was a little disheartening, but I was encouraged when Tim and Lisa, running the other way now, cheered me on telling me that I was sure to “resurrect” once I got to the Bandera turn-around. I finally made the 5.6mi to the Bandera Station in a time of 1:19:06, a 14:07 mile avg.

They were right, I sped way up once I made it past the turn-around averaging a 10:59 mile back down to Garcia, though I may have been helped a little by the couple of handfuls of snow I put in my hat. Ha ha. Over the course of the next 12.8 miles, I was running on a rollercoaster of highs and lows, at times slowing down beyond a 13 min mile pace, and sometimes running a sub 10.

I knew there was no way I would be able to run a sub 10:30 race from the way things had been going, and even an 11 or 11:30 would be a stretch, but I knew that there was no way I wanted to finish slower than 12hrs (my slowest 100k to date had been about 12:06, and that was with a broken leg) and the only way I was going to be able to complete the race within 12 would be to average a 12 min mile from that point on.

I pushed myself, and I was happy to see that I was staying just under a 12min mile up to the next aid station. Then the unthinkable happened; a mere 100yards before the Mt. Si Golf Course aid station, I felt an incredibly sharp, almost crippling pain, deep in the meat of my left calf. The pain was incredible. After tearing my calf, the next 2.8 miles took me an excruciating 56:05, and I wasn’t going to be speeding up very much beyond that. Less than a mile later, three more runners passed me. Soon after they passed me, an early starter, who I thought had dropped a while before, came up behind me and soon we were “running” together. This was by far the furthest he has ever run, and his hip flexors were causing him a lot of pain, so we limped on towards the finish line.

During the next 3 odd miles to the next aid station, I was able to speed up slightly, but I had to be careful because I was dancing that line between good and bad pain (the pain of working, and the pain of injury). I achieved that 3.8 miles in a blisteringly fast [tongue in cheek] 55:53. When we reached the next aid station, the volunteers there told us that the only people behind us had dropped, so we were it, last on the course.

We pushed the last 7.7 miles to the finish, cheering each other on and straining to continue, and we made decent time, all things considered. About an hour into the last stretch we were passed by someone sweeping the course, and we continued on at our labored pace envious of his fresh legs. When we reached the final turn off, only 2 miles to go, he took off with a surge of adrenalin, and I could muster nothing faster than I was currently doing. Trail markers were being picked up behind me as I continued over the last couple miles, the last one out there.

Finally I approached the suspension bridge, over which was the finish line. I wanted to finish strong, but as I attempted to run up one side, my calf seared with pain again and I had to walk. I was able to shuffle across and then a noise arose that I met with mixed emotions, cheering. I was 3hrs behind my target, and I almost wanted to slip in unnoticed, but at the same time, the cheering was comforting and it hurt that I couldn’t finish strong without doing further damage to my calf. I crossed the bridge, and as I came down the opposite side, tears of pain welled up in my eyes, but I continued the few yards across the finish where waiting for me was chicken noodle soup, hot dogs, and comradery. It was well worth it.

My time for the last 7.7mi was 2:06:55, for an overall finish time of 13:01:16.

As poorly as things went for me, I do still recommend this race. It’s a fast course with a lot of aid, and a whole lot of fun (as long as you aren’t injured).

Until next time,
Tim Lawson

Results Link


Lisa B said...

Hi Tim,

It is great to hear you readjusted your goals, hung in there and finished. What a trooper you are! Congratulations.

The course is deceptively hard because the terrain is so flat and repetitive. I certainly see why so many of us had overuse pains. I hope your calf is getting already getting better.

See you on the trails!

olga said...

I'd be dead on a flat path, so you are a hero to me! Life happens, there is always another time, and hopefully a little lesson to be taken away. Recover well.

Eric Gervase said...

Yeah... brave run man. That's tough.

BenB said...

Yeah man I had terrible diarrhea in my 100K yesterday. 12:07, not the greatest, but check out my race report.