Saturday, February 11, 2012

2012 Uwharrie Mountain Run - part 3

From kicking a rock.
Actually from kick three rocks.
... Continued from Part # 2

After the running much of the first 20 in solitary, the way back turned into a party, as I swam upstream into all the 20 and 40 milers coming in. Here is a list of friends I ran into who have their own race reports:

  • A smiling David Roche who had made the 20 mile race exciting by adding in a few extra miles
  • Scott, in his bedroom slippers
  • Ryan, channeling Braveheart
  • Andrew, who gave me a shout out
  • Sean, who was moving so much faster than last year I was surprised to see him
  • Karen, shedding the "9-hour monkey" and setting a 43 minute PR
  • Ultra Brad, who refuses to make excuses and whine like I do.

When I saw the first 40 mile woman coming in, I looked at my watch to get the time, so I could tell Shannon when I saw her. But as soon as I took my eyes off the trail, my right foot kicked a rock so hard it felt like my knee cap was going to pop off. I shook it off, but my toe was stinging pretty good.

The frogs serenading the runners 

Around mile 22, my hip flexors were getting sore, and it was getting harder to lift my legs up.
I relaxed and took my time in that narrow rocky section, navigating with all the people coming in the other direction, thankful for a break.

Descending the steep hill at 24 (The mile 16 climb) was punishing and revealed how beat up my legs were. Knees, quads, and hips were almost spent.  Normally, this is how I feel at the end of marathon, but here I still had 16 miles to go.

This was worrisome, but doing some rough math, I figured that a 11:30 pace the rest of the way would still get me organ donor. "11:30!", I thought, "How hard can that be?"

Turns out really hard. Trying to climb a hill without fully functioning hips is quite a challenge. My power-walks became shuffle-walks, and the pain increased with every mile. My body was speaking to me:

BODY: "Stop. You have pushed me as far as I can go. I am breaking down."
ME:  "You are right, this is stupid. I'll give up sub 7:00, and just walk it in"

But then my watch chimed in:

WATCH:  "Your average pace is still a 10:05! Well under the 10:30 you need. You got this, you can do it!"
ME: "Wow, you're right. I guess there is still a chance, if I can just run a little..."
BODY: "No, you idiot. Quit looking at your watch-"
WATCH: "10:05, ahead of schedule! Keep going!"

And on the next downhill I could run again.

Only one word for these people:

I crossed the log around mile 30 and was surprised to be actually running.
With all my my other muscles near failure, I found that my calves still functioned so I was trying to run just using those. But that didn't last long, as they quickly started to cramp up.

Climbing that atrocious pile of giant rocks at mile 31, I watched my overall average pace slowly erode 10:06...10:11...10:18.

Finally I got to the mile 32 aid station, which brought a sense of comfort, because that is where we usually park for our training runs. The volunteers were extremely encouraging, and I left feeling hopeful again.

Thankfully, it was my "bad" knee I landed on.
The swelling actually made it feel better.
The next few miles were very run-able, so I had to take full advantage of it.
Since it was a down-hill, I didn't halve to lift my legs much, just swing one in front of the other.
I was feeling a sharp pain in my right toe, and I wondered if my toenail was coming off or something.
But that could wait till later, because I was really moving. My pace for the mile was crazy...

...9:00...yes! I can run, I am going to make it!...8:30...Woohoo!...7:30... BANG 

Since I couldn't lift my legs much, I had kicked a rock again with the same toe. Only this time it slammed into it with the full force of my body. I flew forward, my right knee crashing into another rock, and I crumpled to the ground, stunned.

I lay there for a while, curled up in fetal position, with a cold rain pelting my face.
Even with the pain alarm sirens wailing from my knee and foot, it was actually a relief to be laying down, and the trail was quite comfortable. Plus, I was afraid to get up and confront the damage.
Uwharrie was laughing at me, "Fool! Now will you quit?"

Shannon with a DNF self portrait,
with Dan in the background, also dropping out 
Being bested by Uwharrie puts me in good company.
Behind me at the mile 26 aid station, Shannon and Dan Bedard were dropping out.
Last year, Shannon was first female in Uwharrie and Dan ran a 17:30 in the Umstead 100.

But both were struggling on this day. Dan had been at the aid station for an hour, tucked into a warm sleeping bag, waiting for a ride back. Shannon sat down in a chair calling it quits for the day too.

Shannon was happy to have found a DNF buddy, finding it validating. But Dan didn't want to be the excuse for her dropping out. So they decided to both "drop back in" and finish together.

Dan somehow crawled out of a warm truck and sleeping bag, and
un-DNF'd by finishing the last 14 miles.

After a minute or so, lying on the trail, I remembered Kim's instructions: "If you fall, get up, keep going!".
Everybody falls, it's no big deal. So I got up, limped a few steps, and broke into a wobbling, delirious jog.
I stumbled into the aid station at mile 35, still propelled by that cursed thing on my wrist:

WATCH: Average 10:28 pace, you are on schedule still, you can make it!
BODY: You have got to be kidding me.
ME: Uhhnnggg.

I grabbed another PB&J sandwich and tried to eat it, but only managed to smear peanut butter all over my face and hands. I tried to run, managing to jog for short stretches. But finally, at mile 36 the legs simply no longer functioned.

I walked slowly in the rain, rubbing my arms to keep warm, and felt a sense of Déjà vu. The last 4 miles took me 80 minutes to cover. The final rocky descent was especially painful, and I had to pause with each step.

"We can see you walking!", Kim called out from the finish line, taunting me. But I could be pushed no further. 20 yards from the end, I sat and rested on a log, much to the delight of the crowd, before shuffling in at 7:35.

Shannon and Dan finish smiling

Measure of Success
While 7:35 is a great time, the success of a race cannot be measured by time and finishing place alone. You must also consider the cost when assessing how well you have done. And I paid dearly for this race.

As I cheered and watched the other runners finish behind me, I was extremely jealous of them.
Every single one sprinted to the finish line with a huge grin.
I realize now that the the goal of "Finishing with a smile on your face" is not some fallback goal.

In the Uwharrie 40 miler, it is a lofty goal that is very difficult to achieve and highly desirable.

Oh, and next year.. I am going to get that frickin' sub 7:00!

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