Sunday, February 17, 2008

Voluntary Incarceration!

Flanked by chain link fence on both sides is a path that starts somewhere and ends at the ocean. The only thing in between this path and the fencing is a deep man made canal that California has called a river. The river is not the kind with boulders, rushing water where the edges are lined with green moss and ferns. It’s cement with items like a shopping cart and other household things floating in its wake. However amazing this “river” is it was still visited by wildlife. Lots of ducks, cranes and some other big white bird frolicked in the water. It wasn’t until we watched the news did we know that all the wildlife is being killed by some nasty stuff in the “river”. This is the scene at OC100K, fast, flat and not a lot of distractions.

Friday Stacey I flew to Southern California where the sun was abundant. A nice change from the grey gloom of the PNW but the traffic made ours look like a country road in the middle of no-where. Immediately we went the wrong direction but it wasn’t until we reached the out skirts of San Diego did we realize it. No big deal, we have a map and kind of know how to use it. There are so many freeways in Southern California it wasn’t long before we were headed in the right direction but on the wrong freeway. As we continued to navigate our way we find a lovely less traveled roadway. Strange….it parallels I-5 but not too many cars. We thought we hit the jackpot until we rolled into a toll booth! “$4.75 please”, said the man behind the leaded window”. Oh my…a toll booth on a freeway, that’s a new one. We gave the nice man our money and no longer did we think our less traveled freeway was such a jackpot.

Arriving at our hotel by noon left us plenty of time to do a couple of things before our shake down run. By 3 p.m. we were on our way to Liberty Park which would be the sight of our 10X6.2 mile loop run. When you’re from Oregon and the word “park” is mentioned my mind immediately drums up a green park with lots of trees, grass, some playground equipment and maybe a bathroom. For OC100K I had pictured a bike path nestled along side such a setting but when we arrived I was doubled over with laughter. The bike was near a park for about 200 meters but in no way was it IN a park. We were going to run on a path that reminded me of a prison yard. With the chain link fence on the left of the path and a deep canal/river on the right there was no escape. This setting was perfect for this adventure! It took Stacey awhile to come to grips with the setting. With her positive outlook on everything it was quite a shock. On the other hand I thought the lack of beauty made the experience all that much richer.

We ran then headed back from race prep. Since we knew it was going to be hot for us Oregonians I made it clear to Stacey that I did not want to see her jet down the canal/river to cool off. The last thing I wanted to see was Stacey rolling around in that water! She promised to NEVER go near it.

We were up early for our 6:30 start and when we arrived everyone seemed over dressed. We were perfect in tanks and shorts since it must have been 45-50 degrees but others were in long pants and coats. After very brief instructions from Jay (RD), run that way for 3.1 miles, turn around and come back, we were off. Stacey and I had warmed up nicely so it was race pace from the get go. 8:40 per mile was the goal and given my fitness that should be easy. My plan was to run 8:40’s and if I felt I had more at the 30K mark I would pick it up. The first loop was definitely a “get in the groove” loop, determining the pace, finding any reasonable mile markers and getting the lay of the land. I felt tight and rickety from the beginning but that’s to be expected. The first loop was a bit under pace and with Andy Kumeda crewing us the pit stop was short. Off for the second loop where I still felt sluggish and clumsy. Since I had some landmarks for pacing by now I knew I was right on 8:40’s. It’s only 12.4 miles into the race I feel aches and fatigue wondering when I will finally warm up! For the third loop it was headphones and focus to get my 8:40 which I knew was just not normal and I was wondering if and when things would turn around. Arriving at mile 18.6 I grabbed a bar and pain medication. I figured it was early enough to eat and take pain relief to see if I could get my legs turning. I was already in a descent amount of pain and it was getting me very nervous for the rest of the day. It just seemed to make no sense. I knew I had good training under my belt and was certainly not expecting to be so slow, so fatigued and in any pain this early. It was just a reality I was now going to need to deal with. Honestly I wasn’t sure what was going to happen and just how slow I was going to be as my race continued. The fourth lap went better and the sun was really heating up the place. The course was not closed so we shared our path with cyclists. The kind that are all dressed the same riding very fast on the very flat path as their oversized bum engulfs the bike seat….oh and they had attitude. They would fly by in groups of 5-10 zooming within 7 inches of your arm. I felt the wind from their wake. Fortunately this only lasted until about noon but offered a nice distraction. By now I have only run a little over 24 miles but I feel like its mile 80 in a 100M race. As I head for loop 5 I think it’s best for me to call it a day a 50K. OC100K also does a 50K so the option to drop down is inviting me like chocolate cake! My thoughts are rushing as the pain in my body just stays constant not any worse but not any better. I am telling myself I have no need to destroy myself, I am not qualifying for anything, I have other events I want to do well in, I will have run one heck of a 50K at 4:28, things are not going to get better, I am just slowing down so much. By the time I was heading back into the 50K mark I had made up my mind to call it day, lick my wounds and go home with a great 50K. I was leading the woman’s race for 4 laps then got passed by Stephi then shortly later Stacey. Going from 1st to 3rd didn’t even faze me because I knew I had nothing to fight back with.

At the 50K point I was once again greeted by Andy with “what can I get you”? I look at him and calmly say, “I am done, I am already fatigued and I am just going to slow down more”. He says, “Oh no, you’re not quitting, you’re doing great”. I worked to convince him I might have to start walking but all he said was, “That’s fine just walk, you’re doing great”. I tried a few more times as he walked me to the turn handed me my bottle and said, “I will see you in a bit”. For some reason I just did what he said and left for loop number 6. As I am running along I thought about how I was going to do another 5 loops, what was going to happen to my body and just how slow could this be. I try to come up with a strategy to survive. I decide to take walk breaks, walk 15 seconds, then run 4 minutes which yielded about a 10 minute mile. I figured this would be a good way to make it through the rest of the race. Loop 6 was tough both physically and mentally. The physical was a done deal. By now certain things were obvious. The body I showed up with wasn’t going to have a miraculous recovery. My race became a humbling survival. I was fueling well with gels, water, salt tab and a bit of bar. I had plenty of energy and my hydration seemed great but I was just dead physically. No spring in my legs and no gears to draw from. My heart rate wouldn’t rise above 138 which isn’t even zone 1 for me. I pulled out all my tricks, strides, walk breaks and tons of mental games but nothing seemed to change my leg speed. I couldn’t come up with any excuses for my lack of speed.

By loop 7 I had accepted the day for what it was, a day to buck it up and do the best you can with what I got. Once I had accepted that I wasn’t able to force myself physically to perform the race became easier. I suppose it always does, in racing and in life in general. Once we accept what we’ve got and don’t ask for something more or better it becomes easier…right….a level of acceptance? For me, this is not okay! I never want to ACCEPT what I really don’t want, lower my expectations or cop out. By the time lap 7 was over and I only had 3 laps to go I was at peace with the day. I rarely took a walk break on 8, 9 and 10 and moved consistently and a consistent pace. I never got much sorer or much slower. I truly found humor in the whole day. I had plenty of time to run through all my training and racing leading up to OC100K and I feel like I showed up in the best shape ever. I had logged some fast 30 and 40 miles….nearing the 8:12 pace and here I was today barely able to squeak out a ten minute mile. My finish time was 10:23:50 or a 10:02 pace per mile. Much slower than I planned but not bad given how I felt. I owe my race to Andy! If he wouldn’t have been there I would be writing an entry titled “quitter”! Even though it was definately not the day I wanted to have it was a great experience. This was the first time I have ever attempted a flat fast ultra and it's a challenge of a different kind. I loved the training and really felt like it got me in some great shape from all aspects. The other new experience was running a race with a drop down option. Wow, that messes with your mind and if you're not having a good day it's super hard to convince yourself to chug on. Once I committed to lap 6 it was a relief and there were no more thoughts of stopping since then it would be a DNF not a 50K. There are already talks underway to go at it again next year. :)

I’ve done some thinking and some reading and feel I have an explanation for my performance. No excuses but some answers on why I showed up so OFF. Stay tuned for that analysis. Surprisingly today I feel pretty good, not horribly sore and not that beat up. I don’t think I was able to run fast enough to hurt myself too badly.


  1. Sorry the race did not go as planned but good job on stickin it out.

    Sometimes this is when we learn the most...?

  2. What Darin says...sometimes we do learn the most from not so pleasant experiences...That Andy rocks! He knows exactly what to say, doesn't he? :) Ronda, congrats on gutting it out when everything called "mama". Been as sick as you were sucks out the life - I had such pleasure of doing Avalon 50 3 days after a flu, I should know. You perserviered, and that what makes an ultrarunner! Run on into a great season!

  3. There are differing opinions on the best way to handle an obvious off-day. I happen to believe the way you handled it is the most admirable. Way to go!

  4. I look forward to your analysis, Rooster. You have worked really hard and shown you are capable of going much, much faster. I agree with aharmer that you handled an off day really well.

  5. Hey Ronda, way to stick with it even when you weren't feeling up to par. It really does help other runners when they read about another's struggles during a race - especially from a top runner like you. Everybody learns something. Thanks for sharing and you are going to have a rockin' season!

  6. Way to hang tough! Between your battle with the flu and the uninspiring course I think you ran a good race. I know what 26 miles is...I can't imagine what 100k is.


  7. Nice race Ronda! For me the ones I struggle with are the most rewarding when I finish. The days we feel good it is not as much of a challenge.

  8. Hi Ronda. I don't know about you but I was pretty happy with the results - 3 women under the previous course record - including you. Your account of driving SoCal freeways and your first impressions of the course pretty funny. You'd certainly be welcome to come back - here or at any of the races down here. Thanks a lot for running the race. I was pretty happy with the results this year and the number of 100k finishers.

    Take care,