Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Looks can be deceiving, even to oneself!




STATS:
Time: 25:40
Ascent : 19,800
Place: 3rd overall, first girl and new woman's course record
Blister: One small toe blister
Toenails: For the first time ever I am going to lose 1 of my big toenails...it's ugly. :)

Susan called and left a message on my cell phone congratulating me on my race but let me know I am a sandbagger. The weeks leading up the race weighed so heavy on my mind I prefer to think of my demeanor as humbled fear. I think the humbled fear I felt lining up to Teton’s is what ultimately saved my sorry butt and turned my race into something special and unforgettable to me. It will be one race I will be able to draw from in the future, look back and remember the moments and methods that got me to the finish.

The Grand Teton’s events are truly special. The race has a very personal feel from the time you arrive to final awards ceremony. When you’re done and gone it’s almost like you’ve been with family for days doing an adventure race. The venue is small but so personal and extremely warm. The RD’s Lisa and Jay are unbelievable in their enthusiasm and their intention to help each runner experience something special and will do whatever it takes to get you to the finish line. They put on a first class event!

My day was so full of STUFF both mentally and physically. I have been relishing in the richness of the experience for last two days now.

Lap 1 – LEARNING!
At 5:15 a.m. Dr. T. knocked on our door. He offered to tape my leg up before the race. The PT’s showed me how to apply the magic tape but it’s harder to get on than it looks. After I was taped up and ready I stepped outside to find the morning temperature perfect. Knowing we were heading straight up to 9,800 feet I wanted to be sure I was prepared. Starting at 6 a.m. on an open rocky road meant I didn’t need a flashlight. Also, since we were doing and 5.6 mile section returning back to base I only needed to carry 1 water bottle, some gels and my trusty knee brace. I wrapped the knee brace around my arm with full intentions of putting it on before we did the brutal decent from Fred’s Mountain. Let me just say a few words about Fred’s. This is a 2,100+ foot climb in 2.6 miles. It doesn’t sound bad and by the numbers it’s not. But…..the rocky road that leads us up this mountain is slippery and extremely steep in short sections. The climb is hard but nothing you wouldn’t expect in a mountain race. It’s the descent that is awful in my opinion. There are sections where you can open up and run but before you get a good rhythm going a slippery very steep slope appears. The rocks are loose and unpredictable sending your rhythm into more of a whoaaaaaa…stay upright routine. For me, I planned to walk/run this downhill. And since we got the pleasure of doing this 4 times I felt no need to bust up my already weak quads. I was out at a good pace but definitely not screaming fast. I immediately felt my knee trying to gather its gait and watched my body work out its kinks. After about 1 mile I felt my legs working together but my left knee was wobbly and unsure. When we got to the top I re-tied my shoes, strapped my knee brace on and left for the unknown. The unknown I am speaking of is how my knee would hold up on the downhill. It wasn’t pretty, a few mild zingers and a lot of breaking. I walked a lot on steep sections and trotted the rest. There was definitely no screaming downhill running. Once at the bottom I grabbed 2 water bottles with gels stuffed in the pouches, removed my knee brace but kept it with me. Heading out for loop B I was still working on my running form literally trying to manage my stride with my mind consumed with my knee. We were running up a dusting road which was fine but when we crested I peered down a fairly steep gravel road and stopped. My plan was to only use the knee brace when I really needed it. I didn’t want to create any new problems by protecting my left knee too much but it became clear this bright idea was not going to work. I pulled out the brace and strapped it back on. I made the decision to leave it on for the rest of the race….it was now part of my body. I headed down the hill and found this section is pretty much ALL down hill. When I arrived at the ski hill aid station Bill and Stacey were there to re-supply me for the climb on the paved road. It’s only 3.3 miles but it’s on pavement and all uphill. I ran most of the road but kept my heart rate under 160 which is the top of Z3A for me. I was comfortable and my knee seemed to be coming along nicely. I felt like it was adapting to the running motion nicely which was a great surprise and I found myself forgetting about it as the day went on. My mind was busily taking notes on how to run this course. I was consumed with learning the terrain and strategizing on where I could make good time and where I should chill and just go with the flow. After the 3.3 mile of uphill pavement we arrive at Cold Springs. Stacey and Bill fed me all the items on my crew cards, gave me two more handhelds stuffed with gels and I was off for the 5.4 miles back to base. This section was harder than I thought it would be. It had some rocky rolling two track, some nice single track downhill then a good climb back up the rocky road we came down on before. It seemed longer than 5.4 miles and I was way off on my predicted split. I still kept my HR in check and forced myself to remain steady and calm. Arriving back to base and seeing everyone was motivating. Now 20 miles into the run and heading for what is supposed to be some of the nicest running on the course I felt like I had developed a plan of attack for this lollypop cloverleaf course. This next 5 mile section on Rick’s Basin is indeed nice running, all single track, some rolling terrain, open fields and soft trail free of obstacles. The only negative this section has is the heat. When the day gets on this is going to be HOT! I ran this fairly well and at a good clip. While out on Rick’s I could feel the sun. It was getting warm. The forecast called for hot weather and I could tell it was going to an oven out here. I was draining both bottles on all the last three sections and popping quite a bit of salt and it was still early. When I got back to base and now 1 loop completed I felt like I could make it through with my knee. I could feel it but with it strapped down the pain was not so bad. I am ready for loop 2!

Lap 2 – SURVIVAL!
Back up to Fred’s I go. I was warm and the climb was hard. I didn’t push myself and felt a little low. The steep sections seemed to really take a lot of effort and my breathing felt shallow. I thought to myself, “We are going back up to 9,800 feet so just go with it”. I saw other runners coming down looking very strong including the lead woman. She was a good 35 minutes ahead of me and we were only 27 miles into the race. I thought she was running very fast on this course and if she could keep it up it would be a phenomenal finish time. I made it to the top and turned to head down again walking quite a bit of the 2.6 miles. My quads were already feeling sore which is what I expected given the loss of strength I could see with my own eyes. I knew I had to manage them which gave me something else to focus on leaving my left knee to fend for itself. When I got back to base I made sure I had 2 full bottles for the next section. I also had Stacey re-apply sunscreen, it was cooking out there. Still managing my pace by my heart rate I left somewhat low. I kept at it, plodding along at what seemed like a very slow pace but taking a lot of effort. I was breathing HARD! I felt like I couldn’t get air efficiently through my body but wasn’t sure what to do about it. Again, I just went with it trying to manage it stride by stride. With so few runners on the course it left me by myself a lot just cruising along to my music. When I got to ski hill aid station I asked to have my right quad iced down. I needed an ice bandana and a moment to gather myself. I rarely sit down in a 100M race and am pretty militant about my aid station times but I didn’t seem to care this time. I felt I had no choice but to stop and re-group, get myself cooled off and just deal with it. The ice felt amazing on my leg. With my left leg getting pretty much a free ride my right leg was getting over worked. I expected this. During our vacation and climbs up Timpanogas my right leg was sore from taking the brunt of the load. I knew today would be no different. The real question was how fast would the pain set in and how much could I bare and still move. Well I was getting my answer. I was at mile 36.3 needing to have my leg iced down. It’s going to be a long day! I spent about 4 minutes at Ski Hill but felt cooled off and left with lot of ice for the hot paved road section. I was slow and walked a majority of it. I really had no choice, I couldn’t get good air, it was hot and I was trying to finish my food. Arriving at Cold Springs I gave my crew more info. about how I was feeling and I think they could see I was low but we were here to finish and I knew even if I was forced to walk every step from here on out I could make it in. That is honestly where my mind was. I wasn’t having much fun, I felt worked and hot, and I walked and walked a lot. Arriving back to base I needed to change my socks. I have NEVER changed my shoes or socks in a race before. The dust from the mountain bike trails was coming into the tops of my shoes and grinding away at my toes. I pulled off my shoes and socks and washed my feet finding one toe all chewed up. I applied a wicked amount of Vaseline to my toes and put on new socks and shoes. It was mile 45 and I wanted to quit. I expressed myself to my crew and others around but absolutely no one gave me an ounce of sympathy. I expected that given my talk before the event, “I must finish…no matter what”. I left dejected and almost tearful but I had nothing to cry about. Just when I was about to have my private pity party on the Rick’s Basin I see Tom around the corner. He was waiting for me and could see I was low. My body language and words were bleak. He gave me encouragement and ensured me things will turn around when it cools down. It was now 88 degrees at 8,000 feet. The beating sun was awful and I felt like an over cooked turkey. My skin looked terrible and I swear even though I was pounding the liquids I looked like I weighed 80 pounds, Yuk! I moped along and ran when I could. I knew I had 5 miles to pull myself together before Stacey came on the scene to kick my pathetic butt. As I continued on in the hot box I actually started to feel remotely energized. I even started running a little more. For a brief moment I thought things might be turning. The pit in my lungs sort of gave way and I could breathe a little better but it was short lived. Even though it was brief it gave me a taste of a better day, there was hope.

Lap 3 – REBIRTH!
Stacey was ready to go when I arrived back to base. My right quad was shot. It was swollen, sore and pretty much a mush mess. Since I was over prepared for problems with my left knee I had lots of tricks in my crew bags. Braces, bandages, ice packs and tape, you name it I had it. I decide to get a small sandwich bag and fill it will ice then take a large ace bandage and wrap my entire right quad, ice and compression at the same time. I put the ice pack on my thigh then wrapped and wrapped this long large ace bandage around my right quad. In my low state of mind probably dehydrated and low on fuel this seemed perfectly normal. But as I sat there I could feel the stares from folks around me. I must have looked like a train wreck at only mile 50. My left leg had tape all down my thigh then the knee is wrapped in a brace with a bandana behind my knee to prevent chaffing. If that is not bad enough I now had my right quad covered with an ace bandage and an ice bag underneath. Off we went for the third trip up Fred’s. Stacey asks me all the usual questions and I answer with pure honesty…..I am beat and feel like shit! I can’t breath I feel slightly bloated and am dying for cold bubbly 7-up. I tell her I am being honest and I don’t know if I can turn this around but I know I can walk. She patiently listens and says, “Does this sound familiar”? I answer, “No”. She says, “Oh yes it does…..WS last year….you were craving the bubbly 7-Up and we gave it to you and you got sick”? I shrug at the comparison and assure her it’s not the same but she insists it is. I am low and willing to pretty much do anything at this point. I already look like a freak with bandages covering the entire lower half of my body and I feel awful…what do I have to lose? I ask her, “So what do we do”? She replies with the up most confidence, “At WS you were way low on salt, I think you need to take more salt”. I reply with, “I feel like I have been taking a lot but let’s try it.” I pop 2 salt tabs and we continue the steep ascent. As we made the last turn with only about half a mile from the summit the pit in my chest or stomach starts to go away and I can breathe better. My energy starts to turn and seriously I felt a ton better….reborn! Stacey throws her hands to the sky and yells, “Remove the devil suit she has been wearing”! We laugh and make it to the summit lacking the horns and long pointy tail I was dragging for the last 50 miles. With the ice pack melted I decide to leave it and get a new one back at base. We run down the hill, still not fast but more running. My energy is back and I feel like I have come out of one hell of a long ultra moment! Back at base I quickly get a new ice pack but now bigger…more like a gallon size, strap it down and off we go. The sun is not beating on my skin anymore yet it’s still super light out. We make some great time to ski hill. Here again I choose not to change the ice pack and begin the ascent on the road beating my earlier time. At cold springs I get more ice and the aid station folks seems to watch the train wreck with confusion, “Are you really going to run with that on your leg”? I reply, “Most definitely”. The ice and compression combination did wonders for my right leg; it killed the pain and brought a lot of blood to the muscle. I could run and I mean run! The sun was setting and the air cooling. I was getting stronger and stronger. My stomach and breathing were working together and no more giant pits weighing me down. Stacey and I were on cloud nine! We arrived back at base and are right down euphoric as Stacey re-supplies me, I re-apply my ice pack and we inquire about the lead woman. I have now run 70 miles and the last 20 were moving. I have closed the gap to 20 minutes from near 50. With 30 miles to go and my new runners high the game is just getting started. As we run through Rick’s Basin Stacey and I are focused but having a ball, laughing and I am relishing in my new found energy. We run faster in this section in the dark that I did during the day. Again back at base and now 75 miles I am focused on my ice pack which I know takes about 2-3 minutes to get changed and re-wrapped. Meanwhile Stacey and Bill get my pack ready and I am pumped to be on my way to finishing.

Lap 4 – THE HUNT!
I was so focused on getting my leg bundled up that I didn’t even notice the lead woman sitting in the aid station. I finish bandaging myself up and Stacey and I began the final ascent up Fred’s. As we walked out of base at mile 75 I asked her if she knew how far ahead Pam was, she hits my arm and says, “She’s right there….she was sitting in the chair and the aid folks told her we were here, she jumped up and left”. I was gone! I began running up the hill with full adrenaline and energy. I got within a few feet of her and she put it in another gear. I just follow her lead holding myself back letting her set the pace up the mountain. I am focused and high, almost crazy with excitement at how strong I feel and how much I have in the tank. How sweet it is to have the worst day turn into a fabulous day. I make a move and pass but she hangs on while Stacey is behind watching this battle. It was a race of wills all the way up Fred’s. Stacey catches up and I ask her if we can see Pam. We look back and all we see if full darkness, she just disappeared. We reach the summit and I waist no time in the aid station. As I turn to run here comes Pam RUNNING uphill to the aid station. I get a move on. I am on a terror navigating the rocky downhill figuring it’s the last time and I should give it all I got. She chases me and passes so I tuck behind for a brief moment then bolt by. Stacey watched from behind and said it just wasn’t pretty. I had bad form with only one leg really working but I managed to have a fast enough hobble and we lose her for good. As we continue the fastest descent of the day back into base I am stoked. I take my 3 minutes to fix my ice pack knowing full well I could be passed here but I also knew I must keep this leg under wraps. I can run well with it but without the ice and compression the pain is to much. I get done and still no sign of Pam. We bust butt on the next section to ski hill where Bill and Drake are waiting. I come in with only one thing on my mind…..FOOD. All of the sudden I am hungry! My stomach is growling and I am looking for food. I get my boiled sweet potatoes with salt and head up the hill. Stacey and I make good time and I still feeling stronger and stronger hoping the high won’t end until I finish. I am certain I can hold the lead and we start doing some math. Can I break the woman’s course record? It’s seemed possible so we bite on the new goal. So far I have come full circle. From wanting to quit to winning and now possibly getting a CR. My split for the next section was my second fastest of the day…….sweet. We arrive back at base and I am thrilled to only have 5 miles left. The sun is just coming up. I re-apply my ice pack for the final 5 mile sprint. A sprint it seemed and was my fastest split for that section all day. We just cranked along that single track. I came in to the finish to a super warm welcome on a job well done. My family was so excited and I was numb with endorphins. It was a great 50 miles! My body was a mess but I didn’t even care. What a day, what a crew, what a pacer and what a surprise. I was having a complete out of body experience for the last 50 miles. I can’t remember the last time I was that strong in the end. Broken body and all it came together.

THE END:I can officially report my left knee is no worse. I have a lot of swelling in both legs here and there but I am walking around without uncommon pain. This race will be one of those very memorable moments. The kind you think about for along time, draw from, learn from and hopefully I will take away a lesson or two. My crew (Bill, Stacey and Alex) are so special. Alex is turning into such a great young man with so much love and charm. He was amazing to watch as he iced my leg and came bounding out of the woods with at least 2 cameras. He would say in the sweetest voice, “Mom your doing great”. He could tell I was worked but had all the confidence in the world I would pull it out in the end. Bill and Stacey have their system dialed and I can almost turn my entire race over to them. In fact, at mile 50 I did turn my entire race over to Stacey and just came along for the ride doing exactly what she said and barely talking back. Bill got all chocked up at the finish as if he was proud and relieved at the same time. I came back to the room and on my laptop screensaver was this: Bill just whipped this up while I ran the last 5 miles, very funny. The human body is amazing and ultras, especially 100M races are so mental. This one really drove that point home for me. A sweet ending to a rough start!

14 comments:

  1. Stacey throws her hands to the sky and yells, “Remove the devil suit she has been wearing”! We laugh and make it to the summit lacking the horns and long pointy tail.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Crap!!!! so that is the suit I picked up at 55 miles -- GRRR (sigh))))

    Awesome Ronda, Big Congrats!! Loved the race report and how you got it together and closed it strong, so sweet!!

    It was awesome to meet you guys and look forward to seeing you at future ultras...Congrats again on 1st women & CR, your having one heck of year!!

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  2. Told ya:) You better believe I know what I am talking about in the future! It was great to see you pull it off. You are one focused woman!

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  3. Oh my gosh, I didn't realize you ran a CR as well. Sweet. What a lesson. Dig deep, get past the pain, take care of it and get it on. You did it Ronda. I'm so excited for you. Enjoy the recovery girl!!

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  4. Congrats Ronda -- such an inspiring report. I'm so happy for you!

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  5. Wahoo!! Great race.

    The kids think you should get a honkin' big trophy not just a belt buckle :-)

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  6. So cool - and what a great report! Had me sitting on the edge of my lazy boy! ;) Congratulations Ronda - I knew you'd finish that race! hah!

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  7. Way to go, Rhonda! That was inspiring. Always good to remember how mental those darn 100's are. Hey, don't let Stacey run me down at AC, okay?

    Congrats,
    Biener

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  8. Epic...you never disappoint dff.

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  9. Congrats Ronda! You had an awesome race. It was great meeting you.

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  10. Ronda,

    I love reading your blog because you are a mom (like me) and super competitive (like me)with no apologies. Way to hang in there through the bad patch and giving us all a lesson on how to run a 100 miler---stay focused, run smart, take your time, and wait for the race to unfold. You are really inspiring me as I taper for Grindstone. Now, take care of that knee and enjoy the glow!

    SS

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  11. You are the greatest thing that ever lived. Ever.

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  12. You are determined and tough – 100 miles, injured, and battling the demons. Really enjoyed your thoughts as you started to fight back and never gave up. Awesome adventure. Stay strong.

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  13. Congrats on a great race and a CR to boot! Way to stay focused. As always you continue to inspire me. Thank you for that. I admire your determination and focus with your training and nutrition plan. I hope to see you soon. Take care of that injury!

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