4/9 race 2:15 @ The Mountains-to-Sea Trail 12-Mile Challenge in MT101 with Superfeet Green and Injinji socks
HR avg 165 max 175
"a race report from the back of the pack"
Alarm rings at 5:30 (last shuttle at 7:30), by this point I think the wife is probably 2 hours into her pre-race preparation rituals. I ignore the ringing for about 10 minutes and finally drag myself out of bed to figure out what I might need today. Both GPS watches and heart strap, check. Umstead 100 poser shirt, check (hey, I volunteered). Random shorts with pockets from Dick's, check. Dual handhelds, check. Injinji socks, check (I figured they would protect my toes and give me a little extra shoe room over my Balega's). MT101's with Superfeet green, check. I had already stuffed 2 gels into each handheld pouch (2 pineapple rocctane, 1 raspberry clif gel and 1 lemon-lime gu), along with a package of GU chomps. I won't touch any of the caffeinated gels if I can help it, as I don't drink coffee or soda. The last thing I wanted was a nutritional issue to factor into my first 12 mile run. I filled one handheld with water and the other with around 90 cals of Cytosport Monster Amino plus an additional 5 grams of BCAA's for around 9 grams total of branched-chain amino acids. I do whatever I can to keep from burning muscle when I run.
As we head out the door, I can't help but notice how pleasantly warm the weather is today. We pile into the car and I chomp down some gluten-free french toast sticks with chocolate almond butter, a banana and drink part of a protein shake on the way. As we arrive there is already a large crowd waiting for shuttle bus service. As soon as I open the car door, the wind hits me. Not sure how there can be such a huge weather differential after only a 20 minute drive, but it's freezing in the parking lot by Kohl's. We both immediately root through our drop bags for pants and jackets to put on while we wait. I proceed to lace up my kicks while we huddle for warmth waiting for the passenger vans and I chomp down a package of Clif margarita shot bloks and start to down my water bottle. We load up into the second van, which feels like it's about 100 degrees inside on our scenic drive to the start.
The houses seem to get larger, the scenery prettier and the road names stranger as we rode to the start. Opossum fart drive turns into rooster bush lane followed by tree rat circle...ok, I made up most of those but you get the point. Upon exiting the van with over 20 minutes to spare, we head for the bathrooms to unload before we line up, now here is where the fun begins. There are only two porta-potties instead of four like the pre-race info stated. Kim informs us as we stand in line for the next 20 minutes that they ordered four but the company only dropped off two, jerks! It seems like I spend forever staring at these two blue turd Tardises while I wait my turn and wonder if I will make the start on time. I figure with timing chips, it shouldn't be a big issue if I'm a little late, more on that later. Finally the plastic latch flips from red to green and it's my turn! I sprint toward the door, fling it open and hop inside (by this point my bladder is so full the race is a minor concern).
What greets me behind this blue plastic door is the stuff of nightmare and legend. The odor hits me first as someone has left the seat in the up position. I immediately take my place at the plastic urinal to the left but much like the Eye of Sauron, I am willed to look into the pit of despair to my right. What I see is burned into my brain forever. Upon the chemically blue ocean below, I see what appears to be a massive volcanic island forming it's peak at the mouth of the pit...only it's made up entirely of paper and "other stuff." Much like Circe's island, Aeaea, it's not the island but it's brown completely exposed "occupant" that was "enchanting" me with it's smell. The sound of Kim's voice on the PA system broke me free from it's deadly trance and I tumbled out of the porta-potty backwards coughing and disoriented. I grabbed my gear and stripped off my tracksuit just in time for us to line up at the back of the pack as the race was starting.
The wife is bummed that we are at the back to start, being the experienced trail machine she is, she knows how much of a pain it is to pass people on single track and she's roughly half my size... The race starts on the road and we manage to pass a number of folks before we hit the queue to enter the actual trail. There is a decent amount of standing around at this point due to the number of folks that have to enter single file. Pretty soon we are finally moving again and on an actual trail! This being our first race together we hadn't really discussed passing in advance, so I'm sure we lost some time in the beginning as we both wanted to stay together. After things thinned out a bit, we were able to start passing folks as space allowed. I have trouble remembering the terrain on the individual sections, but I will say the first 3 miles were very congested and we spent most of the time passing or waiting to pass. I had planned a strict nutrition schedule of one full gel every 30 mins and we stuck to it, with her doing a half a gel. By the time we reached the 3 mile aid station my water bottle was empty and being a race newb I went to the cooler to fill it instead of grabbing the cups. This cost us some time and I eventually gave up after only refilling about half my bottle. We started running again and had managed to maintain our position pretty well. The trail is very technical and narrow with lots of bridges and every one of them seemed to be slick from the night's rain. I believe the +1 turned her ankle in the first 6 miles but she didn't miss a step doing it. I was following at the time and I remember seeing it and thinking...wow, that looked painful! We hit the 6 mile aid station and my water bottle was again empty after I polished off another gel. This time I was smart and grabbed several cups to fill my bottle. We were off again pretty quick this time. I think this was around the point we switched and she started following while I lead. I'm not sure why but this race was the opposite of all our training runs together, where I normally start strong and get weaker, but today I felt weak at the start and had trouble the few times I was leading us in the beginning. After the 6 mile point I feel like the people got fewer and further between as we would only come upon small groups of 2-4 runners at a time. This section seemed to have more hills and more fast rollers where you really had to carry your momentum to get through them. I started to stuff a gu chomp in my mouth whenever I wasn't sucking down an actual gu/gel. I would also sip from my BCAA drink bottle here and there. By the time we reached the 9 mile aid station, my feet were definitely regretting the sock choice and my water bottle was again empty. I dumped another 3 cups in to refill it and off we went. I remember hearing another runner comment to my wife that her shoe was untied as we started off again and I thought to myself, "ha, oldest trick in the book." The only problem was her shoe really was untied! So she stopped and quickly tied it and off we went again. The balls of my feet started to feel like they were breaking around this point but it wasn't bad enough to make me slow down as I couldn't do anything about it anyways. At around one hour 50 minutes I asked the wife what her Garmin 310xt was showing for mileage. I find that both my Timex and my Garmin 405 can be off by quite a bit and my 405 had lost satellite at least once already. The 2 hour mark is my kryptonite as I'd never run more than 2 hours before or 9 miles for that matter up to this point. My legs were starting to feel heavy and sluggish, even though I had done my 90 minute gel and had a chomp stuffed in my mouth at the time. I think it's more a mental issue, as I used to have the same problem when I had never run over 30 minutes. I made it to the 2 hour mark by keeping my arms moving and checking my heart rate. Even though my perceived effort was going up, my heart rate was dropping into the lower 160's, so I knew I could push harder. I hit my 2 hour gel and felt some life come back into my legs, I also figured we couldn't be too far from the finish as we started to run into volunteers giving words of encouragement (thanks to all of you!). Although I have to say most of you are dirty liars! I can't even count how many people told me I was "almost there" or "only another 100 yards to go." This went on for a large bridge crossing at least two road crossings followed by another run down the side of the road and back into the woods before we finally entered the last clearing to see the finish line ahead. I asked the wife if she wanted to hold hands for the finish. Being the dirty trickster I am, I knew she would think this was a sweet gesture of our unity and love for one another, when in reality, I just didn't have a sprint left in me and I wanted to make sure she didn't blow me out at the finish line! (she doesn't read this blog, right?....oh crap, back in the doghouse I go...) I heard someone say we get the cutest finishers award, but they must hand that one out separately as I don't see it in the race results. I even managed to beat one guy in my age group...yeah suck it! (I kid.. I kid..) Now, if my right knee could just return to its normal size and I could bend my big toe again I would be happy.
Thanks for reading and for those of you counting at home there was a superhero, a sci-fi and a fantasy reference plus a whole paragraph of turd mythology. You also get a bonus point if you got the obscure tv show referenced in the title. Whoever comments/emails with names of all the references correctly wins the stick of Body Glide pictured. Get on this, I promise it's got a lot of life left in it.