Sunday, August 12, 2007
my date with disappointment
There seems to be something ominous about a race whose name promises frustration, defeat, and failure. But it is probably this very name that drew close to 250 runners this past Saturday to meet for the Mt. Disappointment Endurance Runs, some 90 of them doing the 50-mile distance. I'm not quite that courageous so opted for the 50K instead.
My day started at 3am when I got up to get ready, have breakfast, and drive out to meet Greg to carpool to the race. At the check-in station, we started seeing friends and familiar faces. It was great to see Nattie again and to meet fellow runner/blogger and virtual training partner, Steph. Pretty soon, other OCTR mates came out of the dawn's dim light–EKP, Keira, Kevin, Pam, Kirk, Charlie, Jenn, Alexa, Rob100K, MV, and iMichelle. I also got a chance to meet Dmitri, a visitor to this blog.
At about a quarter till seven, Gary Hilliard, our race director and 2007 Badwater finisher gave us the the signal to run. We started downhill on pavement before we hit the single track on dirt to continue our descent. With the bottleneck of several runners in front of me and nowhere to pass on the narrow trail, I was content following these guys at an easy pace since I didn't want to make the mistake of going too fast at the start. A little bit of uphill and more downhill, and before long, we've reached our first aid station at about Mile 6. I refueled and tried to leave it as fast as I can. Taking too long at aid stations in previous races, I knew that this was something that I can easily fix in order to improve my finish time.
The next five miles to the Clear Creek aid station was pretty comfortable as it was mostly downhill on soft single track. I checked my Garmin, and I clocked in at under 2 hours, so far, so good. Soon after, the trail starts to climb, and I had to walk in order to conserve my energy, jogging only when the trail was relatively flat. Runners had spread out already and there were only a handful of people helping themselves to the goodies at the Josephine aid station (mile 13.5). We were told that the next station was 7 miles away. No worries, I thought. I had 2 bottles with me–40 ounces of fluids.
During an uphill stretch, I caught up and met some other Pinoy ultra runners–Ben, who recognized me from the San Juan Trail 50K and Carmela Layson, an ultra veteran who graced the cover of the December 2006 Ultrarunning Magazine. They were doing the 50-mile distance with their friends so were going slower than I. When I moved ahead, Carmela gave me a warm Ingat ka–Be careful out there. That sentiment was appropriate as I found out later on.
The next seven miles were a series of rolling hills. At about mile 19, I was feeling pretty good so decided to batten the hatches and pick up my pace to the next aid station two fast downhill miles away. By the time I arrived at Red Box (mile 21), I questioned myself if that tactic was a sound decision. My legs felt tired for the first time, and my knees were aching. It had also gotten pretty warm, and I had run out of water about a mile before.
The scene at this station looked strange to me. While there were not that many runners at the last one, there several here who were sitting around and seemingly just taking in the view. Wasn't there a race they were running? Now I know I just said I was tired, but after taking a quick look around, I realized that I had it good compared to some of these runners who looked spent and beaten. It was about 11:30am, maybe closer to noon, and the heat, conspiring with the mountain, must've started claiming its booty.
I left Red Box station to face more downhill. My knees were still bothering me, and the quads were still a bit burned from the last rush I did to get here. Take it easy, I told myself, keeping a close eye on my pace and my heart rate making sure I wasn't overtaxing myself. I heard someone bearing down behind me and saw that it was Pam who was just jamming to her music as she easily overtook me. She looked strong, and at her pace I knew I would not be able to keep up with her. I stuck to my easy, steady stride on the downhill to the last aid stop at about 25.8 miles.
Pam, who was getting ready to leave told me, "5.2 miles, Eric, that's it." That thought gave me a boost, though I knew what was up ahead. Our R.D. humorously called it the race's signature climb–2,600 feet of elevation gain to the finish. When I got on this section, I had no choice but to reduce my run to a walk. I tried to mimic the gait of speed walkers swinging my arms as if I was running, though both feet never left the ground at the same time. This speed walk was reduced to a crawl at times when my Garmin registered a 36 minute mile. WTF! As slow as I thought I was going though, I still passed several people including a couple of runners who had given in to sitting on the trail, just plain exhausted. One guy who had been throwing up had run out of water, and I gave him some of mine, leaving myself 8 oz. with still two miles of climbing. Fortunately the rest of the way was shaded which surely saved me from what would have been a painful ascent.
When I emerged out of the woods to the paved parking lot, I was directed to the last short climb to the finish. I heard my name yelled out excitedly and saw my brother and my sister-in-law wildly cheering for me. Their cheers might as well have carried me through the finish line as I excitedly dashed up the hill feeling like I was on Cloud 9 to put this race in the history books. Several OCTR mates were also there at the finish line to congratulate me as I crossed it, a first for me. What a great feeling! I was in a daze but very happy that this was done and over with.
Overall I felt good throughout and had a great race. It was the toughest for me so far, because of the terrain and the heat. One of the volunteers informed me that my official time was 7:09 and change. In my confused state of euphoria and exhaustion, it took a couple of seconds to register that I just got a new 50K PR, beating my previous best by about 3 minutes. Woohoo!
Greg and I stuck around for the awards ceremonies and saw a few more friends finish including Pam, Kevin, MV, and Steph.
Apparently several runners fell victim to the heat, digestive issues, exhaustion, etc. I feel blessed and grateful that this race spared me from its wrath. My pre-race concerns with my sore back, foot pain and somewhat troublesome patellas did not materialize save for some minor knee aches. Thank goodness, I remembered to keep myself hydrated and nourished and to maintain a good steady pace for the long haul (at least for the most part).
A couple of OCTR worthy notes... Greg and Keira both placed second in their AG groups in the 50K, Jenn placed 3rd in her AG group in the 50-miler, while iMichelle set another female course record for the 50K.
Read other recaps of this race: Steph, Greg, Dmitri, and Greg again.
Out of 144 50K finishers, I finished #46 putting me in the top 32%, my best finish so far. See complete results here.