There were only two weeks between Tussey mOUnTaiNBACK and Antelope Island. I had done barely any running at all between pacing 45 miles at Lean Horse Hundred the end of August through the 36 miles I ran at Tussey.
What would happen during Antelope Island?
During Tussey mOUnTaiNBACK, I felt an ache in my ITB. It went away as soon as I stopped running. I got a massage one week after the event. It loosened up tight areas and felt good. I have the best massage therapist.
I did absolutely no running at all between the two events on purpose. It was risky,… some would rightly say foolish… to run two ultramarathons so close together with such little training. I was begging for an injury.
I realized that no run done in the two weeks between Tussey and Antelope Island would have any benefit in regards to performance, training stimulus, etc.
My only hope of finishing Antelope Island would be if I rested and fully recovered.
I hoped on race day, I wouldn’t experience a flare of my ITB or any other injury. I knew it was very foolish to run ultras only two weeks apart with essentially no training other than running in events.
However, I had difficulty getting my heart and mind back into training and running regularly again. I finally decided that I would just start signing up for races.
At some point I hoped I might be inspired to start more formally training again… or I would end up injured.
I hoped for the former but I was well aware that the injury was possible… even likely. Ultramarathoners may be tough but we are not invincible.
I decided to take a chance anyway and see what would happen.
However, as I was registering on line for Antelope Island, however, I accidentally clicked on the button to register for the 100k instead of the 50k.
“WHAT the!?!? I don’t want to do the 100k! I only want to do the 50K!!!”
But try as I might, I couldn’t “un-click” or change my registration from the 100k to the 50k.
Whether I wanted to or not, I had unintentionally registered for Antelope Island 100k!
I had thought about talking to the RD (Race Director) to see if he would let me drop down to the 50k race. I am sure he would have. But then I was also curious to see how far I could go.
I decided I’d rather take the chance in having to drop out of, or “DNF” the 100k maybe even at the 50k mark then to drop down to the 50k race- just so I would be able to say that I “officially” finished the 50K distance. I’ve run many ultras before and don’t need to prove anything to anyone, or to myself.
50k would still be 50k no matter whether it was “official” or not. Of course, if I was able to make it farther in the 100K than 50K, that would be even better.
I got to see ultrarunning buddy Lisa Nicholls and meet friend Adrienne Rochat. It was great to meet Adrienne and to catch up with Lisa. I hadn’t run many races in 2011 and so I had not had the chance to see many of my ultra-running friends this year as I was able to in years past.
You know there are not very many of us crazy-ultrarunning folks out there. After a while we all get to know each other and become friends. There are even fewer who are slow back-of-the-packers like us.
There is something about mutually-shared hardship that brings people closer together.
The night before the event, a snowstorm came. Several inches of snow fell.
I realized that going the entire 100K would be unlikely but nevertheless I still decided to start out with the 100K runners. I would have a little bit more time than if I started later with the 50K runners.
The race began in the dark.
I wondered out loud, “What kind of fool drags themself out of bed to run in conditions like this? And we even pay money to do it. We must be crazy.”
Several of us chuckled. It is true.
I saw the line of headlamps trail forward in the dark.
I love running with others who have a similar pace. It’s a time to catch up and to talk about important stuff such as what is the meaning of life (if there is a meaning), how to solve all the world’s problems and so on.
One thing I’ve found is that out there on the trail, people with different or even completely opposing viewpoints are often able to express them without the venomous exchange that too often occurs in other venues.
I guess its just hard to argue your position too strongly when you’re huffing and puffing climbing a mountain.
Maybe that’s what our politicians should do?
They should run an ultramarathon… and then share a beer or two afterwards. They still won’t agree but at least they’ll be a little more polite in expressing their opinions.
Very soon, however, I left Lisa with some other ultrarunners. She had the Javelina Jundred coming up and was hiking/jogging the 50K as her last taper run before that event.
I didn’t intend on being anti-social.
It’s just that I felt cold!!!
Brrrr! I was shivering!!!!
I needed to move a little bit more quickly to warm up in the cold darkness of the pre-dawn. And so I moved out at a faster pace for the first several miles.
Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake of Utah and is a state park. I had run here before at another event put on by the same RD a couple of years ago. This race would take us to parts of the island that we did not go previously.
Slowly the sun came up. There was cloud cover and snow falling, making for some beautiful scenery. The going was slow.
I ran with another runner for a short time. Suddenly, we noticed there were no other human tracks and the snow had not been brushed off of the sage.
We had missed a turn!
Fortunately we had gone only a few hundred yards, past that turn off and were able to find it after 10 or 15 minutes.
I tripped over a rock and fell. Hard.
Normally I would duck and tumble myself out of it. But I fell so suddenly and so hard, I landed with my right arm outstretched. It felt as if my shoulder was about to dislocate. Almost. But then it slipped back in.
I hate that feeling of almost-but-not-quite-dislocating your shoulder.
Other than the wind being knocked out of me, otherwise I felt OK. I got up and began running immediately. It all happened so suddenly I couldn’t tell if I was injured or not.
I just wanted to keep moving because I was still cold.
The going was slow. Soon I was completely alone.
I could see no runners ahead of or behind me. I knew that I was not in last place. There were several others out there behind me.
I just couldn’t see any of them.
The ground was slippery, I could barely muster a slow slog without slipping and sliding.
There would be no 100K finish for me today.
I just couldn’t see going back out onto the course for a second loop- much of it in the darkness- under such conditions.
What if I went down and broke an ankle or couldn’t walk/run for any other reason?
I did have survival gear, fire-making tools, emergency food and extra clothing with me just in case. I knew I could survive a night out in the cold. However, it would be a very long and unpleasant night out there waiting for search and rescue to come find me.
If I got lost and off the course, perhaps it would not be until the next morning when I was found. What would the point of that be?
I decided that I would try my best to make it at least back the start…. do just the 50K…. as I had originally intended. 31 miles would be just fine.
Despite the slow-going, the views were spectacular. I stopped many times to take numerous photos of the surrounding scenery.
“If I won’t be able to go the full distance today, ” I thought to myself, “well, at least I’ll get some great photos.”
There were some amazing rock formations on the southwest side of the island.
All non-runners and many road-runners who do more traditional distances have great difficulty wrapping their minds around ultramarathons and why we do what we do.
They have trouble understanding not only the ultramarathon distance itself, but also the difficulty of the terrain we run over and other challenges we face.
Many times in social situations I am introduced as a “marathoner.”
Then I must clarify: “Actually I’m not a marathoner, I’m an ULTRA-marathoner. Marathons are training runs for me. “
Then inevitably, any road runners present ask me, “So what was your time?”
Even though most ask this question out of curiousity than anything else, I consider “what was your time?” to be a personal question. . It’s not unlike asking someone how much money they made last year, or who they voted for in the last election. I might tell you what my time was if I want to, but don’t ask me if you don’t want to be rude.
Thus my usual answer to their question of what was my time is: “Oh my time you ask? Why I had a GREAT time!”
That usually makes them pause and think for a moment.
Although I do certainly pay attention to my times- if only so I don’t miss cut-off and get pulled from a race- for most ultramarathoners, our finish times are less important than are other factors. Every ultra is so different- even any given race can be very different year-to-year- it is difficult to compare one to another. Thus, our finish times are less important to us compared to many runners who run in road events.
Some of my proudest accomplishments took place during races with my slowest finish times. Often is not how fast you ran your race but how well you persevered and overcame obstacles encountered along the way.
A “personal best” means different things to different people.
Keep going and don’t give up. It’s a metaphor for life.
A couple of the first 50K runners came up and passed me.
I wasn’t alone after all!
I finally made it to the next aid station. There they had hot chicken noodle soup for us.
Now that hit the spot!
After I returned home, I showed some of these photos to acquaintances and co-workers. Some of them gasped at the difficulty of the terrain and remoteness of the aid stations.
They had absolutely no idea what it was that I was doing.
Unless you’ve experienced an ultramarathon on rugged trails during challenging weather conditions, I suppose it would be impossible to comprehend.
This is why I cannot explain why I do it to most people. If you must ask “why?” then I cannot explain.
This is also why I never want to be called a “marathoner” – I am not.
There is nothing at all wrong with running 26.2m marathons or for that matter any other road race… nothing at all. Its just that traditional road running events are extremely and completely different from what we ultramarathoners do. These events cannot and should not be compared.
We ultramarathoners don’t expect… and don’t want to be….. understood. We’d just like to be recognized for ourselves and not be thought of as “just another runner who runs marathons.”
Finally the clouds began to break up and the sun came out. The snow began to melt.
Now the slippery icy double track became a muddy single track hiking trail. As soon as I scraped off mud accumulating on my shoes, more stuck right back on. Not only was I slogging in the mud, I was now slogging with extra pounds on each shoe.
“Oh well, at least this is turning out to be a great training run!” I thought.
No matter how good or bad of a day you have, every ultra is training for the next ultra.
“Running ultramarathons is hard. But running them without training for them is even harder!” I thought.
I decided right then and there I would begin training more formally again and begin thinking about other races to run in 2012.
Another runner and I made it to the last aid station before the start and the 50k cut off. It was one of the aid stations where we could have a drop bag.
I rummaged through my bag. I didn’t remember what I had put into that one versus my other bag. I was very pleased to find the turkey hoagie sandwich I had put there early this morning. I said so out loud.
During races, I prefer to just eat regular food. A sub sandwich with a big bun and only a little meat has just the right amount of carbs, with a little protein and fat so it sits well in my stomach.
During a normal non-running day at the office, do I try to sustain myself on sports beans and gels? No I don’t.
Then why should I try to run a race eating such things? After mile 30 or 35 they don’t do anything for me but upset my stomach.
I usually run with a small backpack or Camelback on my back and a fanny pack on my hip. Today, I had on my fanny pack with two bottle holders. But I only had a bottle on one side; the other side was empty. I didn’t want to eat the entire sandwich right there. I wanted to nibble on it over the next few miles.
So what did I do? I stashed my sandwich into the empty bottle holder. It fit perfectly.
The other runners and volunteers laughed when they saw what I had done. “Hey! Look at the hoagie holder he has!”
I laughed at the funny sight I must have been running down the trail alternating with pulling that hoagie out, taking a bite of it and pulling a swig off of my water bottle.
Maybe I need to patent my “hoagie holder” for other ultrarunners? Maybe I should try to get sponsorship from a sub sandwich restaurant franchise?
We finally made it to the 100k start… and the 50k check point. We were about a half hour after the cut-off to be permitted to keep going.
The race director came up to us and very kindly said, “I’m sorry but we’re gonna have to pull you from the race. You missed the cut off time.“
“You said are going pull us?” I snapped back, “But you CAN’T!”
He looked puzzled for a second. He wasn’t sure what to say.
I continued, “You’re not gonna have to pull us because we QUIT!”
“There’s no way you can get us to do another loop!” I smiled, ” You couldn’t pay us enough to go back out there!”
Even if we hadn’t missed the cut off time and had been permitted to keep going, I just couldn’t see myself going out to struggle another 31 miles, risking more falls, a chance of injury and the possibility of spending a night outside.
Plus they had homemade buffalo chili and local craft beer to sample at race headquarters- now how I could I leave that? What would I have been thinking?
Because I did only 50K of the 1ooK event, however, it technically would be considered a DNF and not a 50K finish.
I already have plenty of 50K finishes. 31 miles is 31 miles- no matter whether it is “official” or not. Sometimes DNFing is the wisest decision.
“I DNFd so I could live on and run again another day,” is always a good thing to be able to say.
Take care my friends… and run on. I hope I will be able to see you at more events in 2012.
"In the process of completely exhausting myself, I connect with an inner part of me ordinarily veiled by the everyday distractions of life. During that short time spent on a trail in the mountains, my life is reduced to its simplest terms. Most ultrarunners are people who find goodness and joy in difficult times, who see beyond the misery to the beauty of nature, and who truly realize the elemental and important aspects of life. Going for a run always clears my head... but running 100 miles distills my soul."
Keith Knipling - RUNNING THROUGH THE WALL