Monday, August 13, 2012

Epic Weekend, Epic Fail

A couple weeks ago a friend of mine called me and asked me to run in a trail relay race with him.  It sounded like fun so I agreed, not realizing that it was the same weekend as a family camping trip I had committed to with my wife and her family.  My wife wasn't real thrilled with my lack of organization, but she quickly forgave me for my mistake.  I, on the other hand, was super bummed.  I really wanted to go camping with the fam.

My wife's plan for the weekend was to drive up to the top of Emigration Canyon (about 30 miles NE of Preston, ID) to meet up with her family on Friday afternoon, after she got done with work, then drive to Pocatello, Idaho on Saturday evening.  I was going carpool with my parents to Pocatello on Sunday morning where we would all meet up for my new nephew's baby blessing at church.

I was still bummed that I was missing out on the camping, but Kelsey and I agreed that driving two cars to Emigration Canyon, then to Pocatello, and back was too expensive.

And then, on Friday afternoon, just as Kelsey was about to leave, I had a stroke of genius.  You must understand, strokes of genius are a rare and very cherished thing for me.  About once a year, when I have one, they lead to some of the most memorable experiences of my life.   For example, when I was 16 I had a stroke of genius that landed me and a friend on top of a mountain in the middle of a blizzard, our feet in each other's armpits, trying to stave frostbite while we waited for the storm to pass.  Or there was the stroke of genius when I was 23 that had Phil and I skinning 20+ miles, each with 80 pounds of aid climbing and winter gear, into a peak that was too crumbly and brittle to climb during the summer, but "will probably freeze together hard enough to climb during the winter."  We did at least find some ice to climb that trip.

So, when this stroke of genius hit, I knew it was too good to pass up.  The idea was to run this relay race all night (it started at 6pm Friday and went until noon on Saturday) then jump on my bike and ride 100 miles to the top of Emigration canyon so I could eat dinner and spend a little time with the family before heading to Pocatello.  When I told my wife she said, "Really? . . .  Whatever."  She's been wowed by my genius many times before.  This was nothing new to her.  And it showed in her lack of enthusiasm.  "So, what are you going to do when you can't make it?  I mean, if you can't make it?"
"I'll be fine," I said.  "100 miles on a bike is no big deal."

So it was decided.  Kelsey took off to meet up with her family (and start making plans for my rescue), and I started getting ready for the "epic weekend." It was such a great idea.  How could it go wrong?

R-Scape, 18 Hours of Ogden

I showed up to R-Scape at about 4:30pm, excited about the race but now getting twinges of nervousness in my stomach.  You see, I like trail running, but I haven't been doing much of it this summer.  I was afraid that the indefinite procrastination of my training meant that I may completely bonk during this race.  

The format for the race was that each member of a relay team would run one 10k lap on the trails above Ogden before handing off to the next person to run their lap.  We would rotate through five people in our group.  The race was for 18 hours.  The group with the most total laps at the end was the winner.

My first lap started out slow as I started to warm up, but eventually I was able to pick up the pace a little.  An older lady passed me on the uphill.  I made some lame joke and excuse to her and then tried to stay on her heels.  About half way up the longest climb I started to pray that she would stop running and start walking so that I could walk too.  My male ego couldn't handle being beaten like this.  Then, as she started gaining on another guy up ahead, I found myself cheering for her.  "Go!  You can catch him!" I yelled in my head.  As she (we) caught the guy, I wanted to slow down and console him, let him know that I knew what he was going through, that I too had been beaten by this lady and it was nothing to be ashamed up.  I gave him an empathetic look.  He glared back, obviously annoyed.  I kept running.

Mile 4 rolled around and the beginning of the downhill.  I quickly caught back up to the lady, passed her, and then passed a couple more people.  My long legs started to turn over more and more quickly.  I passed a few more people.  This was fun!  Then I started to doubt my ability to stop.  The trail got rockier and gravity was in control.  I said another quick prayer, this time asking for forgiveness for wishing bad luck on my opponents and asking for help in slowing down.  Just then the trail made an  uphill turn.  I almost fell on my face when I hit the uphill but my speed was now under control again.  I looked back expecting the lady to be there, ready to pass me again.  She wasn't.  I breathed a sigh of relief and settled into my pace.

When I crossed the finish line and tagged my teammate, I turned around to cheer on the lady behind me.  She smiled as she finished, appreciative of the encouragement.  She then tagged her daughter who was probably older than I am.  I felt sheepish that I secretly was trying so hard to beat this lady (and barely doing so) and quickly walked back to my team's tents to rehydrate and eat some food.

Lap two went a little smoother.  This time my legs felt like they had a little more spring to them.  I ran up the hills a little faster and more effortlessly, though I did walk some of the steeper sections this time.  The cool night air felt a lot more comfortable and it seemed like the trail, illuminated only by the moon and my headlamp, quickly passed by.  About halfway up the long hill section my chest started to sting.  I thought for a minute that I had been bitten by a bug.  I quickly realized that I hadn't thought to put band aids on and my shirt was rubbing me raw (for all non-runners reading this, nipple chaffing is not something unique to me).  I pulled off my shirt, enjoyed the relief, and then promptly stubbed my toe, tripped, and scraped up my shoulder and arm.  "Perfect timing," I thought, "just when I take my shirt off . . . " and my thoughts trailed off in a G-rated rant.  30 seconds later some cross country high school runner cruised past me.  I was about to make excuses about tripping and other lame stuff when I realized he was jamming down the trail to the music on his iPod. 

I finished my second lap slightly faster than my first and feeling pretty good.  I figured, due to time, that I would only have to run one more lap.  I quickly drove home, took a shower, cleaned up my scrapes, and was back to the race, ready to get a little sleep.  

I tried to sleep, but with little luck.  I couldn't seem to let my mind relax long enough to fall asleep.  After an hour of trying, I gave up and started up a conversation with one of my teammates who was just about to leave for his leg.  I then talked to another teammate who was just waking up in preparation for her leg.

Finally, my third lap came around and I started running.  This time there was no spring in my step.  On the uphill my thighs and hamstrings felt sluggish.  I figured it would pass as I warmed up but it never did.  I pushed myself and finished just a minute or two slower than my other laps, but this one felt significantly more difficult.  I started to worry a little bit about my ability to bike 100 miles.  The sun had come up and the temperature was quickly rising.  I felt doubt creep into my mind.

I went back to our tents, started packing up my stuff, and started to say my goodbyes to my teammates.  On the way out I chatted with a friend of mine.  I was looking for any excuse to delay having to get on my bike.  An hour later, I was finally on my way home.  By 11am, I was leaving our apartment building on my bike.

Ogtoem (Ogden to Emigration)

As I left our apartment, the 90+ degree temperatures greeted me.  I turned north to start the long ride and was hit by a 5-10mph headwind that didn't let up the whole day.  As I started to climb the first short hill, my legs felt very sluggish and my heart rate rose quickly.  I had planned to average about 17mph on the ride, including hills, but at this point I was struggling to keep an 18mph pace on flat ground.  I knew it was going to be a long day.

At about mile 13 I really started to feel tired.  I found myself nodding off to sleep as I rode.  One time I fell asleep only to drift out onto a four-lane highway before I woke up again and realized what was going on.  The second time I dozed almost ended in me crashing on the side of the rode.  At mile 18 I stopped at a Maverick to get some food and fill my bottles again with gatorade.  I couldn't remember riding the last 5 miles.  I also couldn't believe how hungry I was.  Even though I had eaten a fairly big meal before I left, I was too calorie-depleted from the run to catch back up.  

By this point I was looking for any out I could find.  I knew that my wife didn't have cell phone service where they were camping, but occasionally she could receive texts.  I pulled out my phone and texted, "This was a really bad idea.  I'm so tired.  I'm falling asleep as I ride my bike."  I was hoping that somehow she would get this text and magically show up to drive me the rest of the way.  I waited for about five minutes for her to show up.  She didn't.  I got back on my bike.

After a short break and some jumping jacks to wake back up, I started the 10-mile climb to the top of Sardine Canyon.  The temperature had risen a bit over the last hour and the wind blowing in the canyon was even stronger than I had previously dealt with.  I shifted down into my granny gear and started the long, monotonous climb.  I would normally ride this canyon at between 10 and 12mph.  Today I was struggling to keep the pace at 6mph.

Half way up the climb I started to notice a lot of grasshoppers on the road in front of me.  This was annoying at first, but turned out to be a blessing because I kept trying to run them over and, in the process, kept moving further up the canyon.

I made it up and over the top of the canyon in about 100 minutes and started the descent.  As I cruised down the canyon at about 40mph, the grasshoppers got their revenge with well-timed jumps and splats against my shins and an occasional body shot.

I stopped at a gas station at the bottom of the canyon to rehydrate, eat, and fill up my bottles.  Not only was I tired, hungry, muscularly exhausted, and dehydrated, but now the lower half of me was covered in grasshopper guts.  I don't think I have ever felt so bad in my life.  I ate a bag of doritos, a king-sized nut roll, a liter of water, and was off again.  I had gone about 40 miles.  Only 60 more to go.

About a mile from the gas station, the wind picked up again.  My legs were tired riding 15mph on flat ground.  A second rant began, dropping most every g-rated euphemism my mind could come up with for about a minute.  Once that was over, I was ready to start riding again.  I rode about 10 miles before I started to pout and doubt myself again.  I was halfway through the ride and couldn't imagine going any further.  I puttered along at 10mph for another 5 miles and then saw another gas station.  I rehydrated again, ate more junk food, refilled with gatorade, and found a shady tree to lay under.  I called my parents, hoping that sharing my misery would make me feel better.  It didn't.  They laughed a little at my naivety once I assured them that I really wasn't dying.  Then I got a call from my wife!  Thank goodness!

I tried to sound as miserable as I could as I told her about my plight.  I exaggerated the wind, I told her about my near-death experiences, about how hot it was, and about the grasshoppers attacking me.  The grasshoppers convinced her and she said they would come pick me up.  Unfortunately they were about an hour away and I felt bad about making them drive to me, so I got back on my bike and tried to ride a little more.

About 45 minutes and 10 miles later I started to fall asleep again.  This time had me almost crashing into a ditch.  I decided I'd better stop and eat before I killed myself.  While resting in some shade, hunched over my bike, I started to doze again.  This time it wasn't an impending crash that woke me up, but a concerned police officer.  He asked if I was ok.  Mumbling, I said, "yeah, I'm good."  He didn't look convinced.  He asked if I wanted a sports drink.  I think I said that I had some.  Trying to say something coherent to convince him I was fine but failing miserably made him get out of his car.  I assured him that my wife would be here soon and that I was just tired, but he wasn't giving up.  Just then my wife, father-in-law, and brother-in-law pulled up with some consolation chocolate milk and an air-conditioned truck.  The police officer seemed content, wished me luck, and drove off.  It took a couple hours of sitting, some dinner, a sponge bath, a lot of water, and an outhouse to feel better, and by then I was able to walk in a straight line again.

I slept all the way to Pocatello, slept 9 hours that night and I was feeling great again, albeit sore and hungry.  The weekend was definitely a humbling experience.  I ran 18.6 trail miles and biked about 65 miles with about 2500ft of elevation gain and hadn't slept for 36 hours, but to finish the ride I would have had to climb an additional 3000 vertical feet and ride 35 more miles.  With a little more running training and a little more sleep I think it would've been possible, but as it stands right now, I've got some room for improvement.

1 comment:

  1. Haha, great story! I'll give you an A for making me chuckle, but keep your safety and judgment in check!