Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Jackpot Report

This one time, last year, I ran the 12 hour event at the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival. I had trained phenomenally well and had the time of my life. This led me to sign up for their New-for-2016 48 hour race. Because the leap from 12 hours to 48 is completely sane and logical.

Fast forward one year. As some of you know, my training through the end of last year and the beginning of this year has been greatly interrupted. It turns out that having a couple of injuries and a debilitating chest cold can really throw things off.

I was happy to head to Henderson, Nevada, in spite of my ill-preparedness for the task at hand, Mostly because it was 17 degrees here in Utah and 77 degrees there. There was a tiny part of my brain that thought that I could magically wing my way through the event.
Look how nice and sunny. Thanks to Scott M. Stringham for taking all of the pictures contained in this post. 
I like the venue for the event. Cornerstone Park provides a mix of every kind of terrain. You get crushed gravel and dirt paths, pavement, concrete bridges, and a little stretch of single track trail. It has just enough up and down to give your muscles a break.

The day started out with a gathering of Idiots. (Idiots Running Club, for those who don't know.) A gaggle of them had gotten to the park before me, so I received a warm welcome. Most were there to support Kristie Cranford while she rocked her 100 mile effort. But they were just as happy to see me, and also ended up adopting three other runners. "No Man Left Uncrewed" was the motto of the day.
The 28 brave souls, waiting to get this party started 
At 10 a.m. the gun sounded and we were off. Very slowly. That's one of the things I love about a timed event. No one is in that much of a hurry. You can't get to the end of 48 hours faster than anyone else, so you take it easy. Being a back of the pack runner doesn't matter much in these types of events.

Scott came down with me to crew and also to volunteer at the aid station. He was also my race photographer, which was pretty handy.
See? Handy documentation of race goodness.
The first 12 hours or so were actually pretty uneventful. I was moving, not particularly well or quickly, but I was getting those loops in. I was chatting with other runners and sharing stories and laughter. I was staying on top of my hydration and nutrition. When the sun was fully down, I took the time to change completely so that no wet clothes were on my body. I learned my lesson from the Hypothermia Incident at Across the Years. It was completely worth the time it took to do.
Sitting sure feels nice... Too bad this is only about 11.5 hours in.
I can't recall exactly when my feet started to rebel. It was sometime during the first night. I wasn't blistering, bleeding, or anything else terribly untoward. But the pressure of being on my feet for that long was starting to take its toll. Now, I had done two previous events that totaled 24 hours and my feet didn't seem to have that problem. This is where I think my interrupted training reared its ugly head.
50 miles in and trying to pretend that it doesn't hurt like hell
If my training had gone as planned, I would have spent much more time on my feet in preparation for this. But it was what it was. I decided that it was time to lie down and get the pressure off of my feet. I didn't dare take my shoes off, though, because I was fairly certain I wouldn't be able to get them back on due to the swelling.

At first, these little lie downs were helpful in relieving the pain that my feet were experiencing. I managed to grab a bit of sleep each time, too. The fatigue accumulates rather quickly as the hours tick by. I never slept more than an hour and a half at a time, most naps were less than an hour. There are only a couple of people that I've heard of that can keep going for 48 hours straight. I am not one of those people, just FYI.

Feeling a bit sassy after a nap and a sunrise.
Day two began with me waking up just as the sun was starting to rise. I had only slept for just over an hour, but it made a big difference, at least for a little while. At this point, I had given in to the pain and taken my shoes off. I ended up doing a couple of hours in socks and sandals. I was looking sharp, cats and kittens.

Unfortunately, the sandals weren't a perfect solution and I ended up having to put shoes back on. One of the nice Idiots propped my feet up and brought me a bag of ice for them, which helped get the swelling down enough to re-shoe.

So I had reached 60 miles right around the 24 hour mark. The next 24 hours would only bring me another 28 miles, and incredible amounts of pain. I was reduced to trudging. The pain in my feet was so intense that I would stop at each bench I passed to sit for a moment. At one point, I had my shoes off and was trying to massage some happiness back into my Pillsbury Dough Feet, a fellow runner stopped and did the foot rub for me. It was one of the nicest things anyone has even done for me. I got a good solid hour of faster movement thanks to that foot rub.

Scott was also incredible in his role as support crew. About mid-day on the second day, maybe 70ish miles or so in, I broke down. It was becoming painfully (literally) clear that I wouldn't hit the 100 mile goal that I had set out to accomplish. So what's a girl to do? This girl fell into a heap on the cot and started sobbing. Big blubbery sobs of infinite sadness. Scott gently removed my shoes, got me wrapped up in the sleeping bag, and went to the store for some Icy Hot and Tums. He didn't yell at me or try to make me keep going, he just helped me get through it, which was exactly what I needed.

He let me rest and when I was ready to sit up and get ready to head back out, he rubbed my feet down with the Icy Hot, put fresh socks on my feet, and somehow managed to get shoes back on me. He packed up a bunch of food and made me eat while we made our way slowly around the loop. He ended up walking about 14 miles with me that second day.
Sunset on the second day.
I knew that the second night was going to be the worst part of the whole 48 hours. And I was right. I was having a difficult time regulating my body temperature. I spent a lot of time at the aid station through the night, trying to get warm food in my body.
Feet up, food going in, expression: loopy.
In the wee hours of that second night, I knew I needed to take a longer break than I had been taking. Mentally, I just couldn't take the pain anymore. My muscles were actually holding up pretty well, but my feet would have hurt less if someone had taken a hatchet and chopped them right off my body.
Right before choosing to take that long break. My face says it all.
I went into the warming tent and took my shoes off. Scott had 45 minutes left on his volunteer shift that ended at 3 a.m. The race director was letting people leave the park to recuperate in their hotels and return to the race later. I knew that was something I needed to do or I would probably walk down into the lake that we'd been running around for 40 hours and drown myself. The guy in charge of timing was doing everything he could to try and get me back out onto the course. But I had made up my mind and I wasn't budging until Scott could take me back to the hotel.

Sleeping outside on the cot had worked out alright for awhile, but the cold was an issue. Even in a good quality sleeping bag, I was getting so cold while I slept that I would shiver myself awake. Just getting out of the elements and into a real bed for a couple of hours changed my whole attitude. After the sun rose on the third day, we made our way back to the park and I knocked out two more loops before the time was up. I was even smiling through those two loops. I managed a bit of running, even. I was completely astounded that I could run after 80 + miles.
I did it. I survived somehow. 
I ended up with a total of 88.06 miles. Somehow I was 6th place out of the women, and 23rd place out of the 28 total participants. I had expected to be dead last, but in 48 hours, all kinds of things happen to even the most well prepared people (which I totally wasn't).

I learned so much from the experience, so even though I didn't get my 100 miles, I got life lessons instead. Those are valuable, too. Lesson 1: you can't be under trained for an event of this magnitude and expect your sheer stubbornness to carry you through to your goal. Lesson 2: invest in a pair of shoes half a size larger than normal for when your feet swell. Lesson 3: ultra runners are the nicest people on the planet. Lesson 4: coming to terms with what you're capable of at that moment won't kill you. There is time to get better, to get ready to try again.

Failure isn't always a bad thing. It's a teacher. You learn more from a failure than a success. I have a renewed sense of purpose and drive for this year now. I will train smarter. I will be more focused on getting my body ready to meet the challenges that I have set up for it. I have already chosen the venue for my next attempt at the 100 mile distance. Next March, I'll try again. And mark my words, I will be ready this time.  I'll leave you with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, which I often think of when attempting these crazy things.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Until next time, happy running!

1 comment:

  1. You are awesome, brave, and amazingly tough to get through that race. I get exhausted just reading the number "88.06"! Love your writing and your insights. Please keep sharing.