Race Report (short story really! It’s kinda long!!)
Written By Lisa Murphy
Fountain Hills, AZ
October 27 & 28, 2012
We arrived early. I am well aware of the luxury of this, being able to fly to Phoenix on Wednesday for a Saturday race. I’ll only say that occasionally there are a few perks to being self-employed and spending the majority of your waking hours running through airports because you travel a lot for your job. On Wednesday I rested and hydrated. On Thursday I rested and over-hydrated and went to the store for crew snacks and other items.
I did a little 4-mile run just to keep the hips loose before meeting up with my sister who was providing us with camping supplies for Friday. The night before the night before a race is the night you need to get excellent sleep, so I called it a day super early and crashed pretty hard. On Friday I again focused on over-hydrating and spent the day setting up camp as we had opted for the “rent a tent and sleep over at the starting line the night before the race” option. And while the schlepping of the gear back and forth all day to set up camp at race HQ was kind of tedious, I am so glad we did.
Meanwhile, Tom took a day flight to LAX for knee-surgery consultation. I was a little pissy about him being gone the day before game-day, but got over it. After five trips back and forth from stores to hotels to race HQ at Fort McDowell Park , our tent was ready, stocked, and camp was set.
My crew (read: husband Tom) had a home base. I attended packet pick up, got my shirt, bib number and went through the medical check. Many 100s have mandatory weigh-ins at each checkpoint but the JJ100 does not. They printed the usual PCN SULF on the back of my bib (penicillin and sulfa allergies) and I was on my way. Although with a nod to my #TrailsROC peeps, I almost had them write bee stings too. Inside joke folks, just you never mind.
After packet pick up I headed to the airport to pick Tom up from his LAX trip. I parked, took a picture of where I parked (if you know me, this does not surprise you) and went in to wait for him. I was planning on waiting to eat after I picked him up – my “In and Out” grilled cheese worked well before the American River 50 back in April and being somewhat superstitious I was planning a repeat performance. But the pizza I saw at “Sauce” restaurant in the terminal was too much to bear. A glass of red and an entire cheese pizza later, I was fueled up! It’s a carb! But now that I was fed I was getting anxious about getting to bed as that 6 am gun time was starting to feel real early.
Met Tom at security and then we went to the car. But there was no car. But the parking garage is rather cavernous so I figured I was on East instead of West. So we walked over to the other side. No car. I had my picture, still, no car. My mind freaked out. This is the spot! It matches the picture! But if I turn around, that looks like the picture too. And this looks just like where I parked and there is an empty spot where my car should be!!! OMG! SOMEONE STOLE MY RENTAL CAR! I started making a list in my head of what was in the car. Bib number! Oh no! How do I call the race people? ARRRUUGGH panic mode! I kept hitting the alarm button hoping to hear it.
No sounds, no honks, no beeps. But then, flashing lights. Flashing lights that corresponded to my button pressing! Halleluiah!! I found it! Relief! For what it’s worth, my heart rate was higher during those five minutes than the entire race the next day I am sure! But I am getting ahead of myself.
So we get back to camp. Another one of my Friday tasks was making sure that all the electronics could be charged via the outlets in the car. My watch only has enough battery life for the first couple of loops, so the plan was wear it for the first two to get data, have Tom charge it up, then wear it again for the last full two loops and the final modified loop. Also, my pre-race meal of coffee and oatmeal required my making sure the kettle worked in the car with the adaptor. Which, for whatever reason, it did not. I gave Tom the run down of everything, all the gear, snacks, food, the plans for crewing, no kettle for hot water…. I was bummed that my breakfast was going to have to change (it really is not good to be too superstitious!) but I was flexible. And then I packed it up for the night. My amazing husband found an outlet in the bathroom! So I woke up at 4 am with HOT coffee and HOT oatmeal! YAHOO!
Got dressed, body-glided up (more on this in a bit, TMI be damned), texted a few peeps, made a couple of facebook posts, wrote my angel names on my shoulders (RIP Sam, Betty and Emily) and TIRED IS NOT AN INJURY on my forearm. Then I wandered to the starting line (5 steps away) at 5:45 for the pre-race meeting. The RD made announcements, there were some last minute ultra rock-stars who showed up, they told us about the awards, reminded us about the course, six 15.4 mile loops followed by a modified 9 mile seventh loop. The course is also what’s called a “washing-machine” course which means loop 1 goes clockwise, loop 2 is counterclockwise, etc. We were given instructions on how to run through the timing chute at the completion of each lap, then circle the cones (don’t go back through the chute!) and go back out to run the next loop. Keep track, he said, so you know which way to go. Or, look at the signs to know which way to go, or, if in doubt, he said, go back the way you came. If however, he said you don’t remember which way you came, ask for help. Ha ha ha. Everyone laughed, at 2 minutes ‘til 6 we thought this was funny.
15 miles later it was not funny. 15 miles later as I went thru the chute and circled the cones (DON’T GO BACK THROUGH THE CHUTE) I looked at the directional sign. In my head I heard, go back the way you came! So I did. Whew, mental functions still working. I remembered the way I came! I was off for loop two.
Now I am aware that race reports are supposed to describes the ins and outs of the course, the race, the experiences, the terrain, the climbs the highs and the lows. Here is the long and short of it: I had a plan and I stuck to it.
1) do not go out too fast
2) hydrate (I carried a hand-held with GuBrew and an extra bottle on my back in my Nathan pack with the GuBrew too)
3) take an S!Cap every hour (Tom was to text me, I changed his tone so it was a distinct new tone so I’d know it was an S!cap text and not a well wishing friend!)
4) eat (foods that worked for me: oranges, pretzels, apples and peanut butter & butter sandwiches – but honestly, if I never eat another peanut butter sandwich it will be too soon!)
5) over thank the folks at aid stations
6) be calm at crew points so you don’t forget anything
7) take water every time it is offered, even if you just swishel and spit
8) announce before you pass other runners and tell them they look great when you do
9) keep a little in the tank for the last loops
11) focus on completing 2 ½ – 3 hour loops for a sub-24 hour finish
12) B R E A T H E and finally,
13) enjoy the ride!
This was my plan. And it worked. Plans don’t always work, but I am pleased to say that for my first 100 miler, it did. This is a tribute to endurance and ability, yes. And also to training, love and support. It all works in tandem peeps. Don’t forget that.
I admire those of you who can remember the minutiae of each lap, mile, loop. All I can say is that this experience is probably the closest thing to childbirth I will ever experience in that immediately after I finished I supposedly said I will never do that again!! But then later I said I never wanted to do Javelina again and now I am saying, when’s the next one?! Endorphins keep us stupid.
So here are some details: The first memorable quote of the day occurred when all 350 or so of us all took off at the gun and not ¼ miles into the race we all happened upon a steaming fresh pile of horse poo. A guy in front of me calmly deadpanned, it’s a little too early for that dontcha think? He sounded like Shrek. It made me smile.
Loop 2 was a bit rough as the washing-machine style changed the layout of the course and in my excitement of kicking ass on the first loop, I neglected (rookie!) to notice that the last 6 miles coming back into the checkpoint and through the chute were on an ever so slight downhill grade. An ever so slight downhill that still becomes 6 miles uphill when you go back the other way. It kicked my butt on the start of loop 2, but I made lots of mental notes so I would be better prepared for when I had to do it again on loop 4. And 6.
During loop 2 was also when the motivational signs started getting positioned and placed near the chute. I love the intention of them. I love that someone took the time to make them. I love the LOVE they represent. I really do respect and appreciate the time and effort that goes into laminating them, posting them, attaching them to little sticks to put in the dirt. Which is why it is so hard for me to admit just how much I absolutely hate this signs. I hate them. They make me cry. When I am focused on staying focused I do NOT want to cry. I’m busy! I’m not looking to be inspiring or motivational. I’m working! Don’t make me cry! This happened at the AR50 too. “This is the farthest you’ve ever gone” and other such nonsense. I had to make myself NOT LOOK AT THE SIGNS. I apologize for hating them so much.
I had to remind myself to keep some in the tank. I really wanted to do loop 3 and 4 a lot faster than I did, but I wanted to make sure I still had fuel and I heard that many were dropping like flies because of the heat. I never felt hot. I drank and drank and peed and peed.
I did not get attacked by a jumping cholla cactus (look it up).
I was aware of my left big toenail from loop 3 on, as it’s wanted to fall off since the AR50 in April. I thought my number 2 toenail on my right foot fell off again as I felt something in my sock. I never took my shoes off to check because I knew I would not get them back on. I was not in any pain, I just was aware of my left toe.
I had been having issues with tight hammies and hips all summer and leading up to the race, but had no issues during the race at all.
I kept peeing (clear!) up to mile 88 and at the finish too, which, if you run, you know this is a good good thing. PS: for non-runners, you just scoot off the trail and make it happen. No one looks. No one cares. They did it a mile and a half ago anyway too.
I never sat down. Beware the chair. That is one of the challenging things about a loop course and why they are not a favorite kind of race for many runners. You see crew, beer, food, bed, blankets, chairs and BEING DONE at every lap. I had to focus to not see any of that. I focused only on the Table O’Aid that Tom set out for me each time. Run in, focus, see what is there, see what you need, take what you need and get out of there. Tom kept track of my pit stop times. We were like a NASCAR team. In, refuel, out, GO!
I had to tell myself GO BACK THE WAY YOU CAME each and every time. Ha ha ha. Not so funny now. Heard stories all the next day about folks being chased by their pacers and crew because they went out the wrong way!
The “run by the light of the full moon” is a lie. I still used two headlamps, one on my head and one on my sternum. (That means under your boobs you jokers). If I never run up another rocky hill that will be just fine with me. Oh, and “you don’t need gaiters” is also a lie. So much dust, dirt and little rocks in my shoes the whole time. I just kept shaking my shoes so the pebbles moved to the side or towards the back. Don’t. Remove. The. Shoes.
I forgot sunscreen when I left after loop 1, but the first aid station had some. I told Tom I didn’t need more sandwich when I left to start loop 5, but I was mistaken. But the high school track star at the first aid station made me a fresh peanut butter and butter and he cut the crusts and even cut it into bite-sized pieces just the way I needed it! THANK YOU TRACK STAR! you saved the day!
Although I never saw the rumored wild horses or any actual javelinas, I did see a baby rattler, a tarantula and a roadrunner and two! Count them, TWO shooting stars.
What else? I realize this is more a recount of what my memories are, and will probably be more for posterity than a true race report, but being as it’s my first one, I’m taking poetic license.
I struggled on loop 4. Which also coincided with the completion of the 100k. Which, I neglected to mention, you have the option of dropping down to if you can’t make the full 100 and you still get a buckle. I didn’t know this until the morning when we started. One of my early run buddies said oh, well that 4th loop 100k buckle can be mighty tempting after running through the heat of the day. Not me, I said. I’m going full out. He was like an old crusty cowboy and I was the young greenhorn cowpoke, visions of Tombstone jumped in my head, sure you will, just you wait youngster…
The reason for my struggle was this, and it offers more proof that ultra running is more of a mental sport than most give it credit to be, Tom was scheduled to text me every hour on the hour for me to take an S!Cap. I realize at some point I will need to figure out how to be more self sufficient in this department, but for now, a text was scheduled to remind me. S!Caps are electrolyte replacement tablets and assist in making sure your water to salt ratios are in balance – I swear by them! Anyway, so, I hear the ding-ding. Ok, it’s been an hour, take an S!Cap. Done. Then what did not feel like an hour later, another ding-ding. Hmmm, odd, didn’t think I’d been out that long. Oh well, take another S!Cap. And then another. This was three S!Caps so far and I was not anywhere near being half way through the loop! My head starting messing with me, I was doing the math. Shoot. This was going to mess everything up! Why am I out so long? I’m not overheating, I feel like I’m moving at the same pace, infact I felt I might be moving out too fast! Ding-ding, what?! FOUR?!?! Good lord! What the heck is happening?!?! When the FIFTH ding-ding came in, I reluctantly took what was representing a FIVE-HOUR LOOP and I started to realize that I might be done. If it’s taking five hours to do the fourth loop there is no way I was going to finishseven!! I cursed the old cowboy and began making peace with the fact I might have to call it at 100k.
I came down the rocky hill (which I came to refer to as rock candy mountain with both love, respect and sarcasm) and into the last aid station which was three miles out from the timing chute where I would see Tom. At the aid station I refilled my water bottles, over thanked them and ran it in. Tom was there to greet me as usual and he told me I was kicking butt. WHAT??? I am not. I was out for 5 frickin’ hours!!! I suck! I’m done! I’m taking the quitter buckle and going home. Now he’s like, WHAT?? You are good! What do you need? I told him he texted me 5 times, no I didn’t, I texted you 3 times. You are good. What do you need? But I got 5 texts to take S!Caps! Don’t worry about it! Shut up already! What do you need?
And that was that. I was not going to need to take the quitter buckle. I was going to make it. I was heading out to loop five. Believe what you may, but I think it was Sam. He made sure I took more S!Caps because it was the heat of the day and I might have dehydrated but taking extra S!Caps made me drink more and kept my body balanced during the afternoon when it got up to ninety degrees in the desert. Sam took a break from heaven’s happy hour and sent me a text. Thanks man.
The second best quote of the day was with another running buddy who was running because his girlfriend is some ultra superstar who was kicking his butt and she ran Boston with a broken foot and then hobbled around Manhattan on crutches for some sightseeing and he informed me at mile 60 or so, I could’ve gone my entire life without knowing these things existed. Classic.
I’m buying stock in bodyglide. I bodyglided up pretty good in the morning and for what it’s worth I typically don’t have chaffing issues because over the last couple years I have learned from many many rookie mistakes. If it is a body part that rubs on anything you need to glide it. Shoot, I glide up for a 5k. I glide up more if it’s a long run. Especially if it’s a 24 hour run. As my brother Tom said, rub your two pointer fingers together. Right now. Do it. Now do it for 24 hours non-stop. Yep. Gonna wish you put the glide there. Seriously, if there were some kind of full body dip runners would jump in it before a big race. I got most of the parts. All except some more sensitive parts. (Lady runners, message me if you want the nitty gritty. No sense in you having to walk like you just got off a horse. For 3 days. Wishing you could just not wear pants. Why reinvent the wheel? Call me.) I could’ve used more where my boob headlamp was. And my head, headlamp too. My head spot actually got like little white acne blisters and these also appeared on my chest – which I think was more of a heat rash thing and not really chaffing, per se. The head ones went away after a few days, and a week later, the chest ones are finally going away too. Another item for your recovery shelf? Calendula!
Back to the race… I kept some in the tank. I chose to not have a pacer. That decision worked for me in this race, instead I asked three angels to bring me on home. Betty and Emily had both died the week of the race. Betty, a family friend, suddenly from health complications. Emily, a cousin, from leukemia. And for Sam. SamIAm green eggs and ham who left us suddenly, tragically, unexpectedly in September. I wrote all three names on my shoulders at 5:30 AM on race morning and they were still there at 5:24 AM the following morning as I finished. I didn’t call on them out loud until the modified final loop. Nine more miles. I was positive. I had my (pink!) glo-in-the-dark necklace they gave out to all runners in the final loop. I had seen a sub-24 hour finish in my mind’s eye, but now, as my brother Tom says, I could smell the barn.
It was in the final modified loop that I encountered my first (and ONLY!) ounce of negativity from another runner. We were kind of by each other, not chatting, but in earshot of each other when he bent down (we were now going UP rock candy mountain) to pick up an unopened HammerGel that someone had dropped. He said, you don’t know how glad I am that I found this. I said, it’s not a coincidence then dude, someone dropped it for a reason. He said, I don’t believe in that crap. No one dropped it for a reason. I picked it up for a reason. (He says to the girl that was possibly saved from gut belly dehydration issues because of two extra “mysterious” take your S!Cap now texts earlier in the day!) I didn’t respond. He ate the gel. Then he says, so do you really think we’ll make a sub-24 at this point? I looked right at him, started to actually RUN up rock candy mountain and said, I will.
Gone was the “tired” Gone was the “I think I just want to lay down here in the desert for a minute” Gone was the “am I almost done?” I passed every single person in front of me on the final loop. I lied and told them they looked great, just like we had all been lying to each other, with love, for the past stinkin’ 24 hours. They lied back and told me I looked great too and way to finish strong!
I felt like I was flying, I bet data would show otherwise, but I never put my watch back on (on purpose) so I’ll never really know for sure. My glo necklace was smacking my chin, so I wrapped it around my wrist like a bracelet. I came to the final turn, the final hill (Hill! Ha! A sidewalk ramp would’ve felt like a hill by this point!) and with all my might I ran it on in. But I did not have to circle the cones. I did not have to go back the way I came. This time I was done.
A week later: Toenails did not come off. Blisters did not need to be popped, as the intern podiatrists told me post race, those might just get reabsorbed. They did. My left foot big toe is still tender, but not painful like before. Feet are no longer swollen. And as of this writing, I can wear my boots! Chest rash is almost gone. Head one totally gone. No body pain. Walking gait is normal. Not bad for a week out! Honestly, it’s taken me longer to recover from a marathon!
Kudos: I trained all summer with some great folks who got me off the canal and into the woods (into the woods!) and onto the trails. I know that helped immensely. My ultra runner brother Tom shared with me all the advice and tips that were shared with him before his rookie 100 mile run and it all worked.
I will stay the course. No need to fix it if it’s not broken. Triangle training and time on feet COUNT! Breathing fixes everything! Listen to your body! Don’t over train. My race plan was a direct reflection of what my bro taught me. Steal whatever might work for you. It is a formula for success.
My husband, crew, partner in crime, supporter Tom I love you with all my heart and thank you for your support as I continue to challenge myself and my body. I think it’s funny that I finally found something that made me tired. Glad you were there to witness it.
Final Thoughts: Respect the distance. Run your race. The body follows the mind. Don’t over train. Have fun. And if nothing else, know this: You can do absolutely anything you decide you can do. Anything.