At 6:30AM on that Saturday morning, in the predawn coolness the sound of bagpipes could be heard echoing off the canyon walls. In a about an hour the ball of fire would peek over the horizon heating up the canyon, but for now the 45 degree temperature gave cause to don a jacket. At 5 minutes to 7:00 runners began lining up to start either the 50 mile or 50K trail run. A moment of silence to honor Red, a prayer asking our Heavenly Father for protection and guidance and then the gun went off sending a flurry of runners into the predawn morning.
The course is a 12.5 mile loop with 4 aid stations. For the 50 mile race, that meant running through this awe inspiring canyon 4 times. As one runner stated, the first loop is fun and games, the second loop is to establish a good pace, the third loop is for your mental toughness and the final loop is for your farewell tour. The course is never flat. You are either ascending or descending but there is never much climbing. I fell in behind a seasoned Ultra veteran who kept me from going out too fast. At one point he said I'm going to walk the climbs. I replied good. He mentioned that he looks at a hill and if it looks like he is going to have to walk on the fourth loop, he goes ahead and walks on the first. Good advice. I wrap up my first loop right on time and felt really good. My parents even mentioned on how good I look. Thus I began the next loop in good spirits and feeling great. Same philosophy as the first loop and I fall in with Ann who eventually won the 50 miler for the women. Things are going well. I am running the down hills well and maintaining a good pace. Ann and I keep leap frogging each other. She gave way to me for the downhills and during my walk breaks she would run ahead. At mile 20 or so I feel some discomfront on the outside of my left knee. From everything I have heard or read...sounds like a ITB issue. Where did this come from. I have never had problems with this. It continues to nag and as the miles go one I feel increasing pain especially in the downhills...my strength.
I wrap up the second loop at mile 25 but my left knee is screaming at me on the down hills. My legs feel like legs should feel at 25 miles and actually the rest of my body was doing well. But each down hill was only getting worst. At mile 27 I began struggling even walking the downhills with the sharp shooting pain through my knee. This was the easy part of the trail. Wait till I get to no mans land in the back of the canyon. My mind and body had an argument at this point. "Push through...push through it." "It's a freaking Ultra...you are suppose to hurt." "This was different than normal pain. This was injury pain." "Where do I draw the line?" "Can I walk it in and still make the cutoffs?" At about mile 29 I hoof it back about a mile to the last station. I look down and utter the hardest words I have ever said. "I don't think I can make it...with the cutoffs and all." Because of the road access to the station they are able to ride me back to the start/finish line. I report to the timekeepers table...and state, "number 34 DNF."
I sit down in a lawn chair and felt like I was going to throw up. Not from sickness but from the very thought of quiting. I have never quit anything. I should have pushed. What have I done. I have let so many people down. Walking to my car was a reminder of the ITB pain. Twenty more miles...? On this knee that seemed to refuse to function properly walking to the car?
At this point I have some people to thank.
First my wife and 3 kids who are so supportive. Bren has always been there, either boiling potatoes for the next mornings long run or encouraging me at different races.
Rick Gaston, mentor, friend and ultramarathon phenom who can run 50 miles in under 8 hours and who has run more 100's this year than most people run 10K's.
Russ and BrendaC who are endurance athletes in their own rights. BrendaC an Ironwomen and Russ...good grace on your first Ironman this next weekend.
So, where does that leave me? A couple of weeks of with rehabbing the knee...probably get a lot of spin work in. Next, the Whiterock Marathon...the original reason I got off the couch about year ago. There are more 50K's and plenty of 50 milers within driving distance...and oh yeah...The Palo Duro Trail Run will be done on my conditions! They told me to keep my number. I have marked DNF across the front and will hang it on my wall in my office as motivation!
Here are some pictures of the weekend:
1st Loop down...feeling good...If you feel good during an Ultra, You'll Get Over it!
Runners on the trail...the one in Front is Ann from Denver
Ann again up front