Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Quad Rock

Three days later, I am still so sore that walking is not much fun.  I even had a chance to go and do a few days of fieldwork in Casper this week and had to pass because I physically cannot excavate.  Bending down to get in and out of a test unit sounds like nothing short of torture at this point.

The main issue I had with this race was the 5:30am start time.  That made getting to the race logistically challenging. I could either leave Laramie at four in the morning and head down, or I could head down the night before.  We chose to head down the night before and camp at South Bay of Horsetooth Reservoir.  However, we did not get out of Laramie until 7:30, so by the time we got down there and set up camp, it was already 9pm.  

I camped because it was cheaper and somewhat closer to the race start.  However, the campground was packed with obnoxious people with screaming children, large RVs, generators, and a complete lack of regard for others around them.  People were driving through the campground all night long, and the road noise from the highway never ceased.  We had neighbors who stayed up all night next to their fire.  Around 3am, one of them, apparently suffering from smoke inhalation, had a coughing fit that reverberated throughout the campground.  The point of this paragraph is to illustrate that going into what became a trail marathon, I got maybe two hours of sleep.  I will not be camping there again.

The last time I felt good.  Photo by Elizabeth.

The race start was, of course, packed, and parking was an issue.  However, we did get there with just enough time to spare.  The one nice thing about long trail races is that they require no warm-up.  The sun was just barely peaking over the horizon when we started.  The first few miles were easy and gradual, primarily on roads and a wide single-track.  I fell in line with Sam Malmberg and caught up on life and running.  It was relaxed.  Unfortunately, we started up Towers and that all came to an abrupt end.

I felt good half-way up Towers.  Then I no longer felt good.  I started walking.  By the time I got to the aid station at the top, I was already getting frustrated.  I had to take a few minutes to recoup before heading down to Horsetooth Falls.  It was that section that ruined the race for me, I believe.  I was still okay coming off Towers, but I chose to bomb down to the falls, and trashed my legs in the process.  I wasted too much energy on that descent.  Rookie, dumbass mistake.

The climb out of the falls and to the Horsetooth trail head and the second aid station was not too bad.  Elizabeth had made it around and was hiking and cheering.  It was good to see her.  That boosted my morale, if only for a short time.

Coming out of Horsetooth Falls.  Photo by Elizabeth.

After the second aid station, we began the long climb up Horsetooth.  I nearly dropped out at that point.  It was a humid morning and my calves, as is their habit, succumbed to lactic acid as soon as I started climbing.  I thought, "y'know, I could just turn around and head back to the trail head.  Elizabeth is there and can take me home.  I don't need this shit."  I kept going.

Horsetooth pissed me off.  I spent most of that trail cursing under my breath to myself.  When I finally got back to the Towers aid station, I was beat, and still looking at 11 or 12 miles.  I shoved as much food down my throat as I could and made sure I was refilling my water bottle.  With the humidity that morning, I was dehydrated most of the race (I did not stop to pee once, which was a problem).  

I started down from Towers and was caught by another runner who I believe was named Danny.  I honestly don't remember.  He was fantastic.  He paced me, talked me off the ledge, and gave me hope for a few miles that things were going to eventually end.  He would later go out for a second lap because he was a 50-miler.  And I was a chump.

Arthur's aid station gave me more water and food.  Unfortunately, it was at the base of the Howard's climb, which was a continuous switch back up and up and up, eventually coming out near Arthur's Rock.  About half-way up, I tripped, and while I did not actually fall, the effort I made to catch myself threw every muscle in my upper body out of whack.  I had to sit down for a second and catch my breath.  I've never had to catch my breath without actually falling first.  It hurt.  Bad.  I probably should have just fallen.

The worst part of that climb was the descent down to the finish.  I had nothing left in my legs, and the steep, winding descent was a struggle to stay upright on the trail.  One can see the finish line all the way down the descent, tantalizingly close yet, on the winding trail, it never seemed to get any closer. I was not enjoying my Saturday morning.

The last mile wound through the burn area and did eventually find its way down.  However, I took a wrong turn right at the end, in front a race volunteer who was not paying attention.  I realized my mistake after I had lost another place in the standings.  I turned back and made eye contact with the volunteer and shrugged my shoulders at him in an attempt to ask him, "What the HELL?!"  He apologized and I continued down the right way.  The point was moot by then anyway.

Finally done.  Photo by Elizabeth.

I honestly was on the verge of tears when I finished.  I exhibited some poor sportsmanship by disgustedly tossing my water bottle to the side and stumbling away.  Elizabeth, bless her, was there to again calm me down.  She has been an incredible team player when it comes to this running thing.

I was unprepared for this race and perhaps a little naive regarding its brutality.  Our late spring has made trails inaccessible to running, and the Greenbelt is not analogous to the trails in the foothills. The course had over six thousand feet of climbing on it.  And they were long, steep climbs.  The more I attempt that type of running, the more apparent it becomes that I am simply not a climber.  I am not built for it.

Yep.  There's the problem.

It was a humbling experience.  Finishing 26th overall in 4:34:42 was much worse than I anticipated.  I do not know what to do in regards to reconciling my ego with my ability.  The two, currently, exist in different realities.

It's been a long held belief that one should settle on the shortest distance at which one can be successful.  That distance, obviously, can change over time, given age, speed, fitness level, and general ability.  Right now, I may be trying to do too much.  I hypothesize that my current age, speed, and ability level may lend themselves more to the half-marathon or 25K distances.  On flatter courses.  The ultra stuff seems like it is over my head, physically and psychologically (in which lies my primary issue).

I will still be at Bighorn next month.  But after that, I may forego this ultra stuff for a while longer.


  1. Or just enjoy the scenery, camaraderie, and personal tests... Good job pushing through it with blown quads.

  2. Hey Ragan! I ran with you for a short jaunt down towers, it is funny how you can give someone a bit of hope without even knowing it :). I think you should reconsider sidelining these ultras, you like to be built with the right stuff, that is a very tough course and can take you out mentally and physically in short order. Best of luck at Bighorn! hopefully bump into you on the trails again sometime. Cheers, Danny

    p.s. I did manage 20th in the 50 miler, was mostly happy with the day.

  3. Thanks a bunch, Danny! I appreciate the comment as well as the company during the race. You helped me tremendously. You continued on to have a pretty good day, from the looks of it!

    I'm glad to see I remembered your name correctly. I'm horrible with names, sorry. I do hope to see you on the trails again!