Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ragnar 155 Mile Race Report

I wrote some notes on the race and figured I'd just repost them and add some stuff, and add some lessons learned for my own sake at the start.

The basic just of it is that over the course of the race I made countless bad mistakes, and I got to the finish line thanks to the help of my crew and ultra mentors. Between the severe electrolyte deficit from miles 35-90, the lack of sleep the week before, the lack of eating the second night, and too much walking/sitting, I really left a lot of room for improvement. There's some ultras I've done in my past that I've just lucked out on as far as fueling and others that have been painful but I didn't really learn too much from. Running 155 miles is a good way to learn lessons and learn them good.

1) Try to sleep at some point within 18 hours before your race starts. - I calculated a midnight start on Friday morning would be the best way to cover the course and arrive on time for the relay teams finish. However I had too many lose ends with school and planning for the race that resulted in me getting around 15 hours of sleep in the 3 days leading up to the race. I took accountability for the whole expedition planning communication, where and when people should meet me, food, water, rotations for my crew, all my shoes and gear, navigating the course, and getting my own medic (not too bad for a 22 year old).. but it really took a lot out of me and didn't leave much for that horrible second night.

2) Always use salt caps or plenty of salt. -I really screwed this one up. I got a ton of free ultima which is a very weak electrolyte replacement, and used it instead of my regular table salt (which probably still wouldn't have been enough). As I came through Malibu, my legs started to crap pretty bad. I thought it was a caloric problem and at as much as I could, but nothing seemed to work. I basically wasted 3 extra hours (and a lot of extra energy) getting from 50-100 because I didn't have salt caps. Erick came out and saw me at mile 76 and laid on the enthusiasm because I actually really needed it and thought I couldn't run on pavement anymore.

3) Mentally prepare for the very worst moments. I've done some painful stuff in my life. I flirted with hypothermia/ran 8 miles with 45lb/swam in camies for 3/4 of a mile in 55 degree water in a 20 hour SEAL Screener back east, I ran 100 miles in the heat at Rio del Lago and pushed through 40 miles with IT band problems... but none of those things prepared me for deeper levels of exhaustion and sleep deprivation after running for 26 hours (and not sleeping for 45 hours). I did this race to find out how I would react, and I found out that I completely freaking whigged out, but that I didn't give up at the worst moments. Still, I could've been better prepared.

4) Run a practice ultra before an important race to get your logistics dialed in. My last race was in November, and when I started this race, I don't think me or my crew really remembered all the really important stuff.

5) ALWAYS have faith in your body. One good thing about this race, is that it burned such a painful memory into my mind that I fully believe my body can overcome almost any challenge in a race.

To everyone that sent messages, prayers, positive vibes, met me along the course, PACED ME, fed me, stretched me, electrolyted me, caffienated me, demanded I keep going.. THANK YOU!

This is basically what happened in the race:

I started at midnight in Santa Barbara. The start line was empty, but it didn't matter and we started anyways. I met the race director at mile two who had been asleep but wanted to give us our official packet (btw, he comped my entry and printed some nice "solo runner" shirts.. he's a really nice guy)

I got lost twice in the first 30 miles, but ran strong through the 2-4am period and finished the first 31 miles just under 5 hours. I was using the camelbak and real basic snacks, but the adrenaline of taking this on kept me awake. We didn't run 101, but measured the distance we were on it, and then drove that distance down the road on the next stage and I doubled back to even it out. I turned off my head lamp and looked up at the brightest stars I've seen in awhile. It was a surreal feeling zipping along the coast 30 yards from the water while most of the world slept. Other than having to go number two, miles 12-22 were amazing.

mile 30-37 was rough. Eventhough the sun came out, I was worn out and my shoes for the last 30 miles started to wear out (kayano's have too much gel to run more than 30 miles at a clip). I gutted it out and got to breakfast almost 100 minutes later.

I realized how much I hate running through the city. Oxnard was noisy and loud at 7am. I pushed on and got to the countryside where I felt incredibly insignificant among the beautiful fields.

I hit the 50 mile mark at 9:30 and was more or less on pace for a 188 finish in 40+ hours however around mile 56 I started bonking. I wasn't getting enough electrolytes from my current sources and the legs started to feel like they had run much farther than I actually had.

Another problem was my crew early on (mom and dad and aunt) were enjoying the trip a bit too much. I had two planned stops where they either were late or parked 3 miles farther down the road.. really pretty frustrating when things aren't going well.

To help with the cramps, I started relying on caffeine through Malibu.. however this was just a temporary fix before the electrolyte deficit really started kicking in. The combination of concrete, the hills of Malibu, some hot sections, and NO SALT CAPS along PCH led to me taking about 10 hours to cover miles 50-86. At Trancas (mi 66), I was attracting attention in the supermarket parking lot as I lied on my back and groaned in pain and tried to keep my head stable. Somehow my medic checked my weight and blood pressure and said I was fine (i definitely wasnt). I crawled through the hills to Pepperdime and met Eric who generously gave me a much needed boost. My mom and little sister got me through the noisy, crowded, dangerous 10 miles from Pepperdime to Sunset blvd. I was downing pedialyte and ultima but nothing was working and when i got to mile 86. I was frustrated and exhausted and wanted to give up since the sun was beginning to set and I felt like I would never make it.

At 86 I got my salt pills and was a whole new man. When I got to Santa Monica Pier and saw the relay teams vans for the first time, it was a huge boost. I charged through Venice with my big sis, and was determined to make it to Dana Point and hit the 100 mile mark at 21:30 - (2 hours for 14 miles is pretty good at this point in the race).

I had some chicken noodle soup at mile 103, but when I got out of the RV and started shaking, I threw up. My body basically was having trouble maintaining it's core temperature. Getting to the RV at the end of each stage was big mentally, but starting a new stage was like watching a crazy-cripple-drunk-shivering man try to walk.

Still I pushed the bike path from playa del rey to redondo fairly well. Katie and I messed with some of the other teams along the strand.. most other runners were shocked that I was running next to them and had run for 108 miles already.. kinda cocky, I know, but it was fun. Then ran with Jimmy and Kate (just did LD 50), doing well through the bars in Hermosa/ Redondo.

The sleep deprivation and faster pace stated catching up to me BIG TIME from Redondo Beach to Crenshaw.. I was walking too much with my pacers and my legs were getting shot. I took a pretty good shot of caffeine eating a whole pack of power bar gel blasts at once, and started shaking me neck/upper torso uncontrollably for a couple miles... it was pretty ridiculous. Peter was freaked out, but Jimmy acted like there was nothing wrong but made sure I stayed out of the street. I got to the next aid station and looked like a zombie (literally) and laid down in the RV and let my body rest, but my eyes wouldn't shut, so I got up after 4 minutes.

Apparently my crew was debating pulling me with Jimmy while I was in the RV. They thought I should be pulled from the race, while Jimmy argued I had to have all the support they could muster to keep me mentally in the race, and that I wasn't in danger yet. Jimmy won.

The climb up Western seemed to take forever. Most of the crews were past me, and I was in no man's land with Katie as we pulled into the aid station. I took my first nap for about 7 minutes at mile 118. After I saw the map and realized how little we'd covered I began to cry because I didn't know if I'd make it to the end before tomorrow night. I sat for a bit and ate what I could and pushed on to 123 with peter through some confusing hills when sunrise finally came. I was pretty cranky, but peter kept me in check and away from traffic.

Katie got the happy Dominic as I finally accepted that I was doing my best and that I was going to push on and be happy with whatever happened, because shit, 120 some-odd miles is a long freaking way. Every step thereafter was a victory as I went farther than I have ever gone before.

I ran with my little sister through wilmington along PCH for 3 miles before I did the last 3.3 alone.. Pretty much one of the ugliest most industrial parts of the course. I also got IT band problems from some undersupportive shoes.. It hit bad at mile 135 at 1030 am or so.

I took a 7 minute nap, and stretched and hobbled on with my big sis through long beach. The heat started to come out, and I made extra sure to stay on top of the salt caps this time. I looked like a crazy bum along the bike path with my hat with the neck covering, and unrubbed in sunscreen, but I really didn't care.

I met my "sled dog" katelyn in the middle of the bike path. She was awesome and upbeat when we talked but also quiet when I was trying to focus and get the miles out of the way. Good stuff.

I ran 3.5 with katelyn to pch/2nd street, mile 142.4 and called up the Race Director and asked him to calculate the total milage the other teams had run. I had intended to go 188, but my pace at the time put me finishing around sunday morning, without any race personal there. With the cuts from 101, and Malibu, the total was 154.2. Me and katelyn mapped out a route that gave me the milage with a little to spare, but still was less than a mile short. The idea was to drive down to about a mile from the finish and run in the last mile and then cross the finish line with my Dad.

I was trying to coordinate with my mom about where to meet me next, and between the sleep deprivation between the two of us and the fact that neither of us knew the new course very well, we spent 15 minutes on the phone accomplishing nothing :D Finally we met up and decided we'd run 2.2 more miles down the road, so me and katelyn would start running, and the RV would leave 20 minutes after we left and pick us up at 2.2 miles or beyond.. However the pick up sport supposedly wasn't safe enough, and my mom drove right past us and picked us up a quarter mile later in a "safer spot"

We zoomed down to Dana Point, and I jumped out over a mile from the finish and met Jimmy and Kate to run in with Katelyn. The finish line came up and we almost passed the last team, but elected to wait and finish in style with my Dad running in the last 100 yards with me.

I had an arrogant bastard ale and got a massage and felt incredible.

They hung 12 medals on me even though it hurt my neck, the photo opp was too good to pass up.

We went out for dinner and got lost, but I eventually got a big bowl of pasta and finished half before I started to fall asleep. I got in the RV and knocked out completely on the hard floor. We got home and I knocked out. I don't even remember getting out of the RV or coming up the stairs or my sister wiping me down, all I remember is being in my room and seeing my bed and then blacking out.

I woke up 8 hours later and went to a 2 mile walk for the parkinson's fundraiser. Repeated the finishing shot with my dad (a bit more sorely), had more italian food, came home and cleaned the RV and did a little homework before knocking out for another solid 8 hours.

154.2 miles, 39:59:34


Katelyn said...

you're rock star.

Peter said...

Good report man! I'm ready for badwater when you get in.

Dane said...

Fantastic stuff.