Saturday, May 2, 2009

Miwok- The biggest learning experience!

Today was one of the best racing learning experiences of my life. A lot of things happened today, where if I were more prepared, the outcome may have changed, or maybe not...

I had a great sleep last night and woke to the sound of my alarm at 3:30am. I quickly ate breakfast and then got my race gear on. I had forgotten my heart rate monitor at home (I could of sworn I put it in my bag) which of course happens when you pack last minute (lessen # 1 learned). I helped put sport shield (similiar to body glide but less 'vaselinie') all over Peter's back, which I normally do myself because my camelbak chafes against my HR monitor, but because I didn't have it, I passed on the lube (lesson # 2- always wear body glide). We got to the start at 5pm, thanks to Peter's parents. It was pitch black and all you could hear was waves crashing in the background. It was windy! After checking in, getting everything ready, all of the starters were off to the beach for a start in the sand. Everyone headed into single track trail like one big giant ant farm. We quickly got onto a road that went 3 miles uphill. It was hot, and I quickly drew down my arm warmers and took my gloves off. I was happy about this weather because even if it did rain today (which is called for "light rain") I would be comfortable.

I ended up chatting to quite a few different people up this section, and quickly noticed I was working a little to hard for the start. I chatted with Joelle Vaught, who was doing her 1st 100km. She ended up coming 4th with a time of 9:57! I chatted with Scott Dunlap who was doing his like 100th race in 1 week. Last but not least, I found 2 guys who had done the race before and I was hitting them up for tips because they both ran 10 hours last year. I later found out they are both from B.C and Peter knows them well. We then went into a pretty nice decent and the pack started to widen. The course was pretty clear and the views were sensational, not to mention it was starting to get light out really fast. I ran with a guy "the woohooer" for the next hour or so. He was awesome and woo'd even more than I usually do. In fact, I didn't even have to, he did enough for the both of us. I was feeling pretty casual and trying to take it easy but steady. I reached the Muir aid station exactly when I wanted to and ran into Jurgen Watts Wife, Nina. Her and her son Ben were out cheering on the racers waiting for her husband and mine and Peter's friend Jurgen. I arrived at the aid station and needed to fill up my camelbak. One of the awesome volunteers offered to take my camelbak and fill it up as I kept running. So off I went! I ran into Peter's parents as the were driving into the aid station and ditched one arm warmer (I kept the other for a snot rag!) and my gloves. By the time I had done that, the voly was back with my bag. I quickly noticed that it was pretty much only half full (lessen # 3- always fill your own bag or watch them do it). I still trusted that I had enough to skip the Pantoll aid station and make it to the Bolina's aid station.

I ran with a guy from L.A and we had a very similiar pace. We chatted for quite sometime. The running in this section was awesome, reminded me of Costa Rica. Such a lush forest and the ground was so soft, reminded me of the Lynn Loop in the headwaters. There was still a lot of climbing and I alternated between a power hiking and running. After Pantoll aid station we went out onto Balina's ridge. This was fun and steady running. Not to hilly, very runnable and reminded me of the terrain at Way too Cool. I passed a few people on this section and met up with a guy I ran with a bunch at Way too Cool. I ended up running out of water but it was only about 15-20 minutes to Balina's aid station. This awesome kid filled up my camelbak as I held it open for him, ensuring it got completely full. I grabbed 3 more gels and headed downhill...or so I thought. This next section I ran with the guy from L.A until I had to take a bathroom break and he went ahead. It was very long, undulating and eventually it turned into a steep downhill. It is also the out and back section, so we got to see the leaders coming up. At this point I didn't know what place I was in, none of the vollies had said anything. I saw the lead men, but didn't know who any of them were, and then I saw Anita Ortiz, the first female. Kami Semick was not far behind and Caitlin Smith (doing her 1st 100km) was not far behind her. There was one more ponytail, or should I say 'pig tail', coming up the hill, which put me in 5th. I was pretty stoked about that. Gary Robbins had posted on Karl Meltzer's blog that I was a top 5 for sure, so part of me wanted to try and accomplish that. When I got to the end, I grabbed a wind proof jacket, some more gels, and 1/4 a PB & J sandwhich. I did not fill my bladder (lessen # 4- it's better to be safe than sorry). I headed back up and ran into Darin Bently. He is also on the Canadian 100km Team going to Belgium this summer. We ran together for a bit until I had to take another bathroom break. I was wondering why he was behind me but he told me he had gotten lost for about 25 minutes. I knew I was going to see Peter at some point and when I did, it couldn't have been a more perfect moment. No one was on the trail besides us. We both saw each other from afar and ran to each other like we were running through the meadows, arms spread, in slow motion. We hugged, kissed, and gave our best wishes. He looked so strong and I was glad he was having a great day. This uphill section was LONG! I could have sworn it went on forever. It was wet and my wind proof jacket quickly was soaked all the way through, rendering it useless. I had a wet hat on, wet sports bra and shirt, soaked shorts, and my feet were also soaked. There were monstrous puddles on course but nothing I am not used to. What I am not used to, is being in the rain, without the proper gear- Lessen # 5- it's better to be warm, than WAY TOO COLD!

I ran out of water and I had no clue how long it was back to the Balina's Aid Station. I was getting worried as I couldnt take any salt pills or fuel. I was getting increasingly worried that I was going to screw up my entire race because of such an idiotic mistake. I actually didn't feel toooo bad and after about 35 minutes I reached the aid station. My pace however, had definetly slowed. I grabbed 1/2 a PB and J, filled my bladder, and was off. I chugged a bunch of water and was actually feeling a bit better. Suzanna Bon was right on my heels. She was another lady who I was running around throughout the entire race. She was ahead of me for much of the start but then we switched roles and I was ahead for pretty much the rest.

What happened next was one of least fun things I have ever experienced during a race. We had to go back along Bolina's ridge to the Pantoll Aid Station. It was foggy, really foggy. So foggy that you could hardly see 5 feet in front of you. Not only that, it was muddy, so muddy that I feared slipping down the ridge that slanted down toward the water. If that wasn't enough, it was pissing rain and the winds were just ragging. The wind was blowing the rain right into my face and body. I was so cold. I wish I could describe in words how uncomfortable I was. Suzanna had caught up to me at this point. we were pretty much walking the ridge because it was easier than running. We both were not in a good place. I had such negative thoughts. I have thought about dropping out of races before but that's usually just the evil devil that sits on my left shoulder telling me that. In those situations, the angel on the right always tells it to shut up, this time, nothing was. Perhaps if I could see how beautiful the view was, that may have inspired me to get moving and keep running, but this was not the case. I just kept moving, taking the side piercing blows of rain wind that came at me. I was slipping and sliding all over the place because of the mud. I honestly had HAD IT! To top it all off, my hip flexors were seizing up, which made it hard to flex my leg with each step. Running uphill was starting to become difficult and painful and the only thing keeping me moving was going downhill.

We finally got out of the wind but by this time I was frozen and my hip flexors were out of commission. I literally had to lift my legs over fallen trees. By the time I got to the aid station, I knew I was done. At the time, I couldn't and wasn't willing to endure another 2-3 hours of this shit. I saw Peter's parents and just broke into tears. They did everything they could for me. They motivated me to keep going but in the end they knew it was my decision. One of the volunteers honestly tried her hardest to get me going. She rubbed my legs, got me to stretch, but nothing made the flexors feel better. Not to mention, the longer I stood there, the more they tightened. I decided I would wait for Peter, and make my decision to continue on then (lessen # 6- get your ass moving!). I for one know first hand that your body and how it reacts in a race changes drastically from one minute to the next. You can feel like absolute trash and then a few minutes later hit some different terrain or refuel and feel like a champion. Peter came in 20 minutes later. He had put 20 minutes on me in that section because I was 40 minutes ahead of him at the Randall turn around point. He was sad for me but he was willing to do anything to get me to the finish. I tested out my legs and although the rest of my muscles felt awesome, my hip flexors were preventing me from lifting my leg. In the end, as much as I was bummed, I let him go. I had never DNF'd before and even as I write this, I can't beleive I did. I wish so much that I had just kept going.

We watched Peter at the next aid station. He looked so good and kept such a steady pace. I was so proud of him. It was at this aid station that I found out that over 40 people had DNF'd already. The highest they had ever seen. That doesn't however make me feel any better about mine. We waited for him at the finish. My amazing boyfriend rocked this course. He came in under 11 hours (his goal) and ran such a strong steady race. He had everything dialed. He had 2 separate camelbak's that he had his parents rotate through and fill so all he had to do was exchange one of the other with them at the aid stations. He dressed appropriately and he even changed his shoes and socks twice. He finished his first 100 km and felt amazing. I am so proud of him. His organization and solid race plan allowed him to succeed. I am a bit more lackadaisical. I had a plan, but I could have been even more prepared.

A while after Peter finished, I asked him to go for a walk with me. I was very emotional. I balled on his shoulder and he comforted me. He was very sad for me that I did not finish. I felt, at that moment, a quitter. When I run, the one thing I am is not a quitter, but today was different. I had not planned for this.

BUT, with every wrong, there is a right. I learned soooo much from this race. From, never running out of water to packing for the weather. I know the feeling I felt when I DNF and that is something I never want to feel again. If I ever tell myself I want to quit, I will think back to this moment and how I felt. I wish you could see my back, I'll post pictures of it when I get home. It is soooo chafed, I cant actually lie back against the pillow on my bed. I am not looking forward to the shower. I was so proud of all my friends running out there today. I stayed at the finish for many hours cheering runners in, especailly my good buddy Jurgen. It found it to be very tough but in the end, he finished, and did his best. Everyone did so well, even under the weather circumstances. As I have only been running Ultra's for about 2.5 years, I look at all of them as practice. I will only get better with time and with more practice.

On a brighter note, I think my recovery from this race is going to be shorter and I'll be better recovered for the world cup 100km in 6 weeks. I can go redeem myself. I will definitely be back to do Miwok next year (as long as I can get in). There is some unfinished business that needs to be dealt with. Thanks again to the race director, volunteers, and Peter's parents, Keith and Flora. You guys made the day happen as it needed to. You made our team complete!

ps- sorry for my lack of pictures. I didn't bring my cord to San Fran. Will post at home.


David Ray said...

Tough one. I wandered over from Caitlin's and enjoyed your report. Thanks for sharing all the lessons learned. I think that'll help any of us that plan to run the long stuff. I added you to my stalker list so I'm looking forward to following your journey. Here's to a quick recovery!

wcaitlin said...

This sport is all about learning. Take all that energy to Belgium and kick some ass :). You're an amazing runner Nicola and just know that you're far from a "quitter." Every race is different and every day our bodies are different too. Hope to be out on the trails with you again at some point soon!

Hassan Lotfi-Pour said...

Nicola, I read your blog it is quite emotional. I am very sorry and feel for you. You are also one of the strongest girls I have ever met in my life. I know you will come back stronger and more determined than ever to take care of the unfinished business. "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. Confucius"

MJ said...

DNFs totally blow. Don't let it haunt you though... Look ahead to the next opportunity.

The race in Belgium is right around the corner and you'll be SUPER hungry.

Nicola Gildersleeve said...

I don't think you know how hungry I am!!!!!

Adam said...

Tough race Nicola, I could feel your pain (physical AND psychological) as I read your report. That must be one of the toughest moments, when your body is telling you "no more" yet your mind is unwilling to give in. Taking the experience as you have is inspiring; being able to learn from past choices is a must.

Kick ass in Belgium as you no doubt will!!

See you on the trails soon.

PS congrats to Peter!!

Darin said...

Hey Nicola. One of the highlights of my Miwok this year was meeting and talking to you. I have also learned some lessons from this race, mainly to have a jacket at least at the ready should it rain and maybe another pair of shoes. I hope none of the pictures of me in that XXXL poncho make it to any sites but it was hilarious to see. I think it acted like a sail and kept pushing me forward.
When you say you wish now you would have kept going, it's not like you just said f*ck it, I don't want to run any more. Your body and your hips were telling you something and you wisely listened. That alone is admirable. It's better to admit defeat there and recover and race well in a few weeks. We talked about doing a long run soon so let's make that happen. I'll email you soon. Take care.


Great race report. I love how you focused on the positives: the people you met&the things you learned. Fabulous attitude- it will take you far.

Jo Lynn said...

Okay, I saw you with your inlaws, at the TV aid station. I was the one taking numbers of the runners. Were you quite tall, thin, wearing dark brown tights? You may have asked me if Peter's number had been posted. I heard about "the woman with the frozen hip flexors." LOL. It's not funny but it's funny that I remember that being said. ;)

Joelle said...

It was great to see you out there and to get to chat for a bit! I'm sorry the race didn't turn out as you had hoped, but there's lots more races coming. I actually put on Body Glide before the race and was still chafed like crazy. That stuff just doesn't hold up runningin rain for 10 hours! Good luck, hopefully I'll see you at future races!