I sat next to the trail on brown dried leaves that had fallen from nearby trees. Little ants scurrying here and there, busy attending to their daily tasks. I was in a bad place mentally after puking everything inside my stomach a quarter mile back down the trail. I was able to find this quite comfortable resting spot as my mind and body were not interested in going any farther. Out of water and nutrition, my Garmin currently read 30.7 miles with another 2.5 miles to the finish line. I wasn’t sure if I would get there.
Four weeks after Palo Duro, I had the pleasure to volunteer and run the Rockledge Rumble 50 km trail run put on by the North Texas Trail Runners. Conditions were pleasant with temps ranging from 60 – mid-70s. I loved it. I arrived to the race site around 5:15 am and helped with the 50 km check-in until 7 am when I began getting ready for the 7:30 am start.
My race plan was simple. Use this race as a supported training day in my build up to Bandera in January.
Miles 0 – 20.5
As the 50 km runners were told to “Go” by a military Veteran, I began my journey by walking the first five minutes and talked with a couple guys from Houston that also walk the first five minutes or more depending on the distance of the race. I figured getting behind everyone would definitely help hold me back with race excitement flowing through my veins. It also is a fun way to chat with various runners when you move your way through some of the athletes.
The trail is mostly single-track that dances up, down, and around a forested area along Grapevine Lake. It is basically and out-and-back course that requires a second shorter out-and-back section to complete the distance.
There was a nice layer of leaves over much of the trail that also hid some of the rocks and roots. Within the first three miles, I took a soft landing digger. I laughed to myself and thought, that sure didn’t take long. Throughout the day I noticed plenty of others had left a bit of themselves with the trail and had the blood to prove it. I knocked the dirt off my amphipod handheld and continued my relaxed journey.
It really was a great morning to be out running! Being out in nature on a trail, only amplified the experience.
I made it to the far-gate aid-station (mile 10.5 – farthest point) in about 2 hours feeling quite comfortable and relaxed.
The run back to the start area was fairly uneventful. I enjoyed the periodic views of the lake as the water radiated and sparkled on this clear day. Boats were scattered throughout the body of water and it appeared some sailing club/race event was also enjoying this wonderful morning with sails flying high. I stepped my way up the dozen or so sand stairs back to the start/finish area in a time of 3:52 (mile 20.5).
I was starting to feel a bit hungry so I grabbed a couple banana chunks, filled my bottle, and started my journey back to the trail head for the final out-and-back.
Miles 20.5 – 26.9
It was 6.4 to the turn-back point. About 2-3 miles out, I would see other 30km/50km runners heading back to the start/finish and I began to see people’s soul/spirit. I witnessed plenty of discomfort along with a huge amount of determination. There were bloody knees, dirty shirts, glossy eyes, and hats no longer placed perfectly on top of one’s head. It was getting very real for many athletes. It was unique experience to observe.
Little did I know that is was going to get very real for me quite close to this exact spot.
The 6.4 miles to the final turn-back location gradually became tougher with each passing mile. I began to insert more walk breaks throughout the run and started the return trip with a running time of 5:17 (mile 26.9). My energy levels were continuing to drop significantly. The last couple aid stations I was hoping for a caffeine boost and knocked back a cup of Coke at each and grabbed a few grapes to munch on along the way.
Mile 26.9 – 30
For the next three or so miles I implemented a walk for one minute, run for one minute song and dance. I did decide to sit briefly on the side of a seemingly unused road when the muscle on the outside of my right lower leg colossal cramped. It cramped in such a way that it completely locked my entire right ankle. I could not move my foot!
First, I have never cramped in this location before and to have a foot that now seemed fused to my leg was bazaar. This sitting thing wasn’t going to work so I pulled my body and peg-leg into a standing position and massaged the crap out of the rigid muscle that was nearly popping out of my skin. After about 15 seconds of pressure and friction, the muscle release and I had mobility once again.
Over the next three miles energy levels were low and the Coke seemed to be having no affect. Walk, run, whatever, keep moving forward. Then while walking at mile 30 my stomach felt odd. My stomach wasn’t bloated yet I felt like I could lose my lunch.What to do? Promote it to happen or ignore this sensation?
I have removed the contents of my stomach only one other time in the last 9+ years of endurance sports and that was 10 miles into the marathon of my first Ironman triathlon. I ended up shoveling in way too many calories at the start of the run therefore my stomach shut down, it bloated like a beached whale, and my energy levels were near zero. I visited a Spiffy Biffs in that race and discharged the delightful concoction in my stomach and was able to start running again, feeling 100% better.
With that experience in mind, I pulled off the trail and out it came. Dang, I think my stomach shut down.
Mile 30 – 33.22 (the finish)
I began to start walking again, hoping for a similar Ironman improvement to occur. It didn’t and my energy levels continued to drop. I walked my way to a shaded area at mile 30.7 and decided to sit next to the trail in hopes of resting enough to have the desire to keep moving. A few runners passed me along the trail. Most had their head down and were dealing with their own internal challenge.
After a bit of reflection while looking at the dried leaves surrounding where I sat, two racers were power walking towards me and stopped. They said I was coming with them. I told them I was not in a good place and to go ahead. They fortunately didn’t listen to me so I got myself off of the ground and was positioned in between my two trail angels.
Andrea was leading with Butch completing our train. We hiked/power-walked through the switch-back portion of the trail. Andrea chatted away and I did my best to respond in my glucose reduced state. We eventually made our way out to the shoreline trail which meant one thing; we were almost done.
With 40 meters to go, Andrea inspired us to run it in and so we did. I told Butch to move in front of me as there was no way that I was going to finish in front of him. Up the various layers of rock and up the sand stairs, we crossed the finish line in 7:15:11, 7:15:13, and 7:15:17.
We all received our custom hand made clay medals.
I am so grateful for all that Andrea and Butch did to help get me through those final 2.5 miles. Thank you!
Also, thanks to all the volunteers that made this event possible. It was a top notch affair.
Post Reflection (after a day or so of confusion)
Sometimes you don’t get what you want, you get what you need.
As I continue my training for Bandera 100 km in January, this experience adds new fire and focus as I try to complete my first 100 km on a course much tougher than Grapevine lake. The journey is not over yet.
Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com
(Race Photos: Courtesy of Mike Potter)
Posted on 17 Nov 2009
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