Saturday, July 12, 2014

24 Miles of Lemons

Endurance racing is difficult. Really, it’s not one of those things you can just go out on a whim and say, “I think I’m going to race blah,” and go out and do it. Granted, there are people in the world who fit into a small percentage of anomalies who can do that, but they don’t count. I’m talking about the average run of the mill, generic Brand X person. Chances are, when the average person goes out to do an endurance race, they train and will perform at an average to below average ability. It’s like this: we’re not going to be winning any marathons any time soon. 

With that in mind, I’d like to recap my most recent endurance race: the Troop Trot 39K Fastpack. What is that, you ask? It’s a trail race. That means it’s not being ran on a road or paved surface. It means it’s being ran on dirt, unpaved, rocky at parts, rooty at others, and full of hills. Oh, and ticks. Most trail runs come with a side order of ticks, free! There are no bathrooms, no porta pottys, and even though you are in the woods, if you do have to pull over to squat somewhere, chances are you’ll be spotted at some point. There’s wild animals. The plus side is there’s a lot of shade. The down side: if anything happens, it’s usually a long way to a medic station and due to the nature of the environment, something always happens. 

The Fastpack is all that and then some. Instead of getting the luxury of running 24 miles and getting to stop off at the aid stations for water and food, you have to supply everything yourself. Not really a big deal for a seasoned trail runner. Most of the time, on long runs, you bring your deal of water and electrolytes anyway. The kicker on this one: you need to bring the 10 scouting essentials with you. That means you’re also bringing food and water, carrying a sleep system, a change of clothes, pocket knife, compass, map, sunblock, rain gear, first aid kit, and a fire starter. So those pesky little 3.3 lbs (1.5 liters) of water your hydration pack weighs on that awesome little light weight Camelback you’re used to carrying is now more like 4.5 lbs (2 liters) in a day pack with an additional 5 – 6 lbs of weight from the pack and all the crap shoved inside of it. On a good day, you’re looking at just under 10 lbs. (I managed to get mine down to a low 8.6 lbs WITH water on race day!)

Still sound like fun? Perhaps. You see, it’s a miserable feat, but the challenge is where the fun lies. Torture testing one’s abilities in the past on endurance only goes so far. Yes, now it is time to up the game and see just how much the body can truly handle!

So, whenever I run, I tend to think about all sorts of random stuff to keep my mind preoccupied. Honestly, you can only stress yourself out focusing on the road and all obstacles ahead of you for so long. Somewhere along the attempted 24 miles of agony, I had an epiphany: this race parallels Roadkill. I know you may be saying that’s pretty far fetched and it probably is. I’m guessing somewhere in my deprivation of rest, hydration, food, and excess of sweating, sweltering heat, and state of running delusion, I may be going out on a limb here, or not. You decide.

This is pretty similar to 24 Hours of Lemons with the Plymouth Fury. (Please, watch it if you've never seen it! You're welcome.) Why this one? Probably because it is one of the most epic Roadkill fails complete with a lack of thought, preparation, and well, it’s an endurance race torture test.

Somewhere, there is this grand idea: LET’S DO AN ENDURANCE RACE! So what happens? Instead of taking a good performing vehicle, they take one that runs but needs work. It’s low budget. I run. I’m not in the best performance, but with a little tweaking I think I can do this. Operative word: think. 

So you do all kinds of crazy stuff in preparation for a race. They burn crap off the Fury. I set up these great and overly ambitious training plans. Instead of training, I gorge the night before on fried pickles, chicken wings, salad, and watermelon.

Of course, come race day, you show up completely unprepared. They barely pass inspection and have to do modifications, I think I’ve ran one 20 mile run in my entire training back in May. On a road. At night. It was flat. Not to mention I have yet to crap out all the junk that has been sitting inside my gut from the night before. Luckily, thanks to the running gods and Dunkin Donut's coffee, I managed to go 30 minutes before the start. I was so relieved I wouldn't have to pinch a loaf on the trail! Plus, I had the luxury of being able to use a bathroom back at the park... with one-ply toilet paper! WIN!

But you go out anyway. Adrenaline hits. You have this awesome state of euphoria. You’re racing! Even though I made a wrong turn a mile in and had to go back, I was still kicking butt! I was actually running about 2 minutes per mile faster than my expected pace, which was good because there were some difficult areas where I had to slow down severely. It was the second trail pee that was not so great where I thought I wound up getting my own pee on myself. Not cool. Literally, it was warm! It was also getting close to the color of a pale ale, so I just had to up my water intake. Some 8.5 miles later, I finished the first loop. The distance was off and it was longer than what was advertised, but I felt pretty good and kept going.

Yes... yes, we're racing.

Epic running fail moment: getting lost in the first mile and this nice gal pointing me in the right direction... some 3 miles away from where she's at.

What the eff?! This is what trail run nightmares are made of! Behold, Death Rock Mountain! It's hard to tell, but it's steep, covered in moss, and wet. Oh, did I mention there's a ton of FIRE ANTS on there, too!? If you don't fall to your death slipping on wet moss and sliding down the side, you'll fall on your butt and be eaten to death by fire ants! Fortunately, I survived...

Then, that moment comes. The moment shit gets real. You’re nearing the halfway point, thinking you’ve got it and you’re gonna make it. Then, shit hits the fan. You overheat. Performance goes downhill fast. You slow down to reassess and see if that helps. It doesn’t. You’re limited by your ego. Do you do the smart decision and pull over and stop? Or do you continue because you’ve made it this far and you’re damned if you’re going to get your first DNF (did not finish). Along the path, I remembered seeing some blackberries or black raspberries and used that moment to add up some more food that wasn't sweet or salty but just fruit. Really, I needed fruit. Oh, and I saw a deer.

My pack in all of it's glorious 8.6 lbs and my big ol' butt and all it's glorious 8.6 lbs (or more...)

The Lemons episode ends with failure. The car doesn’t finish. Freiburger bogarts the good racing time leaving Finnegan to get stranded on the track and require help getting picked up.

Mine? Well, let's just say there was an equal amount of failure. I was overheating bad and running low on water. My hips hurt, my knee, surprisingly was fine, and my feet felt good thanks to my new Saucony Peregrine 4's, but I was just exhausted. I kept thinking about how much I wanted BBQ and to see the car show and have a Coke or turbocharged unsweet tea if they had any. What I couldn't do was distract myself enough to continue another 8 miles.

I got my first DNF after completing 2/3 of the race. It's kind of heartbreaking to know you're that close to finishing and giving up, but it's probably best that I did so instead of risking repeat injuries and possible heatstroke.  I was hot as hell, tired, and hungry. I also didn't have nearly enough water left to get me through those last 8 miles and my health is worth more to me than the awesome medals up for grabs. I saw Perry as I made it in from the second loop with about 17 miles under my belt some 5 hours later. He was volunteering at the event and served as a voice of reason reminding me I was limited to my supplies, which at this point, were low.

I thanked the troop leader for putting on the race, chatted a bit and headed to the bathroom to take a hobo bath in the sink. I changed into my clean "dry" shorts. They weren't dry, though, thanks to my bootysweat soaking through the base of my pack. Also, at some point I got real poison ivy on my shoes or calf sleeves because when they rubbed against my clean shorts, guess who got exposed to poison ivy on their inner thighs by their bikini area and their upper thighs? That's right. I was extremely lucky to have not chaffed this time around, but I would prefer chaffing to the burning itching of the poison ivy and the fun hive like rash it left.

I didn't get a medal today, but my consolation prize wasn't too bad: BBQ and a car show! I'll call that a win, but the rest of the day was a major fail.

So, will I try to retrain, buck up, and do the Troop Trot 39K Fastpack next year? Probably not. I’ll most likely throw my pack in a corner somewhere to die. Instead, I'll just go back and do the 10K next year and tow out the Satellite. Jesse even said he'd do the 10K with me if I go, so, there you have it!

On that note, here's some car show pictures because, why not?

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