|I always wanted to run through 5 "Georges":-)|
While Richard Trice and I both were able to bring along our better halves, the remainder of our group from Huntsville, Mike Trice, James Duncan, Ed Johnson and Jay Naves, traveled solo. Bri (Richard's girlfriend) and Anya (my wife) were extremely "patient", putting up with a bunch of runners who wouldn't talk about anything but ultra running and the Olympics and who ended up waking up the entire house on Saturday morning at 3:30 AM screaming and cheering at Olympic coverage on TV while getting ready for the race. Yet, Anya and Bri still decided to do most of the work around the house, getting everyone fed before and after the race. If I hadn't said it before, Rich and I are two very lucky guys indeed!
Six of us (5 runners, 1 crew) loaded up my car and left for the race start at 4:30AM, excited to have another opportunity to run this amazing race (the smiles in the pic below are proof of that). This was Ed's first attempt and my second, while the others were going for their third finish. Initially, I just wanted to finish and treat this as the training race it was, since I had the Georgia Jewel 100 coming up just 6 weeks from now. But as always, I changed my mind and decided to challenge myself, targeting a sub 8 hour finish.
|We go to extreme lengths to get all runners in the picture, even if that means making one of us ride in the trunk:-)|
|Me briefly reminiscing with fellow Fuego Y Agua runner Mark Connolly at the start of LV.|
|Me crossing one of the many amazing bridges during the race.|
Finally, I had another change to my usual plan. Instead of SCaps, I had to use Salt Stick caps since my local running shop had run out of SCaps. While I was assured that they would work just as well, I should have known better than to use a new untested product during an ultra race. Well, once again I ended up learning this lesson the hard way.
|The first waterfall sighting on our run.|
22 miles in and we were all still moving well. At this point, I refilled my hydration bladder for the second time and I made sure to fill it all the way. I even drank a bottle of Nuun electrolyte drink to ensure proper hydration and electrolyte levels along with the hourly gels and caps. However, about 25 miles into our journey, I started to feel slight twitches in my left quad. As soon as I felt it, I took another couple of salt stick caps. This was new territory for me. I had never had to deal with cramps during an ultra, let alone this early in a race. James handed me a bottle of Gatorade and I guzzled that down as fast as I could. I had been hydrating, I had been taking in gels and salt via salt stick caps on a regular basis, yet here I was, starting to have leg cramps. I continued to be hopeful that they would subside eventually.
Just as I mentioned my muscle cramps to James, he started to feel nauseated. After relieving himself of some of the culprits (James called it "feeling pukey", I call it "blowing chunks on the trail"), we stopped for a little break to let him recover. While James sat down on the side of the trail, my attempt to sit down was futile. My legs seized up on me and, very frustrated, I tried to lean on a tree instead. During this time, Ed came just flying by, encouraging us to "come on". We had left him behind on a climb a couple of miles earlier and here he was, running like the race just started.
James recovered soon after we stopped once more to get some water to mix us some more Gatorade. I, on the other hand, continued to get worse. Muscle cramps became more frequent, now affecting my toes, shins, calves, hamstrings and quads. I would try to stretch one muscle only to have another seize up on me. It wasn't pretty. A sub 8 hour finish goal quickly disappeared and even a sub 9 hour finish came and went. I now had approached the final climb of the race and my quads and hamstrings started to cramp with every single step. There were a couple of embarrassing moments (e.g. questions from hikers like "can we help you" and "have you done this before") as well as some moments of petty from fellow racers. They didn't say it but it was written all over their faces. I didn't blame them. I was laying on my back, my face and body contorted in pain just 25 yards from the top of the stairs, yet I was unable to continue. I must have laid there for almost 15-20 minutes, one racer after another passing me by, offering their assistance. But what could they do? I had water, I had Salt Stick caps, but my muscles would not stop cramping. Eventually, I managed to get my butt off the ground without my legs locking up and crawled to the top and ultimately the finish line. To describe my movement as "shuffling" would be too kind.
|My Huntsville Ultra Running Crew at the finish line...everyone finished...and with a PR:-)|
|The print on the back of the race shirt says it all!|
The elevation profile below is what makes this particular 35 mile ultra marathon run like a true 50 miler. However, it is some of the most amazing single track trails you will ever run.
|You gotta love the elevation profile!|