Friday, March 11, 2016

Black Canyon 100k

It's kind of funny to think that I've been running any kind of races, let alone 100 milers in competition for the last couple or so years.  That's right, in competition.  It's so wild.  The reason I say this is because I hated sports until I started running, and really probably still do in a certain way.  I grew up playing music in a small American town in north western Pennsylvania.  I therefore was inclined to not appreciate competition, as I was already favoring the punks, artists, and musicians over any associations with high school sports (jocks).  It's a shame that being a real individual was so complicated in the time and place.  All of my surroundings seemed so divided, so black and white, all of which fostered an impression that the world is small. However, I always thought running was so badass. That, and soccer.  I did neither.  But, I wanted to.

Fast forward-February 2016, I live with another ultra/mountain runner who is 4 years younger than me.  His name is Avery Collins.  He was, and kind of is a jock.  This is a dude that I would have hated in high school.  He would have hated me as well.  He listens to the kind of rap I can't take seriously, country, and some other random shit.  I listen to nothing shitty, that's all.  It's my blog, after all. Avery and I moved in together without knowing a damn thing about each other, besides meeting for five minutes after Table Rock 54 in 2013.  We're both huge pains in the asses, but at the end of the day, we've developed a really great friendship, and have had some amazing journeys since moving to Steamboat (so many miles on the corolla).  It's been hilarious how much we have in common for being so different.  I think we have equal laughs at each other.  We both think we're much cooler than the other.  We've agreed to disagree. So far I've got him into Trampled by Turtles,  The Roots, Otis Reading, and somehow Blink 182 and Rancid.  He got me on the rap song that's like "These hoooooooees, they fuck everybody."  Is that Juicy J?  Then, another one that's like "is that your girl, oops, I'm sorry."-love that one.  Lastly, he's making me hate country less.  I don't like it, mainly because it is really great pop music with some lame guy/chick singing with a country twang, frequently having laughable lyrics.  However, I am trying to understand, slowly but surely.

With this all being said, it's time to talk running.  Avery and I hopped in my car on the Thursday, and cranked the drive to North Phoenix in about 12 hours.  We arrived at our hotel around 3am, got some fast food burritos, then got some sleep.  As soon as we woke up, we drove to the finish line, and I went out for 3 or 4 miles, while Avery went for a bit longer.  While I waited for him to get back to trailhead, I chatted with some people, and had a few laughs.  Afterwards, we did the packet pickup thing, ran a few errands, then had pizza with our friend Chris, his girlfriend Kat, and fellow Pennsylvanian Jeff Calvert.  Chris and Jeff would both be running the 100k as well.  Soon enough, we parted ways, and returned to the hotel for the remainder of the evening.  Finally, I got some sleep the night before the race.
Pre race game face
Race day has come.  Pre-race festivities were confined to the cafeteria at the Anthem high school.  Soon enough 7am came, and we were off!  The best laugh I had all day was a group of about 5 guys running with Sage Canaday from the gun, thinking that they'd actually keep up with him.  I personally don't think there was anyone there that could compete with Sage.  He's a madman.  Goodness, I do some not very thought out things on the reg, but thank god it wasn't the case on this day.  Until I run a sub 2:30 marathon, I won't do that.  So, I didn't.  I simply ran the race how I like to-do passing, don't get passed much.

The first 20-30 miles were pretty neat, as I ran quite a few miles with legend Hal Koerner.  I acted like I didn't know him even though everyone in the ultra community knows him...haha.  I even got to pick up a gel he dropped as I was running behind him.  He thanked me.  Overall, that dude is a class act, and has succeeded for very good reasons, and has helped inspire so many trail runners of my generation.  I also had the chance to run with Michael Carson, and Michael Owen, both very talented/awesome dudes.  I really enjoy talking to other runners out on the course.  A previous girl in my life once told me that I'm such a "chit chatter."  She was right.  I just want someone to talk to, someone to joke around with, someone to laugh at my lame jokes.  Even in trail running, there are douchers that only care about the sport of the pursuit, and forget about the importance of art, and creativity in running.  Doing things for the right reasons.  I've experienced it with highly competitive people/sore losers out on the course a couple times.  It's weird to me.  Some are such incredible humans, and some are fucking elitists.  I remember a time when I was first learning how to play the guitar, and had the revelation that just because someone is great at playing, and writing, doesn't necessarily mean they are fantastic humans.  Some of my heroes sucked at life.  Man, that was a punch to the chest.  Luckily, this happens way less frequently in trail running than most genres of active, personal pursuits, that present a challenge in one way or the other!  I don't run to play football if that makes any sense.  If I wanted to play football, I would.  I don't.

Just getting started!
Damn, we were running pretty fast the first 30.  I mean really, the entire 62 was pretty fast if you ask me.  For a lot of the first 26, I was running in a pack of a few guys.  Hal was in there for a while, Michael Carson, and Owen for a bit, and a couple other guys I don't remember.  I'd say that we were 8th, 9th, 10th, or something like that.  I was feeling really strong despite the fast pace.
Michael Owen and I early on

The classic Devon squint.  Just not a lover of shades.

I passed Hal and someone else around 26 or 30 miles in.  From that point on, I just got into the zone, and focused on eating as many gels as my body would allow, taking lots of salt, and drinking enough water.  The Eastern States 100 hat I got as part of the swag helped a ton, as I packed it with ice at the aid stations, which helped keep my body temperature regulated, as most of the day was very hot, and sunny.  It is also very dry in the desert, so you're sweating way more than you'd imagine, while it evaporated instantly.

Cooling off in a water crossing.
Still running with confidence, and plenty of energy, I picked Avery up to pace the last ~23 around 37 or so.  After all, he wanted to get some miles in for the day as well!  However, he had just started running again a couple days prior after killing it at HURT 100 about a month ago.  We also live in Steamboat.  It's cold in Steamboat.  He got a bit sick out there due to the heat and had to stop, but told me to keep going.  This is somewhere around mile 50.  However, right before I left him, he helped me get the needles out of my toe, a result of kicking a cactus on the side of the trail.  That set me back a solid 5 minutes.  What a pain in the ass it was.  Actually, a pain in the toe.

At this point, I had bouts of leg cramping.  This went on for about the last 20 miles.  Every time I ate a salt pill, the cramping went away for a couple miles, then returned.  Man, I was scared.  I was eating like 3 or more pills an hour the latter half.  Your'e only supposed to take 1 an hour, 2 at max.  The last 4 miles, I had 3 salt pills; I know, so messed up.  But, it worked.  After examining my shorts and shirt post race, it made sense, as I was basically a human salt lick.  Other than the cactus, and the cramping, I had no really low point at all.  That doesn't happen very often.

So, sometime after I picked Avery up, around 40 miles in, I caught up with a Scotsman, Paul, who I got to chat with after the race.  Him and I went back and forth a time or two, before I decided that I wanted 5th place.  Then, finally mile 59 aid station rolls around.  Only 3 or so miles left.  I stopped to chug ginger ale, and fill up on water.  Paul comes into the aid right as I'm leaving.  "Holy cow, this is not happening."  So, I put my man pants on and started throwing down, knowing that I was so close.  I was like, "No freaking way am I getting passed for top five in the last three miles of 100k."  And soon enough I reached the 1.5 miles to go mark (I knew because of the previous days 3 miler, out/back).  I gave it all I could without cramping, crossed the finish line, secured 5th place, and went to sit down while I waited for Avery to reappear, as I had no clue where he was, or when he'd make it back.

Is that the best smile you've got?

Like always, I was like someone on crack cocaine from ingesting so much sugar, and caffeine.  I do love Roctane gels by GU.  They are the best, in my opinion.  The quality is reflected by cost per gel.  It was really great to meet new people, and chat for a while.  One of my favorite parts about the sport is celebrating together after working so hard.  People say it all the time, but it's true; the mountain/ultra/trail communities include very diverse groups of people in terms of occupation, and background.  There are dirtbags, lawyers, doctors, students, plumbers, nomads, entrepreneurs, and the list goes on.  Naturally, I tried to chat it up with everyone that would sit near me, and was pleasantly surprised that I didn't scare too many off!  Eventually Avery made it back, and we got a ride back to my car, which our new friends Kelsey and Keely were kind enough to provide for us.  We definitely owe them a few beers.  After getting back to the hotel, showering, and getting ready, Avery and I went to a really good beer/pizza joint near the hotel, had a few laughs, and indulged in the high of the day.  It sure was a great one.

The next day we made our way back to Steamboat.  It was long, but not overly torturous.  Plus, driving mostly in daylight gives you lots to look at on the long, desolate, turnless, western roads.  I drove for a while, listened to my awesome music, then Avery drove for a while, and listened to that shit he listens to (evil laughs).  Before we knew it, we were back in the land of paradise, Steamboat Springs.

It's possible that a lot of people think that I didn't reach my goal in this race, because I didn't get that Golden Ticket to Western States 100 (top 2).  However, I think I ran the best race of my life, and am very pleased with my time of 9:07, to earn 5th overall.  This last training block had me in crazy good shape, and it's clear that those speed workouts prescribed by my coach, Justin Ricks, were very much necessary.

I'd like to thank all my family and friends for being so caring, and amazing, especially over the last couple years.  It's so wonderful to have so many fantastic people in my life.  It's hard to keep in contact with everyone all the time, but no matter what, I'm always thinking of them.

Avery was my main man for the day.  His crewing, and pacing for a bit is definitely appreciated.  These long road trips wouldn't be as easy, or hilarious without his company.

Justin Ricks is big time to be thanked.  He has helped me start growing into a much stronger, more focused, and confident athlete.  I am also really excited to announce that I'll be Mad Moose Event's (Justin's race series) first ambassador for the 2016 season.  They host some stellar races, and are growing like crazy.  Check them out!  Pike's Peak Ultra looks amazing.

The rest of this years racing plans are not totally concrete just yet, but as of yesterday (March 10th), I'm signed up for Eastern States 100 on August 13th, (7th on the waitlist, with 225 total entrants)!  I will probably run a couple 50k's, and a couple 50 milers beforehand.  Annnnnd....I really want to do two 100s again this season.  So, I may try to crawl my way through Run Rabbit Run a month after Eastern, or try for Pine to Palm, also a month later...or maybe I'll just go on some cool adventures!  Either way, it's with much gratitude that you're still reading.  That's commitment right there.

Until next time.