Friday, June 26, 2009

Gut Check

Last weekend's race was another learning experience for me. I knew that the distances were a little more than just a test for my recently repaired knee, but it's been so long since I've done anything difficult that I felt I needed to push it somewhat.
Push it I did.
Thursday night I drove out to Durango/Purgatory and camped out at the start/end of the CO trail. Friday morning when I woke up, I realized it would be a long weekend when I felt a scratchy throat and some congestion building in the sinuses. Too late now. No turning back no matter what. This would be my mantra throughout the weekend.

The kayak was shortened from 20 miles to 16. 8 UP river and then 8 back down river. The current was about 3-5 knots so it was a stiff paddle, but I surprised myself with how well I handled it. Finished that one in just under 4 hours.
Saturday morning I had some energy, but the breathing was becoming shallower as the wheezing had already started from the head/chest cold. This told me that the mountain bike wasn't going to be easy, but since the legs had felt strong recently, I figured I could wing it.

We started UP the Purgatory ski slopes and in the first couple of miles, we gained a little over 2000 feet of elevation. Instead of taking it easy like I should have, I stayed in a bigger gear and went anaerobic too soon and stayed there for too long. Once we popped out onto the road and the climbing because mroe gradual, I was already nauseaus and my body was going into protect mode and was not giving out the necessary energy. After a short decent on dirt roads we began another gradual climb and despite the nausea, I geared down and tried to push to no avail. My legs felt as though they were filled with cement and I couldn't get any turnover. This was around mile 8.
The next 30 miles are fuzzy as my mind was in a funk and I was really cold. Rain started and at 11,000 feet it was mixed with some sleet. Forgetting my jacket wasn't my problem, but it sure didn't help any. All I could do to warm up was keep moving and pull up a single arm warmer that I found on the road. Surprisingly, it really did make a difference!
I hit the halfway point (mile 25) and grabbed a banana and topped off the water and moved on. They asked me if I wanted to drop. I guess I looked as badly as I felt and I know I was close enough to the back that I might be close to missing the cut-off time later on.
Me? Drop? No thank you. I may feel like crap and my mind was in the wrong place, but a DNF will never be my choice.
Around mile 38 the nausea started to subside and I could hold down more than just water and electrolytes. Obviously my race was over VERY early on, but I was happy to had survived to that point. Then I downed some cliff shot blocks and felt some turnover return to the legs. The rain and all of the bikers in front of me had churned up the course pretty good and I had mud everywhere. Even under the glasses, but was beginning to enjoy the ride a bit more. The scenery was fantastic when I was able to sneak in a glance at it. Most of the time, I was focused on the technical trail so I didn't eat it.

There were several DNFs in this race so I was happy to have been one of the finishers. After finishing however, I wasn't sure how I was going to run the marathon the next day. I really wondered if my body would recover enough for me to run ANY at all.

Thankfully, the Endurox and Recoverite I was ingesting each night was helping. So I toed the line on Sunday and prepared myself to try to enjoy some scenery.

Going UP Purgatory again was no fun, but this time I was smarter about it. I walk/jogged it keeping the heart rate low enough and just stretching out the legs a little to get them warmed up. Once we popped out onto the road for the 5 or so miles headed down to the Hermosa Creek Trail, I began to open it up a bit and cruised past several of the long legged folks that were out-striding me on the way up the hill. During this short dirt road section, I held a quick, but comfortable pace and was really surprised at how good I felt considering. Shortly after getting onto the trail though, I downed a Raspberry flavored Hammer Gel and knew right away it wasn't staying down. Somewhere around mile 10, it came back up with some water and energy and motivation. Wish I could have kept that down!
Right after puking, I saw a couple of people pull away from me. 2.5 miles later at an aid station, I learned that they had already gained 8 minutes on me! This would be my guage and motivation for the remainder of the run. Once I had regained some energy, I started finding a comfortable pace again and tried to hold it. Walked the steep uphills and ran the flats and downhills.
The trail was awesome and at one point, I had to stop in the middle of it and gawk at the beauty of an Aspen grove high on my left which led down into a large patch of Lilacs and some other kind of white fragrant flower. That combined with the view and sound of the Hermosa creek below (and maybe some endorphins) made for a memorable Taster's Choice moment for this trail runner.
Aid stations came and went and I was washing the Shot Blocks and bananas down with water and feeling great except for some tender feet. My longest run in preparation for this had been 14 miles although I had done a couple of back to back 12 milers a few times. Muscles and the knee were responding well and I learned at each aid station that I was gaining time on the folks ahead of me. At the last aid station, I didn't even ask how far ahead they were because I knew I'd give it all I had to try to catch them. If I did, then great, if not, then at least I ran my best.
about 2 miles before the finish, I caught and passed the two people who got away from me when I was sick and kept the pace as strong as I could. The feet were tender, the legs were draining fast and the lungs were burning and wheezing, but I found some speed at the end somehow.
When I crossed the finish line, I had gained 5 minutes on the two I passed recently. Finishing in 5:30 for ~28 or 29 miles.

Overall I am pleased with how my knee held up and am ready to race some more! Now I just need to work on my fueling and strengthening strategy. The cardio isn't a problem, but since I still can't do quad strengthening in the gym due to the microfracture, I'm limited with how well I can climb on the bike and decend the hills on the run.
I'm not complaining though. It just feels good to be back out there!


seanb724 said...

Congrats on finishing when you body was hurting. We are a lot alike in not ever wanting a DNF!

For fueling, you know my recommendations! :-)

For quad strength, I still highly recommend renting or buying a used electro stim like a compex or globus, which will allow you to build strength while not aggravating the knee. I truly believe it helped me in my recovery after surgery.

Anonymous said...

An AMAZING account!! While I confess to not understanding your mind-set, I appreciate your writing skills and the enormous effort you exerted to complete the race. Part of me is proud and part of me is frustrated. Love you bunches, Aunt Dea

Mark Studnicki said...

good deal. you're out there having fun in a beautiful area. I raced the MTB World Championships at the ski resort in 1990.

Ben aka "Good Ben" said...

Yeah we were on the World's Cup course from 90 for a few miles.

Windi and Eric said...

Great job Ben....way to puke and come back strong. I don't know how you do those adventure races it's amazing.

Erik Barnes said...

Good stuff Ben! Very inspiring. Good luck on the future races.