Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grandfather Mountain Marathon 2012

 Normally I would have been really excited about traveling to run this race but although it is one of my favorites and this would be my 7th, I knew this year was going to be a tough one for me. The 4 weeks leading up to it had been a bit rough on me physically. My recovery from the dog bites and the 62 miles at Boogie had been a lot slower than I had hoped for. Usually I would be feeling fine and ready to rock a strong effort within 2 weeks of a 100k but the combination of the effort along with the dog bites and bleeding, two weeks of antibiotics and some really hot weather had me feeling pretty worn down.

  I had taken a week off and I normally don't even take off that much time after 100 milers but my legs were in a lot of pain and because they couldn't suture the punctures I was still bleeding through my bandages and clothes for several days. But the rest I'm sure was good for me and after I began running again I felt like I was slowly recovering back to normal. I was finally able to run pain free after the end of two weeks and was running close to my normal mileage but by 5 miles or so into a run I was really starting to  get tired. Then last Saturday I was hoping to get in an easy 10-12 miles with Karla on the greenway but I had to bail at 8.6. Not the way I wanted to feel going into race week.

So , I tried to take it easy the remainder of the week leading up to the race with just a few easy shorter runs and headed up to Boone with a plan to just run to survive. There would be no fast time for me and I am so glad I hadn't planned anything foolish like a "Double" this year.

  I arrived at  the ASU track at 6am, and the morning thunderstorm had moved on leaving us with 100% humidity for the day. The temperature was in the mid to upper 60's and expected to move to the mid 70's so although it wasn't going to be a hot year, it was going to be a miserably muggy one. It was great to see so many friends from the NCRC and MTC and others from the Triangle area.  I found  The Trail Angel and then  lined up with Lisa and Dale Tiska for the start.

  We began at an easy pace and were enjoying the conversation as we headed out on the slight downhill through town. Shortly after turning onto Winklers Creek Road the first climb begins and we hadn't gone far past the two mile point when I let them pull ahead. I was enjoying the company but needed to stick to the plan. Shortly after that, Gene Meade and I started running together. It was his first time running here so I was giving him info on what to expect out on the course. We were both content to take it easy and walk the steeper portions of the climbs in these early miles. By three miles everyone was already dripping wet  from the oppressive humidity. We were running through a light fog nearly all morning and you could see the water droplets forming on the hairs of my arms. There would be no evaporative cooling effect this day.

  Gene and I were enjoying these early miles and we passed the 5 mile point in 1:00:00 even. With the walking I was a little surprised with the 10 minute average pace but there was some downhill mixed in there. We continued on until we came to a water stop at mile 8. It was on a downhill and  as Gene stopped to refill his bottle I continued on. I looked back as we made the turn onto Shulls Mill road and begin the next long climb to see if he was close enough for me to wait but he wasn't there so I went on ahead.

  I was moving a long well on the next climb and continuing to walk the steeper portions of the hill and generally just enjoying myself. Around the 9 mile mark I was disappointed to see Lisa about 1/4 mile ahead.  If she was having the kind of day we expected I should not be seeing her until the finish. She quickly disappeared around a curve and I didn't see her again for awhile.

  Every year that I have run this race since 2008, I have passed by the 10 mile point in the race with one of the Angels along and we have stopped at a small turnout on the road that the first view of Grandfather off in the distance. Well, today I had no Angel along for company and the view was nothing but fog and clouds. I stopped anyway for a self portrait and then a young lady came up and took one of me and then I was off on the run again. I was really shocked at my split for that 5 miles. There had been a couple of miles of downhill but mostly climbing and I had walked most of the steep parts. That made me a little optimistic because I was feeling pretty good and had not been pushing the pace at all. 

  A mile later the course reached the Blue Ridge Parkway and I was looking forward to the nice 2 mile downhill that lay ahead. IT is not too steep so you can run it pretty fast without too much effort or damage to the legs. I ha;t gone far when I spotted Lisa up ahead. She seemed to be moving well but I was gradually closing the gap. Just as we reached the bottom of the hill I came up behind her and told her I was really not expecting to see her. She said she had been having some trouble breathing earlier but was feeling better so I just stayed behind her since we are suppose to run single file on the Parkway, hoping to run with her for awhile. We went through the half in about 2:17 and the way I was feeling I began to think maybe a 4:40 was possible.

  Just past this point is where you get your second view of the mountain, much closer across a meadow but all we saw this morning was more fog. At least I knew where it was. The road begins a gentle 2 mile climb at this point and within a few hundred yards  I was having to chop my stride too much to stay behind Lisa so I had to go ahead and pass her and hope she would be able to hang on. I continued to run well all the way uphill to the end of the parkway section and the 15 mile point and was once again very happy with my pace for the past 5 miles.

  It gets a bit tougher again from this point. there is a fairly steep hill once you exit off the parkway and I walked most of it to the water stop at the top and the beginning of the gravel road section. It is relatively flat for about a mile and then we come to "17" hill. It is quite a bit like a couple of the hills on North Turkey Creek in Umstead and it is a walker and the humidity today in the woods was stifling. Of course the humidity was  still about 100% everywhere anyway but it sure seemed worse on this climb. At the end of the gravel, the course turns onto Hwy 221 which it follows for the remaining miles to MacRae Meadows and the finish. And it continues climbing fairly steeply to the 18 mile point and then it levels out a bit. I was able to start back running again but already I could tell I was slowing down a lot.

  The course continues mostly uphill from here with an occasional little bit of downhill so you can relax a little bit. I learned from doing the double in 2010 that there is a lot more uphill on the return trip than you would think but after 20 miles or so coming this far on this tough course it seems ALL uphill. To make matters worse I was starting to wheeze when I was walking. the wheels were coming completely off now and my energy was not just fading but going completely away. My hamstrings were aching and my heart was racing and slowing down really didn't feel much better. Now I just wanted to get it over with as I mentally thought,  with each passing mile, well there goes 4:45, there goes 4:50 to finally , I',m not even going to break 5 !

  I should have packed it in those last  few miles and walked it in but being the hard head I am I kept pushing as hard as I could, determined to end the suffering as soon as possible.  Finally entered MacRae meadows and as i entered the stadium for that last 1/4 mile I was fighting back tears. I'm not sure if it was because I felt so bad or I was  just so happy that I could  finally stop. The crowd was great cheering me and the kilt and I was getting lots of comments and I was blowing a few kisses to them as I slowly circled the track.

 Can't wait to get back next year ! 

 here is a link to the rest of my pictures.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Boogie 100K 2012

   I've really been struggling to find the motivation to write a report for this event and even now as
I begin  writing this I'm not sure exactly what if anything I should say about it. So anyway let's just see where it goes.

  As I said in the original post that I sent out just an hour or so before starting, the 100 miler was something I had been planning and looking forward to all  year and was really excited that the time had finally arrived. I knew Amy was planning to come and spend some time with me but I really hadn't expected her to be meeting me at the start but she is a dear friend and one of my special running Angels so I was really happy that she would be there to share in this with me. I arrived just a few minutes before 6am and she was already waiting for me. It was a beautiful morning and the forecast was for cooler than normal Boogie weather, but actually about normal for this time in June.

  We began precisely at 6 by my watch and slowly  moved ahead with smiles on our faces and excitement about what the day would bring. After about a mile we stopped to get some pictures of the the gorgeous golden sunlight breaking through the trees. Little did we know that just over the next hill our day was about to take a horrible turn for the worse.

   I'll just let you read about it here. The Dog Attack.

 As the owner led the dog away, we began to run again , stunned, angry, confused and in pain.  We didn't really know what to do at this point. Should we call the sheriff? Go to the hospital ? Well, all we could do for the moment was keep running until we finished the first 6 mile loop. The adrenaline was really flowing so after 2 very fast miles I told Amy that maybe we should slow it down a little. My left leg was not hurting too much to run but the right leg was very painful because of the location of the punctures were right in the side of the quad that absorbs most of the shock of each step. Amy was hurting too but she said it wasn't bad.

  We made it back to the cars and stopped to clean up a little and decide what to do next. I was really torn at this point. I knew the sensible thing to do would be to go ahead and go to see a doctor but I wanted to do this run so bad that I didn't intend to let anything stop me as long as I could handle the pain. I was concerned for Amy and although I was glad that she was there I should have insisted they she go ahead and get treated. I felt so bad that she had gotten up so early and driven this far just to run with me and now she was bleeding and in a bit of shock from the ordeal.

  We decided to keep going and finish the first  10 miles and see how things would go so we headed down the hill. Running down the hill was pretty bad but once I had been running for awhile it kind of went numb and was just a dull ache. We were making the best of a bad situation and tried to get back to normal  with smiles and joking around like we usually do and soon we were back at the church, only about 6 or 7 minutes behind the pace I had planned for the first lap. Not too bad considering the attack and stopping to clean up.

   I decided not to even bother with trying to clean the wounds anymore. I knew I was just going to bleed anyway so I just ate some food. grabbed another couple of gels and refilled my bottle. Amy was still wanting to continue so we started out on the 2nd loop. We were very cautious as we approached the dogs house again. Amy had her pepper spray but we really didn't want another encounter. We were very pleased to see the dog was in his pen and no sign of the other dogs. As we were running down Cartledge Creek Rd, a truck pulled up and it was Lee Watson. He asked if I was Joey because he had seen my post on FB. He wished us luck and then went on about his business but later he said he wasn't aware of the attack at that time.

    After we passed the dog pen and headed down Holly Grove Church Road , Amy got a call from Jenn checking up on us. She had seen the post from Amy about the dog attack and  was worried about us. Another one of my dear Angels. She was encouraging us to get the wounds taken care of but I told her in my best Jessie The Bod Ventura voice from Predator that "I ain't got time to bleed"

  Amy assured her that I was doing a great job of drinking and eating  since I apparently was not going to stop running. And I was. I made sure I drank a full bottle between trips to the car plus drink more at each stop and was eating and taking gels regularly. Other than the pain  from the bites I was feeling great.

 The next 10 miles were pretty uneventful. I was running well and it was still a beautiful day. As we were nearing the marathon point it was getting very warm and by now there had been no shade on the course for a couple of hours. I had plenty of sunscreen and I had prepared for hotter weather so it was not a problem but I knew I had a long day ahead of me and I had to be sure and keep my head in the game.  As we approached the church at mile 26 we saw Bobby Cordell had arrived early. He was concerned after seeing the dog bites. By now I had bleed through both layers of my shorts and they were caked in blood.

  Amy left after running the 26.2 and now I had about 6 hours ahead of me before the others in the real race would be joining me for the evening. I headed down the hill once again trying to maintain a good attitude and block out the pain as well as I could. About halfway up Bethel Church Hill I saw Bobby driving towards me. He was worried about me being out there in the sun and bleeding but I assured him I was doing fine at the moment. As I completed the first 30 miles I was pretty happy with how things were going. My feet were in great shape and feeling no ill effects from pounding the pavement. Usually by this time at the Boogie my feet are hurting but I had been making a special effort to land as lightly as possible on my feet and it seemed to be helping.

  I went to the porta pottie and wouldn't you know  it. I got my hand stuck in the door and when I pulled it out I cut my left hand and it was bleeding worse than the dog bite. I sat down to eat a turkey sandwich for lunch and Bobby saw my hand and thought it was from the dog but I told him it was just some random injury from a porta toilet of all things. I'm a little foggy on the details but around this time Frank Lilley and Paul Heckart arrived on the scene and it was great to have them around to give me support and encouragement each time I came back by the church.

  I had taken about a 15 minute break so it was time to go if I was going to stay on schedule. It took awhile to get the legs moving again and the  bites were hurting quite a bit but fortunately after I warmed up again the pain eased off again. It was getting hot now and the sun was beating down so I was taking it very easy and making sure I didn't get over heated. I seemed to be handling the heat very well and I was really glad I had stashed a cooler at the dog pen so I could refill every  3 or 4 miles during the day.  Just as I was coming back up at mile 36, Jeff Kimrey drove by and told me it was now 84F. Not too bad but with no shade it was still a bit uncomfortable and I had to be careful.

  I got the 4 mile out and back done and now just one more lap before the real race would begin. As I headed down the hill to start lap 5 I saw Doug arriving in his truck and he stopped to set out a trash can at the bottom of the hill. I showed him the bites and he said he was real sorry it happened but I told him there was nothing he could do and it would be alright. I was still feeling pretty good and confident I could keep going.

  I was still feeling ok other than the pain but I was a little slower at 40 than I had hoped so I had to push the pace just a little bit more than I wanted to from 46 to 50 so I would have at least 15 minutes to get ready for the start of the 50 mile race. I made it back in 11:45 and headed straight for my chair to rest and eat before the start. Jeff went to get my number for me and Jenn and Lisa were there and took care of making me another turkey sandwich and re-filling my bottles while I made my preparations.

 I waited until the last minute to make my way to the line and then I waited until everyone had started before I headed out after them in last place.  I was still moving at a decent pace and not feeling bad for a guy that had just run 50 miles. I was happy to see some shade had returned to the course and was looking forward to the cooler night time temperatures. I made the first 6 mile loop doing well and it was great to see the volunteers and the other runners out on the course. I was quickly out and headed down the big hill and enjoyed seeing my friends that were ahead and coming back up encouraging me along.

  As I made it back up  the hill to complete mile 60, I was a little disappointed in my lap time but I was in no hurry and figured I should be able to maintain about that same pace and amount of running each lap. I went back by my car to get some coke and finish my sandwich before heading back out again. As I made my way over to the aid station before beginning the next lap I noticed my legs were not too steady but I thought once I got back to running again they would be fine like they had been all day. Fred gave me some marshmallows and I ate them as I walked down the hill. Once they were in my belly I started to run. Or I tried to. The legs were not cooperating. Hmm, this is not good. I decided to walk until I got to the top of the first hill and then get going but halfway up the hill I was beginning to stagger a little.

  I'll be ok I was thinking. Once you get to the top you can run downhill and everything will be fine. I did and then begin walking up the next hill but my legs just begin to crumble beneath me. As I staggered up the hill I was really getting worried. I knew I had been drinking and eating plenty so something else was going on. Was I going into shock? I didn't know. All I knew was I was in trouble. I stopped and tried to decide what to do. I wanted to finish this run so badly. Maybe I could make it to the next aid station and take a break and everything would be alright. That's how it usually works when I hit a bad spell  in an ultra. I stumbled on for another 100 yards and then just stopped. I knew I would never make it to the dog pen and I was not going to collapse in the road and have someone have to send help. That was one thing I couldn't do.  I knew when I mentioned this to Doug in January that he trusted me to know how  to take care of myself and I did not want to be a liability for him or this race that I love.

  So I turned around and begin walking back to the church. And then the tears came. I was so frustrated angry and I was  just so tired of hurting and bleeding and  there was not a thing in the world I could do to change any of it right now. I was thinking about Amy and worried about her too. It took me about 30 minutes to slowly stagger back to the church where I was surrounded by many caring friends that helped me into a chair and propped my feet up for me. So many. Vickie Fogelman, Marie Lewis , Doug, Tom Herbst, Ben Dillon , Fred Dummar , Charles West and probably some others but my mind was not the clearest . Thanks to all of you.  Someone brought me some ice bags for the bites which were swollen very badly by now.  After a few minutes the pain was so intense that I had to get up but I could barely walk. Tom  helped me and asked me where I wanted to go . They wanted me to go inside and eat but I had to go lay down so we made it over to the church steps and I stretched out there.

  That felt much better and Charles kept a check on me and Ben brought me some teryaki chicken. Lisa had dropped out of the marathon so I was going to wait for her to drive me back to Wake County and to the hospital in Cary. While I was waiting a pretty young angel came over and said, Hi I'm Kelly. I'm an ER nurse at Richmond County Medical center and I would really like to take you to the hospital. I told her I needed to talk to Lisa first since she was driving me. Lisa was fine with the plan so I rode with Kelly to Rockingham and Lisa followed behind.

  Lisa of course is one of my Angels and what a great friend. I was in the hospital for 4 hours and she had to wait patiently in the waiting room bored and tired until 3am and then drive me back to Cary.

 So that's how it ended. 62 miles and a trip to the hospital for cleaning, and IV antibiotics and fluids. They of course thought I was crazy when they found out I had run 60.5 miles after the attack.

  Not exactly how I had envisioned this when I started. So now that it's done I still have a lot of mixed emotions and thoughts about it. Yes, I am glad in a way I ran the 62 but I also realize it was really dumb. And I really feel bad about how it turned out for Amy. If it wasn't for her being such a great friend she would not have been there to get bitten. I know she wanted to be there but I hated to see her get bitten. I am disappointed in myself for not being more cautious when we saw the dog and I really didn't assess the situation properly. I've had dozens of dog encounters over the years but sure mis-read this one. Well, nothing I can do to change it now so it's time to move on. The wounds are healing nicely 3.5 weeks later. Just some swelling and a little tenderness now.

 here is the link  to some pictures.