Big Bear Lake 7/17/10
Arrived in Bruceton Mills, WV on Friday afternoon after a 6 hour drive. I was alone as schedules didn't work out for me to have a crew along to help. I checked in at the race headquarters and got my packet. I walked out on the trail a bit and it sure look rugged... lots of rocks and roots and such. Met an old guy named Alex from New Jersey at registration he ran in '09 and covered 32 miles. I stopped on the way back to the Microtel (3 miles away) at Olivia's, a local restaurant, and had some good pasta. I tried to get to sleep early but I was a bit restless.
I was up at 5:30 a.m. and drank some coffee, ate a banana, and a waffle. Over to Big Bear Lake in plenty of time for the 7 a.m. start. I set up my ice cooler near a spot close to the start/finish with water, ice, sports drink, gels and assorted snacks. The course was completely on trails, each loop was 6.5 miles. I hoped to complete 52 miles or 8 loops but hoped to really go a bit further. But if I completed over 50 miles, I'd be satisfied.
The race was quite small with about 30 or so "solo" runners and 65 2 and 4 man teams. There were a few "veteran" looking trail runners at the start and they broke out fast after we got moving. Very strange feeling to take those first few steps realizing I had many hours of running ahead of me. I quickly realized I had underestimated the course. The trail surface was very rocky and rooty and even in "smooth" sections there were rocks and roots that you had to be careful with. And the entire way was rolling hills. Wasn't as concerned with the hills as I was with the rugged surface. I knew it was going to be doubtful that I would be able to keep the pace I planned.
I finished the first 6.5 mile loop in 62 minutes which was exactly where I wanted to be. 2nd loop in 61 minutes and the 3rd loop in 64 minutes. After finishing 4 loops or 26 miles I was feeling okay but nervous knowing I was only half way to my goal. There were Aid Stations on the course but after the first loop it seemed easier to just fill up my hand held bottles and refill them after each loop. I was also trying to eat a sports gel every 25-30 minutes. Goal being 250 calories per hour and 24 ounces of fluid.
As I began my 5th loop after running 26 miles, I took the lead among the solo runners, although I didn't realize it at the time. I was holding up pretty good and just tried to keep moving and not worry about how much I was slowing down. The object being to just keep going. A couple of ultra trail quotes were in my mind... "perpetual forward motion" and another came to mind when I started feeling bad...."it never always gets worse"... The second quote meaning sometimes you have bad patches where you feel bad or your legs are dead but many times after refueling you will bounce back and feel better.
My biggest problem besides general fatigue was I ended up tripping and falling down 3 or 4 times. Not unusual in a trail race. I didn't feel like any of the falls were really bad and just seemed to be scraped up a bit. My final "fall" was under the pine trees over the smoothest part of the trail. Laying in the bed of pine straw felt so comfortable, it was difficult to get back up.
Somewhere after 30+ miles my right quad/thigh began to stiffen up pretty badly. I wasn't sure if it was caused by one of my falls or if it was just stiffening because I'd been running that far. I thought many times the last 20 miles that my left leg just felt tired but no issues and my right leg was in bad bad shape. At the end of my 6th loop (39 miles) I began to feel some nausea and decided to change what I was ingesting. I switched my sports drink to just gatorade and diluted it with some super cold water, did a different type of gel and grabbed a small baggie with potato chips. The new "food" seemed to pep me back up. At one point I realized I'd run over 40 miles and I suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion. I'm not sure why it hit me like that. I wasn't boohooing and crying but I did get all misty eyed and walked a bit to drink some while I re-grouped.
My final 13 miles or so were really tough. My right leg was stiffening badly and I ended up power walking up the hills(not uncommon at ultras) and just shuffled along the trail when I could. I slowed way down over the super rocky parts, very concerned that I would fall one more time. But shockingly I stayed on my feet the entire final 20 miles. Toward the end of the 8th loop one of the team runners passed me and really encouraged me when he realized I had run over 50 miles..... it really helped.... he told me to just keep moving and I "looked great" shuffling along down the trail.
As I closed in on the final steps of the 8th loop and knew I'd complete my 52 miles, I knew that would be it for today. I crossed the line a little over 10 hours after I started and even though I could have continued on as I had 2 more hours before the time limit was up, that was it for me! 52 miles, 10 hours 18 minutes.
While taking off my shoes and attempting to clean up I realized my right quad was swollen really badly. Later I determined that the stiffening and swelling was caused by one of my falls (and running another 3 or 4 hours on it). I stopped at the scorers table and asked how many solo runners were out on a 9th or 10th loop and they informed me I was the first to have completed 52 miles. I came home with the "first solo male" award. Nice to bring an award home. I'll post next on my recovery.