Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pony Express 2010

The Pony Express Trail Ultra 100
Sunrise East of Faust Utah on Pony Express Trail.

On June the 15th my left foot started a long journey down hill. Not until the 15th of August did my left foot return to normal. On the 16th I posted a good 8 mile run. By the end of the week i was running my normal 15 miles a day with some good split times. By the 15th of September my total miles for the month hit 400.

I am telling you this because at some point during the summer i feared there was no way I would be able to run in the Pony Express 100. This race means a lot to me, one because it is in my birth place and two because of the friends and relationships I have created due to doing something crazy in the middle of the Utah Desert.

This year was a challenge not because of physical conditioning but because of super hot temps for hours during some of the toughest sections of the trail. However, from the start point to Simpson Springs I ran 45 minutes faster then the year before. I also completed 20 miles in less then 4 hours and reach Dugway Pass 30 minutes faster then last years split.

However, around mile 42 (Geo Beds) the lungs started to fail on me. By mile 50 just like last year i was having trouble breathing. At mile 53 most of my lungs came back up on me.. and if I laid down I could not breath. The sad news is I spent days out in the desert getting ready for the altitude and dry weather. However, despite drinking 7 gallons of water before the race the lungs just wanted to go home.

I love this race. I will run it again but only 50 miles. I will run it faster and if luck is on my side I will have a solution to my lung problems so the race does not push my body so close to the brink of failure. The photo below shows me right after making it over Dugway Pass. The photo tells the story.
I am driven but at some point the body will fail. Mile 40 after
going over Dugway Pass. Lungs have started to fill up with fluids.

5am vs. 7am

Back in September it was decided that I should start with the 5am group. I am 53 and the old bones are getting old. I was very excited about the early morning start because it would give me hours out of the sun and allow me to reach the 50 mile mark way before the sun went down.

However, Davy felt my skill level was strong enough for the 7am group. It was an honor to be a part of this group and I stayed right on their heals for many miles. I enjoy getting to know folks who have the ability, use this ability and then perform.

At mile 53 after throwing up my lungs. I was in hell.

Details of the race

Several days before the race Hudson spent some time teaching me Yoga. He was impressed with my flexibility and the Yoga really helped me shoot out the gate at a very good clip. My biggest challenge to doing well was tons of hydration without much loss of time. The first part of this goal was great. I hydrated to the point of peeing at least 4 times during the race. The second part of the goal was a failure. I lost over an hour to stops in order to hydrate. There is a plan for next year that will help reduce this to 10 minutes but that is next year.

The first 8 miles show strong 9 min mile pace. I was keeping up with everyone and feeling ok except for my right leg. For some reason it was stiff and cramping. Scaps started to fix the problem along with some tender loving care. By mile 20 the right leg was doing well and no longer a factor in my running.

I was very excited with my split time at Simpson Springs. This 17 mile stretch is a good example of a normal training distance. To be able to run this fast in the middle of freaking hell and feel very strong gave me a ton of energy. By mile 20 I was cooking doing below 10 min. mile pace and feeling no issues.

At 53 I am one tough cookie. Notice the salt on my arms.

Notice the salt on my shorts. Shot at mile 53. Hudson took
this picture. I will always be in debt to this man for his effort and support.

This photo was taken looking back over the area i had already run.
If you have not run an ultra before this section is total hell.

The River Beds

The next stretch to the course is through what i call the valley of hell. For first time ultra runners this is a tough mind bending section. For myself this is an easy section except for the sun working its butt off to eat you alive. Given this is my 17th 50 plus mile race i have total control of my mind through sections like this.

As I approached the Dugway Pass the right foot started to cause some issues. I had replaced my first pair of shoes for another pair. However, the right foot did not like this at all. So, i put the old right shoe back on but did not change my left shoe. This lasted all the way to the end of my race with no issues. I also wore a sock on both feet when i started but by mile 8 i had to remove the right sock due to cramp issues. I did not wear a sock on the right shoe through out the rest of the race and had only a couple of blisters on my foot.

Valley of Hell with Dust every where.

The biggest challenge to this race is heat and dust. The dust adds to my lung problems. I live in Asheville North Carolina and all of my runs are in nice moist areas. I never see any dust. This year i wore something over my face when ever a car drove by but it did very little to help reduce the amount of dust that entered my lungs.

Davy Crockett's Hammer Control Center near Look Out Pass

After Dugway Pass

The big challenge to getting over Dugway pass is running down hill. I hate running down hill. My legs feel like crap after a few miles of this. By mile 44 i was a hurting camper. I wanted to quit and was very depressed with my times. I lost so much time to hydration that my numbers at this point in the game looked like last year. How could this be given I had run almost the entire distance with little or no walking? Easy, now that i look back on it at mile 42 I had spent over 1 hour and 10 min. drinking water while not moving.


Around mile 45 i noticed someone coming up on me. Wow there really is someone behind me. I am excited. The person turned out to be Cliff from Salt Lake and Atlanta. We talked, moved fast and gathered some energy from each other. It was a super pleasure to run into someone doing their first Ultra. I hope to see him next year and maybe at the Freedom Park freeze your body off 24 hour race.

150th Birthday Party Sign

Last 13 miles

At mile 42 i noticed the lungs filling up with fluid. I was screwed. My goal was to run as far as I could without getting into trouble or causing Hudson some challenges. I am very proud of myself for choosing to play it safe and not create the same insanity as last year. On mile 53 i started to cough and before I know it.. my lungs are coming up.. If you have not experienced this might i suggest you do all you can to not experience the fluids of your lungs coming back up..

I picked myself up. I was out in the middle of the dark. Hudson was about 1 mile ahead. When he noticed i was falling behind he ran up and helped me move forward. Hudson was a champ. He worked his butt of to help me do well and I will always be in debt for his efforts.

I made the call to quit at this point due to medical reason. No reason in hell to push to the point of death. That is stupid. I was excited to know that my feet did well and at this point (4 days later) i am fully recovered and ready to start a training program for my next race.

Creature and I at the 5 Mile BLM Park

Closing thoughts:

I am a very lucky and blessed man. I am 53 and still have a body that can take one hell of beating, get up and move on. The return trips through the airports or the working on the first day all make the experience a challenge but in the end i love every minute. I am very proud of my effort given I spent so much time in the gym given the left foot was broken. Yesterday I visited my foot doctor. He took an x-ray and counted my 11 stress fractures. He is very impressed with the ability of the body to repair and move on.; so am i..

Freedom park here I come. I am excited for this race. My body is doing really well and there is no doubt I will shine. As for next year on the pony express.. well there is no doubt i will return.. but only to do 50 miles.. I will be 54 and it is time to accept reality.

What would i change?

Not much. The hydration plan needs to take up much less time. I plan on training with a pony bottle for next year. The number of Hammer gels worked perfect. I never have stomach issues with Hammer gels. At each water stop i took a gel and two scaps. The scaps reduce cramps but do nothing for the pain in my quads. If there is one thing I want to change is the amount of pain in the quads. This is a training issue and I will resolve this problem before the next race.

I will also be looking for someone to help out Hudson. His job is tough and he needs to have someone there to help push me, push me and then push me some more. I have a weak mind for these sorts of things. My brain is rather logical. Hey, this is way too much.. so it wants to rest.. and I don't blame it.

Remember, this is my vacation.. and most people my age.. are on some beach somewhere soaking up the sun.. while drinking a cold one.. no not me.. i am out trying to rip my soul out of my body.. by running in the middle of a super dry desert..

more training, fix the quads.. see a doctor about the lungs.. and just keep trying..
Five Mile Pass outside Faust Utah.

Yes to living life. Anything else is failure. Failure is to do nothing.. to give nothing.. and to never try. God is always proud of those who try.. try..and try again.. anything else is just a waste of time..

so i try.