Sunday, August 12, 2018

SD100 2018: Hot as ever; I got by with a bit of help from my friend

I finished the SD100 on June 9 in 27:15;  it was a fantastic experience with lots of lessons.

My last 100 mile start had been the  SD100 in 2016.  Spring of 2016 was marked by cool weather right up until race week, and the temperature in Noble Canyon on race day hit 111F, according to my GPS track.  After 25 miles of cramping,  I had DNF'd that year at mile 55, totally blown from the heat and the dust; on top of a thermal meltdown, I'd had difficulty breathing with my vocal cords locked up  and me sounding like  Mickey Mouse from the dust carried by the dry wind.

This year the spring weather pattern was a near repeat of 2016: Temperatures in Pasadena had been very cool, with marine layer weather right up until the weekend before the race.  I did my best to run at lunch time to get some heat training in to no avail, the marine layer weather was chill!
"Heat training" at noon on the Mt Wilson Toll Road in the penultimate week before the SD100.  It was chill.

 It finally got warm on the Saturday before the race.   I decided to take advantage of the heat and did a longer than usual last weekend 22 miler  followed by an 8 miler the next day;  after that I chopped the throttle for a short taper leading up to the Friday June 8 race start.

My pal Greg Frye was running the race for his third finish and we had decided some time ago that we would run the race together as a team-- Greg is a good friend and we seldom get the chance to run together with our work and family schedules.  Honestly I think Greg's main goal for the race was to help me finish -- he had seen first hand the wheels come off my wagon in 2016 and knew that I had
 had to work through some injuries in 2017 and early 2018.

Race morning dawned cooler than in 2016, but temperatures were predicted to hit a 90F, hot but a good 10 degrees cooler than in 2016.   We planned our splits around Greg's sub-24 hour finish in 2016, but with more conservative splits planned in the first 44 miles to make sure we survived the crux of the race, the afternoon climb out of the dead air of the Noble canyon solar furnace.  We ran smooth and easy through the first leg, on into Chambers; as usual there was a lot of dust: The running surface in the first 10-15 miles of the course is often like flour and the scrum kicks a lot of it up.  I did my best to breath through my nose and I'd taken a 24 hour antihistamine this time; my breathing was better than in 2016.
Running near Paso Picacho, ~ mile 8 or 10.  The trail surface was like flour and a lot of dust got kicked up. Photo:  Ulysses Chan, Paksit

By Sunrise, Mile 21;  it was already quite warm but we were moving well and on split:

On the PCT with Greg:  Photo:  Ulysses Chan, Paksit

We cooled ourselves down with cold water towels at Pioneer Mail and picked up extra water for the 8 mile run to Pine Creek.  We hit the 37 mile aid station at about 1:15pm, about 25 minutes slower than Greg's 2017 split, but that was by plan:  We were conserving our energy for the climb up Noble Canyon.    Wetted down and with reloaded water bottles we set out for the climb.

We had decided that we would show Noble Canyon due respect and had budgeted 2 hours for the 7 mile climb out.  Our plan was to walk anything that was not flat or down-hill, to avoid a blow up in the heat.  My chest was a bit tight from the dust so I took a shot from an asthma inhaler but it didn't help!  I also took a guifenisin tablet --an expectorate, to help clear the gunk out of my chest --this also didn't help!  Despite the very conservative pace I started to have problems about half way up.  I was having difficulty getting enough air, and I was feeling dehydrated despite having taken 4 bottles leaving Pine Creek and having thoroughly rehydrated there.  We made it to Penney Pines-1, mile 44, at 3:34pm, reflecting a 2 hour 15 minute climb, slower than plan.  I had had to stop about a half mile out from Penny Pines as I was feeling a bit shocky, nauseous and dizzy.  When we got to the station, Dax's aid station crew was great.  I had to sit to sip fluids to get my system restarted as I was feeling like burnt toast:

PP-1, mile 44: Photo:  Ulysses Chan, Paksit
Greg was a big help, and  got me more diluted ginger ale and some melon and a lot of encouragement.
Greg helping me get myself together.  Photo:  Ulysses Chan, Paksit

After only 15 minutes I was feeling better, wetter, and able to get going:
Ready to get going again- Photo:  Ulysses Chan, Paksit
After walking a mile or so to allow the fluids I had consumed at Penny Pines to work there way into my blood I was feeling better, was starting to cough up some of the dust,  and we started running.  We moved pretty well and by the time we reached Meadows, Mile 49, I was feeling chipper.  My family was waiting for me at Meadows, which was lovely:
Into Meadows: Photo, SL

Meadows, mile 49, feeling good, and hungry for real food
At Meadows with pal Greg Frye
 We set out, recharged, and headed towards Red Tailed Roost, Mile 55. This leg is actually pretty hard as it has a significant amount of climb to the course's high point of around 6000ft.  We passed a number of runners that were struggling from the heat.  Greg started to feel iffy so he took point position and we continued on steadily and  made reasonable time to Red Tail.
Into Red Tailed Roost, Mile 55
There I changed shirt and, fueled and with bottles reloaded we set out for Cibbets Flat.  The descent to Cibbets was fun and Greg took the descent aggressively, determined to get to Cibbet's, mile 64, before sundown.  It was gorgeous running, but again there was still a surprising amount of uphill on this "downhill" leg.  With my lungs feeling very sore I had a heck of a time with anything that wasn't flat or on a downhill grade and after about half way to Cibbets I was struggling to keep up, struggling to get my breath.   We got into Cibbets at 9:30pm, about an hour later than our most conservative plan.  This station required a bit more time:  I got a blister treated, and had to again slowly reset with fluids.  I had also gotten to the point that Tailwind, the drink being served up at the aid stations, was completely unpalatable, as was coke or anything sweet.  A/S caption Jeff and his crew got me some diluted broth;  this did the trick and after a while I was able to get going.  I carried diluted broth in my bottles to drink as it was only thing that seemed palatable to me.  Greg was incredibly patient and encouraged me;  I was having serious trouble getting my ahead around another 36 miles considering how I felt, but Greg's positive energy was irresistible and bucked me up.

We set out for the climb back up-  me in point position as I was struggling with my wind.  We finally topped out and reached Dale's for a needed re-set, and then off to Todd's Cabin.  At some point on this stretch Greg started to have trouble so we switched position again and he took point.  We clocked off the miles and reached Penney Pines-2, mile 80! Only 20 miles to go.  But we were both starting to stumble on our feet with sleepiness.  By the time we reached Pioneer Mail-2, mile 84, Greg seemed to be sleep walking, and after discussion we decided he should  take a cat nap.  I set a timer for 15 minutes and while Greg lay down I refueled in the amazing galley set up  by the A/S crew.  Someone offered me tomato soup, and for some odd reason the smell of it appealed to me.  It proved to be  a perfect elixir and I downed a couple cups of it along with some eggs of all things.  I couldn't get enough of it, and I felt much better with this sustenance in my system.  I woke Greg, who never really slept, and we got ourselves together to leave just as the sun was rising.

My GPS track gives the temperature stamp at around 5:30 am as 75F, it was quite warm.  Once the sun climbed over the horizon, it shifted to being positively hot.  We got a move on as we were very concerned about getting stuck in an second day of heat and we beat feet to Sunrise-1, mile 91. There I dropped my night pack  and we continued on, 9 miles to go!   We continued to move well as the heat built up, it was a scorcher.  A last, the lake rounded into sight, and shortly thereafter we were at the finish.

 My son Zack had waited patiently at the SD100 finish on Saturday morning for me and Greg Frye; man it was good to see him!!  We hung out for a bit with friends and I drank a full liter of ice cold soda water, ah.  My son drove out on course to get my drop bags, and then this lad scraped me up and got me off to a shower and to home. Thank you Son!
With my son at the finish

All in all it was a great race.  Finish time was 27:15; Greg and I  placed 43 and 44 out of 151 finishers;  there were 115 drops! Reportedly the heat index had topped 100F. While I was disappointed that Noble canyon had beaten me down again so thoroughly and that I had had breathing problems here again, it was still a solid finish and there was little soreness after a couple days post-race.  The following weekend Greg and I went out and did a 20 miler in the San Gabriels none the worse for wear.  This despite fairly low mileage race training on my part, mostly in the 50-60 mile per week range with one week at 85 in the penultimate week before the race.  So this was an important lesson for me -- despite training limitations due to work and family commitments, the race was positive and the physical aftermath  was very minimal, limited to a nagging cough that latest a couple weeks while I cleared out the dust from my lungs.

The experience of running the race as team with  Greg was unique and made the race more meaningful.  We  enjoyed sharing the good miles when  we both felt strong and we both had low spots where we were able to  help each other. In that  sense we ran to our lowest common denominator -- had we run separately, we probably each could have finished faster-- but it was worth sticking together  for the shared experience.  We don't do these things for the buckles, T-shirts or Ultrasign-up score after all.  In my case, Greg's encouragement was key to my finish, especially to get through my low point at Cibbet's.  At that point I was struggling to visualize another 36 miles;  Greg visualized it for me. That shared experience is worth  far more to me than a given time on the clock.

We both said immediately after the race "never again" to the heat and the dust, but that feeling already had changed by the time we ran out 20 miler the weekend after the race...we started planning to run Mt.D.