(I have never fallen behind race reports in over 3 years of blogging. Recently, my mileage has been so high that something had to give. Now, I’m catching up.)
All week, the forecast called for a scorcher in Auburn. See, I don’t like heat. Don’t do well in it. So, as the forecast temperature kept creeping up with each day, I kept trying to make myself feel better. “I’m in the shape of my life. I’ll be fine.” “I did plenty of heat workouts during the summer. I’ll be fine.” “[insert something here]. I’ll be fine.”
It was already warm when we were lining up at the start at 7. The first 4+ miles took us down to fabled No Hands Bridge, a critical aid station at the Western States 100. It would turn out to be critical for me as well that day.
After No Hands, we got our first crack at K2, a treacherous climb that has broken many a runner. I had the highest respect for it, which probably contributed to it being not so bad after all. The take-away here: K2 will get you if you’re not ready, but if you’re well trained, it ain’t so bad.
I was climbing here with eventual 25k winner Casey Newton and ultrarunner.net-regular Ray Sanchez. We hit the Knickerbocker aid station together and got ready for the section over to Cool. Except we knew it would be anything but. This stretch is essentially rolling hills going through what I presume are cow pastures. This time of year, all the grass is burnt golden and mercilessly reflects the sun.
By the time, I got to Cool, I realized that my legs were feeling way too tired way too early. I spent a few minutes ensuring was hydrated before making my way back to No Hands. Downhill is what I live for, so this section was fine.
I took climbing K2 a second time real easy. Towards the top, it gets really exposed, however, and things were going downhill (figuratively!) fast. Uh oh. By the time I was back at Knickerbocker, things had gotten so bad, I had to sit down. A first for me during a race. But I had to properly hydrate and cool off with ice before the uber-exposed section over to Cool.
And that section would last seemingly forever. I have no idea how long it took me. It felt like 3 hours. At Cool, I was reduced to laying down in the shade of the SUV for 10 minutes. I couldn’t take any more sun. It was around noon now, and I had a hard time just staying in the shade. This was a low.
I figured, I would somehow make it back down to No Hands and drop out. No way, was I going to run 8 more miles. 4 miles of downhill took me almost 50 minutes including one ill-fated attempt at sitting down by the side of the trail that resulted in a full leg cramp. I arrived at No Hands in a sorry state and told the volunteer I was going to drop no matter what.
He would not have it. I can’t remember what our conversation was. But over a period of 20-25 minutes, he got me from feeling sorry for myself to believing that I could walk the 4+ uphill miles to the finish. Eventually, I got up and, armed with 8 or so slices of oranges, I started to walk. At first, slowly. Then a bit faster. And then a bit faster still. Eventually I shuffled and even ran a bit to a hard-earned 7 hour and 13 minute finish. Heat, it turns out, will bend but not break me.
My thanks to RD Robert and all the volunteers for an expertly put on race.