You know, it is weird. I spent 24 hours running/walking/not-running around a 6 mile loop in the mountains near Laramie WY. As I look back, I can’t remember much of it. Does the brain do that to protect itself or something?
Here is what I do remember – Overall I enjoyed it. Sure, there were down moments, but the up moments more than cancelled them out.
Jess and I flew into Denver; I think we landed an hour or so late having spent a good chunk of time doing loops somewhere in the Colorado sky due to thunderstorms. Now, I got really irritated waiting for 45 minutes for the baggage – I particularly liked the excuse that they won’t move bags during a thunderstorm. I didn’t know that.
Anyway, we finally got to the hotel in Laramie where we met up with Frankie who had flown in from California a few hours earlier.
The next day was spent chilling with a brief walk around town and of course a trip to Wal-Mart. The weather that day became absolutely miserable in the afternoon. We made a sacrifice to the Ultra-Gods, and begged for a dry 24 hours the next day. It worked.
Frankie and I arrived at the race HQ over an hour before the race start, fully caffeinated and ready to go. Well, as ready as you can ever be.
At the pre race briefing, we were warned that “there’s moose on the trail” – that’s fine, but I would have felt better had we not been reminded that more people are killed/injured by moose than bear. Thanks for that!!
Before we knew it, we were on our way. At this point, 24 hours seemed a very long time in the future. The course was a 5.9 mile loop with varying terrain which we ran in alternating directions. The first part was a single trail – not too technical, which came out by the camp ground and the trail at this point was ‘double-wide’, flat and a good running surface. We would soon come to the first water crossing, which had a 2 x 4 to walk across. During the night, I slipped off this, and found the only way to cross without losing my balance was with a stick to keep me upright. There was another water crossing a little further up, but this could be jumped. A sharp right turn (which we missed in the middle of the night DOH!), preceded the start of the longest climb of the loop. The website says it is a 1.6 mile climb where there is 700’ of elevation gain. This climb had the prettiest part of the course, where we crossed a couple of meadows, and the ugliest part of the course where we traversed what was basically a swamp. You could try and go around it – and occasionally we could get through without getting our feet too wet, but more often than not, you would end up ankle deep in thick mud. Certainly when it was dark, I concluded it was safer to just plow through the mud rather than risk slipping by trying to bypass it. Coming down this part on even laps was just as tricky.
After the mud, there was one more steep climb to the ‘summit’, where the mid-point aid station was located.
The next part of the loop was heavenly, nice and flat with good footing and some pretty views. Shame it only lasted for a mile or so though.
The next part was mainly down hill back to the race HQ – some fairly steep ‘downs’ (and the occasional steep ‘up’), and every now and then the trail could get quite technical. After frying my quads at Umstead, and the Boogie, I took it fairly easy on the down hills.
And that was it – back to the parking lot aid station, turn around and go back the way you came.
After maybe 4 laps, I started to feel pretty rough, my stomach was bloated, and every time I drank, I would want to throw up. Add in to the mix that I hadn’t peed for a couple of hours (despite plenty of drinking) and lower back pain, I was beginning to get a little concerned. Having read this article a couple of days earlier, I decided to seek advice from the organizers who have a better clue about running at altitude. Bottom line was (according to them) that I need to treat a cool day at altitude the same as I would treat a hot day at sea level. You can dehydrate and lose electrolytes just as quickly. They recommended doubling the Endurolytes I was taking, and sitting out the race until everything started to function as normal. That took somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours. It was big relief when I finally needed to go to the bathroom.
It was great to be out on the course again, and at this point, I actually felt pretty strong.
The sunset was beautiful, but of course that meant night was coming. I have run at night a few times before (most recently at the Boogie Marathon), but I think it felt much lonelier in the hills. Frankie had lapped me while I was sitting out, so we would get to bump into each other once per lap. Sometime about 10:30 pm, I had just left the main aid station, and Frankie was just coming in – it made sense to run together through the night, so I slowed right down, and she caught up with me at the mid point aid station (where I sat and rested for a few minutes, and put a band aid on a hot spot that had formed). We ran the rest of the race together.
Through the night we would talk about everything, anything and nothing – it was really great to have company again. I know that at one point, I hit a low – no idea what time it was, maybe 2 or 3 in the morning. This is where I learnt the power of caffeine pills and coca cola. Combined, they make a ‘wonder drug’, I certainly perked up, and other than maybe one more mini-low on the second to last lap (again cured with the ‘wonder drug combo’), we got through it all.
In conclusion, there were a lot of lessons learned, and I will post those later – but I enjoyed this race, and it has further fuelled my desire to go to the next level and finish a 100 miler.
Oh, I came THIRD. Did I mention that?