Wow, not sure where to start this one, but perhaps reminiscing on my DNF is a good way to start. I was worried. Going into the race I was 1 of 3 with 100's, ran one really well and had disastrous races in the other two.
From the start I felt dull, no energy and working too hard to keep it easy. Eventually, I fell in line with Bryan and we hiked our way to the ridge. For some reason I always seem to miss the turn into the brush, and again this year I missed it. We were fortunate to be loud enough to catch Becky who was rockin' some tunes and on her way off course too.
Seemingly all the way into Dryfork my stomach started to turn and my legs began to ache. I was pretty pissed off at this point as it seemed that my race from the year prior was reliving itself and I just felt like death. Quickly I refueled and got on my way to Cow Camp. To be completely honest, it was one of the lowest times I've had during a race, and coupled with the fact that it was so early in the race, I was fairly distraught. The folks at Cow Camp were great, and served me some ice cold soda and tums. While it didn't do much for my stomach, and I laid down on the side of the trail a handful of times between there and Bear Camp, I began to find at least a semblance of the fight I'd need to finish off the race if it took me 30 hours.
Descending the haul into Footbridge, I cranked the tunes and zoned out into one of the best rappers of all time: Nas. Thankfully, Steve was down at the aid station crewing for Brendan and it was just great to see a friend. By then I had fully embraced the suck and was content to grind out the best day I could. I can't say my legs responded at all, but at least my mentality was gaining steam. I had to really tough out the long drawn out climb to Elk Camp, but I did and I began seeing the leaders coming through, including Brendan, who looked great at the time.
Shortly after leaving, I needed to turn on my headlamp and negotiated the newer terrain to the slightly changed turn point at Jaws. I didn't go into Jaws at all, knowing all too well the dangers of entering a hot tent on a cold night. I sat my ass in a chair and changed out all of my gear, switching to pants, down jacket, beanie, gloves, and new shoes/socks. That was probably the smartest thing I did all day, as the temps apparently dropped below even last year when I became hypothermic (low 20's).
My legs really had a hard time starting to go, and I began to really get that 100 mile ache after sitting for a bit. However, a few miles after leaving Elk Camp, I was rolling, from here on in, I'd pass something like 15-20 people on the way home. I ended up running all of the 17 miles into Footbridge where I'd lose the pants and switch sleeves and jackets because I had started to sweat pretty hard. The climb up to Bear Camp was actually pretty fun, if grueling.
At this point, I was totally in a zone, and I'd listened to so much hip hop music that I'd just start rapping the nastiest lyrics out loud as a source of habit. By the time I'd make it Cow Camp, I was just shocked to see Steve and Brendan wrapped up in a blanket next to the fire. And, as it turned out, Becky was in a tent too, later being removed via ATV. Bighorn is bitch that way, a tough as nails course that does not lend itself to quick recovery or coddling aid stations. I guess it's definitely part of the allure for me, and it certainly adds to the challenge.
I kept moving steady all the way back to Dryfork where for the first time I realized that if I kept my shit together, there was a chance of going under 24, but it was going to be incredibly close if it happened. So, I managed to make myself try to forget about it until I got to Upper Sheep Camp and then I knew that if I got to the ridge strongly, I could have a go and see if the legs could take the terrible downhill. On the way down, I was able to run pretty well for about 2/3 of the way, but just after passing Gary Gellin and Nikki Kimball I fell apart a bit and was forced to hike for 5 minutes or so. Moving though the lower aid stations, I knew that with 5 miles left, I had to run 39:59 to break 24. The miles were excruciating, the packed dirt road with rocks blasted my right arch and I was really hurting. I can't really explain the mental anguish in forcing myself to try to run hard 97 miles in, but my god. Turning the river and into the park, I realized they moved the finish a few hundred yards back and I was out of time, missing a Rusty Spurs club medal by 40 seconds. I collapsed at the finish, totally exhausted.
For the first hour after the race, I've never felt worse. The combination of miles, fatigue, and then pushing so hard for the last hour, I felt like I was going to throw up all my insides. I had a tough time getting back into the car, but surprisingly after a short nap at the hotel, I was feeling pretty OK. By dinner time, I was doing great, and the next day, I was almost all the way human. In fact, today, 2 weeks later, I feel completely fine. After Leadville, I didn't feel right again until January, so I'm happy that I'm in good condition to enjoy the high country season in Colorado.
So, how to evaluate the race? Well, I had a terrible 55 miles to start out, and a pretty damn solid 45 finishing miles. I'm so happy to finish and get that monkey off my back. Certainly part of being able to recover quickly was due to not running to my potential. The opening issues I faced were partly due to a bad day, and partly due to some crappy planning on my part. I feel that I raced and ran too many super long runs (3 45mi or longer runs in 4 weeks) in the build up. I simply cannot recover after all of that. I also ran too intensely too far out, causing my peak fitness to come early, and entering the race I had felt pretty crappy for about 4-5 weeks. I'm certainly still learning, and perhaps a coach would help, but the realities of life don't lend itself to that.
For now, I'm gonna enjoy a few of these:
Wear this around:
And lastly, I'll be up in the high mountains for the rest of summer and fall... More to come on that!