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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rio Del Lago 100M: Who Needs Toenails Anyway?

"I have a strong and healthy body...I have a strong and healthy mind...don't cry, don't cry...I'm going to finish this thing, I'm going to finish this thing...Whoa, is that fire in the hole? Somebody put it out!!!...Ooooooooh, man, that hurt, I'm losing those toenails for sure...Do I need to puke? Nah, wait, take that back, BLEEEEEECH!!!!...Why do I always get stuck behind chicks talking about Ironman? For the love of God, WHY?!...That smells, is that me?...Man, I feel great!...K2 is a sissy hill, K2 is a sissy hill...so is Cardiac Hill...Can't wait to see Geof, can't wait to see Geof...EFF my left big toe hurts like a mutha...C'mon Gaines, get 'er done!!!...EFF, it's hot...EFF, I'm going to puke.....................Oh my gosh, I'm going to finish, I'm really, really going to finish!...Leadville, you can kiss my ASS!"

Peeps always ask what goes through my head during these things.  Well, there's a small sampling.  Particularly the first two things.  This is going to sound a bit new agey and weird, but I've recently taken to daily positive affirmations (thanks to Geof's suggestion) to help bolster my mental game.  I came up with a number of things on my own to repeat daily to myself, and the first two things were my affirmations of choice while running the 2010 Rio Del Lago 100M.  I guess it worked :)  Put it out there, and then all the universe will conspire to make it happen.  Thank you universe :)

Rio Del Lago takes place just outside of Sacramento, CA, in Granite Bay, and makes its way up to Cool, CA (which was most definitely the HOTTEST part of the course...how cruel).  You then turn around to go back where you came from, and then continue on down and around Lake Natoma, then back to where you started, in Granite Bay.  The first part of the course from Cavitt School to Cool and back was the BEST...rolling, dusty singletrack along the American River, parts of which were on the Western States Trail and included a run across the famed No Hands Bridge.  No Hands Bridge is heaven and I look forward to going back there :) 

The course itself isn't overly challenging when you compare it to, oh, say, Leadville or Wasatch, or even Western States...but, an "easy" course? Not even close.  It's one of those deceptively tough courses, strewn with rocks and roots and so much dust I was blowing brown stuff out of my nose for the couple of days following.  Gross.  It's also hot.  The weather was cooler than originally projected for the race, and didn't rise much above 90.  Add in the very exposed course and you have one heck of a hot day!  Peeps were dropping like flies because of the heat apparently.  There are two vicious climbs, Cardiac (very apropos) and K2 (again, apropos), which will awaken your every cell and remind you to pay attention, but they come early and aren't repeated.  If you've climbed Hope Pass, these are nothing, but it does take some special technique to make your way up without going all anerobic and what not.  I passed people like it was my business on K2, but what a doozy! 

The rest of the course is very, very rolling and the last 50k are incredibly rocky and curse word-inducing, but considerably easier since it's dark and cooler.  I could have done without all the pavement running in the final 7 or so miles, but whatevs.

Okay, that's enough of a boring description of the course :) 

I'm starting to get all starry-eyed and girly remembering race day.  You know when you have a really bang-up time, when everything just seems to go really right and no matter how much it might have hurt for awhile, you always look back and remember it as "the best time of your life"?  That's where I'm at :)

The short of it?  I finished!  With a new PR!  28:21:29.  The official results are incorrect, showing me as coming in at 28:05.  I'm flattered, but it's not right.  Oooo, and I got a fancy shmancy 20-29 age group award...2nd place chick.  And, what's cooler, is it's something I can actually use!

Was this redemption?  I'd say 50/50.  Was it what I wanted?  100%.  Did I feel pressured or stressed?  Not a hint of either.  For me, this race was exactly what I was looking for.  The experience I had at RDL this year has made me realize a few things: mountainous races are not my thing right now, the Leadville experience was too much of a production and not my scene either, oxygen is a GOOD thing, so is being able to run because you have access to things like...oxygen, and losing your cookies during a race can actually serve you well.  My DNF at Leadville stung at first, then it subsided almost completely, and relatively quickly actually.  But, I had all this fitness and drive still lingering, I wanted to do something.  RDL was perfect timing in every way.  So off to Sacramento we flew, along with Brian and Kelly, of course.

After a quick pre-race meeting where they warned us about the possibility of course marking sabotage (oh, great), weigh-in, BP check and packet pick-up, we headed to dinner at the king of classy Italian dining, Olive Garden.  That will be the last time I eat a plate of fettuccine alfredo and two bowls of salad the night before a race.  Holy over-active colon!  Steve, Geof's uncle, joined us for dinner as well.  Steve was going to be joining Geof as a member of my crew, and on Saturday morning, Gretchen would be joining the crew crowd as well.  What a lucky gal I am, I had a really great cast of characters helping me out, and no drop bags to worry with!

With the Brelly at the pre-race meeting...so excited!
I think I slept pretty well the night before, but that may have been aided by an overdose of the spray adhesive that Brian was using to tape his feet in the room we were all sharing ;)  The usual pre-race preparations took place and Brian and I were all set to get 'er done before long.  I decided to start out in my new Sportie Cats, my trusty Atayne CHUG shirt, Drymax Max Pro socks, RecoFit Arm Coolers and RecoFit Calf Sleeves, along with various other items of necessary clothing.  I did opt for the gaiters this time, and thank goodness I did...by the first sock change at mile 44 you could see exactly where my gaiters didn't cover (the dust and grit were experts at getting into my shoes even with the gaiters). 

At the starting area, we had to be weighed again, and since we got there so early (6 a.m. start time) we just bummed around taking pictures, gnawing on plain bagels and relaxing.  The tiny gym at Cavitt School was buzzing and jammed with the 100+ runners (94 hundo runners and a bunch of 50k runners) and their crews.  It was funny to observe the relatively relaxed scene compared to the start of Leadville, and even Rocky Raccoon.  There was really good, positive energy in the air and I was on cloud 9 imagining the day ahead of me on the trail with these folks.
Brian and I have on our race faces at the start
At precisely 6:00 we were off, running into the early dawn hours.  I carried a small handheld light for the first 30-45 minutes of running, until the sun illuminated the trail enough to not need anything.  The first ~12 miles are run around Folsom Lake on a very rolling dirt trail, and since they get zero rain in this area it was verrrry dusty.  I pulled my Buff up over my nose and mouth more than a few times when runners in front of me kicked up some of the grit.  This section of this trail was really pleasant and switched between single track and wider doubletrack.  I got stuck behind a train of women talking all about how tough Ironman is and that this was just a training run for their next IM.  Yea, see ya at the finish line (FYI, none of those women finished...).  Disclaimer: I have nothing against IM, I have some wonderful friends who enjoy them, but I always manage to get stuck behind people who talk incessantly about those races and how amazing they are.  Minor pet peeve I guess :)  Onward!

After jumping on my first chance to pass up the IM chicks, I sailed along some really rocky and technical sections of the trail, taking quick glances to my right to check out the awesome scenery that is Folsom Lake...simply stunning, really!  I bypassed the first two aid stations as I was full up on liquids and had a tight nutrition schedule to stick to.  No deviation today!  Mile 11.93 - Rattlesnake Bar - was the first crew accessible aid station and I was pumped to see my man and Steve.  At around mile 10 I noticed a very familiar sensation coming over me...I needed to pee, sweet!  This was very good, especially considering it took me 40 miles to need to pee at Leadville.
Coming into Rattlesnake Bar.  Photo courtesy of www.therundown.net (Charlie N.)

I rolled into Rattlesnake Bar in about 2.5 hours, right on schedule, and considering I walked the equivalent of about two miles in that first section, I was quite pleased with my arrival.  A quick swap of my Perpetuem bottle and a check of my water supply in my pack and I was off!  I was feeling great, and I got a nice little surge from seeing Geof and Steve's smiling faces.  The next crew station would be Auburn Dam Overlook (which, from what we could tell, was no dam, and no overlook to be seen, lol) at mile 22ish.  I left Rattlesnake smiling and feeling pretty awesome, setting off down the trail, hoping the field had spread out some.  The first 50k runners were already headed back by this time and they were very polite and stepped aside as we crossed paths on the singletrack trail.  "Go ahead, you've got a LOT more ground to cover than I do today!  Yea hundred mile runner!"  That made me smile to myself :)  I ran a lot of the next few miles solo, passing a couple folks, getting passed by a couple folks, rolling with the hills, drinking at regular intervals, keeping up on my salt intake, keeping an eye on my hands to see if they were puffing up.  It was now starting to warm up pretty good, but the shade of the trail kept runners pretty cool at this point still.  

I was concentrating pretty well and reminding myself to be in the moment.  Too often in a race, I find myself forward-thinking and worrying about what's coming up next.  I think that's a bit of a mental downfall.  This time I would keep my head in the precise moment I was actually in at any given time.  Relish the trail beneath my feet, enjoy everything around me and listen to my body.  I would get to the big climb when I got to it and I would deal with it one footfall at a time.  This strategy made a huge difference in where my head was throughout the race and it made the experience that much more positive.  I recommend trying it out!

I'm not sure what the mileage was, but it was a couple miles before Cardiac Hill that I ran up behind a train of three people.  I hung behind them for a bit gauging the pace and their conversation style.  They were running my pace (sweet!), talking walk breaks at the exact moment I was craving one (bam!) and their conversation was light and pretty entertaining.  I decided to hang onto these folks and really, really enjoyed the trail with them until Maidu (~mile 21).  The climb up Cardiac gave us an insider's view of just why it was named that, and I thoroughly enjoyed keeping pace with this group.  They pulled me along when I likely would have slowed considerably and gotten lazy, but it was never outside of my comfort zone.  Jenny was the women's winner a number of years back, and she was leading the group.  Joey was charged with making sure she kept an even and relaxed pace during the hot hours of the day, and I'm not sure what the other gal was doing with them, but they all clearly knew each other well.  After cresting Cardiac, the trail runs along a canal and is very flat and shaded.  It was lovely!  We all stopped to dunk our hats in the frigid water of the canal and then rolled on.  One more guy tacked on behind me and was thanking me for pulling him along all that way.  I said to thank the ones ahead of us!  I loved this section. 

Running along the canal with my adopted posse, heading to Maidu (~mile 21)

Rolling into Maidu, I took another potty break and then kept on moving, leaving the group at the aid station.  It was only another 1.5 miles to Auburn Dam where my crew was meeting me.  The rest of the way along the canal and nicely shaded still.  I saw the amazing Monica Scholz up ahead (whom I met climbing up Hope Pass during Leadville) and worked to catch up to her.  I finally caught up as we were cresting a paved hill leading up to the Overlook.  Past the bathrooms (ooo, real bathrooms!) I ran down to the AS to the smiling faces of my awesome crew and Kelly.  Gretchen joined us here and I was pumped to finally meet her in person.  She gave me a huge hug and then we set about refilling my bottles, removing my arm sleeves, checking to make sure my iPod was working and a quick potty break in the f'real bathrooms (which even had soap, running water and paper towels...heaven!).  It was really warm by now and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  The next section was going to be much more exposed so Geof lathered on the sunscreen for me.  I had noticed a bit of an uncomfortable rubbing on the outside of my right ankle and wasn't sure if my shoe was rubbing it, or if it was my calf and achilles butting in.  It looked a bit like my ankle was swollen compared to my left side, but since it didn't hurt I left it alone and quietly worried about it as I rolled out of the AS, Geof warning me about the net downhill section ahead of me, "take care of those quads!"  I turned on my iPod for the first time all day and brushed out the negative thoughts about my ankle and put myself back in the moment.  Ahhhh, bliss :)

This section was much better marked (less course sabotage I guess) and I just put my legs on autopilot and went with the flow.  I was much more downhill running and I began to notice my left hammy tightening up so I altered my form a bit to rely a little less on the hams and this seemed to work pretty well.  It was around this time that I remembered my left big toe.  I had smacked the bejeezus out of it on a rock earlier and it was now throbbing a bit on each steep downhill footfall.  But it went away quickly again once I was back on flat trail and I forgot about it again.  Until, of course, I smacked the bejeezus out of it again...and again...and again.  I was loosing count of how many times I smacked that left toe on a rock.  Crimeny!  No matter, this section of the course was MINDBLOWING!  It was a slightly wide dirt trail following along the American River in all its amazing glory.  I barely saw a soul on the trail, except for one dude who looked exactly like Tony Krupicka...same hair, same shorts, same shirtless abs...spitting image.  I was really looking forward to crossing No Hands Bridge and knew I was getting close to it when I saw a few more people heading up the trail.  Normal, everyday runners, and they cheered me on loudly as I ran passed them.  I love this place, I thought to myself more than a few times along this section of the course :)  As I rounded a corner I saw No Hands come into view and I instantly got goose bumps!  Wow, it's freakin' palatial compared to how I pictured it!  Just then, my favorite Coldplay song came on and I was in heaven.  I imagined all the fast feet that have crossed this very same path in search of a Western States buckle, and it was all I could do to not shout at the top of my lungs that I absolutely loved this place!
Arriving at No Hands Bridge I, feelin' groovy

It was super hot now and while Steve and Geof set about filling my bottle and water, I downed some more nutrition and salt and Gretchen got some ice for my Buff to keep around my neck.  Ahhh, bliss, again.  This next section was nicknamed K2 and was going to be a super steep ~1.5 mile climb.  My hands were a tad on the puffy side by now, so I needed to make sure to keep an eye on them.  The trail turns once and then puts you at the base of K2.  A sign states "Caution: Very Steep Climb", or something to that effect.  I laughed a little bit and thought to myself that clearly they'd never climbed Hope Pass in Leadville, or Naval Run in PA.  I kept my head in the moment, jacked up the iPod as my favorite butt kicking song came on (Static X "Dirthouse") and resigned myself to the baby steps Joe Judd recommended I employ up Hope Pass rather than my usual long strides, eyes down and not focusing on anything further than the next two steps, shoulders back, abs tight.  The result?  Dude, I smoked that hill and everyone I passed on it!!  I couldn't believe how quickly I moved upwards.  I knew there were 7 false summits and I checked them off as I hit them, ran the short flats, and then got right back into my baby steps on the climbs.  I never went anerobic and my breathing was just slightly above normal rate.  I kept hitting repeat on my butt kicking song and before I knew it I was at the summit!  I felt like a gazillion bucks :)  I did notice that the further up I got, the puffier my hands got, to the point of tingling when I had them hanging down.  That was weird, but as soon as the climbing ended, they went down enough that there was no more tingle and I could make a fist.  I made sure to pee the next chance I had and this helped a good deal.  The heat was really becoming a factor, but other than my hands I felt great still.  The course took us through wide open golden fields with long runnable stretches.  At one point, when I was getting close to the next crew stop, at Cool Fire Station, I noticed a woman ahead of me off course.  I yelled to her repeatedly, but she must have had music on as she heard nothing.  Luckily, the course met up with the trail she was on, but then at a T intersection where it was clearly marked to go left, she turned right.  I remembered her from the start of the race so I knew she was in the race.  I yelled again and again after her, but to no avail.  I quietly hoped she'd figure it out and then I turned and continued on my way.  Yikes, I would be so miffed if that happened to me! (Note: this chick ended up finishing about an hour after me, thank goodness she made it!) 

The Cool Fire Station at mile 29.84 was a big crew stop, and anything but 'cool'...it was freakin' HOT!  I finally caught up to Brian at this point.  He was enjoying a popsicle when I rolled in, yum.  After not one, but two bathroom stops (I knew that fettuccine alfredo was a bad idea...) I downed an ice cold chocolate Ensure (so good!), got more ice in my Buff, bottle and pack and headed up the trail after Brian.  This section was brutal.  Hot, hot, hot.  Very exposed and rocky.  I stubbed my left toe a couple more times and even stubbed the right one once.  Eventually, I caught up to Brian and we power walked the rolling sections and kept each other company during a mentally challenging part of the course.  It never seemed to end.  We went back and forth with a few other people, but otherwise it was an empty trail.  We got to a paved road and then the heavenly Knickerbocker AS came into view.  Yes!!  Brian sat for a spell and asked if I'd wait, so I gave him 30 seconds :)  We dumped ice into our hats and Buffs and then put our heads down and headed up the road for the remaining 1.6 miles back to the Cool Fire Station.  I made quick business of getting out of there after some refills of water.  My stomach was starting to feel a tad funky, but nothing alarming.  I decided to grab some banana, that was pretty yummy.  Yet another bathroom break (this is some sort of record for me...I actually did lose count of f'real bathroom breaks after stop number 7) and then I took off back down the trail, headed for No Hands Bridge again.  Music on full throttle and I was sailing.  I felt pretty good still and ignored the little yelps of my stomach.  I kept the pace a little more relaxed as I figured the heat was starting to play more of a role.  I also went from taking salt every 45 minutes, to every 40 minutes.  Not a huge difference time-wise, but it really did seem to help during this stretch of exposed trail.  

The race organizers were really awesome and opted not to have us run back down K2, and instead had us turning down a trail that would bring us gently down and around the face of the hill.  Still very downhill, but much more palatable for this not-so-good downhiller.  My toes were jamming into the front of my shoes and that didn't feel too good, but I was just so glad I found the trail that I didn't mind it too much.  This section heading back was really crappily marked.  But, I found it and found my way back to No Hands.  I was feeling my stomach more and more and was trying to think of something to do about it.  I sat briefly at No Hands while my awesome crew did their thing.  My ankle still wasn't bothering me, but I was letting its slightly swollen appearance bother me.  I let Geof know that I'd want to change my shirt, socks and shoes at Auburn Dam, and confirmed with Gretchen that she'd be jumping in to pace at that point.  Sweet, I got some renewed energy knowing that.  This next section would be net uphill, but I knew it wouldn't be that bad since it was pretty rolling.  I plugged the headphones back in and danced my way across No Hands Bridge, eating up the scenery.  "Man I love this place", was all I could think :)

My music kept me good company on the less than four-mile trip back to Auburn Dam.  I thought about how consistent I'd been all day and how much fun I've been having.  I was keeping a very steady pace, something new to me :)  My left foot was bothering me and I was letting myself worry about it.  I decided I needed a new distraction, so I began to sing, loudly.  A song came on that I knew all the words to and I belted that mutha like I was Aretha Franklin!  I checked behind me a couple times to make sure I was still alone, and kept on singing.  It felt so good!  It was releasing a lot of tension and getting my mind off other things.  I highly recommend trail serenading :)  Before I knew it, I was climbing the short hill back up to Auburn Dam and ready for a slightly longer stop.  I weighed in again here and was surprised to see I was still at my starting weight.  There were a couple other stops where we were weighed and I found that I maintained the same weight the entire race...something new for me!  I changed my shirt and socks here as planned (I opted not to change the shoes just yet for some reason), drank a Starbucks Doubleshot for some much needed energy.  My ankle appeared fine and my feet actually looked great, albeit quite dirty :)  My stomach was a little distended so I knew I was going to need to change something, I just didn't know what.  I could feel a low spot approaching quickly and I was scrambling in my head to figure out how to dodge it.  It was time for a second dose of Tylenol so I took that, along with more salt and after a stop at the potty, again, Gretchen and I were off!  Gretchen was going to run the next ~23 miles with me, back to Cavitt School where Geof would then jump in for the remaining 33 miles of the race.

Gretchen and I heading out of Auburn Dam Overlook - mile 44.29

The fresh socks and shirt felt good, but my stomach was getting less and less happy.  My feet felt better and as we got to the canal I stated that I'm usually pretty quiet and that we may be walking a good bit.  I was feeling that low point come on strong suddenly.  Gretchen was awesome and assured me she was fine with whatever I wanted to do.  What a great chick :)  As quickly as that low point sunk in, it seemed to lift and we were running along the canal, I in front and Gretchen behind me.  Ah, this was better.  Maidu II was just 1.5 miles up the trail and it appeared seemingly out of nowhere.  I headed for the port-o-john immediately, and as I sat there I thought, "something needs to happen".  I stood to leave and then I turned around and it happened.  I dry heaved into the hole in the ground, and then made the mistake of observing the contents of the toilet...that's all I needed!  I lost my cookies, and lost them good!  A few more heaves and I was good.  I stepped out of the port-o-john and hobbled over to the tent where I sat on top of a cooler.  "Well, let's just say...I need to replenish some calories!"  I felt like death warmed over and was wondering when that great feeling that supposedly follows a mid-race puke fest would come on.  I'd never purged during a race and will actually usually avoid it with every ounce of energy in me.  This time, I just let it happen, and now I was worried about what the consequences of that would be.  I had just eaten a Gu, taken salt and Tylenol and now I need to replenish that and then some.  I ate some saltine crackers, and a kind volunteer offered me a Pedialyte popsicle.  That frozen delight tasted a-maz-ing!  Just then, Brian ran up to us.  The three of us hung there for a couple more minutes while I ate more food and even downed another gel, this time I decided to stick with my Powerbar Gels, rather than the gross Gu gels I'd been using.  Gretchen helped me up and then we slowly made our way down the trail a few yards, with Brian in tow.  

Now, I wouldn't say it was immediate, but it did seem to come on out of nowhere.  I started running, and running, and running.  My legs were moving better than they had all day.  I remember wondering whose legs these were!  Brian was still with us for a ways longer and after making the steep descent down Cardiac (yowza, my left toe was screaming now!) we didn't have him behind us.  There was only one major course marking flub along the American River section at this time, it was a fork in the trail and thankfully Gretchen ran ahead to see which way we were supposed to go.  Brian caught back up and waited with me while Gretchen did her trail reconnaissance.  

We were clipping off the miles and I felt incredible.  I got back on my nutrition plan, surprisingly, and never had another issue with it the rest of the race.  I eased back on the salt now that the sun was going down and kept it to one per hour.  Running along the American River and Folsom Lake at sundown was awesome and Gretchen and I were chatting up a storm, almost entirely non-stop.  Walking steep ups, but then back to running the flats and downs.  I could NOT believe how good I was feeling, and I could NOT believe I was talking while running!  We laughed about my having said I'm usually quiet :)  We talked about everything, laughed, swapped race stories, talked about our jobs, how we met Stacy of Wilderness Running Company, music, concerts, etc.  I was having a freakin' blast.  We rolled into aid stations smiling and laughing.  At some point the sun completely disappeared and the lights came on.  I wasn't sure how I'd fare in the dark...would I get insanely tired like at Rocky Raccoon? Would I get cranky? Would I get tunnel vision from my headlamp?  None of those things factored in this time.  I felt like I was running the same as I was when the sun was still out.  I took only one misstep and fell to the left into a soft patch of yellow straw-like grass.  Phew, glad I didn't fall into the rock bed in front of me!  A couple of pit stops in a field and I was good.  Arriving at Rattlesnake Bar, I took some more Tylenol and decided to change my shoes.  I could feel my feet were swollen, which is normal for races of this distance, and the back of my right shoe was really irritating my achilles, so I switched into my road shoes.  It felt like my feet filled in every ounce of those shoes!  My left toe felt huge, but I couldn't see well enough in the dark, and I was just so happy to have that tension off my achilles.  I grabbed some Sharkies and my pack and we headed back into the night.

Rattlesnake Bar - mile 55.09

At Horseshoe Bar - mile 57.02, a volunteer handed each of us a glowstick necklace.  I still have mine :)  Just a little something fun for the run and we got lots of compliments on them, lol.  Getting onto the trail that goes around Folsom Lake we worried a bit about the trail markings...there weren't any.  It's a good thing there's really only one option around the lake, but it was still a little unnerving to not see any flags.  Clearly, someone had taken it upon themselves to remove all the flagging during the day.  What jerks.  What's the point?  There were a whopping two flags on the 9 mile stretch from Horseshoe Bar to Cavitt School (mile 66.96).  No matter, we were enjoying ourselves, even running a lot of the ups.  A confusing sign at the levee had us scratching our heads, but I knew the school was straight ahead.  I also knew Geof and I were going to need to figure out the sign for the next portion of the race.  We eventually reached the chain-link fence around the fields behind the school and ran around the perimeter.  I was so happy to reach this point, and feeling so dang good!  I ran to the gymnasium slightly less than 2 hours ahead of the cutoff, and hopped inside, arms wide open, to a MASH scene.  Whoa, it appeared a lot of peeps were having a lot of trouble.  I wanted to get in and out of there, fast.  Geof was all set to go and after another weigh in, battery change and some refills, we were outta there!  I regaled Geof with my excitement over the last 22 miles with Gretchen, "we ran almost every step of that trail, it was awesome!!"

Mentally, I was passing with flying colors.  I was still doing really well with keeping in the moment.  Other than that one mental dip just before I lost my cookies at Maidu, I had had a really awesome mental race, not to mention physically, too.  My stomach was holding tight and my feet were feeling better in my road shoes.  The next 33ish miles were going to be a lot less rolling, more runnable and include a good bit of paved bike path/urban running.  Carrying a handheld light, in addition to my headlamp, helped avoid the tunnel vision sickness I've gotten in the past from having only one light.  Awesome.  Geof and I clipped along the levees, up and down some hills and around Lake Natoma.  Mentally, I decided I just needed to get to Hazel Bluff AS at mile 89 under the cutoff and then I could take my time getting to the finish (the RDs would honor any finish time as long as you made the mile 89 cutoff); the final 11 miles would be my "party miles".  This helped me to break up the last portion of the course and made it feel less daunting.

I was still keeping up on my nutrition and very diligent about the salt and calories.  I was really craving some ramen noodles, and when we arrived at Negro Bar to one fabulous volunteer manning a huge pot of ramen noodles, I rejoiced.  YESSSSSSS!  I downed a cup of the steamy goodness, grabbed more gels from my peeps and we headed out again.  Negro was the only AS that had a generator going, and actual lights...how strange.  Geof and I were talking about how important something as minor as the sound of a generator running is during the night portion of these races.  Hearing that gentle whirring sound is like a beacon of hope for the runner in the night.  I don't know why no other AS had this, and I won't even get into the whole no lights thing here.  At Hazel Bluff (mile 77.33) we were ahead of schedule a bit, so Steve and Gretchen were sleeping in the car.  I asked a volunteer how far to the next crew station and he responded with a very typical (of this race), "I don't know."  But he didn't stop there, he had to share that he did know it was about 12.5 miles round trip, to get back to them at mile 89.  Okay, now there is a prime example of information I did not need at that point.  Suddenly, 12.5 miles felt insurmountable.  We ambled over to the car as Steve rolled out, very surprised to see us :)  I grabbed more gels and another Starbucks Doubleshot and then we headed out.  This was where there was a lot of paved bike path running.  I mentioned that I thought if we saw this part during the day, we would never run in an area like this voluntarily.  Geof agreed, and I added that running in the woods with rattlesnakes and mountain lions was less worrisome to me!  Suffice it to say, it was a little sketchy running in such an unfamiliar and urban setting.

We passed a lot of zombie-like runners, reduced to hobbling.  We were still running pretty well and I was already forgetting the 12.5 mile comment from the volunteer.  The turn-around point was within reach and I knew I was in no danger of missing any cutoffs at this point.  I decided that I would allow myself one nap, at the turn-around station, since I hadn't taken one at Cavitt School as I originally thought I might.  I was feeling a little tired, but not horribly so.  One quick nap would take the edge off :) 

At around 4:25 a.m. we arrived at Mt. Lion Knoll (mile 83.63), the turn around.  I checked in at the AS, grabbed a cup of the most amazing tasting butternut squash soup and then headed back down to the parking lot where a thick blanket was laid out for me on the pavement and a chair for me to elevate my legs with.  I rolled myself up like a burrito and zonked for 15 minutes straight.  I wouldn't call it the most restful sleep ever, but it felt so incredible to have my legs elevated, back flat and eyes shut.  Wow, that was blissful.  My crew woke me up and helped me to my feet.  I immediately put on my Rocky Raccoon 100 fleece sweater as I knew that laying flat like that was going to give me serious chills if I didn't put on something warm asap.  That fleece worked like a charm!  It's nice to know I've learned a thing or two in my experiences.  No matter the temperature, if you've been running all day, gotten some sun, and then lay down for even a minute at night, you are going to get chilled.  Even at Badwater that happened to our runner.  So, if you are going to stop for any measure of time during the night portion of a race, have something warm to put on.  Otherwise, you'll be battling the chills for some time and that zaps your energy like few other things do.

Usually, after making it 80 miles, I have a pretty good feeling I'm going to finish.  There are few things that will stop me, and on this day I could feel it in my bones.  I was going to do it.  But, I wanted to get to Hazel Bluffs (mile 89) before claiming it a sure thing.  The next 7ish miles back to Hazel after the turn-around were pretty unremarkable due to the urban setting, but Geof and I were moving along well.  One major, major lift was seeing Brian and Kelly heading for the turn-around about 3/4 of a mile out of the station.  We were both absolutely elated to see them there.  Brian was going to get 'er done!!!  This gave me a good little boost that carried me to Hazel Bluffs feeling really good, albeit ready to be done!  We arrived with the sun rising behind us, and just shy of 2 full hours ahead of the cut-off, as it had been for me all day.  Sweet :)  I decided to leave my hydration pack here and opted for one bottle of plain water, and one bottle of Gatorade.  I also grabbed my sunglasses and tied my fleece around my waist.  I now knew I was going to finish, without a shadow of a doubt.  My head was in a great spot and my body still felt incredible.  I grabbed a cup of chicken noodle soup from the aid station, silently forgiving the volunteer that had made the 12.5 mile remark earlier on :)  The same guy now announced to me, "head down this hill here, round the corner and then guess what?  You will be in the single digits!"  This made me very happy :)

The trail out of the AS was very steep and rocky and I made sure to stub my toe one more time here.  I said aloud that I was without a doubt going to be losing my left big toenail, and possibly my right one, too.  Blech.  The remaining miles felt much longer than they actually were, but that is par for the course at the end of a 100 mile race for me.  It's funny to look back and remember at mile 12 how I thought, "wow, I'm already 12 miles in, only 88 more to go!"  And, now I was thinking how awful it was that there were 9.5 miles left to go, ha!  Perspective.  Once on the bike path there was a lot of walking mixed with running.  My feet were pretty unhappy with me, but I knew I needed to keep moving.  Each step gets you that much closer to the finish.  Geof mentioned he thought I'd probably be able to PR at this rate.  Ooo, a PR, that would be fun :)  I stopped at every port-o-john we passed, and happily noticed my hands were back to their normal size and my feet didn't feel as puffy in my shoes.  Negro Bar II came up pretty quickly somehow, and after a 30 second stop in the chair, we continued on.  Gretchen and Steve were wide awake, it appeared, and I was so happy to see them at each stop in the night.  I was feeling pretty darn lucky for the crew I had with me :)  They let us know we'd see them one more time before the finish, at Folsom Dam Park.

Arriving at Negro Bar II - mile 94.43

I was pretty much over the whole paved bike path thing, and all the cyclists riding on the left side of the path (um, what's up with that?  Everyone on a bike was riding on the left side), and the sun, and the eerie chanting coming from the Folsom Prison alongside us (yep, the Folsom Prison, a la Johnny Cash :)).  Arriving at Folsom Dam, we checked with a volunteer on Brian's status.  There was a question mark next to his bib number and she said they were unsure if he was still out on the course or a DNF.  This didn't sit well with us, and we both chanted, "C'mon Gaines, git 'er done!" as we made our way towards the finish a mere 3.1 miles away.  I now had two full bottles of ice cold water as the day was heating up, and this made those final few miles more bearable.  Eventually, the levees came into view and Geof proclaimed we were getting really close.  Oh, sweet redemption, you will be mine!!

We rounded the corner on the final levee, and I recalled at that moment that there was less than a mile to go.  Suddenly, the entire day and night began to run through my mind.  I said we should run to the corner and then walk some, but I found myself continuing to run...all the way to the finish.  The chain-link fence appeared before us and we followed the trail around the perimeter one final time.  "Oh my gosh, I'm gonna do it, again.  Holy shit!" was all I could say.  Down the hill and onto the blacktop of the playground, across the basketball court and onto the timing mats.

I was done.  A new PR of 28:21:29...whoa, that was pretty cool.

Geof, Steve and Gretchen at the finish

After getting weighed one last time (still the same starting weight!), a BP check (slightly lower than the start) and getting my buckle, we checked with an official to see about where Brian was.  Still a question mark, huh?  We were positive he was finishing and held onto that glimmer of hope that he was still out there.  I pealed off my shoes and put my feet into Geof's Crocs.  After a quick pee break, a brush of the teeth and washing my face, I parked myself on one of the lawn chair chaises and passed out in the men's locker room, surrounded by half-dressed men, and a naked dude showering in the open shower across the room from me.  Keepin' it classy.  Of course, I was passed out hard and had no idea what was going on around me, but Geof kept an eye on me :)
After some time, I woke up to the sound of loud, cheering voices, "Go get Paige, Brian's here!!"  I sprang up as best I could and hobbled around the corner to the entrance...he made it!!!!  Holy hell, he made it!  I was so spent, dehydrated, and so foggy from my nap that I couldn't form tears, but I was so happy that, were I in a normal state, I would have been bawling.  Finisher rate for CHUGs? 100%!!!
Kelly, Brian, Brian's Buckle, Me, My Buckle, Geof (there is also a good deal of stank in the picture, but it's sort of hard to see because of the glare from our buckles ;))
So, let's see.  It's been precisely one week since we set out on this journey, wow.  Time flies :)  I had such an incredible time and looking back I am astonished at how well I executed my 'plan'.  I vowed to keep it much more simple and not stress the small stuff, or even the big stuff.  I managed to keep my head in the moment, my stomach in check after my little potty dance at Maidu II, and I only fell once on the entire course, bam!  Also of note, I never cried, not once.  This is a first for me.  I always find myself reduced to sleep deprivation tears during these races, even during 50 milers.  It's annoying as hell and really zaps my energy.  Somehow, remaining in the moment allowed me to work through things better and never get caught up in anything too much.  Taking the preemptive nap at Mountain Lion Knoll helped enormously, I'm sure, by avoiding getting into a serious sleep debt situation, like at Rocky Raccoon (where I totally lost it and fell into a deep, dark and lonely spot).  Having Gretchen's very upbeat and fresh personality with me when I hit that brief but very low low at Maidu really changed things for me and got me back on my feet fast (literally!).  Thank you Gretchen for giving up your weekend for me!!  I loved having Geof's Uncle Steve there to witness his first ultramarathon, and that I was able to give him a pretty good experience by being in such a good spot most of the time.  I hear he's chomping at the bit to do it again, for Geof's next race!  Heck yea, Steve, and a big thank you for all your help out there, and for also giving up your weekend so I could run around in the woods!  And, of course, where would I be without my number one, Geof?  He was only three weeks out of his Leadville finish, but he toughed out those final 33 miles with me, after having been up all day and night for me.  How'd I get so lucky?!  Thank you, sweetie :) 

One, two, three times a one hundred mile runner.  Third time's the charm :)

And now for some final, closing thoughts on the 2010 Rio Del Lago 100 Mile run:

Fact: Tri Berry Gu tastes exactly the same coming up as it does going down.  Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing...
Fact: I run way better after 40 miles.  It hurts less.
Fact: I've never felt so good running 100 miles.  Heck I've never felt so good running 10 miles.  That's effed up.
Fact: It really is easier to be a chick...when your nails fall off you can just paint the nail bed :)
Fact: Sharkies are multi-colored.  I really thought they were blue, and as soon as I realized they were multi-colored, they tasted different...
Fact: Glow stick necklaces make you run faster, and pee more often.
Fact: RDL is hands down my favorite 100 mile race so far.  I think I will be back to this one :)  That stretch along the American River totally makes the race.
Fact: Brian is a 100 mile runner now.  Welcome to the club, m' man...so what's next?? :)
Fact: When other people fart on the trail, no matter how out of it I may be, I will laugh every single time.
Fact: I've never...evacuated...my colon so much in one 28 hour stretch.  WTF?
Fact: The one thing that I went into this race with an issue with (my right ankle/calf), and truly thought I might not finish because of it, never once actually bothered me, and the slight swelling was gone by the time I finished.  It's a mystery.
Fact: I'm not proof-reading this before I hit "Publish", sorry, it's just so dang long of a post now!
Fact: If you've made it this far, thank you!  I love my readers!!
Fact: RecoFit calf sleeves are the best piece of running attire I own.
Fact: I smelled like total BUTT by the time I finished.  I think Geof was offended by my stank...
Fact: This belt buckle totally kicks ass...


P.S. I am most definitely losing my left toenail, but I may get to keep the one on the right.  I had an enormous blood blister under my left big toenail; it lifted my entire nail from the bed...can we say, disgusting?  The right wasn't nearly as bad, and already looks infinitely better.  Toenails, who needs 'em anyway?

Check out Geof's crew report from the race HERE.

Crash, out.


HappyTrails said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome! You should feel SO proud! Loving the beautiful age group plate AND the beautiful buckle - woo-hoo! Congratulations! How do you like your calf sleeves? We are thinking about trying some - we need all the help we can get! :-)

Paige said...

I LOVE my RecoFits. If you are going to try some out, RecoFit is the route. I get mine from Wilderness Running Company, but they are available in a few different spots. They hold their shape and compression the best out of the kinds I've tried, plus I love the Boulder-based company :) If you get some, let me know how you like 'em! Thanks for reading, Happy Trails!

Rachel said...

Awesome!!! I loved your RR as it conveyed how happy you were and made me even more excited that you had such a wonderful experience.
Huge congrats on earning your 3rd buckle:)

Generation X (Slomohusky) said...

Great writing, great report even greater effort! Thanks for sharing. Cool buckle, but I think I like the plate even more. BTW - all runs and races are better in California. Sorry Happy Trails.

Meghan said...

Congrats! You should be really proud on your new PR and the way you made your way through the highs and lows with a smile.

Gretchen paced you!? That's awesome, she's so wonderful, isn't she?

Recover happy!

JojaJogger said...

Great job and excellent report. I was disappointed that there wasn't a picture of the left big toe, though.

SteveQ said...

Congrats on the PR (you're now faster than me)! There's something about this race that seems to lead to really long race reports - I think that says something good about the race and now I may have to take a look at it.

Wendy said...

That was an awesome report! I felt like I was there. Thanks for sharing and CONGRATS!

Unknown said...

helll yeah Paiger! Great job! Love the details - your writing is excellent

Gretchen said...

You are such a rockstar, Paige! I really was impressed by your consistency throughout the race. I am right there with you on the "being in the moment" race strategy. It works!

Loved running with you. Loved the conversations. Yes, you are not "quiet" as you claimed to be. :) (But either way is still fine with me.) What you are, is a bad-ass! Yeow! And I'm pretty sure I can see the stank in that photo. But that's only because I'm currently wearing my shades so I'm not blinded by the buckle shine.

It was so wonderful to meet you, Geof and the whole gang. Awesome folks. Looking forward to the next time!

KovasP said...

Congrats on earning your buckle and a PR! I can't imagine any 100 mile course being easy.

Anonymous said...

Love how positive you stayed during the race. You make running 100 miles sound almost effortless! Congrats on that PR!

Christian Griffith, Run100Miles.com said...

I think what I got most out of this report was the "stay in the moment" reference you made.

This is one area where I sucked at RDL. I was so concerned with time, I never really got a chance to just chill and enjoy the moments.

...maybe a little along the American River, I love that section, but when I hit it the sun was wrecking me.

I saw that Krupicka look-alike too just as we were approaching K2. If dude had a li'l bit longer hair, it would have been impossible to tell them apart.

Congrats on finishing and claiming a PR.

Anonymous said...

Good job Crash! Long races deserve long reports imho. Been almost a year since I ran a hundo, and won't be back till Rocky, so thanks for sharing. BTW, LOVE your Golden Rules. Am going to share with my club. Keep up the great running and writing!

Stacy said...

You're such a tough mutha! Congratulations on a great race. I hope Gretchen spent at least a little of her time with you talking you into bringing Geof and coming to Zion one of these days.

Paige said...

Lol, Stacy, she actually did exactly that!

Thank you all for your awesome comments!! I LOVE hearing from my peeps :)

Kelly Gaines said...

Paige!! Such an awesome report, as usual! You rock, girl! I am so happy that you had a great race, especially after Leadville. Congrats on earning a PR and your AG award! And of course, it was wonderful hanging with you and Geof all weekend. Woo hoo for schmoopies!!!


Lynn RN said...

Fantastic story...I was the RN at the RDL aide station between Hazel Bluff and Mt Lion Knoll for years. We had a campfire by the lake, hot chocolate and the best brownies ever to warm all the night runners. We moved to southern Cal but I sure miss being there. In fact Norm Klein had said he was ending the race, did someone else take it over? My dream was always to run this 100 but after knee surgery, that was ended. Reading your blog made me feel like I was right there with you. Thank you so much for sharing the step by step and congrads on your PR! Lynn RN

Paige said...

Thanks, Lynn! Yes, Desert Sky Adventures took over the race this year, and it looks like they are going to keep it going. Thank goodness, because it's SUCH a great course!

Andre LeFort said...

What an amazing story. You recounted it in a spellbinding matter, I just had to finish reading the whole darn thing while at work.

Congrats on the 160km run (I'm Canadian you see...), I am very impressed!

Chris said...

That is awesome! That belt buckle is really cool too. I can't even imagine running that distance, but I also couldn't imagine running a half marathon 6 months ago and I'm running my first one of those in a few weeks.

Congrats again, really enjoying reading your blog!

Paige said...

Thanks, Chris! Good luck at your half marathon!!

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