Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Coldwater Rumble 2014

2013 was my best running year yet; most overall miles (2,100), marathon PR (3:00:06), 50K PR (4:33), longest run (66 miles), 2-3rd place finishes, etc.

The plan was to start 2014 by building on those successes.

Since the 50 mile McDowell Mountain Frenzy in the beginning of December, I hadn't run more than 7 miles at a time, averaging only 20 to 30 miles per week, but I did have some great training runs; broke the 7:00/mile pace for my lunch time run, ran a 6:44/mile pace for the 7 mile Belmar Club training run, and broke the 6:00 mile barrier on my sprint intervals.  Despite the extra pounds I put on over the holidays, I was running faster than ever and was hoping these successes would make up for the lack of mileage.

The first race for 2014 was to be the Coldwater Rumble 52 miler in Phoenix. I had actually contemplated doing the 100 miler, simply drawn by the lure of another belt buckle, but "settled" for the double marathon. My friend Rick Valentine was smart enough to drop down to the 50K, but I wanted to start the year off big.  I did - BIG Mistake!

I made a trip out of it, taking my youngest daughter, Amy, and visited my parents and sister.  The night before the race, we went out to the New York Pizza Department and I had the ideal runner's pre-race dinner - pizza, gooey cookies, and lots of ice cream.  I'm sure this had nothing to do with the following day's disaster.

The 100 milers started out as I was still getting my stuff together. Every time I watch longer distance runners start before me, I feel like a wimp, opting for a shorter distance. I really wanted to head out with them.  Only 48 miles more, and I could get a nifty belt buckle to double my collection. It was so tempting, but even I'm not stupid enough (barely) to jump into a 100 miler at the last minute.

Milling around before the start, this guy came up to me and asked "hey, are you Adrian?" Apparently he had seen my name, picture and results online - not sure why I would have stood out.  After a few brief pleasantries, Dan stated "you have a shot at winning this, don't you?" It turned out to be just the jinx I didn't need, but at the time, it planted an intriguing, yet dangerously unrealistic seed in my mind.  Maybe, if I had a super day (like the successes of my short training runs) and everyone had a mediocre day... just maybe, it might be possible. After all, the really good runners were tackling the 100.  Maybe…

7:30 came, and we were off - about 40 or 50 of us for the 52 miler.  It was quite nice for a while.  The temp was only around 60 and there was a thin layer of clouds blocking the sun.  The climbs weren't as bad as I had anticipated, requiring very little walking.  My goal was 8:30, which translated to a 9:42/mile pace.  As I approached the second aid station, at the far end of the main loop, and near the high point of the course, I was feeling great; effortless 9:35 pace and easy terrain, other than some loose sandy areas. Of course, I was only 11 miles into a 52 mile race, the sun was now out, and the temperature was rising, but that dream of victory was still peaking its way out from the back of my mind.

The return part of the loop was even better and slightly downhill. Part way back, I heard a "hey, Adrian" from behind.  It was Rick Valentine (who I had met on the URoC Vail race). He was running the 50K and was cooking! Though he started 30 minutes later, he caught me by mile 16 - that would equate to an almost 7:30 pace and he was in 1st place! I ran with him for a 1/4 mile or so, as we chatted about upcoming races and the stupidity of my 7 mile training plan for a 52 miler.  I soon let him go and settled back into my comfortable pace. When I caught a glimpse of him later, coming back from the start/finish, he wasn't looking quite as peppy.  Turns out, he dropped out around mile 22. I guess that 7:30/mile pace just wasn't sustainable.

By the time I went through the Start/Finish myself, I had dropped my pace to 9:29 and was still feeling great.  Maybe Dan was right. Maybe I did have a chance at winning. Maybe I could pick up the pace a little and finish closer to 8 hours.  That would ensure me a spot on the podium, maybe even the top spot. It all seemed so reasonable and achievable at the time, much like the proverbial mirage in the desert.

The first half of the second loop was only slightly slower than the first, but it took more effort than I realized. The sun was beating down and the temperature climbed to 80. I was trying my best to hydrate and was now hitting the S-caps to maintain the electrolyte levels.  Looking back, I should have been more pro-active with the hydration earlier on – lesson learned (hopefully).

Back at the far aid station (mile 31), they told me I was in 5th place.  That was awesome, but my pace had slowed to 9:40, and I was noticeably walking more of the uphills than I had on the first loop.  I kept moving though and passed a couple more 52 milers, bringing myself up to 3rd place by mile 35! Victory was within my grasp, with only 17 miles to go.  Unfortunately, my pace was continuously slowing. By mile 37, I was mostly walking, and by mile 39 I was walking slowly. By the time I stumbled across the Start/Finish line at mile 40.5, I had been re-passed by a couple of runners and dropped back down to 5th place. Normally, 5th place with 12 miles to go would be a great position for me, but I was suffering and knew that it would take me at least 3 hours to complete the race, rather than 2 under normal conditions.  I was also torn by the knowledge that I was missing out on time with my daughter and my parents.

The only other time that I had considered dropping out of a race was at the NorthFork 50 miler last summer, but the only way out was to continue on the course, so I did, and eventually recovered reasonably well. One of the great things about a race course with multiple loops is the energy you get from the cheering crowds as you pass through the start/finish.  The downside is that it gives you an easy option of bailing out, which is exactly what I did.

Reluctantly, I decided to throw in the towel and take my first DNF after 160 races.

I was pretty dehydrated by the end. The salt was caked on so thick, you could have drunk a margarita out of my belly button (if you didn't mind the occasional hair). The race officials and volunteers tried to motivate me to continue, given that I was still in the top 5 and had plenty of time to finish, but once I had made up my mind, there was no starting up again. In the infamous words of Kenny Rogers – “you got to know when to fold 'em”.

As I sat by the start/finish aid, gulping down cups of iced Ginger Ale before I could stomach some snacks, I watched other runners come through.  Some were finishing the shorter distances.  Others were 40 miles into the hundred. I felt like a bit of a loser wussing out so easily, but as I sat up from the bench and nearly fell over from light-headedness, dropping out didn't seem like such a bad decision.

When I started running, I kept all the medals and race bibs, but after a while I stopped, as I didn't have enough wall space.  This is the first race that I've kept the bib from in years.  I even pinned it up in my office so Every time I look up, I'll be reminded of this day. Some say success breeds success.  I say that a colossal failure can bread success (hopefully). This DNF is going to push me to train harder and longer, and take future races that much more seriously. I will not DNF again! (at least not for quite a while). I will be back in Arizona in only 3 weeks for a 100K - that ought to be a good test. Let’s hope an arctic front moves through that weekend, so I don’t have to suffer again.

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