Monday, April 20, 2009

Desert R.A.T.S. report

First off, the Fruita library won't a,llow me to upload any photos, so all photos from my race on Saturday will have to wait for nearly a week or more until I get all the way to Boulder, in central UT.

Second: I finished the 50 miles!! I finished 3 hrs faster than I had planned, goofily running across the finish line in 10 hrs 6 minutes-ish...somehow placing me in 17th place. good enough...

Some vague details....

I stressfully packed up my things from my campsite next to the Colorado River, and rode my bike the 4 miles to the starting line. There were only about 30 minutes to go before the gun went off, so I had to rush to unload my bike, store it in the staff tent, lock the bike, and explain my story to people who were wondering how the hell a guy could show up on his bike like this.

After a lame round of stretching, the race started. There was a one mile dirt road stretch, not bad in the beginning, but would come back to destroy me at the end of the race. The trail thankfully switched to singletrack, and we began to climb 2 miles or so to the top of Mack's Ridge. The sun was beginning to come up, and it was peeking through the heavy cloud cover, shining a distinct beam of sunlight on Grand Valley below. It's really a shame that I can't hook up my camera here because it was a spectacular beginning to the race.

This was the start of my obsession with photographing the landscape, instead of running. Well, to be precise: I would run a bit, then step off the trail to take a photo, allowing a few people to pass, get back on the trail, pass those people, repeat. Things were starting to get goofy as I would pass the same people again and again as I took photos. One guy saw me taking a shot, and said 'I really need to start noticing these things more'. Well yea you do! It was beyond incredible out there.

The trail hung really close to the edge of some canyons, giving really sweet views of natural amphitheaters and alchoves below. I was able to keep a pretty steady pace, and passed through the first 3 aid stations with ease. These stations were stocked with Hammer gels, tasty electrolite drinks that weren't too sweet, Raw Revolution spirulina bars, salty chips, and P+J wraps. I met a few people running who had run the race before, and were running a few 100 milers this summer. It was fun finding out why they had failed to finish an ultra in the past, and I vowed not to let it happen to me this time.

Somehow I felt incredibly strong, and I had to force myself to pull back and not crash after the halfway point. Apparently riding a bike is sufficient training for an ultramarathon. who knew??? On the next big uphill around mile 15, I had to force myself to walk, and stayed behind two 25 milers who were doing the same. This kept me honest, and especially made me rethink my strategy when I realized that most of the people i was running around and passing were 25 milers. Rookie mistake: running a 50 mile race as if it were a 25. WEll, I should say it would be fine if I had run one of these before, but being completely insecure of my fitness level, I wanted to not push so hard in the beginning. So walk I did. At the top, I ran down to the last aid station before the turn around, and walked about 10 minutes up another big hill.

I nearly took a wrong turn at a parking lot. The trail was marked with yellow streamers around rocks, and I saw 3 rocks with streamers around them leading through the parking lot seeming to indicate the trail went that way. Luckily a woman saw me running, and said 'NOOOOOOO!!!! That way, downhill'. I wasn't totally sold, but did it anyway, and sure enough there was another runner downhill who she had seen before me.

There were people cheering at the bottom of the hill, and I ran pretty fast to the 'finish line' . This was the starting point, ending point for 25 milers, and the turn around for 50 milers. The route was two loops, one reversed. Here I had a drop bag with sunscreen and a new shirt waiting, so I changed into a shirt that was temporarily sweat free, put sunscreen, and sat on the ground to do some stretching. Chowed down on all sorts of food, refilled the water bottle, and took off with some peanut MMs in my hand.

Those M&Ms would haunt me for the next few miles. But first I was really fueled by my decision to finally start listening to my mp3 player. Hendrix's guitar had really never sounded as beautiful. I was feeling incredibly strong, as if I was just starting the race. Muscles nice and loose after the stretch and fueled by rock and calories, those first few miles flew by. Then I started the climb that I had just descended and I was feeling nausious. I knew not to eat simple sugars like that, but assumed the sugar rush would do me good. It did do me good, and I was happy when the unpleasant feeling passed around mile 30.

Around mile 31 I started to deal with a new problem: fatigue. My legs didn't really want to move. From mile 31-38 or so, I was really struggling. I passed a few people, but once I did, I could not climb any uphills. Flat sections even became a problem and I'd begin to walk after only being able to run for a few minutes until my energy waned. Again, the views were too good. Views of the Colorado river. Red rocks. Different colored strata. blah blah blah...if you're into that sort of thing.

All of the mileage numbers are starting to blur at this point, but I remember rolling into an aid station around mile 40ish and telling the guys that ran it that those last 7 miles were the longest of my life. I had run out of water halfway and was DYING for some water. When I got it, I coudln't believe how cold and refreshing it was, and I thanked the volunteers sincerely. I drank 20 oz of water at the stop, then filled up on another 20 for the next 4 mile stretch. The guys had told me that this coming section was flat, so I ran it as hard as I could. This may have been the sweetest section of trail in the entire race. Ran along the lip of a canyon for a while, gawking at the winding trails hundreds of feet below.

A woman passed me at the aid station where I was lingering for way too long, andI could see here on the other side of a canyon, making me run harder than I thought I could to catch her. After a mile and a half I got to her. Then passed another guy shortly after that. At this point I was forgetting how tired I was and had my eyes set on a guy(??) in red shorts at least a mile ahead. I'd seen him on and off for the past 10 miles, and didn't think I could actually catch him. Irregardless of whether or not I could, I decided it was a good goal and would keep me pushing myself. I had long since become completely in love with the aspect of competition, causing me to go way beyond what I thought possible. There were many many times where I wanted nothing more than to stop running and sit down. Better yet: lie down. I knew that if I did that I would never start up again.

I walked a bit up to another aid station, took off and ran okay to the last aid at mile 46. On the half mile descent to the stop I noticed that guy in red again up ahead filling up at the aid station. Here I decided to make my aid stop really quick, wasting no time at all like I had at other stops. Water bottle was already opened and made the aid station guy fill it for me while I loaded my pockets with calories. Everythign looked disgusting, but I forced down a banana piece and PB+J wrap, as well as some gel and spirulina in my pocket. Took off and felt like I was gaining some ground. After a mile I passed him, ELATED. I couldn't believe that I was able to catch him and I was feeling invincible. Any sort of pain and fatigue I felt before was gone and I was running the final climb. There was another guy half a mile ahead who seemed to be going slow uphill, so I decided to see if I could catch him as well. I was shocked at my strenght of the climb, and passed this guy quickly. Here I grew incredibly paranoid that he would pass me on the final descent, and decided that I couldn't let this happen. If he passed me I'd never forgive myself, and the race would probably somehow shift to a failure in my mind.

He never caught up. I crested Mack Ridge, did the rocky and rough descent. Let some mountain bikers pass....slowing me down, but not enough for him to catch me. The last mile was all on the dirt road that we started on. This absolutely killed me. It was a boring and hardpacked road and all of my inspiration just drained out of me and into that goddamned road. I kept pushing, because again, I was soooooo scared of letting the guy behind me pass.

Well I finished to the announcer saying "Can you feel the Payne?". Nice pun dude. My name is indeed Eric Payne. I was hurting a tiny and scared to sit down.

Later I realized how swollen my feet had become, and the big blisters that I assumed were hot spots. The second toenail on my right foot is blacker than after Salida but somehow it hasn't fallen off yet. Sitting down and standing up was incredibly difficult for two days, and I was walking around Fruita like an old man.

Now I'm healed enough, and will be taking off on my bike in less than 30 minutes and will probably cross state lines into Utah sometime this afternoon.

Thanks for reading this nonsense!!


  1. > Thanks for reading this nonsense!!

    You're welcome. I enjoy your dirtbag approach to stuff.

  2. Hearsay . . . thanks for the detailed play by play . . . I hope I do half as well at Run the Caldera in June. MUST AVOID SIMPLE SUGARS . . . good to know.

  3. Way to get your first 50 done ... on 30 miles of training!

    Get a solid block of training in this spring and I bet you could post some pretty quick times this summer/fall. Keep at it.