This wasn't one of those races.
The Mid Mountain Marathon found its way onto my race schedule because I needed a nice long run leading up to the Bear 100. This race was perfect because it's nearby and the trail isn't overly technical, so it won't trash my legs.
Furthermore, I expected to be pretty fast and had visions of a potential top 5 finish. The wounds are still too fresh for me to find humor in that right now, but the time will eventually come and I will get a chuckle out of it.
Jo and I arrived at 6:30 AM in Park City for packet pickup and then I loaded onto a shuttle bus bound for the start line in Deer Valley.
At this point, everything was still fine.
Sunrise Over Park City
Heading to the Shuttle. Still Full of Hope.
Silver Lake Lodge...The Race Start
At the start line, I was feeling strong and at ease with the upcoming miles. I felt as good as I usually do right before a race and was ready to get this thing started.
Here We GO!
I ran pretty hard at the start because I wanted to get near the front before we got onto the single track. The first mile is a loop through the Deer Valley resort area, where we ran on the streets in an attempt to get the field stretched out before heading into the woods.
Onto the Trail...
And Into the Woods!
Typical Single Track on the Mid Mountain Trail
I was surprised by the number of people that were trying to hang with the leaders. There was a lot of labored breathing and I took that as a sign that a lot of people around me would eventually be forced to drop to a slower pace, or risk blowing up.
I didn't realize yet that I was among that category of people.
As we started mile 2, I got a very sharp pain on both sides of my abdomen. At first, I assumed it would pass and tried to ignore it. Instead, the pain intensified. I couldn't identify the cause and it was unlike anything I had ever felt. I kept my pace and waited for the pain to subside.
By mile 5, the pain was still there and had done nothing but intensify. And to make matters worse, I was beginning to feel slightly nauseous.
It forced me to reflect on a conversation Jo and I had the night before the race. I had noticed something wasn't quite right with my innards and expressed some concern. Here's the conversation...
Me: I've gained 3 pounds in 2 days. Wonder what that's about.
Jo: Sooooo....what? You weigh 130 pounds now? Seems about right.
Me: NO! I weigh 133 pounds. It's not the weight I'm worried about, it's the sudden gain.
Jo: You're probably retaining water.
Me: I hope whatever it is doesn't mess with me tomorrow.
Whatever it was, was now REALLY messing with me.
I slowed my pace and the pain subsided to a more manageable level. I decided to run at this speed for a couple of miles and try to pick up the pace if things got better.
Things never got better.
I was still moving at a good speed, but nothing like I had hoped for. Most importantly, I was in terrible pain and discomfort. I had to accept that this wasn't going to be my day. Nonetheless, I took the time to enjoy the trail and the scenery while contemplating a DNF.
Ski Slopes on the Opposite Ridge
By mile 10, it was getting hot and I was sweating heavily. I wasn't able to eat anything because of the nausea, but I was taking in Hammer Endurolyte Fizz from my hydration pack at a steady rate. Getting dehydrated would only make my stomach worse, so I really focused on electrolytes and fluid intake.
Every time I passed a trail that headed into the valley, I thought to myself..."That trail goes to Park City. I could take it and have Jo come pick me up. We could drop off my bib at the finish line and head home". It was a very tempting notion but I fought it off every time.
Long, Grinding, Hot Uphill
By mile 13, it became abundantly clear that most of the runners near me were actually road marathon runners that were disguising themselves as trail runners. Evidence could be found by the volume of trash they were depositing along the trail. And if that wasn't convincing enough, I would point to the frequency of terrifying falls that I witnessed. We were running some of the cleanest single track in the entire state of Utah and it was grabbing toes and pulling runners to the ground at an alarming rate.
In one instance, a female runner took a terrible digger right in front of me, bouncing and skidding along the hard rocky ground. I stopped to make sure she was OK and extended my hand to help her up. My kindness was greeted with "GO!!! RUN!!! GET OUT OF HERE!!!". I looked over my shoulder because her reaction suggested we were being chased by Zombies, or possibly a Sasquatch. Or maybe both. Then I realized she simply wasn't accustomed to being helped out by fellow "competitors". Road runner!
If I was feeling better, all the stumbling and falling that I witnessed would have been more entertaining because I'm sure it was Karma taking its toll on the runners that lacked the respect and common sense to NOT throw trash on the trail. I'm sure the two issues are cosmically linked.
THIS Trail Bloodied and Bruised a LOT of Novice Trail Runners
At mile 15, I did something I had never done during a race. I retrieved my iPhone from my pack and sent a text to Jo. This is the exchange...
Me: I'm in trouble out here. Feeling miserable.
Jo: OH NO!
Me: I'm going to be a bit later than we discussed. Stomach pain...
Jo: You probably need a beer.
Me: I definitely need a beer.
Jo: Then hurry up! I have a cooler of PBR!
I'm glad one of us still had a sense of humor.
During the final miles, I was steadily passing runners that were succumbing to the heat and the brutality of trail running. A lot of the runners I had seen launching off the line were now shuffling toward the finish. A lot of runners were even walking the downhill sections. I gained a lot of spots and that cheered me up a bit.
The race ends with a long downhill. This normally would have been a lot of fun, but the constant pounding was jostling my stomach around and it was pure hell all the way off the mountain.
I could hear the finish line and hoped to be crossing it soon. As it turned out, it was at least 2 miles away still. After several more switchbacks, I caught a glimpse of the finish, then followed the trail in the opposite direction for what seemed like an eternity. Painfully frustrating!
The single track emptied out onto a downhill gravel road and a straight shot to the finish. I picked up the pace for the final quarter mile and ignored the discomfort.
Levitating Across the Finish Line
I stayed long enough to have that PBR that Jo had waiting for me and I relaxed on the grass for a few minutes. Then we loaded up and headed back to Ogden. I was just happy to be done with this race.
This marathon refreshed my understanding that I'm not always a good runner but I have the ability to suffer for long periods of time. I think this is why I can perform well in 100 mile races. Suffering is just part of the sport. I don't like it, and contrary to some catch phrases, I don't "embrace it". I just deal with it, which is required if you want to run long. It's almost never a pleasant experience.
I ran this race as a training run for the Bear 100 and I think it was great training because I got to mix some mileage with a heavy dose of misery. And I survived. It's a lesson well learned.
BONUS PRODUCT REVIEW:
I've been wearing the new Osprey REV 1.5 on my recent training runs and was eager to wear it during a race. Osprey has been working hard to develop a pack that is more specific to trail/ultra running and this pack is proving to be sound offering.
Osprey REV 1.5
The pack rides well on my back and is very comfortable and lightweight. I find the pack to be very stable and the Biostretch body wrap harness helps the pack move with me while I run. There's very little bouncing and I haven't had any chaffing issues with this pack.
There's plenty of storage on the front for gels or other fuel, as well as a smart phone and other essentials. The pockets are easy to access while running and I love that there aren't any draw strings or zippers to contend with.
One of my favorite features is the DigiFlip media pocket on the front. For me, it's ideal for my iPod Touch. I can keep it safely tucked away but can drop the pocket down and access the touch screen, which can be used through the clear panel on the pocket. My iPhone also fits nicely in that pocket and is well protected.
DigiFlip Pocket Open
Most importantly, the pack fits well and meets all my needs on the trail. I've been running with a Salomon S-Lab 5 for a couple of years and have really loved that pack. The Osprey REV 1.5 is the only pack I've used that has caused me to stray from my love affair with Salomon. And if you know me at all, you would know that this is a powerful statement.
This pack won't be available until early 2014, but I would encourage all of you to check it out when it hits the market. The REV Series will be available in six sizes, with the 1.5 being the smallest. I'm hoping to also have an opportunity to test the REV 6 because I think it would be a viable option for long endurance runs that have limited support.
Thanks for checking this out. I hope to see many of you on the trails very soon!