The streak of 32 100-finishes without a DNF is finished. Gee, even Cal Ripken Jr. eventually sat down. I'm kind of glad it is over so I don't try to finish when I shouldn't as happened at Rocky Raccoon 100 in February.
The short of it: I ran this race in 2009 and had a nice sub-24 hour finish. But I had forgotten that I just don't like this course. I lived in the desert southwest for nine years and appreciate the beauty of the cacti, etc. But I have seen it so much, this course just becomes boring to me, it all looks the same. So, at mile 77, I just wasn't interested anymore to do another loop and a half. It was 1:30 a.m. and I was ready to just clean up and get some sleep. I was very happy about my DNF. To finish 100s, you really need to go into it excited and ready to finish. If not, you won't.
The race consists of 6 15.4-mile loops and one partial loop. You change directions each loop.
Loop 1: The best part of the race is watching the sunrise. I loved that. But compared to 2009 as I ran not too far from the frontrunners, it wasn't the cast this time. I hoped to complete the first loop in 2:30, but it was 2:38. My 2009 time was 2:16. Wow, big difference. I did feel pretty good, ran the last seven miles of the loop pretty hard.
Loop2: Started out fine, running up the gradual climbing dirt road. But generally many more people passed me, and that was a pattern for hours. I just stuggled for speed and even quit caring about time. I think I ran it in about 3 hours. Still pretty good.
Loop 3: This was the killer loop. The heat slammed me, getting above 80 degrees. I ran with a soaked bandana around my hat. That helped a bunch. But each time I reached an aid station, I had to sit for 5-10 minutes to bring the heart rate down and body temperature. At one point I realized I was going into "survival mode" instead of "racing mode." I was just trying to keep my body from shutting down. Finally during the last five mile of the loop the temperature was going down and I felt fantastic, running 8:30 miles, passing people for the first time. That loop took me 4.5 hours. However, I still had hopes for a sub-24-hour finish. If I could hold it together and enjoy the cooler tempertures.
Loop 4: It just didn't cool down enough. I ran the gradual uphill fine, passing more runners and catching up to some I hadn't been up with since Loop 2. But it didn't last. The heat had slammed me so bad, I started to become sleepy. I also had to be careful about bonking at dusk, which I normally do. I backed off the pace and did keep it going. But toward the end of the loop, I kept thinking about quitting. This crazy race allows you get a buckle for 100K. I heard people talking about quitting. It made sense. I wasn't having fun. I finished that loop in about 4:30, now behind 24-hour pace.
I needed to decide what to do. A friend, David, from Gilbert who paced me here in 2009 greeted me. I was very surprised to see him. He would be pacing someone else. He listed to me gripe and outwardly discuss whether to go on or not. How could I quit with a witness around? He could see that I was just fine. So I packed up and continued on.
Loop 5: Well, I was 2.5 hours behind me 2009 pace. Going slowly just isn't fun. Yes, I had some great spurts where I could crank it up to 8:30 pace and fly by startled runners, but I couldn't keep it up because I became very, very sleepy, I think from being slammed by the heat earlier. During this loop I had to lie down well off the trail to close my eyes and take a 5-10 minute cat nap. I did this four time. I had to go well off the trail so people wouldn't keep asking me if I was OK. Each time I would jump up and run with great speed, catching up to my former position, but I just couldn't keep it going.
So, I made up my mind to quit. I still had plenty of time for a valid finish, still way ahead of cutoff times, but it would likely be a 26-26.5 hour finish. I just didn't look forward to another seven hours of this. I was bored with course and not having any fun. I would save it for another day. If I quit now, I wouldn't have to deal with that streak anymore and would bounce back fast to start training again for Across the Years. It all made sense.
So, I ran 77 miles in 19:37. Pre-injury last year, I could have come close to that for 100-mile. Oh well.
So, what is weird it that I'm still very pleased with DNFing JJ100. This time I'll remember that I really don't like that course. The race directors and aid stations are top notch, but I hate the heat, and just low desert running without vistas. Also with the loops back and forth you have to deal with lights in the face all night. The moon was amazing and I did run without lights for awhile. Many would run the entire loop without lights. If it was 20 degrees cooler, I would think about running it again.
So, as I hear family and friends talking about that it is too bad I DNFed, it just isn't much of a big deal to me. I think you should learn something from every DNF. What I learned was:
1. I hate running in the heat. I shouldn't expect to perform well
2. Don't run a 100-mile race unless you really, really want to finish. Looking back at my 6 career DNFs, there were 3 like this, just no interest in continuing. One of them, Leadville 2008 really bugged me, and thus started the streak. This one doesn't bug me, but I hope I haven't lost an edge. I doubt it. I think I just scaled it back from insanity to more rational thought.
- Even though I had about 3-4 hours of naps yesterday, I still slept 11 hours over the night. Wow, I still hold to the theory that the heat slammed me bad.
- Bad leg: I felt very little pain, just on the downhills, but this course had very few steep downhills. I suspect I'll be pain-free on all downhills in a few more months. No pain today.
- No blisters at all. The new Hoka Bondi model is great (with appropriate taping).
- Bruised left heel caused by a bad tape job under my insole to boost the heel up a bit. Pretty painful.
- Sore quads. To be expected on a flatter course
So, if the heel heals fast, I should be back training in a couple days. Nice! Will I ever get my 2010 speed back or has age finally pushed me back. That is the question.
Plans for next two months:
- No Grand Canyon this year. It keeps pulling me there, but the leg just isn't ready for the downhill yet.
- Interval training. I could tell by mile 10 that my hips just aren't used to speed.
- Lose 10 pounds. That should help a bunch.