Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pedernales Falls Trail Run

This was a run that was a last minute decision for me. I wanted to do a long run on Saturday, and Gary Garson was running the 60k trail run, so David McCaghron and I decided to go and support Gary. Preparation was not a problem, as I was already in 50k condition, having just run the El Scorcho 50k July 25th in pretty hot weather. However, I may have miscaluculated the difficulty of this 30k race.

The temperature at the start of the race was hovering around 100 degrees, and we started at 7:00 p.m. We started out, and I was doing well, as my pace was feeling strong at the start. Then, the single track trail took a nosedive down toward the river, and we began a winding up and down section of rocks, and that's where my first mishap began. I fell down once, but it didn't bother me too much. I recovered well, picked the pace back up and then fell again. This time, I landed much harder than I did before, and it just seemed to zap me. Mentally, I was washed up at 2 miles out. The sun was bearing down on me, my energy level decreased, and I began walking. I smashed two of my energy gel packs in the fall, and I had a gooey mess all over my shorts and the back of my leg.

The second fall also made my back start hurting, so that was an added bonus to this run. I started thinking about quitting, as I was not feeling well at all, and the temperatures were relentless. I walked for almost two miles, contemplating quitting. I finally made it to the first aid station and one girl was complaining about the heat and she was trying to talk me into walking back to the starting line with her, but I just couldn't quit. I was tired, hot, thirsty, and my back was killing me, and I didn't know if I could go on, but something inside me would not let me walk off that course. I drank some water, poured some cold water on my head and cooled down a little. I put some ice water in my hand carried water bottle and continued on. I saw Gary, and I told him I didn't think I could make it, and he said that if I could make it to the next aid station, they could probably drive me back to the starting line, but I began running again, and soon, the sun went down. I pulled my headlamp out of my pocket and began the night running segment. I actually started feeling better when the sun went down, so I kept going. I finally got my rhythm back and before long, I was sailing along.

As I approached the second aid station, I was doing well. I was somewhat spooked, as I had been running along on those dark single track trails for the past several miles without seeing anyone. Of course, my mind starting playing tricks on me, and I began to think I may have strayed off course, but just as Joe Prusaitis always does in his races, I found the ribbons on the trees, and I knew I was on the right path. However, I could hear Coyotes off in the distance, and I passed a couple of areas where "Grand Daddy Long Leg" spiders were running across the trail. Moths kept flying into my face, attracted by my headlamp, and along the way, large scorpions were running across the trail in droves.

I caught up with Gary and another runner, and we all began to run together. It was like finding an oasis in the middle of the night. They were running strong and steady, but not too fast, and it was a perfect pace for me and my ailing back.

Disaster struck at the 12 mile aid station, though. As we approached the aid station, my bottle was already empty, and the guy in charge of the station says, "no water, no ice, and no drinks at all." He had some warm coke, but that was nasty. The girl that was running with us, though, remembered that she had stashed a small bottle of water and some Powerade in her drop bag. She shared the contents with about five other people, and we were all grateful, but it was not enough to last the last 6 or so miles. I began to dehydrate. I got dizzy and wobbly. I was lightheaded, but I kept following in their footsteps, just moving forward. As we got about 3 miles from the finish line, someone had placed a container of water on the side of the trail, and we took a short drink and it was enough to get me back to the finish line.

I have to say that after reading David Johnson's writeup of his emergency room visit the week before, I was worried about the same thing happening to me. I knew I was dehydrated, and on the verge of heat exhaustion, but something kept me moving forward. The trails were certainly interesting, and not all that difficult, but the heat made everything difficult, and I barely made it in.

It was a race that I will remember for a long time, and one that I will learn from: One: take two bottles, instead of one when it is that hot. You can't always trust the aid stations will help you. Two: never give up. You are tougher than you think. Sometimes, things just don't work out the way you want, but if you keep moving forward, you will get there.

We had a great time at Denny's the next morning, after we met Gary at the finish line as he completed his first 60k race. Congratulations to Gary, and it was good to be with good friends.