“Actually Wayne, it’s pronounced “mil-e-wah-kay” which is Algonquin for The Good Land.” –Alice Cooper
After a tough finish at NF50 in December, I was really ready to race. Rivs tweaked my training in WI to prep hard for steep hills out west, and I spent a couple weekends in AZ to ensure I was confident with the terrain. All was spot on, including recovery, daily nutrition, and hydration. I even made a point to review How Bad Do You Want It. The foundation for success was set. But sometimes it doesn’t matter. The body wants to do what the body wants to do….my 2016 Black Canyon 100k story is not at all like last years, but a very humbling experience nonetheless.
I think we all knew it was going to be blazing hot for BC, record setting in fact. Side note, it was 70 last year! So I prepared for the worst heat conditions ever…focusing on hydration and calories was key. I started consuming both before mile one on the dirt path to the trail. People underestimate the power of calories and water…without them, success isn’t possible. That’s for another blog though. 😇
I took off with the lead females, except for Amy…she was rocking it with Sage in the front. Incredible talent this weekend. We went through mile 7….grabbed an uncrustable from Brian and carried on with the pack. We broke slightly, but all met up again on the way to aid at mile 13. Something didn’t feel right, and I’ll be honest, my urine was a deep orange at this point. I was consuming about 24-30oz of water per hour and eating every 20-30minutes…sometimes a gel, sometimes a sandwich…calories are in high demand. I increased intake of water, continued same calorie plan.
I was running with Amanda Basham, Team Nike and of course an incredible athlete, until she broke away before the next aid station. I didn’t see her again until mile 38 when she dropped. I hit mile 20 before the 3 hour mark and things were going as well as they could. I checked in with Brian, and still didn’t feel right. Not the usual gross feelings of an ultra event…I couldn’t figure it out. My urine was brown. It sucks to work in the medical field because you know better than anyone what that means. I carried on…I couldn’t bring myself to drop at 20. Now it was time for the canyon section until mile 38…
The canyon was 93 degrees and it felt like the sun was beaming on me from all angles. The rocks were glowing…sweat was dripping…everything was just hot. Pain in my abdomen started to hit by 23 and I couldn’t urinate anymore…I’ll admit, I started my death march early on taking me the next 5 hours to hit aid at mile 38. I was toast. Everyone was passing as I ran/walked the most beautiful trails in the world. Black Canyon is my favorite place to run, and It was supposed to be my happiest section just like last year…it was horrendous and demoralizing.
So for 18 miles I was stuck in my head. I thought about dropping, or not dropping. I thought about who would be disappointed, and who would just say they weren’t but really were. I thought about all the work I put in doing ridiculous hill repeats, and how its not going to pay off if I drop. Then another runner would pass and I would keep drinking, but it didn’t matter anymore. The negative self talk racing in my head was so intense…something I need to work on but it definitely heightens in the desert on a death march. The only thing that made me laugh was thinking about how silly I used to pronounce Aravaipa which then reminded me of the Alice Cooper quote about Milwaukee. I repeated that scene in my head about 40,000 times. I had bursts of energy along the way to mile 38…still debating the whole time what I should do. I wondered if I would be the only person to drop…
Finally…over 2 hours behind schedule, I hit the 38 mile aid station. Brian was concerned, I could see it on his face. I immediately tried to urinate. Not good. I was 200oz of water in and I’m showing signs of dehydration??? No headache, no chills, no vomitting. What is this?! Was I consuming too much water and not enough Sodium and Potassium?? How did I get this wrong?! I prepared my packs and ate assuming I’d continue. I was in tears as I cleaned out my shoes from the two river crossings overwhelmed with my own thoughts of failure. I was set to continue though. The pain was there but I asked Brian how long to the next aid. 9 miles plus 3 more to crew. Wow. It took me 25 minutes at that aid station to finally pull the plug. I distracted myself for a bit, eating of course, as Brian called Rivs. I wanted him to call it for me because in all honesty my coach is the last person I want to disappoint. Naturally he didn’t call it for me but gave two options…finish to finish or drop and start on the next block to grab a golden ticket at Gorge.
Deciding to DNF was not easy. I take pride in finishing the things I work hard for in life whether it’s work, family, or my running career. This isn’t just a hobby for me…I genuinely want to succeed as a professional runner, and I’ve been putting in the time to make it happen. Sometimes your body just says no. I set aside pride, ego, or whatever it is one feels when they have to DNF and for the first time listened to my body. Some of you may laugh knowing that it’s true!!…This probably is the first time I’ve truly listened to my body.
I wish I could brush it off, but failing still lingers in my head. I wonder if I could have tweaked something in my race plan, or went out slower, or anything that would explain a DNF. Rivs believes I did everything right, and he hasn’t been wrong yet about anything so I remind myself of that. Onward to Gorge Waterfalls in OR. In the meantime…recovery!!! Inflammation is high and muscles need to repair, and let’s not forget a little mental break too. Gorge will be even more challenging and competitive than BC but at least not 93 in full sunlight. I plan to race a full marathon in March to keep the legs fresh and regain some confidence from the weekend. All good things to come. In the end, it was a smart decision and one I will never like. Probably one of those decisions I would regret no matter what I decided. It was a humbling experience for 38 miles as I learned more than ever about my body’s capabilities in the desert heat.
Thanks to Altra Running for the always incredible Olmypus 2.0 shoes, and Swiftwick Socks for keeping my feet happy. I fueled with VFuel gels and Fluid Nutrition fuel mix and recovery mix. I was able to stay well hydrated using Nathan and The Orange Mud packs. Cheers.