Tuesday, September 30, 2008

RDL Stands for Many Things Part 1...Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run

Friday 28 September 2008, day before the race

RDL = Road Delays, Late

After trouble getting out of work in Fremont on time (left at 1:40), bad traffic. First on Route 84 to get to Joe Swenson's in Livermore. Joe's wife Debbie drives. We slow down again as always on 580 by Tracy. Both bottlenecks are partially due to lane widening. Things have to get slower before they can get faster-- is that true about running ultras too? I'm further stressed as we make a bad move following the Garmin Nuvi's instructions to bypass Sacramento, perhaps a foreshadowing of the navigational problems the next day.

We arrive at Cavitt School in Granite Bay with barely enough time to register and get the goodie stuff. It's too late to get a race sweater that comes close to fitting me, but take one anyways. I do welcome a pair of cheap, yellow tinted sunglasses compliments of ING, a bank still solvent aparently. Since I left my Julbo's at home, I'm glad I can stick these in my Rattlesnake mile 11 drop box-- I'll look a little more dorky than I already do, but it will save my eyes. We put our drop bags in the piles, and then Norm gives his prerace talk, mentioning with his voice faltering, that this will be his last year directing the race, since his wife Helen asked him to stop-- she has only a few more years to live and the stress of putting these races on might be too much for them. Helen is not here, since this weekend she is speaking and running at the Quad Cities Marathon in Iowa (incidentally, where I ran my marathon PR).

Once again I am among a handful singled out to stand up, so he can tease me about calling my wife on my cell phone 2 years ago back at Cavitt (mile 67) for a supposed 45 minutes (the duration keeps getting longer every year). Jean Pommier and Michael Kanning ask if I want to eat with them at Pasta Pomodoro, but I feel I should volunteer for the U.C. Davis Sports Medicine Program's research study examining the effects of body composition and body water changes on exercise performance. Although measuring our weight, height and current don't take long (here's Joe having current run through his body),

there's a long line to get a small blood sample from the ear. Jean and Michael had already done it, having arrived far earlier.

I use some of the waiting time to pin my number on my shorts and rummage more through my drop boxes. I feel a little nervous waiting around. I know that my inability to take off work completely today was going to directly impact the amount of sleep I would get tonight, and sleep is something I've been lacking for more than a couple days. Marty Hoffman, a ultrarunning physiatrist at U.C. Davis and one of the investigators in the study, comments on my "nervous energy." I think, Hell, yeah, I'm a little anxious, a few hours ago I still had 7 patients to disposition at work, and a long drive, and I have no idea what I forgot to bring. I remember when I was in med school doing an elective rotation in physiatry, one of the residents asked me if I knew what PM&R stands for. I said "physical medicine and rehabilitation," the obvious, but he told me, "No-- Plenty of Money and Relaxation. Do you play golf?..."
Adrenaline loving idiot I was, I went into Emergency Medicine. Similar income, but not exactly the most relaxing of specialties, and scheduling problems would result in my late arrival to Cavitt School for a big race a decade later. What the hell was I thinking?

Waiting in line, I still in my blue work scrubs; Chikara is immediately to my right white shirt & black shorts

As crappy as I feel, I end up doing better than speedy Chikara Omine, who turns pale, sweaty and nearly passes out while a research assistant pricks his ear lobe to get the blood sample. This is known as a vasovagal response. Basically pain and perhaps more relevantly anxiety at having his ear pricked caused a series of physiological responses in which his autonomic nervous system dilates his blood vessels. His blood pressure drops and so he goes down. The following chart makes these mechanisms patently obvious. Get out that magnifying glass!
As Chikara lays on the ground, he tells me he's not good with needles.

I'm up finally, and apparently I don't have lots of blood courses through my ear lobes, since I have to get pricked a total of 4 times and the volunteer milks both lobes like a thirsty cow farmer for maybe 10 minutes, but with less yield. It actually hurts like hell her yanking on me as she tells me she wants to go to med school and then go into orthopedics or emergency medicine. I'm in too much earlobe pain to tell her "No! Go into PM&R!" I don't think to suggest that she prick my finger instead. Fortunately I don't become the second runner of Japanese descent to vasovagal.

We drive to the hotel in Roseville 5 miles away, and against our better judgement, end up taking out at, of all places, Burger King, for expediency, since it's so late. I get a Whopper Junior for 99 cents plus tax--I'm still working on my half loaf of bread. Probably a good move, as Joe and Debbi get more expensive chicken sandwiches to which they attribute their next day's GI problems.

I realize going through my bag that the socks I stuck in a drop bag that I thought were a spare, were in actuality my only socks. So I have no socks to wear to the race. Joe lends me a pair Wright Socks, XL's a bit too big for me, but they'll have to do.

Saturday 29 September, day of the race

Maybe I'm asleep by 9:45, not bad, but I wake up at 3 a.m. and don't get back to sleep. I would reassure myself that it's the night before the night before that counts, except that Thurday night was the same-- I didn't sleep well and had to get up butt early to go to work Friday morning. We give Ben Field from Los Gatos a lift so that he doesn't have to wake up his family at 5 am.

As soon as we get to the gym, I run to get my Hazel Bluff drop bag, where I left my Injinji toe socks. I see piles for all the other aid stations bag, but not Hazel Bluff! "They're already taken away" a volunteer tells me. Before I can crap in Joe's too large socks, volunteer David Combs comes up and tells me he put them in his car, just getting a head start. He leads me to his car and I retrieve my socks from my drop bag (actually a plastic box), relieved, but feeling very disorganized.

I'm a little late walking out to the start. Normally the races begin at Cavitt, but because of trail detours adding more than a half mile each way to the stretch between the school and Folsom Dam (miles 67-70 and 97-100) related to some Homeland Security / Department of the Interior renovation of the dam, we start this year half a mile out on the levees to half-mitigate the extra mile. I talk a little with Jean Pommier and his wife Agnes, but have to stop to adjust my laces of my Sportiva Lynx. Despite the situation, I'm still feeling sleepy. A few minutes later, at 5:59 a.m., Norm Klein counts down from 10.......3...2...1...


Rick Gaston said...

Mark I don't know what it is about your reports but it's like you are going a mile a minute and I can feel it. It's hectic, snafu on the scheduling, tired from no sleep, miscalculation on the socks, traffic on the road. You communicate that craziness well.

Chikara has great speed and he has proven himself on the 50-milers. I'm rooting for him to continue that success on the 100s even though it's been rough so far. You on the other hand, from 50k to the 100, very consistent, despite the job and family thing.

Rajeev said...


Fantastic job in the race. Way to go my man!!

Rick - you nailed it in your comment. The only thing faster than the speed in Mark's words is Mark's running itself! His reports leave me more breathless than a hard climb up PG&E!