Thursday, September 24, 2009

RDL Stands for Many Things Part 3......Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run

(RDL = Really Delayed Log)

Since this upcoming weekend is when the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run has been traditionally held, I thought it would be a good time to finish and publish the third and last installment of my report from last year's race. (Actually, maybe not the best time, since I haven't finished packing for PCT Hundred in the Hood starting in less than 39 hours, but better now than say, next February, which would be totally random.)

previous installments:
part 2

At No Hands Bridge (mile 26), the 53-mile competitors turn around, while the 100-mile runners head up K-2, a very steep hill and then run a modified version of the Olmstead Loop at Cool, before returning to the bridge down a gentler grade. I turn on my Garmin Forerunner here with the goal of making it to the south turnaround, Mountain Lion Knoll (mile 83). This way I will capture the whole course within the 10-hours the battery lasts. Or at least I hope.

I feel like I'm not able to attack the K-2 hill as agressively as the last two years.

With the 53-milers off this part of the course, I finally feel I can get a reliable sense of how far ahead of me are Jon Olsen, Jean Pommier, Michael Kanning and whoever else is with them. (Jon and Michael would both drop around this point.) At the Cool Fire Station (mile 33), I am surprised to hear that I'm about 10 minutes behind, which is about the same as I was for the last few aid stations.

Cool is never cool, it's generally hot and largely uncovered. This year there are more equestrians out on the Olmstead Loop; most let me continue running past, and no horses kick me. I have this magical way with animals. You'll see later.

After No Hands Bridge, Greg Bomhoff, whom I met earlier in the race, catches up with me and we talk for a while. I know he's in the lead for Robert Mathis' race series, so we talk about the mattress, which I had won two year's earlier, and how that year, neither I nor Jon Olsen would admit openly to hoping to win the mattress. (Ironically, I think Performaire pulled their sponsorship or maybe went out of business, and so no mattress was given.) Greg obviously has been pacing himself better than I, and he pulls away from me to eventually win the race and this large bear statue that my wife would have been really ecstatic about (insert sarcasm) if I had brought it home myself. He would also win the 2008 series.

During the 20+ miles back to Cavitt School, the start and finish and 67-mile mark, I learn to wet the awesome, custom-printed white Moeben sleeves we all got as race schwag from Shannon Farar-Griefer, and put ice under my cap. It would hit 97 that afternoon on parts of the course. It was tough, but I didn't cramp or crump. Unlike 5 years ago at Diablo 50, I'd long since learned of the need to take salt tablets. I have things so under control....

requesting my bottle be filled at an aid station

RDL = Rigorous Drenching-- Luscious!

The head volunteer at one of the aid stations takes a drenching wet towel and places it over my shoulders. Aaaaah! This hits the spot. Thanks!

Back at Cavitt, I make sure to call my wife on the cell in my drop box. Unfortunately, Norm Klein isn't outside-- he's made my "25-minute phone call" (actually 2 or 3) regular fodder for his pre-race talks.

Then for some unknown reason, I decide I should change my socks. Mark Lantz, who won the 53-mile race both last year and this year, is there again.

with his wife Rena trying to keep from freezing to death before the start of the 2009 Quicksilver runs

The year before (2007) he had told me not to waste time doing it. This year for some reason he doesn't say anything. Bending down to take off my shoe, my left shoulder suddenly goes into spasm. My anticipated 5-minute stop grows to 20. Oh well, the great thing about this sport is that even after 5 years, there is always more you can learn. The lesson here: don't fix what isn't broken.

As I head out of the school, my shoes feel tied too tight (I had to ask volunteers to tie my shoes since I felt trying myself would cause more cramping). I feel my calves will tighten up if I don't loosen them, but trying to put my first foot on a rock to adjust it makes my hips feel like they are going to spasm. Somehow, after another five minutes without forward progress, I manage to loosen the laces and head out to the levees, where Homeland Security had fenced off the dams, and the trail makes an extensive detour.

Despite all that, (perhaps it was inevitable) stepping up a short steep incline, each of my calves spasms in succession, then the rest of my body, and I fall onto my back, in utter, excruciating cramping agony. I amnot a pretty sight, lying on my back, trying futilely to breathe it out.

RDL = Totally Screwed! (okay, so the letters don't match)

I try to see the humor of the situation ("I fell and I can't get up!") but the logistical and physical challenge of getting back up without spasming again soon takes precedence. After a lot of forced, focused relaxation, I am able to turn over and stand up after maybe 15-20 minutes. As for running-- well, I am forced to a very slow jog. I am fearful that the spasming will return and have serious doubts that I will be able to finish. Despite my slow pace, I even manage to get confused by the detoured and waste more time navigating.

The 17 miles out to the turnaround and back are flatter than the hillier first 2/3 of the course, largely going along two sides of Lake Natoma, into which feeds the Middle Fork of the American River. Normally, this is considered very untechnical and fast, but with half of my muscles tight, the going is very slow. I even have to ask the volunteers at the Folsom Dam station (mile 70) station to finish the work of loosening my shoes. At the next aid (mile 73), I get a quick massage from a volunteer. I finally work out the cramping enough where I can run the whole 4.5 miles to the Hazel Bluff station (mile 77). Recovering this much feels so good. I'm over having lost any chance of catching up with Jean Pommier.

By the time I ascend the bluff, I am elated from having come back from the dead (I really had doubted I would be able to finish as I lay there on my back by the dam). Probably manic. "I feel great!" I shout, all smiles. Apparently I appeared crazed and was a bit too loquacious. A few minutes late when it was clear I was done with my drop bag and fueling, ubiquitous volunteer David Combs and the others, have to request that I quickly move on.

RDL = Rascally Dohbutsus -- Lento! (sorry, that was forced. Dohbutsu is Japanese for animal, lento is Spanish for slow)

After crossing the Hazel Avenue bridge the course goes along single track with a few stretches of paved bike path to the 83 mile turnaround at Mountain Lion Knoll. On the trail I see a furry bushy-tailed creature close ahead in the beam of my headlamp. A skunk! This really messes up my pace, since it frequently stops, and like the stupid cows I encounter on many of my training runs, it chooses to stay on the trail rather than escape to the side. I have to back off to prevent it from assuming the spray pose, while wondering how dangerous it would be to try to run past it. Probably too dangerous-- it's not like I can tell it "excuse me" and tiptoe past. This goes on for well over a mile, maybe two, before it finally takes the alternate route at a fork in the trail.

After buzzing through the next aid station, Willow Creek (mile 81), I spot another animal ahead on the trail-- and as I come close, I can't believe it-- I'm chasing yet another skunk! Same stubborn stupidity--it keeps going straight ahead. After this one finally veers off, I pick up the pace in a way you can only after being forced to run way more slowly than you wanted to, running a couple of sub-9 minute miles to the Mountain Lion Knoll turnaround (mile 83.6), achieving another goal of recording the whole course with my Garmin Forerunner before the battery runs out, which I'd turned on at mile 27 at No Hand Bridge.

(Ironically, the file was too large to upload, but I was happy about this at the time.)

Coming back, I noticed that my gaps on the runners in 4th through 9th place are all within an hour. My vivacios pep soon runs out, probably blown with my sprinting to the turnaround. Fortunately, I am able to keep the lead on most, but not all.

At mile 94, Jimmy Freeman, who I'd run with for several miles leaving him behind twice in the early part of the race, flies by with his pacer. Good for him. Aside from the time I've lost writhing on the ground 20 miles earlier, I just don't have that sort of speed left in me to even think of giving chase.

RDL = Recommended Dean Links

Only 9 months later, did I see and understand, for the first time, what he was talking about when we first met early in the race, when he asked me "have you heard of Jimmy Dean meat products?" Me: "uh, no...." He: "You've never heard of Jimmy Dean bacon or sausage?"

With less than 2 miles to go looking up the hill to the levee, I suddenly see lights behind me. I know it is John Souza, since I had seen Jon Olsen at all the aid stations, crewing him the last 1/6 of the race. I am able kick and lengthen a nice gap on him, to stay in 4th place overall.

With all the time lost on my back or going slowly, I'm unable to come under 20 hours, as I'd hoped and expected. Clock says 20:15:26, making this the my third 100 miler this year finishing between 20 and 21 hours. But honestly, I'm just happy I didn't give up and am able to cross that finish line.

After a while, I go back to the medical research study volunteers, so I can advance science. They find the blood sample that once again they have to vigorously and painfully milk my earlobe for 15 minutes can't be processed. Oh well, at least not as bad as whole body cramping. I chug a bottle of water, perhaps too early, feeel nauseated and the urge to defecate.

RDL = Race Director Livid

While doing my thing, another person comes into the adjacent stall, followed by race director Norm Klein. "How you could you even think of dropping out?... How tall are you?...I'm only 5'4"and probably weigh half as much as you, but believe me, I will kick your ass if you don't get youself back on that course, so you better do it now!" Or something like this. (Norm actually would get his own watered-down account into the December issue of Ultrarunning.) I'd heard similar in the past three years running the race. If you make it back to the school, he's not just going to let you drop. And usually he's correct. The prodded runners thank him after they've finished for not letting them quit like sissies.

I anticipate I will wait about 90 minutes for Joe Swenson to come, but it ends up being more than five long hours before I see his wife Debbie, who had done impromptu crewing for me early in the race, and then Joe, who tells me how he dropped out at mile 90 at the return to Hazel Bluff, 15 pounds overweight, and had Debbie drive him back to the school, to have Norm yell at them both to drive right back to Hazel Bluff and finish. Which they did, though it took Joe quite a long time.

Joe already having problems earlier

I had no idea it was him next to me while I was sitting on the john. Had I known, I would've bummed a ride back to our shared hotel room and slept a few hours instead of waiting up all night, trying unsuccessfully at times to be an interesting conversation partner or sleep on a cot in the locker room.

looking a bit disheveled, in a smelly long sleeved shirt another runner graciously lent me

Sure it's exemplary sportsmanship to stay up and applaud all runners as they come in, but
1. After I get home I have to hang out with my kids and make up to my wife for my prolonged absence.
2. I think I have to work 17 hours the following day.
3. Everyone's pretty spread out still.

This race will definitely not be the same without Norm Klein directing it in the future. Thanks to him for starting and growing this race into a northern California autumn staple, and until maybe two years ago, the only northern California alternative 100-miler to Western States. And to all the volunteers, especially those helping me with my smelly shoes-- I love you, thank you thank you thank you (I know they're probably not reading this, but need to write it.)

RDL = Results of Days-- Lost!
I already briefly posted when I lost this final installment almost a year ago. Man that sucked. But at least I finally got it done!

RDL = Reduced to Dumbed-down and Lousy
As an added kick in the butt, I offer Tia Bodington a quick race report if she wants it, and she tells me to go ahead. After working on it, she asks me to get it down to 600 words. This is a bit painful, but I hack and hack and do it. Then her final email:

From: Tia Bodington
Subject: Re: UR article, Rio del Lago
To: "Mark Tanaka"

Date: Friday, November 7, 2008, 7:00 PM
Mark -
Here's what I think I'll have room for - these parts made me laugh out
loud! Feel free to tweak, trying to keep it to 300 - 350 words. I'll need it
back by Sunday midday to make deadline - hope you're not on call all weekend.

I reply, early during my overnight shift:

Saturday, November 8, 2008 12:55:30 AM
From: Mark Tanaka

To: Tia Bodington

I can't consent to this. Too much hacked and it's not true ("I didn't cramp or crumple"). The only reason for mentioning the Diablo 50 experience is to set up the expectation that I no longer screw the lytes up, and then to contrast it with the self-deprecating admission that I did screw up my lytes in this race. Otherwise there is no point is mentioning Diablo. I need you to give me the space to describe my cramping up and falling down. I can improve this, but I want this in here.

After which I hear nothing from Tia and then find in the next issue of Ultrarunning, one of the stupidest pieces of writing ever attributed to me, totally devoid of any meaningful context I can imagine. Hopefully no one read it. It makes absolutely no sense-- why devote half my words to a race I did five years earlier?

Although I like most of the changes to the magazine and will probably renew my subscription, I haven't volunteered any more submissions, even though I personally like reading more goofy first-person reports than bland accounts by race directors (not that all RD reports are bland).

Besides, it's hard enough for me to crank out these rambling reports for my blog...

Other Blogged Race Reports

The results page has disappeared from the web. Hopefully this will reappear with the resumption (after a hiatus this year) of the Rio del Lago 100 Mile in September 11-12, 2010, under the co-direction of Molly Sheridan of the soon to be formed Desert Sky Adventures.

this installment first published Thursday, September 24, 2009


Jon Roig said...

Hey... just wanted to say that I really enjoy your race / run reports. Thanks!

Pam said...

Mark - It was great to meet you and share some trail time. I stick by what I said: You are one sick [puppy]! Your race schedule is insane! Congrats on the sub-20 at HH. Now take a few weekends off, you are making everyone else look bad!