"Only those who risk failing greatly can ever succeed greatly." –RFK
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Pacific Rim One Day race report (March 17-18, 2012)
I was well-trained for Pacific Rim this year. Our mild winter allowed me to continue training through the previous months. My ideal goal was to break the woman’s course record set by me last year of 118.25 miles.
Pac Rim is one of those 24-hour runs though that does not favor high mileage because of the layout of the 1-mile loop and also the notorious fickle weather. The course is fantastic though, a mixture of surfaces of gravel trail, pavement, grass and a short concrete bridge. There are several sharp turns on the course that require you to slow your pace. One is a 270 degree right turn on a slight downgrade and the other two are left turns around the cones before the timing tent. There is little elevation change, but you certainly feel the “inclines” after 12 hours of running. The weather is a competitor leveler here and all veteran Pac Rim runners know this. Always bring your rain jacket and warm clothes for the cold, damp night! In recent years, we’ve been fortunate to have excellent weather with just some light showers, and I knew, given the odds, that we were due for a more typical year this year.
Because my training had gone unexpectedly well, I felt that if the weather turned out to be good, I would have a good chance at my mileage goal. When it really comes down to it though, I always just want to do the best I can in whatever conditions that come along.
I also knew that I couldn’t go too deep into the well because Sunday right after the race, we would be driving the four hours back to Ellensburg, picking up the dogs, and then I would have to make the three hour drive back to Spokane so that I could be ready in the morning to go to a TEDx talk rehearsal. I was one of many speakers the next day and I had to be alert and physically agile and mentally alert enough to stand on stage and present my talk on my Badwater to Whitney crossing titled “No Failure In Trying.” In fact, because of a few very busy work weeks and other commitments, I still had to do a lot of preparation for my talk. So, I went into the race knowing that, even more than possible bad weather, this was my biggest limitation in pushing for high mileage.
Tim, who has won the race four years in a row, planned to run just 50k as a last long run before The Barkley, which was two weeks later. He was then going to help out with volunteering at the timing station and help me and the Ellensburg runners as he was able. We were excited that John Price, our good friend from Virginia, was going to be running too. We headed to Longview Friday and met up with John for dinner, along with David, Ethan, Craig, Tom and Willie, which is always a good time with good friends. This is Pac Rim, the race that is more like a “family reunion” and always an atmosphere of camaraderie, fun, and support among volunteers and runners.
(Tim, me and John Price the evening before the race)
It was raining the hour before the race start at 9 AM. Not good when you have to set up your supplies. But Tim set up the canopy and, as we shuttled our gear from the car to the canopy, the rain let up enough for us to stay mostly dry.
The sun came out by the start of the race and the first hours were delightful for running. There were some light sprinkles, which were nice, and some spatters of showers that got us wet but most runners were able to grab a rain jacket back at their aid to protect from getting soaked. This was the case for me. And the jacket went on and off and on and off several times during the first 10 hours.
I ran at a comfortable, singing pace and went through 50 miles at about 8 hours. I felt great. My running pace was good but I still lost a minute or so every couple of loops when I stopped to get aid, which is always a bit frustrating for me because I don’t like to stop. But I was completely within a comfortable time at 50 miles, and I figured I might as well run while I can while the weather was good because I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to stay that way.
(Stopping for aid after 50 miles. Photo by Emmy Stocker.)
Sure enough, around 7 PM, the skies opened and it rained hard, soaking hard. I was half way around the loop and did my best to hustle the ½ mile back to my aid for my jacket. Tim met me on the course with it saving me a minute or two, but I was already soaked. I knew then that as nighttime came, I was going to have to change completely out of the wet clothes at some point in order to stay warm through the cold, damp night.
I decided to keep running until I felt cold. So, I ran for a few more hours and was ok as long as I was moving, but every time I had to stop for a bathroom break, which was frequently, I got chilled to the bone, the kind of cold that happens from the inside out. I could always warm up by running a few loops but the stops were taking a toll on my ability to control my core temperature, and I knew it was time to get into dry clothes. But because it continued to rain and I had limited dry clothes and I knew sooner or later the rain was going to stop, I kept running. My legs felt great, my spirit was good, I wasn’t tired, and I really felt like running. But the fickle weather won and I eventually retreated to my changing tent. Tim helped me into dry clothes, and I even changed my shoes, something I never do, but they were soaked and squashing at every step.
I felt much better in dry clothes but the long stop chilled me even more as I had already gone into the tank as far as temperature regulation. So, Tim heated up the car and I warmed up in there for about a half hour. He then kicked me out and I got back onto the course, feeling much better. The course was sloppy wet and the puddles unavoidable. In some spots, runners had a choice of either going through the puddles or stepping into the muddy grass. For a few miles, I puddle-jumped to try to stay dry as the rain had let up and I still had about 8 hours left to run.
Then Tim came to the runners’ rescue and, with a broom, literally swept the water off the course, and oh, what a difference that made! Finally, we could run without having to deal with the puddles. So, I ran.
I was surprised, that even with my repetitive breaks to get aid, my long break for changing clothes and my retreat to the car for 30 minutes, I hit 100 miles in about 19-1/2 hours. That was my pace for last year’s record, and at this point I felt good again, so I kept the goal in mind but knew that if the weather turned bad again, I would simply have to modify that goal. It was all good to me anyway because in my mind, the most important thing was to finish the race with enough left to make the drive home safely and to be prepared for the TEDx talk.
The nighttime was nice and I continued to run every single step on the course. I was comfortable doing this and did not feel like I needed any walk breaks, and because I tended to my own aid every couple of loops, I wanted to make up for that lost time on the course. So, I never took a walk break on the course.
Towards the very early pre-dawn hours, it rained again. The runners still left on the course got wet again. Most of us were in rain gear and heavier clothing, pants, hats and gloves, though there were a few brave souls still in shorts and wind-breakers. But we were all cold and eagerly awaiting the sunrise, which took its sweet time. I can’t remember a 24-hour run where the sun was so lazy in coming up in the morning. But eventually the sky turned from black to gray in hopes of a sunrise, but instead of feeling the warmth of a rising sun, the clouds rolled in the rain returned, and it started snowing big heavy, wet flakes. It was quite miserable, but several of us trudged on.
I reviewed my pace and goals and how I was feeling, and despite the cold, I felt pretty good. I had a solid first place position for the women, but that is never really a goal for me. Rather, my goals are mileage-based, and I knew I was going to fall short of my course record. I was in second place overall. The first place runner, Arthur, had slowed his pace considerably and was now sitting under the timing tent bundled up in winter gear. I didn’t know his mileage but I knew he had surpassed my mileage long ago.
That’s when I decided, my mileage was “good enough” and I went into Fred and Betty’s RV to warm up while the snowy rain continued. Tim and John joined me in there and it was actually a fun break. We were joking around and already feeling the relief of the race coming to a close. I spent at least 30 minutes in there. And then Tim started nudging me out again, back onto the course. I was not motivated to respond until he told me that Arthur had stopped running and that he was at 112 miles and I was at 110. We had an hour left to run. Tim talked to Arthur and he said, as running comrades sometimes do after spending 23 hours together on a mile loop track, that if I caught up to him in mileage that we could walk the last mile together for a victory tie.
I took the bait, and headed out in the ice cold rain. I ran and, for the first time, walked a little too for 2 more miles, and when I passed through the timing tent, I asked Arthur if he was still up for a tie, and he said yes. So, we headed out and walked a loop together, sharing our self-proclaimed bravado for sticking out the weather. We had a little time left, so I convinced Arthur to walk an additional 0.25 miles for a total tie of 113.25 miles.
(Final 2 miles of running)
(Walking the final lap with Arthur Martineau for a tie at 113.25 miles.)
We threw on some additional layers over our wet clothes and huddled under the timing tent for the awards. We packed up our aid and Tim took down the canopy while I tried to warm up in the car. I was changing out of my wet shoes when Alex Swenson knocked on the car door window and presented me with a huge cinnamon roll from Stuffy’s Restaurant. We had been talking about food on the course, sharing our cravings, and he said Stuffy’s made the most awesome cinnamon rolls that 5 people could share. Well, he was right! This thing was about 3 pounds! What a fun guy he is!
(1st place award. With RD Wildman Fred.)
We stopped at the YMCA for a quick shower and started our 4 hour drive back to Tim’s with the car smelling like a freshly baked cinnamon roll all the way home. We picked up our dogs, ate dinner, and then I made the long drive back to Spokane. I don’t like driving so far alone after losing a night of sleep (and with 100+ miles on my body), but I was certainly prepared to stop and rest stop if I needed.
The TEDx talk was fun, an entire day of incredible speakers. I enjoyed every one. Fortunately, I didn’t wear my body out too much, though I was definitely shuffling around on stage to keep my sore muscles engaged. I think the muscle and mental fatigue actually helped me relax for the presentation. Maybe it was a little over the top to try to pull off both the race and the presentation, but I am happy that I did.
I am an ultra runner, physician and have been medical director of some of the toughest ultras. I tend to be a mover and a shaker and louder than my size suggests. However, my Gemini twin is gentler and contemplative, an artist, a writer, and a poet. I am a dog lover, a believer in souls, and have a special affinity for those who struggle because I have been there.
This is my crazy lovable huggable Weimaraner, Steely Dan. I call him Steely. He left us in January of this year at only 6 years from lymphoma that did not respond to chemotherapy treatments. Steely was a total goof. He loved trail running, road running, treadmill running, new experiences, making eye contact, sleeping on his back, me, kids, and liver treats. He was Zappa's best friend. We miss him dearly.
This is Stella. A rescue from the shelter. She's about 6 months old and a Border Collie. She is a joyous bundle of energy and curiosity and now also Zappa best friend. She will make a nice running partner when she grows up.
This is the now the big brother of my family - a rescued Greyhound. His name is Frank Zappa. I call him Zappa. He's 7 years old and has learned all about life beyond the track and crate from Steely when he was with us. It was very rewarding to watch his personality bloom as he settled into the family. And yes, he runs like the wind!
This is Natasha, my dearest friend. She was with me through college, medical school, residency, and she moved with me from Chicago to Spokane several years ago. She was my best running partner for 10 years. My sweet Natasha died from bone cancer in 2006. I miss her still. I hung a windchimes over the deck outside. When it chimes, I smile and think she has finally -- wherever she is now -- caught a squirrel!