Saturday, October 31, 2009

JJ100 - LAP 6: Journey with Birney

After a few more miles, this put me into the main aid station at 3:48 on the loop. Needless to say, my crew was surprised to see me. Fuck. I was surprised to see me. I went through the same old song and dance, got a big necessary hug from Jimbo, neglected to grab a jacket and informed Ultra Birney that we were leaving.

This picture is actually from the last lap, but reiterates two points here nicely: 1. Ultra Birney is in for a real treat; and 2. WHY THE HELL DIDN'T I GRAB THAT JACKET??? Look at how nice and worm it looks!

I was very excited to see Peter Birney. Long ago, I had put him in charge of my health and well-being; a job that he did not take lightly. He was ON it every time I came through the Jeadquarters - I was in and out like a high school prom date. And most importantly, when I was flitting about like a frantic cocaine addict he stopped me, made me look at him square in the eye and offered the simplest but most heartfelt words: You are doing SO well!

Now, however… now old Peter’s job description was about to change. Giddyup.

As per usual, I felt like crap coming out of the aid station. Even stopping for just a few minutes made it so freaking difficult to find my shuffle and keep running. Ouch and double ouch. However, I had been informed back at camp that my boys P-Dubs and Guillaume had dropped and that made me even more determined to finish the race for them too. Actually, at this point I had yet to have any moment where I doubted my ability to complete a full 101.4 miles. And I had yet to encounter any thoughts of just not wanting to do it anymore. At 77 miles, that was a good sign.

However…. I was fighting a major meltdown. Luckily, Ultra Birney kept me moving uphill, kept me entertained and helped me to discover that the “snakes” I had been jumping over for 20 miles were simply the course markers blowing in the wind. Cool. We sang old songs – Billy Joel, lots of Journey in people's faces and just the choruses to some Foreigner stuff, since no one actually knows any of their songs in their entirety. When I went silent, Peter sang me old negro tunes and that was both nice and ironic. He asked me if I wanted to know what place I was in, but I told him I didn’t care. It didn’t matter.

When we came into Jackass Junction that major meltdown I referenced came on full force. I was just staring at the food sobbing. Mind you, I had NO IDEA why I was crying. My body was freaking jacked. Luckily I got mad because all these people kept thinking I was someone else and then when I wasn’t that person they became extremely disinterested in helping me. So I just left.

Soon after, we hit the rolling section and I started running again. Up and down and up and down. Just keep moving. Relentless.

Largely to curb my excessive moaning and groaning in pain, we recited FU Penguin quotes and that kept me entertained for awhile. YOU CAN’T EVEN METAMORPHOSIZE YOUR CRAZY ASS! I had developed what I will now refer to as “ultra-turrets”. I had no control over the volume of my voice and when I had what I thought was a noteworthy thought, oftentimes I felt the need to shout it. Good lord. Peter told me I was running well and reminded me that every single person that we were passing was behind me… it did seem like a large quantity of individuals and I was very confused because I was quite certain I was the slowest person ever.

"Doesn't the air taste good, Peter?" ...What?!.... It DID!

We ran into Kate via Bev and then Katelyn via Krobot - everyone was still alive and moving and I never even thought for a second anyone else would be dropping. I don’t remember coming into Coyote Camp at all, but I do remember eating a PB&J, because Peter was proud of me for consuming solid food. At this point, a quarter of a sandwich is a viable reason for a high five.

Over the next 5.5 miles, things.... well.... things began to change. The stretch from the aid station to the rocky downhill seemed MUCH longer than usual and next thing I knew I was crying. Albeit, still running. But crying. I could not control this. I understood that relatively, it would be over soon… but the thought of running 20 more miles seemed like FOREVER. To make matters worse, I couldn’t pick my feet up down the rocky section, which was exacerbated by the glare of headlamps heading back up from the zombies that were too fatigued to divert their view from straight into my face.


Lest we forget, why do they have their headlamps on in the first place? There is a bright ass built-in lamp that is plenty of light for all. It’s called the fucking moon. Jesus. As you can imagine, our progress through the last section of the loop could best be described as “trudging.” My spirits were definitely low and apparently so was the temperature of my body. I was shaking violently and I just wanted it to be over… but first I needed a jacket, some caffeine and to run about 12 more miles. Keep going. Keep going. (This blows). Keep going.


JJ100 - LAP 5: Hallucinations are for the birds.

The bat signal was on back in St. Louie. My parents are the bomb.

How ya doin’ Batgirl?

I’m not going to lie, I’m freaking out man.

As you can see, I admittedly broke down a bit when I got back to my crew. I didn’t know what I wanted or needed, and didn’t want what they were trying to give me. Salt, Gatorade, GU, Body Glide. Just keep me on the basics, please. Jimmy tried to give me a slice of pizza.


This is ironic, because if you know me, you know that I love pizza. You know that I eat pizza for dinner at least three times a week. You know that I eat pizza for my pre-race meal. I, however, wanted nothing to do with pizza. Another mouthful of vanilla death, please.

The best news ever came in the form of Julie Jacobs putting on a camelbak and stepping up to the plate.* Yesssssss. I get a pacer. My mood improved instantly and I was ready to head back out in that godforsaken desert for another 15.5 miles. Seacrest, out.


OK, I don’t know what numbers are anymore so I need you to tell me everytime it’s been 45 minutes. Is that okay?

…I’ll ask you if I forget what that means.

And with that, we set off to loop it up clockwise. Again. At this point, I knew I was doing really well, but I was starting to feel some serious pain. Nothing distinguishable… just total body fatigue, which I had decided was no big deal. For my coping mechanism, I decided to hit the tunes in one ear and initiate a desert sing-a-long. The only participant being me. Julie and I talked intermittently about stuff – mainly her answering all my questions about what was going on back at the main aid station (code: drama) and my philosophies on how I had physically and mentally progressed as a person since my last relationship (code: I’m losing my mind). It was about this time when I became really concerned with everyone else’s race as well – I knew how bad this thing was kicking my ass and I wondered how everyone else was dealing with it.

Optional? More like unavoidable. I came up with this back when I was just running marathons.

Unfortunately – I got my answer at Coyote Camp. Bev was sitting under the tent with Kate – her face blotchy and tear stained and a faraway look in her eyes. She smiled, but I was not fooled. Kate was in a world of hurt and it killed me that there was nothing I could do about it. And I accepted that this pain would find me too and again, there would be nothing anyone could do about it. Nevertheless, I did what I could – I tried to show Kate my ass while peeing on a cactus, but that didn’t work. Ah well, it was time for me to be moving on.

For the rest of the loop I pretty much just sang at the top of my lungs in random breathy outbursts, sometimes involving air-drumming or air-guitar hero. Not regular guitar. I only know the chords on Guitar Hero. Poor Julie. All marbles had been lost, the rocker had long since been left - I had officially run myself retarded. As we hit the descents I was all but screaming lines from The Fray (this is becoming a theme) and hammering down the closest thing to technical single track I could find. I even dropped my pacer a couple times with my reckless, headlamp-less downhill charging. Poor, poor Julie.

I was still cruising along, when I began to get the distinct impression that something else was cruising along next to me. Wait a minute, that’s not Julie. That’s a horse!

Actually it was four horses – one majestic white guy, two brown coats and one spotted fellow and they decided to pace me for a bit. OK, stop. Picture this scene for a minute:

A dark night lit only by the full moon. One wild spirit running with four wild mustangs through the eerily quiet desert. And if you were wondering, yes the white one definitely looked like a ghost. Whoa.

Uh, Julie, are those real?

Yes Katie, they are real.


I continued to push it down the long, gradual downhill – stopping at Jackass Junction to get the remaining GU out of my drop bag. I realized at this point that meant I was going to consume over 30 packets of this shit in one day. My intestines are clearly glued together at this point. They have to be.

A couple miles outside of the Jeadquarters I decided that I would ask Julie how long this loop had taken me. I was deathly certain I had been shuffling along at a very slow pace and that this loop had taken me close to 5 hours. I prefaced by telling her that I knew the time didn’t matter and it wasn’t going to change anything… I just wanted to know.


Say whaaaaat?

JJ100 - LAP 4: This really isn't all that bad.

Trick or treat, bitches! I’m back and you LOVE it! I was in excellent spirits coming back into the main checkpoint and happy to see my friends, but mostly ice. Again, I reloaded with more salt stick, more body glide, more sunscreen* and oh my god more GU. Soaked my skull head band (I'm legit.) in some cold water and man did that feel glorious. I took a moment to bend over a bit to stretch my lower back and suddenly realized how ungodly hot it was.

*another Headlands lesson. Scroll down and reference the Jamaican version of myself here.

“it’s gonna get even hotter.” Thanks Jimmy. (photo cred: Mira)

Again, I hit a low point coming out of the Jeadquarters, and again I just focused on its inevitable passing and the pending sunset. Just some more hours and some more miles. Forward progress. Relentless.

I saw P-Dubs heading in to the aid station and he definitely looked worse than I was feeling. Yep... sooner or later I’d feel like that too and I knew it. We’d all have our moments on this day. There was no escaping them. Kate was in her sixties hipster loop and seeing her and Skelley really brightened my spirits. I could feel how truly excited mi Kate was for how strong I was running and I let that feed me. It’s amazing the strength that encouragement can bring… when it is genuine. That’s Kate. It fed me right into Pink Steel a mile or so later coming round the bend in her pink tutu. Everyone was all smiles – so they were either feeling great or they had me seriously fooled.

I rolled into Jackass Junction at somewhere around 10 ½ hours and guess what? I finally peed. Glory Glory Hallelujah… I’m not unknowingly dying of dehydration. I was really proud of myself for the next couple miles.

The next cool thing that happened was I hit mile 50. Why is this so cool, you ask? Well because up until this point I have never ran one step over 50 miles. Now, every step I took would be farther than I had ever gone… harder than I had ever worked… longer than I had ever run.


Typical shot of me at any point in the day. Apparently, I think running in a desert is fun. (photo cred: Tammy Parliment Massie)

Around mile 60 I began to feel some pain in my pinky toes – it basically felt like I was running on top of them. Also noteworthy was the fact that they felt about twice the size as normal. Bilsters, probably. Yep, definitely blisters. This made me realize that I had never switched out of my Defeet compression socks and into toe-saving injinjis as originally planned. (Which was why I wanted these). Which made me realize that I never had any Achilles issues like normal, which was why I chose to wear the compression socks in the first place. Which in turn made me realize somewhere over the last 20 miles or so my IT band just stopped hurting. Which obviously meant that the blisters too would cease to be a problem as well if I just kept running. I like this plan: run to make new things hurt so that other things stop hurting. Word.

And just like that, the painted desert sunset was upon me. I was working my way through the middle part of the course, ipod blaring some fantastic jams featuring me on back-up. The blistering heat had begun to subside and my skin happily bathed in the beautiful pink light of the setting sun. ‘Twas if my iPod knew (not that I am surprised given that it is an Apple product)… Coldplay’s “Message” strung up as I watched the light dance off the red rocks surrounding the desert floor. My mind wandered to the last time I watched the sun fade away to that very song – against the backdrop of Yosemite’s Half Dome after my first “ultra weekend.” Guys, I’m going to be honest here: I shed a few tears. First time I cried today, and it had nothing to do with pain… only joy and complete and utter happiness for where I was and the choices that led me here. Both physically, and in life in general. I thought about that first voyage into the unknown – when for no particular reason I decided to run 31 miles up in the mountains just because it was my birthday and I felt like it. I thought about my first official ultra; the roaring thunderstorm that shook the forest floor and made me feel more alive than I’ve felt in years. I remembered flying down the single track above the fog of the Marin Headlands; I remembered breaking down and sobbing in a valley in the San Gabriels. I recalled all of the places my feet had carried me this summer in preparation for this day – trekking through the historic western states course, running under waterfalls in Yosemite, momentary pauses at the top of westridge as the cardboard cutout city peeked above the watercolored clouds, headlamp-less adventures far above the sparkling lights of LA, a hot, steamy morning running along the riverbed where I grew up and first fell in love with the sport …. this is what my life is made of. Too, I remembered the injuries, the anger and the emotional ups and downs of a confusing, trying and totally necessary summer. The pain and the heartache I ran out of me. Out here in the clean and crisp air of forgiveness I was at peace with it all and I was overwhelmed with what I’d become. Somehow, I like myself better.

The word you are looking for is "whoa." (photo cred: Peter Birney)

I ran with my thoughts and Gwen Stefani for awhile, feeling lighter and more able than I expected at 60 some odd miles. Whatever. Let’s go with it. I began to seriously worry about Dom (nursing an ankle injury sustained the same morning I was attacked by the tiger) when I didn’t see him where I had expected…. and then didn’t see him for another 4 miles. But right as twilight set in, I saw the yellow Moeben’s cresting a hill and a smile so big it was visible from 100 meters away. A much needed hug and a renewed spark in his eye let me know that he was going to finish. I never worried about Dom again.*

*Not that I needed to in the first place - the kid is made of nails.

Low point #3 came a few miles out from the Jeadquarters. It was dark and I stumbled a bit coming down the rocky section which threw my rhythm all off. I felt remarkably good for having run 61 miles. Felt remarkably bad for still having 40 to go. I was beginning to hurt all over, I was tired and I couldn’t hold back the whimpers. I was okay, but my body was starting to retaliate.

Things are about to get weird... (photo cred: Peter Birney).

JJ100 - LAP 3: If you freeze water, it tastes good.

Came rolling back into the Jeadquarters in a 50k PR and that instantly seemed like a bad idea. Interesante. Regardless, I reloaded on salt stick, filled my pockets with what I thought was enough GU, more body glide*, and decided to take my ipod out for a spin.

*the chaffing I experienced at Headlands was other-worldly. This will NOT happen again.

Oops, left the ipod on the table. Whatever. Time to fucking run.

Checking in with Coach Jimmy before I go save the world. BLAMO! (photo cred: Peter Birney).

Okay, so here’s the thing about dressing as Batman for Halloween:

#1. It requires me wearing all black.

#2. On this given Halloween I happen to be running 100 miles.

#3. The location of said run is in the middle of a DESERT.

You do the math.

Exhibit A. (photo cred: Will LaFollette).

Needless to say, the “climb” out of the Jeadquarters was brutal in the heat. This shall henceforth be considered my first low point of the race. What this entailed exactly is me feeling pretty damn terrible no matter if I walked or ran or hiked or backwards hiked – so obviously, I just ran. The good news was that the millions ‘o GU started to taste like liquid hot magma down my throat which of course was both awesome and delicious. Like, picture taking generic cake icing – you know not the shit your grandma makes, but the slightly metallic tasting kind from Smart “n Final-type establishments – wrapping it in tin foil and then setting it out on the blacktop for the duration of a hot and steamy summer afternoon in say, Houston, Texas. Then eat it. And wash it down with hot ass Gatorade. Repeat 30 TIMES. The interesting thing here was that I was 100% positive that the feeling would pass and eventually I'd feel all special inside again. Even if that took until sunset – and sunset would be on the next loop! Remarkably, 5-6 hours really didn’t seem all that far away.

In retrospect, that makes me want to tell myself to shut up.

Be it known that the ice (per Krobot) at Coyote Camp saved me. Now the thing about ice is that I was previously unaware of its association with witchcraft and other such sorcery. Make no mistake, that shit brought me back from the dead and I don’t care what devil’s play was involved. Maybe I’m a zombie now, I don’t know…. Actually that makes a lot of sense…. Anyway, from then on out it was all about living GU to hot ass GU – aid station to aid station. Because aid station meant ice. And holy crap, I love ice.

The ominous shadow of Batman. (Photo cred: Mira).

JJ100 - LAP 2: I really should have peed by now.

Trick or treat, bitches. (photo cred: Mira).

I came into the Jeadquarters all smiles and feeling absolutely great. I switched outta the fleece moebens and into the nylon, grabbed the sunglasses, reapplied the glide (thank you Jesus), sprayed down with the sunscreen I forgot in the AM and OUT. There would be no time wasted in aid stations today.

The desert heat began to rise and I knew I needed to slow down a bit on this lap. (Vinnie Torres – how many times did you tell me to stay conservative throughout the day so I could run at night? That was what, like 17 facebook posts?) I momentarily panicked as my stomach wretched while eating yet another Vanilla GU, now conveniently baked by my black Moeben pocket. However, I remembered the Slagel-fly told me to ginger it up at the very first hint of stomach issues, so I popped some in pill form stat. I never had another GI issue the entire race.

Panic #2 set in as my right IT started flaring up out of the gate. It’s been 20 miles, WTF? It’s going to be a looooong day if that shit doesn’t subside. Like, NOW. I don’t remember a whole lot from the rest of the loop other than how good I felt otherwise. And how much I loved that middle rolling section. And how much said section was going to suck in about 10 hours. I caught up to mi chica Diana Treister and ran with her on and off for most of the day which was bueno. But I had lost all my other homies… which begged the question, was I going too fast??? Ah, fuck it. I was having FUN. My only real concern was why I hadn’t peed yet.

JJ100 - LAP 1: Less Too Fast than Expected

They asked me to use my legal name.

Once again, somebody sent me a link. And once again I’m standing on a starting line about to face the hardest thing I’ve ever done. How I got here, I’m not quite sure other than it involved some intense training, a lot of Gatorade* and a Civic. And here I am.

*Yes, I use Gatorade. Get over it.

5…. 4…. 3….. 2….. 1…. CRACK!

I crossed the starting line arm-in-arm with the Kates and took off into the dark, cold Arizona desert. I was calm, my mind was quiet; echoing the stillness of the landscape. I mean really, what do I have to be nervous about? I’m not going to WIN the thing for chrissakes – Abbs has got that one all sewn up. (I know!) Not really understanding what I had gotten myself into, today was less about a “race” and more about an “exercise in survival.” Just call me Bear Grylls – wait until the part where I drink my own urine. No. No, that didn’t happen. Anyway, Guillaume caught up right out of the gate and as we talked I looked down and realized we had picked up the pace quite a bit. (side note: The last time I saw G, I was half-dead sleeping on a bench at PMSP. Oh wow, that was less than two weeks ago). I slowed down, let G go and fully expected team Kate to catch back up. But I never ran with them again after the first 2 minutes. The dark really wasn’t all that dark and I was sad because I wanted to use my Bat Signal. Oh yeah, did I fail to mention I ran 100 miles dressed as Batman? Well, I did. Peow. Peow.

Dananananananana - nananananananana.... BATMAN! -GIRL! -WOMAN! -PERSON! (ask me how many times i heard THAT song). (photo cred: Will LaFollette).

During the first loop I focused on not running too fast. That sounds ridiculous, but seriously – do you have any idea how slow an 11 minute mile is? And do you have any idea how long it seems to run 100 miles at that pace and SLOWER? Yuck. I reluctantly strapped on my Garmin and anytime it clocked below 10 minute mile pace, I put on the breaks. Unless I was going down a "hill." (quotations will be removed on subsequent laps). Anything’s fair game if I’m going downhill. I also got this word in my head maybe 45 minutes into the thing… and that word stuck with me throughout the day, into the night, the next morning… and it’s still swirling around up there now. My mantra.


Before long, I caught up to P-Dubs, gave him an ass slap (this is typical, don’t worry) and we ran the rolling section together (middle 5 miles, my fave). Again, I got into a conversation with one of many freaking crazy but totally awesome dudes and pulled away, fully expecting him to catch back up. I never ran with Peter again either. That sucks because he is entertaining as hell.