Monday, August 24, 2015

Habanero Hundred

The Race Sauron Would've Dropped

The Race Where You Might Consider Eating a Few Habanero Peppers Instead of Running a 7.2-Mile Lap

Call the race whatever you like, but it was hot. And humid. And rocky. And full of biting flies. And hot and humid too. I don't know where the idea came from, but once I heard about the race, I was all in and looking forward to the insane challenge. Living in Houston has exposed me to all the previously mentioned race conditions (minus the rockiness). I figured I had done my homework and was ready for the test:
  1. I ran all summer between 3-4 pm when it seemed to be the hottest.
  2. I carried water with me (the camel who now carries water) and wondered how I used to race 100's without carrying any water or how I even ran 10 miles in the summer with no water.
  3. I found some running shorts (Nike Dri-Fit) at Ross that left me unchaffed even without any lube and while still running up to 20 miles.
  4. I recently got some Feetures socks that fit so snuggly that I never needed to double layer socks anymore on long runs.
  5. I forced myself to at least once a week run up to 18 miles at once just to prepare myself for the death march.
So now for the final exam. The course was set up with an aid station at the start/finish line and then another at 3.5 miles. Each loop was 7.2 miles and I had 14 loops to complete my fun little test. The first lap was done before I knew what had even happened. For the first two laps, I drained my water bottle by the time I reached the next aid station. I told Amy that I would definitely need to switch from my Nathan waist pack (which only held about 18 oz (0.5 L)) to my Nathan vest (which held 2 L plus had spots for two water bottles on the front). I still felt pretty good after finishing the second lap, but was very glad to get the vest and extra water bottle to douse my head. While I now accuse my previous two laps of 'not enough water intake,' I started gulping down water on my third lap. Despite thinking that I might be taking in more than my body could handle, it tasted sooo good that I couldn't stop guzzling it down. By the time I hit the next aid station, my pack was empty. And when I finished that lap, it was empty again. I was already feeling back to normal and then was told that my weight was spot on (and it remained the same every lap until the end of lap 9). My new decision: drink a shit ton* of water for the rest of the race. This was the one difference between this race and any other 100-miler I had ran before. And since I was feeling pretty good (I kept pace at about 1:30-2 hours per lap), I figured I had this race all figured out and squared away.

*A shit ton is approximately a gallon of water for every 7 miles of running

I finished my 9th lap (64 miles) in just under 14 hours. The heat and humidity had taken their tolls on me and some change came over me at that point. My weight was down a bit (3 lbs), so I knew I had to drink more. I then felt like taking a nap, but when I laid down, my feet, calves, and thighs would alternate cramping up and I never got any sleep. Julie Koepke ended up passing me as I lay down. I started to shiver (despite the 80 degree temp) after a half hour rest and decided I just needed to get up and out on another lap. My legs no longer hurt. And by this, I mean the cramping fight disappeared and was replaced by the typical aches of having run over 50 miles in less than desirable conditions.

My 10th lap was the turning point. A little after I left the start/finish, I remembered that I hadn't reapplied a thick coating of Trail Toes (great anti-chaffing cream) along my thighs and everything within a hand's length above there. Since I was walking so much more, my arms kept rubbing against my vest/water pack, and they were starting to hurt. So every couple seconds I had to remind myself to keep my arms out because every couple seconds I'd forget to do that and they'd rub some more. The cycle seemed endless. I decided that my chaffing had hurt long enough. If this aid station didn't have any Trail Toes, I was just going to drop out right there and walk the cozy road back to the start. And as luck goes, upon arriving I was told, in answer to my question, "Oh yes. We have a bunch. Here ya go." So I slathered a bunch of it all over, covering every inch of skin under my shorts. It did help. My mind was off one problem and onto another.

During the second half of this lap, I started calculating how long my next four laps should take. "If I'm walking 3 mph, then 7 miles will take 2 hours 20 minutes. I have 4 laps, so that's 2, 4, 6, 8 hours plus 20, 40, 60, 80 minutes. That's 9.5 hours of just walking and assuming that I'd be walking that pace the whole time. It will be about 5 am or so when I finish this lap. That puts me finishing 100 miles at ... 5+9=14 which means 2 ... at the earliest 2:30 and as late as 4 pm. And all I'm going to get is a buckle, a LOT more chaffing, more delirious, and possibly another hospital trip like after Rocky Raccoon (which would also give me a very angry wife). I was certain that I was going to call it quits. But I've never DNF'ed before. I was rather prideful knowing that I've never thrown in the towel to any race. Maybe I should just keep going. Maybe I could catch up to Julie and we could 'keep each other sane' for 20 miles. But school starts tomorrow and I probably shouldn't take off the first day (I'm a high school science teacher). But.... But.... But.... The debate seemed to continue forever.

I ran into Julie about a quarter mile from the start/finish as I finished 10 and she started 11. We both knew of each other but had never actually met, and it was rather fun to stop for a few minutes, in the middle of a race, and just talk to each other. I could tell we were both in the same state, with the exception that she was going to keep walking and I was done walking. It was a delightful moment in time, especially since I was just a few minutes’ walking distance from the start/finish.
As I finished lap 10, the calculations won. It wasn't worth it to me if I couldn't run anymore. I don't know how so many people can continue walking almost entire 100-mile races. I have always been amazed by them and think that they, not I, are the tough ones when it comes to racing ultras.

After some much needed naps, A/C, and letting my emotions of my first DNF wear off, I now feel like I made the right choice. I am alive and as healthy as ever. I still completed over 100k and was only beaten to that distance by some of the relay teams. And I learned a few things for next year (because I ain't about to let this devil race best me again.)
  1. I need to start the race with the hydration vest. Not getting those 4-6 liters of water over the first two laps set me back in a race that doesn't allow much room for mistakes.
  2. I need to go slower. This is always my recommendation for anyone trying to run 100 miles (or any race that feels long to you). I knew my pace for 100's, but I didn't do a good enough job at taking into consideration the effect the heat and humidity would have on me over the super long haul.
  3. I need to carry some Trail Toes with me in my vest or waist pack. Usually, I'm so excited at getting to the next aid station that I often tend to forget about everything I need once I get there. And I remember after I'm 5 minutes out and too far to want to turn back. If only there were some checklist I could carry and edit on the run.
  4. I need to change out of wet clothes more often. Maybe this is more of a thing here since it's humid and sweat likes to not evaporate.
  5. Eat some more solid food at the beginning of the race. As the race goes on, I tend to hate eating most anything but fruits and Gels. Everything else sits in my mouth for so long and annoys me.
Habanero Hundred 100-miler 2016: I SHALL RETURN!

P.S. - Thanks for the great humility lesson this year

P.P.S. - If it wasn't for my Nathan hydration vest, I never would have made it as far as I did.

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