Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rocky Raccoon 60 Miler

Well, I went, I ran, and I DNF at the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler.

This was only my 2nd DNF in a race, ever. Wapack was my other one when I pretty much broke my ankle at mile 5 and hobbled back to the start/finish. Let’s just say that it takes a lot to bring me down, and RR managed to do it.

First off, I want to send a HUGE THANK YOU to the one, the only, the original Honey Badger, Lauren Liuzzo, for being on my support crew. She was up when I was up and she was still up, volunteering at the race site, when I was back in bed licking my wounds. Fil, are you taking notes here? ;)

On with our tale….

Dima, Karen, Lauren, and I flew down to Huntsville, TX via Houston on Friday morning. Rented a car and went straight to BIB # pickup at the Huntsville State Park where the race was being staged. The 100 mile race consisted of five 20 mile loops throughout the park over semi-technical trail, but was very gentle by New England standards.

Trouble started right away as it was raining buckets the moment we landed, and the forecast for race day didn’t look any better. Apparently, it hadn’t rained in the area in a couple of weeks, and right on cue, they get a day and a half of heavy rain during my first 100. Let’s just say that rain and Texas trail clay doesn’t mix well. Actually, it mixes really well. Too f’in well.

We all eventually checked into the seediest Motel 6 we could find 15 minutes away from ground zero, and found our way to the greasiest joint we could find in the heart of TX. They had craw fish on the menu, and let’s see what else: craw fish, craw fish, craw fish, corn, craw fish, craw fish, and….NOODLES! What we yanks call pasta up here, they call noodles down there. Well, once the pasta dishes arrived, we found out why they call it noodles. The difference is that you can microwave their “pasta”.

Other than the fried pickle incident at the mechanical bull riding competition, the first day was quite “uneventful…………”

We headed off to bed relatively early and very sore.

We woke up to the sound of thunder. How far off you wonder? About 15 minutes away. 30% chance? Must be Texas math.

Mistake #1: Didn’t pack any wet weather gear other than extra socks and extra shoes. Actually, Mistake #1A was signing up for this godforsaken race in the first place, but I won’t go there.

The race was at 6AM and we arrived at the park around 5:30AM. It’s a good thing you don’t need to warm up for one of these things.

I looked (and was) like an ultra noob carrying around my Market Basket drop bag, while everyone else had plastic containers to store their drop “bags” throughout the course.

I was just going to rely on Lauren, and having some gear at the end of each 20 mile loop, to get me through the first 60 miles.

Everybody was huddled under the start/finish tent while waiting for the countdown to commence. I had already lost track of Dima who I was going to pace off of in order to try to break 20 hrs.

Mistake #2: Going into your first 100 miler with an unrealistic goal time in mind. My only goal should have been to finish and/or not die. Even finishing under the coveted 24 hrs should have been enough for me, but I got stupid.

I figured that the first loop should take me about 3.5 hrs to complete, so I told Lauren to expect me by 9:30AM.

I was in the very back of the entire pack when the race started, and the first few miles of trails could fit no more than three across, and the puddles made that even more difficult.

Of course I got antsy right away from walking and started passing people trying to bring my pace down to a more respectable 11 mins per mile. Not too fast, not too slow. Just plain stupid.

I got through the first 5 miles in a little under an hour, so I was pretty much on pace for 20 hours, and was happy that I didn’t go out too fast.

For whatever reason, I started breaking the entire race down into 5 mile increments, probably so that I didn’t have to think about running 100 miles, and gave myself an hour for each 5 mile section.

I went through the next 5 miles in 50 minutes, so I was already banking some time. Cha-ching!

The reward I gave myself at the end of each 5-mile interval was the chance to stop, take a break, and pee. Hey, it’s the little things that keep you going during these ultras.

Amazingly, and like Pavlov’s dog, I had the urge to pee at exactly 5 miles for the rest of the way. I’m not talking about a trickle either. Niagara Falls.

Aid stations were every 3 miles, except for one section where there was no aid for 6 miles. The aid stations were well stocked with everything you could want, except for a Segway. Drat!

I carried my water bottle with me for the entire race, and had salt tablets in one of the pockets.

Mistake #6: Don’t put salt tablets in a carrying case when it’s raining out.

I went to take my first salt tablet an hour into the race and it was all mush. I pretty much then just had to lick the salt off of my fingers. Probably more salt from sweat than actual salt from the tablets. Either way, it tasted like piss…wait a second….

The mud between miles 5-10 made it slow going and my shoes were completely caked in the shit. Socks and feet were soaked to the core, and I could already feel the rawness of the cold seeping in. I had a feeling that this was going to turn into another Finger Lakes 50 once everyone had had a chance to trounce through the mud. FL50 took me 9+ miserable hours to complete.

I felt better as the loop went along with only a few more patches of mud that I had to contend with the rest of the way. The rain eventually cleared about 2 hrs into the race and the sun was starting to come up. YAY! Humidity!

The second half of the first 20 mile loop was a lot faster with more people behind me than ahead. Splits were 1:49 and 1:38, respectively, for the first two 10 mile sections. The trails really opened up after the first 10, and I felt really at home as I made my way back to Lauren in less than 3.5 hours. I had 30 minutes + interest in the bank! I should have cashed in when I had the chance.

For whatever stupid reason, I hurried back out on the course for more punishment, quickly telling Lauren to expect me back in about 4 hours, and to have my other sneakers and socks ready. I decided to keep on the same pair of crap crusted sneakers and socks for one more loop. It couldn’t get much worse now that the rain had stopped. Or could it?

I now knew what to expect for the second round, so I felt more comfortable as I went over the same terrain, but now in daylight and no packs of walkers to navigate around. The ground was still saturated and the mud was worse, since the 50 milers were now out on the course and kicking up the same shit as the rest of us.

The looped coursed + having the 50 miler out there made it worse for something of this distance. Even though it was still early in the race, getting passed still sucked. By the end of my race I didn’t know if I was being passed by 10 hr 50 milers or 100 milers still on their 2nd loop. It just got really demoralizing when you saw fresh faced, and legged, people having a blast while you’re ready to go hang yourself in the woods.

It took me 1 hr and 54 mins to cover the “slow” 10 miles between 20 and 30, and I went through the first 30 miles in 5 hrs and 21 mins, which was about 39 minutes below where I needed to be to hit 20 hours exactly.

I was ecstatic knowing that the next 10 miles was only going to be faster. In hindsight, I should have just kept up the same pace instead of trying to bank even more time.

I just couldn’t believe how fresh my legs felt from miles 35-40 as I headed back home to finish the second 20 mile loop under a slight drizzle. I was looking forward to putting on fresh socks and shoes.

Who would have thought that I was going to face the darkest and deepest moments of despair over the next 20 miles.

Oh dear lord.

Again it was raining, but not as heavy as earlier in the morning.

The temps had cooled off a bit as I sat down on the first thing I could find near the start/finish of the second loop, in this case, an overturned step ladder on the exterior of the aid station tent.

Lauren was patiently waiting for me and got me exactly what I had asked for: fresh socks and sneakers.

I was actually a little scared to take off my old pair of socks fearing what I would find, but it wasn't that bad once the socks slowly came off. The front pads of both feet were completely raw and wrinkled from the dampness, but not any worse for the wear.

My biggest worry going into Rocky were the two open cuts on the back of my heels. I had earned these open sores at the Spartan Race a week earlier in SoCal....

One Week Earlier 

Lauren and I had the opportunity to head to SoCal to take part in the Spartan Race a week before Rocky, so we took advantage of the RaceMenu junket and went out west to see what this thing was all about.

Spartan isn't a Muddy Buddy or Warrior Dash. Spartan is a hardcore, 8-mile, military grade obstacle course in the heart and hills of SoCal whine country, designed by some crazy bastards.

Joe DeSena, one of the founders of the race, is as crazy as they come. He completed the Vermont 100, Badwater 135, and Lake Placid IronMan... all in the span of one week! Based on my calculations, that's pretty fucked up.

Team RaceMenu took part in the Hurricane Heat at 6AM before the actual race at 9AM. The heat is an untimed, team building exercise with the founders of Spartan Race.

I wore the oldest pair of sneakers I could find, since I knew we were going to march through some serious shit. We spent the better part of 2 hrs working as a team of twenty, carrying a metal barricade up and down a ridge, falling into said ridge a couple of times, going through waist high mud, and of course, making sure the fence didn't get dirty or else we would have to repeat the exercise all over again. I pitied the team that did this a couple of times.

I was pretty cold and cut up by the time the sun came up at 7AM, and only halfway through the exercise. Even with the California sun over my shoulder, I still couldn't stop myself from shivering. My breathing was out of control and I'm pretty sure I was close to hypothermia when they made us swim about 50 yards across a freezing lake.

(you may die)

Amazingly, both Lauren and I didn't feel any ill effects, considering we hadn't eaten anything all morning. Our pure adrenaline rush got kicked into another gear when the founders told us to just go run the 8-mile course after we were done with the Hurricane Heat. We would be the first ones to experience the virgin course.

We all took a 15 minute break before the entire Hurricane Heat group headed out to see what this Spartan Race was really all about. I got out in front with RaceMenu founder, Alain, with Lauren right behind us (sorry, Lauren!). Alain and I passed the lead runners early on and turned the first 3 miles into a very nice trail run.

This wasn't so bad.

My old pair of sneakers were doing just fine, but I should have taken the time to empty out all of the muck and grime during the brief break. What I didn't realize at the time was that my heels were being shredded to pieces by all of the sand in my socks.

The level of adrenaline coursing through me at the time was unbelievable, and it help block out any pains or injury I might have had. It's truly remarkable what the body can do when pushed to its limits. 

Another Hurricane Heat runner had caught myself and Alain by the time we reached the first obstacles at mile 4 on the course. The first few obstacles were pretty tame, but it included a very low barb wire crawl, which Alain got snagged and slowed him down. This left me all alone to chase down the other runner over the next mile.

I eventually caught, then passed him, on one of the many hill climbs throughout the course. Once I cleared the hill I just let loose on the downside. I eventually managed to lose sight of both Alain and this other racer about a half mile later. 

I was all alone out front so I took the liberty of skipping out on some of the obstacles, such as the sand dune run with a bucket of sand between your legs. I did run across the sand dunes, but when I got there the sand buckets were still being filled by the volunteers. Alain later told me that this obstacle was indeed the most difficult one out on the course. Lucky me.

The rest of the course after that involved some more trail running, crawling, and climbing. The wall climbs weren't that difficult as long as you took your time and didn't injure yourself on the drop. I even carried a car tire over my shoulder for about a quarter of a mile at one point. That was fun. That and climbing over a cargo net at the very top of a very steep climb. There were a lot of steep climbs, and a lot more bushwhacking, on the backside of the course. Nobody had been out here since they set up the course the day before, so I had the honor of drawing first blood on a number of the obstacles.

The most difficult, and most time consuming, obstacle for me was the rock pull. You had to pull a 30 lbs rock, tied to a 10 ft long rope, about 800 meters. That in and of itself isn't too difficult, but throw in some neck high, freezing lake water and you have yourself a recipe for possible death. There's a reason why they don't put the swim leg at the end of a triathlon.

These Spartan folks must have been really well insured, or not insured at all. This was insane.

The rock immediately sank to the bottom of the lake once I stepped in. The freezing water just got deeper and deeper and deeper with each step I took, and when I saw a boat trawling nearby, I knew I was going to be in over my head.

I was making really slow progress through the water with my 30 lbs friend. This was no volleyball named Wilson.

I could only get some slight footing on the rocks nearby, and they were too slippery for me to get any leverage in order to pull the rock along next to me.

My strategy then was to just swim a little further ahead and give the rock a nice, big tug. This worked well, for about 10 ft, before my submerged rock got snagged on some underwater branches. I waded in the water for about 5 minutes tugging and pulling, hoping to free it, but nothing was working.

My core body temperature was dropping fast, and I kept on thinking that Alain or the other runner would appear at any moment now to take over the lead, so close to the finish.

The useless "lifeguard" on shore was probably thinking that I was in trouble and was getting ready to jump in after me, and most likely drown the both of us in the process. I didn't want that to happen.

My legs began to cramp up, so I had to make a split second decision right then and there.

I took a deep breath and dove straight down to the rock and picked it up with my bare hands. I managed to free the rock from our watery grave and swim about 10 ft with it towards the shore.

At least the tough part was over now.

I dragged the rock another 50 yards on the beach before depositing it back where I found it before continuing onto the next obstacle and towards the finish.

Adding insult to injury, I got the worse crotch burn when I completed the rope climb near the finish.

I checked into medical right away and had them bandage up the cuts on my heel.

I just hope this heals in time and it doesn't affect me at Rocky next weekend....

Back to Reality - Mile 40

I took a quick peak at the cuts on my heals before putting on my knee high compression socks. There wasn't much blood in my old socks, so I took that as a positive sign that it wasn't going to get much worse. I wiped away the dirt from the area and proceeded to put on my new gear.

I told Lauren that the new sneakers made it feel like I was walking on clouds. Even though they were the same brand and fit, just having something new under my feet after 40 miles made a huge difference physically and mentally.

I was ready to go back out, but because of my fast finish from 35 to 40, I had earned an extra 8 minutes on top of the 30 minutes already in the bank, so I took my time. It was also just nice to be able to talk to someone at length other than the occasional "good job" and "keep it up" out on the course.

The one thing that I couldn't do was thank Lauren enough for being out there, in the wet and cold, for 7+ hours now. She had brought along a tent and sleeping bag, but I'm sure she wasn't getting much use out of it today. I could also tell that she was getting restless knowing that she had at least another 4 hour gap before seeing my pretty face again. I don't blame her since that's a long time to go without seeing my mug.

I instructed her to try to find some something decent to eat (not easy in Texas) and to stay dry and warm before I got back. Honey Badger being Honey Badger just told me to not worry about her, and she probably didn't give a shit anyways.

I wanted to make sure that she was ready to go since she was going to be my pacer for the rest of the night if I decided to continue on, and at this point, I had no doubt that I was going to finish this fucker. I had just done 40 miles and it wasn't easy, so I couldn't imagine trying to "run" 40 miles in the dark and cold after standing around for 12 hrs.

Having a pacer is critical at an ultra of this distance, especially if it's your first one. It's not uncommon for most first timers to get delirious in the middle of the night, in the middle of woods, and go off chasing fairies.

Lauren also handed me a new Garmin as the other one was flashing the low battery warning. My buddy IronBash let me borrow his Garmin 310XT, which was designed for triathlons, so it was supposed to last a good 20 hrs on one charge. I was definitely going to need every last drop of battery power if I was going to continue.

Before finally departing, Lauren got me some chicken soup for the ultra running soul. There is absolutely nothing better than drinking chicken soup soaked in sodium during an ultra. The warmth and salt goes right to where you need it most, your genitals.

The Buicide engine started up again and I chugged along over the next two miles at pretty much the same pace that I finished the last miles of the previous loop, 11 mins. I was happy with anything under 12 minutes, since I was currently averaging around 11 minutes overall and needed to keep my overall pace under 12 to stay within striking distance of 20 hours.

The new shoes were definitely helping, but I knew it would only be short-lived as the upcoming mud over the first 10 miles of the loop would negate any positive feelings that I was feeling now.

With the dying light of the day I was now more focused on watching my slow steps and making sure that I didn't stub my toes any further. By this point I had stubbed my toes four times on roots and rocks, each time feeling worse than the previous. I knew I was going to lose at least two toe nails, one on each foot, due to the stubbing.

Surprisingly though, I had only taken one bad trip and fall over the first 40 miles, and that was early on and on a flat section of the course. Go figure. It was around mile 15 when a friend of mine, who was running in the 50 miler, surprised me by yelling out my name when he was heading in the other direction. I knew Matt Carrol (Westford native) was out on the course, but I was so tuned out of everything that when he yelled my name I snapped to, looked back, and tripped on nothing more than a hump in the terrain. Doh!

Fortunately, the only thing bruised was my ego, and the other runners got a good laugh, so a win win all around.

The one major positive, if there is one, of being on a looped course was being able to see the leaders in the race more than once. It's just amazing to witness how relatively easy it is for them to be moving at the pace they're moving under the same conditions. I'm sure they were hurting in their own way, but it's still amazing nonetheless.

I saw Josh, also a fellow Masshole, move from 2nd to 10th, to 8th, and eventually 5th overall (15 hrs 35 mins) once everything was said and done.

Runners were dropping like flies by the 3rd loop, including the leaders. The top 3 females were all out by the 60th mile, and the defending champ from the prior year, Ian Sharman, was out by the 63rd mile due to hip flexor issues. The mud no doubt.

According to Lauren, the majority of the people dropping out and checking into medical were complaining of back issues and/or hypothermia.

I had been able to stave off hypothermia up until this point by continuously eating, taking plenty of fluids, and making sure that I was still able to sweat. This wouldn't be the case later in the night as the temperatures were dropping, and predicted to drop further into the upper 40's. Perfect running weather when you're moving, but deadly when you're just walking in a singlet.

I just had to keep moving as fast as I could to generate enough body heat. The mud wasn't helping.

Miles 45 to 50 seemed to take forever. I remember constantly thinking around mile 47 that I wasn't even halfway through with the race. I reminded myself that I had to do this all over again knowing that it was going to take me even longer, and be even more painful!

The negative thoughts were coming fast and furious, and there was nothing I could do to block it out.

I got through the first 10 miles of the 3rd loop in 2 hrs and 10 mins. This was definitely still within reason as I was giving myself about 2 hrs to complete each 10 mile interval.

However, I was starting to draw down on my line of credit with the time bank, and now had a little under 30 minutes of banked time to get under 20 hours. I knew, somewhere deep down inside, that 20 hours was totally out of reach and finishing should be my only goal.

Once I started to believe in this and forget about my time, my body felt 100% better and I started to move again towards the finish of the 3rd loop.

The highs and lows that you experience during an ultra is manic. Give up. Don't give up. Give up. Don't give up. You're basically out there alone, taking to yourself for an entire day and night. That gives you a lot of time to reflect on a lot of stuff. It's true what they say you learn about yourself over 26.2. Imagine over 100?

I was hoping for the home stretch boost over the final 5 miles of the 3rd loop, like I had experienced over the previous 2 loops, but it just wasn't happening.

My heavy legs were sputtering and my heart rate skyrocketed even on the simplest of hills.

I had my head down and basically just falling forward from miles 55-57. Tall runners were passing me and they were walking!

Matt Carrol passed me from behind one last time as he finished up his 50 miler and told me to just walk it out. I told him that I was probably finished. All he could muster was to tell me to try to go back out for a few more miles after the end of the loop. Then he was gone too.

I was in a dark place by mile 57 when I saw Dima head out for his 4th loop. He wasn't his cheery self and all that he could tell me to cheer me up was that it wasn't going to get much worse.

I knew he was lying.

To be honest, I just couldn't fathom going back out for another 40 miles at the pace that I was currently going. It would be miserable for both me and Lauren.

Like I said, you have a lot of time to reflect when you're out there alone.

I thought back to my best training run for this race. It was a 40 miler at 7:30 pace. To think that I would have to replicate that run, just in mileage, was mind boggling. That run took me through Tewksbury, Dracut, Lowell, Billerica, Bedford, and Lexington. I remember the conditions were perfect that day.

I looked down at my shoe covered in mud and let out a long sigh.

Was this really the end? 

But then I started to Feel The Love from three weeks prior when we were all in Bermuda, competing in the Bermuda Triangle Challenge....

(feeling the love)

Three weeks prior to RR60, myself and a group of misfit runners from GLRR found our way to the beautiful island paradise of the offseason.

To be honest, I forget how this whole thing came about, but we had been planning it for well over four months now.

It probably went like this:


Some point after San Francisco Marathon

Bulldog: Where should we go next?

Me: Bermuda Triangle Challenge.

Bulldog: OK.

Honey Badger: Suck my balls.


From there it just transpired into a GLRR field trip worthy of a John Hughes credit.

Myself, El Presidente, Tiny Dancer, Honey Badger, Bulldog, Zornig, Benoit, Madden, Hedberg, Mamma Bui, and Pappa Bui were all here for the Triangle Challenge. The parental units were actually here to provide support and spending cash.

Everyone in the group, except Tiny Dancer and Zornig, was here to take on the Full Challenge (1 mile, 10k, Marathon). Zornig and TD were doing the Half Challenge, even though I almost managed to convince TD, over the span of six months, to sign up for the Full. I'll need to work on my brainwashing techniques for New Orleans '13.

We all took our respective flights down to the island and all arrived at the Grotto Bay Resort by 3PM on Friday the 13th....

We spent some time exploring our home for the next three days and discovered that it included a swimming hole. Really, it was a hole in the ground in a cave. See pic of me trying to molest Honey Badger above. 

In a sign of Good Luck, we actually also had real angry chickens nesting at our hotel. As hard as I tried, I just couldn't bait them into running into the girls' room. 

We eventually headed to packet pick up around 4:30ish Bermuda Time at the host hotel, down on Front St (basically on the other side of the island). The Mile race itself was also taking place on Front St at about 6:30PM that evening, so we carried all of our running and dancing gear with us.

I could already tell trouble was brewing as a harsh wind kicked up when we arrived at the Front St hotel.

There wasn't much left to do after checking in, but to hang out in the hotel lobby until race time. Some of us napped (El Presidente), some of us danced (The Girls), and the rest of us just laughed at the dancers. 

The tropical trees outside the hotel were dancing too... as in swaying under gale force winds! Thank the running gods that it was only a mile race. It couldn't get much worse, could it?

Oh hell's yeah.

We started to warm up for the race on the mile course. Ever run a non-track mile with two sharp turns? Well, this was going to be a first for me.

The start and finish is basically in the middle of the course. After leaving the start area, you run down about 1/4th of a mile, turn around, head back to the start area, continue on for about another 1/4th mile, turn around, and come back into the finish.

The streets of Bermuda aren't that wide to begin with, so I was perplexed as to how they were going to do this race in five waves of about 100 runners each without defying the laws of physics. I definitely didn't envy the race timers tonight. 

It started to lightly drizzle during our warmup, and the wind never let up. Fortunately, the temps were still in the mid 60's at race time, so it was comparable to being peed on while running. Not that I would know anything about golden showers...

The festive atmosphere was very charged with runners, revelers, and lightning! Oh my!

On a side-note, we discovered that the Brits love to chit-chat and unfortunately for us, we probably had the most talkative Brit on THIS island as the MC for the mile race. It was already 6:30PM and he was still talking about tea and crumpets!

Honey Badger and I were shivering from being peed on, I mean, rained on, and we couldn't figure out which wave we were supposed to run in. We weren't alone as other runners were just as confused as us, so we did take some solace in that fact and voiced our complaint just as well, and as obnoxious, as any of the other Americans there.

Since I know a little about race timing, I knew that it was critical for us to start in the correct wave or else our time would be completely off, and every second counts in a mile. I also didn't want to spend the next couple of days trying to get in touch with the timers to convince them that I didn't run a 15 minute mile.

We had a feeling that we belonged in the 2nd wave, so we positioned ourselves near the front of the mass of runners. I was still curious as to how this was all going to shake-out once the race got underway...if it ever did!

I swear the MC gave us a 40 second countdown that took over 5 minutes. It would have been nice if he actually spoke about the race and how the wave start worked, but it was just more tea, crumpets, and crimbo! Oh my!

And of course, the warm rain was now coming down in toilet size buckets, which was pissing me off. I was at least 2lbs heavier now than if I had started 5 minutes earlier.

It was 6:40PM by the time the first mile wave got the GO signal. Down, out, and back the wet runners went with a 5 minute gap between each wave.

The idea sounded absurd on paper, but the wave start was actually long as you were in your right wave.

Honey Badger, Bulldog, El Presidente, myself, and I think everybody else on on the GLRR crew went out in the same second wave.

Let's just say that my entire 5 mins 33 sec run felt absolutely surreal and out-of-body. Rain, lightning, Bermuda, racing. FUN!

And this was only day one. 

My goal at Bermuda was to win the Triangle Challenge outright. That was also Honey Badger's goal on the female side.

GLRR actually had folks entered into each race that could run away with the straight-up victory, age group win, or at least an AG placement. It's a good thing we packed light as I felt that we would be going home with a lot of hardware and swag by the time we got kicked off of the island.

Looking back at the prior year, the combined winning time for the men's full challenge was 3 hrs and 58 minutes. It was made up with a 6:15 mile (check), 43:47 10K (very doable), and a 3:12 marathon (doable).

My PR for the 10K up until this point had been 36:01 at James Joyce, so getting within the competitive level of last year's 10K time wasn't going to be a problem on Day 2. The same with the marathon time on Day 3.

Obviously, my problem was going to be who was running in this year's event.

Before departing for Bermuda I received an e-mail from Gary, my boss at Outside Interactive, introducing me to Justin Renz. Gary knew Justin through his running club and introduced us because he knew we were both competing in the full challenge. I also later found out that Justin was under the tutelage of none other than Reno Stirrat.

The plot thickens.

I did a quick online creep search for Justin and discovered that he ran 2:43 at Boston in the same year that I busted a nut breaking 2:50. Some of his more recent races were closer to what I had managed. He was only 7 seconds behind me at the James Joyce 10K in 2011. Small world.

HB and I did some more homework and checked out the online results for the mile. This gave us a good indication of who was in what race, and how we stacked up, even though it was only the mile race and would be a poor indicator of how they would fare over the remaining two events.

I noticed that Justin had a pre-lim mile time of 9+ minutes. That meant that he either ran with two broken legs or he had taken off in the wrong wave. My guess was that he was in the wrong wave, and that his time would be easily corrected by the timers soon enough. I'm sure the timers weren't getting much sleep tonight either.

We noticed some other names in there for the full challenge, with competitive mile times, but the online connectivity in the hotel sucked, so we weren't able to investigate much further.

Just based on the email from Gary, I knew that my target for the rest of the weekend was going to be Justin. If I could beat him, then I could win the challenge.

The Bermudaful morning couldn't come soon enough.

And what a Bermudaful morning it was.

The wind and rain from the previous day had died down, and there were some hints of sunshine for the day.

Humidity was definitely in the air as we woke up early, got breakfast, and took a bus over to the National Stadium for the start and finish of the 10K race. It was already 60 degrees with the temps expected to climb closer to 70 for the day.

Once again we had to take everything we would need with us as it was at least a 30 minute trip, one-way, to get to the stadium from our hotel.

We arrived by 9AM for the 10AM start, so we just hung around the quiet stadium, took pictures, warmed up, and talked to the other runners that were arriving.

It was pretty cool scene, almost like out of a movie, to be able to hang out in the stadium as runners and spectators were filing in. The air again was being charged by the racing atmosphere. I could definitely get use to this.

I eventually ran into Justin and introduced myself. I could tell that he had done a little homework on me as well. I was a little shocked when Justin told me outright that he was gunning for a 42 minute 10K. Was this gamesmenship on his part?

I, of course, just told him that I was looking to run at a comfortable pace. In actuality, I was looking to run a 38 minute 10K to give myself a little cushion against Justin on Day 3. The 10K was probably my best opportunity to gain some significant time on Justin, especially now I that I knew he was looking to run about 4 minutes slower than me. If we run similar times in the marathon, it would be nice to know that I had this cushion on him.

Justin also told me that he was never able to run a strong long run the day after running a hard 10K, so that was another reason why he was going to go out easy on this supposedly tough 10K course. In my training, partly for Rocky Raccoon, I had done 20 milers followed by 36 milers on back-to-back days, and didn't have any issues, especially with recovery, so I figured that a 10K wouldn't be that bad even if I went out too hard.

There were some other interesting storylines in the works on Day 2.

Honey Badger was still in the running for the overall victory, and she was going to shoot for a 42-44 minute 10K to keep her hopes alive.

El Presidente was hoping to win his AG in the challenge by taking down local legend, Ronnie Wong. Wong is a marathon and ultra junkie who had been racing in Bermuda for over 25 years. Everybody knew Ronnie. It was hard not to since he loved talking about his accomplishments. If you ever come across Ronnie in your travel, then don't ever make the mistake of asking Ronnie about his running resume, unless of course you had a few hours to spare. Good guy, Ronnie, but damn, does he like to talk.

We had all moved out of the stadium and onto the side street by 9:50AM to line up for the start of the 10K.

I positioned myself next to Justin near the front of the pack, and the rest of the GLRR crew were right behind me in the tight start group.

There was much less fanfare, and British humor, with this start and everything went off on time.

I quickly got into a nice rythym and got comfortable for the 6.2 mile trek. Justin immediately fell off of my left shoulder and I didn't see him again for the rest of the race.

The weather was pretty ideal for racing, 60 degrees with overcast skies and the threat of light showers. This was like running on a late summer day back home in Mass.

I zoned out from the start and really didn't take in much of the scenery on the course. I just stayed in control and slowly reeled in any runners that went out too hard. This is always fun in a race.

I went through the first two miles in about 12 minutes, and mile 3 in 6:10. The 10K course for the most part was rolling and I kept in mind that part of the marathon course was going to run through the same area.

There was rumor of a ginormous hill near the end of the race, so I took advantage of the early downhills as much as I could.

Mile 4 ended up being my fastest mile with a 5:51 split. I eased up through mile 5 with a 6:05 in order to gather myself for the hill finish.

I was currently on pace to be right at 38 minutes.

The last mile started with a climb, which I assume was the hill that everybody was talking about. I looked up ahead and could see that it was indeed a formdiable challenge this late into the race.

Also ahead was a female runner. She looked strong and was probably either in the top 3, or more likely, the leader of the 10K females.

I targeted her and the top of the hill.

We were neck and neck as we crested the hill. I gave one last push on the dwonside to finally pass her. She stuck right with me. Hell of a runner.

Together we worked on trying to catch the two males about 50 yards in front of us, but we were running out of real estate. We saw them make the right hand turn into the stadium for the track finish.

10 seconds later we made the same turn and I made a mad dash for the finish. She fell back a bit over this final kick, but I was determined to get as close as possible to the male runners.

I crossed the line, stopped my watch, and finished with a time of 38:01. Right on target and feeling pretty good.

I walked out of the finish area and towards my parents when all of sudden, my right hamstring seized up on me.

(Ronnie and El President)

1 comment:

  1. Let me get this straight. You dived down, grabbed a 30-lb rock, and SWAM with it?

    Jason, you are my hero. But I'm not sure even Aquaman could do THAT!

    Glad you finished with all your limbs intact.

    P.S. Great race performance...and great write-up, as always!