Thursday, April 3, 2014

white mountains 100

When I asked a friend yesterday about his race, he said 60 percent was enjoyable, 20 percent tolerable, and 20 percent suffering. That’s about how mine was. There was a time, around mile 80, after some hot ramen, a slab of bread and butter, and a bowl of coffee, that I thought I could say it was all great except miles 50 to 80. But then I didn’t drink enough, felt feverish in the cold, and nearly crawled up the big hill at mile 93. So maybe it was 60-40.
In short, I finished. I walked 100 miles in a little under 33 hours, missing my reach goal but hitting my main goal. I’d worried about my ankles in the snow, but all my joints held up fine. The blisters, chaffing, and swelling in my feet seem to be healing.
I’d chosen to walk – rather than bike or ski – for the pure athletic challenge. I don’t mean to say riding or skiing 100 miles is easy, just that, relatively speaking, the challenge probably would have shifted toward how fast I could do it rather than if I could do it. My longest training walk had been 35 miles; my longest single day on foot – in the Sluice Box last summer – was 52 miles. Now I’ve gone almost twice that in one push, if not quite in one day.
(It was humbling to be among real runners, for whom the challenge, even on foot, was speed. One racer, a pro from Colorado, ran the course in 17 hours – beating the course record by 12 hours. My friend Dan, doing his first hundred-miler, finished in under 24.)
Maybe the most interesting part, looking back, is figuring out what a body needs to go 100 miles. The simple things, like socks that don’t cause blisters, are probably easy to figure out. But even veteran racers seemed to have problems with food. One guy who finished well ahead of me threw up a bunch. Dan, toward the end, couldn’t digest any of the food he’d brought. In my case, I think I drank too little and ate too much. For many hours my stomach felt awful. After about 18 hours, I had no interest in energy bars. By mile 70, all I wanted was a piece of bread. The pepperoni at mile 82 looked great; cheese had little appeal. Later I craved fresh fruit.
Aside from my feet, I basically felt great the first 45 miles. I was on pace to finish in 25 hours. Then, with night coming as I neared the high point of the course, I stopped to put on a jacket and got dangerously chilled. I’d planned to cruise through the checkpoint at mile 62, but stopped instead and tried to sleep – till 2, then 2:30, then 3. When I finally left, and for miles down the trail, I wore more clothes than normal for the temperature. Fatigue? Dehydration? I didn’t know.
Before the race, my sister had told me to remember that how I felt would probably be like that joke about the weather in Colorado – Don’t like it? Wait 15 minutes. It wasn’t until I’d felt crappy, then good again, that I remembered her advice.
After the last checkpoint, the sun came out and I felt great. I even ran some downhills, imagining matching my friend Trystan’s time from a few years before. Then I ran out of water and felt terrible again, out of whack. Guys on snowmachines passed in big parkas. I wasn’t even wearing a shirt. I started eating snow. My imagined finish time slipped a half hour, then an hour, then more.
I got some water and felt better. On the last few miles, I wondered if I could go a mile further than 100. Maybe, but I sure didn’t want to. Then I heard there was another racer close behind me, gaining fast, so I started running.
Full results are here. Congrats to all the bikers, skiers, and runners! 

1 comment:

Jill Homer said...

Congratulations! I can relate to the draw of doing something to see if you can, rather than seeing how fast you can do something. Foot travel is the best way I've found to level the playing field with my own limitations and strengths. Nice work out there.