“I Wanna Talk About Me”, Toby Keith
2011 was one of my tougher experiences running the Ridge. There are numerous possible reasons why this might be so. I’m going to ramble on about my experience. Maybe there are some things to learn from this story. Or maybe it just has a modicum of interest to anyone but me.
Most people who have lived in this world more than a few decades have realized that this world has a tenuous relationship with perfection. And so it is with the Ridge Run. It is rare that everything comes together and things go smoothly perfect. In fact for me, they never have. The unpredictability is one of the things that suck us in to do it again and agian.
Foot Problems before the Start
The week before the Ridge Run, I injured my foot. Probably from pounding down Wilson Ave during the Sweet Pea run. So in the days before the Ridge Run I was scrambling to find a shoe that I could run in (or at least walk in) without pain. My favorite shoes I planned to run in, I just could not wear as they reduced me to a limping shuffle.
I ended up using a pair of shoes that caused the least pain. And they worked pretty well other than causing some black and blue toe nails. They probably slowed me down a bit, but not significantly.
Off Pace by Ross Pass
After running this race 15 times and doing the course in training more times than I can remember, I am very familiar with my time splits at various points along the course. The Ross Pass aid station is a major split and place where I look at my watch and gauge my progress.
I usually do not look at my watch before this because it disrupts my focus on the trail. Another reason is that at my age, my ability to see and read close up (like my watch) isn’t what it used to be. I really have to pause and focus on my watch to be able to read it.
When healthy and running well, my goal is to better my time from the previous year or at least not slow down much. So this year my goal was to hit Ross Pass in 1 hour 15 minutes. Last year, 2010, because of the rain and mud, it took me 1 hour 25 minutes to get to Ross Pass. Last year, I gained a lot of time in the later portions of the course, because it was such miserable conditions running in the rain. In 2010, I just wanted to get the race over with so I pushed hard.
This year I reached Ross Pass in 1 hour 20 minutes. Better than last year, but already 5 minutes off goal pace. Reflecting back on the experience, I Think I ran this section about as well as I could. Advancing age causes me to be more cautious on the downhill portions. It feels fast, just as fast as the old days, but it isn’t. 12 years ago, I could get to Ross Pass in just under 1 hour 10 minutes. But I think those days are behind me!
Taking the Wrong Capsules
Right after the Ross Pass aid station is one of my major refueling points. I carry Endurolytes (E-Caps) capsules and L-Citruline protein capsules in separate Ziploc bags. It is a time consuming and tedious process digging the capsules out of my fanny pack, counting out the right number and then swallowing them down with gulps of water. Does anyone have a better process for doing this? I do this while walking up the steep uphill section after Ross Pass.
My refueling dose is 3 E-Caps and 3 L-Citruline. When I was counting them out, Mike Telling was passing me and chatting about how he had already blown out his quads running the down hills. Yeah right. Somehow I got distracted listening to him and instead of 3 E-Caps and 3 L-Citruline I actually took 6 E-Caps. As soon as I discovered this, a bit a panic set in. How will taking 6 E-Caps all at once going to affect me? My mind cogitated over the possibilities; cramps, thirst, fatigue? This was not a good mental state to be in – uncharted territory of worry about overdosing on E-Caps.
Finally, I realized that there was nothing I could do about it other than drink lots of water to dilute the E-Caps. So that is what I did. And ultimately, I do not think it made much difference. I suffered no cramps or any unexpected problems in regard to hydration.
Ross Pass to Bridger
About the fastest I can go from Ross Pass up to the Bridger Bowl aid station is 45 minutes. And that is about what I did it in. So I was still about 5 minutes off pace, coming into Bridger Bowl in 2 hours 5 minutes, but at least I did not lose any more time.
Bridger to Baldy
This is a section were one can make up a bit of time if feeling good. Or if fatigued, one can lose a lot of time.
At Bridger, I was still feeling strong, so I charged on with the goal of getting back on pace. My original goal is to take no longer than 1 hour 10 minutes to get from Bridger to Baldy. The fastest I have done it in is 1 hour 5 minutes. So I charged off with the hope of getting to Baldy in a total time just under 3 hours and 10 minutes. It sure felt I was moving along. I even caught Dan Campbell a bit before Baldy. I was disappointed to see that he was no longer one of the leaders fighting it out for second place. He said he was struggling.
As I refilled my water bottle at the Baldy Aid station, I had the opportunity to focus and look at my watch. It is always a surprise. As I looked at the numbers I was hoping for a pleasant surprise of a time under 3:10. As we all so painfully know by now, hope is only an attitude. As reality sets in, hope can evaporate quickly.
My watch at Baldy read 3:13. Immediately I felt defeated. All that hard work from Bridger to Baldy resulted in a gain of only a couple minutes – not enough to get back to goal pace and close to my best times.
Calculating the Possibilities of Baldy to the M Trail Head
My mind quickly went to work calculating what I could possible finish in. When fresh, I can charge down from Baldy to the M trail head in just under 40 minutes. A more realistic time is between 40 and 45 minutes. The crystal clear reality hit me that the best I could do if I pushed as hard as I could, would be a 3:53 finish time. A more realistic time would be 3:58.
Enjoying Some Gatorade
After only drinking water because of my E-Caps overdose, I splurged at Baldy and got my water bottle filled with Gatorade. Even though the Gatorade was warm and not full strength, it tasted so good. Why don’t aid station crews ever make Gatorade full strength? Maybe Gatorade is not as healthy as Heed claims to be, but even diluted, it is so much tastier and emotionally satisfying than Heed.
Mind Game Seduction
While I was enjoying chugging my Gatorade while walking along down in the woods below Baldy, Mike Telling goes charging by me again. What happened to his blown out Quads he was complaining about 2 hours ago?
While watching Mike run ahead of me, thoughts floated through my mind such as “He is an old guy in his 40’s only 12 years younger than me. I can’t let someone in their 40’s (besides Scott) beat me”. As I tried to keep up, it quickly became apparent that it would be no small feat to stay with Mike. I didn’t have much speed or energy left in me. Maybe it was my quads, not his, which were blown out.
As if on cue, a moment of lost concentration resulted in me stubbing my toe. The realization that I just lost a toe nail and the associated pain that comes with it, clinched the deal. I slowed and helplessly watched Mike fade into the woods ahead of me.
The promise of less pain associated with a slower pace is a hard to resist seduction. My slowed pace allowed Nikki Kimball to catch and pass me just above the top of the M. She was in good spirits bounding down the trail and encouraged me to pick it up. My low pain threshold governed my top speed as I choose not to inflict further damage to my feet.
When I got to the finish, I felt pretty spent. Probably the worst I felt after finishing the Ridge Run since I can remember. Was it the E-Cap overdose, was it the clunky shoes, was it lack of training, my advancing age, or was it just an off day that made this feel like a tougher effort than usual.
The result was not one of my faster times as I didn’t push it the last section from Baldy to the M. But I sure felt like I had worked hard. Being greeting by friends and family soothed the pain and helped wash the fatigue away.
Into the Wild
I’m now off, going into the Bob Marshall Wilderness for an extended adventure. It may be many weeks before I write another post on this blog.
Enjoy what is left of summer.