18 July 2010

North Fork 50 Miler: Character Building

"Time for a gel.  What do you want?"  Steve asks

"Nothing" I reply

"I have tri-berry gu, huckleberry Hammer, or clif bloks..."

"I don't want anything, thanks."  I reply.

"How about a tri-berry and an S-Cap?"  Steve persists.

"For God's sake, fine!  I'll take the Gu and S-Cap."  I snap.

This is how poor Steve's day went from mile 35 to mile 50.

24 hours removed from the pain, cramps, dizziness, and stomach aches I appreciate the North Fork 50 mile struggle more than I thought I could admit.

Very well done event.  It started on time at 7am with the 50 milers and 50k(ers) beginning together.  I knew Bill Fanselow was running (US Mountain Running Team) and consistently strong runners, Rick Hessek and Todd Gangeloff.  Along with them was a strong women's field, probably more so than the mens.  At the start we settled into an easy pace down the footpath along the river, crossed the bridge and cracked into the first long, steep climb.  At the top of the 1,000 ft climb Bill started easing off the front and no one went with him.  It was subtle and too early for me to want to jump in with him, so he pulled away about 50 meters ahead.  We were now forming a group of 4, me, Todd, Rick, and some other guy.  They were chatting behind me, so I started pulling away like Bill had previously and no one went with me.  I hit the second aid station at 10 miles in 1:22, which I felt substantial considering the long climb at the start.  No one was behind me and Bill was within a solid kick in front of me.  I kept him in front of me but within sight until mile 20 when his climbing ability paid off and he got up 5 mins on me.

I was averaging around  8:30 pace, eating a gel every 20 mins, drinking about 30 oz and hour, and popping 200mg of salt since it wasn't yet way too hot.  Things were going so well that I began entertaining thoughts of catching a depleted Bill in the last 20 miles.  What else is there to think about running alone in the mountains when it's 90 degrees out?  At 30.5 miles I picked up Steve as my pacer.  I told him, "Okay, here's the deal.  I've been in a solid 2nd place for 30 miles and I don't want to lose that."

[caption id="attachment_390" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Picking up Steve at 30.5 miles"][/caption]

Well, we started the same climb I had done at the start just 4.5 hours before.  Now, though, I had 31 miles in me and it was in the 90's.  I started feeling a little sick and cramping at the 34.5 mile aid station.  Just as I was leaving Rick and the eventual women's winner were coming up the trail.  As we were leaving I told Steve that I didn't really care about placing and that I'd just like to finish.  That's how bad I felt.  Soon, the woman went by and looked like she had just started running.  Then Rick came up and chatted with me a bit before moving on.  Things were bad and I had no way of believing they could get worse.  But they did.

[caption id="attachment_391" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Getting started on the last 20 miles"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_392" align="aligncenter" width="209" caption="How I felt during the final stages"][/caption]

The next 15 miles were a blur of 4 hours of walk/jog/hobble, minor blackouts, and Steve's watch beeping.  If Steve hadn't been with me, I would've dropped from the race, no doubt in my mind.  He helped get me through it and retain some dignity finishing in 6th place in a staggering long time of 9:31.

As I mentioned, the event was directed perfectly.  The food was super, there was beer (that's enough to bring me back), the goodie bag was great, the best race shirt I've ever received, superior aid stations and volunteers, and a fucking hard course (excuse my language but running on gravel/sand trails up and down mountains in burned out forests exposed to the high altitude sun, warrant a curse word or two).  This is a substantial event that will challenge anyone.  Half the starting field dropped out, enough said.

Thanks Steve for being so patient and encouraging.  You have no idea how much you helped me.  Thanks to his kind wife, Kathleen for waiting (and worrying) about us for the 5 hours it took to "run" the last 20 miles.  I'm grateful to have you as my friends.

[caption id="attachment_393" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Only reason I'm smiling is from 2 beers and food"][/caption]


  1. Was thinking about yunz guys, it was blazing hot here in the Springs and I was just chilling in the shade drinking beer. Good on ya for toughing it out.

  2. Way to stick it out, Tim. I can't imagine running hard that long in that kind of heat...particularly on that course. I spent to weekend up in them thar hills at about 10K feet...and it was hot there!

  3. Awesome! :)

    Always a pleasure reading your race re-caps. So glad Steve was there to bogey you in. That course sounds like a little slice of hell. Nice job!

  4. Quote from Tim the previous Saturday "You will need to force me to eat every 20 minutes and keep up on my sodium." Just following directions boss.

    Seriously, though, it was brutal out there. Hot, exposed and dry. Tim's estimation of his condition is blurred a bit to protect his memory. He was in bad shape and really sucked it up the last 10 miles to hold 6th place. Quite a show of grit and the few "snaps" are a distant memory. Glad I was there - great experience.

    Only reason I'm smiling is from 2 beers and food ... and your adopted family being there! Kathleen wants walkie-talkie's next time to not worry that one of us is in a helicopter headed for Denver...

  5. Glad you stuck it out Tim. I know you are happy with yourself that you stuck it out. Way to go Sharksbite Runner!

  6. Nice Tim. Way to gut it out. Runs like this definitely are character builders. Sounds like a rough one.


  7. It was HOT. Well over a hundred down here in town. I was hopeful that it was more chill up a bit but apparently not so much.

    So it was the heat more than anything that unraveled this?

    You have had a tough run of races this summer. You sir, are DUE.

  8. Hey Tim,

    Nice job! it was pretty ridiculous out there. I am still recovering from an injured back, so I was pretty sure I was going to bail at the 50k and I think even if I was healthy it would have been a struggle. I think the handing out of beer at the last 50k aid station sealed the deal for me. I only saw Bill finish for the 50 miler and he looked totally worked.

    I have to agree that this was probably one of the best post race shindigs I have been to. I would be more than happy to do one of their races again (although hopefully in the spring or fall).

    Good job again it was a brutal day.


  9. Hi Tim,

    Great write-up! So true, it was a very well directed event, you'd never know it was the first. Way to hang in there in blast-furnace conditions, I'm not surprised so many dropped at the 50k.

    Guess I saw you guys leaving the Buff creek aid for the last time at mile 40-ish, sorry I didn't stop to chat/introduce myself - I was definitely in a bit of a daze...

    See you out there again sometime!


  10. Hey Leila,
    I think even in my delirious state when you passed by, I thought, "man, there are some cute girls in this race. AND, damn she's running strong in this heat!" Great race you had, very happy for you. Oh, and were those Nike Frees you were wearing???

    Thanks for the other comments. As much as this certainly was a bad race for me, I frankly enjoyed it and am happy that I just finished (thanks to Steve). Looking forward to the next event and know it'll be a strong run!

  11. Damn Tim, tough stuff and great job just finishing the race on what was certainly the hottest day in 2 years.

  12. Good job fighting through that one Tim. Your time is still faster than mine on a good day!

    TRT50 sucked for me this year. Had to fight the urge to drop from mile 20 on. My reward for finishing? Urine that looked like thick coffee (my first trip to the bathroom when I got home scared the hell out of me!) and a left knee that screams at me just walking around. Not sure what's been going on with my body for the last 6 weeks!

    I could have used Steve at TRT this year!


  13. Tim - I just ran across this post a bit later, but nice job gutting it out. I did the 50K that day and had an nearly identical, only 1/3 shorter, experience to you. I felt awesome and was leading the 50K race til about mile 20, then proceeded a massive bonk in which I found myself laying on the side of the trail...and I finished 10th somehow dragging myself down the mountain. I was SOOOOO glad I wasn't doing the 50 miler in that heat...that last 20 miles was when it really heated up and that just had to have been totally brutal. That race taught me a lot about fueling and pacing...mostly fueling. What do you think was the reason you cracked, was it mainly the heat or did you go out too hard with too little fueling?


  14. Hey Aaron.
    My poor race was due to hydration mostly. I was running fairly easy for much of the race and only pushed it for 30 mins or so at about 15 miles into the race. All of a sudden at about mile 32 the combination of heat/lack of water/stomach cramps hit me like a baseball bat and I knew my race was over. If I had it to do over, I would've taken in an extra 300mg of salt and at least an extra 10ounces of water per hour. I may run it next year. It was a well done event.

  15. Gotcha - that sucks when that happens, but is sure does sink the lessons in hard it seems. My bonk was from just stupidly only eating 100 calories an hour. I learned my lesson hard on that one for sure. I'll probably do it again next year, maybe the 50 miler next time...we'll see. Good luck at the bear! I know a guy Jon Allen who's doing that, probably someone to look for in the top few I would guess from his recent races.