25 July 2011

Grand Mesa 100 Race Report: Torture, Part 1 of 2

The 1st place trophy as seen on my dashboard at 80mph. (yes, I drove 5 hours home just a couple hours after crossing the finish.  I've said it before, if there were a duathlon for ultra running and driving, I'd win every one of them)

Alright, so "torture" is extreme but that's what I was distinctly thinking (along with how many ways I was going to kill Race Director, Phil Burghausser for designing the course) during at least two sections of the race course.  So, we'll go with torture.

I'm out of it, so bear with me on this report.  I didn't sleep the night before the race and just finished this morning and then drove all the way home two hours later.

I sort of overlooked this event on my race schedule.  It was kind of an afterthought when this stupid situation happened where I was going to pace a guy for the full 100 at VT (he's over 60, so can have a pacer the whole way).  I was registered for Tahoe Rim Trail 100, so backed out of that for VT100.  Then the guy backs out and I'm left with no race.  In the meantime.  I'm on the waitlist for Hardrock.  I didn't really care to do it at the time and didn't feel like I'd get in, so I registered for Grand Mesa as a 3rd level back up 100 for July.  Whew!  Well, I got into Hardrock, suffered through that sucker and was left with Grand Mesa just two weeks later.  I could've opted not to do it.  Obviously, one can feel recovered but two weeks from a grueling race and there's some deep fatigue and micro tears in the muscles and connective tissue, along with all those gross looking organs that make up the endocrine system that is stressed out.

I figured what the heck and decided to follow through with Grand Mesa.  I'm on my own little odyssey of racing this year and am not really following any rules or common sense.  Two 100s in 14 days or three in 6 weeks fits into that lack of common sense.  The downside of doing GM was that I realized I wasn't taking it seriously.  No lists, no drop bags, and just rudimentary gazes at the course map and directions.  You can't go into a 100 without taking it seriously - at least I can't.  It makes it too easy to drop out if you get an eyelash in your eye.  So, I went about making myself appear to take it seriously.  I wrote up and laminated my hopeful split card, wrote out some lists, rehashed from memory of other races:  "shoes, shorts, shirt, socks...", and spent some time looking over the website (mostly just noticing typos, grammar, and vocabulary, as usual).

Lake behind Grand Mesa Lodge (breeding ground for the world's densest population of mosquitos)

The "crux" of the race, as RD Phil calls it is the massive descent starting at around mile 45 from over 10,000 ft to 6,000 ft, which then immediately turns around and ascends up another "trail".  I was like, "yeah, yeah, 4k in 4.5 miles, big deal".  Trust me, if I had a sharp object handy on that climb, I would've plunged it into a major artery just so I wouldn't have to take another step.  Anyway, I looked at the map and profile and thought, "hell, how bad could it be?"  Words that would linger in my mind all race like a shitty song your ex-girlfriend liked and now you're the beneficiary of the droning verse. "How bad could it be? la la"  "How bad could it be? la la"

As I pointed out, I didn't sleep one minute the night before the race.  I had to get up at 2:30am to get ready and make the 1:15 drive to the race (stayed with my friend, Darren's folks in Grand Junction - THANKS Dennis and Mary!).  So, I spent my evening staring at the time, counting down to the alarm.  With lack of sleep, I was already in a fairly crummy mood at the start.  Then I had some guy breathing down my neck because he didn't have a headlamp and was using mine (race started at 5am, so about 40 mins of darkness).  I like my space, especially in races, so I just took my sweet time loping along.  He was in the 50 mile race and had a bit more haste to his step.  Once I moved beyond this childish behavior, I began focusing on any little sensation in my body that could limit my race.  I gave up when all I had was that my sunglasses on top of my head were poking into the top of my ear (probably not a limiting factor in my race).  Finally, I just relaxed and enjoyed the amazing sunrise views from the top of the mesa.  I started the race with:  My sleeveless Pearl Izumi shirt, some Saucony shorts I love, McDavid blue arm warmers and white calf sleeves (they remained white for about an hour), Injini socks, and my trusty Hoka Mafates, which have probably seen their last day on the trail since I've nearly destroyed them, PI hat and Rudy Project Zyon sunglasses.

Soon enough, we were at the first aid station, which happens to be the start/finish, so I fiddled around in my car for a while.  I was still up 5 mins on my split card when I finally left.  The next section takes us out to Flowing Park and from there we head out for a 15 mile loop on what I assume was a trail in someone's mind at some point.  It looked and ran like someone took a rototiller and made a lumpy trail last year and now it's just lumpy dirt with grass and weeds.  You had to pay attention while running on it, lest you roll and ankle, trip and smash your teeth out on one of the several million rocks strewn about. I was running somewhat near three other people who were grouped closely, two in the 50 mi and one guy in the 100.  I was getting grumpier and dropped away from them by 45 seconds.  Honestly, I just about quit around mile 23.  I simply had no interest in what I was doing.  A few minutes later, I convinced myself that I was there, the run already started, and to just make the best of it by finishing.  At that point I started feeling better, caught back up to the threesome and asked to go by them.  Within 10 mins they were out of sight and I kept up my pace back to Flowing Park and now mile 37.5.

Now I was in a good mood and reached Carson Lake (mile 42) in 8 hours, an hour ahead of my splits.  I had set up splits for a 21:30 finish.  The next section, "the crux" of the race is where the course drops off the mesa at 10,000+ feet down to 6,000 feet, not a big deal in terms of sheer numbers.  I've done lots more vertical change in races, Hardrock as a primary example.  The difficulty in this drop and climb comes in the form of RUGGED trail (or lack there of...)  The Kannah Creek trail is fit for (and used solely by) cattle, which I'm amazed can negotiate the steepness and technical rocky, deep mud/muck that I now found myself careening down, swearing loudly with every misstep and near fall.  The temperature seemed to be rising with the passing of every 50 feet of descent.  The only other attribute I care to mention about this hellish trail are the mosquitos from 10k down to around 8k, then the horse flies tagged off to replace the annoying swarm around my sweaty, sunburned body.  This section is 8.5 miles.  I laughingly gave myself 1 hour 15 mins to complete this section (yeah, I thought, "downhill for over 4,000 feet in 8.5 miles...no problem").  My God!  I drained my water after 1:30 and didn't reach the bottom and aid station 51 miles for another hour.  My right quad was hurting badly, I was seriously dehydrated and had a sour stomach and mood to match.  I even snapped at one of the aid volunteer's dog that wanted to be too close to me.  I love dogs more than people, so I must have been in rough shape.  It was probably 95 degrees down in that canyon, or whatever the hell it was down there.  I just know it was like an oven and when I came to my senses I apologized for being snippy and thanked the volunteers for being there in that miserable heat just for me.  I'm not sure how long I stayed there, 20-25 mins maybe.  I just kept pounding cups of water, salt tabs, then a little watermelon, then a couple of potato wedges, and finally choked down one last gel and a couple more cups of water.  See, I now had an idea how terrible the climb out might be.  But even after what I had seen, it couldn't prepare me for what was next.

Part 2 Here


  1. Good stuff! You're definitely in 23:43 shape for Leadville!

    My dog says your report sucks.

  2. Heck, why not just drag out Leadville to (what's the cutoff again?)

  3. Ummm ... our crewing contract is only for 24 hours??? ;-)

  4. Happytrails ... like that. A little motivation with some overtime pay threats.

    Tim - good writing. As usual. Except the part where you answered the question "what are you wearing baby?" I was hoping for that to be a little more detailed.

  5. Nice cliffhanger!

    Sorry you didn't get any sleep at the old folks house but it seems the running mojo at that place was still good (all three of you won your respective races that weekend!).

    Don't drag Leadville out any longer than it takes me to finish...which hopefully isn't to close to the cut off.


  6. "But even after what I had seen, it couldn't prepare me for what was next."

    Explosive diarrhea.

  7. That is a seriously cool trophy. Love the runner silhouettes. Great report, can't wait for part two. The eyelash part cracked me up.

  8. Skatona, did you already read part 2?

  9. awesome. saving part two for tomorrow so i have something to look forward to.