Race reports are typically all the same so for those of you who are straight to the point/ no bullshit people, the sum of this entire report is like most of my other reports: I showed up, took a beat down physically and mentally, and finished. The end.
For the rest of you who want to go a little more in depth, here is my experience at the 2012 Mt. Disappointment 33 mile endurance run.
I showed up yesterday morning at Mt. Wilson and was prepared for a rough day. I gravitate towards the really tough races and from all the talk I’d heard, Mt. Disappointment was one bitch of a race. I knew I was capable of finishing but this entire week, we’d had a gnarly heat wave that made me a little uneasy because I don’t fare too well in the heat. At the race start, I was with friends eagerly waiting for the race to start. The sooner we started, the less sun and heat we’d have to put up with! Looking back now, it didn’t matter because it would be hot as hell all day.
Gary, the RD, gave one of the funniest pre-race speeches ever saying that this was a super tough race, to avoid contact with bears and lions, and to hydrate often. Eventually, he brought up all the military veterans and cut them loose first along with the rest of the pack and we were off on what would be not a race, but a test of survival for just about everyone who had signed up.
The first part of the race was all downhill along the road that we had come up to the start of the race. It was a little before 7am and I felt myself already beginning to sweat and warm up. I splashed my neck and head with water and after a while, we jumped onto a trail which gave us our first climb. We went over a few switchbacks and climbed up and up and up until eventually we began a descend down for a bit until we reached the first aid station, Red Box (mile 5.7).
I was in good spirits leaving Red Box and talked to many people en route to the next aid station. It was during this section that I really began to feel the heat. There was one particular section in which the heat instantly hit me and it felt like someone had a blow dryer in my face. I kept trudging downhill and eventually reached the second aid station, Westfork, (Mile 10.7). I had my handhelds refilled and ate some skittles, chocolate chip cookies, chips, and coke, and was on my way out.
I found myself getting a little woozy in this next section and thought maybe I’d gone a little too fast on the downhill so I began to alternate between a walk and run. The next section of the race, Newcomb to Shortcut would be tough so I decided to ease up now in preparation for that. But so far, everything was going good. I was a little over 2 hrs into the race and had already covered 10 miles so my original goal of a sub 8 hr finish was still looking good.
I came into the third aid station, Newcomb (Mile 14.5), and one of the girls asked me how I was doing. I told her I was feeling a little woozy and had a little discomfort in my stomach but I would be fine. I grabbed some food, had my handhelds refilled, had ice put into my camel pack and headed down the mountain for this next section that I knew would suck. I paced my friend, Jack Cheng, at AC100 last month and had gone through this section except at night. I remembered thinking to myself that night, “this section is going to suck big time during the day with heat!” I usually prepare for the worse and it almost never is as bad as I imagined it would be. On this day however, it would be bad!
I made it down to the bottom and was already beginning to feel the effects of the heat and pounding of the downhill. At the bottom was a stream that I used to throw water all over my face, neck, and head multiple times. One guy came by a minute later, set his stuff down, and jumped right into the stream full body and all haha. I wanted to keep moving but cooling off my entire body felt like a good idea, I poured cold water on myself a few more times and began what I considered to be the toughest part of the race, the climb up to the Shortcut aid station.
Lucky for me, I had my friend, Summer, come around in this section of the course and we joked about how the stream incident brought back memories of the AC100 training run we’d done back in June where everyone had done the same. I had taken the foot off the pedal coming downhill but found myself doing very well going uphill passing a few people but eventually the sun began to take it’s toll on me. My stomach was still bothering me and I began to assume that it was the water splashing around in my stomach from the salt tablets. As much as I hated having to take them at this point, I forced myself to take them because I had to stay hydrated. I kept moving forward and although my body was being steady with everything, I was beginning to break mentally. I told Summer, “Summer, I don’t feel so good, I think I’m going to drop out at the next aid station.” She told me to sit down and regroup and to not drop because this is just normal in the world of ultra running, we hit multiple walls and I was hitting my first major low point. I didn’t stop and kept moving but I began to think about what Summer said. At the same time, I felt stupid for having told her that I wanted to quit when a month ago I had been at every aid station to support her and keep her from quitting should the thought have crept into her mind. I wasn’t practicing what I preached so that lit a small fire in me to keep moving forward.
I continued the climb up to Shortcut and saw many a runner curled up in small patches of shade to regroup. As I continued to climb, I saw my friend Jason, possibly getting the worst of it. He was sitting down with a giant cramp in his leg. I feared the worst for him because he had gotten an injury a few weeks earlier and this was the worst time and place to be stranded at. He told me he’d be fine and so I continued uphill. Eventually my quad began to cramp itself and so I took some amino acid pills and sat down in a small patch of shade to let the pills kick in. A bunch of the runners who were in the shade came by and stopped again ahead of the trail. Jason came by and I made room and we both sat in the shade beaten to a pulp by the sun talking about how miserable we were. I joked to Jason, “what a great way to spend a Saturday the week of a giant heat wave, right?” We sat there for a few minutes and eventually both got up and continued the brutal climb up to Shortcut.
I felt a lot better after having sat down and was able to pick up my hiking up the mountain. Eventually I began to feel miserable again but then in the distant, I saw Summer running down the mountain with a gallon of water. She had gone ahead and came back with water for her friends. I asked her how much further the mini aid station was and she said it was around the corner. Those simple words kickstarted me again and I began a run into the mini aid station. It was Heaven on Earth at that mini aid station with the water, wet sponges, and water sprayer. More runners came in and we all were revived and talked about how much this climb was kicking all of our asses hahaha. As much as I liked sitting around, I now had new life and knew I could finish this fucker of a race so I got up and checked out to continue the last two miles of climbing up to Shortcut.
The mini aid station had really jumpstarted me and I reached Shortcut (mile 23.7) fairly quickly. The volunteers brought me ice cold sponges and my friend, Rainer, refilled all my fluids and brought me coke to drink with my burritos that my friend, Steve Peterson, had made me. A fellow runner I’d chatted with and told to ease up and save himself for the climb up to Shortcut thanked me because he said he wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t scared him about how tough the climb would be. As much as I knew I could make it, I gave some heavy consideration about still dropping out here because it felt so good to be sitting down in the shade, eating and drinking. My friend Steve Peterson, had told me about a friend of ours who had DNF’ed near the end of a 100 miler and he told me that if him and I were there, there was no way our friend would have quit because we held each other accountable. If I were to drop, I would be so embarrassed to show my face around Steve. I had so many friends on the course as well so I realized how stupid I was to even think about quitting. My goal of finishing under 8 hrs was slipping away but I didn’t care anymore at that point, my pride and ego kicked in. I got up and told my fellow runners, “Alright guys! I’m tired of getting my ass kicked! It’s time for me to start doing the ass kicking on this course!” They all laughed and the last thing I said was, “When I’m done with this course, they’re going to have to change the name of this race next year to: Carlos’ Bitch 50k endurance run!” hahahaha. I grabbed my stuff and headed back out onto the course to finish this fucker.
I was able to do a good combination of walk/run going down to the next aid station but when the downhill ended, it seemed to go on forever. I ended up walking a lot at the bottom and it began to demoralize me because I was going so slow. I thought about how I maybe just wasn’t cut out to do these super tough races and that if I was going this slow, I should just not even run Chimera 100 because there was no way I’d make the cutoffs at my rate. In the midst of the misery though, I found some humor in my situation by thinking back to what I said about this course being renamed: Carlos’ Bitch 50k and realized that I was once again Mt. Disappointment’s bitch hahahahaha!
After what seemed like an eternity, I made it back to the Westfork aid station (this time it was mile 27.7). I sat in a chair and told my friend Bob OKeefe about how I was so disappointed in my performance today. He was pretty beat up as well but he just told me to relax and not be so hard on myself because 1) it was a tough course to begin with and 2) it was hot as hell. I grabbed my stuff and left the final aid station with my friend, Elizabeth Kocek Kniola, as we prepared for the final 5.3 mile climb to the finish line.
They made us cool ourselves off with a hose and we were on our way up. I set a good pace going uphill but then my quads began to cramp up. I took some more amino acids and kept moving forward because I didn’t want to stop, I just wanted to be done. Eventually, I let Elizabeth pass and had to stop and sit down on a rock to let my legs ease up. I got up and most of this climb would be the same exact way. It was bad enough I was demoralized by beating myself up mentally, but now my legs were giving out on me. A fellow runner and I kept leap frogging one another as one of us would stop to rest our legs while the other passed and then we’d switch off the stopping and passing roles.
At one point, I reached a few rangers by the stream who asked me if I was feeling fine. I told them I was down mentally but I was going to finish no matter what however my legs were killing me. One of them told me he had the perfect remedy, a salt tab. I remember thinking to myself, “Dude, you have got to be fucking kidding me! I’m so sick of those damn things and I’m surprised I haven’t thrown up to this point because of them!” hahaha. I didn’t tell him what I was thinking but I told him that I’d been taking them every hour along with amino acids every two hours but that at this point, my legs were just giving out on me. He refilled one of my handhelds and told me it was 2.67 miles to the finish. I took his “perfect remedy” and was on my way out to the finish.
I continued up and again had to keep sitting down because my legs were now spasming in addition to cramping. I thought to myself, “Perfect remedy my ass. That salt tab didn’t do shit!” The runner I kept leap frogging with passed by as I was sitting on a rock and I asked him how much further till the finish since he had a garmin and he told me it was about 3.5 miles. I immediately shouted, “WHAT?! That’s bullshit! That fucker down at the stream told me it was 2.67 miles!” hahahahaha. My fellow runner stopped and had to let everything process in his mind because he was in zombie mode at this point. After a few seconds of standing there in dismay, he said, “2.67 sounds a lot nicer than 3.5 so let’s hope he’s right.” lmao!
We continued up and up Kenyon Devore until at one point the guy passed me again and I noticed he had picked up a stick on the trail to help him hike up. Smart guy! I felt I didn’t need it but eventually right towards the top, I picked one up and used it to keep walking and surprisingly, it took a lot of stress off my legs. They were still cramping up but they weren’t having spasms so I was able to hike it all the way to the finish line without having to stop and sit down.
I popped out of the forest and was greeted by cheers from people and friends but I was so upset and disappointed in myself that I walked into the finish line completely angry at myself. Looking back now, I feel stupid for acting that way because I’m always positive and laughing but in this moment I was such an asshole. I later found out that I wasn’t the only one who’d had a miserable day. As my friend Von put it, everyone must have had their slowest race ever on this particular day because there were quite a few drops and it was so bad out there that one guy even had to be helicoptered out of the mountains! I was shocked to hear some of my friends who are phenomenal runners got beat down as well, considered dropping, and had their slowest race ever. After that all sunk in, I didn’t feel so bad anymore and said to myself, today was just one of those days where I did everything I could and still got my ass kicked, but I pushed through and survived to reach the finish line!