Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cornucopia of morass at the Big Horn

At the end of it all, it hurt. The truth slowly hit home -- "Don't do fartleks between miles 28 and 34, it can't ever do good to your shins!". Being pulled out at mile 34.5 sucks. It was a new experience, first brush with not meeting a cut-off time, in fact even coming close to one, Ganesh's warnings and other jinxes notwithstanding.

It started off with a sleepless night in Billings and the rest of the bloo-frat arrived the morning after. Breakfast was had at Dennys over eggs and gossip and we drove out to sleepy Sheridan soon after. Montana is beautiful. Lots of hills and large undulating grassy meadows. Soon we were checked into the hotel and started preparing the drop bags, even as Santhosh provided customary entertainment. Dano had prepared very cool tags to attach to the drop bags. Met him and Mike and Clarence at the hotel, and Renee, Brenda, and Leah at the packet pickup. The 100milers were already on the course by then. Rest of the day was spent in anticipation, pizza, and Asha emails.

The day of the race started at 2:30AM. We got to the start in Dayton and took the race bus to the Porcupine ranger station, our start line and mile 52 for the 100milers. All the 50milers gathered together for many photographs, all decked in spotless clean shoes. Little did we know the kind of muddy quagmires that awaited us.

We started promptly at 6AM. Within the first 5 minutes I was out of breath, within 10, wheezing, and by 20minutes was running downhill with side stitches. I am not sure if it was the pollen or the altitude, but I sure hope it wasnt the latter. Then there was all the mud and slush and other subsidiary morass. Over the day, my leg went into the quagmires atleast 8 times (once until the knee), and at mile 3, breaking my no-fall-ever record, I did a sideways superman and landed heavily on my side -- falling on sports beans hurts!

Aid stations along the way sucked. Nothing to eat. We are too pampered by Joe's races. Progress was slow throughout the downhill, impeded by the mud and breath. Reached the first dropbags at mile18 with 10minutes to cutoff, quickly changed socks, replenished clip2 and endurolyte, picked up a sandwich and Boost and walked out. The next stretch was a long haul, a 2000ft climb in 3miles. I recovered quite a bit on this climb, and managed to power walk parts of it. At the top of the hill, at Bear camp, the volunteers told me that it was 7miles to Cow camp, and 4 more miles from there to Dry Fork, for a cutoff at 4PM.

No excuses, but that did throw me off. I more or less dawdled my way to Cow camp with an hour and 20minutes to spare (to cover my 4 more miles) and was promptly told that Dry Fork was 6 miles away. Now that suddenly sounded very hard. There was only one way out, and I started to do fartleks, and powerwalk the hills. The darned section also had a lot of rolling hills. Pushing through the fartleks, I came around a bend where I could see the aid station. I had 8 minutes and nearly a mile long massive hill, and on top of the hill, Dry Fork aid station. At the realization that I was not going to make the cutoff, my muscles cramped, and I slowly hauled myself up the hill, dragging my feet, and came in some 5-6 minutes late. The aid station volunteers refused to let me go on, even as I fought withthem for a while. Others who had reached before me, and had yet missed the cutoff had also been pulled out.

It was awful. I had never known the feeling of being pulled out after 35miles, with the last nearly 7mi coming in fartleks. A novel experience, cant say I enjoyed it much at that point. Then I chatted with Jennifer from Boulder for a long while, while we waited for a ride back to the start/finish line. By this time, I was also concerned I had messed up my shins, could barely stand, and could hardly walk. Eventually got back, and met with Ganesh. He had been pulled at the mile 18 cutoff point with Dano. Lots of 100milers had been pulled out. Gabe had broken his ankle in two places. Mike had fallen and hurt his rib. Clarence and Renee were pulled at the same point as me. Leah got pulled at the next cutoff. In the end, 3 folks finished the 50miler and 3 finished the 100miler from Austin, while a whopper 85 were pulled out or DNF-ed in a total field of 141. The Big Horn had taken its toll.

Santhosh finished pacing Joe and Diana (the 100milers). Gaurav finished 40minutes after them. The bloo-frat was half-done. A race to remember for the persistent hollow feeling that continues to rankle.

PS: Ganesh's ankle recovered easily, and my shins are much better now. Gaurav seems to have no lasting after effects, and Santhosh who was limping the most after the race, has stubbornly avoided visiting a doctor about his foot -- hopefully thats healing fine too.

1 comment:

Sharanya said...

Masochism at its best.. :) But seriously, great job!

Santhosh delighted in giving us through gross details of his dying toe nail, including how he duct-taped it back.. Vinoo, please "look out" for Santhosh, so we don't have to deal with cringing details upon his return from future races.