Monday, October 17, 2011

TNF Ultramaratón de Los Andes

14.5 hours of running, 50th place out of 66 finishers.

Well, this was an interesting time. I ran this race with my friend Quim, which was a last minute decision that ended up paying off in ways that I did not anticipate (despite death-marching the last 10 miles). I also lost my fancy camera, which was a bummer...but whatever, man, fuck it.

I want to remember a couple of things, so I may just start jotting things down before I forget them...

I met Ellie Greenwood before the race (although I didn't realize it, I just saw a Canadian flag on her pack and felt like chatting in English). I see that she has a pretty thorough race report up already, if you want a better idea of the course than what I am about to provide. I will say, though, that the route is incredibly fun and features some beautiful running (and hiking).

Overall, the course features two climbs at the beginning, a long descent and then a concerted climb from about mile 23 to 30. That said, there is essentially no flat running at any point in this race and about 12,500 ft of gain (with the same amount in loss).

Quim had been training hard in the cerros of Talca for at least as long as I have and, coming from a life of focused futbol training, is in better shape than I am. His previous long-run experience has been a marathon in the Canaries and a 100K in Andorra. Both were mountain slogs that he did with friends and with a pretty relaxed approached, as in the 100k took them 27 hours or so. This race he wanted to "run" more. As in, try to push the pace and achieve the best possible time for the course. Fair enough.

The race started at 4:00am, which had been changed a few weeks earlier from the originally scheduled time of 2:00am. Excellent.

We jigged around in the dark slowly (too slowly, considering the horrible blare of Bon Jovi at the start), heading towards the first climb. After a bit of hiking, we hit the summit and got a great view of Santiago lit up at night. Like a poorly chosen piece of barroom ass, cities are only beautiful at night...

Luckily, by the time the sun came up we were facing away from the city center and towards the looming range of the Andes. We were both feeling pretty excellent, laughing and running the flats and downhills hard. The sun was up, it was dry, not too hot and there was not a cloud in the sky. Gorgeous. After a cup of hot soup, we started the longest decent of the day and I had the single most enjoyable stretch of running I have ever had. There was no trail at this point to speak of, just course markings tied to the branches of trees and the occasional lonely course marshal to point the way.

The climbing began around 23 miles or so and sucked pretty hard. It just kept coming, with very little opportunity to stretch out and run very much. We reached the half-way point at almost exactly 6 hours, which was fine with me. Here, I think, is where Quim started digging himself into a hole. He pushed the uphill pace hiking, which I think was fine, but then he also would break into a little jog every time the terrain flattened out, even if this was just a few feet. Honestly, I think he would have been better off just holding steady with either hiking or running, as those little bursts of running are just needlessly tiring. The day was wearing on, getting warmer and I noticed that he always had a little water left in his single bottle each time we came to an aid station. I, however, was guzzling water like a champ as I was already pretty familiar with how little I sweat in such a dry climate. Quim also didn't eat very much. He felt like the gels caused him to have a sugar crash and, as such, only ate nuts and fruit at the stops. I had been taking in at least 300 calories/hour for the first 3-5 hours and then switched to just gatorade as the day wore on. I should have said something earlier, in hindsight, but who the hell am I to tell him what to do? Dude comes from Girona, has hiked and run in the Pyrenees and is generally fitter than I am...anyway...

The final nail in his coffin hammered itself in when the race organizers had placed a "2K to next aid station" sign waaaay too early and, because we were fucking thirsty, we picked it up a little in an effort to get there. It turned out to be more like 5K with more climbing before we got there and Quim was feeling rough. Still, I was surprised at how quickly things started going downhill for him. After the next climb, he wasn't in the mood to run the downhill anymore and when we got to a flat section, he didn't want to jog that either. I didn't feel amazing or anything, but I still was in the mood to run (I was shooting for a sub-12 hour finish). It was rapidly evident that Quim was starting to stagger a bit and on one occasion when I asked him if he wanted a gel, he looked around like "Huh?" and seemed unsure of who had spoken to him. Fuck. Several times he encouraged me to run on ahead, but it just wasn't that kind of day. We had had a really good time running together up until then and ditching him just didn't seem like epicly bro sort of thing to do. Plus, I've never had the option to run an ultra with someone I know, so that also seemed like sort of a waste. I'm sure I'll have ample opportunities in the future to go back to training and racing alone.

Anywho, the last 10 miles were a fucking drag to end all drags. Mentally, I felt pretty upbeat. Very resolved to help Quim walk in this race and keep him from really going down the drain. I cajoled him into eating a little bit, drinking more water and told him stories about stupid things I've done when I was drunk (lucky for him we only had 4 hours of I was just getting warmed up when we finished). He seemed pretty vacant and spent, but I give him a lot of credit for never once considering out loud that he might quit. In fact, he complained very little. Righteous.

Yeah, so 14.5 hours after starting, we jogged in the last 100m of the race.

Gabbo, Stephanie and Emma were waiting at the finish line and helped get Quim some water and some food. I was in a remarkably good mood and felt more or less completely fine. I had several blisters, which for me is odd. One of them had gone ahead and exploded in my shoe, which was gnarly looking. While Quim was recovering a little, I went and said "hi" to Tim Twietmeyer, Ellie and Ian Sharman. Each remarked that the course had been very hard. Word up.

I feel pretty confident that I would have run under 12 hours for this race had I run alone, but I'm much happier with how things actually panned out, honestly. I learned a lot watching someone bite the dust like that and it was very rewarding to give a fellow runner a hand when they aren't having a great day on the trails. Honestly, if I wanted to simply "execute" a coldly calculated and predictable race, I wouldn't be running ultramarathons in the first place. The idea, for me, is to have something of an adventure. Experience something previously unknown. By my definition, adventure always includes equal doses of happy and shitty. If that sounds unappealing, I would recommend a sofa. Seriously, sofas are awesome. I'm sitting on one right now. It feels amazing...but it's not an adventure. Whoa...

On the way home, while waiting for a cab, Quim started vomiting up the water and spaghetti. He looked like a cadaver. We got him back to the apartment, gave him some water and he went to sleep instantly. I woke him up a couple hours later to eat some food, which stayed down and he seemed to be doing slightly better.

I ate a metric shitload of food (because the English shitload doesn't exist here) and drank beer until I was falling asleep sitting up.

I am writing this on Tuesday after just having returned from my first run post-race. I feel the best I've ever felt after an ultra and am really really excited about running more in the upcoming months. I really want to spend more time in the cerros around Talca, doing some much longer stuff than what I've been doing so far. In the back of mind, I'm still thinking very hard about running the "W" down in Torres del Paine. Peter Bakwin has an FKT up for the route, which has been describe as anywhere between 80K to 120K, depending on the exact route. There's also a 70K race in January that I'm thinking of doing...but honestly, the Torres del Paine Circuit sounds so much cooler than paying people a lot of money for cutting up my oranges...

Huge congratulations go out to GZ, who finished his first 100 miler in under 24 hours. Cred.

68 miles on the week.


GZ said...

Holy hell. How is your buddy now? Well done on helping him out.

P. said...

Ah, he's fine! Thanks for asking! I just realized how long this report is. Holy hell, indeed. Think you'll be back running this week?

GZ said...

I could be running today if I wanted to be. I am not sure if I will or not though. Legs are good and head is clear now. Schedule today might not allow it and that might be a good thing.

Lora said...

Yay! I'm so glad I finally get to read about your big race! Congratulations, Pat. You're a beast. Can't wait to read about the next one. Your posts motivate me to go runnin and drink lots of beer.