20 May 2012

The Pain Cave

This weekend at National Guard training I took a journey into the pain cave. Pain is part of the human experience. We will all deal with it during our journeys. Sometimes it is physical, sometimes it is emotional. Pain can result from forces beyond our control and most often it is a direct result from the choices we make on a daily basis. In our culture of comfort and convenience pain is often overlooked and something to avoid at all costs. Why is it we learn more from our pain/failures/defeats than our successes? I think the answer is found when we choose to rise above and overcome our situation. It is empowering to face the antagonist face to face and pass the test with additional wisdom and strength.

I am interested in what I can learn from my pain. How can I embrace the suffering? What lessons are learned from adversity? When will I get through it? These questions assist me in understanding what I am experiencing. Often these same questions are asked during an ultra. The reward comes when I finish and gain perspective on the battle I endured.

So after the existential intro and philosophical wax, let me get real. Pain can really suck and yesterday I drank from the fire hose. My opponent: Oleoresin Capsicum AKA OC Spray. Here's a similar video of what I went through (the meltdown increases intensity at 3:30).

As an even keel gent I don't get too high or too low from my experiences. I wasn't nervous or anxious watching my fellow comrades get sprayed and seeing their response to the stressor. Knowing my physiology I knew I'd be in for a treat. If you've ever seen me eat Mexican food you can confirm the steady flow of sweat beads that run down my brow with even the most moderate amount of spice. Now take a look at where OC stands on the Scoville Scale. The odds were stacked against me...heavily. So I channeled my inner Rocky and called out the Heat.

I toed the line and got sprayed. It's not a confidence booster when the first thing you hear from the crowd is, "Ohh, he got a lot, direct hit!" It was obvious to see when others hit the wall. The OC would enter the eyes and BOOM! the fireworks would start. Mine began almost immediately when I opened my eyes. Some likened the feeling to pouring the hottest hot sauce in your eyes. Others to the pleasant feeling of hot lava gently boiling on your eyeballs.

My task was to get sprayed and then work through the 5 challenge stations with a full on OC exposure within 90 seconds. The OC hits the skin and eyes with an inflammatory response. Redness, swelling, pain, heat, and loss of function are the cardinal signs. I was blinded from the beginning. Sprayees are instructed to speedily strobe their eyes open and shut to activate the tear ducts and clear the OC. All I wanted to do was clamp my eyes shut as tight as I could. When I would attempt to open them it hurt worse. My eyes became super sensitive to the sunlight and as they swelled inside the sockets it was excruciating to flutter the eyelids even for a millisecond. Sprayees are instructed to avoid touching the face with the hands. All I wanted to do was rake my face. This would lead to cross contamination and additional soothing side effects.

Further discussion described the sensation as burning sand grinding in your eyes or the calming thought of placing poisoned tip needles in your pin cushion like eyes. I staggered to the first station where I started unleashing knee drives to the opponents padded midsection. Then I was handed a baton and instructed to protect my head in a defensive posture as I lurched along to the second station. Here I alternated baton jabs to attackers in front and behind me. Stumbling to station 3 I used the baton to block pugil stick swings. Inconsistently swaying into station 4 I had to drop my padded Sargeant with an arm bar takedown. The final 5th test was to identify a Sharpie's color by its colored cap.

The marathon was complete and the ultra was just beginning. Now began the decontamination period. Wash the face with soapy water. Rinse. Flush with clean water. Repeat. Repeat. Rpeat. Stand in front of fan to dry out the eyes and remaining OC. Try to regain full onobstructed vision...the next 12 hours. I forgot to mention that when I was sprayed gravity did its inevitable job. The OC trickled down my cheeks and entered my mouth. Now my lips burned and I started coughing fire. A few times I almost puked. Other decon tips included taking an "L shaped shower" so any residual OC would not go down on your unmentionables (insert colorful stories involving both genders here). During my shower I reactivated the residual OC on my face. Now my face and ears burned. Hurts so good! Spray protocol advises the user to saturate target from ear to ear across the browline. Checkmate!

So I overcame adversity. I ventured deep into the pain cave. And what was my grandiose epiphany? Goggles are GRRRREEAT! With that said I earned my OC Certification and never have to repeat that again in my military career. I wish I had video/pictures of my experience; they're out there somewhere. Give me a shout if you find them. Stellar.

16 May 2012

The Quads Rocked!

Photo: Erin Bibeau

The day started early. 3:30 AM to be exact. Stefanovic rolled in shortly before 4 and minutes later we were headed to the start serenaded by The Bear. I slept great and was wide awake despite the o'dark thirty morning. After pinning the bib I did my typical wavering on race wear. Since Mother's Day was soon to be I thought of my mom and added gloves and arm warmers. Thanks mom!

Hanson feeling right at home! Photo: Eric Lee

Toeing the line is always a good time. You get a few minutes to say hi to the existing friends and meet a few new ones. I was really glad that Riddle and Rydman and any runner new to these trails could make the trip. I love running in Lory and Horsetooth and sharing these trails with others who are experiencing them for the first time.
Rydman. Photo: Eric Lee
Riddle. Photo: Eric Lee

The race started and we were off. I soon settled in with Crandall, B. Goding, and Malmberg. Half way up the first climb as we gained the Stout Trail, D. Goding and Riddle joined the party. No one would have guessed but Dan Goding has been battling injury and had only run once in the past two weeks leading up to the race. He won the 25 miler! Anyhow, up Towers we climbed and down Spring Creek we descended.

Arriving at the Horsetooth AS DBO provided live Transvulcania updates. How cool is that! I'm running through the AS, filling my bottle, and learning that DJ Money just shocked the world! I wonder if B. Powell was giving him and Kilian QR50 updates? Most likely I'm sure!

Koop. Photo: Eric Lee

Then it was up Horsetooth and across Westridge. I caught up to a younger guy who was running the fastest I've ever seen anybody run in Five Fingers on technical trail. Soon it was down Mill Creek and I caught up to the Wise Sage and Fan Favorite. Fast forward a bit and I finished my first lap in 3:36. Marks and Funk resupplied me and it was time for Round 2!

Jaime, Malmberg following. Photo: Eric Lee

Back up Timber I was running well. I had a 10 minute lead starting the second lap. It was great seeing so many familiar encouraging faces as I ran against the traffic. Descending Howard was its usual fun and soon I was at Arthurs Aid with a sense of dread beginning to set in. I had already begun to think about the climb up Mill Creek. This was one of the game changing points on the course and I knew I was in for a grunt.

Coming into Arthurs Aid. Photo: Eric Lee

The Mill climb started out o.k. Then I began to encounter the low point of my race. First I began steadily slowing down as I ran. Then I shuffled. Followed by power hiking. Trumped by hiking. And finishing with a peppy walk. My legs were powerless. I was dizzy and thought I might faint at times. Such an awesome place to be when you're half way up the climb! I kept moving at my scorching clip and eventually made it to the Towers Aid. I must have looked terrible because no one said a word as I stumbled in. This climb alone cut my lead in half.

Stewart. Photo: Eric Lee

Two cokes later I began the Westridge traverse. The legs were getting a bit crampy on the climbs. After muscling through the roundabout traverse I was pointed downhill on the HTR Trail. Once I hit Southridge I was cranking. Miles later and a quick stop at the Horsetooth Aid, DBo informed me I had a 7 minute lead. It was time to keep truckin and finish it out. As I descended the single track to the base of Spring Creek I could see Rebenack charging down Southridge. The lead had to be only 5 minutes.

Spring Creek was my redemption climb. I rebounded after my Mill Creek melee and ran 90% of this one. Soon enough I was at the top downing two cokes before the downhill bomb on Towers Road. This was by far the fastest I have ever descended Towers. The moisture gave the road added tack for extra control and traction. Gone was the usual dust and loose top layer. The Stout traverse came and went followed by the technical Sawmill drop. Now I was in the valley. No more trees to hide in and fully exposed to the hungry hawk eyes of Rebenack and Co. My goal at this point was to crest the ridge at Arthurs Aid without being seen.

Once I made the crest BG gave me the thumbs up and verbal confirmation, "No one is in sight, don't worry about a thing." From here it was 2 miles and change to the Finish. I put it in cruise control and enjoyed my valley tour home.

Rebenack finish. On my tail all day! Photo: Eric Lee

Looking at the fog all day made me think about Gorillas in the Mist. Jane Goodall enjoyed her first ultra. I was supremely relieved that I won. Anything less than 1st would have seen TNCRD lose his house. Dana and the kids would have been pissed. Felt like I made the world a better place with this run.

Joking aside it was a flawlessly organized race. Awesome job by Pete and Nick. They directed an inaugural race that was planned out like it had been going on for years. A huge thanks to their army of volunteers and everyone at FCTR for their cheers, support, and all around positivity.

Streaks! Still alive is my undefeated record in ultras in the backyard! Still alive is winning ultras in the Bajadas! And 2012 marks the 5th consecutive year with a 50 mile win! It's always fun to include the most random streaks/FKT's you can think of to inspire and propel your training to the next level. What are your current streaks?

13 May 2012

Quad Rock Results

A fun day on the hometown trails! Results here.

More to come in the next few days!

06 May 2012

Welcome to the Quad Rock...

In your best Sean Connery impression say out loud to yourself, "Welcome to the Quad Rock." Makes you smile doesn't it? Make sure you emphasize your pronunciation of ROCK. The chatter and the temps have been heating up in preparation for next weekends inaugural running. This will be the second ultra to call Fort Collins home alongside the one and only year of the Bluesky 50K. With that said I am looking forward to putting my "undefeated record in ultra races occurring in my hometown" on the line. It is equally impressive as my: Walk to Avo's, eat two tempeh burgers, talk smack with the boys, walk back home, FKT of 2:32:45. And there will be the X-Factor to contend with at QR. More on that later.

Here's a look at the boys in the 50 miler:

MIA- Mike Foote, Jason Schlarb

1. David Riddle- 2011 JFK 50 champ and CR of 5:40! Hands down the speedster and naturally gifted runner of the group. His strength is his speed. Most of his results are 50K's with a few 50M and 100K finishes. He wins nearly everything he has raced. The unknowns: his performance at "altitude" and racing a tough 50M with lots of up and downs.

2. Jacob Rydman- He's having a great 2012 with 2 bronze medals at the Cali Spring Classics of WTC and AR. QR will be the toughest 50 he's raced. Running on all cylinders he'll be one to watch.

3. Paul Terranova- he races a lot of 50K's with a few 50 mile/100K finishes. At Bandera he was right behind Clark this year. He could surprise a lot of runners.

4. Jason Koop- More long haul experience (races 50M and above)than the top three runners combined. He's running strong this year- 2nd at RTTM, 2nd at CM50K, and QR will be his 3rd ultra in 4 weeks. Jason and I battled it out last weekend, won't surprise me a a bit if we're side by side with only a few miles to go.

5. Corey Hanson- Bellvue's Best. He knows these trails better than anyone. His house is a 1/2 mile from the start/ finish. He's got the freshest legs of the bunch with QR being his first race of 2012. Reports from BG indicate that he's running strong. His high muscle glycogen stores are a result of years of GHB fueling.

6. Ryan Burch- (let's see if I can pull off this writing in the 3rd person awkwardness). He's put in consistent training this year with weekly track workouts, solid long runs, a 5K PR, and consecutive sub 30 minute PR's on The Hill. He's only raced one ultra in 2012 with a solid run at CM50K. Next to Corey he has the blueprint memorized for these trails. His best distance is 50 miles. The unknowns: is he fully recovered from CM50K to put forth an A effort? How will he handle the hometown pressure to put a W on the board?

7. The X-Factor. This contender can take out anyone racing next weekend in the blink of an eye. Going unnoticed in nearly every race this deadly force can strike at a moments notice. Look out for the Quad Rock Rattler! My Friday and Saturday runs saw my left foot come within 10 inches of two different rattlesnakes. Friday I was off the race course on the Foothills trail when I ran by a disguised rattler next to a yucca plant who started his battle rattle as I passed him. Way too close! Saturdays encounter was even more alarming. I was ascending the summit rock of Arthur's. 10 feet from the summit coiled up in a small depression on the rock I passed a small two footer who was eerily quiet in the shade. I "woke it up" to distance the snake from the most popular hiking destination in Lory and alerted the ascending groups of hikers on my way down. Needless to say...good luck and watch your step next weekend!