One of the reasons for coming to the US was to have more chances of being able to get a place in at least one of the mystic races in ultra-trail....well seems like 2015 will not be the year....While feeling sad, the positive thing is that next year I will have at least more changes. All the best for those fortunate to have made it..!!
Today's Hard Rock 100 lottery results:
There are few reasons why I have signed up to the Pinhoti100, but the main one was to be able to register to the mystic Western States 100. Pinhoti 100 was the last race from the ws100 list. I had somehow assumed that ehumeliak 100 was a qualifying race, but when curiosity bit after I learnt my friend Eric was doing this race, by chance I ended up going to list of the ws100 qualifying races only to find out it is not! So here I was 3 weeks after the Ironman Maryland, not having trained properly, having slacked off training for good 2 weeks and putting on 3 Kg (a lot for me)..and rushing to find a cheap air ticket to Alabama - as driving 15 hours with the family, didn't fly with Ainhoa :).
The Pinhoti 100M race is a point to point race hosted in Alabama - yes, Alabama!! who would have said there are hills and trails in Alabama, and yet, yes there are to the point few Californians flew to do this race as apparently it has quite good reputation.
The night before:
I decided to stay at the cheapest lodging possible at Sylacauga Parks and Recreation Dept office where they would provide rooms to be shared. You just had to bring a sleeping bag for 10 usd. Not bad for few hours sleep you would get anyway as you had to wake up at 4:30 am to take a bus that would take you to the starting point, 1:30 hour drive for a 7:00 start.
We had the race briefing hosted by the RD (Todd Henderson) which was interesting to learn a bit about the history of the race and some of the characters that has been running it. Then we had pasta dinner and off to bed (or the floor) at around 21:00.
I woke up at 4:00ish to get dressed as soon as possible and geared myself to be ready. Outside temperature was very low, not sure what degrees, but it was bloody cold. That weekend the whole of the east coast was impacted by a cold storm so you can imagine what it is...
One on the bus I dozed on and off until we arrived to the staring line. It was getting so cold that I was the last one to leave the bus. 5 minutes before the race, I was ready to sprint to the starting line to get in line only to find out that the bus driver had left the door locked! I got a bit of stress as could not understand which button from the bus driving control to click. I start to press like a monkey all the buttons to eventually play the horn multiple times until the driver came back....A very close call..!!
90% of the race is single trail. Right after starting everyone got into an indian style line where you were forced to be behind someone. This was ok for the first couple of km, but after a while, you start to get too excited like a dog being unleashed, and you want to overtake. This was tough as the track is very narrow and there was no room to step to the left or right to overtake and if you did, you still had a long line in front of you. I managed to overtake 2 times by stepping up a bit the speed at about 11~12 km/hr, but after getting to the point I was on my own, I took the wrong turn after a crossing, instead of continuing straight, I turn right on the 'road', when I realized this wasn't the direction (I bumped into 2 guys that were getting into hunting with a very southern(?) accent told me they didn't see any runner) I had to go back (slight climb up) that I ended up getting where I had started. To this point I said to myself it wasn't worth it and (luckily) made me slow down a bit, as I was crossing probably 25km and I was starting to get a bit tired on my legs.
By this moment, my friend Eric was ahead of me and I had no intention to catch him as wanted to keep the pace.
I also have to mention that I was doing something which is a total "NO-NO" in any race, or at least it is one of the top 5 "NO-NO" (I will publish list in a later post), which was to use a brand new shoe (also on another post on shoe reviews). I was wearing the TOPO Oterro shoes and as usual you start to feel a bit uncomfortable after a while and your mind playing games kicks in. I was wondering if it had to do with the going a bit faster to overtake few line of people, the quick sprint I had to do uphill for about 500 mt to come back from the wrong turn or because of the new shoes, I was feeling really tired on the legs. Whichever the reason, it got me to go slower and keep my target pace of 10 km/hr.
I went thru few of the checkpoints where they had all I wanted: oranges, bananas, potato chips and/or boiled potatoes, and coke. Fast checkpoints, no more than 2~3 minutes, and I moved on, mostly running by myself until I managed to catch on Eric. This must have been at km 50 or so..At this point I started to feel slightly better and run faster. It was also I was being tailed by Andy who had been following for sometime and helped me keep going at a decent fast pace.
Until checkpoint 15, we've been on and off passing each other or catching up with Andy, until I managed to stay ahead of him. I did hit the moment at KM 90 that you start questioning whether you can finish this race. Your body is tired, your legs start to feel wobbly and the ability to keep the focus comes to play a key role here. I managed to start breaking the race into a legs. I convinced myself that I just had a marathon left and after that, it would be whatever is left, but I just had to run a marathon. There are many moments where your mind wakes up and says 'hey dude - do you think I am stupid? A marathon is 42KM and there are still 70KM left..it's more like ALMOST 2 marathons! But then you quickly convince it's just 42KM and 2 laps of 10KM...so you go playing this game back and forth until you literally are with just 3 aid stations to go.
At this point I wasn't sure anymore if whoever was behind my tail was Andy or someone else, but knowing that somebody was very near to overtake me, DID help me pushing forward. Later I learnt it was the 1st girl to make it to the finish line as Andy stayed back longer breaks at few aid stations.
It's worth mentioning that another factor that got me to not stay longer at the aid stations was that the temperature had dropped so much thru the night (we are talking about mid-night-ish at this point), that the moment I stopped just for a quick coffee, I would start shivering like snake. It was so cold. While I did manage to ignore the 'mermaid' like whispers calling you to sit at the aid stations coming from the fireplace..I did sat down for a while at station 16. Taking that decision to stand up and continue was probably as tough as running the whole race. Once you sit down, the warmth of the wood fire is so enchanting that keeps you hypnotized looking at the core of the fire...Very dangerous stuff...Again, focus comes into mind and you got to wake up and move on...
Once I pass the last aid station, I thought it would be a very easy 2 miles left to the finish line thru the main highway into town. It ended up being the longest 2 miles ever. Literally it never ended. I thought about speeding up and finishing (or at least pretend) I was still strong. I didn't happen. It was longer than that, it tired me to boredoom and got really tired and just had to 'trot' slowly lowering my head and just be content of seeing the finish line. (I even managed to get a video recording message to my family!).
All in all, amazing 100 miles. Understimated the altitude climbing as ~15,000 feet doesn't sound like a lot, but when doing it in a 'faster' pace (that what you would do in a Hard Rock or ehunmilak 100M
), it really wears your legs off. The rolling hills are really misleading as you try to run them as much as you can as you think they are a piece of cake - but beware, they are many of them.... At the end, ultra happy to have managed to:
1) finished it...
2) managed to make it before 24hrs
3) not have used hiking poles for a race beyond 50M
4) the diet is proving to work (in ehunmilak 100M I followed practically the same diet while at race)
5) how self-suficient you can be on a race
I have no words for my family supporting me on this hobby, Todd for letting me in even after registration closed, Eric for being a friend and having him in an 'unknown' place for me..and everyone else I met and helped in the race (especially the volunteers!!!).
Ok, so I have been procrastinating writing this report half way thru and it's good time to finish this now that I'm done with the IM race last weekend.
So where to start from? I found this race as was looking for something to do while going on summer holidays in Bilbao in 2012 with the family as I wanted to do a long event as a 'warm up' for the 2012 edition of UTMB. I was coming in high sprits, fitter than any other time and with lot of confidence. I had just completed my 2nd 100KM in Hong Kong slashing almost 3 hour from the 1st edition, I was on my way to UTMB and other exciting events were happening to our family (we were on our way to move to Chile) and was being interviewed by the local media (I think there were only 3 foreigners in what is a very local race! and they thought I was some sort of a big shot!!). Back then I didn't know what I was embarking on. I started the race strong keeping a strong pace, enjoying amazing views and camaraderies between racers...to find myself after the first 60KM bumping against a big wall and knowing right then and there I wouldn't be able to finish. My legs were just gone. Stubborn that I am, I tried to continue what I could for the next few checkpoints and DNF'd at 115KM at Lizarrusti. I cried as I was reaching near the checkpoint and it hurt more than the pain from my legs....
2 years fast forward, and I found the opportunity to sign up again as we were going back on holidays to spain. I had set the challenge to do a 100 miler and an IM a year since then and this would be my first real 100 miler (the 2012 UTMB had to be shortened to 100 KM due to very bad weather conditions). So here I was very excited, not with the right level of training as I would have liked as since having moved to New York in January 2014, and living in a pretty flattish area, my hill training so far were 2 50 Miler races within 6 months and the treadmill at the YMCA gym set to the maximum hight. But still, I had learnt very important lessons from previous races, I was now a fully (or practically) vegan diet, and ready for the challenge.
I was counting in addition the luxury of having my brother and sister in law's following me which morally helps big time to know you have people you care supporting you and that you have some sort of debt with them for coming all the way to join you. I had to complete it this time! I started the race very very slow, I did not get hooked into the 'high' spirit crowd in the beginning. I was wearing the Argie shirt (as that weekend was the world-cup finals and Argentina had made it!)..even though I had another Argentinian running the race and prompting me to join and go a bit faster, I slowed down (I would later on pass on him and his friends around KM30).
This time I was in control, I knew the slow pace was working and felt great. I spoke to few people here and there until I bumped into Gaizka, who would eventually be my partner thru pretty much of the race. I did notice Gaizka tried to hold a slightly faster pace, but I hold on and he would stop and wait for me. I believe he knew it was better to go slower. All was going well except for the course itself. Few days before it had rained, and the trail was as muddy as hell if fire was mud. You could literally get your feet inside the mud and you had to pull up your leg. This, I didn't know at the beginning would be a curse for me and for so many other racers. Until we reached half way thru around 7AM , I was doing great. We rested in the 80KM mark, where you have a hot meal (horrible spaghettis and rice) and you had your bag with your dry clothes. I just changed my shirt. I was so naive then, and based on my pace, that I thought I would leave my headlamp there as I would be able to make the rest in the next 12 hours. But something (or because I am just lucky) told me, keep the lights just in case...Oh man, what would I have done without it...Right after leaving the check point, I started to feel some annoying pinching feeling on my right knee whenever I bended my leg. I tried to ignore it pretending that nothing happened. From then onwards it was all downhill.. (pace wise speaking). I met Ainhoa, the kids, brother (Igor, Asier) and sister (Ana) and a couple of very good friends (Ruben, Ana, Irene, Ira) at around 90KM mark, Gaizka went on his own a bit but he also was battling his own demons (something wrong with one of his legs) so me and my family who were pacing me and climbed Txindoki at 106KM mark, managed to catch him and did the whole ascent together. My family also encouraging Gaizka. It's great to have your loved ones talking to you. It just makes it easier as you start talking about day to day stuff...
Once we reached the top of Txindoki, pretty much hiking with Asier and Ana, one of the highest peaks (1345 mt) we would climb, the weather got cold and we had to start descending. This is when I really felt the knee telling the pain was real and I would not be able to run it down as much as I would have liked. The constant pushing and pulling of the feet into the mud had over used the muscles in a totally different way that my legs are used to run on. (At least this is what a doc at a later stage would tell me to explain the pain in the area). I wasn't aware of this then. I just thought, I am done again, but this time I was convinced I would end it even if I had to walk it. I had a cutoff time of 48 hours and I was only on my 16th hour. Time, I had plenty. So as I descended pretty much walking on a humid and cold weather, Gaizka went ahead as he felt slightly stronger, but I bumped into a new friend Aikatz. He actually remembered me from the 2012 edition...!! What a great memory...! (well I was the only asian in the race..)...He was also going thru a similar pain in the knees. But he mentioned he was somehow able to continue. We chatted a bit, and he left me behind to continue. I just could not run so walked all the way to the next checkpoint at KM116 Lizarrusti, the infamous place I had quit the previous time.
All the time thinking and having a mental battle with my inner self, should I quit here and just call it a day. Luckly my family was around and this time Igor and Ruben volunteered to pace me. This would be the longest and slowest 17KM. Oh my God, what a pain this section. Beautiful surroundings as you had to go thru wooden forest, lots of trees, looked like some fairy tale red-hood and the wolf type of picturesque place, but it was slow, and the organizers had no better idea (I'm still not sure why) to have a marking every 1KM. Each KM seemed longer and longer as you were looking for the bloody mark. Before I had left Ekaitz who had started with me and as we were climbing a hill, I could see he wasn't going to make it. I offered to wait for him but he kindly let me go by telling me he had to make a phone call to his wife! and that he would catch me later on....(This is when you have an unspoken contract between 2 good racers, one trying to help but at same time knowing that you cannot stay forever, and the other not compromising him and letting him go - I would have done the same). Gaizka was ahead as he had left much earlier. Before starting, I had taken an Ibuprofen by advice of Ekaitz.
I had completely forgotten you were allowed (are we?) to take this shit. There is a before and after. The Ibuprofen helped me forget about the pain and I was actually running. To the point I managed to catch Gaizka whom was struggling a lot and I decided to slow down to go together. To our surprise as we were reaching KM 132 Etxegarate that I bump to Ekaitz's wife (Arantza) climbing and running the other way...she asks me, did you see a runner, his name is 'Ekaitz' - he really had called her and she was going to pick him up. They were supposed to do the next checkpoint together and he didnt show up. He then quit at Etxegarate.
I met Ainhoa, Ana, her dog Telmo and Unai there, took some eggs (for a change as I was eating mostly fruits as there wasn't much vegan friendly food)...and took another Ibuprofen and I embarked a solo race then leaving Gaizka as he was also pretty much done. I later found out he managed to finish it pretty much walking most of it but he did it...Those last checkpoints were an adventure on its own...I was starting the part I had not managed to see from 2012. I again was on high spirits, and the pain on my knee was dormant. I wanted to finish it as soon as possible before it awakens again. I started taking some good pace again, very excited. It was getting dark again, thinking how lucky I was to bring the headlamp (what an idiot to think I was going to make it without it...) and started to climb Aizkorri.
Oh man..what a beautiful peak. Was very fortunate that there was full moon, and there was wind as the top of Aizkorri is nothing but scattered pointy rocks. It's a bit like a moonish landscape or some sort of out of space terrain. And I say luckily it was windy as it had dried all the wet surfaces of the rocks as otherwise I would still be up there trying to come down from the peak. I was so excited and into it, that I started to overtake people going up and many more while coming down. This is how I was supposed to feel!! I was so tired that I didn't really care much at that time if I had to climb another 1000mt peak or 2 or 3 more...I overtook some 30 participants until again in another of the hills there was a steep downhill, muddy, never ending, unforgiving pain in the quads to reach checkpoint 8. Once gotten there, it was really cruising as that excitement was fading away with the sleepy feeling again.
At that point just wanted the damn thing to be over, but the course kept on going and going. I managed to catch another 3 racers and used them as pacers....until a moment they started to speed up the assholes. Of course I tried to stick with them, but luckly after good 5KM they slowed down. They, themselves where done as well, to the point that the last 10KM we practically jogged-walked. Then there we were, going downhill to the small town of Beasain, where it was supposed to be the last 2 KM or something like that...no, it was another 4KM!!! I hated so much..it was sunrise time nearing 6AM...a ghost town..nobody cheering us up..except when I could take a glimpse of the finish line, I saw Aihoa, the sunshine of my life... (:) - I think I bought her much with this last sentence... I was so happy, and forever thankful to everyone and to everything that had happened to have been able to make it. I can say there was a microsecond of 'enlightenment' on my face.