Monday, February 4, 2013

Uwharrie Mountain Run Review 2013

UMR 2013 Review. Or A Calamitous Hike through the Woods in Late Winter. I have often read that it is better to be under trained rather than over trained for an event. My body is now empirical evidence both axioms are equally stupid.

This year's mountain run provided a very handsome race tech shirt, a round white logo centered on a deep crimson long sleeve. The color sticks out smartly against North Carolina's winter landscape and neatly disguises any of your recently let blood from said landscape. Registration was efficient, buses ran on time, bathroom facilities were adequately handled, aid stations were perfect, pre-race bulletin addressed everything. Bull City Running has always put on great races, but they seem to be just showing off now. Kim and Jason's race director experiences lend real polish to this event. You only notice their legions of volunteer minions when you need them. Their behind the scenes efforts allow you to focus all of your efforts on the race, and this race is worthy of your undivided attention. From my heart: Thank you Bull City Running and volunteers. 

That aside there are some real obstacles at this race. Challenges that make it that much better. If Uhwarrie donned clothes, she'd sport lots of leather, fishnets, tattoos, and most especially a whip (probably handcuffs too). If you like UMR, consider looking up Raven at Pandora's Box next time you visit NYC. Either one will be happy to provide you with chaffed nipples, but at Uhwarrie you also get pottery and a shirt.

Frozen fish sticks.
I left Durham at 4:00 to allow ample time for a McD's stop, flat tire, or hysterics. Its just over a 2 hour drive. Two hours of NPR at that hour results in falling asleep at the wheel and 2 hours of house techno gets me way to revved up when paired with 6 cups of coffee. After trying both I should have compromised with Rosetta Stone. El pollo frío está compitiendo en la biblioteca por la montaña. It was 19 degrees when I arrived at the El Dorado outpost. Half the outdoor bait minnows were frozen solid! Bonus: No rain this year.

I arrived early enough to connect with some old friends running the 40 mile option. Those who could break free of their straight jackets for the weekend, the usual suspects. Last year I planned on running the out and back in 2013, but 3 days after the race my ankle officially resigned. As under trained as I was 20 might have well as been 40 and 40 might have well as been climbing K2 in a snow storm. Respect 40 milers. Hope to join your ranks in 2014. Special congratulations on your longest race Scott. You looked better at 23 than I felt at 17 when we crossed. 

Diane with unidentified male model.
After the 40's bussed out, I had the opportunity to reconnect with Steph and her entourage. She introduced me to Diane. Diane is a unicorn. Distance runner, cardio freak and T1 diabetic. She also bikes, but I did not hold that too much against her. We sat together in the front of the bus to ride to the start, where I provided gratis, an insulin carbohydrate ratio disquisition to the eager surrounding captive audience. I effectively used this time to establish my medical bona fides (I have webMD!) and maximize irony. It made my 36 blood sugar hypoglycemia at mile 11 much funnier. 

I lined up near Steph and friends at the start and said goodbye. My plan to treat this race as a slow long run Umstead Marathon prep combined with my current fitness level ensured a lot of solo running. I remembered the back up on the first mile bottle neck last year and felt entitled to start further up in the crowd than I expected to finish. The first mile looks like a Newark runway on a holiday.

With head phones discouraged some racers opt
for more traditional forms.
Miles 1-5 did a lot to restore my confidence. I was coming off a 9 day lay off due to general tendon funkiness. Everything felt pretty great. I followed the crowd, and other than some brief uncomfortable lungs caused by the crazy cold, I finally felt present as a distance runner again. I had layered up with 2 tech shirts and a light North Face jacket over cargo shorts and compression unmentionables. I completed the ensemble with a grey Goodwill suit jacket. I had planned on dropping the blazer at the start, but it was so cold I decided to begin semi-formal. It was a good choice. I did not get warm until mile 2 and donated the formal duds at the first aid station. I was running ahead of schedule at the 5 mile aid station and stopped for some fine dining. This first aid station did not have any Michelin stars yet, but the fare was very cosmopolitan. I sampled potato chips, Hammer Montana huckleberry gel, pb&j squares, and cold salty potato paired with several shots of a vintage 2013 coke. To my surprise, I saw Joanna arrive. She was running UMR as a slow long run Umstead prep also. Ahead of schedule and with pleasant company I was happy to embark onto the next quarter of the race.

Uhwharrie park bench.
Miles 6-10 did a lot to shake my confidence. I enjoyed conversing with Joanna or rather monologueing at her. (Surprise! I tend to talk A LOT when running at a comfortable pace). Unfortunately for Joanna, my bad ankle mojo tried to jump to a new host. She twisted her right ankle a few times. Luckily, her tendons are constructed of a hardier collagen and she finished OK. For the first time in my "racing" career I had GI issues. My stomach started rumbling around mile 6 and I was in some distress by mile 7. I made it to the large mile 8 stop (2 Michelin stars) and pealed off toward the blue room without even an adieu. After some reflection and checking a few emails I felt much better. I thought it wise to skip the buffet line and settled on a few cokes. I left in high spirits and thought it probable to catch up to Joanna if I stepped up the pace a smidge.

Miles 11-15 took my confidence out to the woodshed. I was really struggling by mile 10. I chalked the tiredness up to going out too fast and my shunning of p90x. At the mile 11 aid station my stomach was rolling and I felt pretty bad. My blood sugar was 135 at mile 8, I checked again and was surprised to find a 36. Not a PR for me in a race, but close. The volunteer at 11 was either familiar with diabetics, a nurse, or an angel. I was too low to make decent decisions and my stomach was not going to tolerate my go to Hammer gel treatment. My new aid station guardian insisted on my partaking of some peanut butter, chips, and assorted goodies. I spent some time recovering and the protein settled things down enough for me to suck down 3 gels. I convinced the aid station that I would survive at least long enough to make mile 14 and they let me go with a cargo pocket full of Hammer gels. By now, I was pretty close to last place, although still slightly ahead of the DNFs. I figured my chances of finishing at about half. I made it to mile 14 with a 79 blood sugar. Normal for the pancreas functional crowd, but too close to disaster for me. I had switched insulin delivery systems and was running half the amount of my usual basal rates. My best professional medical guess, my effort level was much higher than usual causing my muscles to slurp glucose. At mile 14 I discovered the hot soup. Chicken noodle soup rules! It fully calmed down the belly and I dined, as if this were my last meal. I figured 15% chance it was. 

Even without my glasses
I found my bag check with
very little trouble.
Miles 16-20, my confidence shattered and I prayed for rapture. I was recovered from the low BS, but pretty beat up from it. My food intake was back to normal, but I would have rather tried rocky mountain oysters with blood pudding than force down another Hammer gel. My under training started to show. My Frankenankle (Thanks for the moniker Jay) was holding up nicely, but I had real tendon issues starting in both legs. I used my pottery lust to carry me forward, but I was walking the ups and even some of the downs by now. The math said I could finish within 8 hours, but the biology said I might have to crawl. I was pretty sure no one was behind me. As my desire for pottery began to flag, I decided to quit at the mile 17 aid station. Then suddenly I was passing runners again. Of course, they were the returning 40 milers and they were headed toward me, but it was very nice to see hominids again. I saw some friendly faces (Bart), stopped and spoke with Jay (cold symptoms), Heiko (also GI issues), Scott (disgustingly chipper) and found some new reserves. I rested at aid station 17 and took time to soup and chat with the volunteers. I saw the last of the 40 milers come through and finally trekked off toward promised hot coffee at the finish. By mile 18.5 I could not run any more. Left leg quad was done. I had shortened my stride to a rock kicking shuffle a while back, but even that was becoming excruciating. I was afraid I would hurt it badly enough to prevent even walking. This part sucked. But surprisingly to me, it restored some of my confidence. Not in my fitness, I know I need a good 6 months of building stamina, but in my will power. I have not been over a 50k in racing (that turned into 33 miles because of a rerouting around a washed out bridge). This felt much worse. Even though it was only 20 miles, I was well past my physical reserves. UMR 2013 was an Ultra for me, and it tested my moxie, pluck, chutzpah, and gumption. I finished at the expense of my soft tissues, but backbone is pricey and worth it. I am not sure I will finish Umstead under the cut off this year, but after a summer of rebuilding I know I will return to whatever my abilities allow. Finally, 10 months after surgery I am starting to desire running again (and not just for the swag). I will start next week as soon as I can walk without limping.

Cold ducks are known to be very good for inflammation.