2011 Capt’n Karl’s The Shoe 60k Race Report

“C’mon, at least admit you’re a masochist?”

 

A masochist no, but you have to be willing to deal with pain and obstacles if you are to undertake any ultra distance event (just like in life).  And what my friend, and others who question the purpose of doing these things, fails to appreciate is the journey past obstacles and the ability to push oneself past whatever one thinks their limits are. The last of the Capt’n Karl’s Series was at Muleshoe, and it provided a significant obstacle (beyond just the distance) in the fact the high Saturday was around 108 degrees (and back home in Houston it was reportedly the hottest day EVER).  I arrived at the park around 6:15 with just enough time to finish my preparations and say hi to a few friends before the race briefing.  Not too long after that one guy who is partially responsible for getting me into these things, Mark Henderson, rolled in.  He was talking about his race-day nutrition (a couple shrimp,  a couple beers, and a pop tart, I think) and was giving me a hard time about my picture being in Ultraruning mag earlier this year, but it was good to catch up briefly with him.  Soon it was time to embark on the 37.2 mile journey.

The course was four loops, divided into 3 parts by two aid stations in between and then one at the start/finish.  I reread my race report from last year, which was pretty accurate as far as the terrain— no real hills, a decent amount of rocks but not un-runnable except for a stretch in the middle which is tough.  It had a lot of switchbacks, so you could see headlights ahead of you, behind you, above or below you but really they could be much further away than you think.  But I didn’t really remember a lot of this course so it was fun to discover it again, it is a fun course to run.  And looking at the trail which was still lit by the setting sun, you could tell everything around looked dead due to the drought.  The first hour or so clicked by o.k. but it was definitely hot, and I was probably going a bit too fast, and as per the usual with these summer races for me, my stomach wasn’t very happy.  I made one emergency stop off trail but after that felt much better.  Made it to the 2nd aid station and had a couple pieces of watermelon which were wonderful and apparently everyone else agreed since they were gone on the 2nd loop.  I left there and made it back to the start/finish and was feeling pretty good.

For this race, I decided to bring a cooler with ice water and put a bandana in there to cool myself down between loops, especially since there were 4 loops.  I think it helped a good amount but maybe I should have brought a spare so I could take one with me.  Nevertheless it was definitely nice to cool down even if only for a brief moment on such a hot evening.  I don’t remember too much about the 2nd loop until I almost lost a contact around mile 12 or so but managed to grab it from my eye before it fell to the ground and put it back in my eye without any issues, thankfully.  Somewhere in the real rugged section I got briefly lost and turned around, and lo and behold Neal Lucas comes up to lap me, and I then of course found the correct way–thanks for lapping me there Neal! I think the heat was taking its toll on me though, and my stomach was having more complaints with me.  I had half a Subway sandwich an hour and a half before the race, and I think that was the culprit.  I swore off them several years ago since the last time I had one it made me sick (besides why go buy a sandwich when I can make one for a fraction of the price) but I gambled since I was going to try something different with my pre-race nutrition.  No more Subway!

 

“If you are going through hell, keep going”

When I made it to the half-way point I was feeling pretty crummy after a visit to the portapotty and made it to my drop bag to try to recover a bit.  I didn’t have much of an appetite but force fed myself a little but my stomach just felt off.  I felt pretty awful but didn’t want to quit, I’d made it this far and only had two make it two more laps to get the belt buckle.  Besides, all those Navy SEALs who were killed several weeks ago—they would never quit.  Lots of people don’t have the physical ability to run or even walk, what would they give up to jog a mile? So putting things in perspective gave me a little bit of motivation all though I was in a bad mood since I felt kind of helpless to my body.  Some friends and the start/finish were trying to help, but I didn’t feel like talking much and at the time my vocabulary only consisted of simple commands or curse words anyway.  I was a bit frustrated since I’d spent/wasted  almost a half hour at the aid station (a long time…. Too much even for me) and I wasn’t improving even with such a long break, but I know I can walk so I might as well keep walking for a while.

Off I walked for about two miles before I finally started feeling a bit better.  Well at this point my only goal was to finish (can throw all time goals out the window now) and was just trying to estimate with a worst-case scenario if I walked 20 min/mile, I would be cutting it close to finish under 12 hours, since I couldn’t even lightly jog due to my stomach discomfort.  Eventually I tried jogging again and the next mile I was decent before arriving at the first aid station where RD Joyce was there and I told her about how I was feeling.  She gave me some encouragement and I felt good to leave, so I did and soon started feeling better.  The rest of the lap I ran pretty strong and felt a lot more confident about finishing since now I was only a lap, several aid stations, away from finishing and my body felt much better.

“Lots of people out running now.… but after midnight only the hardcore runners will be left”

 

What once was a bustling party-like atmosphere at the start/finish was now much more subdued since those who did the shorter distances had gone home and were probably asleep in bed since it was now about 3 am.  I returned to my drop bag which once too had more company and was now alone on the dirt and washed myself off with cold water again which was very refreshing and got a nice view of the stars which were clear on a cloudless and moonless night.  Just had one more lap to finish, so I picked up some papaya from Liza Howard (at least I’m pretty sure that was her… I felt like telling her I like reading her blog but had other things on my mind) who was working the aid station and set off on my final lap.  And it actually started to feel cooler; at least it wasn’t so blistering hot anymore.

The fourth lap started went pretty well  and I was almost alone except for a few people I would occasionally pass since I was now moving a bit better.  Almost all the runners were done so now the trail was empty and I didn’t have to worry about people running me over.  It is a bit more relaxing for me to run alone,  although there are definitely times when it’s good to run with others too, to push you.  I am more introverted so I suppose trail running suits me well, lots of time out there where you are by yourself with no one else near you (or even no one knows exactly where you’re at) and I guess I like it that how you succeed is totally up to you.  Somewhere I smelled the stench of a skunk on this lap, which was the only wildlife I encountered.  Later on I saw two more skunks, including one that was no more than five feet from the trail, but I didn’t really want to get to know him any better so I sprinted past him.  I made it to the last aid station where I soon ran out of energy.  I was jogging well before, but stopping for a break at the aid station seemed to get me out of a rhythm and sap all my energy.  It was around this point I finally noticed some chaffing issues, including in some areas I didn’t know it was possible.   It was less than 3 miles back to the finish, which on an average day, I could easily finish under a half hour. However an average day does not consist of already having covered 34 miles of trails!  My body was just plain tired and it took me another 46 minutes to make it to the finish after 10:46, where the other hardcore runners who stuck around to celebrate, were cheering those of us who stuck it out to finish.  Joyce came by and gave me a big hug and congratulations since she knew I was having a rough go at it, and I picked up my finishers medal and my first belt buckle, guess I’m a real Texan now.

“Show me someone that’s completed an ultra, and I’ll show you someone that can pretty much accomplish anything they set their mind to…”

I went and sat down next to the other dozen or so runners that were left and recovered, chatted, and enjoyed the fact I was done, 180km of trail in the Texas summer.  And driving back the next day, I felt pretty good sense of accomplishment, not necessarily for the buckle, but it’s damn hard to finish these 3 60k’s in the summer, and lots of people dropped due to the heat along the way.  I suppose it is a good case study in perseverance since there are points in each of the three races where I seriously questioned whether I would finish each one.  I also probably need to take a better look at my nutrition, although I never have any of these issues in the normal races that start in the morning, where the heat index is not over 100 degrees.  And I know I’m not a fast runner, but dang, I am pretty close to DFL in the standings for the series (22nd out of 26). Good thing I don’t have an ego, haha.  Looking at my splits, I spent 9 minutes at the start/finish after the 1st and 3rd loop, and 25 after the 2nd, ugh.  I’ll be thankful for the spring/winter races when I don’t NEED to spend as long at the aid stations.

Guess I'll need to get a belt for it now!

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3 Responses

  1. Great race report! Love the belt buckle. Congratulations on finishing what you started… 3 different times!

  2. […] “Somewhere I smelled the stench of a skunk on this lap, which was the only wildlife I encountered.  Later on I saw two more skunks, including one that was no more than five feet from the trail, but I didn’t really want to get to know him any better so I sprinted past him.” by ultra.tortoise @ A Trail Runner’s Running Blog […]

  3. Rock on and a Huge Congratulations!!! What an accomplisment!

    Congratulations!
    Adam

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