The week prior to Quad Rock I came down with a nasty cold that wiped me out in what usually is my most quality week before a race. I tried to just take it as a test. With doing less miles it was only fitting for something like that to happen to make me taper, which I never usually do. I managed to get two decent 30 milers in during the week with three off days laying in bed and chugging oj. I started feeling decent around Monday despite a lingering cough that stayed through to race day.
Jennie and I headed to the Fort Collins area on Friday where we camped near Carter Lake. We were excited to check out the area after hearing great things. We went on a nice shakeout up a small mountain that a ranger pointed us towards, checked out the cool college town, then had some Mexican food for dinner like usual. Race morning I felt real great from the gun with all intentions to go hard for the W. I had seen the previous year's winner and CR holder had dropped down to the 25 miler so assumed there would not be anyone taking it out too crazy. I led up until the first decent where I first thought to myself, "oh shit this is a real trail, not a smooth California single track." I was thankful to have had some practice running in C-Springs with some decently tough trails, but I instantly knew I need more practice bombing down rugged trails. This is where - who I soon found out to be - Jim Rebenack went by me. This got me real excited as I wanted to run a fast time and knew I could not do it alone.
Jennie got some good shots.
For most of the first loop I would get Jim in my sights and then he would surge up and put some time on me. This went on until around mile 20 when my gosh darn hamstring started going haywire. I had felt this back at Way to Cool 50k a long time ago. Back then I came to the decision that it was from over striding, but that was when I was running a lot of slow miles. Going into this race I had been running much faster which made me really pissed off when my hamstring felt like it was about to rip anytime I opened the stride up. The last 4ish miles of the first loop are a smoooth downhill singletrack before you turn around and do the loop backwards. Right before this decent I took a moment to try stretching my hamstring thinking 'hey maybe it is just tight'....NOPE, that guy felt like it was gonna tear. So instead I was punching/massaging it while trying to run a decent pace down thinking how pissed I am to be running 7:30s when I had been catching Jim and should be bombing this decent. By the time I got to the turnaround and saw Jennie I decided to accept the struggle and take what my body was giving me. 'Fine I won't run like Walmsley, I will just keep the turnover short and quick and hope to baby Jesus this goes away.'
Turning around to do the backwards loop I kept getting splits that I was around 4-5 minutes back. This stayed the same which made me ask who the hell that dude in front of me is, but also stay positive that at least he wasn't gaining time. Going up to Towers aid station was a total ass kick. My hamstring had been doing much better (somehow) but I think my efficiency had gone to crap or something. That climb felt much more mentally destructive than it should have been. Hiking up it and yelling out loud like a zombie did not make it go by any quicker. I then realized that 82 degrees is f-ing hot to what I have been used to running in and that I am not drinking anywhere near enough water. The first signs of what were to come.
The decent into mile 40 was a blessing. Some much needed downhill to see Jennie. When I got there all I remember telling her was 'this makes the Headlands look like child's play' and that 'I am going to die.' I loaded up on Honey Stinger gels and took only one soft flask of water....again screwing myself. At this point I was now 11 minutes back and got a burst of competitiveness, which lasted a whole 5 minutes. From here on out became the biggest suffering of my young life. Every little kicker I hit became an instant struggle. I tried to brush it off and keep grinding but it only got worse. The final 4.5 mile climb came and I was DONE. A mixture of dehydration and what I can only guess is what people call 'blown quads.' Every single time I tried to drive my knee uphill I got dizzy, my heart rate spiked, and got extreme cramping in my booty and quads. I was forced to hike....then forced to walk because hiking made me feel like I was going to collapse. I had a mild case of this back in Chico 50 miler where it was hot as hell, but that eventually turned around.
I continued walking the final climb and attempting to run any flat section, which even then made me feel like I was going to melt into the ground. I started looking behind me waiting for somebody to pass. Then started looking at shady spots considering laying down hoping after a short rest I could run again. I walked into Towers aid, chugged water like a mad man, popped some Run Gum, and then shuffled into the final 4 mile decent which led to 2.5 mile of flat singletrack to the finish. At this point I knew I could 'jog' downhill, there was no excuse. What I was unsure of was if I would fall over and pass out.
As much as I want to finish on top the podium every race I do and try to make something of myself in this f-ed up sport, the real reason I enjoy ultras is for the suffering, as most people do. The first few ultras I did every time I finished I said 'oh that was the hardest one yet.' Then came a great string of races last year at Way Too Cool and Sonoma, then a complete learning experience at Run Rabbit 100. So before this race I was confident that I have experience now and know how bad it will hurt. The last ten miles of Quad Rock completely changed what I thought about pain. It was the feeling I have normally got after finishing an ultra and laying down...times ten...and I still had miles to run.
I let go of any expectation of time I had and focused on getting to the finish in second place no matter what. At this point I knew if I collapsed somebody would find me. I walked then shuffled 12 minute pace, seeing the finish slowly come into view the entire time. Everything I did to distract my mind failed and focusing on finishing involved desperately begging for the world to not go black. Every single muscle in my legs was randomly cramping trying to make me fall down. A mile from the finish I ran by a campsite where a loose dog chased me barking viciously. I was helpless as it ran towards me and thankfully it ran back to its owners, who I managed to mumble a 'Screw you' too. All the way to the finish I was basically moving forward without bending my legs as to not let them cramp and for me to eat it in front of everyone. Jennie got a video of me finishing and I think I yell out some vulgar language so I apologize to anyone there!
The most frustrating thing was after laying down for some time I felt much better...I knew it! But doing that in the race most definitely would have cost me 2nd place as Gabe Joyes was just a few minutes back. All in all that was hands down the darkest place I have ever been to. Partially from fatigue but mostly from pure pain in my legs. I was extremely proud of myself and if anything this race reassured me of my pain tolerance. It will take some time to piece together what went wrong. Right now I am just happy I did not end up in the medical tent or worse. Quad Rock is an unbelievably challenging, beautiful, and well put on event. I even got $200 woohooo #ultraballin. I would love to go back next year and try to put things together. For now I have a hell of a lot of thinking to do about my training....I do have a race with 40k of gain coming up....
Jim ran a great race. 3rd fastest time.
Thank you to all the volunteers for spending the day out in the brutal heat, to Honey Stinger and Run Gum for trying to keep me energized, and to Jennie for making this all possible.
I truly appreciate anyone taking the time to read this nonsense.