"I'm sure glad you're not going back out. I wanted to ask you not to, but I don't like to say anything."
So said the nice lady as I sat at the Texas Aid station Saturday. At mile 35 I realized I had bit off more than I could chew. So I walked to the mile 39 aid station and called it a day. My race was over.
I was fortunate enough to have some company driving up to the headwaters of the Nueces River. Angela was here from Montana to visit her coach, my good friend Liza, and to run the Nueces 50 miler. We had a good time chatting on the two hour drive up from San Antonio. I described the course to Angela forgetting how really rocky it actually is. It had been four years since I last ran this course.
Our Rockhopper group was well represented at this years race. We had about four cabins reserved. David from Albuquerque and I hung out and visited with folks before retiring to our 15 bed cabin. It's fun sharing a cabin with friends. You have to be careful with your normal bodily functions though. Restroom visits at night are common with me as with others, I found out. Someone did ask that the very loud air hand dryer not be used. As usual I was the first one to fall asleep and the first one up.
The 50 miler started before sunrise at 6 A.M. Early on in the dark, I chatted with Jean, Angela and Elizabeth. later I would run into Ben. My plan was to run easy and and take it as it comes. Not much of a plan huh? I had no expectations in the weeks leading up to the race but a couple of days before I wondered if I could break 12 hours. Maybe even get close to 11 hours! I decided I'd walk every incline no matter how short. That was working well for the first 17 mile loop. At the start of the second loop I thought I was still in good shape and not running too fast. The climbs seemed a bit more challenging and the day was getting hot. Earlier I had been running with my friend Fumi but now she was long gone ahead of me and moving very well. It turned into a windy clear day after a very cool morning. These type of days in the beautiful Texas Hill Country remind me of my youth vacationing with my family, my boy scout days camping and fishing, and later as a teen attending church retreats in these hills. Fond memories.
I must have been daydreaming too much, and getting tired when I fell at about mile 25. Going down hard I must have made some noise because a runner about 30 yards ahead turned and ran back to me. I told him it felt good laying on the ground. "no, you need to get up." he said. Jerry helped me up and faded off into the woods. At this point my back began to ache as did the soles of my feet. Running on the solid rock of the dry creek bed was no help. Out of the creek, the rocks on the trail felt sharper on this second loop. After ascending the toughest climb which I would guess is over a mile long and maybe 600 feet (I wore no Garmin) the downhill going into the aid station at mile 30 did a number on my back. I've never experienced back aches on a run like I did on this day. Leaving the aid station on my way to completing loop two, my buddy Tom caught up with me on his way to finishing up his 50K. I told Tom I need to change into my Hoka running shoes to help with the beating my back, feet, and legs were taking. Tom and I chatted as we ran along the river before he ran ahead to his finish.
Arriving at the start/finish after completing two loops and 33+ miles our great group of friends tended to me as though I was leading the race. Rachel and Liza helped me to the aid station table, Tom had let the gang know I wanted a change of shoes. At our Rockhopper Aid camp, Michele and Jason changed my shoes, Kelli cut open my avocado, Jeanie peeled a tangelo for me. It was like I was in a NASCAR race and they were my pit crew. I did not tell them how much I hurt. I couldn't.
Leaving the aid station to cheers I ran through the chute and into the woods. From this point to the Texas aid station, 5 1/2 miles, I stopped three times. I was feeling dizzy (and realized later that I was not sweating). At one point my heart was beating very fast. I found some shade and sat on a rock waiting for my heart to slow down. I thought I was drinking enough. I had tried drinking more. To the point where the water was sloshing around in my stomach. Bad feeling when you're trying to run.
Arriving at the Texas aid station Mike helped me sit down. He filled my water bottles and gave me stuff to eat. Others helped by asking how I was. The nice lady smiled at me. Jean came in and asked how I was before she left with Mike pacing her. "I'm through having fun for today." I said. With a sympathetic voice, Jean asked if the heat was what got to me. I nodded but thought to myself, I don't know if it was just the heat or my body just breaking down today.
I did not want to quit but why torture myself. I thought about Ralph Macchio's character Daniel in The Karate Kid movie when he asks Miyagi to heal him so he can complete the tournament and find "balance." Miyagi responded, "win or lose, no matter." That's right Miyagi!
Dropping from this race will not define me. I have "balance" in my life.
I had fun. Making a new friend driving up, hanging out with old friends, and running with them through the beautiful Hills. As Joyce kneeled in front of me to ask how I was before driving me back to the start I said, "I'm OK, and you know, It's like Joe says, Its just a f***ing run,"
My friends still love me (Several checked in on me later that night and the next day to make sure I was OK). My wife Ron and I had a laugh when I got home as I told her she's been right all along, I'm not superman. My dog ran to me too! He offered comfort and lifted the pout off my face.