Sunday, September 14, 2008

2008 Bradbury Bruiser: My Comedy of Errors

Some races just do not turn out the way they are supposed to. The morning dawned perfect with me rising naturally two minutes before the alarm sounded. I had not moved positions since falling asleep early (quarter after 11 is early for this night owl) and felt great. I can't remember the last time I got a solid almost eight hours of sleep. I just knew the race was going to be as epic as a 12-mile trail race on gnarly trails could be.

Fast forward a couple of hours. We arrives at Bradbury ready to race. It's great to see Jamie working registration. As is often the case with me, I sign up the day of the race. After the Ironman corporation took my registration fees for Ironman Wisconsin a couple years ago (my son was born the same week as the race and Kelly wouldn't let me go!), I know wait as long as possible to sign up for races. After registering, I ran into James (in a new jewel bedecked Trail Monster singlet looking dapper), said my hellos, and moved over near the start.

Present were some quick, young guys who had not been present at any of the prior Bradbury races. I knew this was going to be a quick race. After Jamie rang the traditional cowbell to start the race, the quick guys predictably raced off the front. I went with them, as I was feeling great, and hung with them for a few miles through the Laszlo trail and slightly beyond. A few guys sped up a bit and I fell off the front with a couple others, now running in 5th place. With me was Floyd, a roadrunning buddy, and another really young guy. Floyd was having a hard time in his road shoes on the soupy trail, while my Brooks Cascadias were holding up pretty well.

Around mile 5 my first stomach issue presented itself and I had to duck into the woods. As I am seasoned at this type of occurrence (!), I was back on the trail quickly having lost maybe only 10-15 seconds. I could still see 4th and 5th place in front of me and I worked hard to catch them. Within the next couple miles this darting in the woods and trying to catch back up happened two more times. I am not sure what was wrong. I might have had a touch of Quinn's stomach virus from Friday night or maybe it was the beer and barbecue from Saturday night's late meal (post-Maine Roller Derby - what a show). Either way, each time I stopped for this pit stop I lost a little more energy and focus. It was this loss of focus that hurt me the most.

After the third stop I was unable to catch Floyd and the young kid. (Floyd would go on to run a course of his own design and finish as a DNF for getting lost...he did beat me out by a little for Best Bruise at the awards ceremony.) At this point I was all alone on the trail, feeling sapped of energy, with tons of negative vibes coursing through me. As I became more frustrated at having lost the group I had worked hard to stay with, the rain started coming down a little harder and the terrain became a bit more difficult with rocks introduced to the trail. It was just after the mid-way point that I had my first head over heals spill. As I was descending a rocky trail I tripped and landed on my right side and proceeded to roll over onto my back. I was pretty cut up and shaken by this fall but was able to get up quickly and move out. I was a bit beat up from this episode, with a couple good strawberries on the outside of my right knee and gashes on both elbows, the right one which was bleeding down my arm pretty profusely.

Not a mile later I repeated this same type of fall as I was approaching a water station. It was after this fall that DNF'ing embarrassingly started entering my thoughts. My stomach was not cooperating, I was bleeding pretty good, and I had slowed down considerably. As I was heading up one of the only straightaways of the course (a snowmobile trail that dissects the single track trails), four other runners passed me. While I was pretty deflated at this point, getting passed motivated me. I figured this comedy of errors couldn't continue any longer (I was half right) so I might as well enjoy the rainy run and muddy trails.

Besides the side effects of having loose bowels for the first half of the race, open wounds, and a wounded psyche, the rest of the race went alright. As I approached the hardest part of the course, the "O" Trail, I noticed my buddy Jeff approaching. I knew Jeff was a good runner but did not expect to see him running so well having just returned this summer from a nasty injury. I was happy to see Jeff. We ran together on the "O" trail with Jeff giving me some respectable distance; enough for me to correct a wrong turn into some deep water and stay in the lead.

It was shortly after this foray into a swamp that reminded me of Yoda's planet, that I fell for the third and final time of the day. I slipped on a wet root as I was turning, losing my footing and slamming my head into the root. When I hit I felt my head rebound and I just knew I had either lost some teeth or had a concussion. Well, I did neither. At that point I just wanted to laugh while at the same time kneeling to ask God what I had done wrong to deserve this treatment! Jeff was kind enough to stop and check on me. I told him to go ahead and he did so hesitatingly. It's good to have people like Jeff out there who are willing to give up a good race to check on the well-being of another runner. Good karma for Jeff.

The rest of the race found me trailing Jeff with no other runners near us at all. Near the end of the "O" Trail we ran into a couple guys in front of us who had hesitated at an incorrectly trail marker. We hollered at them to continue in the way they were going and I stopped to correct the marker. The "O" Trail is nothing if not cruel. What a way to end a race. It would be fun at the beginning but at the end it is maddening. As I exited onto the snowmobile trail for the final quarter mile I could see a couple runners in front of me but I just had no energy for a kick. I finished in tenth place and about 40 seconds faster than last year when I finished in 4th place. The course this year was slightly different than last year so I am not sure how much time difference that made (good or bad), but either way I persevered through some pretty trying challenges and lived to run another day (heavily bandaged).

Thanks to Ian, Emma, Erik, Jamie, James and all the other Trail Monsters and fellow runners for all their work to produce another great race. Cheers.


mindy said...

All that and you didn't get best bruise!? Was Floyd airlifted out of the forest or something?! Glad to hear you're ok it sounds like quite a day! Congrats on shaving time off your last time, too!

Jamie said...

Those were definitely some pretty good scrapes! Well done, sir. Way to battle through it all and still finish strong.

And yes, just to confirm for WS, I of course want you as my pacer! Seeing how you practically paced me the first 70 miles at the Vermont 100, it's obvious we're a really great team. See you soon!