All About Angela

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Returning to Badger

Last March, I ran my first trail 50k at the Badger Mountain can read about that here.  There was never any question that I'd return.... Initially, I planned to run the 50 miler. Somehow, I ended up registering for the 100.... An impulse decision - the cost difference was minimal and I was in excellent shape.... Why the hell not?!? I made a conscious decision not to broadcast that Badger was my first 100 attempt.... I didn't really want others to know...This was just for me.

Holy shit, the amount of prep required for a 100 miler..... And it's not cheap! Training is the easy part. Honestly, I felt that I had a solid game plan and was surprisingly chill at the start line.

Should probably learn how to pin a bib on shorts....doh!

Mile 1 - 10

Badger begins with a climb, making for an anti-climatic start.... Runners steadily congo their way up.

I'm alternating between easy running and hiking. The grade is runnable but I'm saving my legs. A sweet descent awaits.... A non-technical trail with quad-saving switchbacks.... I fly down, absolutely giddy.... This is MY day!

The first aid station comes quick. Not needing anything, I just charge on. Following a brief road section, we're planted onto some gnarly jeep trails.... definitely runnable BUT I'm constantly conscious of where I'm placing my feet.  Our second climb begins gradually but quickly turns STEEP.... Rocks shift constantly beneath you.... Slow and steady.... it's not just about conservation of energy but preservation of bone structure. Actually tapering has resulted in the desire to RUN.... I want to just blaze through the flat sections.... We spend a few miles on this glorious trail.... soft like sand with the type of rolling terrain that I love....I'm being conservative, though..... Fucking slow and steady.

Mile 10 - 20

Yeah... it looks just about like it was. No reminders about conservative pacing needed. See that second descent? That's where my race blew up.... I'm cautiously crawling down.... And then I falter, tripping over a rock.... I don't fall down but I can feel instantly that my ankle has twisted into a weird position.... Be positive.... No worries.... It will be OK..... And then almost immediately, I do the SAME THING on the SAME ANKLE..... Calm down.... Just get off this mountain.... It will be OK

An aid station lies at the bottom of the descent, a welcome distraction from my clumsy fumble down the mountain.... I grab a handful of pretzels, down a cup of Coke..... Four miles of asphalt stand between me and my dropbag. Ankle is tender but I've ran over 15 miles on REALLY rocky terrain so.... par for the course?

Mile 20 - 30

Hard asphalt did NOT help the ankle situation.... Each step sends shocks of pain up my leg.... I'm still not suuupppper worried.... I've dealt with ankle pain in trail races before.... Usually, it subsides or something else begins to hurt more. Either way, I'm immediately diggin' for the painkillers that I have stashed. Because I know a long climb is coming, I grab some candy bars for the stroll up the mountain....A handful of potato chips shoved into my face....Refill my water flasks.... Away I go! Still in really good spirits.

How I wish there were words to describe this climb. It just went on FOREVER. And the grade....oh the grade.... I had extreme jealousy for wise runners using poles....jealousy turned into hatred about halfway through the climb. Each step aggravated my ankle. I swear the summit was getting further and further away..... I've never been such a baby.  A man who'd previously run the 100 informed me that he had broke down during the second climb up, sitting down and crying like a baby.... I could envision a similar scene playing out that evening.

Why cannot pictures capture steepness? It's a conspiracy!

I didn't even notice someone taking pictures. This may be the most unflattering picture EVER.... you can see the struggle.... Am I freaking there yet?

My mood drastically improved upon reaching the summit.... Even more so after I was told that I would not have to descend the same way that I came up, which had created quite the internal panic. Next, we ran along the ridgeline of this mountain.... 4.5 miles of rough terrain out.... and then back! THE legendary Gunhild Swanson was volunteering at the turnaround....She's a huge inspiration of mine and just an incredibly awesome individual.... Seeing her provided a huge mental kick in the ass. Suddenly, I was FLYING....I was passing other runners... All smiles and rainbows! Knowing Jeff would be waiting at the next aid station helped tremendously. The descent down McBee was glorious - flowy, soft singletrack. Happy Happy!!! Joy Joy!!!

Mile 30 - 45

Per usual, I was stoked to see my bearded partner - he's just one swell fella. Our seven year old, Colton, came along....He lovingly pointed out that I was drenched in sweat but hugged me anyway. As I inhaled a turkey + avocado wrap, Jeff praised me for eating then nagged me to continue doing so.

I had begun to notice that my feet were swelling, leading to shoes that were becoming increasingly tight. I made a rookie mistake here..... I should have stopped and changed shoes..... I purposefully packed a roomier pair in my bag but I didn't want to take the time. I wouldn't have another chance for 20 miles. Jeff loosened my laces which initially felt amazing BUT.... within a few miles, I felt like my feet were being squished into shoes several sizes too small....this is unpleasant to say the least.

I was chuggin' along quite nicely for about ten miles.... Because I was alone, I took the opportunity to belt out my favorite jams.....You'd be surprised at how much singing "Rocket Man" at the top of your lungs can boost morale.

Around mile 43, we had to run a "long" stretch of highway [it was less than two miles but felt like twenty].... The painkillers that I'd taken earlier began to wear off and I was in pain again.... For the first time ever, I asked another runner for Ibuprofen. Each step made it increasingly clear that I wouldn't be finishing 100 miles today.

Mile 45 - 51

The first ascent / descent pictured here is the hardest due to the terrain. Rocky jeep trails with a bum ankle = OUCH.

We had a game plan - Jeff would be there at the end of the first loop (mile 50) .... I'd change EVERYTHING (including underwear) and eat a real meal. When I updated Jeff, I knew he was worried that I was really injured this time. I've flirted with injury numerous times but I've been incredibly lucky in that regard. You just never know when you'll get THE INJURY....The one that will sideline you for months.

When I got to the final ascent (Badger Mountain), I was experiencing a brief second wind / burst of confidence.... I flew up Badger, passing hikers and other runners.... Reality sunk in on the descent. Ankle still fucked up. Craptastic. Ultimately, I took the 50 mile finish rather than the 100 mile DNF.... I know that I could have hobbled further - another 10 miles, maybe even another 20.... 50? No way. I was worried that continuing to run on an unstable joint would make it much, much worse. I have so many races that I'm freaking stoked about....Did I want to risk an entire season of fun? Hell no. Could this have been all mental? My mind rationalizing quitting. I'm going to be brutally honest here. Maybe.

With all this behind me, I feel that I learned so much.... I've never started a race with 100 milers before.... I've never had an opportunity to really witness what they do. With Bryce 100 rapidly approaching, what am I going to do differently / the same? Here's the key things....

1.) Change shoes and socks every 30ish miles. Yeah, I can make 50 miles in one pair of shoes. But I did end up with blisters and the taping that I'd done on my feet came off. Additionally, the aforementioned swelling.... who knows? Maybe my tight shoes exacerbated the ankle issue. Taking care of your feet is worth the extra few minutes.  Shoes + socks + blister kit in EVERY bag.

2.) I failed AGAIN from a nutritional standpoint. I've been filling my hydration bladder (2L) with a Tailwind / Lemonade mix....I do about 400 calories / bag.... The intention is to finish one bag every four hours. I didn't even finish one bag in 12 hours. Being I consume most of my calories from liquid - BAD BAD BAD. I'm going to start carrying water in the bladder and filling the soft flasks up front with Tailwind mix (150 calories per bottle) - it will be much easier to ensure that I'm taking in what I need to. I did eat real food here and there.... something small from each aid station.... I want to continue doing this.

3.) Poles! Bryce has 18,000' + feet of solid gain.... I am not trying to reach a certain level of badass here.... I've decided that I'm going to order a nice set of poles and learn to use them.