Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lack Of Water: The Bangs Canyon 60K/30K Trail Run

Shelter is a place
That I would like to behold
Better get to getting
Before I get old 

The Bangs Canyon Trail Run, Fatass, whatever you like to call it, is an old tradition that was off for a few years locally. Then, Kevin Koch picked up race directing for it a few years ago, and a great post-New Year's tradition was back. This first year he threw it, I wasn't there, but it sounded like fun. As I mentioned in last year's recap of this race, a Fatass, in trail running terms, is a very low-key, no-frills longer trail race, commonly held just after the start of a new year. But, Kevin's version is definitely a some-frills variety. He marks the course the day before, provides you with a trail map, and brings out a fire pit, beer, and snacks to the Bangs Canyon parking lot. This year, our friend Ray was also bringing a tent up so if runners chose, their kids could come along and play. I did a decent job at this last year, finishing around 3:57. I didn't anticipate breaking four hours then, so I was pretty stoked about that. This year, I figured with my increased volume and better trail feet, I'd turn in an even faster time.

Since the new year, I've been running, but haven't really run longer than about 12 miles in the past few weeks. My fitness seemed good, though, and there's a lot of hiking on the second half of the 30K loop, so I figured, hey. I'm golden for a good power hike. I slept fairly late that morning, ran into Angela and Kristin at the nearby Albertsons parking lot where I'd just bought some bananas, and headed up Little Park Road to Bangs Canyon. There are multiple trailheads off this road, and we climbed and twisted up the road for about ten minutes before arriving at the Bangs parking lot. It's been bitterly cold lately, and today was no exception. Still, the sun was out and looked like it would be a good day for a run. The lot was covered in snow, and I knew the trail would be as well.

The other big thing that happened recently is that I registered for the Leadville Trail 100. It's in seven months, which gives me plenty of time to build my mileage base steadily but gradually. When Kevin saw me walking up, he said "Here's our first 60K entrant!" I laughed it off. Nope, not ready for that today. I'd been in kind of a hurry getting out the door and did not grab gels or food for the run. I didn't really think I'd need them; the year prior I didn't have a ton of water, and had maybe a gel and was fine. I figured I should probably have a banana, though, and shoveled one down.

 I got my pack ready, and a lot of the usual suspects started arriving. While this is officially a 30K and 60K, Kevin records times for whomever shows up, at whatever distance they run. Hence, it's a "the more the merrier" vibe with some newer or shorter distance running folks coming out who might not otherwise be there, planning on everything from 6 miles up to about 16 miles, the distance covered if one runs all the way down to the river's edge at the bottom of the loop, and then runs back up the same way they came.

Everyone was pretty darn chilly, so we were excited to get the group photo taken and get this sucker underway. I had my Nathan pack about 2/3 full, which seemed just about right for a run under four hours.

Then, we grouped up together (I'm not sure you'd say we "lined up"'s early, people), and Kevin sent us on our way. 

On the way down the hill, there was a lot of chatter, and I felt pretty good. I was by myself some of the time, but also talked to folks along the way whenever we passed one another. All the snow had kind of evened things out. I'm stronger on downhills than uphills, and I felt like i was mostly flowing down the trail, but did have some slips and slides in the snow. Keith (she's a chick) caught up and passed me a few miles in. My friend Jen from Delta also caught up and moved past. We said howdy before she moved along. 

I was just behind neighbor Bryan, dropping further back on climbs, and usually catching almost all the way back up to him on downhills. And Marty, who wasn't even sure if he was running down to the river or all the way around, had decided to run with a 40-lb pack with sand tubes inside it (a sandbagger, literally), and fun-photo-run until he decided not to run. I leapfrogged him a number of times as he stopped for pics.

Lack of water
Got to free yourself
Maybe I'm to blame
But it's not too far to see

Getting all the way down to the river, I was feeling warmed up, and now I was thirsty. I realized I had not had a single sip of water all the way down; I just hadn't felt thirsty. Now, I was sweating, and had some serious hairsicles. Whoops. That was sort of a dumbass move to not drink for eight miles. I went to sip on the end of the line to my pack, and-nothing. I tried again. Nothing. Well, shit. While water was sloshing around in my pack, the line was frozen. This might be a problem.

As I moved along the river, I made one brief wrong turn but immediately corrected myself, running into Shannon and Marty when I found my way back to the trail. I said "my line's frozen." Marty said here, take this, offering a handheld about 1/3 full of Perpetuem. Don't you need that, I asked? Nah, I have another, he said. I didn't give it a second thought in accepting the bottle, then, knowing he had another. He's so damn fast and strong I figured he'd probably pick up the pace shortly and haul buns in to the finish. We leapfrogged once more (we think maybe I took an accidental parallel turn), and then they were gone. I had guzzled the Perpetuem and felt like crap now trying to slog uphill in the snow. I was super thirsty and started scooping up handfuls of snow and sucked on that as I hiked up.

Somewhere along the way, I had what could best be described as a series of unpleasant texts that further soured how I was feeling. I tried to block that out of my mind, and kept moving, but there was no denying that I felt like shit. It was beautiful out, though, so I tried to focus my energy on that, and not feeling terrible. At one point, I turned around, and was surprised to see that John was back there. When he eventually reached me, he said he was self-appointed sweeper for the day, and started moving along with me, saying it would suck to do this hard by myself. He was right, and I was glad he was there. He helped me get some water poured out of my pack into the handheld, and I immediately guzzled that, filling it back up right away. He also had some gels on hand, which I happily scarfed down when he offered them. All the while, I felt kind of like a dumbass. I should know better than to be out here with no calories to consume. Even the rest of the bunch of bananas would've been something. I'd left them in the car, though. I hadn't expected to get this worn out or dehydrated on such a cold day.

Continuing along, I realized I would come nowhere close to my 3:57 finish last year. John trotted ahead for awhile, but he'd drawn some funny pictures in the snow and written words here and there with his trekking poles, which was rather amusing and kept me focused. Finally, we hit the high point, and the trail started meandering downhill. Thank you! Finally! I felt marginally better, but still like crap. The downhill helped, though, to not blow all that was left of my energy.

I followed John all the way down before the trail starts climbing again, where we ran into his wife, Julie. PHEW! I was starting to worry, she said to John. He said nah, I'm fine, just appointed myself sweeper and taking it easy. I told Julie I was lucky he did, because he really pushed me along there for awhile, and bailed me out on water and gels. She mentioned that she had just given Marty some water, and that he wasn't looking good, either. Wait, what? I was not expecting to hear that the guy who ran three hundred-milers last fall, and wins almost everything he enters, was still on the course, let alone in bad shape. I figured he was likely done by now, though, with just a mile of uphill left. John and Julie went down the trail a bit to hang out and hike and I continued on uphill. Not too far ahead, I was totally surprised to completely catch up to Marty, who was alternately hunching over, and walking very, very slowly. 

The first thing he said when I caught up was "Do you have any food?" No, I said. But, I have a full handheld of water. Here, I said, passing it over. He took a good swig but then asked me to take it back and hold it for him. Wow, he was in really bad shape. We kept crawling slowly up the canyon and I was glad we were almost done. I kept offering the water since I wasn't sure he'd remember to ask for it. Every once in awhile he'd stop, but did keep moving. When we got to about half a mile from the finish, I asked where his stuff was in his car so I could trot on ahead, and have his food waiting at the campfire, and brought the handheld with me to run back down. He'd guzzled it. I came up the hill, Kevin saw me, got up, and took a picture after I'd finished. Last year, 3:57. This year, a sucktastic 5:03. But hey. I made a bunch of dumbass mistakes and was done. He cracked "just one more lap to go!" I think you can tell by the look of this that there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that I was getting out there again.

From there, though, I didn't sit down right away, running over to grab Marty's stuff, and handing Bryan the empty handheld which he then filled and ran back down to him. I grabbed a few bananas from his bag and ran back down the trail. He was moving really slowly, but despite that, didn't want to take off the pack. He scarfed the bananas, and made a couple of not-fit-for-print comments about his hunger level. Sense of humor was still intact, though, and we all walked up the hill and on in to the finish. I am pretty sure that was a first for him-a legitimate dead last finish. He'd made more or less the same dumbass mistake I had, but on a grander scale with the pack, and the running back and forth, adding extra distance to his run, at "normal people" speed and not fast guy speed.

Recharging by the fire, I scarfed down some of Ray's most awesome beans, and watched my youngest playing with some of the other kids in the snow. By the time I got on dry clothes, and had eaten plenty of food, I was feeling far more human. My middle daughter Kaia also arrived, which was great.

After the race, I was sort of dumbfounded as to how someone like me, who should know WAY better, managed to get herself dehydrated in this race. Other people said this was a hard day for them, too-that they worked harder and drank more than expected. Thinking back to the conditions the year prior, it had been warmer, overcast, and just a few patches of snow on the trail here and there. With the low temperatures, sun, and snow all the way through, i guess we were just expending a lot more energy. And, thus, needed to be taking in even more calories and water. To be fair, I'd skimped a bit last year on that, and really just got lucky because of the conditions.

On the upside of things, I got myself a good learning experience. And, it was on a day when really nothing was at stake. I thanked my lucky stars that John had been out there to help me along; it would've been worse had he not decided to have a trail enjoyment stroll. And, I can say thank goodness there's seven months until Leadville; I have a great deal of work to do between now and then. Until then, I will keep training, increasing the miles, and trusting the process along the way.


***Most local friends know by now, but there was tragic accident that took place on the Grand Mesa at the County Line cross country ski trailhead parking lot on the same day and during the timeframe of our Bangs Canyon run. This accident claimed the lives of Julie's parents/John's in-laws, who were up there to enjoy a cross country ski, where many of us also enjoy skiing and snowshoeing. Please keep their family in your thoughts, and if you're the praying type, please send them prayers as they deal with their loss and grief. Live and love each day to the fullest, and hold close those who matter most in your life.***