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NBCDu_logo>>>>>> Continued from 12-07-2013: Race Review: Weekend Double Header #2, Part #1: Illuminations 1/2 Marathon<<<<<<<<

I made it home after dropping off the stranded runner at his car, and I proceeded to regale Mrs MuddyJ with the tale I just told in the previous post. I checked with my close friend Red to make certain she was still up for accompanying me in the morning to play photographer at the Natural Bridge Caverns Duathlon and she assured me she wouldn’t miss it… I doubled checked Amelia, packed my race bags and decided to bring a sitting bucket…

…then I tried to settle in for a good night’s sleep…

Between post race high and pre-race excitement, a good night’s sleep managed to completely elude me, and I was forced to settle for a few hours sleep, waking up feeling as though my head had just hit the pillow with absolutely no time in between sleeping and waking. I shuffled around in the dark, trying not to wake Mrs MuddyJ, and I donned my Zoot tri-suit and added layers of warm clothing over it. I stumbled down the stairs, brewed a coffee and gave Amelia her final once over. I decided to start the race in VFF’s and socks, donning my TrekSports to handle the rocky trails of the NBC course…

With a coffee intake achieved, the fogginess in my brain started to clear. I finished getting ready and loaded Amelia onto her rack and pulled out of the garage and onto the street to wait for Red.

She arrived on a few minutes later, parked her car and hopped into mine…

“Sorry, Jack took a little bit longer than I expected to do his business in the cold” she said, referring to her family’s newest adorable four-legged member, “do we have time to stop for breakfast, I am starving!”

I told her we would have to settle for some gas station goodies and coffees, and that’s what we did; I grabbed an extra large one for Brian… cause I knew if I was feeling ragged, he would be too…after all, he had to tear down the Illuminations set-up last night, and then set up the NBC Duathlon’s race even earlier this morning…

….never forget, race directors are people too…

Having been to the Natural Bridge caverns once or twice for races before, I knew exactly where to go, and how to get there as well. Red and I chatted as we drove, and she offered to loan me her hot pink Zensah calf sleeves, since I couldn’t find mine…

Throwing fashion sense to the wind, I accepted her offer;preferring to be a little warmer than to be better looking….

In hindsight, I am pretty sure that those calf sleeves may have kept me from dying…

The NBC Caverns are a few miles north of San Antonio, and that few miles made a dramatic difference in temperature. The mercury was tipping a sweltering 25 degrees Fahrenheit when we arrived, and the first thing we noticed was how many parking spots were available. I would later find out that many racers bowed out because of the weather, as well as another Duathlon in the San Antonio area being cancelled. I briefed Red on the camera I was loaning her to take photos, and we hopped out of the car into the frosty morning so I could get to transition, deliver Brian his coffee, and get inside to PRD and get warmed up before the race.

The Transition area was nearly as empty as the parking lot. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be that big of a realization, but when you take into account there were four races occurring simultaneously, I was amazed, and puzzled,  (and relieved) that there were still so many racking spaces available:

Looking back…I should have been a little scared!

The four races I mentioned were all Run/Bike/Run Duathlons,  but with varying  distances; all would start in the cave:

  1. The Cave Bear: 2mi Run – 15.5mi Bike – 2mi Run
  2. Sabertooth: 2mi Run – 12mi Mountain Bike – 2mi Run
  3. Woolly Mammoth: 5k Run – 26mi Bike – 5k Run
  4. T-REX: 5mi Run – 26mi Bike – 5mi Run

Guess which one I signed up for?

The time until race start ticked by, and none of the racers seemed very eager to leaver the warm confines of the building to start, but as the appointed hour came, we we were all summoned outside for a pre-race briefing.

The pre-race briefing and prayer is a staple of Redemption Racing events… and this one was no exception. Due to the extreme drop in temperature, it was decided that ALL the road bike courses would be the same 15.5 mile route in the hopes that hypothermia would be avoided. I was initially a tad disappointed, but I would be lying if I also didn’t admit to some relief.

We bowed all our heads in prayer, and then headed back indoors to warm up before our respective races were to start….with my group, the T-Rex racers, headed out into the jaws of this course first.

Being a veteran of the NBC races, I knew the cave would be very warm and very humid, so I opted to run the first run portion carrying layers through the cave instead of wearing them, and donning them as I ran on and the cold got worse… mush the opposite of the usual ‘layer up and strip em off’ strategy that’s usually employed by most.

There were only about 20 of us that would be running the most extreme length race, with most others dropping back to the Woolly Mammoth 5k run distance, and sooner than later, it was my turn to start the run. I kept an easy pace, not wanting to overexert myself and start sweating before heading out onto the icy trails, and all too soon, I was reaching the bottom of the final ‘walk only’ switchback laden ascent from the cave:

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….and then the middle of that ascent,as the ‘walk only’ portion ended, Red was waiting to snap photos of the runners as they passed:

I walked the rest of the ascent until the air around became cooler as I moved upwards in elevation, by the time I hit the exit of the cave, I was moving quickly and braced for the pain I knew would hit me when I exploded from the mouth of the cave into the frigid hill country morning…like I said, I have done this before!

I used the coolness of the morning air to expedite my pace, as I had the night before, and I managed to keep a brisk pace, somewhere around 8:30 min/mile. Even though I had abused my legs at the Illuminations Half Marathon last night, crossing the finish line a of that little less than 12 hours before leaping across the starting line of this race, my ketogenic diet fueled body was feeling good and responding well despite the cold, and I hit the trails hard.

I grabbed a cup of water at the turn-around point, which was nestled at the BASE of a beautiful little hill that had descended about 1/4 of a mile in elevation over the last 1/2 mile of running…then I turned around to run up that beast….

Having learned a hard lesson the night before about climbing and exertion in the cold, I kept an easy pace on the toughest part of the climb. My strategy paid off at the summit, and I managed to maintain my pace all the way into transition:

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the highly visible running ninja appears again, and yes, that’s frost on my face mask

I hurried over to Amelia, sat down on my bucket and stripped off my VFF’s, keeping my heavywieght Injinji toe socks on as I crammed my feet into my cycling sandals, and then, as quickly as I entered I was out of transition and headed back out into the race…

… and into some serious trouble…

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The road bike race course was 15.5 miles of hill country, which is EXACTLY what I am used to riding, for 50 miles or more at a time. I had many advantages entering this course: I am used to riding hills I can spin my crank up them and tuck in and get aero to fly down ’em, Amelia is geared for it with her 11t-32t MTB cassette…. I had the mentality and ability to completely crush the 26 mile ride I had come expecting to ride, and I was certain I would demolish this short-little 15.5 mile jaunt….

….at least I was…

…until I hit the first descent….

DISCLAIMER: everything you are about to read is 100% my fault for not dressing appropriately… I am a dumb-ass for taking on this course in these temps in a tri-suit, calve and arm-sleeves and a long sleeve shirt… I should have been wearing much more clothing! Live and learn….

Running in the sub-freezing temperatures brought its own challenges, and I was COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY unprepared to handle the elements while riding. As I hit the first descent and pounded through my gears, I discovered the cold was severely limiting my legs ability to spin. The exposed flesh of my knees, which held no problems for me during the run, caused me copius amounts of pain with every passing moment they were exposed to the wind and cold. I tried to ride one handed and cover them, but that seemed even more dangerous, and an attempt to pull my calf sleeves over them proved laughable at best as they just rolled back down a few pedal strokes later.

Thinking I was most certainly already almost done with this ride and I had suffered through it into the final miles, I glanced at my watch…

…you know how, when you’re in pain, time seems to slow to an agonizingly slow crawl?….

….3.1 miles in, and only 10 minutes of riding had passed and I was feeling awful, and I still had 12 more miles to go... I knew was going to have to dig deep if I was going to even finish this race…
I was still passing other riders, and trying like hell to be outwardly optimistic as I passed, hiding the turmoil and pain I was suffering through in the hopes of inspiring other riders- I was also trying to take my mind off “the suck”

At 10 miles, I discovered the cold was starting to severely limit me: If I tried to spin out my crank on the descents, my calves became awful knots of agony, and the bitter cold of the wind sliced into and through me like millions of tiny scalpels, each finding a new nerve to tickle before severing that nerve’s transmission to replace the pain with an awful sensation that I can only describe as ‘numb and dumb’. As if my calve revolt was bad enough my quads would only complete a crank rotation on ascents as the direct result of my other leg pushing down -I had no ‘pull’…

The final few hills came and went in an agonizingly slow pace somewhere around 5-6 minutes a mile, I barely made it up the final hill, wobbling in the saddle the whole climb, but unable to muster the balance and strength to stand in the saddle…and then, I was finally back at transition.

I am not too proud to admit that the final miles of the cycle leg  stomped a mud pit in me and walked it dry… I numbly dismounted Amelia before the dismount line and stumbled into transition, leaning on her heavily. I gingerly placed her on the racks almost lacking the strength to heft her 20 lbs, and then I plopped down on my bucket. I stripped off my cycling sandals and reached for my VFF’s, seriously considering the option of failing to continue onward…

…a DNF…

…DID NOT FINISH…

..my first…

….over my cold, dead body… (which was actually a realistic possibilty)

I ran through my first aid training in my head, and I decided I was pretty sure I was exhibiting many symptoms of hypothermia, and that continuing on was about the dumbest thing I could then do…

….so guess what….

….I did the dumb thing and I continued on..

…instead of my VFF’s, I pulled on my Reebok trainers, which I had brought along as a “just in case”…. this was the “Just in case”

Thankfully, I had stripped out of my sweatpants in transition, and I muttered a prayer of thanks as I pulled them on over my frozen and now nearly useless legs before I stumbled out of transition and into the jaws of the final run.

Every step onward was aching drudgery, while a tiny little voice in the back of my head grew louder with every step…”just quit”, it said,”everyone will understand, a DNF isn’t THAT bad… you can just quit”

I gave up on trying to run after a few failed attempts and near stumbles… I just wasn’t coordinated enough to get my super-cooled muscles to run. I pulled my arms into my sleeves and kept them tight against my core, and I reached the first aid station…

A swallow of water and I continued on, my body wracked with shivering convulsions and my teeth chattering so loud and quickly I could have easily stood in for the drummer of a death metal band , or impersonated the entire drum line of a college marching band, just by holding a microphone next to my jaw. The voice in my head finally started to quiet a little as I hit the top of the final descent before the turnaround. At the bottom, I grabbed a water and sat in the passenger’s seat of a race volunteer’s running truck with the heater going full blast…

I didn’t take long enough to really warm up though, mostly because the pain caused by the sense of touch returned to my extremities was enough cause tears to flow down my cheeks…

I trudged back up the hill and completed the course, adopting a run/walk strategy as my core temperature rose enough to allow me to run without fear of falling. In the final two miles, I was passed by a 73 year man who took great care to stop and check if I would make the finish. His pace inspired mine, and I kept up with him for a shirt while, but my body was unwilling to keep the effort up and I had to let him go.

…You don’t stop running because you get old… you get old because you stop running…

I could hear the announcer’s voice over the PA system as I rounded the few final turns, and I picked up a light jog to the finish…passing by a runner who was just starting the course, I forgot my own misery and cheered him onwards… Then I managed to sprint the final approach….

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never in my memory has a race left itself so obviously stamped on my face

IMG_7515 IMG_7516 Red was there with her camera at the finish line, and she stood up after getting the last picture above..

“Dude, I know you’re way faster than that… I was seriously worried, and we were wondering if we should call your wife” she said as I collapsed against her, my legs finally too numb to stand for a moment.

“I’m ….sooooo…..cooooollllddddd”, was all I could manage to reply.

I made my way over to the grilling area and stood as close to the smoker as I was allowed until I warmed up. I kept rubbing my legs and chest as the feeling finally returned before pulling on some clothing I had left with Red earlier that morning. My friends came by congratulated me on my finish.

I ate some Koilbasa Sausage wraps and drank some OJ, feeling better with every moment I was getting warmer….

I made my way over to the timing trailer to check out my time, and I was astonished to find that I had finished in 3rd for my age group!

The awards were given out as the final runners crossed the finish line, and the crowd cheered as each one came in.

The Welsch sisters, who had run the Illuminations Half the night before, took overall awards for the Woolly Mammoth, apparently, they had dressed a bit warmer and handled the back to back races much better than I!

I collected my award as well, feeling elated I had even finished this race:

IMG_7546I have never come so close to quitting a race before, and it seemed like such an easy thing to do…not to mention smart…

Next time, maybe I’ll listen… probably I won’t….

…but one thing is certain, I will definitely wear warmer clothes!

Now to rest up and heal for my third double header weekend and my final two races of 2013,

The Windcrest City of Lights 5k:CoL5K_Logo…and a little tiny obstacle race known as the Spartan BEAST….

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Maybe, Just maybe the weather will warm up….

and maybe I’ll dress warmer…

….but I sure as hell won’t quit…

Stay Muddy My Friends!

Texas MuddyJ

 

 

 

 

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