AKA: Lake Murray Muddy Massacre
Once the decision to DNF is made, it is always the right one*. End of statement.
I'll get back to that but first the "thank you"s
I need to thank Anne and Chris at Blaze, for letting us play in their mudpit. Thanks to all who marked the course (not sure who besides Ben and Chris did that), for me the 100 mile markings were perfect. Thanks to DDR, Dirt&Vert, having so many friends out there helped keep spirits up (I won't name them all, otherwise this report will be a lot longer). Thanks to Shellene, for putting up with me, especially when I was a muddy mess (not to be confused with the normal daily mess that I am in life). Thanks to all the other runners, for being out there during the good and bad, just keeping on keeping on. As always, this ends the important stuff, all else below the line is fluff.
* This does not include the "I just didn't feel like running" or "They were out of red M&Ms and that's all I can eat during a race".
This past weekend Blaze Trails Running hosted the Lake Murray Endurance Run, and 25 out of the 40 runners in the 100 mile DNF'd. Also, 4 runners ran under the old course record (and until this year only 4 runners had finished the 100 out there). I was part of the first group, and until I DNF'd I was holding pace to join the second group. To me the course was very runable, even with the mud - but then I love running in the mud.
There are lots of reasons to DNF, and a lot of them occurred during the race this year, and they were all valid. In my case I was still moving well, no matter how much I was complaining about my lack of legs (I actually had my 5th fasted 100k, even with walking two miles in an hour). At about mile 59.5 I hit an unexpected patch of mud and hyperextended my knee. It took about 10 minutes to be able to bend it back to where I could walk almost normally, and then I started doing the math. I could have "easily" finished under 30 hours (I forgot that they extended the race clock) just by walking 22 min/miles, but was it worth it? I thought about how my year as a runner has been going (DNF, bad 50k, solid 50 mile, UTMB, and now this). I thought about the risk-to-reward of finishing and whether a DNF was going to "hurt" or not? In the end there was no decision, I'm old, I don't heal as fast as I used to, and I'm not a "Death before DNF" runner - I'm a "let's have fun" runner (and yes, I really was having fun running in the muddy mess), so I got to the timing mat and had Anne take off my chip. Looking back, it was the right choice, end of statement.
The race started off fast, really fast and I found myself running with a fun bunch, that included Tyler, Brad, Dylan, Heather and a few others. The runners got treated to full-on trash talking with Tyler, Brad and myself until I figured out that the pace was too rich for me, and I slowed up (as did Heather). Brad and Dylan also figured that out and the four of us ran together for a bit. It was a great 8 miles of "miles and smiles". I've run with Brad in the past, and I knew Heather but never had the privilege of actually running with her until this weekend, I'm glad I can no longer say that. She slowed off the pace and settled into her race, I dropped off the pace that Brad and Dylan were holding and settling into my race. Covered lots of miles solo, which I enjoy, while seeing other runners on the out and back sections, which I also enjoyed. Heather's family (I met them at Buzzards) kept updating me on where she was, and the fact that she was gaining on me, so I knew she'd catch me.
Heading into Buzzards from the start on my second loop, I caught Brad. I shouldn't have caught Brad! I slowed down and walked with him to the aid station, he was pretty sure he had the flu, and I figured my legs could use a short break. Got to Buzzards and dropped him off with John, if you're ever in bad shape at an aid station, John is one of the people you want there. Last year at Lake Murray, that was the spot the Brad DNF'd, I imagine that when he runs it again next year, he's going to sprint through that spot without stopping. As I was leaving I told him that if he didn't make the right choice, I'd see him on the trail in a bit. I didn't see him again, he made the right choice, end of statement.
Leaving Tuckers the second time, the DDR crew there serenaded me with Creep by Radiohead:
"But I'm a creep
I'm a weirdo"
Yes I am, and they are my people.
I got back to Buzzards, and Andrew was stirring it up big time, telling Dylan that I was old and slow and about to pass the torch to him. Yes, I am old, but honestly I'm not "that" slow - no matter how much I say I am 😃 So, I caught Dylan and his pacer shortly after I left the aid station. Later on, as I was walking it in they caught me, so I did pass the torch to him. Sadly, in the process the torch got dropped in the mud. I'm not sure why he DNF'd, but I know it was the right choice, end of statement.
Between Buzzards and Cisco I caught Tyler. He was limping hard, from an impact with a tree. His plan was to walk it in to the start/finish and get at least 62 miles. I told him he should stop at Cisco, but he wanted to push through. The injury was all soft tissue, doing so wasn't going to add further damage. There was no doubt that he made the right choice, end of statement.
I got to talk to a few other runners, including Fiona, who DNF'd at Cisco the first time - and then went to get stitches in her hand from where she fell. Also, one runner DNF'd because she was worried about getting injured. Sometimes the weather does you in, if it's 105 and you're worried about overheating, if it's 30 and you're going hypothermic, if it's a muddy mess and you aren't comfortable in the mud, stopping is the right choice, end of statement.
Now as for me and mud, I love running in it. I've put many miles at muddy races, and each time I've had fun. I changed my shoe choice for this race, switching from my standard Salomon (I would have been in SpeedCross, which were in my drop bags) to La Sportiva and they worked really well. They have slightly softer lugs than my SpeedCross, so they slipped a little, but the softer lugs worked better on the wet bridges and rocks. While some runners tried to skirt the mud and puddles, for the most part I just went right up the middle, laughing the entire way, just ask the poor runners who were skirting one of the big puddles as I yelled up to them: "prepare to get wet!". I'm not sure what I did wrong where I hyperextended my knee, it didn't look that muddy. Ah well, take the DNF and move on, end of statement.
I talked about 5 runners who all made the right choice, there were 19 other runners who made a similar choice as well as Maria who got timed out (and took her DNF like a champion). Each of us made a choice, and it was the right one, end of statement.
Thinking about Maria being cut, I really think that the only thing more gutting than getting cut at the last checkpoint when you are still in the condition (mentally, physically and emotionally) to continue is to have the finish line close while you are in the finishing chute (saw that happen to someone trying for their Leadman a few years back). It is a tough game we choose to play, and tough players play it.
I did get to see some glorious moments out there. In no particular order:
Seeing Alex back on a race course again, if you don't know his story, you need to talk with him.
Seeing Tod Tieszen get his first 100 mile buckle.
Seeing Heather leave it all out on the trail.
Seeing Kecia Schell finish the 100k as her first ever trail run, not race, first ever trail run!