Sunday, October 5, 2014

Georgia Jewell 100 Race Report

Pinhoti Trail - Georgia
And then there are those days…

And this was one of them…

Running the Georgia Jewell 100 seemed like a good idea at the time. I was going to be in the U.S. for meetings that would span a weekend. “Why not run an American trail ultra for old times sake?” was my thought. When the Georgia Jewell 100 came up during a search of races the idea of running through the wooded forests of northern Georgia sounded fun.  I’ve been running well, feeling reasonably healthy, and felt like it was time to try and bust out a good time for a 100.

The lead up to the race was not ideal. I was working long days with events each evening that went too late into the night and with too much alcohol. I was tired. Then the stress of a delayed flight to Atlanta, rush hour traffic, and racing to get to the pre-race check-in before it closed Friday night. I crawled into bed thinking, "I just want to sleep in – not get up at 3:30 am to run."

As I waited for the start I felt ready. There was a small field of 50 or so runners with some regional speedsters. I was confident that unless I made some big mistakes or something went terribly wrong I could place, and possibly win. This confidence was buoyed by the ease in which the early miles passed in the predawn dark. Within the first few miles I was off the front and by myself. A nice place to be.

Despite being in the lead and feeling physically good – I wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t have a hunger to race. My motivation was lacking. This was unusual in that for me the day was as good as it gets; I felt strong and healthy, the weather was perfect, the trail was stunning, and I was in the mix.

I tried to go to that other place - leave the present and find a daydream that would entertain my mind for miles. But I couldn’t. At about mile 35 I hit a low spot. My mind kept repeating, “I’m bored.” My non-listening self kept replying “then deal with you boredom.” This was not a good place to be. I was frustrated.  It was too early in the race to slip into a trough when arguably things were going so well. With resignation I accepted the reality that if I just kept moving and running smart, in time this would pass and I would again feel engaged. I kept running...

At the turnaround at 52 miles my condition had not improved. I was still in the trough. I resorted to my ever-reliable pathway out of the funk. Coke. I downed several cups and asked that my water bottle be filled with the elixir. High fructose corn syrup would be the answer to my funkatosis.

As I began the return journey the Coke in my bottle began to fizz out dripping down my lower back and into my crack. Soon after I had to take a Shilling from drinking so much Coke on an unsettled stomach. This presented a problem in that I had decided to run light with just a Gregory Tempo waist pack. I had used all of the pocket space for gels and had deliberately decided to not bring any toilet paper. My cotton Armani button-down would need to take one for the team. Then, I noticed a pressure point in my right shoe, it was sort of like a rock stuck in the sole feeling, but different. After scuffing my shoe on rocks hoping to dislodge whatever was stuck on the bottom of my shoe, I stopped to take a look. Upon inspection I discovered that the bottom of my, out of the box, Montrail Fly had delaminated. All I could do was laugh at how my sticky shitting ass was still somehow moving forward despite a broken hoof. Perhaps self-pity would turn this race around for me?

The return was a slog. I listened to every breath. I felt every step. I could never find that other place where miles and time pass without effort. I cursed myself for not having placed some tunes in a drop bag for a mid-race distraction. My stomach remained unsettled and my ass remained sticky as bottle after bottle of Coke dribbled down my backside. I kept on running, counting the breaths, the steps, and the miles...

I wanted the win, but was unwilling to earn it. As the sun set laziness set in and I was walking uphills that I should (and could) have been running. But, I didn’t care. I rationalized to myself that if I saw a light, I would turn it on knowing that I had a lot left if needed. I was deliberately choosing to run lazy, blaming it on my defective shoe, chaffed ass, and bored mind. 

After passing the 100-mile mark I lost patience with being complacent and decided it was time to get this race over. I pushed hard the last five miles (The Georgia Jewell is 105 miles long) and felt good about the effort. I crossed the finish line in 20:22 in first place, though I was not proud of the effort or the time.

A week later I feel better about the race. It was a good lesson about how if I want to run well then I need to take preparation more seriously (e.g. using drop bags, ensuring I have access to the foods I like, bringing music). And more importantly, make sure I bring my head to the race with me. But, despite it being a train wreck of a day, there is something always fulfilling and fun about running a 100-miles that I cherish. Already the self loathing thoughts that propelled me for many miles have been forgotton and am looking forward to the next time that I can race.

Thanks to RD Karen Pearson and all the volunteers for a well organized race. Apologies for not being my usual appreciative and cheerful self – blame it on the Coke induced ass chafe J