Rio del Lago 100 Miler sucked. It was hot, it was hillier than I thought, it was dusty, I got tons of rocks in my shoes, I had blisters everywhere, I was SO tired I hallucinated like crazy (bushes of skeletons, people in the tree stumps, cars that were really trees...) - and somehow, I finished. I finished 100 miles, tears in my eyes, miserable, hating it -
- but somehow, loving that I am unable to quit.
I wasn't having fun. I remember when my friend Kim quit a 100 miler and I asked her why. She said, "It stopped being fun. And if it's not fun, why bother?"
I offered this excuse to my pacer when I wanted to drop out. She said, "You don't do this because it's fun. You do it because you're TOUGH. You do it to measure your toughness." I whined, tears in my eyes, "I don't care about toughness. I do it for fun." And she made me suck up my tears and keep moving. I was so frustrated at her, but at the same time, I'm glad she pushed me.
The race itself is pretty: it's a 100 mile race that includes a lot of loops, out-and-backs, so you end up seeing the same stations (and unfortunately, the aid stations didn't feature a lot to look for). Views of the lake, the river, pretty trees. It's a lot of and downs, rolling hills, rocks, dust, exposed sections. You have some random loops and they actually felt kind of pointless. No one I talked to was in love with the course. But it was pretty. And kind of neat that you get to run on part of the Western States course, including the infamous "No Hands Bridge." The course includes two truly hellacious hills, Cardiac, which sucked, but K2 was way worse, especially since it was so exposed.
The heat killed a lot of people. 35 out of 85 people finished, and I bet the heat was a contributing factor to the high DNF rate. I carried two water bottles, and some times, it wasn't even enough. The aid station volunteers usually had ice, which was absolutely delicious (and for my pacer, Kathy D'Onfrio and I, it was also a bit of a luxury as the two of us had come from Burning Man the week before where ice in drinks is rare). I had sunblock in one drop station bag, but wished the aid stations had some. The aid stations had only the bare minimum - M&Ms, sometimes gus, sometimes cookies, sometimes chips, rarely (but deliciously!) grilled cheese, sometimes (but not always, which I think is crazy!) band-aids and First Aid. The latter should have been at every aid station - first aid is important. I had the blisters from hell, and band aids would have helped. I ended up wrapping a blister in toilet paper at one point. Ghetto, but it kind of worked.
Up, down, when is this over? The miles trickled down. Stomach issues plagued me miles 13-18. And again at mile 30. And it was so hot. I ran almost the entire race in just a sports bra, even in the middle of the night.
The worst part was the hallucinations. I was so sleepy, I stopped twice right on the trail, sat on a rock or some dirt, and slept into my hand. My pacer was telling me, "You can't sleep. Get up." I ignored her. My 5 hour energy shot unusually lasted maybe 30 minutes. Finally, I allowed Kathy to force feed me half a Vivrin, which is the only way I finished. But in between the sleepiness and the Vivrin, and even after finishing, I was hallucinating like crazy. Everything turned into something else. We saw what I originally thought was a deer but what Kathy said was a bobcat but what my friend (who knew the woods) thought was a mountain lion. Either way, I proudly represented my New York roots and let out a blood curdling scream. The animal hurled itself into the far distance.
Chafing got bad. I took off my underwear, and kept running/stumbling/hobbling. I wanted to wallow in self-pity and cry and Kathy wouldn't let me. "Don't cry. Put that away." I felt like she was being harsh because I just wanted to sob my heart out, but she pushed me to run my heart out. Of course that's what I needed to do, but all I wanted to do was curl up and sleep at the side of the trail.
When I was done, I was done. I just simply accepted my 6th belt buckle and removed my shoes, which were causing my many blisters excruciating pain. I examined my feet and shuddered. I rinsed off in the beautiful lake and then hobbled back to the car. Kathy and I ate and I admired her strength and perseverance. Two Western States wins, the course record and another win for Rio del Lago...she's fast. She's got it mentally. Me, like everyone, I need a little more work.
Still hallucinating post race, I napped at the Auburn aid station. And woke up ready to leave. And run. I don't know if I'll do that next 100 miler in Louisiana in December, but you know what? I'm not quitting ultrarunning anytime soon.
DNF is not in my vocabulary.