Up From Below

Miwok 100K 2011

Can’t complain about the view. Photo by Jean Pommier

Sometimes races go somewhat as planned, and you hit your highs and lows and just let the day flow. Saturday for me turned into a very memorable race, as I look back through moments of the day I go through feelings of disappointment, struggle, acceptance and triumph.  I of course was hoping for a strong race and a chance to prove that I could run with the top competition in Ultra Running. I felt smooth for 20 some miles, but later dealt with struggles I had not yet known.

We started the race at 5:40 in the morning on Rodeo Beach next to a lagoon featuring the gentle crashing of waves and a firm wind that would keep us swaying throughout the day.  As we sloshed through the sand and filed onto some single track I was excited for the day to unfold. To run, breath, see and be grateful for all I’m blessed with. It’s not everyday you get to see the Pacific Ocean and Marin Headlands and share in the celebration of this lifestyle with so many wonderful people.

Early Miles with Dakota Jones and Dave Mackey. Photo by Brett Rivers

As we settled into a rhythm and the fun easy miles back to Rodeo Lagoon everything felt effortless. I’ve been training well and feeling very solid with where my fitness is at. I love climbing and was anticipating struggling up some of the last climbs with some of the great runners around me after a long day of running.

Morning climb as the sun rises. Photo by Rick Gaston

I was feeling under control and enjoying the morning and cooling breeze as we bobbed up and down some climbs and flew our way into Tennessee Valley (mile 11.1). This is when we started some good climbing on our way up Fox Trail to Coyote Ridge Trail and the front pack started to separate from the rest of the Miwokers on their journey of 62.4 miles, featuring 11,000 feet of vertical.

Chasing the leaders, Aaron Heidt and Mike Wolfe. Photo by Pedro Martinez

Everyone seemed good and relaxed. I could hear Hal chatting it up with pretty much everyone on the trail; I could tell he was going to have a good one.  When I moved to Ashland a few years ago, I didn’t even know of Ultra Running. One of the main reasons I moved from Wisconsin to Oregon was milder winters and the mountains. I liked running (I even coached cross country and track at my local high school in Wisconsin). It was a delightful surprise to move to a place with unending trails and mountains and peaks to discover. Some of the first people I met and became friends with were Ian Torrence and Hal Koerner. I guess I was destined to run ultras, as the first people I meet were legends of the sport and one just won Western States! I didn’t know what Western States was, but they were cool people and I enjoyed eating and drinking beer with them. The only part that was missing was miles and miles of trails…check. Now I am an ultra runner.

Hal and Ian are like big brothers, they give me tips on ultras, even the day before the race I called up Hal to ask him some shoe choice questions and he gave me a heads up on some of the new changes on the course. For the running part I sorta just wing it and keep listening to what my body tells me. I should have listened a little closer on Saturday because things took a turn. I was taking in a good amount of calories for the first 20 some miles, but I could feel the goo collecting in my stomach and I just never seemed to get any energy from taking calories in.

Train of runners as the day heated up. Photo by Brett Rivers

Everything just kept feeling harder to keep going, my stomach kept having these cramps and I felt super nauseous. I’ve bonked many times on runs; I actually kinda like the feeling, as everything feels simple, colors are brighter, and I don’t think much, I just am. This was not a bonk; this was something very weird going on internally and I wasn’t sure what I should do. The leaders were getting away and I could do nothing about it. Frustrating, but so it goes.  As we were winding our way along the trail I loved the forest filled with huge redwoods, it was just what I had in mind for this race, besides an upset tummy, which was a ticking bomb.

Entering Bolinas (mile 26.7) I knew this was not going to resolve itself. I don’t mind a rough patch with the acceptance of that moment and the knowing that things will get better. It just wasn’t getting any better; I could not get any more calories in and I didn’t for the next 3 hours at all, with nothing really settling well for the rest of the day. I started walking, hoping things could turn around. The next ½ hour was a fun series of projectile. Everything I put in that morning was all over the Bolinas Ridge Fire Trail.

Feeling a little better after 4 hurls to purge the system. Thanks for being there to capture the moment Jean Pommier

This helped a little, but I still could not get any calories in. After some fun walking and trying to figure out what the hell had just happened, my mind was not in a good spot. I was done; I wanted to end the race right then. I was going to walk to the turn around and call it a day. I kept reassuring myself that it was ok and people DNF all the time; I kept making more and more excuses to end this misery.  I eventually, humbly dragged my butt to Randall trail aid station (mile 33.9) ready to call it a day. My wife (crew) was not at this aid station so I decide to chat with the nice folks there for a minute and mosey on my way back; I thought I would stop at the next aid station.

Someone at the aid station suggested I take an s-cap. It finally clicked, I was getting plenty of electrolytes with my First Endurance EFS fuel, but I was not taking any salt caps (I only peed once the first half of the race and it was really brownish which should have been a good clue). I haven’t had this problem before because I always take an abundance of s-caps. I might have been able to turn the whole thing around, but I never really had the chance to catch up in calories. And by the time I was back to Bolinas (mile 41.1) I came to accept how the day unfolded and figured, why not go and check out Muir Beach as long as I made the trip this far already. To me continuing on no matter what happened was the victory for me on this day. I’ve wanted to stop and just start walking in many races, but this race actually made me have too.  I didn’t know what was going on internally and I was a little nervous for a while. Deciding not to DNF was really hard for me on this day and I feel satisfied with the gumption to stick it out. It was by far my worst race from a competition standpoint, but in the resilience/spirit of an Ultra Runner it was one of my proudest moments (took 18th place in 9:35).

Inspiration for my title and a song i hummed when i was feeling low. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros “Up From Below”

After deciding to gut the thing out and finish, I started to have fun with it. I couldn’t get many calories in, but the wild flowers were picturesque. I was able to chat with Elvis (Ian Sharman) for a little bit and I had a nice chat with Brett Rivers who was enjoying some pacing duties in his back yard. I hiked and ran a few miles with my wonderful crew (my wife Krista). Saw some amazing wildlife like snakes, lizards, hawks and a banana slug. With incredible views of the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge, if my belly could have taken it, I would have had a gluten-free beer out there as well. Things were just all around better.

Bobcat at Tennesse Valley…Yikes! Photo by Rick Gaston

I didn’t have the race I was going for, but I learned a little more about Ultra Running, learned a little more about myself, enjoyed the last miles and came out of a rough situation with another perspective on the ultimate joys of Ultra Running. Yes, I like to run fast and hard, but I also enjoy any moment I’m out in nature soaking in the sun, feeling a summer breeze and celebrating life with friends.

A big thanks to Tia for putting on such a spectacular event, everything went smooth besides my tummy. The course was so much fun and beautiful and I look forward to giving it another go next year. I keep making more and more friends on the running circuit and I look forward to keep meeting more of you as we enjoy the great outdoors.

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16 Comments

  1. Really gutsy (no pun intended :) to keep going when you were feeling beaten up. It takes a lot to carry on when your body wants to rest. Kudos and really liking your blog.

  2. Good learning experience, Tim, and nice job gutting it out. Bring the lessons learned to Squaw next month. See you there!

  3. Hi Tim, from your home town of Amherst WI (I shop at your mom and dad’s hardware store). Good inspiring dialoge especially with Ice Age 50 miler coming up for me this weekend. Those S-caps work wonders. I don’t race without them. Keep on running, your blog inspires us old runners!

  4. I am proud of you, but man I think you described how my gut feels when you run:) Wonderful pictures,(not the Bob Cat) Was praying my heart out, and now I know why!
    Love you to Heaven and Back, Mom

  5. Way to stick it out!!! You should be very proud of yourself!!! :-)

  6. Great accomplishment!!!

  7. Can’t wait to be there for Western States – next month!!!

  8. Aren’t you glad you didn’t drop?!!!! Like others have said…way to gut it out….that was a real character-building day for you Timothy…proud of ya for enduring! Nice to share some beautiful trails and vistas w/ you again….Get redemption at WS 100….I’ll be pulling for you for a top ten! and hopefully we can run together again soon.

    • Yassine- Thanks for the encouragement through the race. It sure is great to have friends to run with, see amazing vistas and help each other along.
      Many blessings on the San Diego 100 coming up. peace.

  9. Hey, I think I saw some of that stuff you left on the Bolinas! Thanks for the writeup and way to persevere (from a 14-hour guy).

  10. Well, they say we always learn more from races where things go wrong than we do from races where everything goes perfectly. Sounds like you learned a lot, which is a great thing, and you should definitely be proud for not dropping. Awesome job! Looked like you got maybe a little redemption anyway crossing the line strong at Silver State this weekend. Thanks for the Miwok report – I really appreciate your philosophy, Tim. Good luck at States!

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