I was really feeling the collective fatigue from the year. I should have been cruising through early laps, but it was a deep, deep slog. I slowed down a bunch during the first night. The first lap in the dark I was still with Will and he had to alternate walking and running. His chest “felt like it was going to explode.” When we got back (73 miles/8 laps elapsed), he said he was going to sleep in his car and probably wasn’t going to finish. The symptoms were consistent with Overtraining Syndrome (OTS). He had done the three 200s this year and only really started doing ultras in 2013.
So I put in headphones to listen to Amy Poehler’s book. I had taken one caffeine pill (@ 100mg; 1/3 of a grande Starbucks coffee) before the first night lap and I didn’t struggle with sleep monsters at all. I was perky. But for the second lap (lap 9) in the dark I was falling asleep standing, shuffling ever-so-slightly forward for the first part of the lap. It got better in spurts and for those short periods I was able to run. But then I’d crash again and shuffle like the undead. The lap took me something like 3 1/4 hours. Glacial.
I went out for lap 10 just as the sun was coming up. I felt energetic and kept up a decent but by no means fast pace. It was well under 3 hours, as I recall.
When I got back I looked for Will. He had just woken up after almost 6 hours of sleep. He felt better, but not great and wanted to go out for one more loop. So we set off. But before long, he was feeling the chest-exploding feeling. So we walked on and off.
It was a gorgeous final lap. Full sun, saturated with fall Wisconsin woody scents. And we sat on benches a couple times to soak it all in.
The 150 was within practical reach, but I felt that would have been simple ego to chase that (since I already finished the 150 in 2013). I was more than satisfied with being able to spend 100 miles in the woods, ~83 with Will and some with Bull Dozier. It was time to hang up the skates for the year, start recovery and look forward to feeling fast and limber again. In a more immediate sense, I was ready to drink some beer and enjoy the weekend with Ilse and Will.
So we dropped, hugging Ilse who had shown up after breakfast. Me at 101, Will at 82.
We went back to the hotel, showered and napped for a bit and then went to Bernie’s in Elkhorn to get pizza (they made gluten-free pizza…we were quite surprised) and a burger for Bull. We got everything to go and went back to the race site and just missed Bull. We saw him the next time around and he wolfed down half a burger, chocolate milk and some mashed potatoes.
Ilse and I begged off to the hotel since I was fading hard, and Will stayed to crew Bull through the night, sleeping in his car when Bull was out running.
There was one loop Bull did especially fast and beat Will inside. Bull just went to the corner and cried. It was a tough night. He claims he’s not sure if he could have made it through without Will there.
So Ilse and I come back in the morning just before Bull returns from loop 20. He comes in all smiles with that guy in the red track suit (a legend, we’re told).
We feed him and he’s quickly off on the second to last loop. In the meantime, we chill out, drink beer and hang around the fire.
After a bit, we wander onto the course and sit on top of one of those final hills, waiting for Bull to come in.
I’m mid-pee when he comes cruising around the corner and I have to nip it off so I can chase Will and Bull back to the lodge.
He’s in good spirits, but I figure, hell, he could use a pacer.
So I ask “does anyone have size 10.5 shoes with a little bit of drop?” All my gear was back at the hotel and I was in street clothes. Will fished shorts, a shirt, socks and a handheld out of his car and someone came back with a size 10 set of Brooks that generally fit the bill.
Bull was a little skeptical, I think (re: beer + running) and noted that he wanted to “get after it.” I said that was fine. So we trotted confidently on the first couple of miles of flats, then charged the downs and fast-hiked the ups. We’d increase the pace until something of Bull’s would bark – Achilles, knee, etc. We’d back off until just below the pain threshold but always kept it skippy.
Coming back from the loop near the end (out in the pines, after you take a right at the four-way stop), we passed a woman racer with three crew. She looked like she has a stroke and they were dragging her near lifeless body back along the straightaway toward the finish. It was her first 100 and I haven’t seen anyone still mobile look worse in an ultra. That includes Ace at the Colorado 200 earlier this year.
We wished them well and kept up the pace. We got to the bottom of the first hill in the final section of woods and I started hiking up, looking over at Bull for cues. He continues running, looking at me…”fuck no!” So I say “ok then, awesome!” and we charge up the hills. For the final couple of rollers, he comes out of his skin and I just let him fly so he can get the attention and unobscured photos at the finish.
He comes in second @ 55:56, but way behind the winner who crushed the course record in something like 44:32. Not that Bull ever intended to go fast. Pending finishes Icarus and Across the Years, hopefully putting him at eight 200 mile buckles for the year and the Guinness record for most 200s. He was playing a much longer game where fast is deadly.
It was a wonderful weekend and I’m glad it played out as it did. Always nice to finish, of course, but there’s goodness beyond the Blue Loop.