Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Foothills Ultra 77miles (Epic DNF)

     Going into this ultra (2 years in the making) I felt good and bad about training. I planed to attempt this last April but ended up messing my ankle up and had to lie down and bow out. This is my biggest run by far I do not plan on running any longer distance then this. This is my “mount Kilimanjaro” so to speak. Here is a lay out of the trail.
1. Table Rock (14.5 Miles) starts with a steep 4 mile climb, levels off, then steadily climbs to Sassafras Mt. (SC's Highest Peak).
2. Laurel Valley (33.4 Miles) There are several steep climbs including a final one at the end of the section that brings you out past Whitewater Falls.

3. Whitewater Falls to Burrell's Ford (12.2 Miles).
4. Burrell's Ford To Oconee State Park (16.1 Miles). The trail does get rather technical in places along the river.
The Foothills Trail is a very rugged and often remote wilderness area with little to no outside access. I would have help with this run. I would have friends that would meet me in parking lots at these spots on the way to provide me with food, water, and pace me along the way.
There is a large group that is part of an email list and this is amazing for planning this type of run when it comes to the logistics. I would ask friends to help and pace me going into this and they were more than willing to help with this. With out them there is no way I would have ever been able to attempt this run.

Mike Riggins would run the 1st leg with me. I can’t thank of a better way to start a run. His love of running and great spirit would help set the mood for me the entire run.

Doug Robinson would run Laurel Valley with me. His intelligence and pace would be key for this part of the run.

Bo Millwood would run the last leg with me. I know Bo would be able to push me along this leg and he is a great friend that I run with a lot. I knew he would know when I was just being a baby or if I was really hurting.

Tiana Marie would be the crew chief making sure everyone got to where they needed to be. Making sure that I had everything I needed.

The night before the run we all meet and stayed in the cabins at Table Rock. When we pulled into the cabin there was a woman lying on the porch. ?? Who is that? Are we at the right cabin? It was Mimi another runner. We all got into the cabin and Jason Sullivan showed up telling us that Scott (who is running an out and back 154 miles) was almost done with his 1st 77 miles.
The Run
5am start. I was so nervous about this run. I have not felt like that science my first half marathon. Tiana droped Mike and myself off at the start and we took off with Scott right behind us starting his 2nd 77. As Mike and I started up the Mountain we started talking and just catching up it was really nice running with Mike again. At about mile 3 there was a low branch that I thought it would be a good idea to smack with my head. The hit raddled my tail bone and gave us something to joke about for the next hour or so. When we got to the top of Sassafras Mt. where the Crew was with food and water. Mike and I reloaded and took off when the down hill started I ran my little heart out. There are more climbs then anything on this trail so anytime you get a chance to get moving take it. At the next stop I just ran by the truck told them that Mike was right behind me and that I would see them at the entrance to LV. As I finally got to horse pasture road and started the climb up I saw my truck pulling in behind me. ???? I beat my crew here? Now that made me feel good and I started walking up the road so they could not pass me that way I could really get there before them. This was a Big ego boost and I thought it was the funniest thing ever.
Time 3:59:77 - 16 min pace (first time running this section)

Before the start of LV Doug and I got everything we would need for this section. It was also good to see Dan there. Doug and I took off hoping to run 4miles per hour in this section. That is a massive goal for this place, but I was hoping that I would be able to hold that and I knew that if anyone could keep me moving at that pace it would be Doug. At about mile 22 I started to hit a low spot and I knew that it was just in my head and it would pass I just needed to take my mind off the run for a minute. At that time we see Dan and little Bri pop in. That snapped me out of it and got me excited. They ran with us for a little bit and then headed back out. Bri came across the Toxaway Bridge and looked up at the stare case and said “you have to go up that?” I told her “yea kind of sucks hun?” We had a little giggle I gave her a hug and said goodbye. Doug and I keep the pace going as strong as I could and about mile 36 I started hitting another low spot and then we hit the 13 miles till WWF marker and that gave me a great mental boost. The hills started getting the best if me shortly after that, but Doug keep me in good spirits. At one point I started getting a little loopy and had to lie down about mile 44. I thought it was over for me. I had been able to run hard down the hills but that was few and far between on this part of the trail. I knew this was not a mental crash this was my body. Doug told me to sit down shoved a sweet and salty bar in my face and told me “I don’t care if you puke it up you’re going to eat this”. Then told me it does not matter how far it is we have to get there and BOOM! I was up and moving again. My body needed the sugar I was still being a bit of a baby when I hit hard hills, but we were moving and at a good pace. Doug really had my head in the run and was key to getting thought this section. When we started coming out of LV Bo was there and Doug told him every thing I would need when we hit the parking lot and Bo took of to have everything ready. Bri was there and ran out with me. 
Time 9:53:12 – 17 min pace (PR for this section)

I sat down and the crew went to town getting me what I needed. I was over heating and they soaked a towel in water for me. Dan and Jason were there to help too. Bo was ready to get moving. I sat and just let my head get out of the daze it was in. I think I could have sat there all day. Dan came up and told me that I needed to get moving. So up and moving we went. I was there for about 15 minutes.This next 29 mile section would have 4 places where I could get aid. Bo and I started the climb and I was feeling pretty good. Thinking that I was going to make it and in under 21hr. I was still having problems with the hills but was moving really good on the flats and down hills. As we came into Sloan’s Bridge I was feeling great and Bo was keeping me in a good place in my head.
Time 1:19:11 – 17.30 pace (PR for this section)

We ran the next 3.3 miles as hard as I could go knowing that I was almost done and that my goal of 21 hours could be reached. My stomach really started getting me here. I thought that it was just intestinal issues that I knew I would have. I was still smiling and happy when we hit Fish hatchery.
Time 1:06:00 – 20 min pace

Fish Hatchery to Burrell’s ford was getting hard to move. My legs were able my mind was willing but my gut was killing me. I was getting sicker and have never felt anything like that in my life. I had no idea what was happening to my body. I was 60 miles into this and was falling apart. Bo keeps me in good spirits and I was still moving pretty good, but I knew I was shutting down. I keep telling myself that I have less than a marathon left and I did not come this far and run this long to give up. I know that all I had to do was keep moving and I would finish in less than 24 hours. When we hit Burrell’s Ford Bo knew I was on the cuff of destruction. Bo and Doug had a little meeting on what needed to be done to keep my head in the game. I could over hear some of the things they were saying as Tiana got everything together for me so I could make the next 10 mile section. The pain was overwhelming and I knew I was in trouble, but still thought I could make it.
Time 59:19 – 16 min pace (PR for this section)

Burrell’s ford to the Hospital. As Bo and I took off I knew that I was going to have problems in this section and Bo knew that I was having a hard time of it. The first two miles was about the same pace as I had been going for the day, but then the up hills came and never ended. This section was more technical than it is now, but it’s a steady easy climb in a lot of it. A fresh runner would not have any problems with this part but after 18 + hours and 62 miles its hell. I was just thinking that I would just slow down and walk more and I would be ok. My body was in pain it was not pain from running it was pain that I never have felt before. I thought that it maybe my head messing with me to get me to stop. Bo and I sat down and I ate some food and tried to get my head right. We started moving gain and another mile I was on all fours in pain tears coming out of my face, snot coming out of my nose, and puke coming out of my mouth. I knew then that I was done that I could not keep going. I got up and told Bo but he knew that I was at the end. He told me that the only thing I could do at this point was to keep moving we had to get to Cheohee Road where my Crew was. I knew he was right I had no other choice but keep moving. I would cringe in pain on every hill, but I was able to walk baby jog on any flat or down hill. I did not know what was happening to me but I knew what ever it was that it was the end for me. Bo in his encouragement went from a stern come on you got this you only have this far to go to a sympathetic I don’t know what you’re going through right now but you have to get to Cheohee. We hit a parking lot 1.4 miles from Cheohee and that is where I stopped. I knew that they could find me here. I was not sure how long it would take but I would take less time for them to find me then for me to get to them. I asked Bo to run to Cheohee and let them know and bring help I could tell that it was tearing him apart to even consider living me there, but that was what needed to be done. He took off to get to Cheohee and I just sat trying to find some way to sit where I was not in so much pain. Lester came up a little latter and that made me smile knowing that he would finish the 77 miles and he was looking so strong and was moving so fast. He asked if I wanted him to stay until help came. I would not even consider that. He has work so hard to be at that point and I would never ask that, but that shows you the kindness of the people out there. He was willing to give up a part of his run to stay with me until help came. He gave me his long sleeve shirt and I got under a truck to get out of the rain. As the rain got harder and I got colder I knew I had to do something. There was a Jeep there and I unzipped the back window and got in not long after that Bo came running back with a sleeping bag and a jacket. I just tried to find a way to sit where I was not in pain but no matter what I did it just keep getting worse. Not long after that Doug and Tiana came pulling up. They helped me out of the back of the jeep held me up so I could pee and puke one last time before I went to the hospital.
Total time 21:30:09 - 18.30 paces per mile - total mile 69.6

This is what happened to me out there.


Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle fibers that leads to the release of muscle fiber contents (myoglobin) into the bloodstream. Myoglobin is harmful to the kidney and often causes kidney damage.
My reflection
This was one heck of a run my goal was to break 21hr or die trying well we see what happened. This is the only run that I have ever had that I know I gave it everything I had. With out my crew and friends there I know that I would not have been able to push it in the down times and I know that when it got really bad it could have ended really badly. I don’t plan on ever trying the foothills again. I will stick to the 50k’s. They say the only bad run is the one where you don’t learn anything. I learned more on this one run than all the rest combined. I am not happy that I feel 7.4 miles short, but I am not sad or disappointed either. The calls from everyone and friends coming to check on me in the hospital is something that shows the love that we have for each other. People may think that we are crazy and we might have a screw loose some where, but the compassion and understanding that we share with one another is far from crazy. I am thankful for these friends and no matter what life brings they will have a place in my heart until my end.

1 comment:

  1. An admirable and tremendous attempt, Joe. It's a win even though you didn't accomplish what you wanted. But there is no doubt that one day you will, and I'm sure that day is not far away. Hats off to you, Joe!