Wednesday, July 11, 2012

San Diego 100 My story

by Paul

I've been trying to wrap my head around the whole experience of training and running the SD100. These last few weeks I've been in and out of depression and happiness. How can I be depressed and happy about something that I accomplished? I would have to say that when I think about the race and the troubles I had, it brings me to tears at times. It was such a mental game for me to keep going after my initial falling apart at mile 28. I really didn't understand what went wrong...

Training for this and running all the races leading up to the SD100, I thought I had everything dialed in. For it to fall apart at such an early stage in the race scattered... or I should say shattered my mind for most of the race. It became an internal battle for way too long and it is just now getting better. I'm usually not that great with mental battles - I fall apart easily and it's hard for me to come back from at times.

Before finding ultrarunning, or running for that matter, I was always beating myself up and belittling myself inside. I never ever felt a part of anything because my mind would not allow me to fit in to places or friendships. I have always been very critical of myself and a self-analyzer. With those two going at it inside my mind it is hard to feel good when you keep analyzing everything and seeing the worst in yourself and in the things around you. One of the reasons I started running was to become a better person to myself and those around me. For years I was torturing myself inside. I didn't think it affected anyone but me... but I could see as the years went by, that it would and did affect those around me. Running has become my way out, my therapy and my gateway to a better me.

I hated the fact that my head would not let me fully feel good about the SD100.

I could not feel good about it no matter how much I thought about the race. On the surface I could smile and fake it, but inside I was completely beating myself up about how terrible I did and self-sabotaging my happiness. I haven't really felt great this past month, because I haven't been able to run a lot and get some of this out of my system. I love running and what it does for me, and I hate that I would dwell on something hardly anyone in the world has tried. I get lost in the ultra-community with everyone's accomplishments and compare myself with them and fall apart. Which is not good, because I should never compare myself to anyone or anything in the world.

When I started the race, I already wasn't really happy because I couldn't get my weight down to exactly where I wanted it to be. I believe subconsciously I was eating my anxiety for the race. I did the same thing before I ran my first ultra, the PCT50 - I couldn't for the life of me stop eating to lose the weight I wanted. It starts to beat you down when you try to be good, but your anxiety brings out those old bad habits and you feed yourself nonstop. I used food for so long in the wrong way - it still affects me to this day. It's a struggle I'll have the rest of my life. I don't know if I'm addicted to food but I use it when I'm down or anxious, and not in a good way. This is the case whether I'm plant based or not - I can still find bad things to eat with lots of fat and sugars in plant based recipes. So, going into the race I was already beating myself up for not being able to commit to losing those 10 pounds even though it's some thing I really wanted to do.

When the gun went off I didn't think about it again, I just went out in a nice trot and stayed that way. I didn't push myself at the beginning staying in a pace between 10-15 min miles. I was sitting back talking with Rick Gaston for awhile learning about his past SD100's. Going into the Aid Stations, I would be finished with my water bottles, refill them and grab some food . I was eating, hydrating and salting like I had been doing during my training runs and races.

When I was almost to the bottom of Noble Canyon I started to bonk. I was getting dizzy and nauseated. I made it to Pine Creek 1, ate some fruit, and tried to figure out what was wrong. I was in a daze, inside my head, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. I did a death march around the Pine Creek Loop, watching as people passed me and as the black flies bit me. The sun and heat were beating me down with each step I took. I kept expecting my friend Rebecca to pass me during this time and was surprised she never did. It was the only thing that kept my mind off my negative thoughts, thinking about Rebecca.

When I got back to Pine Creek 2, I asked around about Rebecca and found out she fell and had to drop. At the same time I'm sitting there scared out of my head because I felt like I might have to drop... because I don't understand what is going on with me. I was drinking, salting and eating - I just couldn't figure out what I did wrong. So I started falling apart sitting there. That is when a friend I have recently got to know and share stories with came over to check on me. Angela was my life saver there - she gave me the right words and right care to get me on my way again. It meant a lot to me and she will always have a place in my heart for what she did for me at that AS. She got me out of that hole and I started my death march up the worst part of the race.

The section is all uphill - 2.2 miles on a paved road and the rest on singletrack with switchbacks up to the Pioneer Mail AS 8 miles up. My pacer Keith was helping out along this trek, handing out Gatorade and water. It was good to see him and he gave me that little push I needed to get me going. The Gatorade really helped - I think part of my problem was not enough electrolytes. I was doing everything else right, but I really didn't put any other electrolytes into my body during the first part of the race. Plus, I started feeling better after my body started to consume those electrolytes.

A mile from Pioneer Mail AS I started feeling better and started running again. It felt good to run again and feel a bit better. The day was cooling off because it was becoming evening. It was good to get that part done and I felt I could finish this if I could just keep going. My other goals of making it in a certain time vanished at the bottom of Noble Canyon. Now it was putting one foot in front of the other to make it to Sunrise 1 to meet my pacer Jose Luis.

It felt good to get to the halfway point and see my pacer (Jose Luis) and crew(my wife) - it gave me a spark I had lost during my struggles. Jose Luis and I started on our journey through the night. I was feeling much better since the sun had gone down and I had a friend along to tell the tale of my misfortunes of the day. Jose Luis was there for me on so many of my training runs and the Rim to Rim to Rim. He helped me during some of my toughest times, so it was nice to have him along to talk with. I remember a lot of the night as a great time with lots of laughing.

My troubles did not stop when the sun went down though. Coming down from Stonewall Peak, I twisted my ankle bad - to where it swelled up quick and burned with pain. I sat down for a second - I told JL if I stay here on this rock I will dwell on this stupid thing and not move. So I got right back up and we headed to Paso Picacho AS.

During my struggles I had not went to the bathroom for over 10 hours at all. I did start peeing again right before Sunrise I believe. But I had not had a #2 stop and that is really weird for me. I tried at Paso AS but nothing happened.

When JL and I left Paso I was feeling really good and we started running for Sweetwater AS. I remember this time as the most fun in the race - JL and I laughed our asses off and ran the hardest I had run for most of the day. I tripped twice and so did JL - but as I joked around with JL and told him I should just trip on purpose and fall to get the third one out of the way, I actually did fall down. I laughed my ass off. I was so loopy during this time - everything we did was funny. That eight miles from Paso to Sweetwater was the best time of the race.

Getting to Sweetwater was nice because they had food there that no other AS had and I enjoyed eating the warm potato soup and rice balls, among the other things I could eat. I also went to the bathroom for the first time at Sweetwater and that started a downward spiral for my stomach. I thought I would be fine now that I had got that out of the way but it just opened me up to stomach issues. So I had to stop during the run to deal with those on our way up to Sunrise 2. I was so hoping I could catch a break from all the mishaps going on in this 100 miles I was enduring. I mean, shit! Running 100 miles is no joke as it is, but to add all this stuff on top of it was draining in my mind. It was unbearable at times, the thoughts I would be having, because I was beating myself up about the whole thing. I tried to keep a positive outlook, but shit just kept happening. I don't really remember much after getting to the road to climb up to Sunrise 2 AS after my stomach issues. I think I might have been sleepwalking or something, because no matter how hard I try I can't remember how I got to Sunrise 2.

I did make it to Sunrise 2, though, and was not feeling good at all - I puked and laid down for a second, delirious or something. Rachel came over to check on me and it woke me up enough to get off my ass from puking and get going. Keithski, my other pacer, was there waiting to take his turn with my slow butt to get me to the finish line, the last 20 miles. He was unbelievably nice the whole way back also. The sun rose and I just couldn't muster anything inside mentally, well anything good for that matter. Every time I would start to run, my heart would race and it felt like when I was running Los Pinos and had heat exhaustion. I had to walk and I kept apologizing to Keith for going so slow. He was so awesome the whole way back, even doing soccer kicks to kick rocks out of my way. Every time he did that it made me chuckle and forget about my heart palpitating. It was fun to talk with him and catch him up on my struggles. He was great to have out there because he has done 100 mile races before and knew what it took to get them done, and the struggles we go through out there trying to complete one of these races. It was a struggle all the way back, but having Keithski there helped a ton. He kept reassuring me I was doing fine and we will get it done.

I didn't care at this point about time - I didn't care if I was DFL(Dead F*#King Last), I was going to crawl across that finish line. It was good to have Rachel at all the AS she could be at - she was a constant inspiration when I saw her. I do these things to be a better man for her and my kids so I loved seeing her there. At Penny Pines 2, my friend Deborah was there and she and Rachel got me to eat a Veggie Burger (even though I didn't really want to eat it) to help me with that last climb and to get to the finish. I think it really did help - I was not eating much because of my heart and stomach up to this point. I was just trying to hydrate and salt. Coming back into the AL Bahr campground was one of the greatest feelings - even though it was way past the time I initially wanted, I still felt like I accomplished something and endured a lot of pain (mental and physical) during these past 30 hours. When I came into the finish, I saw Angela there and it made me start to cry. It was only fitting for her to put the medal around my neck because she was there in my darkest hour. She had helped me through so much at Pine Creek. I had been in such dire straights mentally, it was nice to have some one there to help me get out of it, to get me moving and believing in myself. I started crying hysterically when she put the medal around my neck because it meant so much to me to have her do it and to have accomplished something I set out to do.

California Bohemian Leather (Marisol Martinez) Made an awesome belt for my belt buckle.

I couldn't have finished this race without the help of so many people, I thank you all from the deepest parts of me. THANK YOU! The Race Director Scott Mills is an unbelievable human being also, I loved his advice during the months leading up to the race and for putting on a terrific race. Thanks to all the volunteers who made this race possible at all the Aid Stations and all the other parts to make the race run smoothly.  Jose Luis and Keithski you guys will always have a place in my heart for being there and helping this troubled mind through his battles. Angela I can't thank you enough for what you did but I'll do it one more time here: THANK YOU! Thank you Gaby for your Bites and bars. Thank you to my friend Shacky for having a growler of Green Flash beer at the end for me. It was great to have after a 6 month hiatus from Alcohol. To my wife (I can't say enough and I hope I get it across when I do say it): You're amazing and I Love having you there during every day of our lives.
I couldn't have finished this race without any of you. You all have a special place in my heart.

I did have one awesome thing happen during this time thanks to someone during the OLD GOAT 50 miler. They told me about Diaper Cream on their feet during the run down Trabuco Trail. Ever since, I have been putting it on my feet with 2Toms SportShield... I did not get one blister during this 100 miles. I did not change my socks or shoes for the whole race, I even went through a creek at Sweetwater. I think I found the antidote for blisters during races. See I'll leave with a positive note on this report. I think it's because I'm running again and feeling good - I have my therapy back.

Here is a video my friend Vanessa Runs made for me and my finish:

Healthy Day


  1. You are such a big inspiration!! I remember checking on you and Trasie on the website. I kept hoping you didn't have any major problems; and I see you did but nothing that would make you quit. I love it! You are NOT an quitter!! Congrats again on this HUGE accomplishment and I will be following you on the coming ones.. Proud to be your friend :)

    1. Thank you so much. I was too stubborn to quit. I worked too hard to not finish. :-) I should be announcing my next adventure soon.

  2. What an awesome accomplishment and you wrote about it so well, I felt like I went through some of it with you! Congrats on having the determination to finish. The trials make it even more of an honor that you finished. Have pride in what you did!!

    1. Thank you Heatherlyr. It was truly a mental battle and physical of course. But the mental battle will always be my struggle. I was surprised how fast the ups and downs came running out minute you feel like a champ next minute you're asking yourself "Who signed me up for this?". :-) I do feel now that I can look back at the race and feel good about it. It was definitely a learning experience and a growing experience. It will be with me forever in a good way.
      Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment I appreciate it.

  3. Hey Paul! Great blog. Your struggles and triumphs are an inspiration.