Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What Does Infinity Mean to You?

     The Infinitus 888K is over and I only made 403 miles. At the end of 8 days I was sitting at 393, so one could say I averaged 50 miles a day or so. The course was not accurately measured but the general consensus was that the top loop of the figure 8 was about 9.5 miles and the bottom was 16.5 miles making it a 26 mile figure 8. Or some would call it a marathon per figure 8.  Or 26.25 per loop. All of these distances were generally accepted.  Regardless of the exact distance, the idea was that one was required to complete 21 figure 8 loops in 10 days, 240 hours.  
      To complete the loops, one needed to run two figure 8 per day for 8 of the days and then 2 days where you would need to run 2.5 loops. So 8 days of 52 miles, 1 day of 61.5 miles, and 1 day of 68.5 miles.  The top loop completion pace ranged from 2:15 to 4:00 hrs, and the bottom loop completion pace ranged from 4:15 to 6:30.  The average being some where around 2:45 and 5:00 hours. With stops in between at the ski lodge, you were looking at 8 to 8:30 per loop, or 16 to 17 hours per day if all went well. If things didn't go well for you each day, you could be looking at up to 19 hours or more. To complete the course a day or two days early is a pretty monumental undertaking, but it could be done. I think the winner and only finisher finished at least 24 hours before the 240 hour cut off or a bit faster. 
      I went into the event expecting to be on my feet at least 15 hours, up to 18 hours per day, so to fully realize that this was the case was not a big shocker or a let down. It was expected. The plan was simple.  Complete 2 loops, and then sleep.  Day 1, the 21st of May started at 0808 and I completed the first day by 2205.  About 14 hours because it was Day 1. I was in bed by 2300 and slept until 0400 the 22nd.  Five hours sleep was good!  I had budgeted 1 hour in the AM to get ready and 1 hour in the PM to eat, wash up, foam roll, prepare for the next day etc...  It turned out I didn't need an hour because of Gina and her crewing skills. Really if you got off your ass each AM/PM you only needed 30 minutes if you weren't battling blisters or nut sack chaffing.
     Day 2 through 5 went by okay with Day 3 I did 2.5 loops or 61.5 miles and didn't sleep well going into Day 4.  Maybe 2 hours of sleep.  End of Day 5 my feet were swelling really bad, but I didn't realize this was what the problem was.  Day 1 and 2 were the same pair of Hokas, Day 3 and 4 were a different pair, Day 5 back to the original, and Day 6 I moved into the NB Leadville.  All size 10.5. At the end of Day 6 or sometime during day 7, I bummed a pair of worn out Brooks Cascadia from Gary size 11.5, but the damage was done. Day 6 - 8 I think I only completed 1.5 loops per day, not sure if I went: 1.5,1.5,1.5  or 1,1.5,2.  I don't recall.  But by 0808 on Friday I was at 15 loops completed.  Day 9 I didn't run any and drank beer.  Day 10 I just did the top loop to get over 400 miles. Feet hurt so bad I had to lay down all day on Day 9, sitting caused them to feel like they had their own heart beat.  It was not in my interest to ruin my liver on Aspirin or Advil. I like to save the liver ruining for alcohol. I never took more than the max recommend dosage, but to do so for days 6 - 10 I feel would have been ill-considered.  By day 8 I was really chewing them up. 
     There was quite a bit of mud and moisture on the course in various places, not to mention the mosquitoes.  They really put a damper on things.  I didn't concern myself with, OMG, what if I get blisters, because I had a shit ton of Trail Toes.  Eight jars to be exact. The big jars.  I used at least a half a jar per day on my feet and groin area.  This product works great. I didn't have any blisters.  However, I knew it would also be irresponsible to go sloshing around in the mud all day.  My original plan for this whole race was to use trekking poles and I brought two pair.  A 120cm pair and a 110cm pair.  Using the poles I was able to vault over mud obstacles, pivot around obstacles, and generally helped keep my balance. Additionally, I was able to keep my glutes in the proper position with my torso upright.  Only once during the whole 10 days did I get my feet wet and that was on one day where we received a ton of rain and I could not cross the creek hopping on rocks b/c the level was way too high. 
     I had a pair of gloves on almost the whole race. Some cheap fingerless weight lifting gloves to protect my hands, because of the poles. I broke one of the 120cm poles on day 2, so I was stuck with the 110cm and I finally made my peace with those poles.  I did not think the 110cm were long enough, even for my height. I did spend about 3 half-loops running with Will and one half loop running with Joel.  Also, Gina went with me for a total of 4 figure eights. For the most part I ran by myself about 10 full figure eights, or 5 of the running days. Lot's of time alone.  I had a ton of sinus drainage which caused me to hack and cough constantly with a hoarse voice. Not sure where it came from, but I had been that way for about 2 weeks prior to the race.  It sucked because I couldn't sing very well to my music. Luckily I had a bunch of buffs which I attached to my UD Krupicka pack and was able to blow my nose a bunch.
     Regarding the two different sized loops, this made us employ a different strategy on each half of the figure 8.  The top loop had water at mile 7.  So only 7 miles before water re-supply and only 9.5 miles total.  The bottom loop of about 16.5 miles had water at mile 3 and mile 10 or 11, the same spot.  This loop was like a lolly pop and water was at the bottom of the pop.  So we had 10 - 11 miles we needed water for, we were forced to take along more calories.  Rarely did we ever catch a break on the bottom loop with wind or with the bugs.  No wind, lots of bugs.  The two instances where we had shitty weather, the snow/cold front and the heavy rains, I was sleeping.  I was really lucky. 
     Gina did fabulous job crewing.  We have worked together on 4 other events, so we get along pretty good.  She made the food, ran to town to purchase more supplies, etc...  Also she asked her friend Erin to bring out the pop up camper which was a godsend.  Gina's mom also let us borrow her car, fixed up a cooked ham for us and numerous other cool things that I probably don't have a clue about. We had to reach out to our Phone-a-Friend resource a few times by calling Vincent.  He sent more Tailwind and more Trail Toes.  This was an added bonus.  Also, we went to Amazon and ordered two more jugs of CarboPro for overnight delivery. The most important achievement of all was that I did not yell and was not a dick to her.  It's really easy to be all pissed off and treat your crew like shit when your blood sugar is 60 and you haven't slept, but you should refrain from those actions. If you finish your event and treat your crew like shit, they should take away your swag and you should kick your own ass.  Without her logistical problem solving, commitment to my success, and general badassery then I wouldn't have been able to accomplish much.  This event was 50% logistics/mgmt and 50% running.  So half of the success she was responsible for. 
      The course, in general, was easy.  I have described the length of the loops, etc...  There was a nice climb on the top loop, but nothing crazy.  The bottom loop along Chandler ridge sucked, but there was no crazy climbing.  Had I not been there to run for 10 days, the whole course was runnable.  However that climb on the top loop woulda kicked my ass had a tried to run the whole thing.  In essence, the 50ish miles a day is really achievable on the course.  It really was only in the mind, had you prepared properly physically, that you find your defeat.
     What was I doing there?  Man, I don't really know.  Andy had sent me a message asking if I wanted to come and run the Peak 500 back in  January of 2014.  I happened to be in Brazil at the time and had just completed the Brazil 135.  I was getting ready to run Hardrock last year so I had to politely decline, but made a commitment to run the Peak 500 in 2015.  I'm not sure why I made that commitment.  Maybe I need to get my head checked.  I followed with great interest the post on FB last year during the Peak 500 and was like, "Man, maybe I should have went.  I wonder what it's like?"  Because of Andy's reputation from the folks I knew that knew him, I could not say no when he and Jack founded the Endurance Society and presented the Infinitus 888K last October 2014.  I signed up right away.
     January of 2015 came fast. I was just off my 100K PR of 9:46:xx at the Houston Running Festival, a DNF at Bandera 100K, and was bummed that I didn't even make any wait list or anything for Barkley. I figured I should now turn my attention to Infinitus. I thought, "John you have been ultrarunning for 7 going on 8 years, you have a TM that goes to 40% incline, a hypoxic machince, and every other freaking BS thing out there, so let's make a plan and stick to it for real."  I came up with this elaborate 17 week plan and sent it over to my friend and mentor Joe P.  He sends me back a terse reply, "I was thinking  F/SA/SU - 50/50/50 and then M/T off, W 5, TH off."  Oh really? 155 miles a week, huh?  My first problem was I can't run 150 miles a week. And 50 miles a day 3 days in a row, that is absurd.  That's when it hit me, if I can't run 50 miles a day for 3 days, what makes me think I can do it for 10?
      So I revised my plan.  I spent 8 weeks or so building up to 125 to 135 miles, since I was easily running 75 to 80 mile weeks for over a year.  This was about 10% per week.  Then I went for the 50/50/50, week on, week off for a 6 week cycle.  Never hit the 150 miles+ in a week but I tried and learned a lot. Great training.  Even pulled two tires along the freeway for 25 miles which took me 9 hours.  Looking back, I would have done 50/50/50 for 6 weeks in a row but did more walking and would have ensured that I only received 4 hours of sleep Friday and Saturday night. Basically wake up Friday morning and run 30 miles before work, 5 to 10 and lunch and 20 to 30 after work. Sleep 4 hours, get up on Saturday and stay on my feet until about 11PM, sleep 4 hours and do the same again Sunday.  That would have been a bit more realistic.  I could run/walk/pull tires, anything. Road or Trail.  The big key is getting used to the time and the lack of sleep. 
     What did I learn?  Lot's of stuff.  Mostly that it's not too hard to run all day, especially if you have a baby sitter.  I like how lots of folks daydream about a "running lifestyle" or the "born to run" Christopher McDougall bullshit (that guy don't know shit about running), or say things like, "I wish I could quit my job and just run all the time."  Those are all bullshit statements. I say to them, "Have you ever tried to run all day, for 10 days?"  That shit ain't as easy as you think.  Try it. You are most likely better off keeping your job, and just running an hour a day as a hobby.  I'd rather run a 100 miler any day.  That shit is easy, in comparison. You might have some ups/downs but you'll typically be done in 24 to 35 hours.  How would you like have those ups and downs for 168 hours or for the whole 240?  How would you like to to look at the board that marks your progress and after 5 days of 18 hour days only be half way?  If that sounds like your idea of being a badass, then by all means sign up and let's get after it. 
      I also learned that this bullshit you hear from yoga practitioners and wanna-be Buddists (who don't really understand what they hell they are talking about) telling you to "stay present", that is a crock of shit.  Stay in the present moment and you wont have the foresight to tell your crew, "Hey pack me extra CarboPro for the bottom loop, last time I ran out of calories and bonked." That simple statement involves both the past and the future.  It involves forward planning and learning from experience. If you are "present" in the "now" you can't actually make a statement like this.  This bullshit about "just be present" and everything will be okay, is nonsense.  You're just trying to deny reality.  Look, your feet hurt and there ain't shit you can do about it, but denying it won't solve your problem.  Human beings are goal oriented beings who act.  Ludwig von Mises has many quotes regarding this: "Human action is purposeful behavior" ; "Action is an attempt to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory one." ; "Most actions do not aim at anybody’s defeat or loss. They aim at an improvement in conditions." ; "The vigorous man industriously striving for the improvement of his condition acts neither more nor less than the lethargic man who sluggishly takes things as they come. For to do nothing and to be idle are also action, they too determine the course of events." I really like Mises, so I felt like throwing his quotes into the report.
     I learned that you should preview every song, speech, or any thing you put on your music player.  Don't just randomly grab whole records and throw them on your player.  Some asshole put together a  Willie Nelson's Greatest Hits and I pulled that off the 500G drive I have.  I'll tell you, everyone of those songs sucked ass and I know a lot of Willie songs.  I could not believe it. What a crock of shit.  If I didn't know already, Martin Luther King Jr. was a great orator.  Way better than Churchill. Kennedy was pretty good as well.
     I should have known but I'll not soon forget the lesson in foot swelling.  Dammit. Once I realized that screwed up my whole race because my shoe choices, I felt like this starting about 1:50:

   Also that even though I brought 2 jugs of CarboPro and 2 bags of Tailwind, that wasn't enough for 10 days.  I like grilled cheese with shit tons of butter.  They are even better when you dip them in Miracle Whip.  There are lots of folks claiming miracles in this world, but Miracle Whip is the true miracle.  It's trans-fat free with lots of sodium and vitamin K, for whatever that's worth. I almost regretted all the times I talked shit to the Germans when I was stationed there about dipping their french fries (pommes frites) into mayonnaise, but I stopped just short of regret.  Plus it ensures that the bread is moist so that you don't cut up the inside of your mouth.  I still hate ramen.  Spam got old after day one. Olive oil is still good to drink.
     What does infinity mean?   As one of the signs on the course said, "We think of infinity as a really big number, but it’s not. It’s endlessness."  And even though the Infinitus 888K did come to an end eventually, while we were in the whirlwind, we couldn't fathom it. Why is the infinity symbol shaped like an eight that is just laying on the ground?  Eat shit, John Wallis.  While I'm no Carl Jung and don't profess to know anything special about "Man and His Symbols" the sleeping eight did come to represent something for me.  I came to view each end of the 8 where one end of the ellipse is representing human suffering and the other is representing the human will. As long as man exists, there will always be both. Which one will conquer the other? Who are you?  

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