Monday, August 13, 2007

Aug 13th - Headland's 100 Miler

"You can walk enough when you're dead." I kept repeating these words to myself over and and over again as I stumbled and staggered along the narrow and rocky trail at 3:30 AM in the morning. I had just left the aid station at Mile 91 and have been running for over 20 hours now. Only 9 more miles to go. "Who's idea was this anyhow?"

This past Friday, Aug 10th, Nicole, Steve Purinton and myself drove to San Francisco for the Headland's 100 Mile trail race on Saturday. It had been 6 years since I ran my last 100 Miler. I have to admit, I was just a little nervous. Could I still do it? "Now is not a good time to consider that ya dummy!" I guess we'll find out tomorrow.

Saturday morning we drove to the start of the race, checked in and got ready to go. From the starting line you could see the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. What a great view. At 7 AM all 140, 50 & 100 Mile runners were off. Across the beach then up the hills we ran. At roughly 5 miles into the first leg we came out onto a ridge line that overlooked the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and downtown San Fran. What an awe inspiring view.

The 50 Milers were to do an out and back. The 100 Milers did the same out and back with two smaller 25 Mile loops afterwards. The first 50 miles was no problem. The sun was shining and the views were spectacular throughout the Golden Gate National Park. Life was good. I've found with 100 Mile runs though, the race doesn't really start until the sun goes down. This would turn out to be no exception.

I was feeling great at the end of the first 50 miles. "No problem, I can do this all day." I'm pretty sure this is a common statement many of us make half way through any event, only to have our butts handed to us later on. Steve left the 50 mile aid station with me to help pace over the next 8 mile leg. Seeing a another runner in the distance, I decided to push it a little harder. This little mistake would catch up with me later. "There's still a lot of running to do."

Nicole traded roles with Steve and ran the next 17 Miles with me. I could feel the fatigue starting to sit in. Up and down the hills and canyons we run, stumble and climb. Over 17,000 ft of elevation gain. And I thought this was going to be an 'easy' 100 miler!

75 Mile mark. Last loop. 25 miles to go. I'm thinking to myself, "Are you kidding me, one more marathon?!" Again, Steve paces me through the first section of the loop. It's definitely slower than the last 2 times. Luckily he keeps me moving. At mile 80, my batteries go dead in my light. Not good. It's pitch black out. Luckily Steve has a light and we're able to navigate the treacherous trails of this section.

Mile 83. Coyotes are howling in unison very close nearby as we approach the aid station. Mother nature's concert. Nicole jumps in at this point and we're off. It's roughly 2 AM in the morning and I'm tired! Must keep going. We stumble on.

Mile 90. The turn around point in the last loop. Only 10 miles to go. My eyes are burning, quads are quivering, stomach is upset, feet and knees are throbbing, but besides this, I feel pretty darn good. We get to Pirates Cove and have about a 2 mile climb to the peak to head down to the last aid station. Don't really remember this section. I think I was having what is known as an "out of body experience" or I was simply asleep! One of the two.

Mile 96. All I want to do is get this thing over with! My mind and body are both rebelling against whatever the heck is keeping me going. Not sure what is. Steve feeds and waters me at the aid station. Nicole and I are off. Straight up the hill we climb. "Were all these hills here before? Did someone add them during the night?"

Mile 98. The sun is coming up again and the fog is rolling in at the higher elevation. Yeah, we're almost done. I can do this. Wait. "Where did this last climb come from?!" You've got to be kidding me. We stumble to the top only to behold the finish line in the distance. Thank you Lord! We actually look pretty good as we cross the finish line at 24 hours and 20 minutes. I find out that I got 5th place. Very excited considering all I wanted to do was finish. Time for a Steak Omelet and Pancakes! Here I come!

I couldn't have done it without Nicole and Steve to keep me fed, hydrated, motivated, and actually on the course. They were up the entire night and met me at every aid station with a smile and a peanut butter cup! Thanks guys! And Thank You too all the wonderful people that supplied me with race goodies and support. You really made this Ultra Runners race very memorable and special.

My ankles are swollen and legs are still throbbing. Yesterday, I considered retiring from UltraRunning. It's just too painful. Today the pain has subsided and I'm already looking at the San Diego 100 in October. "Hey, I can't help it. I'm an endorphin junky and always will be. There's no high in the world that can touch the incredible high one experiences when pushing the human body to the limit and accomplishing incredible feats!"

"Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'!"


Anonymous said...

I only have one word for you......AMAZING! Crazy kid from Cuba - you rock and Congrats? :)

Laura V. said...

Joe Decker, you are an amazing super-human!!!!!! Way to go Bud!!! You are inspiration!!!

Laura V.

stephruns said...

Congratulations Joe on an awesome race. Great re-cap!

See you soon on the trails!

Dianne said...

Joe - I have read this blog twice now and it still blows my mind! Awesome job. Thank you so much for the motivation you have given me to keep challenging truly are an inspiration!!!

Anonymous said...

you are both crazy and inspiring all at once. Great job.
btw, why not just run the full length across America some time?
its 2694 miles to DC from La Jolla. At your pace that should be about 27 days by my calculations.
Tim P. from WIU