Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Hom 100 Race Report (2014)

Planning an event like this is never easy. Yet, when it came time to put together the Hom 100 this year, I found that I have a bunch of friends, family and neighbors who make raising money and organizing a charity run pretty simple. They gave up their time, patience and strength to help remember a man who by his very nature was one of the most giving and caring people we've ever known.

Despite all the news broadcasts, online articles and blogs that seem to perpetuate the craziness and valiant effort of running 100 miles, my goal has never once strayed from it's primary purpose - honoring Tony and doing my part to ensure other families, children and patients dealing with ALS never have to accept the inevitable diagnosis of the disease.

With that in mind, here is my account of the 2014 Hom 100.

8 am to Noon

While I have a general sense of people that are going to show up for the start, it is hard for my Type A personality to not freak out when the clock strikes 8 and people are still showing up. Last year, I had my undies in a bunch about starting on time...this year, I let it slide knowing that in the end 5-10 minutes didn't really matter.

A good 20-30 people had congregated in the street for our event and after a few general words to the crowd, we made our way out onto the trail. Drivers were giving us strange looks wondering what sort of protest we were staging or what type of gang wears white t-shirts emblazon with "Hom's Homies". Somewhat oblivious to the rising temperatures, many of the kids starting getting red faces before deciding that taking a break at the aid station for juice boxes was a wise choice.

Approximate mileage = 24 miles

Noon to 6 pm

It was shortly after noon that I hit my first low spot. With temperatures already in the high 90's, I was doing my best to not only stay hydrated but consume calories that would replenish my electrolytes. Outside of some gels, I had already reached the stage where nothing sounded good to eat.

By now, most of the kids had peeled off the course and were either sitting under trees, playing in the sun or laying in the shade with puffy red cheeks. A couple kids got heat sickness and were not doing so well (as-in, projectile vomiting). Then again, there were a couple of adults who were doing a good job hydrating, but were not taking in any salt. I wouldn't call it carnage, but it was close.

The end of each loop saw basically the same ritual now that the temperatures had reached the hottest part of the day (officially, the high in Gilbert that day was 105). Dunk head in icy cooler, fill water bottle with ice and water, spray shirt with ice water. Repeat. For 6 hours. I had been drinking 32 oz of water every 20 minutes since 10 am and peed for the first time at about 5 pm as the shadows got longer and the temperature dropped to 95.

Throughout the hottest part of the day, running friends continued to show up and put in some laps with me. They were great to keep my spirits up by telling stories, laughing at events from the previous year and also talking about Tony. I had resolved not to push at all during these hot hours - even if that meant walking multiple laps, taking extended breaks under the tent or splashing cold water on my head to bring my core temperature down...I knew this was not the afternoon to be a hero.

Approximate mileage = 45 miles

Brad, Nate, me & Lindy
The ladies from the AZ ALS Association
Mark, me and Farris
Perfect for a hot day!
Shauna, me and Julie Anne
Becky, me and Amber

6 pm to Midnight

As the shadows got longer and the sun started to fade away, I could feel life and energy begin to come back into my tired bones and feet. I don't remember much from this stretch of time. I may have changed my clothes. I distinctly remember fumbling around to change my socks only to realize that each pair I had packed in my drop box were both for the same foot (I wear the toe-socks). Things weren't looking good in the fashion department but I made due and continued on my way as the darkness closed in. Most folks breathed a collective sigh of relief as the temperatures continued to drop.

The other thing I remember is peeing a lot after about 9 pm. I was still drinking water like it was 105 out so on each loop as we neared the drain on the canal (e.g., large amount of rushing water), I would have to take a break and relieve myself. After 12 hours of running in the sun, this is one of THE most important things you can's not glamorous, but it means your kidneys aren't going to try and kill you. It reminded me of a funny sign I saw at a race once...

Never in my life thought I would get a saxophone serenade during my run but it happened (thanks Andrew!). Kinda weird, but certainly fun enough to keep the mood light. The newly-dubbed aid station-slash-beer-garden was apparently the place to be and folks were having a good time watching this crazy group of runners make their rounds through the night. It was great having the cheers and clapping each time we came up over the hill into the tent. It's the small things like this that really helped propel me and the other guys on through the midnight hour.

The 'saxy' serenade...
The 100k selfie

In general, I was feeling pretty good - with the exception of my knees. The pavement sections of the course were punishing my knees. I resolved not to sit down if I didn't have to because the process of stretching my legs and running again was even worse. I was also doing my best not to look at my watch for fear it would start ticking backwards or something but nevertheless, the miles were moving forward just as slowly as I was. My family and most of the neighbors has disappeared by midnight leaving only Jim and Dean to man the aid station.

Approximate mileage = 70 miles

Midnight to 6 am

I'm not a very chatty person after 9 pm - not to mention after I've been on my feet for 16+ hours. I'm thankful for cooler temperatures and for many of the guys - Brad, Steve, Wade and Dean - who each put in multiple laps to help keep me company as we crossed over into the next day. There wasn't much conversation, but I was fine with that. My focus was just keeping moving and getting through the night.

I'm pretty sure the most exciting things to happen during this time were:
  1. I consumed half a bag of Wavy Lays chips
  2. I stripped down right on the trail to remove my compression shorts (that were chaffing)
  3. I changed into my 3rd pair of shoes trying to relieve my knee pain
I know how to party.

Cruising through the early morning hours, I was still able to do simple math and had calculated my finish at approximately 10 am. Seeing the sun rise was not only exhilarating but exciting because it meant I had about 4 more hours to run...what's 4 more hours after 20+ already?!

Approximate mileage = 85 miles

6 am to Finish

I came around the corner of the neighborhood and saw a FOX10 news van sitting in the road and a dude just hanging out. My friend (and Tony's cousin) Celena had just joined me on the run and waved me down. We stopped and learned that FOX10 wanted to do a live segment for the 7 am news. I was trying to wrap my head around all the questions they might ask and the responses I might give but to be truthful, I didn't have the energy to concentrate that long.

We were able to get a couple more loops in before taking a break to get mic'ed up and settled for the interview. I was a little frustrated because I sat there at the tent for about 20 minutes waiting for the broadcast...time I could have spent running (to be done earlier). Oh well.

The broadcast went off without too much fanfare. I sounded mostly coherent despite my fatigue. Being at mile 90, I was excited to get moving again - that short break and the prospect of being done really got me fired up. That and the ibuprofen...I moved with a purpose.

My serious camera face

About 8 am most of the neighbors and friends started coming back to the tent to join in the final laps. Kids got back on their bikes. The walkers came out with their dogs. No one skipped a beat. The group of runners had grown again now that the sun was up and nearing the end.

The dirty little secret of the Hom 100 is that the loop around the neighborhood isn't exactly 2's about 1.6-1.8 depending on what satellites you've picked up with your GPS. This means that final lap is always a little longer than normal. Our group picked a simple route along the canal and added another 0.75 miles before heading back toward the finish.

Just like the scene from Rocky when he goes charging up the stairs during his run, I made may way over the last half mile and was amazingly full of energy and excitement. I picked up the pace as I made my way across the street and into the waiting crowd of friends, family and fellow runners. They either stood there shaking their heads, shook my hand or took a step back because I smelled absolutely horrible. I was done.

Finishing for Tony
(c) Steve McCarthy
A shade over 25 hours. For Tony.

Closing Thoughts

It takes a small village to support this cra-cra run. There are too many names to list - but to everyone who stayed up all night with me, those folks that drove over an hour to come down to Gilbert and anyone else who donated food, ice, drinks and their time to take care of the runners, kids and the logistics necessary to make this a success...I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

To our sponsors - Cadence Running, Thurston Photography, i-Run shop, Aravaipa Running, Tec-Works, Solemates Ultrarunning, Mulqueen Sewing Stores and Mezzaluna Fitness - you are all rock-stars!

Thank you for continuing to honor Tony and his legacy. Let's do it again next year.

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