Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Road Trip Weekend: Palo Duro Trail Run

Saturday morning starting super early for everyone except for me and Kate. She didn't sleep well during the night and kept me up for 2 hours, so Nick made us sleep in. (I didn't complain.) Everyone else was up at 4:30 am and out the door by 5:30 so Jason could get there in time. The race started at 7 am, in the dark. Each runner was given a head lamp. It's a good thing they left so early because traffic getting into the canyon was kind of crazy and they arrived at the starting line with 21 minutes to spare. That's cutting it close!

The course is designed sort of in an uneven infinity loop, and each loop is 12.5 miles. Jason would run this loop 4 times. At the place where the loop crosses itself there is a parking lot for the lighthouse rock formation. This is where we set up "camp" for the day. Jason had a large bag with supplies (gels, drinks, change of gear, extra shoes, medicines, and anything else he might need during the duration of the day) and we all had camping chairs to hang out in between seeing him, along with books and games for the kids.

Kate and I headed out around 8 am and stopped at McDonalds on the way to grab everyone some hot cocoa and coffee. It was 45* when the race started, so they were all pretty cold. It would eventually warm up to 80* that afternoon, which was great for us but not so fantastic for the runners. It's even hotter once they're down in the canyon, so I can't imagine what they were dealing with.

By the time Kate and I arrived, Jason had already been through the parking lot twice. The first time I saw him was around mile 16, and he looked great! Of course he runs that kind of distance on a regular basis, so this was just another Saturday to him so far. It was starting to warm up but was definitely not hot yet, so things were perfect.
In between Jason coming through our area we had anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours, depending on which side of the course he was on. One end of the loop was a little bit longer than the other, and as the day progressed his pace slowed. So we took the opportunity and did some hiking with the kids while we waited, making sure we were back at the parking lot in enough time to see him and help him if need be. Along the trails we were passed by many runners, and each time we all stopped and cheered them on. We were thanked by almost every one of them - it's a huge deal to tackle an event like this, and even the encouraging words of a stranger can really help lift your spirits. So we were happy to spread the love to as many people as we could.
Sometime during the third loop Jason began to get tired. At this point his legs were cramping so badly that he could not run unless he was going downhill, and even that eventually became too painful. But he kept going, even if it had become a walking event rather than running for him. The last time he came through the checkpoint, he told us that he knew he wasn't going to finish the 50 miles by the required cut off time: 7:00 pm. He just physically couldn't make his legs move any faster than they were, but he was going to finish the race anyway - even if it didn't earn him an official time. Nick and I were prepared to walk the final 2.75 miles with him when he came back through the lighthouse parking lot the last time. Only he would not come back through the parking lot on foot again.
We were waiting around, and worry was setting in. No one wanted to see Jason get hurt, and we all just wanted him to reach that goal and cross the finish line. But he was slowing down, and we didn't know how long it would take. Dad even drove up to the next check point to see if Jason had made it there yet, even though it really hadn't been long enough for him to have been there. Dad had just returned to the parking lot when one of the race workers walked near enough for us to hear him talking into a walkie talkie "We need an ambulance for one of the runners." I think my heart stopped for a second - we all knew that there were only about 5 people left on the whole course. We asked who, and all he could provide was a bib number: 167. Jason.

Panic set in. Did he fall? Was he hurt badly? What had happened?? He informed us that it was dehydration, and while that's not great, I was immediately relieved. Dehydration is a pretty simple fix. Fluids. IV maybe. No problem. Kylie and Logan had both started crying when their daddy's number was called out, understandably, and at that moment God provided a pack of wild turkeys across the road. Someone pointed them out, and I told Nick to take the kids over to see the wild turkeys. I knew they needed a distraction.

The ranger came rolling in on an ATV with Jason in the passenger seat. He looked pretty out of it, and he was very weak. He had no color in his face at all. Even his lips were sort of grayish-white. He complained that he was hot, but he physically couldn't stand to walk so he rode over to the outdoor shower to cool off. That water turned out to be way too cold for his body, and he began to shiver violently. We grabbed a chair for him and I ran to my car to get my fleece blanket. We covered him in towels and my blanket, but he still continued to shiver and convulse. The ambulance arrived about that time, and the doctor inside began talking with him and assessing the situation. He determined that if Jason could drink fluids to rehydrate that would be best. So he began sipping a Gatorade slowly, since he had been throwing up on the course and couldn't keep anything down.
One Gatorade and a half later, the color started to return to his face. He remained cold, but he had stopped shivering. Somehow he managed to walk from the chair to the car with Nick's help, and we began packing up to head back to the hotel. Heather pulled out first while the rest of us loaded everything, and we caught up to them just outside the park because they had pulled over - Jason and thrown up his Gatorade. By the time we reached the hotel I knew he was going to have no choice but go to the emergency room to get an IV. It was the quickest way to get his body back to where it needed to be. Two bags of IV fluids later, and they returned to the hotel sometime after 11:00 pm. It had been an exceptionally long day, but Jason was feeling better.

He had this to say once he returned to his hotel:
" I really am not disappointed in not finishing. Set a new personal best 43 miles! Had a 10 hour talk with God in the most beautiful place I've ever run and met amazing people. I also got to see the love my family has for me on display. I set a new record for most cramps at one time and duration of cramps. I ran with one of them for 3 hours! Plus I got to ride a Ranger ATV thingy thru the canyon and it was cool. Running this type of race is about seeing where your absolute limits are. I found mine and pushed way past them. Now I will have new limits. That is called success."

I am incredibly proud of his accomplishment this weekend, and I will be right there to cheer him on the next time he tackles a ultra marathon because I know he will. He's just stubborn and crazy enough to do it again.

No comments: