Nanny Goat 2011

Geoff Cordner, Maggie Beach, Gabi Mendoza

Me & my crew post race: Maggie Beach, Gabi Mendoza

Nanny Goat 12hr: 60 miles 7th place overall. Nanny Goat 12/24/100 is run on a 1 mile loop run around a ranch in Riverside It’s a timed race: 12 hours, 24 hours, and, this year, an official 100 miler.

I ran the 12 hour race. This would be my second post-50 miler, the first (and unofficial) was my 52.31 mile birthday run just 5 weeks ago.

This time I ran 60 miles, which was enough for 7th place overall. I might have to cherry pick my races, but I’m starting to get better and place in a few. I owe a good chunk of this to the support and inspiration I get from my friends and fellow runners.

Lesson: Fabrice Hardel is a top runner. At the halfway mark (my 30 miles) he’d already lapped me 15 times. We talked for a moment as he passed me for the 16th time. He was shooting for 100 miles, and seemed well on his way. He did not pass me again. His last 12 laps took 4 hours, and he dropped at 58 miles. Steve Harvey said “You can’t win an ultra in the first 10 miles, but you can lose one.” And that’s pretty much what happened. Trying to run 100 miles at a 6:30 mpm pace is probably not a good idea.

The ultra scene is a crazy family full of eccentric characters.

Ed Ettinghausen is one of those characters. He is on the verge of breaking the Guiness Book of World Records record for most marathons run in a calendar year (which is currently 106). Part of the way he does this is to turn his ultra marathons into a series of consecutive marathons. In order to count as a marathon, each requires a separate bib number and official recognition as a separate race. He has each bib already attached to a separate pair of shorts and changes every 26 miles, officially beginning a new marathon.

With 116 miles at Nannygoat, Ed ran 4 official marathons plus 12 bonus miles.

Here’s what else Ed does: he dresses in costume, often as a Jester. He makes a point of learning everyone’s name, and in a loop race like Nannygoat, Ed gives every runner he passes the thumbs up or a high five, and encourages us by name.

When we were all finished I told him how much I appreciated this. He replied that he doubted anyone got more out of it than he did. All the work he does trying to lift everybody else up makes him forget how much he hurts as it gets late into a 100 mile or 24 hour run.

Another guy who deserves special mention is Tony Nguyen, aka Endorphin Dude, who might not be the fastest athlete but is undoubtedly the happiest. He had 7 costume changes for his 24 hour run, and was always, always, always a joy to cross paths with. One of his costume changes was a Court Jester outfit, in honor of Ed Ettinghausen. Tony brightened up everyone’s day, over and over and over.

Through the course of the run I talked to a number of other runners, sometimes just for a sentence or two, sometimes for a mile or two. I don’t remember all their names, but I enjoyed every conversation.

Let’s talk about Maggie Beach. I had the special gift of a “celebrity pacer”. My friend Maggie is an elite runner. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because it’s the sort of thing Maggie regularly does for her friends, when she offered her services as a pacer. She’s someone I run with often. She knows my pace and my mood. Having her running with me for hours, seeing it through the end, was great. There’s a little psychology involved here: when you have a pacer that the other runners recognize, and when everybody is noticing you because of this pacer, you can’t slack off. I had to run better because people were paying attention. Add to that Gabi, who kept saying “You can do 60 miles no problem, if you want to” in a way that would be a macho throwdown if it weren’t said so gently, and there really wasn’t any way to get out of it without being a princess.

I started to turn it up just a bit in the last 10 miles. Maggie gave me small goals. The first was just to run farther than I’d ever run. The next were mile targets. When it became abundantly clear that I would hit 57, 58 became the new target. When that one was in the bag unless I broke a leg, 59 and then 60 became targets, and she laid down some rules – no walking, no stopping, attack 59 to make sure I still had time for number 60.

It was a conservative run. Yes, I went out a little too fast, and yes, I tanked a bit in the heat and wind during the middle hours, but aside from lingering a bit too long somewhere (the tent?) during a few of those miles, it was still a more or less smart and cautious run. I still have no idea what I’m capable of, and I don’t usually try to find that out during races. Maybe at some point I’ll get brave and try, but the truth is that while I’ve always enjoyed winning, I’ve always dreaded losing so very much more.

I commented to Maggie that this was the first time I didn’t crave pizza after one of these runs. I then realized that I totally craved pizza. The next mission was to figure out how to find some. Maggie got directions and we drove to a Pizza Hut in Riverside.

I was covered in dust, and my clothes were covered in dust, and my hands were filthy (dust combined with Hammer gel and whatever else), I had that peculiar shuffle that post-race ultra runners and skid row drunks seem to share, and I realized that I looked homeless. We endeavored to explain to the girls at Pizza Hut what we’d been doing to get us in such a sorry looking state, and that did not seem to help the situation. Running 60 miles made less sense than homelessness did.

They said “Can we have your phone number?” I didn’t get it. “But…you don’t need to call us…we’re standing right here.” The girl shrugged her shoulders. Maggie gave them her phone number. I muttered some ineffectual protests. They asked for an ID before taking my credit card.

We sat in the truck and power-ate a 14″ Veggie Delite ™. Maggie dropped me off and headed home.

10pm & Kista was somewhere around mile 60. I wrapped myself up in a sleeping bag and tried to get comfortable. It wasn’t working. I climbed into the back of the Pathfinder. That wasn’t working either – at 6’1″ I’m too long to lay in there without some bending, and bending wasn’t happening. I managed a diagonal with my feet out the door.

Kista rolled in for a few breaks and to have Bob tend to her blisters. I crawled out, snapped some shots and tried to mutter some encouragement. This was the first time I’d seen anyone in the dead of night during a 100 miler. It did not look encouraging to me. She was hurting, she was running with the flu, and while her feet were not nearly in the horrific shape they were last year (when she was pulled from the race at mile 69 for blisters) they were still blistered and in need of care.

I managed to finally get to sleep around 2am. At 5:45 or so, it got light and I woke up. My legs were aching. I wandered into the barn, got some coffee and checked the times. Kista was at about 83 miles. In order to continue beyond 24 hours, runners needed to make an 87 mile cut-off. She had 2 hours to get there. No problem. And after that, just a half marathon to make 100. She can do a half marathon in her sleep, which is good, ’cause that’s how she was likely gonna run at least part it.

The weather got difficult. It was sunny and warm. It got windy and cold. There was rain. Sun again. More rain.

The splits were taking longer. Kista normally doesn’t listen to music while running but her pacer insisted she drag out the ipod to take her mind off her feet. She was doing a weird power shuffle while power muttering to Dr. Dre.

George Velasco, Ted Liao, Lambert Timmermans, RD Steve Harvey and a handful of other folks were gathered at the clock cheering the remaining runners on. Kista passed one on her 98th mile and was less than a minute or so behind Summer Wesson as she started her final lap. I told her pacers what they probably already knew: they could catch Summer. After a few minutes I wandered out to the back pavement stretch to join Kista and her pacers and help run her in, not because she needed the help but because I wanted the honor of being a part of it.

After all the tears, we wrapped Kista up in a sleeping bag and put her in the warm sun since hypothermia was kicking in. We were the last folks left at the ranch. After a while we tore down the tent Joe at ARC was so kind to lend us, packed up my truck, and loaded Kista into the passenger seat. It wasn’t really a moment too soon. I’d run my own 60 miles and had barely slept in 32 hours. I didn’t know if I had it in me do drive us home if we waited much longer.

I got Kista home and pretty much carried her into her place. She was deposited on a beach lounger in front of the TV. I carried in her stuff, and then headed off to ARC to return what they’d loaned us before heading home. Groceries, dinner, sleep.

Here’s the summary: 1). the ultra world is an extraordinary family, full of delightful eccentrics, and I am happy to be a part of it. 2). Being part of someone’s first 100 miler was an unbelievable experience. This accomplishment meant so much to her, and it was a gift to me just to be able to assist in some small way. 3). I am immensely grateful for Maggie and Gabi’s help, especially because it was offered to me without my ever even thinking to ask. 4). For a person who thinks of himself as somewhat misanthropic, and really isn’t a people person, I never cease to be amazed by my incredible friends, and by my love for them. You guys really truly are awesome.

Post script: I wore my Nanny Goat T-shirt to the coffee shop Monday morning. Some girl got upset. She thought I was into goat racing. She thought we forced goats to run for 24 hours. I wish I could’ve gone along with it, but I was too tired, and sore in places that don’t normally hurt.

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