Sunday, June 20, 2010

I fought the trail but the trail won!

I can break down my Bighorn attempt into 4 categories. The four categories are, the bad, the ridiculous or funny, the great and of course the lessons. I'll get the bad news over with first.

THE BAD: I DNF'ed! When I checked in on Thursday my blood pressure reading was 101/51. The medic checks it twice then asks me if this is normal. All runners have low blood pressure but for me I know when I see a lower than 58 reading on the bottom that's too low. I've had this combination of hypotension and hypothyroid for about 5 years. It's fairly common among endurance athletes but there are a couple of things that can cause symptoms to get out of hand.
Altitude and cold can really make the body freak when the circulation is compromised. Being at all dehydrated or low on sodium coupled with the altitude and cold took my body for the ride of it's life. I was absolutely prepared to be cold up at Porcupine Pass. This is the high point of race at 8,900 feet. It's also the 50 mile turn around and due to the late start time it put me arriving somewhere between 10 and midnight. The amount of standing water on the course near the turnaround along with freezing temperature took my body into a tail spin I couldn't get out of. I arrived absolutely freezing with all my clothes on. I couldn't feel my lower legs up to about mid shin. I got in the car to change shoes and clothes and immediately started uncontrollable shivers. I got out quick and got going thinking once I got out of the freezing water section and down lower I could warm up and all would be good. I got out of it began to get feeling back in my hands and legs but never came around. I gave myself miles
of emotional abuse wondering if I am just simply wimping out and letting myself and everyone else down. Wondering if failure was defining me. The emotional thrashing lasted a really long time. The battle between my body and my mind was intense and absolutely raw. Trying to separate the two and figure out how pull myself around was incredible and frustrating. It was a wicked ride. I gave it all I had. I tried everything I knew how to do, eat, drink, go slow, be positive, sit at aid stations, drink broth and coke. By mile 80 I was losing it big time. By arms were swelling, I had shortness of breath, dizzy malaise and felt like I was ready to call it good on life. I knew it was over for me. All the hard work and big expectations I set were going to be left at mile 82. It was the last checkpoint for crew and I honestly was scared to leave. It was the only decision I could make at the time and though I have questioned it for over 24 hours now all I can do is learn how to prevent it or control it for future races. Bill was crushed when he saw me. I knew he was worried. Micheal did everything to try to keep me going. Even holding me up. It was not a pretty picture, I was out of it, pissed, disappointed and pretty done with myself!
Now on to the better parts of the race because there were some funny or ridiculous happenings along with some great moments and of course a few lessons.

THE FUNNY OR RIDICULOUS: We left on Portland on Thursday morning. Of course I was hydrating like crazy so as soon as they said we could use the bathroom I think I ran my best race to the bathroom. Upon exiting the restroom while wearing flip flops I caught my baby toe on the door hinge and broke it. I heard the crack felt the pain and watched the 2 rows of people by the bathroom turn and watch me reach down in pain. I go back to my seat and watch it grow, turn red and I think to myself, really! I decide it will be a distraction and we don't run on our baby toe anyway. Fortunately I have a really short baby toe. It throbbed all night and I had to prop the covers up with a pillow. It was no picnic putting it in my running shoes in the morning either. Fortunately after about 15 miles it has swollen up enough to just be a mild irritant.
Leaving the first crew point at mile 13.4 the wildflowers were beautiful. The lupine were blooming and they were bright purple. Birds were singing and bees were buzzing. One of those buzzing bees flew right into my mouth! I stop, spit and try to cough it out. It's flying around my mouth caught in saliva and what seemed like a minute but was more like 10 seconds he finally got spit out. I was incredibly thankful he didn't sting me. I would have been in big trouble. However, I knew Kelly Ridgeway was behind me and she's a nurse so I knew I would't die. Ok then!

Going along the race course on my merry way enjoying my music feeling strong I come up out of a drainage right after The Narrows aid station at about mile 53 and there's a moose starring at me. I've heard the stories of Karl's moose and they warned us this section had moose. I clap and hoot at her and I not afraid because I know there are a couple of runners behind me. However, Ms. Moose starts to make some sort of snorting sound while trotting at me on the trail. I decide to turn around and head near a tree. She stops and just stands there looking my direction. Fortunately two medics on horses came and scared her up the hill. Hmmmmm...

Now with the moose up the hill and making my way further up the course to Spring Marsh
I come up on two elk. Unlike the moose they get spooked and trot up the hill yelling at me. I begin to wonder if I am going to see a bear next? Now my headphones are OFF I am eagle eying my surrounding but not enough to stop myself from missing a turn. Following 4 others runners who are good 20 yards ahead of me all is fine until one stops and discovers we are not on course. We know the trail is somewhere above us because the river is below. We cross country uphill for about a quarter of a mile and run into the trail. Seems I am having quite a day so far. On to the dark cold night.

As the sun goes down and the course continues to climb the trail just get wetter and muddier. I make my way to the turn get myself out of there with Micheal and we head home. We come into Spring Marsh aid station and I stop, grab a cup of warm broth, take a step back right into a hole. My left ankle twists but good. It hurt really bad and took my breath away. I spill most of my broth and begin to walk it off. I can feel it getting larger in my shoe as we go along. So here I have made it over 55 miles on rocky technical terrain, slippery mud, logs, cross country water swamps without one fall or twist and I can't seem to walk around an aid station without incident. My patience is certainly being tested.

We continue on. My my feet are still frozen, my left baby toe is broke and my left ankle is swollen but I am still in good spirits. Since their frozen I can't feel them anyway. I am beginning to sound like a country song but this is all just fun times and makes me laugh. We are running along the river making our way back to Footbridge when we come upon a runner who is walking but looks good. We ask if needs anything and he replies, "Do you guys see a low fog"? Micheal replies, "uh...No". The guy says, "So there's no low fog". Shit it's 36 degrees and clear skies. There is no fog. The guy says, "damn, my eyes are going". Just another day on the trail.

Now that the bad news is out of the way and I've shared my ridiculous or funny moments it's on to the great things about being at the Bighorn.
GREAT THINGS: The Oregon contingent was full of talent and experience. It was an honor to be among them. Past winners, veterans, new speedsters and first timers made up one cool crowd. Since it's an out and back you get to see everyone. It's motivating, emotional and special. Watching everyone battle for their day whether it was chasing a win, a course record, a cutoff or their first finish was really fun and exciting.

I got a treat at Footbridge. This remote aid station is hard to get to. Most crews don't access it and choose to go to Porcupine Pass instead. I was incredibly lucky in having the Gebharbt family come out out and crew me both directions. These are some fabulous people I have had the opportunity to meet. Dan and Bonnie are Sarah's parents who live in Montana but have a cabin at Footbridge. Sarah's sister Betsy ran her first 100M at CCC100M last year. All the Gebhardt family has done their share of ultras. They came out, crewed me, hugged me, encouraged and shoved me onward. They stayed until 4 am. I want to be adopted by that family. They are just cool people and I wish they lived closer!

I finally got to meet Danni! However brief it was nice to see her at Porcupine waiting for her runner who looked very chipper heading in. You know how nice it is to see a friendly face?

Micheal and I got to see a mama deer and a brand new baby on Saturday morning as we made the slog to Bear Camp. The baby must have just been born. It was so small it looked like a cat. That was cool.

Although my day did not turn out how I planned there was some things I did right. I had a body. I was strong. My fueling was spot on. I had a good stomach the whole time. I was conservative and not over doing my pace. My weight was always 2 pounds up from my start weight. Since my shoes were constantly wet and muddy I felt 2 pounds up was about right on. My feet never blistered or got sore. I am not really sore just a bit stiff. The only swelling I have is my ankle and my baby toe.

LESSONS: I already knew this but I got reminded. A 100 mile race is never a gimme! Things can come up that you don't know how to handle. Where to put your mind or how to get it back. Where are the limits? Dissecting my day and making sure I am not over looking, over thinking or
simply ignoring what happened is hard. After about an 1.5 hours I was feeling much better. Once I was out of the race by body did some dry heaving, some bowel issues, hot and cold sweats and some shaking. Once I got in a hot bath and warm I was able to get my faculties back. My breathing pattern returned to normal and seemed perfectly fine. The question? Could I have done all this at Dry Fork (mile 82) and finished? I don't know? There were some symptoms early that I didn't understand but now I do. I had some weird blurry vision at around mile 56. I had my barrier glasses on so I was confused as to why I would have it. That came and went a few times. I had some serious shallow breathing going on. I let myself get too cold. My extremities were frozen. With already compromised circulation and probably some mild dehydration you always get running an ultra I couldn't get warm even when the sun came up. I need to understand how better to handle early signs of issues and figure out to stop my body from going into a tail spin. Oh, and don't wear flip flops before your race!

Monday, June 7, 2010

No Regrets!

Bighorn training is complete. I can't believe it's over. I am thrilled with how it all went and I am ready. With only 11 days before we line up this will be a very short taper. This is how my schedule was originally planned and I think it's going to be the perfect amount. After my last post when I claimed to be very tired I jinxed myself. Bill got the flu and within 3 days I had too. Fortunately it was fast and furious. I missed one short run and instead laid in a shivery fever ball on the couch. By Friday I was running again. I remember getting the flu before a race several years ago and someone told me the antibodies I develop to fight off the flu will make me stronger. I went with that thought this time. :) From now until the race I will maintain some quality in my runs in order to keep my body guessing. Mostly I want to prevent if from heading into a deep slumber! As I mentioned in my last post this is the only training plan in which I have stuck with 4 week cycles all they way to the end. I definitely noticed two diferences. First, the Tuesday 2 hour tempo trail run after the Build 2 weekends work was hard. My legs didn't feel ready to rip around single track. It would take me longer to get all the blood moving in a synergistic fashion. My pace stayed strong but the effort seemed harder. Second, the third week of hill repeats were a challenge both mentally and physically. They were mentally challenging because I was well aware of what they require. It seemed like my cardio was ready and willing but my legs were protesting the long climb at hill repeat pace. The first repeat was always harder. The second seemed better but my eyes would start to roll in my head. The third was just necessary work. I am not sure if keeping this 4 week cycle is beneficial, if pushing through that discomfort will make me better prepared for what I know will come in a 100M run. I will let you know mid June. :)

It's been raining for over a month here in Portland. I generally don't get the weather blues but these grey cold wet days have gotten to me. I am ready to see some sun! For my final weekend of training we were treated to rare but needed sun sighting. On Saturday the skies were amazingly blue and the sun was so warm. However, that quickly ended leaving my final run on Sunday a total soaker. It was so rainy and cold. Six hours was about all I could take! I literally rung out my clothes while running. My shirt was so heavy from water it started to turn into a dress! My gloves were absolutely useless and the stream crossing were right down sketchy. One slip and you were part of a waterfall. Rain, mud, water and cold was nothing short of pure character building. Best of all, Micheal and I laughed at the absurdity of what we were doing. Running along the Benson Plateau in a cloud!

Of all the 100M races I have trained for I have to say this has been the best on many levels. It's been fun to share the training with Micheal, Cheri, Carrie, Amy, Susan and all the others I got the opportunity to hang out with. The Oregon contingent heading to Bighorn is going to be fun to watch. Everyone seems ready and excited to tackle those mountains. With the out and back venue there will be lots of motivation and encouragement. I set some goals early in the season
and kept those forefront in my mind. I wanted to have a mentally positive season free of any negative yuk and that has very much happened leaving feeling upbeat on confident. I wanted to the second day run of my back to back to be strong. All the second days have been more than I could ask for. I really dug into my psyche to push myself physically on that day. With the help of Micheal I was able to see faster and stronger runs. I am very appreciative of all the help. When I wrote down my goals and talked them over with Bill he said he had no doubt I would make all of it happen. Today I found a note he left for me this morning. I will keep much of it to myself but he wrote, "I have never met anyone who lives their truth and asks so much of themselves yet
wakes up and goes to bed with bright eyes and a deep smile. I admire and adore your enthusiasm and bravery. I know you have worked hard though none of us would ever see it in your face or feel it in our day because your strength is seemingly endless....." That was the sweetest and the best note ever! In the wee hours of Bighorn I will have to remember this because I am pretty certain I might not be smiling and have seemingly endless energy. :)

Now I am just hoping they don't call for the Alternate Snow Route. It appears there is still snow at Porcupine Pass and I have no idea at what point they will make the final call but as it stands today there in no news on changing the route. I've run the Alternate Route and am very much looking forward to the normal course.