Thursday, April 3, 2014

Live, Learn, And (God Willing) Try Again!

 After considering it for some time, I decided I should go ahead and write down a report about my experience this last weekend at the Prairie Spirit Trail 100 mile race before I forget too much about it.  The reason I hesitated to report it is because, thought I, no one wants to hear a report about a quitter.  I have never considered myself to be a "quitter!"  In fact, my father who retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years or so wouldn't allow the words "I quit" to be part of our vocabulary...something to which I am very thankful actually.  But no matter how much I try to think about what I could have or should have done differently, the fact is I decided to drop at mile 77.  I'll explain why in a minute, but first I walk you through my race starting from the beginning.

Right before the sun came up, the hundred milers all toed the line after a brief "final word" and a prayer led by ultra running legend, David Horton.  If everyone was like me, we were all anxious, eager...and nervous, wondering what was in store for us over the next 20-30 hours.

The first twenty miles went by so fast I can barely remember them.  I know I met a lot of runners.  I listened to them talk to each other and I had a few conversations myself.  But each time I saw someone check their watch and heard them say something like, "We're running in the 10's and 11's right now," I realized I was in the wrong crowd. 

My plan was to start out at between a 12 to 13 minute per mile pace, storing up every little bit of energy I could for a consistent pace throughout the night that would get me a 24 hour (or less) finish (I gave myself a 26 hour cut off time, even though the official cut off was 30 hours, because I had committed to my Sunday School class, my family, and to God that I wouldn't miss church for the race but would still fulfill my responsibilities to teach, lead music, etc.  By the time I got to Garnett (25ish miles), I had already told a dozen or so people that I knew better and was going to pay later for going out so fast.

What is really strange is that I don't think my body suffered at all for running that pace.  I probably could have kept it up till Iola (the 51 mile aid station and turnaround point)...except for the fact that I kept forgetting to drink.  Now, I'm not a veteran ultra runner by any means, but I do know the importance of proper hydration.  Thinking back on my training, I realized that I often went for 10-14 mile runs without any water.  Hydrating before and after my training runs was plenty sufficient, but I was stupid to not think about the fact that I needed to train with a water bottle so my body would get used to drinking while running--such a rookie mistake!

I filled up with some Heed (electrolyte drink), tried to start drinking more, grabbed some boiled potatoes dipped in salt, swallowed some electrolyte tablets...everything I could think of to promote better hydration.  But it was too late.  I urinated my last time somewhere around mile 30, and when I got to Colony (41 miles), I knew I was in trouble. 

 Since I was still almost an hour ahead of schedule, I decided I would sit for a few minutes and sip some fluids down until I could go to the bathroom and start sweating again.  Then it happened!  After sitting (another rookie mistake perhaps) I felt nauseous.  Then came severe muscle spasms.  I was cramping so bad and felt so sick that I went to lie down in the grass, writhing in pain.  My wife offered help, but I told her I just needed to wait it out.  Several times, I tried to get up.  I knew I needed some food to last the next 10 miles but every time I looked at food to put in my pack, I wanted to throw up!  Back to the grass!  Then finally, because I started to realize everyone was looking at me in pity, I moved to the back of our van. 
 Knowing I was so far ahead when I went into this aid station, I wasn't too worried about making it up when this "low point" ended.  But unfortunately, when I finally left, I had been there around 2 hours!  I grabbed a few things to stuff in my pack, put on my Camelback for better hydration, and headed down the trail.

Feeling a lot better, I was able to pick up the pace back up a little after walking about a quarter mile.  But I still couldn't eat because I was just too nauseous.  I wish I would have forced myself, but I thought I could wait until the nausea never passed!

10 miles later, I jogged into the Iola aid station.  Home was only about a mile away.  Some friends and family had come out to cheer me on, which was a blessing and quite an encouragement, only it made me want to stay longer at the aid station and I couldn't afford that.  I sat down to change socks and check my blister (not bad really), tried to eat a few things and drink some more.  Finally, I put on a warmer shirt, grabbed my headlamp and pacer (one of the teens from the youth group, Logan, agreed to run 10 miles or so with me and actually made it almost 20), and was on my way.

 We tried to mix a little bit of walking and jogging for the next 10 miles back to Colony, but another problem set in--one that concerned me more than the nausea, cramps and lack of sweat and urine--I now had to urinate really badly, but it would not come out.  About every 5 minutes (or less) I would try to empty my bladder...and nothing.  If a tiny bit managed to come out, it stung and was dark orange.  Were my kidneys and bladder completely shutting down?  Should I get an IV?  Perhaps! But I decided to keep trucking along and keep trying to drink.

Because of the nausea, I realized I had only been managing to get down 100-200 calories every 10 miles.  That was not sufficient by any stretch of the imagination.  And the more I drank, the more I had to go to the bathroom, but really couldn't go.

Logan and I made it back to Welda, lucky to keep moving 15-16 minutes per mile.  I knew things weren't looking good, but kept hoping that I would be able to pick the pace up and make up for loss time.  After I dropped Logan off at Welda, I had about 10 miles to go to Garnett (77.5 miles).  I put my mp3 player in grabbed a few granola bars, some M and M's, and half a banana (none of which I even touched except for about a bite of the granola bar which stayed in my mouth a long time), and I kept moving. 

As I kept moving down the path into the extremely dark night (new moon) and the sound of coyotes and owls, I began to think about how good I actually felt.  This was encouraging because usually by now my feet would be screaming and the pain in my quads and calves would barely be manageable.  I might even typically have an ankle or knee that was bothering me pretty badly at this point, but the only thing wrong with me was I felt sick and couldn't eat, I had to go to the bathroom but couldn't go, and if I picked up the pace to 14 minute miles or faster, everything cramped up. 

I started doing the math and thought it was still doable if I could keep walking 15 minute miles.  Then my wife, who is much better at math than I am, called me to motivate me.  I actually needed to get back up to 14 minute miles or faster and could not stop at any aid stations if I were going to make it in 26 hours.  I decided I would keep pushing and see how my pace was in Garnett, but with about 4 miles left I started realizing that I was going to come up short.  I could walk it and make the 30 hour cut off, but 26 just wasn't going to be obtainable.  I had to decide if I should keep going anyway until the 26 hours was up and then head straight to church, or go home and sleep a few hours before church.  At that point of the game, that was an easy choice to make.  I went home and got a shower and a nap!  (More coming soon...)
Me teaching Sunday School a few hours later.

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