A lot can happen in 13 hours 41 minutes and 46 seconds. A lot can happen to your body in 13 hours 41 minutes and 46 seconds. A lot can happen in your brain in 13 hours 41 minutes and 46 seconds. A lot can change in a person in 13 hours 41 minutes and 46 seconds.
To avoid being overly suspenseful, I finished the 50 miler. If you haven't guessed from the sentences above, it took me 13 hours 41 minutes and 46 seconds. I've struggled with the best way to sum up my experience, it's likely little bits and pieces of it will continue to trickle out through future blog posts. For the purpose of this post I'm going to take a page from one of my favorite podcasts; This American Life.
Each blog post I choose a theme and bring you stories on that theme. Today's theme; 13 hours 41 minutes and 46 seconds.
Act 1: The little things. Over the course of 50 miles the little things add up.
Act 2: The fight. What happens when the brain, body, and stomach get into a fight?
Act 3: I get by with a little help from my friends. It's takes a village to finish a race, and sometimes a little rolling rock.
ACT I - The Little Things
This wasn't my first race. It wasn't my first ultra. It wasn't even the first time I was faced with spending many many hours out in the hot sun on my feet having to perform athletic awesomeness. Good performance is about nutrition, hydration, mental toughness, and physical preparedness and ability. I had all of these for the race. I had my go to nutrition - Gu gels as well as countless other things in my drop bags to supplement at aid stations. I had my go to hydration - salt bills and water mixed with HEED enduralite powder which packed electolytes as well as 300cal of per serving. I had mental toughness - I've been through enough shitty training runs and races to know I could get through a lot to finish. I had trained, I had worked for this. I was ready. Then things started happening...
It started out small. I tried to pass someone on a flat section at the beginning of the course and took a fall. Nothing major, but I had scraped my knee up good and could feel some soreness in my knees and ankle.
I stuck to my one Gu an hour plan and at about mile 8/10 I was ready to down my second Gu - strawberry banana. I ripped open the package and started oozing it into my mouth and had the immediate reaction of wanting to vomit. I managed to choke the rest of it down, but it was brutal.
I made it to the mile 10.1 Homestead aid station and had Becca and Andy fill my waterbottle with HEED. It had some other HEED already in it, a different flavor, but I didn't really care much what it tasted like. I took off for Buffalo Creek aid station and my first drop bag stop.
I tried my third gu, it took my 20+ minutes to finish it, dribble by dribble into my mouth. Ugh...why did it make me want to puke?
The climb between mile 16 and mile 22 was tough, lots of walking. Lots of stomach pains. Not a lot of food/fuel.
I decided that the HEED was no longer working for me, I ran the section between mile 22 and mile 31.9 with only water and the food I managed to eat at the Rolling Creek Aid station (some watermelon, a piece of a candy bar, a part of a banana).
It was all those things, added up, that caught up to me from mile 31.9 on. The lack of fuel intake while running made it hard to find the energy to go faster. Since I was going slower, it also meant it took longer to get to aid stations where I was able to intake fuel. Can you see the pattern? I was unable to eat I know that had a huge impact on me, especially later in the race. I hadn't planned on having to come up with an alternative to fueling on the go, Gu has never given me trouble before. The HEED thing was weird too, I had done a lot of training runs with different mixtures and it always gave me confidence that I was getting in calories through hydration. Not being able to ingest the two things I've always counted on was rough and it hurt me at the end of the race. I'm sure, looking at my splits, the steep decline as soon as the lack of proper fuel kicked in was monumental.
ACT II - The fight.
Let me give you an taste of what my body, mind, and stomach were going through during the race in the form of a dialogue.
Stomach - Yeah, so I don't like what you're putting in me so if it's ok with you I'm just going to hurt here until it's gone.
Body - Well, we had an agreement Stomach. I'd put things in you and you'd turn it into energy so I could work.
Stomach - I know, but I changed my mind on what you can put in me. I want pickles right now and nothing else.
Mind - I'm trying to ask for pickles, but different words are coming out of my mouth.
Mind - oh, I got it, "Pickles, I need PICKLES". - what there are no pickles left? Oh...
Stomach - well I guess I could eat a banana and some chips, but it's pretty lame.
Body - Everything hurts a lot
Mind - well we need to keep going. This section is flat we should run
Body - nah, I've set everything on cruise control at an 18 minute mile so we're just going to do that for the rest of the race.
Mind - but the time cut-offs, we need to make the cut-offs!
Body - yep, 18 minute mile, ONE SPEED FOR EVERYTHING
Mind - I can override your system and make the legs go faster
Body - pretty sure you can't, I put a block on that, you no longer have control over your legs
Mind - I want ice, why do I keep saying salt?
Body - I have to pee
Mind - really, again?
Body - I have to pee NOW
Mind - ok, ok, go pee
Body - I forgot about the chaffing.
Mind - I don't know if I can finish
Body - well I'm just going to keep moving forward whether you tell me to or not
Mind - I don't know if I'll make the cut-offs
Body - ok we can try to go a little faster sometimes, stomach can you send me something?
Stomach - .....
Body - Stomach are you there?
Stomach - fu
Mind - There's .4miles to go, we're running
Body - fine
Stomach - fu
ACT III - I get by with a little help from my friends.
It literally took a village for me to finish this race. It took three friends and one dog to get me to and from the race. Of which I'm so thankful for. Kate, Spencer, Jimmy, and Atila can tell you what sorts of trouble they can get into for 13 hours 41 minutes and 46 seconds. The aid station people gave me food, ice, comfort, a chair. But more so they gave me something to look forward to every 4-6 miles. Knowing that I was one stop closer to actually stopping. Even if they ran out of pickles. Ryan had a beer for me at mile 46.2. At that was amazing, also because he had a chair for me to drink it in. I did drink it, only about 1/4 of it. But it was a delicious, cold Rolling Rock. Liz made sure I ate food at the aid station, even though I didn't want to. She gave me a hunk of some weird candy bar and the whole aid station cheered me on as I climbed back out and on with the race. Janice the race coordinator at the finish. Despite being the 2nd to last person to finish the race, they cheered with what I can only imagine was the same enthusiasm as when the first person crossed the finish line. And then she hugged me. Sweaty, tired, emotional wrecked me.
Erin - without whom I don't think I could finish it. I didn't know Erin until I met her at Mile 22. She joined me at mile 31.9 and spent some very intimate time with me for the next 6 hours. She went from being a friend of Liz who was interested in pacing, to someone who I couldn't live without. She put up with my brain refusing to work and freaking me out, my mood swings of optimism to crabby, and anything weird that my body was going through at any given moment which was a lot. We talked, we cheered when we saw a trail sign, we joked about obsessive compulsive tendencies like counting steps, and there was no question in my mind I wanted her to cross the finish line with me at the end.
Epilogue - Dehydration is a horrible
I thought I was in ok shape the day after the race. I had trouble eating breakfast, but I felt ok. Drank a few beers, took a nap, watched soccer. I was sore and just assumed that was that. Then I was flung into a pit of horribleness. I referred to myself as the walking dead for the next week. I was not prepared for the late onset dehydration, which Erin informed me can come on 2-3 days after a race. It was like I had the flu, without the comfort of knowing how to treat it or when it would end. I was chilled, I even have a small burn on my foot from putting a bottle of hot water on my skin to try and warm it up. I had weird fever thoughts when I tried to go to bed at night. I couldn't think straight, I couldn't speak well or articulate my thoughts, and I couldn't eat. I managed to get down a bowl of ramen type noodles thanks to Dan and Allison and a couple vitamin waters. I'm happy to report that things are much better. Everything except for the food part. I've managed to start eating some more meals, but it's sad to not be able to eat normally like I am used to and love to. It's improving, but just at a slower rate than I want.
Will I ever do it again? - Time will tell. I will say that this was an awesome race, well organized, well put on, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to attempt it.