Sunday, July 24, 2016

When Things Go Badly...Montour 24

Noah works full-time,but has Wednesdays off.   A fact I’d forgotten, until he padded down the stairs at 11:11 (his number).  “You’re home!”  he said.  I’d just returned the night before from a much desired, very fulfilling, A+ training run.  “Let’s go to lunch”, he continued.
I love my 1:1 time with my boy.  We talk about anything and everything.  Today’s topic was his next marathon.  “I’m just not sure why I’m doing it.  I don’t have the same reasons as last time”.  Granted, I found out he wanted to do another marathon on Facebook…’Today I start training for marathon #2’.  Wait...What??? do I explain it to the boy?  “Noah, you do it because it’s hard, but you are tougher.  You do it because you can learn about yourself.  You do it because once it’s done, no one can ever take it away from you.  Noah, you do it because you can.”
Fast forward to the Montour 24.   This was another training run for me.   I registered simply to get in some heat training.  I had very loose mileage goals, I simply wanted to keep moving for the 24 hours.   The course is a 1.5 mile loop with an awesome hill.  Oh, I do love finding my inner mountain goat!  I’d originally wanted to sign up for the 12-hour night run, but me being me, decided to go big.   This would have been an entirely different blog, had I stuck with my original plan.
My first few laps were great!  I was completing them in 15 minutes or less.  I kept a moderate pace, as I knew it was going to be a hot one, and took advantage of the relative coolness of a 7 am start.   I slowed my pace as needed.  I stopped to watch kids jump off the pretty covered bridge.  I eavesdropped on a couple of guys who are thinking of trying a “hardcore” race in Lockport.  “The Beast,” they said, “is hard.  If you want heat training, there is no better place for it”.  Again, I didn’t care about mileage or time, I just wanted time on my feet.  
It hit around lap 10.  It was HOT.  No worries, I’ll walk.  But, oh the lure of that hill.  I am absolutely addicted to the pull of a gradual downhill after a challenging climb.  That straightaway was made for running, and in hindsight, I think it is what did me in.  
I remember at the six-hour mark, the announcer stated, “We have just had our hottest six-hour race in our history.  Stay hydrated.”  I was feeling pretty strong, and I was keeping up on my hydration.   I had a full bottle of Endurolytes that I kept at the aid station.  I had been popping them frequently.  But, when I looked for them, they were gone!  What?   NO!  The race had some at the aid station, and I popped in the last two in the bottle.  I assumed they had other bottles, and I took off on my next loop.
I was wrong about the extra bottles.   They had salt tabs, but I know from experience that they upset my stomach.  Ok, no worries, I’ll take in salty food and electrolyte hydration.  It will slow my pace, but I’ll be ok.  They announced it was 97 degrees.
I did a few more loops, but couldn’t maintain a run.  I power walked,  If you’ve raced with me, you know I can power walk with the best of them.  Again, my goal was to just keep moving.  
Then, a lap or two later, things got bad.  I ached.  I was mentally beating myself up, “You phoned in a few of those training miles”, “If you had signed up for the six hour race, you’d be done”,  “Why do you always have to push so damn hard?, “What’s wrong with you?”.  It gets worse, but I’ll leave it there.  
It got worse.  I started two loops without eating anything.  I had a headache.  I was still drinking, a lot, but I couldn’t stomach food.  I was very nauseous.  It felt like someone took my batteries out.  When did that hill get so big?  I tried following the edge line of the trail, but it kept moving.   I recall thinking, “girl, you are not doing well...get yourself back and sit yourself down”.  
There are two ways I check to see if I am bloated.  One, I know I can fit my hand around my wrist, thumb to pinky, in my resting state.  I wasn’t able to do thumb to middle finger.  Two, I look at my fingers, and try to interlace them.   No go.  I had an additional indicator, I normally take my rings off when I race.  Today I forgot.  In my normal state, I can spin and clank them.   Those suckers weren’t budging.   The nausea was pretty bad, too.
I got back to the aid station.  I’m not sure where I thought I was going, but I knew I was wandering.   I don’t remember going down, but I remember being helped up.   The kind folks in the medical tent put me in a chair.  I had both my feet and my hands elevated trying to bring down the swelling.   The EMT looked me over and said, “hyponatremia.  I can get you an IV, but if I do, you’re done today”.  Damn, I wish I didn’t have to take care of me at that point.   I’d already done more than a marathon, and should have cut my losses.  “No”, I said, “let me see how I do with rest”.  Sometimes, I’m dumb.
I rested an hour, I was weak and disoriented.   I see that I had sent a few texts, but I don’t remember doing it at all.  I rested another hour.  I felt better.  Somewhere in my mind, I was formulating a plan to rest until sunset and then get up.   I wasn’t keeping anything down.   My mind was willing, but my body just couldn't keep up.
One more loop, I thought.  Let me see how I do with one more loop.   I felt a bit better.   I stopped at my friend Deb’s tent on my way.  She was in her own struggle, so we sat for a bit.  I had to laugh.  She told me, “Jim Pease would tell you to have a beer”.  LOL! Then I felt a text.  It was Roger.   I don’t remember sending one to him, but I said to Deb, before looking at it, “If I asked him advice, I’m taking it”.  This is, in part, our conversation:

So, game over.  I death marched my loop, turned in my number and sat at the aid station.  I think I fell asleep, but I was in a fog.  I woke up and scrolled through my phone.   “You’re done right?”, “You be careful”.  “Get some Himalayan sea salt”.  Damn, I could only find Mediterranean.   
Noah called.  “Mom, I only got 9 out of my 12 miles in, but I don’t feel great.  What do I do?”   “Stop honey.  Just stop.  You’ll live to run another day.  You are tougher than the heat, so be smart, and don’t let it take you out.  You can go out another time.  Learn from the experience, and use it.  No one can take that experience away from you”.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Whiteface Sky Run: I Have Come Much Farther Than I Have to Go

No.  Not today.  Last year, I signed up for this race, completed half of it, and walked away.  I had the strength, but I also had my reasons.   I just couldn’t run through it.  I chose to say, “no”.  I took my ball and went home.

Fast forward a year.   I got my ball back and I wanted to play.  But, I was physically tired.  I didn’t get to sleep in as planned, the six-hour drive to the race was difficult in the pouring rain, and to top it off, I was woken by a bear as I camped.   I had reasons this year too, but I was going to race.

I teach my students about the three types of conflict in literature.   For some reason, they passed through my thoughts.

Man vs. Man;  I was going to push during this race, and it was a race.  But, if someone had more oomph than I, by all means, go ahead.  If not, no worries, I’ll pace you.  This was a race, but I was not in competition with anyone else.

Man vs. Nature:  What can I say?  Mother Nature is a bully.  Besides the bear, this time she threw rain, fog, cold, mud, deer flies, and ticks at me.  She does like to have temper tantrums on race day…

Man vs. Self:  Yup, this was my challenge.  I was at the base camp, seeing a sign showing 20 foot visibility and a 20 degree change in temperature.   It was raining...hard.   I was looking to give myself an out.   My BIL cottage is just an hour away, maybe I should go visit...What do I have to prove?   Should I just say, “NO”?  

There is a voice inside me.  She is quiet.  I often have to push through all the distractions to hear her.  She gave me the mantra that pulled me through and got me to take those first few, no turning back steps.  She whispered to me, “you have come much further than you have to go”.  

Normally in a trail race, there is a flat section at the beginning to help space the runners out.  No such luck here.  Within 50 feet of the start, I was climbing.  It was not easy, and I will freely admit that I traversed many moods.   From the base to the summit, the rain was quite fierce.  It made footing very slippery and more than once, a runner in front of me would slip and cause a domino-effect fall.  This did not lighten my mood.   I had to force myself to dig deep.  

They call this a vertical marathon, or a sky race.   With the alternating fog/rain, I could not see where I was climbing or if there would be a relatively flat section where I could take a breath.  I devised a plan, that I would push with all I had for every three pink trail markers, and then slow my pace to recover.   I completed both ascents using this method.   I now know, when it is my time to go, I do not want flowers, but a lovely bouquet of pink trail markers would be nice.  

I completed the first ascent and saw...nothing.  Just fog.   I have summited that mountain three times, and have yet to see the view.  However, the reward for my effort was a glorious descent down an Olympic Giant Slalom course.  I was flying.  The rocks were tricky, but I felt like the little girl in the opening scenes of Little House on the Prairie.   

I finished the first loop almost giddy to start my second ascent.  BUT, not so fast.  I hadn’t really been following the race changes.   They changed the course, and I now had to go hit some trail miles.   This again defeated me.  I knew I had the energy to climb, but I didn’t know if that would be true after I hit some technical trail.   WIth no other option, I chose relentless forward progress and pushed on.   

I felt like I was running through a nightmare.   The fog made visibility difficult, and I’m pretty sure they imported rocks and roots.  I thought back to my Ironman bike training….”don’t shift for what you see down the road, shift for what is in front of you”.  I took each turn of this twisty, Dr. Seuss mapped trail, focusing only on what was 5-10 feet in front of me.  It was endless and  I lost what little sense of direction I have.  Finally, I saw another human...a photographer...who told me I had a mile and a half to go.   I’m sure I’m smiling in those pictures!

Finally, I was able to start my second ascent.  My mood had changed.  I was thankful for the opportunity to get to to this.   Thankful that my body was strong enough to pull me along (even if, at some points, I was leaning forward so much I was nearly horizontal).  Thankful that I have a little voice that knows how to push me forward.   

I came upon a woman.  She was crying.  When I stopped she told me, “I am generally a very positive person, but this is stupid”.   I had to laugh.  This is the mantra that I have no problem hearing.  It is often very LOUD and persistent.   This comes out when I have to dig deep and I’m not certain I’ll find what I need when I do.   I sat with this woman for a bit.  Told her this will pass, and that finishing is within her power.   I helped her patch up a blister and gave her a bite to eat.   One of my happiest moments of the race, was seeing her get up, and say, “Thanks.  I’ve got this from here”.  

I hit the summit, again.  I only knew I was close, because I was getting cold.  “All downhill from here”, I thought,  Oops, not so fast, I went down the wrong path, and had to backtrack.  “Ok.  NOW, all downhill from here”.   I envisioned a descent like the first one, but that is not what I got.   The rain had turned my wildflower-lined path into a slip and slide.   I’d like to say I stayed upright, but I don’t want to lie.   I got pretty beat up, but I knew with every step/slide, I was closer.  I could see the finish line from a mile away, and I was going to push until I got there.  

And, I did get there.   They did not offer finisher medals, but I have three pink trail flags, that caused me to smile during my long ride home.   I think they are beautiful.  

My body is scratched and sore.   I am stiff and a little sleepy. I've taken three showers, but I still feel dirty. But, my soul--that is soaring.  I have come pretty far, but oh, the places I will go....