Warning: This BLOG may contain TMI (too much information). Skip it if you are sensitive.
4:00 a.m. I’m up before the alarm. I get dressed, gather my stuff. Let Higgins out. I’m in the car at 5:06. Right on time. Race starts at 7. Will take me 1:15 to get to Pittsfield in the Berkshires. Have my breakfast in the car. I can’t eat. That’s not like me. Managed to get down half an avocado and a banana. That will have to do. I can’t eat.
6:00 a.m. I’m driving. I don’t feel well. I need to find a bathroom stat. It’s the Berkshires. Nothing is open and there are no stores for miles. All I see are forests after forest. I have no choice. I have to pull over. I have some kind of stomach bug. Had the same thing last Sunday and have not felt tip top all week but I thought it was gone. Nope. Not good. Well that’s over.
6:30 Arrive at race. Check in. Set up my aid station. We have personal spots on the tables where we are to put our water bottles marked with our names and race numbers. (Environment friendly race, you bring your own bottle — it’s the Berkshires, Hippy land.) I set up 4 bottles of Infinit and one bottle of water. (When you are done with your water, you put it in the bottle bucket and they refill and put it back at your station — yeah I had to abandon my OCD for that one). I also put out 2 liquid energy shots, 2 shot blocks, 2 snack sized bags of fritos and 2 snack sized bags of spice drops (the two things I could eat at the end of Rock the Ridge). The extras I put in my bag under the table. They had an aid station with the basics, gels, pretzels, potatoes, watermelon. I’m surprised to see people have set up tents. They make this into a big production. There are relay teams. People are playing cards in their pop up tents. Reading books. Waiting for their turn to run. Who knew?
7:00 gun goes off. It’s a small race, maybe 100 people on the track? Yet it doesn’t feel crowded — we all find our spaces easily enough. We are running laps around an .3555 mile oval cinder path. Two groups – the people doing a marathon for time, and the people doing as many laps as they can in 8 hours (my group). There was a 5 a.m. early start for people who needed more time for the marathon and I was surprised that there were about 5 people already on the course when we started.
9:30 The first 2 1/2 hours are uneventful. I am sticking to my plan run one loop, walk one loop. It is pleasantly cool. I don’t feel sparkly but I don’tt feel bad either. Kind of numb — almost like I am still sleeping. I am in a rhythm. At the 2 1/2 hour mark I notice that I suddenly feel pretty good. My pace is quickening. I decide to switch it up a little. Half the track was gentle uphill and hall gentle downhill. I decided to run the down hill side and walk the uphill side. (I later noticed in my splits a distinct drop in my time when I did that — approx 15-30 seconds per lap — I don’t know if it was the switch in my strategy or the time into the race.)
10:00 a.m. Three Hours in. I notice I am drinking 1 bottle per hour. More than I usually do but the temp is climbing and I’m able to keep the Infinite down so I decide instead of alternating one bottle of infinite and one bottle of water I decide to keep the calories coming with Infiinit. Luckily I had packed extra baggies of the stuff so I could just fill the bottles and top with water. But all the drinking is also making me go the bathroom. EVERY HOUR! I had to go at 8, 9 and 10!! And they only had 3 porto potties so each time I had to wait. I take a gel at the aid station. Halfway around the track I am going to throw up. Oh no, it’s coming. I start looking for a place to throw up. Not there, nowhere where people are going to have to run by it. I start my meditation deep breathing. It goes away. No more gels for me.
11:00 a.m. Four Hours in. The halfway mark. We switch directions. The bathroom breaks seem to stop. It’s getting hot. It’s only 80 degrees but there is no shade and the sun is burning bright. I switch from my buff to a visor to cast a little more shade. I am thankful it is not humid, I would not be able to do it. My butt starts to hurt. Both cheeks. Deep in my gluts where everything connects. Ow. I switch to walking. It is not going away.
12 p.m. Five hours in. I am rarely running. Sometimes a little jog. But my butt hurts. Finally I stop and stretch. That does seem to help but the pain moves from my gluts to my quads. Both legs are on fire. Every time I try to lift my legs to run the muscles are just too tight and scream no way.
1 p.m. Six hours in . I pretty much have given up on the running. My quads are killing me. I’m too afraid to stop so I just work on my power walking. I can still manage to get some good strides but I cannot run any more.
2 p.m. Seven hours in. Same. I can’t run. My legs are all tight. I have been taking 1 salt tab an hour and 3 sports legs every 2 hours. Plus salt is in my Infinit Formula. No cramps but my muscles are tight tight tight. All I want to do is pull over and do a quad stretch. But I’m afraid to stop. If I stop I don’t think I can keep moving. And my calculation ability is starting to fade and I am not sure how much time I need. Just keep moving. A lot of people are walking now. It’s hot. 80 degrees no shade but still that’s not bad for mid August. No humidity.
2:40 I finish the marathon, I had been joking with the time keepers on the previous ten laps and we had a count down. I need to put in one more lap to get the Ultra swag and I need one more lap on top of that for my dignity. I knew I was not getting 35 never mind 30 miles but there was no way I was going to stop if I could put in one more lap. There are very few of us left.
2:57: Me, barreling toward the finish line. Done! I hadn’t run for the last hour but somehow managed to dig it out when there was a finish line with a countdown clock and a fear that the last lap would be for naught. I was sure I was dead last but a couple of people crossed after me and there were a few others that didn’t make it and they just faded off toward the aid station unfazed by not finishing their final lap. I’m upset with myself. 8 hours and I only got in 76 laps 28 miles? What the what? That totally sucks and I’m embarrassed and disappointed that I did not do better.
3:15 Vegan Pizza at the finish line? Yes! Only in the earthy crunchy Berkshires. Fake cheese. Yuck. I hate fake stuff. Just sauce and veggies, how hard is it to understand that? Toss the slice in the garbage. I just want to go home. Nice medals, decent t-shirt, a cute bumper-sticker and some peppermint foot cream — all for the people who completed an ultra. If you did the marathon you just got the medal.
3:30 In car ready to head home. Open jar of pickles and drink the entire jar of pickle juice and eat a couple of baby kosher. Much better than baby gherkins and 370 gm of sodium!! Water, water, water. I could have drank a gallon. Afraid of cramping in the car on the way home. Make it home (approx 1:15 minute drive). Stumble into the house. Let Higgins out. I know I should eat but I can’t. Aware of no cramps. This might be a first. But getting prepared to wake up in the middle of the night screaming from legs cramping — that always happens.
6:00 Stomach has settled down enough. Could eat something soft. Too tired to make a shake so I eat an Avocado. I know it is not enough, but that is all I can handle. If the magic pizza fairy had landed in my living room, maybe I could have eaten a slice. But she did not come. (To file under things I could do better, might be to have the recovery shake waiting for me in the fridge).
7:30 I don’t care if it is only 7:30. Higgins, we are going to climb the stairs once and only once so we are going to bed now. Wash up. Crawl into bed. Turn on the massage option. I spent a fortune on this bed. Used that massage option maybe 3 times when I first got it. Suddenly worth every penny I spent on it. It runs for 20 minutes and shuts off. I ran it 4 times in a row with legs up and legs down options.
Midnight: Bathroom. Sweet Cheeses! Could barely make it to the bathroom – can’t walk. Muscles sore — hmm, haven’t cramped yet, will probably happen soon. Back to bed, another massage.
4 a.m. Bathroom. OMG, I think I will never be able to walk again. It’s my butt muscles and my quads. Feet okay (not one blister!) Long talk with myself. You are too old for this crap. Whats wrong with a half marathon? That’s the perfect distance. For now on that’s it. No more than 90 minutes of exercise a day. You are killing yourself. You can’t even walk. This is crazy. There is no way, no how I can do a 50 miler in a month. I don’t care I can’t do it. I start to draft the letter to my coach. I’m pulling out. I simply do not enjoy this, I will cancel my reservation. Save the money. And that will be 50 miles of pavement, that will hurt even more. And it will be a lot in the dark. Screw it, life is short. I don’t need this stuff. Ultras are for whackos. I’m mad at my dismal performance but I’m even madder that I sign up for these stupid things. What’s wrong with me? I am no good at this. Why do I keep hitting my head against the wall?
6 a.m. Stumble in the shower, get dressed. Man o man. My legs hurt bad. But I didn’t cramp. That’s an absolute first. Pickle juice works!!! Screw the eating plan, I give myself permission to eat anything I want for the entire day!! I drive to Panera and get two bagels with avocado and tomato. I’m a little happier. Coffee. I’m even more.
7 a.m. They post the results. I’m ready. Give it to me, I know it will be last place. Two divisions, people running the marathon and people running the 8 hours. 53 people in my 8 hour division and I didn’t come in last, I came in 43rd??? 10 people behind me? How did that happen? Two of the people I beat because they stopped at the marathon. They probably had time to do more laps but didn’t — sorry Charlie. The other people didn’t even get to the marathon. Although I’m secretly surprised with a glimmer of pleasure, I continue to add notes of explanation of why I’m withdrawing from Septembers race to my coach.
8 a.m. My garmin uploads my data. Hmmm it says my moving time was only 7:30 hours for the 28 miles. I didn’t really stop at the aid stations, just grabbed and went, so that 30 minutes was all time in the bathroom. Geesh that would have been enough time to do the two extra miles to make 30 and I would have been happy with that. Looking at the splits I could tell the story of my run, first 3-4 hours not too bad. Then a slow steady descent into hell.
9 a.m. Became aware this was my first time doing a timed run. And maybe I needed to adjust my thinking on pacing. It was also my first time running endless loops. Usually I’m running for distance. I didn’t really have a check in place to make sure I stayed on pace. If I had been running a regular marathon I would have checked my pace every mile and I would adjust. Here I was just running loops. Sometimes I would look down and it would say my pace was 13 minute mile, sometimes 16 minute mile. But I didn’t really have a goal per loop. That would have helped a little I think. It also occurs t me that I haven’t taken a pain reliever of antiimflamatory for years. Hmmm, I wonder what would have happened if I popped a tylenol? Would that have helped?
9:30 a.m. Facebook abuzz with everyone posting what a great time they had at the race. The event was so well organized (true). The people so nice (true). And although it was the hardest marathon they have ever done they would be back. One guy wrote he got dizzy running so many loops. Hmm, I’m not the only one who thought it was hard? Then it occurred to me, there are no easy marathons. Nobody finishes a marathon and says “that was easy, let”s run some more.” It is supposed to be hard. If it’s not hard, you are not trying. You are supposed to overcome.
10 a.m. Walk Higgins out to the field and throw the ball. Hmm. It really hurts to stand up but once i am up I can move. Keep moving, oil the muscles. My joints are fine. Realize that I did the entire race with no knee pain. None. Well at least that was good. I do some stretches. Stretching feels good. I wonder if I had taken a few minutes before each 20th loop if that would have helped. Yeah for the 50 miler what if when I come to each aid station at 10 miles, I take 3 minutes for a thorough stretch? Stretch the quads, stretch the gluts. Preventative stretching. That might help. And then I realize what is happening. The post-race rationalization that wipes away all the logic found in the pain. Of course it makes no sense but I am left with the nagging feeling that I could do better. I start assembling my list of improvements. Oh no. My resolve is dwindling. I delete the letter to my coach. I check the date and time on my plane reservation to Jackson Hole. Well I can at least get on the plane, we’ll take it from there.
I will try again. That’s all we can do right?