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Thursday, July 22, 2010

VT part 3...What The Heck.

Well, this has been quite the rollercoaster of an event. My recovery was NOT going as I had hoped. I figured I would feel better each day, and with rest, rehydration and eating everything that was not nailed down I would be all set. This was not the case. Though I was rehydrating and resting(as if I had a choice) I still couldn't eat much and was feeling worse by the day. Add to that the increasing heart palpitations and nasty headache...a call to my Dr. had me headed back to the ER.

Lucky for me, my old and most wonderful and awesome Dr who now works in the ER was there. Since she knows me, I knew I would be in good hands. I was hooked up to and EKG, given another liter of fluids and other good stuff, and had a bunch of bloodwork done. She checked everything, including my thyroid which she said could have been completely thrown out of whack(more than normal, lol) which could also account for my symptoms. The good news? EVERYTHING came back normal, even my kidney function test. The Rhabdo completely resolved itself, and everything else was ok. NICE!!! So, what was going on? She said that basically even though I had run 50 miles in the past and recovered fine, I had never put my body through THIS much stress. Between that and then my body working so hard to recover, I was not feeling good. Plus, I had not been eating to help rebuild what I had destroyed. So, after my *cocktail* of goodness I got to go home. I still had a raging headache and felt like crap but was grateful to be going home to sleep in my own bed.

This morning I woke up....and felt 100% BETTER!!!! Whatever was in that IV bag plus another good night's sleep did the trick! WOOHOO!!! Not that I am headed out for a run or anything, lol, but I am SO happy to feel like myself again. I have no soreness in my legs at this point at all, which is also a bonus. I will honor the week off of running then s..l..o..w..l..y start to get back into it.

I have learned a whole bunch more about myself, my body and what it can handle. Though I do not EVER want to experience this again, I am amazed and thrilled that my body was strong enough to bounce back so quickly(though not without help). Now I know the signs, and what is obviously NOT going to work for me and I can run smarter in the future.

Running Ultras is all about testing the limits...seeing how much you can do. I know there are plenty of ultrarunners out there who will finish a race at all costs, run through things they shouldn't, etc but that is not me. I will take this lesson and knowledge and file it away. No race is worth permanent damage to my body, and nothing is worth me not being able to run at all. I will take this and run smarter next time, for sure.

Of course there will be a next time... :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

VT Part 2...Processing

When one undertakes an event like, oh, say running 100 miles...there is alot to process.

The Ultra running community is mostly  an amazing bunch of people. (ya know, there is always *one* in every crowd but for the most part...) They are a smart, kind, nature loving bunch. It is no easy feat to go out and run 50 or 100 miles. If it was, everybody would be doing it. There is alot of planning, learning about your body, we all become 'weekend scientists' trying to determine the perfect balance of electrolytes, fluids, and food that will get us from mile 1 to mile 50 or 100. Not to knock shorter distances, but there is not much thought or planning needed to go out and run a 5 or 10 mile run. Even up to a marathon, you *could* go into it without a whole lot of planning and still get through it(though I wouldn't recommend it, lol) But to run farther than becomes both mental and physical. Your body is not designed to run 50+ miles. Physiologically, its just not what we are designed to do. This is why when you talk to any ultra runner they will say the race is half physical half mental because at some point it truly becomes mind over matter. With that being said though, you also need to be able to decide when to cry Uncle.

The *never try anything new on race day* rule is even more important for those going ultra distances. You can end your race in the first 10 miles. It is almost a science, really. EVERYTHING has to line up in order to finish a race of this magnitude. If one thing goes awry...even something like a blister, if not dealt with, can end a race for some. Some things are par for the course. It will hurt. When it starts hurting is different for everyone, but you will not walk(or hobble) away without some discomfort. You will get tired. Unless you are part of the very small elite field, it will take you somewhere between 9-12+ hourd to run 50 miles and 20-30 hours or more to run 100. That is a looooong time to be moving. Some people have stomach issues, which usually pass, and if not sometimes you can run with it, sometimes you can't. Either way, you have to be prepared to deal with that having back-up foods/drinks, ginger, etc. Stomach issues can end a race.

Training for these races is all over the map. There are runners who will put in 100-200 miles a week. Some say you need to be around 100 a week to do Ultras. Some say you can get by on mush less, as its the long runs and recovery(rest) that is important. No 2 training plans are alike amongst ultra runners. Every Ultra runner has a different training philosophy and does what works for them. It is very personal, and not at all cookie-cutter. To train for a 10k or marathon, the training is fairly cut and dry. Tempo runs, speed work, long run, day off. Everybody does the same thing. This is so different as you are training your body to run differently. You run slower, further, you need to learn to burn fuel differently, rest more, learn to walk and hike efficiently. It sounds like alot, but if you ask any ultra runner and they will tell you it is the love of running, and running far that keeps them in the sport. It is hard, it tests you mentally and physically, it is filled with ups and downs and it is incredibly rewarding to see how much you can physically do. It isn't for everyone, and there are lots of people who think its dangerous, foolish, and wonder why anyone would want to do such a thing. All I can say is that this probably isn't for you then :) I think every ultra runner takes races very seriously, and understands that there are serious risks involved.

When I started the race Saturday morning I felt great. I had everything planned out, with back up plans as well. I knew what I needed to do, and when I needed to do it. I stuck to that plan as long as I could. I did everything right, knowing that the heat would probably be my biggest enemy with my extreme sweating. I knew staying on top of my fluids would be key. As I was running through the first miles it truly dawned on me that 100 miles is something that I would assume unless you have completed it, is just something that is hard to wrap your brain around. I still couldn't and I was out there trying to do it. 50 miles I have always *got* as I know I can do it haing done it, and I could wrap my brain around getting up in the morning, running all day and at the end of the day I would be done, having gone 50 miles. But to run for 24-30 is a lot. :)

I felt I was as prepared as I could be when I started the race. Could I have trained more? Sure, I could have trained more, differently, etc. But I also have a life and children and a husband and I cannot ignore(nor do I want to) the rest of my life. There is life outside of running and that life is just as important to me! So I will stick to my 50-60 mile weeks, thanks :) The other very cool thing, in my mind, about Ultras is that regardless of your running 'status', of how many miles you've logged, of how prepared you are(within reason, of course) when we all step up to the starting line, we are equal. The best of the best can be hit by stomach issues that end their race early. It may not happen as often (as they are not out there for as long) but it does. No one is infallable. That is oddly comforting to me :)

So...looking back...Best we can figure based on my start weight and when they weighed me in the hospital I lost between 10-12 pounds of fluid from sweating. I don't know if I could have stayed ahead of that, and once nothing would go in...It is very possible I would have not made it past the first weigh in, which had always been a concern. I was and am ok with that. I have always maintained that it isn't worth risking my health or life to run a race. This race was extreme. It was well into the 90's with significant humidity and though there was a breeze and shade in placed, the effort involved in moving up those VT hills...had the temp been in the low 80's with no humidity it would have been a vastly different race for me, as well as many others. For perspective, close to 50% of both the 100 milers and 100k racers dropped out of the race, numerous people were taken to the hospital and there was a whole lot of puking going on out there. That is pretty unusual for that race, which has a higher finish rate that that normally. The course was certianly very runnable, and though it was difficult and VERY hilly(hello, VT!) it was not something that was impossible. I had to re-evaluate my 'goals' several times out there and my motto has always been go until you aren't having fun any more then stop. I had hoped to make it to 10 Bear(47 miles) when I knew things were going down hill, as the fun was definitely gone. Should I have stopped sooner? Probably. But, I still had a sliver of hope that things would come around, that I could find something to eat, that I could get fluids in...but it was not to be. I knew by 35 miles my race was done and just had to get to 10 Bear where my crew was.

Heat and me...I need to re-evaluate things. I need to find out WHY I am sweating more than the average stuck pig on a Texas highway :) and see if it is something I can deal with. Otherwise running summer Ultras is simply out for me. I do not EVER want to go through this again. I do not have these issues during fall maybe my race season will be shorter than most :)

Will I try a 100 miler again? I would never say never, but it is not on the horizon right now. It has only been a year since I started running Ultras and I still have alot of miles to get under my belt. I am definitely a newbie and still have a lot to learn. This was an amazing experience, and I am glad I gave it a shot. I think for the forseeable future, I am going to stick to 50 milers as I know I can safely do them. So...looking ahead, after I recover of course ;) I am shooting for the VT50 at the end of September and Stone Cat in November. They are both doable races in much cooler weather.

Now...back to my scheduled program of rest and fluids... :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

VT 100...DNF. Which, in my case stands for Did Nothing Fatal.

I will preface this by saying I truly believe I was ready for this race. By that I mean I trained, trained in the heat, worked on my *mental game* and was very much ready to toe the line with every intention of finishing one way or another.

Often times life has other plans

I made it about 45 miles. Then I was taken away in an ambulance.

It was quite warm, and very humid...but I was prepared for that. After we got to VT and set up I went and did my medical check. Said hi to a few people and came back to start eating and hydrating. My pacer had arrived, various other friends started showing up and all was good. My drop bags were set, my pack was packed and I really felt good about the race. Slept pretty good considering my excitement and the heat and woke up right before my alarm went off at 3am. Got dressed and ate and headed out to the starting line where Chariots of Fire was playing...:) It was very cool to see everyone making there way to the start. I found my bud Kevin, and saw Steve and met a new running bud and we headed to the start. After a quick hug for my pacer with the promise to see him in a few hours we were off.

Kev and I had talked of running together for the forseeable future and that was good for me. I have a tendancy to go out fast and I really wanted to run conservatively and he is very good at pacing. We did get off to what felt to me as a great pace- we could converse easily, and it was great. I had in my head that I needed to drink between 1 and 1.5 water bottles per hour, plus take my S!Caps 1 per hour(1 per 30 mins when it got hotter) and eat something every hour. For the first 5 hours that worked out pretty well. Came through the first station my crew would be at and got my green smoothie(YUM) sock change, watermelon, new bottles and off we went. Somewhere within the next few miles something shifted and I did not feel as great as I did. I was internally monitoring, while mentally playing the Ultra games of how far can we go...but also realizing that I would possily have to readjust my expectations of what the day was going to be.  I am usually ok with that as you simply never know what is going to happen in an ultra race. There are just SO many variables inolved that you can do all the planning in the world but come race day...

Somewhere at the marathon point the nausea set in. I wasn't worried at that point as I know most ultra runners feel nausea and/or puke at some point in there career...some during every race!Usually it passes which is what I expected/hoped for. Shortly before this we got to run through our first aid station that had run out of water. This was not cool. On a day like that, not haing water with the next aid 5 miles away could be the end of someone's race(and was for several people, I found out after) Luckily I had enough with me for Kev and I, and we took our chances on this cute little water spiggoty thing in the woods shortly thereafter that looked like good enough drinking water to me! Plus it was COLD!!! Still feeling the nausea, I tried ginger, which did not work...and somewhere in the next mile or so the puking began. Generally, I am not a huge puker. It usually reduces me to tears, but I was keeping it together...Kev had gone ahead shortly thereafter to the next aid station to let his crew know I may need a little help. His crew was great enough to assist me, and off we went.  I had not had anything to eat since mile 21 and was now having increasd difficulty getting anything past my gag reflex. I was getting sips down but was VERY nauseaus and  dry heaving.

I am not sure where, but after some point I encouraged Kev to go on. I knew at this point I was not going to recover any time soon, and possibly not at all...but I still had a sliver of hope that I could rally, start drinking and eating again and make it further. I figured making it to 100 was not going to happen, but I wanted to make it as far as I could. I hoped to get to the next crew station my family would be at, which was the first weigh in check. I was fairly certian I would not pass as I was sweating SO profusely and now was not able to replace it.

The next 10-12 miles was a death march. I had 2 very nice men at different points walking with me to make sure I was ok, which I very much appreciated. One man was not even in the race, he was looking for someone else but when he saw me he stayed with me instead. The next man was going to drop in the near future and I actually encouraged him to try to make it to 10 Bear and we could drive him back to the finish. I had to sit/lay down several times, and there were 2 times I remember almost passing out, and several more dry-heave sessions, and NOTHING would go in. I just kept telling myself I had to get to my family...

Somwhere about 2 miles out, before the last big climb into the aid station, the race Marshall came by and offered me a ride to the station. He called ahead to the med team. My race was done.

I was immediately put in the back of the ambulance where they could not get a blood pressure and my oxygen level was 82(not good). They had me lay down and were able to get a pressure, and a pulse. I was still not able to get anything in by mouth and they decided that I needed to get to the hospital. In the mean time, they started an iv and put me on oxygen and under a wool blanket as by then I was shivering uncontrolably.

The Dr in the ER was fantastic...actually everyone there was. Not one person was negative about me doing the race, or that I did something wrong.

Basically, I was severely dehydrated, my kidneys had stopped functioning and I had a condition called Rhabdomyolysis*.  In addition, my potasium level was very high, which resulted in me being hooked up to a heart monitor and pretty much sealed my fate of spending the night in the hospital. (Well, that and the fact I hadn't gone to the bathroom in 12+ hours) High potassium can cause a heart attack. Had I been at all thinking clearly, all of this would have scared the shit out of me. But I wasn't...

6 liters of fluid, anti-nausea meds and some sort of kidney cocktail plus a night of being monitored later...I felt better. Not 100% but certianly better than I did and my blood tests came back ok with the exception of my kidney function which will take some days to resolve itself...I have to have another kidney funtion text in a week. I knew I was recovered as I was suddenly STARVING, which is always a good sign. :)

We headed back to the race site to finish packing up and for an emotional reunion with my running friends. I was SOOOO happy to hear that Kev and Steve finished under the cut-off! I was watching the hours in the ER, thinking about where they might be on the course, praying they would make it and I am so glad they did. I was truly happy to see them, to know THEY were ok and get to congratulate Kev in person. We had a great 30 miles together and I am so glad I had that part of the experience with him :)

Long drive home, a shower and I am back to horizontal :) Swelling has set in and I am on strict orders to drink as much water as humanly possible to flush out my kidneys. Plus...I am tired.

There is so much more to process, so much more to say but for now this is it. :)

Huge, awesome congratulations to Kev, Steve, Streph, was a hell of a day. You guys stuck it out and made it through. Rock stars...all of ya :)

*If you want to read about rhabdomyolysis:

For my own FYI- Hyperkalemia