I was trained up, I was tapering. I was trying to keep busy...and then James got the stomach bug. I swore I could beat it. No way I would get the stomach bug in September...nope that doesn't happen. January, February sure, but not September and not before a big race. At least two direct shots and countless wiped tears later I only managed to keep Robert from getting it. In the end I guess this is really the only important thing, but man its sucks. And so Monday afternoon found me trying to entertain, feed and keep track of two boys from my position lying on the floor. By Tuesday I was keeping fluids down again, but not much food and I was down 4 lbs. That would be great to just about anyone other than someone who is 3 days away from running a 100. In my case that was devastating. I did what I could to gain back the weight but was still down 2.5 lb by Friday morning. I felt like I had rehydrated alright, but that was apparently not right.
Friday morning I woke up got the boys and myself ready amidst the flutter of nerves that always accompanies a 100 morning. Of course this is where the post-flu mistakes began. I was so caught up feeding Robert and getting James settled that I drank a cup of coffee and a shake...no water. Halfway to the start I realized my protein bar was still sitting on the counter in the condo. No biggie I'll drink and eat as soon as the race starts, right?
It was raining...okay it was more like a torrential downpour. My rain shell was at mile 20. Thankfully the clouds began to part at 7:59 and it was barely a drizzle at the start. A mile up the ski hill and it was snowing. Now this wouldn't be so bad except I have this propensity to not eat or drink when its cold. I wasn't too terribly cold, I wished I had gloves, but otherwise I was moving well enough to stay warm. At the top of the gondola Dan, James and my Dad were there to greet me as the first female up the climb. Last year I was fourth, first was not where I wanted to be. But I wanted to run my own race and not worry about what the other women were doing so I went with it. I actually felt really good on the climb which was somewhat unexpected. I finally got to the top of Mt Werner and was ready to run. I headed down the now snow covered and muddy trail heading to Long Lake. It was a much slower go this year which I thought was good. The mud kept the pace slower and I was basically by myself for this whole stretch.
I got into Long Lake well behind my anticipated time, but figured I was still okay. It was still pretty chilly but I wanted to make sure I left my shirt in case I needed it later that night. I refilled my gel flasks and headed out to Fish Creek. I was running it pretty hard at this point wanting to make up some time, in reality though I should have backed off a bit here. The technical section was so wet and slick that I was forced to practically walk down a couple sections so I figured that was controlling myself enough. I emerged out into the parking lot and immediately grabbed my pump so I could be pumped before I got to town. Of course I miscalculated the splash effect from running while pumping and how close cars were to you on the road so I'm sure there are a few people out there that got a bit of a show, my apologies. Regardless I got the job done, bagged the milk and hightailed it into Olympian. Dan met me a couple blocks away and we chatted easily as we made our way in. We got in and I started refilling everything...except my bladder...I hadn't touched that yet. I hugged my boys, thanked my crew and headed up to the lane of pain.
I was still climbing pretty well and really just wanted this damn Cow Creek section done with. It's not a super long climb so I made it to the top in what felt like a reasonable pace and then started to really push the downhill into the AS. My stomach started going south almost immediately. I backed off the pace for a bit, but that didn't seem to help so I figured it was best just to run fast down and regroup at the AS. I got in with my stomach a disaster and I was beginning to really feel out of it. I shouldn't feel out of it at 30 miles into a race so I began to worry a bit. I stood at the table trying to assess what I needed but I couldn't seem to hold onto a thought. All I knew was I thought I needed to really drink water. But the problem with my calorie system is that in cupless AS you can't just chug water right there. I had also forgotten an extra calorie flask, but I was pretty sure my salt intake was too high anyways so I was backing off the calories. Instead I chugged a ginger ale and started off down the road. I figured I could chug my bladder and refill it at the water stop and then be able to start taking calories again. So with that plan in mind I ran the 2 mile stretch to the turnoff...last year I had sworn to myself I would run that whole section. I hit the trail determined to keep running but pretty sure I needed to back off. I was feeling more and more out of it so I slowly plodded up that hill. I hate this hill. Its not steep, its not technical, its totally runnable and every year I seem to not be able to run it and it never seems to end. 8 miles from the AS to the top...its BS when they tell you its only 10 miles back to Olympian, its 2 miles down the road, 6 up the hill and then another 4 back to Olympian. I drained my bladder and was feeling a bit better, but the water stop was empty. All I could do was push on to Olympian and re-evaluate when I got there. About a mile from the AS I got passed by the eventual winner.
I got into Olympian still in second but completely dehydrated, low on calories, totally out of it and knowing something was really not right. I was also starting to have pelvic muscle spasms which were not only crazy painful, but messing with my gait so my left quad and right knee where starting to have issues. I was a complete mess as I fell into Dan and Sandra. They loaded me up the best they could got me squared away pumping inside to hopefully regroup and gear up. As I was pumping I started getting the chills and could not shake them. I knew it wasn't that cold, but I couldn't stop shaking. I finally managed to get out of Olympian with Sandra at my side heading to meet Dan at Fish Creek. No one was sure how much race I had left in me but we were going to re-evaluate at the TH. I was somehow still in 3rd when I left Olympian but was deteriorating by the step. The lead hares passed me which was completely demoralizing. Last year Rob Krar didn't pass me until the road between Long and Summit, I was hours away from that.
As I approached Fish Creek I knew my race was over. I knew I could walk the last 65 miles or so but I wasn't here to walk it in in 36 hours. I finished last year and this year the goal was to run a strong race not just to finish. I just felt like everything was shutting down and I was done. On top of that I wasn't having fun. I hadn't had fun for the last 30 miles...that's a long down patch. And so as I tried to stand there tears streaming down my face my crew hugged me. They said all the right things, they tried to get me going but also knew that sometimes its not about pushing yourself to one more aid station.
Looking back now I still question if I made the right decision but deep down I know I did. I was too severely dehydrated to continue and the muscle spasms likely would have led to some larger problems in my legs. 65 more miles that night wasn't worth not being able to run all winter or getting myself that much sicker to where I ended up in some serious trouble. You have to know your body and know yourself to know what's pushing through being uncomfortable and what's pushing in a damaging way. There's no way to completely know which one it is so you have to be prepared to accept your decision.
I'm definitely bummed and upset about the way the race ended up for me. The DNF has definitely fueled my fire to train harder and be better prepared for next season, but at the same time I can't let it continue to just eat at me. I have to move on and learn from it. And I can say I learned a lot more from the 48 miles I ran that day than from the 107 I ran last year. I'll never stop daring to try the things that sound too crazy or impossible...that's where I live right on the edge of insanity just outside my comfort zone. Its easy only to do the races you know you can do, to never attempt something that might be just a bit too crazy. But that's not my style. And with that comes a higher chance of defeat. I've rather fail in a blaze of glory than to wander cautiously down the path. It's not the choice for everyone, but its the choice I made.
So thank you Steamboat for kicking my ass and remind me I am indeed a mere mortal...
A huge thanks to my crew and pacers who despite only running a couple miles each never once complained. They gave it their all to see me through this crazy adventure and for that I am forever grateful.