I must forewarn you that this race report will include discussions of bodily fluids. I am pleased to say that I just finished my 5th 100 mile race! This was also the first time that I ran two 100’s within a race season. I completed the Vermont 100 in July and somewhat warily dove back into training for the Ghost Train which was on Saturday. Despite telling everyone in earshot on the course that I was finished running or needed to at least take a year off I will probably return for both but try to revamp my training strategy. I believe that my training fatigue was mental and not physical and the issues that took place at Ghost Train were not preventable. Every tough race is a learning experience and this one was particularly rough.
Leading up to race day I was a mess. I was unable to sleep because I had back pain and I was having bouts of vertigo and had to go back to the optical neurologist to get my eyes checked. I thought that these issues would be my main problems but neither of those things got in the way. I had a little bit of trouble with my vision when the sun started to set but it wasn’t bad. I managed to navigate the precarious staircase that was added to the course and I only stumbled on it once. I found a lovely little bench on the trail side and because the course is an out and back I was able to do a “legs up the tree stretch” every 7.5 miles to release my back pain.
Tony brought me to the race and was my primary babysitter. I came prepared with silly hats for myself , crew and pacers. My friends who crewed me at VT showed up and got some great pics of us! Another friend got this great shot that looks like Tony is macing me but he was spraying me with sunscreen. I was holding some watermelon that got covered in sunscreen and I ate it before realizing it. Yuck. Too late.
The year that I had my fastest finish time on this course had a high temp of 45. This year it got up to 77! It was HOT. Parts of the course are in the open sun and I saw people overheating. I really concentrated on hydration. When I finished mile 15, I peed and drank my liquid fuel. Something was wrong though. I had a sharp pain under my left rib cage and it felt like nothing would go down right. Every now and then my stomach or intestine would vibrate and make a gurgling noise. Eventually I got to mile 22.5 and tried to pee again with no success just dribbles and not the right color. I kept hydrating and getting my electrolytes in. I was having terrible abdominal cramping and bladder pain though. I knew if I could get to mile 30 my buddy John would be there to jump in and pace me.
Poor John! He had to listen to all of the gory details of my bodily functions and he ran with me for 30 straight miles while I was being manic and crazy. I was in so much pain and I couldn’t get my fuel down. I was acting wacky and trying to distract myself. There was a really fast guy on the course with a mustache and when he passed us I broke out into a song about the “Mustache man” and started playing air guitar. We passed the power lines aid station and my friend, Mr. Bigl kindly peeled me an orange. I could only eat half so I made John eat the rest. Another runner was wearing a cool barrette with ribbons and I started petting her hair. Hmm, that’s awkward. I apologized and after that John kept telling me not to touch the people. But I kept high fiving and patting shoulders. Stop touching the people! My friend Heather arrived and was wearing her “special police” hat. I felt very relieved to have a female friend to discuss my health issues with. I put on a green chef hat and tried to pretend I was a french pastry chef offering runners food and speaking in a bad accent. Seeming the sun went down they probably couldn’t even see my hat which made me seem even weirder.
Heather and Tony were clearly enjoying their hats too and making new friends!
I know that many people view ultra runners as reckless dare devils with a lack of awareness for personal safety. The fact is that most of us are extremely well educated on the risk factors and prevention measures that come with out sport. I have read dozens of articles discussing the importance of urine color. I was now in the middle of a race, struggling to pee and what came out was brown. There are two possible explanations for this. One is that the bladder is sloughing so much that it produces blood, which although painful, is not an emergency situation. The other reason could be rhabdomyolysis. That is when you are breaking down muscle tissue too fast and the kidneys can’t filter it out. That is a dangerous condition that requires medical attention.
When people run 100 miles we usually lie to ourselves. When we have pain we pretend it isn’t there. We tell ourselves that we will drop at the next aid station but convince ourselves to get to the next one. In order to make sure that I wasn’t lying to myself I kept checking in with my crew about my pee. I needed them to know the truth and pull me if it was necessary. The main things that kept me going were the fact that my kidneys didn’t hurt, the pain was mostly in my bladder. I was also extremely lucid and my energy levels felt fine. When I felt like I was ready to break from the pain my friend Maureen showed up like a breath of fresh air to start pacing me at mile 60. Her hat was like a little flower or rays of sunshine. I was comforted to have two ladies on board. The girls held up a sleeping bag to shield me so I could change out of my wet shirt and put on a dry long sleeve as the temps dropped
By this time I knew that I was not on track for getting a personal record but I wanted to try to finish and do my best. I sang songs to Maureen as we ran through the night. She kept me alert and distracted with conversation. I showed her all of the “land marks” of the trail. The tree that looks like it has a scrotum. The Stonehenge of Brookline, the famed tunnel, the sign that says something about Uranus, the ancient swamp pyramids. And of course I continued to sing to the mustache man every time I saw him.
The man who would end up winning the race was already closing in on his finish. He was about to run the 3rd fastest 100 mile time in the world! His name is Patrick Caron and he finished in 13:50:43. He is not only an amazing athlete but one of the nicest people you could meet. It was thrilling to be on the course and have the opportunity to see him succeed.
Poor Tony got stuck with me from mile 75-90. I was a mess. I was making horrible noises from being in pain. He said that I sounded like an animal in distress. Meanwhile, back at my homestead, Tony’s wife Lise was spending the night with my cat to make sure that she wasn’t in distress. Lise was a major player in my crew, just working behind the scenes.
Tony was also exhausted. He had been there the entire time for me. We had rambling conversations trying to convince one another that gummy fruits were made from baby giraffes or ear wax. I tried to give him a lucidity test after he kept stubbing his toes on roots. (He failed) And then it got cold and we ran in silence for almost a full 7.5 miles.
Heather was taking a nap in her tent and Tony sent her a text to let her know that she could pick me up and run with me for my last ten miles. I was partially devastated because I was unable to put on my Halloween costume. Historically I run the last leg of this race in a costume but this one was a onesie and was not suitable for someone with bladder problems. Oh well. The suit is still in my possession and will eventually make an appearance! By this time I was talking again. But I was rambling on about quitting running and taking up yoga and Pintrest as new hobbies. I was speed walking instead of running because it didn’t jostle things around so much. Running is stupid! I just want to go home!! Heather got this great shot as the sun started to come up again, mile 98? Also, right around that time I was finally able to pee and it came out clear! The pain went away! I started to run again. Heather had to hustle to catch up with me.
When we finally approached camp Tevya for the last time someone saw me and said your friends are all waiting for you! I picked up the pace and tried to hustle to the finish line. My friends were all cheering me on from the sidelines. My crew, my friends who had already finished, some who still had more laps to complete and some who had sadly been forced to drop out. I ran through the covered bridge and headed for the timing table. Holy crap!!! I was actually finishing this thing!!!
I finished in 22:37:45. I was the 6th place female and 23rd overall. I will take it!
I learned so much at this race. I learned about the fine lines between safety and stupidity, About pushing through pain, about determination and I learned that I have some really amazing friends.
When I got home I was so sore and stiff. My landlord was like an angel. She sent me a text saying that she put a bowl of lentil harvest stew on the stairs for me. I literally had to crawl to get it. I wolfed it down and passed out. ZZZZZZ
I am sore and tired today but feeling fine. I walked for a mile and a half today to flush out my legs and I will go back to work tomorrow and get back to life as usual. Race plans for next year? To be determine at a later date. A mandatory rest period for ten days and then I will decide what is next. Thank you for following my adventures!