I did want to make sure to mention that only one of my other running pals didn’t go the full distance. A friend of ours has qualified for Boston, but has struggled with IT band issues, so he chose to go the half instead of the full distance.
And, with that said… I wanted to brag about my other pals! Bertha, Davina, Emily, Ron, and Dwight all went the distance! The actual course (it turned out) was only 29 miles total (remember this is a “fat ass” run which means it’s sort of thrown together and you don’t pay an entry fee or have an official race clock, aid stations, etc.) So, I’m pretty sure that D, E, R and D all did the 29 miles.
BUT.. my amazing, super-hero running pal, Bertha would not be satisfied with that! She had the race director running alongside her and they kept going until she and he were PAST the 31.07 mile distance! Isn’t she just amazing?!!!!!!! Who’s the Champ? BERTHA! BERTHA! BERTHA!!!! This of course means she swept her age group () and yes, I would have been the only other one in that age group and no there were no awards given – but — she and I were joking about that the whole time we were running — being the “old grannies” out on the course.
When we first lined up, in the dark, at the end of the pavement facing a dirt road that led to the trails Bertha and I looked around and realized that most of the other runners (about 15 in all) were young, fit, college-age looking dudes. I told Bertha I saw one of the cute blond ones look our way in the moonlight and give us a Joey from Friends “How you doing?” kind of look. I’m sure it was all in my imagination, but it was funny to think of all the same. Those same guys were heading back on the trail (it’s an out and back) when we were still at least an hour from the midpoint. They were friendly and they treated us “like one of the gang.” It was awesome.
The scenery was spectacular. At the peak of each new summit, we’d look around and just take in the beauty and splendor of the entire Boise area. You could easily be mistaken that you were really peering out the window of an airplane we were so high up (at least that’s how it felt to me.) As we ran along the rugged dirt, single track trails, dodging huge puddles and sloshing through the slippery mud at times, we were again amazed at the animal tracks that were in the ground right next to our own – cougar tracks – repeatedly showed up along with scores of deer tracks (and droppings!) It made you wonder what you’d find around each bend in the trail or at the summit of each mountain. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any wildlife dangers, but it was pretty exciting to think we were so nearby to their stomping grounds.
Have you ever tried running up the side of a mountain? It’s nearly impossible in the usual sense. Instead, we found ourselves, fiercely hiking up the paths while our hearts pounded loudly in our chests. I remember looking down at my Garmin and saying to Bertha, “I never realized before that a 29 min mile could HURT so much!) It was intense. Going downhill was another kind of thrill. The biggest fear on the downhills is wiping out. I did that twice three weeks ago on these same trails, so I minded my P’s and Q’s and didn’t let gravity have it’s way with me this time around. You had to do sort of a breaking motion (leaning back a bit on your heels) as you ran down those sections. None of the sections were smooth or level at all. They were completely rugged, lots of rocks poking here and there, roots, whole sections washed away by rain where you had to just kind of leap here and there to find your footing. I loved it Thinking quick on your feet is part of the game in these type of events. My fastest couple of miles yesterday were in the 12’s. The 12’s!!!!!! Can you believe it?!
By the time I’d had to say goodbye to Leon the race director and Bertha at 23.33 miles, our average pace for the 7 hours and 4 minutes was 18:11. Now I will confess that I left my Garmin on entirely from the start to that moment. We stopped for bathroom breaks and at the half point we stopped for a mini lunch (a couple lunchable crackers with ham and swiss and a small cup of chicken broth) and for calls to our husbands to let them know how far we were and also so I could remove several of the screws from my shoes (that total stop was about thirty minutes.) So, our actual pace was probably closer to 16 – 17 min/miles. Crazy, huh?
Ok, the bathroom issues. The day before the race, I couldn’t seem to poop. I drank up, carbo loaded and tried not to worry about it. My kids have all had a bad cold this week, complete with sore throat, deep cough and a low grade fever. Just before bedtime the night before the race, I could tell I was coming down with it. I’ve religiously used a product called Cold-Eese over the years with pretty good success in these situations. So, I grabbed one of the lozenges and sucked on it during my bath, I took another one while Wayne and I watched a movie and took just one more before falling asleep.
I couldn’t sleep much the night before. I think I got less than 4 hours of rest. I took another Cold-Eese thinking, “I can’t come down with a fever out in the middle of an ultramarathon where I’m nowhere near help.” I thought it was a smart plan. I hadn’t taken into account one of the side effects of my medicine — constipation and stomach upset.
To add to the problem, I took two ibuprofin before the race (another common thing long-distance runners do – but one more thing that causes stomach problems at times.)
I drank plenty of Gatordade, I sucked on a Halls drop, I ate two homemade energy bars (made with peanut butter, tons of honey, coconut, almonds and cashews.) I also had a snack sized Baby Ruth candy bar, a few crackers and that small meal of chicken broth and two cracker lunchable sandwiches in the race. If you’ve ever spoken to an ultra-runner or read a book or a blog about them, you’ll know that my food for the day wasn’t that unusual. High calorie, low fiber foods are the common fare in these situations. It’s common at an official ultra race to see M and Ms, cookies and soda right at the aid stations. Sounds like your kind of exercise, now, doesn’t it? Anyways… I ate what I did, thinking it was close to what the “real” ultra runners eat, but there was one problem.
I was able to pee until the midpoint of the race. After that, my stomach was crampy but my bladder was on fire. I’ve had this happen before. I have IBS, which usually involves either constipation or diarrhea and occasionally both at the same time. Yesterday’s race was the latter. I really needed to poop, but each time I tried, nothing would happen. I couldn’t even seem to pee anymore. Things were just on strike in my GI tract. Bad timing. I tried to just ignore it, kept drinking Gatorade and eating a bit every hour and hoping it would all be fine. It only got worse.
My stomach started to cramp. The downhills were torture since I could feel my very full stomach by that point sloshing around and the pressure on my bladder was so intense and painful. I had the worst feeling, I’d accidentally fart and would explode — right in front of the 54 year old race director (likely in the middle of yet another of his cranky divorce stories) and Bertha, a friend who would probably love me no matter what but who I didn’t want to be THAT exposed with!)
By the 20 mile point, I hit my last chance for a bathroom. A sort out outhouse put there by the parks department. The smell alone should have helped me release what I needed to release – but it didn’t. Instead, though I tried for a good few minutes — nothing happened. I still had 9 miles to go to the start point (short course – remember?) I was hurting. My bladder was on fire. So, what did I do? I took another ibuprofin, ate a cracker and sipped some gatorade and kept trying to go on to the finish.
Things didn’t go as planned. The race director noticed I was lagging behind and was starting to walk more. He asked if I was tired. I told him my legs were fine but I had stomach issues. So, he says to me, “You mean you need to take a crap and can’t?” I wanted to die, but nooded and said, “Yeah, pretty much.” So then he went on about how that’s common in some runners and then said “At least you don’t have diarrhea, can you imagine how much worse that would be. ha ha” I didn’t have the balls to say, “You know buddy, actually, I’m struggling with both here. It could get pretty ugly if I don’t control my need to break wind.”
Anyways.. bless his heart, he told me he knew a shortcut and told me to call Wayne and the kids to come pick me up. From about the 20 mile point, our “shortcut” got us out of those foothills and back to civilization in 3 more miles. But, those were foothill miles – meaning we were out there for about an hour more. Isn’t that crazy? Thankfully, Bertha and Leon were understanding and let me walk most of that since every little jiggle or bounce made the pain worse.
When we hit the final stretch, I saw the minivan, Wayne and the three older kids (who’d been hanging out with Daddy at a fun Engineering Day at my old college – they got to ride a Segway, make small moving robots that they got to take home, build windmills and a ton of other awesome activities.) They came running up to meet me and my heart just soared! Leon said “Go on, run a bit! The kids will want to see that! So I mustered up my courage again and ran to greet them (even though it hurt!) Rebecca had made me the sweetest sign that said “GO Mommy and Bertha!” and I thought it was the best thing in the world to see right then! Wayne and the kids were so proud of me – even though I hadn’t gone the full distance.
I grabbed Becca, Jr and Josh and gave each of them a teddy bear squeeze hug. It felt great to see my family after 7 hours and 4 minutes in those mountains in the cold. I was fatigued. I was happy. I was disappointed.
We waved goodbye to Bertha and Leon as they headed back out to complete their ultra and I climbed into the van with Wayne and the kids. Wayne had a nice, hot cocoa waiting for me there. He told me he was proud of me. He reminded me that even Dean Karnazes and Paula Radcliffe had gotten “DNFs” (Did Not Finishes) in races before due to stomach issues. It was good to hear that. Then I told him, “I gave my all! I did my best and I still feel like I could have gone another 10 miles out there if only my stomach wouldn’t have acted up.” Then I hung my head and cried. I softly said, “I failed. I failed out there. I wish I hadn’t failed.” Wayne hugged me and said, “This is just part of life, honey. Sometimes it’s your day. Sometimes it’s not. I am very proud of you and so are the kids and you should be proud of yourself too.”
Once I got home, it was more of a relief than I can express to feel the warmth and comfort of my own surroundings again. To smell the delicious pot roast and veggies I had cooking in the crock pot and the cozy smell of freshly baked honey oatmeal bread from my bread machine. It felt good to be home – and near my own bathroom!!!!!!!!
Wayne brought me my warm meal up to my room and I finally was able to resolve my bathroom problems after eating. Then came the hard part — the ice bath.
Wayne emptied the entire inner storage bin from our refrigerator system. It holds the equivalent of two large ice bags of ice. I wanted to DIE when I even poked my feet in that after being out in the cold for so long. The nerve endings in my feet just screamed in agony and pain!!!! I forced myself in. I hovered over the ice with my butt just grazing the surface for a minute. I had to talk tough to make me just take the plunge and dunk my entire lower half into that 6 inch freezing, ice-filled tub. I groaned, I grimaced and I wanted to cry but didn’t. I shivered, my teeth chattered and I felt a little mental within a minute. Nothing helped. Not the warm tea Wayne had brought or the Runner’s World magazine sitting on the edge of the tub. I just wanted out. I wanted to be warm but I forced myself to stay for 10 minutes.
I swear that was the worst ice bath experience of my life!! My entire bottom half was swollen looking and pink — and screaming in pain when I stepped out. I called to Wayne weakly, “Help, honey, please help.” I think I saw him hide a grin since he’d recently experienced his first ice bath – and also thought it was horribly miserable. He helped dry me off and get into my warm pjs and socks. The pain would not stop for another 45 minutes.
I really have to say, I’ve changed my opinions on ice baths after that experience. I had Wayne google while I laid there in agony as the blood painfully rushed back into my limbs. Surprisingly, it turns out pure ice baths aren’t even scientifically the best thing to do in these situations (NOW they tell me!) Turns out lots of studies show that cold water (no ice) followed by hot water (best in a jacuzzi if possible) gives better recovery than the traditional ice bath alone. How I WISH I’d known that before the killer ice bath. :giggle.: Anyways.. I took a nap and after a couple of hours I took a hot 15 min bath and it was heavenly.
I’m feeling pretty good today. My hips are sore, my quads are aching a bit – but I handled the stairs just fine last night and today so far. I feel much better than I did the day after the marathon. I’m sure the slower pace and the gentler terrain (dirt) was easier on my joints and that the cold and hot baths probably did their part too.
I just got back from my 3 mile recovery run — in the snow. The flakes were falling everywhere I looked and landing on my eyelashes and face as I went. It felt soul-cleansing after yesterday’s disappointment. Like a new beginning. A fresh start.
So….when I can I do it again?!
One more thing. I set a PR for most miles run in a month. 112.21 miles! I’d never gone beyond 102.57 before! I’m so proud of that!