Friday, June 14, 2013

Knowing when to quit (May 24-26, 2013)

Went to see my doc about an unrelated issue last month, and my BP was 160/100. It’s not the first time. Even 7 years ago I remember a 150/95, but I had been rushing around and taken Sudafed. When I ran VT100 the first time, my BP was 160/95, and they just blew it off. I must be nervous. Same thing last year. The machine must be broken. Ultrarunners don’t walk around with BPs that high. Kept a log for 2 weeks to see if it was a fluke. My BP was 150-170/ 90-100 every day. I would have to start BP pills. What? But it would wait until after Pigtails 150.

Ocean and Dyno had been training admirably for the sole purpose of preventing my 3rd DNF at VT100 next month. Dyno ran his first marathon at Dizzy Daze 2 months ago. They were ready to spend the entire holiday weekend to pace me 2 nights in a row. As usual I slept poorly the night before and went out too fast at first (even ran a sub 10h 50 mile split and beat my last years 100k split by over an hour). Still, I felt OK until the sun went down. That is when I turned into a pumpkin. Ocean had the bad luck of being first to pace. I went from doing 2:10 loops to a nearly 6 hour loop, staggering, sleepwalking. Didn’t want to take caffeine tabs because of my BP so took my 2 hour nap break early, then did a loop with Dyno.  The sun came up and I felt normal again. Did OK the next 12 hours or so.

Then started lap #13 of 16 with Ocean. Suddenly everything was hurting. Dark thoughts invaded my head that Ocean could not respond to. What is wrong with me, I suck, why couldn’t I just keep moving like everyone else? It’s always the same, nothing will ever change. I’m pissed off. I decide all the pain is in my head. I start sprinting because I can. I ran the last 2 miles of that loop at what felt like sub 9 minute pace, now 110 miles into the run. The wind felt good, the legs felt loose, the burning foot pain forgotten for the moment, pain IS all in your head. I knew I would pay later for my foolishness but I didn’t give a crap.

As soon as I stopped, the pain came rushing back. Now I was drenched in sweat from sprinting. Shivering. Nauseous but hungry. Feet swollen massively with heat rash, so I had to switch to bigger shoes. I don’t like 100s, I really don’t like 150s. I need to retire. Someone up there has been trying to tell me something for 3 years that I refused to acknowledge- runs that continue into night are not for me.

After a very long break I am totally stiff and frozen but I take off with Dyno on loop #14. I start running a little but suddenly I can’t keep enough calories in. Then I start peeing gallons every 20 minutes, but miraculously manage not to spray my shoes in the dark. I slow to 1 mph. I look for patches of ground to lie down on. There was a bench somewhere…. How far was it? I would cut off my left breast for a cot. But I can’t take caffeine or advil now…. have to get back to the aid station which is an eternity away. Every time I see disembodied headlamps coming at me, I feel a weird panic, like crying. All hopes of finishing under 48 hours disappear, under 50, under 52… or at all…..

I see Rob coming the other way, something like 75 miles into his 100, had been going for sub 20 but having a rough day too and left his pacer. I don’t want him to leave but he has to keep moving and so do I, only a couple miles to the aid station, only 22 miles left to go. Dyno is doing everything possible to keep me going, he has already run about 40 miles himself. I’m feeling claustrophobic, I HAVE to get out of these GD woods. Finally we get out of the woods but the street side is no easier, it’s now single track. I can’t move at all. I am vaguely aware that I kept repeating, “what?” and “where are we?” before the hallucinations started. Parts of the ground kept coming up to meet me. I would see things moving in my peripheral vision. Finally I was convinced I saw a giant Garfield the cat… no wait…. Actually it was Pikachu from Pokemon, 

or maybe lights reflecting off 2 yellow street signs.
Dyno called Ocean. It had taken me like 4 hours to get halfway through that loop and there was no way I was going to finish. I remember being shuttled into a car then somehow getting home.

A couple hours later I woke up, hearing voices downstairs. Aside from feeling stinky with itchy feet, felt fine. I had planned a BBQ and Mrs. Ocean and son came by to help cook. Rob and Francesca (who finished the 200 miler in 62 hours) came, but no one else did. Guess people were tired, or still running, or…. felt uncomfortable to be around a DNFer. It’s true… once you DNF it gets easier to DNF. Once you steal, once a quitter….

Got a couple of messages over the next week, was I OK? Of course I was OK. So why am I annoyed by the underlying tone of pity, the assumption that I should feel devastated rather than so happy to be showered, off my feet, and drinking beer instead. I guess either I’m defensive/ projecting/ in denial or I just hate pity. I’ll admit I wasn’t as prepared as many of my colleagues, and I certainly didn’t play the right strategy race day, but I live to run another day. I’ll never be an Olympian or a supermodel so why is running 100s any different. Not everyone can do it, and not everyone wants to do it. Maybe this time you’ll find me in the kiddie pool having more fun than in the open water.

Thanks to Ocean and Dyno for being true friends, welcome to the thankless world of pacing…. You sure you still want to go to VT100?

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