So, after my thrilling visit to Ragnar was the Nueces 50k. This was to be my first 50k, and it was on 01 March – the day after I was slated to fly back to San Antonio from Ragnar HQ. I was in a state of serious doubt about my ability to do well at this race because I had been incredibly sick during my visit to Ragnar, but decided to go out and run it anyways. I was scheduled to arrive at the San Antonio Airport from Salt Lake City at about 5 PM on Friday, where my husband would pick me up and we would immediately make the two hour drive to Camp Eagle. Unfortunately, every single flight I was slated to be on that day got delayed. My original flight to Las Vegas was delayed about three times, until I was told I would miss my connecting flight and was rescheduled for Phoenix instead. My flight to Phoenix was delayed. After finally arriving in Phoenix, my flight to San Antonio was delayed about three times. I did not return to San Antonio until about 1 AM.
We elected to stay in San Antonio and get up and make the two hour drive to Camp Eagle, not wanting to arrive at Camp Eagle at 3:30 AM and wake everyone in the shared dorm we were slated to stay in. My friend Meghann was
crazy awesome enough to show up at my house at 4 AM for the drive to Camp Eagle. I got about an hour and a half of sleep. I was still quite sick – coughing, congestion, short of breath, the whole shebang – and though I had packed everything beforehand I still felt incredibly unprepared when we arrived to Camp Eagle. The long and short of this is that the careful pre-race experience I had crafted in my head was a complete disaster. I hurriedly filled the bottles on my vest with Tailwind and water, tried to allocate things like extra socks (didn’t happen) and my buff (also didn’t happen), while also having to hit the bathroom and pick up my packet. In the parking lot, I could hear Joe (the race director) counting down to race start…10, 9, 8… I kissed my husband, waved by to Meghann who was urging me to GO, and ran to the start line.
All the frantic scrambling around made me forget that I was insanely tired and sick and did I mention tired? Loop one is a go, all adrenaline, who needs sleep? Honestly, describing the first 25k loop of this course is probably an exercise in monotony – I spent most of it hydrating as appropriate, briefly visiting my husband and Meghann at the aid stations, and wondering at what moment the crushing tiredness and fatigue would set in. It never happened on the first loop. Everything went exactly according to plan – I never stopped too long, I hiked the hills, ran most of the way, chit-chatted with a person or two. Near the end I started feeling a bit fatigued, but didn’t really pay too much attention to it, thinking I didn’t have too much more to go. (The “just think about getting to each aid station” approach can backfire this way – eventually you realize you do have to go the whole 25k all over again…and become quite sad.) Eventually I emerged from the woods to find Meghann and Russell waiting for me. Meghann informed me that I was close to the start/finish, and now I “get to do it all over again!” Then this happens:
I sigh, keenly aware at this moment that I’m starting to get tired. And not just tired like “Well I just ran 25k probably a bit faster than I should have considering I need to do it again,” (I actually ran the first loop about an hour faster than I ran the 25k race last year) but more like “Well, now that all the adrenaline has worn off I now realize I got an hour of sleep and desperately would like a nap.” When I finally get back to the start/finish, I trudge over to the aid station under the pavilion and am greeted immediately with Olga barking “Salt! Coke!” at me. I immediately comply, and just as a side note from someone who has never drank coke during a race before, that shit was GLORIOUS. I talk with Russell and Meghann for a second, then Liza comes by and tells me I am still looking good, though in retrospect I’m not sure if she was just saying that because it’s her coachly duty because I think I kind of looked like dirt. I’m just starting to think that I’ve been standing for far too long when Olga tells me it is time to go, time to start running again. Not really into defying Olga, I nod and start to trot off.
As soon as I’m out of sight I start walking again. It’s getting really hot at this point, but eventually I head back into the woods and start the run/walk, on again/off again routine that will pretty much become standard for (almost) the entire last loop. Eventually I start a back and forth with another girl on the trail, her passing me, me passing her, going back and forth like this for a while until she is right in front of me and trips and hits the dirt pretty hard. I run to her side and ask her if she’s okay, and she laughs it off a bit and tells me she had just been telling some friends the day before how she had never fallen on the trails.
At that point we run together for a while, eventually resolving to run together for the rest of the race. Turns out Keri twisted her foot around mile 9 or 10 on the first loop and had to have it taped up because it was causing her some serious pain. By the time she met up with me it was only getting worse. So we ran on together, resolving to see each other to the finish line no matter what (I don’t think she knew what she was getting into at the time, haha). Eventually we hit what was (I think) supposed to be the 10k self-service aid station (basically a few cases of gallon jugs of water that had been left on the trail). I remember all throughout (and even at the end) the second looping thinking I had been paying pretty good attention to my hydration, but I very clearly remember how happy I was to see the water at this aid station, immediately downing one of my vest bottles and filling it up, then downing half of it and filling it up again. In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have been that thirsty if I was keeping up with my hydration. I helped Keri fill her bottle and we pressed on.
It was around this point that I started to feel like things were about to go seriously wrong for me. I had a bit of trouble with my stomach, and getting to the next aid station seemed to take an eternity. At one point me and Keri started wondering aloud how far we could possibly be from the aid station, as it seemed like we’d been running (and walking) forever. At this point it was (for me, anyways) seriously hot. I was super tired. My stomach problems were only getting worse. I was feeling a bit nauseous, something I had never, ever had to deal with in running before. When we finally reached the aid station I dumped ice water all.freaking.over myself. It was awesome for approximately five seconds, until the heat burned it that away. I ate a few oranges and we started to trudge up the hill from the aid station, where we met with Meghann and Russell again.
Things pretty much only went downhill for me at that point. I remember a lot of pitiful retching on the side of the trail on my part. I was extremely nauseous for I would say about the last 10-11 miles of the race. I remember several times wanting to just stop and lay down on the trail because my head was swimming from fatigue. If Keri had not been with me, very graciously determined to get me to the finish line, I have no single doubt in my mind that I would have pulled a Liza and laid down somewhere to take a nap. I’m sure there are many words in the English language I could employ to describe how incredibly tired I was, but I think just saying “I was tired as shit” will suffice. Keri talked to me the whole way, and when we hit the fence line (the longest hill on the course) I had to stop constantly because I was either on the verge of puking, or had become nauseous to the point where I could hardly stand and was almost willing myself to puke.
Suffice to say this pretty much happened for the whole rest of the race. We ran a little, I inevitably had to stop, Keri gently coaxed me on and we trudged along. Let me just pause in this oh-so-thrilling narrative of my nausea to point out that Keri was basically the most amazing thing ever to happen to me during this loop. Having to make that last 10 mile trek all by myself, slowly (seriously – it took way longer than the three hours of my first loop) would have seriously been an exercise in total suckage. Keri let me stop to do my puke thing, she set little goals for us, and she was completely understanding of my melodramatic exclamations of being on death’s door. She let me do my thing, while still keeping us moving. Doing the fence line without her probably would have taken me three times as long because I undoubtedly would have sat down on a rock, puked on myself, and fell asleep in the sun until I got heat stroke or someone found me and put me in the ground. (Or something. I don’t know.)
So we hit the last aid station to some amount of fanfare, because Tejas Trails has the best damn volunteers on the planet. Joyce (one of the race directors) was at the aid station and upon being told by Keri that I was having some serious issues, Joyce immediately descended upon me like a mother hen. She asked me a few questions I can’t remember, took my bottle and put a little bit of blue something in it and filled the rest with water and instructed me to drink. She took my vest and told me she would take it to the pavilion for me, saying if I was overheating the vest would certainly not help me in this situation. I remember someone instructing me to sit, but I told them I didn’t want to sit because if I did I would never get back up again. There was concerned talk of overheating, dehydration, this and that as Joyce had me put a bag of ice on my neck, head, underarms. Someone asked me if I was feeling well enough to finish.
“Do you want to just go?” Joyce asked me.
“Yeah. Might as well.”
Joyce had me put the bag of ice down my shirt, and we took off. Slowly. We walked, tried to run a bit, walked some more. We came around to the river crossing and I tried to pay no attention to the fact that I could practically see the pavilion from there, knowing that we still had to go around that part of the property and back through the woods again first. When we finally came out of the woods and took the last of the course through the Camp’s buildings, we started to run. I was seriously uncomfortable with how much more nauseous running made me in addition to the stomach pain every footfall caused, but we were determined to run through to the finish line. All manner of crazy emotional thoughts ran through my head as we took those last few steps towards the pavilion, and coming down the incline to the finish I could see Meghann cheering and yelling while taking pictures with her phone.
So we crossed the finish line, and as soon as we do I fell into Russell’s arms and cried like a little girl as Keri explained to whoever happened to be near that I was having some serious issues and needed to be looked at. They lay me down, give me something fizzy to drink, and Rachel later tries to feed me some ginger that she then prompts me to spit into her hand (because it was disgusting, how do you ultrarunning people eat that crap?!) because she has serious hardcore mom status. I laid around on the cot for a while before I was deemed able to get up and run around shortly after, and we hung out at the pavilion for a few hours and drank beers and cheered on many of the remaining runners as they came across the finish line.
It was quite a few days after the race until I accepted the fact that perhaps I did actually do the best I could have done under the circumstances of one hour of sleep, serious sickness, rough weather conditions, etc. I definitely did a lot of beating myself up about it, because it was the first time I’d gone that kind of distance (having only gone up to 20 miles in training) so I was seriously starting to wonder if it was just that I wasn’t ready to do it. I’d been training for a while and was told by everyone and their mother that I was most certainly ready (and though I always appreciate the sentiment, most people just say that kind of thing so it’s not always easy to take it seriously when you feel like you’re at your worst). I’m pretty sure my husband is tired of me randomly bringing it up.
Looking back, there were some things I could have kept up with more – the heat definitely made me underestimate my need for water and fuel. At the time I was sure I was keeping up with it, but in retrospect I don’t think I was. I can’t recall exactly how much Tailwind I took in, but I feel like no matter much of that or any supplemental VFuel gels I ate it wouldn’t have really mattered. The complete and total lack of sleep was probably going to catch up with me no matter what. I was seriously pleased with the performance of the shoes I wore – I wore the Pearl Izumi E:M Trail N1, a shoe I had bought only a few weeks before and kind of gambled with (I brought a spare pair of Altras just in case). I never had any serious issues with my feet hurting despite all the rocks out there (and despite the mileage) and the shoes are still light compared to my Altra Lone Peak 1.5s (the original shoe I had planned to wear). I was prepared as I could have been as far as my gear goes, but sometimes the cards just aren’t in your favor. I was incredibly lucky to have Russell and Meghann there cheering for me and helping me out with anything I needed at all the aid stations, as well as Keri who stayed with me all those miles and pushed me to the end. Though I might have still finished without them, it would have been a much more miserable experience. So, until next time I suppose – Hell’s Hills 25k on 05 April and another crack at 50k at Brazos Bend on 23 April.