Sunday, June 08, 2008

I Fought the Trail and the Trail Won

I am able to post this blog entry today instead of tomorrow because I finished KM100 in 6 hours. Or rather, it finished me :) I DNF'd at mile 31, the Scuppernong turnaround. A very long, and costly trip to Wisconsin, and I had an intense training run!

Tim and I left for Chicago on Thursday, but not before I called Bob to check on his travel status. I had gotten all freaked out because there were tornadoes touching down in various parts of Illinois. Bob was great, reassuring me that the scary weather was usually over in a matter of hours and that I would make it safely to Wisconsin. And we did. But not before we had one of the scariest flights ever while flying over Nebraska. The turbulence came on in an instant, violently knocking our flight attendant to the ground in the aisle, and tossing her tray of drinks onto us. Luckily, she was fine, and we could mop ourselves up. The scary turbulence seemed to go on forever, but it was probably just about an hour. I was so happy to land in Chicago!

Friday, Tim and I made the trek to Whitewater, only to find that the hotel did not have our reservations and put us in a smoking room - yuck. We hemmed and hawed a little bit and finally decided to stay there the first night and then move to another hotel the second. We spent the rest of the day getting organized, going to packet pick-up, and finding things to eat. We ended up buying enough food for 50 people, worrying that one, or both of us, might get lost in the forest and need supplies :)

Saturday morning came bright and early with a 4:00 am wake-up. We got ready and headed to the Nordic Trail parking lot where the race was to start. There were quite a few runners (I think the website said 223 total), so it was fun to make small talk with new people. I got to meet Alan McLain, another runner from Texas, and several nice people who were from Wisconsin and familiar with the trail. Everyone seemed a little concerned by the forecast, but we all know that it is part of ultrarunning - ultra weather. After a quick briefing, we headed out right at 6:00 am. The sun was already up, as sunrise is much earlier in the north I found out, and the temps were pretty warm at the start. Even though I tend to be cold, I was warm in shorts and a t-shirt.

The first part of the course is a wide cross-country ski trail, with some small hills thrown in for fun. It is breathtakingly beautiful, especially to a girl from the desert. Everything is so green! I was loving the course, so excited to be out and spending my Saturday running through such a beautiful part of the country. And then the hills started. Now, I know to those of you who train on trails, these hills are probably not a big deal. But I train on a river levee and roads. These hills seemed like mountains to me! And they were never ending.

This is where I think I made my fatal error. Because the course had become a single track trail, I was "in line" with runners in front and behind. So, I just followed and did what they did, trying not to hold up the line. Up we went, and down we flew. I saw the other women doing a sort of stutter step down the hills, so I copied them and found that it was much easier on the quads, but really increased my speed. I was working hard and it was only the beginning of the race. I often find myself breathing heavily the first few miles of every race, I think from the adrenaline rush and excitement, but I usually settle down. Because of the "train" I was in the middle of though, I never settled down. I just kept running, hoping that at any minute my breathing and heartrate would settle. The total distance of this rocky, hilly section was 12.3 miles. When we finally made it through this section, I thought it was all going to be okay, but I was wrong.

After the technical section, we headed into a flatter, faster section, my favorite. I was so relieved. I thought I could finally get a rhythm and loosen up. The problem was that most of this section was out in the open. And it was HOT. And HUMID. And it didn't seem to ever end. Just when I started singing "The hills are alive with sound of music," I realized that I wasn't feeling so good. I was sloshy and thirsty, a bad combination. I doubled my E-Cap consumption and held back on the water. Even though I knew I was getting dehydrated, I knew it was more important to get rid of the sloshing. I couldn't pee, so the only thing I could do was wait for it to subside. I kept running, getting thirstier and thirstier. I know from the docs on the List that you need to slow down to speed up the absorption process, but I was desperate to get out of the direct sunlight.

By the time I arrived at the Hwy 67 Aid Station, I knew I was in trouble. Tim told me I seemed disoriented, but I assured him I would be okay. I still couldn't pee and was still sloshing. I made it to the next aid station, and told Tim I was probably going to have to drop, but I wanted to try to make it at least to the turnaround. The section from mile 26.5 to Scuppernong (the turnaround - mile 31.4) was shaded and not quite so technical. I thought it might give me a chance to recover. I walked most of those 5 miles, only running when I could. People were making their way back from the turnaround, and it started getting more and more discouraging. I saw another runner, Kevin, walking and asked him if he was okay. He said he was done, and I said so was I. We kept each other company the last few miles, comparing stories of our misery.

When we got into Scuppernong, I told Tim I was dropping. He didn't even try to stop me. We both knew I was hyponatraemic (I didn't pee for 8 hours), and that there was no way I was going to make it back to the other side. Kris Hinrichs was the aid station captain, and she was awesome! I told her my situation, and that I had Jerry coming to pace me, and that I hated to let him drive all the way down to the race for nothing. She told me not to worry about it, went to her car, called him from her cell phone and told him I'd dropped. We gave Kevin a ride back to the start, picking up another dropped runner on the way. When we got back to the parking lot, there were several others, all of us commiserating on our day. Ultrarunners are even supportive in DNFing!

I read later that there were thunderstorms throughout the day and night, leading to more DNFs as the race wore on. In the end, there were 37 finishers out of 123 (I don't know the stats on the other events). Hats off to all of those who finished, it was a tough day!

Fellow blogger, Bob, made it to the 100k mark. He rocks! Another blogger, Meghan, got third female in the 100k - awesome! Unfortunately, I wasn't out their long enough to meet them, so I hope we run another race together in the future!

Overall, even though it wasn't the best running experience, I can absolutely see why so many people love trail running - it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever done. If (and that's a big if) I ever run another trail 100, I will make sure I have a better strategy. My "run to how I feel" strategy completely fell apart on the single track portion. I followed the group and not my body, and paid for it dearly. I just couldn't tell how much of it was normal - adjusting to the trails, the ups and downs - and how much of it was wrong. I could never get a rhythm so that I could do a "systems check" of my body. I felt like I was in fight or flight mode the whole time. I think experience will help with that, but it wouldn't hurt if I had used a little more common sense :)

So, Olga, Ronda and Julie, I am going to lick my wounds and head back out on the flat courses I love while watching you all rock the trails! I have the utmost respect for your abilities to run tough courses! For now, I'm just going to participate in trail running vicariously through y'all - you make it look easy!

Happy Running!


olga said...

Oh, carilyn, I just talked to Bob, I am so sorry to hear you ran into so mamy problems from the get go, and hope you can pass it in your mind and remember only what you said - it is beautiful and fun:) I will have to re-read and recomment bc I have no computer at home anymore and am leaving work, but for now - I am proud of you for trying!

Rooster said...

You had me freaked out on the plane ride. I think that alone would have done me in for sure! I hate bad flights.

Sounds like the conditions were really tough, that finish rate is very low.

I know exactly what you mean about being in a train of folks, trying to keep pace but not knowing how it's ultimately impacting your body. I think we have all been there and it's a poker play for sure. I had to do that at Leadville last year and fortunately I was able to make it around that lake with my body intact.

Keep up the good work and get back out there soon.

Julie B said...

Hi Carilyn, Matt Patton emailed me that he met you at Kettle and you knew me. He, unfortanately called it a day at 50K too, it was a tough one out there.

Your flight: I hate flying, but love the destination. I close my eyes during most of the flight and ALWAYS break out in cold sores from the stress. I've only hit minor turbulence, but I always watch the airline staff to see if they look nervous. If I saw the stewardess go down in the aisle I would be cleaning up more than the drinks. Really, I would crap my pants.

I'm sorry that your first trail 100 was so problematic. I am pondering which is more difficult: a 24 hour asphalt run or a 30 hour trail run. I'm still undecided!

Bev said...

What a weekend! Sorry for the many obstacles. I can't wait to see how you rock your next race.

Scott said...

Sounds like you had quite an adventure! I can relate to your struggles. I set out on a 50K training run yesterday with a few other runners and had major troubles with the heat and humidity. I could use your race report for my run recap! Except for the flight stuff. :) Anyway, I had to drop at 25 miles and felt pretty miserable. Having difficulties is going to happen. I guess we learn, keep training and continue enjoying being healthy enough to have the opportunity to try! Stay fit and keep running!

Bob Gentile said...

Hey Carilyn, what a crazy weekend...YOU will be back, just one of those Days unfortunately ...

I will try and catch up with u this week by phone,to share some war feet are SOOO trashed from the rain...splashing in the meadows with lightning flashes all around us --geesh :-(

So bummed we didn't get a chance to meet in person but hopefully sometime somewhere... catch ya later

Meghan said...

Oh noes, Carilyn. Sorry to hear that things went really sour for you. I wish we could have met this weekend! Here's hoping the physical and emotional recoveries are going smoothly.


angie's pink fuzzy said...

i'm late, but wow how intense!!