Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Trails

That's a really bad/trite title, I know, but I can't conjure a better one.  It's my not-so-cute way of saying that I've decided, along with my dad, to focus on trail races for the next I-don't-know-how-many months.

Since I began running (fall of 2008), I've always run on trails pretty regularly.  Mostly because the people I ran with ran on them every so often, and I would sometimes be dragged along.  I've always enjoyed trail running (I have very strong quads and am a good hill runner), but have never taken trail racing all that seriously.  I've run two trail halves, two trail relays (Dances with Dirt--my favorite race ever), and a trail 15K.  Though I've won a couple of them overall, I've never trained specifically for these races.

That is changing, at least temporarily.  As you know, I didn't get to run the Tecumseh Trail Marathon a couple of weeks ago (you can read about it here).  I was very bummed about that, as it was going to be great training for what is my next true goal race:  The Land Between the Lakes 60K.  Yeah, it's an ultra.  I know, I know...an ULTRA.  It's so ultra that I had to calculate how many miles 60K is (37, by the way).

Now how did someone like me, a road/Garmin fiend, become interested in running a trail 60K?  The honest answer is that I'm not exactly sure.  It just kind of happened.  I was feeling spiritually pulled in that direction after Chicago (yes, really), but hadn't really thought about it seriously.  Then a bunch of things happened in my (and Tim's) life that just made it a better fit for right now.  I'm not worried about running a certain time* at LBL, I'm just interested in getting really, really fit and strong.  And, mostly, I'm interested in enjoying running in its most organic form.  That means running to enjoy it.  Not that I haven't been enjoying it since I began running three years ago, but it's just not possible for me to kill it out on the roads right now.  I'm starting a brand new tenure-track faculty position, and have a very busy family life right now.  And, for whatever reason, I want to run and race on the trails!  I am SO insanely lucky to have one of my dear friends and extremely talented runner, Scott Breeden, helping me throughout this process.

If you remember, I had a bad experience with running shortly after Rowan was born (which is why I started this blog to begin with--you can read about it in the earliest entries).  That experience has so radically changed my perspective on running.  It used to be that I thought I was worthless if I couldn't run a certain pace or win overall.  Now?  I'm humbly thankful for each pain-free running step that I take.  I mean it--every time I run, before I start and after I finish, and often along the way, I thank God for my ability to do this.  It's a wonderful, beautiful thing to be able to do.

Now, I still have a couple of road races planned.  Houston Half Marathon in January (we signed up because we want to watch the trials, which are the day before), and of course the Boston Marathon in April.  I'm racing the former, running the latter with a group of friends.  All I can tell you is that I'm going to thoroughly enjoy myself.  Every. Single. Step.

Stay tuned for my year-in-review blog post!

*At the LBL 60K, there is an $800 prize for breaking the course record (which is a very modest 8:40 pace).  I'm going to go out at that pace and see what happens. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tecumseh Marathon Debacle

Not that it's any fault of the marathon itself.  Tecumseh is an awesome race.  Or so I've heard.  I've never run it (despite having signed up twice), but that was to change today.

It didn't.  I wasn't trained for it, but that wasn't the reason I DNS'd.

Some background.  Since my blow up at Chicago, my training has been entirely focused on re-building my broken body, and on learning how to train appropriately.  My longest run has been about 8 miles (INCREDIBLY short for me).  I had no business running a marathon.  But the Bowders were coming all the way from Vancouver, Washington so that Mark could run Tecumseh.  And I was supposed to run it with him.

A short time ago, I had decided to only run part of Tecumseh with him, perhaps the last half...given my lack of long run and trail training.  But before the race I decided I would run the entire thing.  The pace would not be an issue for me, and Mark's goal was just to have fun.  Since I have come to realize over the last 12 months that I am in love with running because of the FUN part of it and not the ultra-competitive part of it, I wanted to do the entire thing.  And so it was decided.

Friday, the day before the race, Tim, Mark, and I did a short shake out run.  I felt great.  I was getting SO pumped for the race.  We went to packet pick up, and then out to dinner with some friends.  Everyone does this the night before a marathon.  The goal is to load up on carbs, and so most people go for Italian.  And our party was no different.

I had been in charge of finding us a place to eat, and we couldn't get a reservation at any of our usual Italian places in Bloomington--the really good ones like Grazie! or Olive Garden.  I finally got us one, though, at DeAngelo's on Third Street.  They had any time available for our party of 12.  That should have tipped me off about their food, but I was just happy to find a place and made a reservation.

Once there, we got to meet some of our 365competitor friends--Clark, Charles (and his wife), and Jeff.  Scott and Emily also came.  I was starving and ordered the chicken/mushroom raviloi.  The service was quite bad, but it paled in comparison to my actual food.

The pasta was rubbery, and the marinara sauce had a layer of oil sitting atop it.  I forced myself to eat about half of the dish, but it was major work.  The food was gross, but I knew I had to eat to be well-fueled for my multi-hour-long jaunt in the woods.

Once in the car and on the way home, I began feeling a little sick.  I get car sick, and so I thought it might have been that.  The longer I was in there, the more I was tempted to ask Tim to please pull over so that I could puke on the side of the road.  I did make it home, but had let him know that I had to get to a bathroom IMMEDIATELY upon our arrival home.  We got out of the car and Alec, Mark and Alita's son, promptly began vomiting.  That was all I needed.

I ran inside and began my own puke-a-thon.  It went on about 10 minutes and I felt better.  We agreed that Alec and I had probably eaten something bad.  It was my hope that it was going to be a one-time thing and done.  I ate some gummy bears so as not to go to bed with a completely empty stomach (as the vomiting had cleaned me out royally).  That sparked, at 1 a.m., the worst vomiting episode I've ever had in my entire life.

Without getting into details, I'll just tell you that I was, for hours, kneeling over the toilet wretching and vomiting.  I slept maybe two hours after that.  I couldn't believe this was happening.  The night before a marathon--really?  I WAS FINE before that meal!  I was so angry, but I figured when I got out of bed in the morning it would all be okay.

Except, it wasn't.  I was worse.  Dizzy, nauseated, weak, and exhausted.  I told myself just to get up, put on my running clothes, and everything would be okay.  I felt like death.  I ate a little bit so as to not go into a marathon completely on empty, and that prompted more vomiting.  Still, I was in denial.  "I can do this," I kept saying.

I kept saying that all the way up to Bloomington, where we picked up my dad.  Shortly after that, though, I realized I might not be running Tecumseh.  I suddenly had an intense need to puke, and told Tim to stop the car.  I threw up all over the side of the road and threw myself back in the car.  "I don't think I can do this," I said to Tim.  All in the car agreed that I SHOULDN'T do this. 

I was still convinced, though, that once I got running all the symptoms--nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, and a general desire to roll over and die--would disappear.  Running is always my cure-all for everything.  Once we arrived at the start line, I had to immediately get out and puke again.  And again.  Scott and Emily showed up, and I explained to them what was going on.  I told them I didn't think I could do it.

Those are really hard words for me to utter, especially when it comes to running.  Scott suggested I try to jog a mile and see how I felt.  I thought that was a great idea.  I stood up and began jogging.  I made it about 25 meters and had to puke.  Tried to run some more (yes, I'm insane) and the same thing happened.  In all, I made it maybe 50 meters.  It was true:  I couldn't do it.

I am a very strong-willed person.  But sometimes there are things you can't will yourself through.  Had it been an absolute life and death situation, could I have covered 26.2 miles on one of the toughest marathon courses in existence?  I THINK so.  But even my mind could not force my physical body to intentionally put myself through the misery that would accompany running Tecumseh while suffering from severe food poisoning.

And, with that, I took off my bib and chip, gave them to Emily (who wanted to run but didn't have an entry), and curled up in the fetal position in the car.  Once they headed to the start line, I drove to my dad's house (stopping twice along the way to vomit).  I could barely make it in the house (seriously).  But once I did, I threw up once more, and collapsed into bed.  I stayed there the remainder of the day, waking up every half hour to vomit.

I didn't fully regain consciousness until around 3:45, when I heard a text which told me that Tim had finished in 3:40 (a Tecumseh PR!).  I had, for some reason, a bad feeling about Mark.  And I continued my sleeping/puking routine until I finally heard from him via text.

My feeling had been right.  Mark, who was still out on the course, was in trouble and struggling.  He did, however, finish.  As did dad, but neither he nor Mark were pleased with their races.  After hearing Mark's stories, I'm not sure who had the worse day:  me or him.  It's a toss up.

It was, in many ways, a disappointing day.  Not only do I not like spending my days semi-conscious and vomiting, but I had so looked forward to running Tecumseh with Mark.  The good spin, though?  This means we need to head out West so that we CAN run a race together.