The 100 miler is an evil temptresses. They seduce you, tease you, and then beat you down. And even after all that, you go back for more. After my first 100 mile attempt at Pine to Palm 100, I knew that my heart and legs were up for the job and entered another race: the Born to Run 100 miler. I went into the race with total optimism. I had trained harder. I knew what to expect. And it was an “easier” course – meaning less climbing and elevation. I had this race.
When we arrived on the ranch on Friday afternoon, I was giddy with excitement. I was without my usual pre race jitters and anxiety and was ready to soak up what I knew was going to be a fun weekend. We were greeted by friendly volunteers and given awesome t-shirts and neck warmers. And of course, we had to stop for photos with the sign and cows.
Once we made our way to the campground, I knew this race was my kind of race. There were guys in skirts (and kilts), cowboy hats, hula hoops,beer, sun and mariachi music. It was perfect. We found the perfect spot – right in front of the food truck (naturally) – and decided to set up camp. Unfortunately, it was super windy and setting up tents was no easy task. After watching us struggle for a bit, two nice men in skirts came over to help us with a hammer and a cold beer.
Just behind us, we spotted Skirt Guy and his famous hula hoops and made our way over to their camp. I was all set to watch Alyse and the three dudes hula hoop since I’ve never been able to hula hoop ever…but they weren’t having it. Skirt Guy grabbed me a hula hoop, gave me a little instruction and off I went. It was probably the proudest moment of my entire weekend – I was finally able to hula hoop!
After showing off our hula hooping skills, we joined the rest of the party for the beer mile. Unfortunately, I knew it would be disastrous for me to actually participate and despite really wanting to get out there and chug beers and run with the best of them, I decided it was a bad idea. Patting myself on the back. After the beer mile was over, they started ball races – which looked like super fast soccer with super small balls. I wasn’t even about to get in on that game – I am TERRIBLE at soccer and wasn’t ready for everyone there to see just how bad I would be at that game.
The mariachi music and ball game continued on into the night. We found our way to the food truck, played a little Scrabble and pretty soon, the rest of the crew had arrived and it was time for lights out.
We were woken with a bang the next morning. Literally. Gun shots and mariachi music blared around 4:30 am. I started getting my pack together while Casey boiled water for my oatmeal. I had a quick breakfast and then made my way over to the fire pit where all the runners were gathering.
Lara, my new ultra (bad-ass) friend and I promised not to let each other sprint out with the 10 milers and shortly after, the guns went off and we were off for the races. The first 10 miles was over in what seemed like an instant. The first loop was easy, breezy. Rolling hills. Nothing too technical. We realized we had come through a bit fast, slowed down to say hi to the crew, ditch some layers and then we were off for our second loop. The second loop of our 10 loop course was definitely the harder loop. It was a bit steeper and more technical but still not impossible. The first 20 miles were over and again, we were fast. We now knew the course – we knew where the aid stations were and had an idea of what to expect. My favorite aid station by far was the Barbie station complete with a cute blonde dressed like a Barbie and Barbies literring the aid station in all kinds of positions. Ha.
Setting out for our third loop, I was feeling happy and strong. The day was starting to warm up a bit and my niece came out to run alongside for about a quarter mile which left me with a big smile for the remainder of that ten mile loop. Pulling in to mile 30, I was still feeling good. We were still going pretty fast. Casey commented that I was looking a little pale and felt clammy but I didn’t think anything of it. After getting attacked with sunscreen (ahem, Casey), we went out for our fourth loop in good spirits. Towards the end of that loop, I started to feel a little queasy and took some salt tabs and sports drink hoping to curb whatever it was. But I was too late. When we came in at mile 40, Becky said she wanted to run a bit so she came out to do ten miles with us and I started to unravel…one thread at a time. I was moving steadily until we were about 3 miles in. And then it was like my stomach and calves were in cahoots. My calves were cramping and spasming making it difficult to even walk and I was so queasy, I could barely speak. I spent a lot of time somewhere between walking and jogging. And even more time between standing and laying down. At one point, I was so queasy, I just laid down in the middle of the trail. When Becky told me I might be lying on top of a cow patty, I said, oh well. With a lot of help and encouragement from Becky, I eventually made my way into mile 50.
I was feeling really terrible. Like really, really bad. My stomach was in knots. My cramping was worse. It was basically a mess. Thankfully Andrew (my amazing pacer) was making a special concoction for me to get rid of my cramps (and possibly also to help induce the vomit?). I drank down what looked like mashed up salt tabs and sports drink and then most of a vanilla ensure which he also kindly handed to me. Casey decided to join me early and off we went. About three miles into that loop as we were making our way up the hill, I stopped dead and puked. I took a few breaths and told Casey I felt lucky to have been able to taste the vanilla Ensure not once, but twice and we continued on. It was a slow and painful 10 miles. Somewhere along this loop when things were getting a bit more technical, we ran into a large group of very large cows standing in the middle of the trail. They were looking at us, we were looking at them. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Another runner was approaching and navigated around the cows. I was happy he was there as neither Casey nor I wanted to be the cause of a cow stampede. As we continued on, I noticed that my stomach was still not quite right but the cramping was getting slightly better.
By the time we had set out for loop seven, Miya (my niece), my mom and brother were back to cheer me on. Miya looked at me and said, what took you so long? That was longer than 2 hours. HAHAH. Oh, to be six! I hugged her goodbye and was in better spirits from mile 60-70 because of it. This was perhaps the most beautiful loop of the course. The moon was shining bright and the stars were out in full force. Everywhere we looked, it was like the earth was illuminated and sparkling. It was just light enough to turn off our headlights and run in the moonlight. It was surreal, amazing and just totally beautiful. And the best part, I was actually able to enjoy it. Thanks stomach. We came across a few cows and their big green eyes were the only part of them we could see. It was somewhere between spooky and amazing.
When we rolled into mile 70, Alyse and Becky were waiting for us with miso soup. I drank the broth, woke up Andrew who was taking a nap in the chair and we set out for our next loop. The first few miles were OK. I was moving pretty steadily and was surprising myself with my pace and ability to keep moving. It was some time after midnight and before morning. I was sleepy. The headlamps were bouncing. And all of a sudden, the nausea came at me again…but this time much, much worse. I took a few opportunities to sit down on the trail. When another runner came by, Andrew told them we were just star gazing. And we kind of were. He encouraged me and helped me keep moving until we were finally at the final aid station for that loop. I gratefully accepted some hot soup broth and sat in front of the fire to try and warm up again (it had become very cold and windy). After a few minutes, I realized it was time to go and we were off. We were climbing the hill…and all of a sudden I found myself doubled over and violently puking…splattering myself, my shoes and pretty much anything else in my way. I think I counted about six different episodes of puking before I was able to get up and keep moving. I could tell Andrew was growing concerned but I kept pushing forward. We were “running,” telling jokes and trying to keep minds off the miles and the sickness.
But no matter what I did, I couldn’t warm up. I was shivering uncontrollably and getting dizzy. I realized I didn’t have anything left in my body to warm me up or give me the energy I desperately needed. About two miles from the campground, Andrew began to get so worried that he asked if I would be OK with holding his hand. So we “ran” holding hands mainly to make sure I didn’t pass out. The minute we got to the campground, he had me in front of the fire with blankets – that were coming from every direction. I still couldn’t stop shivering. After what seemed like an hour, Casey asked me if I wanted to check in for my 80 miles and I said that I did. I walked through the check-in with a blanket around my shoulders and then walked straight back to the fire. Casey practically carried me into the tent and put me in my sleeping bag. I realized then that I was not going to be finishing the race.
I woke up a couple of hours later and was still a little sick to my stomach. So much so that when I went to use the porta potty to pee, I got so dizzy that I had to get out of it and sit right next to it. EWWWWW. I saw Becky and asked her to grab Casey and he helped me get out of there. After a little bit, the nausea started to subside and I tried to eat. We went to shower and then to brunch and I started to recover pretty easily. It was almost amazing how well I was walking. I keep thinking…if it weren’t for my damn stomach!!!
Thankfully, Andrew has some theories about my stomach and what is likely causing so many issues for me. He says it probably has to do with dehydration and lack of electrolytes which is making it difficult for me to digest food. So, we are going to train and figure this thing out. On to the next…with more experience and better tools!