Monday, September 8, 2008

Woke Up, Ran, Finished Dehydrated, Got Stung, Recovered in Ambulance, Drank a Beer, Called it a Day!

To share the race story I was gonna send a picture since they are worth a thousand words, but then realized it could be used against me since I’m laying on a stretcher in an ambulance (but I’m still smiling in it). Somehow I think Leslie is going to savor that picture for future torture though we are both laughing at it ;)
Essentially I was ill prepared at the time for a hard run at 6500’ elevation. When we got up to the mountain on Friday I felt fine and was hydrating early and often though only with water. Got our bibs and made dinner, went to bed early… all the usual you know. Race morning we went to meet Jenny, Norm, and Sandy (you’ll meet them all at Noble) since they were staying in their RV a block away from start line. We all walked over together and met a whole bunch of other Ultra runners, since apparently they are the only ones equipped for a marathon at elevation. Was really great ambience and the town totally embraced the Marathon with the help of Ryan Hall of course. Weather was perfect and scenery was unmatched as we circled the lake no foot.

I ran with Jenny the first 14 miles and let her set the pace of about 7:45’s. At that point I was feeling good and despite her warnings of the “big hill” about mile 20 I edged out front and said “see ya at the finish line”. Much of my inspiration was coming from the fact that I knew I was within the top 20 runners at this point and very likely placing in my age group. Next few miles were fine and then the hill. It was about 1.5 miles of climbing uphill. Since I was still passing the Male runners I kept chugging up the hill at a jogging pace, was tough and my legs were starting to feel tight and cramped, most likely due to lack of oxygen circulating in my muscles.
Mile 24 was complete bonkage for me. I actually had to walk most of that mile and could not even come close to doing a butt kick to loosen up my hams or quads. Not only that I had only been hydrating with one cup of water every 2 miles and some Heed every 5, which is clearly not enough and my salt tabs exploded in my shorts pockets so I also had no sodium. I did my total best to run through it but after the brutal uphill immediately followed by the brutal downhill, I was close to being physically done. After 26 marathons I still felt that this is the worst my legs have felt of all my races, and I had no energy.

Thank goodness Leslie was with me at the finish. I knew that my body was depleted and something just didn’t feel right so I just asked her to follow me around as I tried to walk it off. “Just stay close to me and make sure I don’t fall or pass out” is what I think I said. After several minutes of walking and trying to put more fluids and fruits in me I thought I was starting to feel a little better and it would be safe to sit down in the shade. We went up to the awards area a block away with everyone and found some shaded ground to sit on. We were there for maybe 10 or 15 minutes and I was really starting to feel better as we verbally relived the challenge of this course in terms of elevation and hills. At one point I reached around and was painfully stung right in the crux of my first two fingers. A very sensitive area with plenty of nerves. I jumped up immediately from my sitting position and looked at my hand to see a big stinger sticking out of it. I also immediately started to feel lightheaded and was in a lot of pain from the sting. My hands must have been trembling a little bit because I had to ask Leslie to pull the stinger out. We started walking down the block towards the finish looking for ice to put on it, and the moment I started to walk my vision went so blurred that I could not walk straight or even see the curb or people in front of me… this was very scary! We saw a medic and asked if he could get me a place to lie down and make sure the sting was not something to worry about. Thankfully I am not allergic! Leslie was holding me up as we walked with the medic to his ambulance and during this time I know he kept asking me questions like where I was and my name. Though I could comprehend his questions I could not respond in full sentences or words and apparently could not even say my name right.
We finally got to his ambulance which seemed to take forever, and I sat on the step. As I sat there my vision continued to get worse and according to the two medics and Leslie I also had no color in my face, so they put me on the stretcher in the ambulance and also put me on oxygen at this point and tried to get my feet elevated to get blood flowing to my head again. While I lay there they took a full set of vitals and tests with a variety of instruments. Turns out my blood sugar was very low and below 40 (should have been at 80 I think he said). Also my heart beats were arrhythmic so they kept saying I needed an IV and they needed my permission to go to the hospital in the ambulance… while stubborn me I was not going to the hospital or getting an IV, especially since I usually will pass out from having blood drawn, let alone I did not want to pay for the ambulance ride (stubborn ultra runner was I huh!).

After maybe 20 minutes though I am not sure, color came back to my face and the oxygen was really bringing me around. So now I was able to look out the one open door on the back of the ambulance and felt weird as all the other runners (who were still finishing by the way) were staring into the ambulance wondering what happened to the guy laying in the stretcher; what a bizarre realization that the guy in the ambulance laying on the stretcher was ME! Took a few more minutes to compose myself and finally convinced the medics after they had started the ambulance and everything, that I was fine to recover on my own. Took a bit longer to get all the hooks and stuff of me and I signed their waver that I was leaving on my own accord and went against their suggestion for the hospital. As a runner we know those symptons and often have experiences close to this level of exhaustion. What I needed was carbs and juice. I was well enough to be on my own at this point and was with Leslie and her folks (if I was not with anyone to help no doubt that I would have let them take me to the hospital). We had a car and were near the hospital and co-incidentally next to a restaurant. Immediately from the ambulance we went next door for lots of Orange Juice and Strawberry pancakes, and in less than 30 minutes my recover was quicker having gotten some sugars and carbs in me. Things that I had not been taking before or during the run.

Finally we headed back to Jenny’s RV and I thought we could hang out and drink a couple brews. Somehow I managed to consume one beer and a few vegetables but everyone said I still did not look right, and my hand with the sting was incredibly painful. It truly felt as if I had a knife stuck in my hand that would not come out. Strange how something so small can be so painful. Though I later realized that the longer you wait to take a stinger out the more venom it releases into your body hence why the pain lasted so long since I did not take it out right away. I decided to heed the advice of the others and go back to the condo and lay down while trying to continue consuming carbs and juice. Leslie her folks and I went back to the time share just a few miles away from the Finish line and I plopped straight on the bed. My body was so weakened that it was all I could to keep my hand elevated with an ice pack.

Now here I am a couple of days later and I can say that I feel back to normal for the most part and even had my traditional post Marathon cheese burger! The legs are still shot and certainly not ready for my next ultra (yes I’m doing another one) in just a few weeks. So all in all it was overall still a great time and I am really proud of every one to finish the race including Leslie, Tom, and Jan for doing the 5K. I finished in 3:47:39 which is respectable in my own eyes and garnered me 34th place overall and 7th in my age group. As a bonus I was faster than Jenny, but just barely and put me in an ambulance. I’m now smiling about the event and all that came of it as they are stories to tell. The course and support was great and the scenery as we rounded the lake was really awesome. I’m definitely thinking of doing it again but would certainly train differently and take extra sports drinks and gels.

What a day!

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