Today I ran the hardest race to date. Yes, it was only 30k and for me, it was harder than the HAT Run 50K and it was harder than the North Face 50-miler. There are several reasons why I think I had such a hard time with this race, but in the end, all the reasons point to one answer – I wasn’t prepared.
The morning started off great. The Trail Bandits (that’s what we’re calling us now) all met up at Kendra’s at 6 a.m. and drove to York, PA. I was feeling fine after being very ill on Wednesday and I didn’t think anything of the run. Today’s run would be Meg’s and Reds’ longest trail run to date and Georgene’s longest run ever.
Meg, Kendra, and I were the only ones that registered ahead of time, and the others decided to join us at the last minute. Love it when that happens! There was chatter at how one of us was going to place in our age group as it had such a small field and they joked at how I should bump my race up to the 45k. Trust me, I thought of it for a half a second.
We sent out after the horn blared and I knew at about .25 miles in that I was in trouble. My Achilles were not warmed up and the pain was already radiating up my legs. A QUARTER OF A MILE!!! Before I hit my first mile, I thought about DNF. I have never, ever wanted to quit a race. I had very hard runs, but never like this. The terrain was not something I have ever ran on before and folks, and there is a reason why they called it ‘ON THE ROCKS.’ About 85% of the course was on the rocks. Big rocks, little rocks, sharp rocks, slick rocks, loose rocks, and rocks that jumped out of no where. INSANE. I heard someone in the bathroom say that this was a pretty technical course…well no shit. And Amy said that she read somewhere on a blog where it was rated a 6 or 7 out of 10 for difficulty and all I could think of, what the f*&^ was a 10?!?
There was no warm up period. You were instantly going straight down and then straight up…on rocks. Meg was ahead and feeling strong and while she waited a couple of times for the group to catch up, she eventually had to keep going. BTW…she placed first in her age group! You have no idea how proud I am of her! Slowly we drifted apart and by mile 6, I was on my own. I had moments where I felt good, but they were just moments…about a mile to be exact.
I asked every person at the aid stations if I was on target for the cut-off and they didn’t know. I asked them how far ahead my friends were ahead of me, and they actually weren’t too far ahead – about a minute or two. By mile 8 I was hoping that I wouldn’t make cut off. I begged the running gods to make it so that someone else would force me to stop and that it wouldn’t be me to make that decision. But it didn’t happen. As I finished the first loop, they waved me to continue on. Shit.
Ok, well now I’m going to have to finish this thing. Another mile in I decided I was going to quit at the next aid station and this is what I saw…
Damn, can’t quit here. At the next aid station I asked if I was the last person and they said no and that I was keeping a good pace. Bullshit.
I kept going, feeling lightheaded, dizzy, and sometimes getting that tunnel vision that you get before you pass out. At mile 11 I decided that I was cancelling my 13 mile run scheduled for tomorrow and that I was going to quit again at the next aid station.
That’s when I saw a glimpse of Reds and G. I can’t believe I caught up to them! Adrenaline rushed in and I pushed on for about 50 yards and then petered out again. Ok, I’ll quit at the next aid station. I’m not doing this anymore. I hurt all over. My feet were taking a pounding and my quads were shot. My ass checks were on fire. I was on the verge of cramping up in my shins and the bottom of my feet. I had tripped on every f(&ing rock that was out there almost wiping out and busting my face.
At mile 16 I texted my husband and told him that I wasn’t going to be home for dinner. Hell, I didn’t think I was going to make it home in one piece. I heard a helicopter flying overhead and wondered if someone sent a search crew for me. I wished I had music on me, but I never downloaded it to my cell phone. Instead, I insanely kept replaying this stupid verse of a weird song that got me through my first marathon over and over again.
One day baby, we’ll be old
Oh baby, we’ll be old
And think of all the stories
That we could have told
This is the second bad race in two weeks. Last week I participated with a relay team in the Endless Summer 6-hour Endurance run. I felt like crap then too. I was so relieved when I finished. There was no real sense of accomplishment like when I did the 50-miler. Just happy that the torture was over.
As with most runners do, I analyzed…what went wrong? Here are my theories:
- I have recently changed my diet after reading about how endurance runners perform better by not loading up on carbs. Instead, the eat a high protein and high fat diet. This does not work for me. I had no issues up until this point, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’m going back to what worked for me.
- I ate like crap the day before. I had fast food for lunch and mexican for dinner. Stupid. ‘Nuff said.
- I was very sick on Wednesday and vomited for hours (lost 2 lbs because of it). While I thought I was okay and well hydrated, I wasn’t. I never finish my water in my water bottles and I ran out several times today. This even after drinking several cups water and Gatorade at the aid stations.
- I didn’t eat enough during the run. I had no real appetite and didn’t think about it until the second half. I know better.
- I wasn’t prepared to run on this terrain. I was cocky and didn’t look up the course, didn’t check the elevation, didn’t check the technical difficulty. For this, I got served several helpings of humble pie.
- I changed my workout routine. I haven’t been going to my trainer because money is a little tight right now and I can feel that I’m weaker for it. I’ll start going on my own and lifting weights after I recover.
- I didn’t warm up properly. I just swung my legs a couple of times and that’s it.
Chalking this race up as something that needed to happen. While I finished it and didn’t have new lessons to learn, I was reminded that I need to go back to the disciplined routine that I had before. Let’s call it a horrible hands-on refresher course on the do’s and don’ts of running.
Here are some more of the pictures that I took on today’s run. Enjoy!
Waiting at the start.
Busted up feet. (BTW…fist time in Injinji socks…love!)
Congratulations on the hardest race you have done, you learned quite a bit about what NOT to do, so even though it was not a good experience you learned from it & that is priceless
Thanks Lisa! One of those things that had to be done. But did it have to be so brutal? lol!
Sorry your race was so lucky…my last 30k was a mess. Maybe 30ks are all bad. Btw, I’m vegan: whole foods plant based, high carb (o my Complex carbs tho), no added oils/fats. Good luck finding nutrition that works for you…..it’s trial and error for lots of people!
Thanks so much jac! Yeah…I agree…I think all 30ks are bad now. LOL! Maybe I would’ve been better off with the 45! Just kidding. Thanks so much for your insight!
Girl! Rest and recharge yaself! You are such a power house it may be a way your body says, “excuse me…remember me…I need a trip to the spa.” Positive note, think of all the lessons your learned. Think about the ways you are understanding your body – read the book, Run and Eat – I think you will enjoy it.
I’ll have to check it out. Thanks so much Amber!
Good work! I’ve got 20-mile trail race (would like to upgrade to the 50k) in October. My first trail race. Reading your blog helps me know it can be really hard but I can still finish. Thanks.
Yes, you really can finish Bryan. I was surprised that I did, but it happened. Good luck with your 20-mile trail race!
Good work. I’m signed up for a 20-mile trail race (hoping to upgrade to 50k) in October. My first trail race. Reading your post helps me have hope that even the really hard runs can still be finished. Thanks.
Congrats on finishing. We all have bad weeks and races, unfortunately they aren’t unavoidable. I’m impressed with your tenacity and the ability to keep going even when your brain was telling you to stop. That’s hard to do. I had a shitty run yesterday and my brain was telling me all of the wrong things, even considered deferring MCM because of it. It’s hard!
Thanks Sue! You’re right, it’s so hard! But, I guess that’s why we love it so much, right?
Great job on finishing! I ran a tough half yesterday (not technical, it was flat!)–it was humid and I had major tummy issues. I too think it was because I ate poorly this week. It really is all about fueling, isn’t it?
~Wendy at Taking the Long Way Home
Yes Wendy!!! Fueling is so important! I’ve learned my lesson, that’s for sure. ❤
Congrats on finishing! Everyone has a few bad races, so don’t worry about that. I’m glad you’re going back to eating carbs and fats to fuel your body while running. Protein isn’t really a source of energy so you should (hopefully) start to feel better once you get carbs in your system before a run 🙂
Thanks Kate! And you know what…this morning I’m going to start with a stack of pancakes 😉 lol! Thanks so much for stopping by.
Sandy you inspire me . . . with both your enthusiasm and your honesty. It only makes me want to work harder to reach my goals! Thank you!!!
Thank you so much Vicki! You can do anything you set your mind to even when your mind and body are betraying you. You’ve got this!
I enjoyed reading this recap too much lol congrats on NOT DNFing. Again, what doesn’t kill us… Finishing probably felt amazing! I’ve had races like this where I’ve totally underestimated the difficulty level and ate crap. Not good. We live, run, and learn…and re-learn over and over 😉