Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ice Age 50 Mile DNF, La Grange, Wi. 5/12/12

It was months ago that Western State has it's lottery. I was not in it. I was surprised to find out I had failed to qualify for the race. I had run qualifying times on several occasions, but because I often do much of my ultra running at duration races, timed events like 6 hrs or 24 hrs, none of my splits counted.

I decided that I wanted to run a 50 because I can only recall running stone cat in 2009 and no other 50s. I needed to run a 50 in 11 hours to meet this goal. Way back in January I had to decide what to do since races close fast and that is when ice age opened. I was in no shape in January. I also really dislike preregistering for events. However, the videos I saw of Ice Age made it seem worth the trip. I registered and the race closed 7 days later.

Sid had serendipitously been granted that weekend off so I was excited about flying int Chicago with him. We have been talking about visiting Chicago for some time. This would be a short visit but still fun. I booked the flights on American. This was odd because I have not flown commercial in so long I forgot how to do it. It was going to be nice for Sid to get to sleep for a change rather than fly. I got some deals on hotels for non-refundable fees. Same with the rental car.

Then I got hurt.

I have never strained or tore my plantar fascia so badly that I could not walk before. It took 2 days for the pain to begin to subside. This was 2 weeks before this 50. Really! I suspected at that moment my 50 was over. I should have dropped then, but I was not yet ready to give up hope. First, I believe the human body is amazing and can sometimes heal quickly. I find this to be particularly true of acute issues. Chronic issues take awhile to heal, while acute seem to resolve quicker. I hoped I would heal enough for an 11 hr 50.

I also struggle with the idea of how much pain I experience is psychosomatic. I know when I get high hopes for myself I also put pressure n myself. I tried to mitigate my stress by not telling too many people about Ice Age. However after my 41 mile 6 hr run, I thought maybe I could even be towards the front of the female finishers.

It is hard to be friends with ultra runners and not talk about race plans.

With all these aspiration, I had to get healthy fast. I took a light week after the injury. I still ran at least 1 mile per day to keep my streak alive.  My streak is an important source of inspiration to me that I will not abandon willingly. I moved up to 2 then 3 milers. As the days passed I was feeling better.  I totaled 16 miles that week.

Long days on my feet pushed me back a step, more so than any 1 mile shuffle did, but by last Tuesday I was up to 10 per day. I managed 3 days in a row of 10 and my foot pain continued to get better, although it wasn't gone. I logged a 50 mile rolling 6 day so I felt I had a shot at finishing this.

I looked forward to a trip with Sid even if I dropped. Wednesday night, the air force called. They were taking back Sid's days off and had to go somewhere else. Awesome.

So Friday I was off to Chicago alone. I got my rental and made the 1:45 hour drive to La Grange.

La Grange is a funny place. People are so very nice. Everyone seems to know each other. I ate dinner at a bar where people order drinks like Gimlets and Arnold Palmers. They talk about the town hall meetings. The roads have signs like "accident reduction zone. Turn on your lights" in places where the road stretches for miles without another car in sight. The asphalt has rough patches to alert you to the upcoming stop signs. It seemed like a peaceful place to live.

The prerace bib pick up was a lot of fun. There was a tribute to decades of ice age 50s with buckle displays and photos. I loved the photo of the start from 1986. It started on the road that year. You can see the rows of starters and what struck me first was that not one person carried anything. Oh wait, I lie. One dude in a half shirt carried a stick. I was told he was a special guy who sat upside lotus poses before races and ran with his lucky stick. Today people arrived with so much crap it looked like an Occupy camp. I had my bottle and wore my nathans vest so I could carry to huge set of rental car keys.

So I get to the start and the weather was great. A little split second drizzles at 58 degrees. It was a little humid. The RD says go and people go out hard. I am scared about my foot but it feels ok for now. I had high hopes the lingering pain was just my nerves and thought I was proving it. I was just sub-9 with each mile and it felt so easy. I had no complaints. I was entertained by how many runners sound like chemists out in the woods. Everyone is seeking the the secret to finding more energy within their bodies. Two women shared secrets about 5 hour energy. One man mentioned some herb that helps you burn more body fat. Two young guys discussed the value of walking.

It was fun to just listen to all the conflicting words of wisdom. . . . Until mile 6 when nagging started. . . Then 10 miles came and I couldn't deny I had begun to irritate it. I slowed down, and ran/walked through 14. Pace was still in the 10:00s. The next 5 miles included more walking than running with my brain occupied with how to calculate what mile pace I needed for an 11 hr 50. Let's see 11x 60 equals 660. 660 divided by 50. Huh? Oh I can do that in my head right now. Too hard. How about the other way. That's easier. 12 min miles is 5 miles per hour. That's a 10 hour 50. I can do that. 15 min miles is 4 mph so in 12 hours that's on,y 48 miles. That is too slow. Ok. So if I let the Garmin average pace fall to no more than 13 min pace then I should be fine.

Off I go....Run until it hurts.... Walk until it hurts.  Repeat. This was working for a bit but the pain was getting worse. By mile 19, running was too painful. I was on my way to the turn around and decided that I could not hike 30 miles and be able to continue to train so I decided I was done. I asked some volunteers how I could get back to the start. I had no one to call. He offered to drive me. I agreed but told him I needed to be sure, so I headed back out to the turn around .3 miles away. I knew I made a good choice when the pain was ranging on just that walk. I got back to the volunteer and called it a day at 22 miles.

I really needed that time to get myself composed. I was so disappointed to have to stop that I could feel myself getting overwhelmed with emotion. I really hate crying in the woods. It happens a lot to me in ultras. I am grateful to be a chick during those moments because if I was a dude it would be much harder to explain.

So I quit.

I retreated to my car and took a nap. I woke up hungry and went to the BBQ. It was free to runners. I was asked for my name and which race I completed. I quickly responded "my name is Shannon and I completed the 22 miler. I was the first one done so I won it!". The guy on my left got it. He understood I DNFed the 50 and burst out laughing and gave me credit for my positive spin on my defeat.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

USA-TF 15k State Championship. Clinton, NJ 4/28/12

I wasn’t sure whether I would go to this race.  I was very busy finishing up some work during my "last week" of my grad school before this race.  I purposefully took more rest than ever this past week because I felt after my 67.5 miles last Saturday, I could use some time off my feet.  Why would I think this?  People like to remind me that resting is good?  Rest. Rest. Rest.  You run too much. You need to take it easy.  You are going to break…etc.  I hear that a lot.  Mostly from people who run a lot less than me.  I don't pay it any mind when it comes from non-runners.  I must admit I get a little annoyed when I hear it from runners who act as if they know more about what I need than I do.  Funny how people often like to tell others what to do, even if opinions are not requested.  Regardless, life was exhausting me, so I figured maybe some rest will make me stronger.

I had an average of 10 miles plus per day since 1.1.12.  I ran about 20 miles over the week, the lowest I have in a very very very long time. I got my papers done, closed my files at the Clinic, finished up organizing my therapy log, met with my supervisor for a final review and got my academic/professional life in order during my down time. I hoped I was well-rested leading up to this 15k.  If I had a great day, I could likely run sub-7 pace for the 9.3 miles.  After all, I ran a 1:28 20k only one week after a fast 50k in March.   

I started strong and hit mile 1 at 6:55.   I hit mile 2 at 13:50.  So far so good, but I could feel my legs were like bricks.  They felt so heavy and lacked spring.  Even though I didn’t break myself last weekend, I guess walking may be somehow as hard as running, since I was clearly not recovered. Or maybe resting too much just made my body too tight and not as pliable.  I was just not feeling smooth, strong, or fluid.

In hindsight, I believe if I just kept my mileage up, and varied my training paces, I would have shook out these cob-webs by race day.  Instead, I felt stiff and tight and tired.  At mile 3, I decided to just back it down and run about 7:15-7:30-ish.  People began to pass me.  I was able to run at that speed quite comfortably until mile 4 when my left PF started to nag.  This was not completely unexpected.  After my 5k two weeks back, I aggravated it enough to call off a 20 mile run, but I made it through 15 hours of an ultra and didn't have PF pain, so I felt I was ok.  By mile 5 my PF was so very angry and I knew I was in trouble.  I hit mile 6 and could not believe I was going to have to run 3 more miles on a foot that was bailing out on me. 

The pain had me rolling way out the outside of my foot.  I lost my ability to hold my pace.  If I tried to run up on my forefoot like my body wants to, the pain got worse at my heel.  I wasn’t sure if I should slow down or speed up.  I just wanted to hurry up so I could stop.  I knew I had a visible limp at this point and still miles to cover. 

I just couldn’t bear the idea of DNF'ing and felt that 10 minutes miles would be better than 0 minute miles for my psyche.  When I DNF a race to save myself injury, I get to live a physically pain-free existant between races struggling with the sense that I probably could have finished and still not have had any residual damage. I can beat myself up a lot for "quitting" especially when there is nothing wrong with my body the next day or two after I quit.  However, when I fight for the finish, and then suffer significant damage, I have to live with the ability to NOT train and race like I want to and that is equally as bad.  It is gamble for the lesser of two evils.  Sometimes things seem worse mid-race than they do later, especially in ultras, and quitting is not really necessary.  Sometimes thinks feel better while moving, like in short races, than they will feel once you stop and DNF may actually save something from reaching the breaking point.  I took a lot of DNF's last year "to help myself" and it didnt do much for my psyche or my race results.  I have finished every race this year and breaking the DNF streak became a sore of pride.  It became important for me to finish and see what happens.

From the start of this race, I kept double, triple, quadruple splitting my new tap screen (got to adjust that later), so I was missing all my lap splits, which is probably for the best.   I just focused on moving forward.  Runners tried to encourage me as they passed me…. “Come with me!" "You can do it!"  "Let's Go."  "Pick up the pace!” prompting me to respond “I’m fine.  You go on!”  People seem to think they are being helpful and motivating.  But from my position, having to force a smile and engage in a conversation about why I really don't want to tag along with them is not something I really wanted to get involved with. The nice part of me feels it would be rude to just ignore people who clearly think they are trying to help, so I offer some response.  I may be wrong here, but my sense is that  sometimes people don't want to be encouraged by those runners who are passing them.  I understand that this peculiar behavior of saying something encouraging to a person you are besting can occur for a wide range of reasons.  I am sure I am guilty of this myself, but I just try to not do it to others. 

I prefer to really cheer on those who are passing me. I figure sometimes people are training through races.  Not every race has to be a PR.  Sometime people just don’t want to discussing mid-race that they are in pain.  Some people don't want to hear how they are doing GREAT! when they clearly know they are not doing great.  I figure those passing me could be having a good day so I cheer them on. 

In this race, I just wanted to live in my misery and not have to force smiles or offer explanations to strangers who simply had good intentions and thought they were being helpful.  All I really needed was to stop moving on a painful foot.  

One runner caught up to me, but was still close to my speed.  She offered “How about we try to finish this together”. I knew her and she is usually ahead of me.  I finally reported, “You go ahead, I have some Plantar Fasciitis causing a lot of pain right now.  I just want to get this over with without doing more damage”.  She advised “Just don’t hurt yourself.”  I wondered to myself why she was even near me and then she admitted, “I have strained calf right now.”  I joked, “I’ll race you to the ice packs after the finish line!”  We leaped frogged each other on the way in. 

I was so very happy to see that park where the finish line resided. We have to run a lap around the parking lot before we get to the finish line.  I saw Beau, a runner on my Do Run Runners team. I desperately called out to him, "Can you find me some ice?"  I had no idea if he could, I just knew I needed it ASAP.   At this point, I tried to pick it up my pace, but I could not put any pressure on my toes because it tore at the heel.  I jogged around the path and finished the 15k in about 1:10:45.  Beau was there with a handful of ice. My hero!  I tore off my flats and packed it under my foot, so happy to just sit down and stop running.  I eventually figured out that if I stuffed the ice into my arm warmer, I could tie it around my foot.  Mark W., noticed I needed something for the ice. He darted off and found me a rubber glove.  I packed the ice in the glove and stuffed the glove inside the arm warmer and tied it around my foot.  I was good for a few minutes.  What else could I do?

After sitting and chatting, while secretly freaking out inside, I decided I needed to get home.  As I stood up I hoped I could walk.  I was disappointed to find that my steps were even more painful now than when running.   I knew I really screwed myself up, but I hoped I would be ok in a day or two. 

I called two ultrarunning friends on my drive home.  I like these guys.  They always encourage me to run more and never tell me to stop running when I am running well.  Both Ray and John concurred with what I should do to deal with this.  Ice, Massage, and careful deliberate stretching of the parts of the Fascia that are not painful. I now had my plan.

I thank Beau and Mark for helping me to get the ice immediately.  I am sure things could be worse if I didn’t act fast to reduce swelling and pain upon stopping. 

From now own, once I can run again, rest weeks are getting crossed off my list… well, drastic rest week.  I will still ebb and flow with my mileage, but is seems that there is no real reason for me to shut things down, even if others are uncomfortable with how much I run and constantly encourage me to "rest".  If I get hurt off a 60-70 mile week I can take it.  Getting hurt of 20 mpw is baffling.

My final time was 1:10:45 and I ended up 3rd in my AG.  This is not a bad result considering how I felt.  Hopefully it won’t take too long to get back to training again.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

24 Hour Relay for Cancer, Hampton Virginia. 4/21/12-4/22/12

This has been a tough report for me to write.  The truth is I have started and stopped writing it several times.  I trained quite well for this event and seem to have suffered another disappointing performance regardless of my preparation.   I understand that sometimes things just don’t work out.  I believe that the 80 degree day was just too much for me to adjust to, since I was used to training and racing in the cooler north.  Regardless of what excuse I can muster to explain how I could run so well in the recent past and not be able to put things together when it matter is really not important. 

Of greater importance is the reason we go to Hampton in April.  I am on my way to 7 years of cancer-survivorship.  I have run Hampton since 2009, when I was struggling with biopsy after biopsy and fearing a recurrence.  I had not run an ultra and did not plan to that day in 2009, but I ended up staying on my feet for 100k.  I was not sure what I was doing that day, but running through the woods at George’s race changed me forever.  I came home an ultrarunner. That next week I had the tumor surgically removed and discovered it was benign. Thankfully, I was still cancer free.

Since that day, I have run many ultras.  Some very well.   Some very poorly.  When I stand at that starting line, it is almost as much of a surprise to me what will happen as it is to my competition.  I can run well off poor training,  Run poorly off great training.  Rarely does anything make complete sense. In general, good training leads to good racing (especially in the shorter stuff), but I have not been able to figure out what I need to do to ensure a great  24 hour race.  What I have figured out is that for me,  I just need to roll with the punches and survive.

This weekend was about the Race and the Team and helping to bring more excitement to a race in hopes of helping to raise more money for the American Cancer Society.  George puts on a no frills run and most of the money goes to the ACS.  He still gives out T-shirts.  He still gives out plaques.  He marks his course well and he makes sure we have water and an indoor bathroom. It is currently my favorite 24 hour, although Hinson is making a run for the title ;).

George’s race is special.  He is the only RD I know that has an Ultra Relay competition where a team of up to 12 runners get to accumulate mileage.  Last year my team set a new record at 802.75 miles

This was my second year putting together a team for the 24 Hour Run for Cancer.  It is a tedious process for me because I don’t just take the first 12 people I can find.  I don’t even really care about how far someone can run. What I really want is to put together a team of runners who will offer a kind heart, generous spirit, and endless patience, regardless of how exhausted they become.  I want a team that has some connectedness to cancer and compassion for the cause.  I want some runners that bring years of experience who can mentor the newbie runners along the way.  I want a team of peaceful people who are kind in general and passionate about running regardless of what pace they move.  

Even though my race performance bombed, I hit a home run with my team. I would like to thank John Price, Frank Lilley, Tom Gabell, Tony Mollica, Jim Plant, Mike Senko, Ladonna Kapustensky
Alanna Garrison-Kast, Kati Craig, Cheryl Lager and Tamra Jones for being part of the ultra-journey that has become my life.

I am so tremendously proud of my team. I can’t say enough about how Awesome our team mileage leader, course record holder, and this year's women's winner, Cheryl Lager is.  At 52.5 miles we were together as I was falling apart and she was just smiling and happy to be on pace.  I wish I could run the second 12 hours of a race like her.  

Tom Gabell is an inspiration as a person. Such a fighter and so freakin’ fast.  I ran the first lap with him trying to figure out how fast we were actually moving and wondering if it was humanly possible to slow him down.  

I can’t say enough about John Price, who spent many hours with me, quietly supporting and encouraging me as I tried to stay positive, while we walked.  It was so early to be walking and I was desperate to stay in a good frame of mind.  John was a rock.  He let me play with the pacing, try to add in minutes of running when I thought  I could.  He never once told me what to do, but was just present and a companion.  This is a trait I wish many more people in this world possessed.  As much as I like to talk, I was never more grateful to for the ability to simply walk in silence.

I always love the laps I get to do with Frank.  Frank was on fire!  Just months after hip surgery with his longest run of about 11 miles, he had often contemplated dropping so he would not hold back the team. I am so grateful that he came and hit that 50 mile mark!!!  Holy Cow, what a fighter!

Due the timing of our paces, and the length of the loop, I did not get to run as much with many other members of my team as I wished.  It is amazing how you can spend a whole day with people and not see them all that much. Although my path crossed with Kati, Matt, Ladonna, Mike, Tony, and Jim, never was it long enough.

One person who was a constant during my day, but not an official team member was incredible friend Tamra Jones.  I am thinking she could start a business for herself crewing people.  Although most members of the team said they wouldn’t need much help, I knew I was going to need someone to run off for coffee and mashed potatoes for me during the race.  Tamra also helped with all kinds of silly things like cutting up cantaloupe, finding crap that I couldn’t find, or letting me sit for a few minutes while she grabbed something I could have done on my own.  It was nice to have a helper.   She also managed to track all of our laps, make sure the official count was correct, take orders from other team members for little things they felt they needed.  She worked her butt off all day and still went out for a lap with me when I was at my worst and on the verge of throwing up.  

I had felt sick the entire race and I know historically that once I throw up the race is over.  I usually can get another lap done after that but my body shuts down.  It is better for me to walk and not throw up.  On that lap with Tamra, I finally got sick.  It was just only over 65 miles into the race.   

My memory escapes me but I know I ate some watermelon and tried to run again.  I ran past George who was walking with his daughter.  I was feeling so ill and was about 1 mile into the loop when I threw up everything I ate again.  My stomach was so irritated I had begun to throw up black curdled stuff I had not even eaten.  This is what happens when you throw up while wearing a head lamp. You can see exactly what you are puking and all I could think was “what the heck is that!”   Now I know to turn off the headlamp first, then throw up. 

That final lap was the most painful loop I have walked in a long time.  It took forever and I was not confident I was actually going to make it out of the woods.  Each step felt more impossible.  At the half way point, I had to sit on a bench.  I was wondering how long until someone found me if I passed out.  I found some will to get up and keep moving.  I recall trying so hard to get out of the woods and stopping at the .5 mile cone. 

I could not believe I still had an entire half mile to go.  It was amazing how far a half mile seemed.  I leaned over and threw up again.  Then like a cheerful angel, Cheryl found me stuck there, frozen in space, but hurling at the same time and I was never so grateful.  Her positive spirit was such a lift. She was frustrated about a part of her race and technically she was actually complaining about something, but even during a rant she was still incredibly positive. As she talked, I was able to move forward and focus on her issue.  Being able to think about someone else for a while helped me move on.

Once back at the HQ, I found my blanket, curled up in the dirt, b/c my chair had gotten wet, called Ray and told him I was having a bad day and going to sleep. I knew I wasn’t going back out there to run.  Once I throw up, it takes me about a day to feel better.   An hour nap wasn’t going to fix this.  I hoped to possibly walk some, so I set my alarm for 1 hour, took my shoes off tucked them under my back pack, used my pack as pillow and closed my eyes.  That is when the rain really started. The canopy was leaking onto all our gear.  All the bags of food got soaked.  My shoe bag was soaked.  I seemed to have found the one dry patch in a world of wet and had my dry shoes under my pack, so I was all good. 

Many amazing runners continued on, but I was not ready.  It was a hard fight to get out in the rain.  Tamra had left for the hotel, so I had nowhere to go get dry.  My tuper-ware container of clothes seemed ok, unlike my shoe bag.  I stayed under my warm dry blanket as the temperature dropped.   I heard some chatter around me about wolf spiders being all over the place and thought at least it is not as bad as the rats at NC24 last year.

At 2:30 am the rain slowed and I decided I wanted to head back out.  I walked to the bathroom and just that walk up the little hill caused my stomach to spasm. I was throwing up nothing but it sucked.  At that point, I let my team know that I was not going and they could go without me.

Frank and I stayed at the HQ while Jim, Ladonna, and Mike headed out.  Frank was so tired he started singing after he forgot I was there. That is one of my favorite memories of the night. He surprised himself when he turned and asked me how long I was sitting there, wrapped in my blanket, in the one remaining dry camping chair while he sang in the rain.  I had told him that I had never left. 

At some point between 4:00 and 6:00 am Jim and I decided to finally make a move to the indoor facility.  There we camped out on the floor in the warmth waiting for the sun to rise.  Alanna showed up just past sunrise, then Tamra made it back.  Kati came back from her hotel.  Cheryl was still moving as was Tom.  Everyone was there except Matt who lived nearby and drove home after he hit 75.

The team was in wonderful spirits and we had no idea how we did as a team.  It wasn’t until the ride home that we calculated that we could have possibly set a new Team Record.  George sent the unofficial results out and it was confirmed: Team Awesome 2012 set a new team record by .75 at 803.5! 

The bigger victory goes to the ACS that was offered a $15,000 donation from the race.  I hope to return next year with a new team, but I think my goal has already changed.  Rather than set my sights on hitting 100 miles, instead I would like to run a lap with each member of my team, thanking them in person for training, donating, and running with me at a very special race that I hold very dear to my heart. 

Thank you Team and George for spending that day honoring and supporting those truly fighting a battle with cancer.  After all, what we go through out there is all in the name of fun. It is nice to know that the money raised is being used to help those who really need help.