Monday, October 1, 2012

Hinson Lake 24 Hour, Rockingham NC, 9/29-9/30

Sigh.... I would like to begin by reporting the deep sadness I do feel about what I considered to be a failure.  On the bright side, only one thing failed, not several things, so theorecticaly I am doing better :).

photo by Frank Lilley
I first thought about Hinson last year.  I decided I wanted to run a race for a friend's (Liz) charity called "One for the Books." (  One for the Books is an organization that believes that reading is a "starting point for all economic and social opportunities the world has to offer." Over the years I have known Liz, she has selflessly used all her vacation time and her own financing to travel to South America and other countries in order to participate in volunteer programs.  These programs worked to enhance the literary skills and interest in books in those children living in underprivileged communities.

Liz needs funds to do good deeds and I wanted to help her.  She knew about my cancer history and decided that if I can raise money for her charity then she would use that money to provide books to children in cancer treatment.  The idea is that books offer diversion, they educate, they are an escape, they can teach about coping with cancer, or be used as a tool to cope with cancer.  They are lightweight and mobile and can be carried from place to place where they make waiting rooms and hospital beds more enjoyable. They require no special strength, they can be interactive and shared.  Books are wonderful resources.  In my own cancer treatment, I found great pleasure in reading books for fun, for therapy, and for educational purposes.  Together Liz and I decided to provide books to children who may not be able to do much else as they endure cancer treatment.

I began fundraising and training back in December 2011. Month by month I requested donations to support my effort to run 100 miles.  In addition, I tried to prepare myself the best that I could to make that distance.  The goal is below my personal best, but a distance milestone I have not seen in some time.  I knew it would be hard, but I believed with hard work I could do it.

photo by Frank Lilley
As Hinson neared,  I was on track to raise the $2400 I promised to raise.  I was running with less pain in my feet than I have in years.  I was setting personal best times in short races, on consecutive weekends.  I was leaner and lighter than I have been in a long time.  I felt I was physically prepared for a great race.

I was concerned that North Carolina could get too hot for me.  I run best in the cold.  My best 24 hour was at about 32 degrees for most of the race.  Snow covered the ground, and damp air almost freezing air saturated our gloves and hats and clothes, but I managed to run well.  Heat and humidity, dehydrates me fast and I tend to get nauseous. Anything above 70 for me is heat. Once nauseous, I cannot eat or drink anything without feeling ill. In addition to the heat/humidity concern, I am convinced that nerves also make me nauseous.  At this point, I feel like I have created a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I am so worried that I am going to throw up that I end up throwing up.  I am working on ways to break that incredibly fun cycle.

photo by Frank Lilley
So I tried many things this time that I never tried before.  But first I must add, that when you have trouble in the 2nd half of 24 hour race, the only place to test ideas is in races.  So for this race, I pre-medicated with an OTC treatment used to treat GERD.  I took a pepcid AC before the race.  I used Tums when I got queazy.  I hoped to treat this and be done with it.

So the race starts and I feel great.  I easily cruise through a sub-13 minute loop 1 (1.52 mile).  I start planning my walks. I add a walk break in to the next lap, hitting 13:40.  I still need to burn off time, so I add another walk break and come through in about 15:06... perfect.  I wanted 15 minute laps.

By 2 hours in I had already finished 8 laps and "was working 9" :).  I hoped to keep this pattern.  But by 3 hours in, I was already starting to feel ill.  This was very upsetting to me.  My drink mix wasn't going down.  I was feeling dizzy and lightheaded.  I didn't know why.   Everyone around me was chatting about how cool it was and how it was such a great day!  I noticed that my clothes were saturated in sweat.

When I saw Jim's friend Deanna, I recalled her giving me a hug before the start, stepping back and saying "Wow, you are so warm!" Then I saw Alanna and remember her telling me she had plenty of ice if I needed it.  I also remembered the note pad next to my bed last night and it had only one item listed as needed for the race: "Ice."  It all clicked at that moment.  Even at 70 degrees or so, I am overheating!

By 3 hours in, I was already falling off my pace and struggling.  But with a cup of ice in hand I ran off again.  I started chomping on ice chips.  Within minutes, I was feeling better.  In fact after eating ice while I ran, I was back on pace and completely elated!  I felt I had found the solution to my problem, I was too hot!  The dizziness stopped. The nausea left me.  OMG, was this the secret?!  Sucking on ice while running?  No way!

I filled an ice bandana. Tamra had bought me dixie cups and a bag of ice.  I went out for loops carrying a paper cup, crumpled over so the ice would not fall out.  Sometimes I stuck the cup in my sports bra.  I did this lap after lap, as the only thing I could consume on the run was ice. I was tickled by the fact that this was the most LOW TECH intervention I had ever made in a race and it was working!  I have 4 handheld bottles and I am carrying a crumpled paper cup.  I have sports drinks, drink mixes and juice, and I am sucking ice.

I was happy to get some cooling and a bit of hydration from this, but I needed more calories and more fluid.  I started icing down some Mt. Dew (the only thing I could tolerate) and getting calories in me between laps.  I tried chilling down an Ensure (thinking more bang per swig) and that just made me feel ill. I tried coke and ginger ale.  I was able to get them down, but not as easily as the Mt. Dew.  In the first 4 hours or so, I did manage to eat 8 pringles and about a cup of mashed potatoes.  However I had a lot of trouble swallowing anything, so I tried to stay on liquids.  I took 2 E-caps every two hours or less.  I had a lot of trouble swallowing the tablets.

I was still running well despite this key issue.  In fact, I was surprising myself that I was going so steady lap after lap on mostly ice.  After learning that 66 laps was 100 miles and I was at 35, I was thrilled.

photo by Frank Lilley
For the majority of the race, I consumed mostly ice. I would slam a shot or two of Mt Dew between laps, get more ice in a cup and run.  I was still sticking with the lead women. Despite the drama, I did not feel like I was working very hard at all.  I wasn't worried about catching anyone but rather just wanted to try for 65 miles in 12 hours.

I was so pleased hit 40 laps (60 miles) with about 13 hours to go.  I was still on my plan.  However, I already knew that if I could not eat, I was not going to make it much further.  I tried again to take in fuel.  A pretzel turned into a solid block of mashed pretzel that I could not force down (another sign of how dehydrated I was).  I couldn't even chew up gummy bears, they seem so stubborn without the attack of saliva.  So I went back and forced down some sips of ensure.

As it got close to dusk, I asked Tamra to get me a cup of coffee.  I thought if I sat with something I found comforting, I could possible change things.  I few sips of lukewarm coffee and off I went.  It was not long before I asked Tamra to walk a lap with me.  As we walked, I threw everything up.  Tamra asked what it was about her that made me puke.  I reminded her that I only ask her to walk with me when I feel like puking.

Once I throw up, I can walk more miles, while cycling through rounds of throwing up, dry heaving, and attempts to eat/drink, but then I shut down.   I usually try very hard to avoid puking when I feel like it may happen.  Regardless of people reporting that throwing up makes you feel better, it makes me feel worse.  In fact, I believe that throwing up messes up my electrolyte balance, makes my heart palpitate and makes me unable to function properly.  I get to the point where I cannot will my legs to take another step, often finding myself stuck hundred of meters from where I need to go and certain I will never get there.

We got around and I decided again to sit down, drink something, anything (which was a failure), and then try for more laps.

At this point, I had about 10 hours to go.  Things were touch and go, with my feeling of hope slowly being usurped by the black cloud of negativity, justified by the fact that I knew I was facing the impossible. There was no way I was going to be able move well in the last 10 hours of a race when I have managed to deplete, starve, and dehydrate myself in the first half.  I had already begun throwing up.  I knew it was over and made me incredible sad.

I know that from the first throw up, I have about 4 hours of movement left in my body.  If I throw up at 20 hours, I could manage.  If I through up at 14 hours, I am not in a good place.  I can't move fast because the bouncing irritates my stomach and creates more problems.  Last 24 hour resulted in me puking up black curdled blood.  I am reduced to a walk.  So I walk.

I tacked up lap after painful lap, just counting time until it hit midnight.  I am a streak runner, so I need to run one full mile each day to keep my streak alive.  I wanted to make an effort to run a lap after midnight to see what I could do and to make it count if I discovered I couldn't run again.

As I came out of the woods with Tamra at about 11:30 pm, I saw Jon K, (Ray's son walking in the lot). I asked him to come with me for a lap.  It was a great decision. Tamra, Jon and I walked a lap and Tamra let me know it was midnight.  I was dry heaving already but knew I had to try.  At the start of the next lap, John and Tamra decided to wait at the tent and I took off.  I thought I could do the entire 1.52 mile loop, but just before the end of the loop I started to throw up again, but I did not want to stop running until I hit at least 12 minutes, just to be sure I got the mile done.  I was not sure where the mile mark was, but I am sure I more than covered the distance.  I have never thrown up WHILE running but I did today.  It was horrific.

photo by Frank Lilley
I got back around and asked Jon to come with me again.  But first, I wanted to show him my hat, because I knew he would love it!  It was  the hat I bought in case there was rain and it said SENNA across the front (because Ayrton Senna was known to be one of the best racing car drivers in the rain in Formula 1 history.)  Since Jon is also a racing car driver, I knew he would appreciate my hat.  He did.  There was something so refreshing about walking with someone who was talking about racing cars instead of racing ultras.  He was funny and distracting.  He told me crazy things about his super memory skills and told me I looked like I was drunk.  He said things to try to make me throw up on purpose (Because he knew it would help me get the loop done). Because of my friendship with his dad, I already feel like I know and like Jon even though we met only once before and for most of that time I was racing.  Because he was there, we were able to walk 25 minute laps while laughing in between groaning and moaning.  He was a great pacer!

However by the end of our 4th lap, I had to tell him to walk ahead of me.  It suddenly became clear to me that I dont really know Jon that well and didn't want him to stand there and watch me puke my guts up again and again.  It isn't like he could help me.  He walked off and gave me my space.  I threw up everything in my stomach and dry heaved some more.  I was surprised there was stuff coming out.  It was as if my stomach had not emptied any of the little sips of everything and was waiting to return it to me.

At 79.xx miles, I decided I needed to lay down.  The wretching was making my abs sore.  The acid in my throat burned.  I just wanted to crawl in a hole.  I asked Jon to wake me up in a hour... but in an hour, I had less motivation to get out of the tent.  It was colder out (great for running but not for sitting) and I was not feeling strong enough to move.  I did it all wrong. I was supposed to eat and drink then sleep but I was so afraid of my stomach I did not consume anything. Now I was awake an hour later and probably worse for it.
photo by Frank Lilley
So I stayed in the tent thinking about what I could eat and everything made me feel sick.  I just could not bring myself to consume anything. So I waited.  By 7 am, I finally decided to walk a lap to get me over 80 miles.  I then began to clean up the camping area.  I could still move, but Tamra and I had a flight that we needed to rush to make.  I was not running anything amazing, so I cleaned up a little so we could leave earlier.  At 7:24, I asked Jon to do one more lap with me and then I would grab the banana for the banana lap.

We got in with about 7 mins to spare (I think the race started late), but I wasn't planning on going halfway out, so I dropped the banana at my tent site and continued with my slow motion attempt to collect the massive amounts of cups dropped by the several people all sharing our area and still racing.  Tamra broke down the tent and packed up most of the stuff (Jon taught me the racing term for this, but I forgot it - I apparently do not have an audio-graphic memory), and after the banana lap was done, we rushed out to take quick showers and hurry to Charlotte.

I was not able to eat much again until 4:00 pm Sunday.  I was repulsed by food and my stomach felt so irritated that food consumption actually hurt. I did get in a cup of hot cocoa and part of a coconut chocolate chip cashew hammer bar.  After a small sandwich and some fluids at 4:00, I weighed in a saw I was still 4 lbs lighter than my 115 lbs the day I left for Hinson.  I can't remember that last time the scale read 111 lbs.

However, nothing hurts.  My body is strong and I woke up this morning feeling very much recovered.  Sid and I took Enzo for a 7.6 mile jog/hike on one of our more technical and hilly trails.  I did it in the same pace I do it when not a day (or is it two) off of an 82 mile run.

I swore off 24 hours at Hinson.  I concluded that even though I am the fittest I have ever been probably ever, that I am running the fastest times I have ever run, and I am the lightest/leanest I have been in years, I just may not have the physiological processing system required to run longer than 12 hours at a time.

We'll see.  I don't feel good about walking away from a failure.  I know the trick is to walk away from success.  I have this problem about falling my on face. I am a glutton. I am just compelled to continue to get up again and fall repeatedly, hoping to just one time find some glory in a job well done.

However, this race broke my spirit a little more than the others. The race itself is wonderful. It beautiful, well-run, and perfect course for big mileage. I trained hard for this and hoped the digestion problem in the past was a by-product of sub-par preparation.  But my defeat at Hinson made me want to just lay face down in the dirt (or in the tent) and play dead forever so the pain from being repeatedly knocked down hard would finally just stop.

It hurts.
                  A lot.
                                  To fail.

I just wish I knew what was wrong and how to fix it.


  1. In your eyes this is a failure . . . I get it. But what I see is the spirit of an amazing fighter. Maybe you didn't get your goal mileage, but you scared it to death! And you fought the fight that I could fight only in my dreams! You are an amazing person . . .

    1. thank you so much Frank. I really did want to kill it out there. I wanted it to be my day... but it just didnt work out for me. I had a nice 12 hour run though :)

  2. It was great to see you, and you should be enormously proud of your efforts - both the fundraising and your run.

    I have seen you run 110.67 miles, and I truly believe you can do that again.

  3. So.amazed. I know how it feels to not meet a goal, but dang girl, go easy on yourself! What you accomplished is quite remarkable. It almost sounds as though you had some sort of virus? (This is coming from someone who has only done 50K, though.) I wish you a continued speedy recovery.

  4. This is a success story all the way through. I know you're motivated to come up with a dietary plan to alleviate the stomach acid and nausea. You'll probably set a precedent for other long-distance runners. Wishing you well. I miss our Tuesday morning chats. Cheryl

    1. Broccoli Mama! (I love it!). I could really use your consultation on this one ;) I miss chatting on Tuesday too! Thanks for your kind words, and I really hope that I can sort this out.