Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ancient Oaks 100. Titusville, FL. 12/1/12

photo by Joseph Regner
This will not be very short nor very sweet for me to write.  So what happened? Same as always.  Run Strong. Throw up.  Go Home.

A few months ago, I felt my training was good enough to get me through a 100.  I emailed a request for an Invite to AO and got one.  I was excited to do this.  I knew I could finish ... if I could just not throw up.

I have been throwing up at races that go longer than 12 hours since I started running them.  My first 100 was AO and that is where the puking began.  The last 20 miles of that race was characterized by me walking and throwing up for hours.

18 days later I ran Freedom Park 24 hours reaching 110 miles and this was the only race effort of over 12 hours that I did without vomiting.  It was the best race of my life.  I was in great shape then,  running my fastest every that year.  PRing in the 8k, the marathon, the 10k, etc... all leading up to the 100 mile effort and then the 110.

After that 110, I got sick and was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder.  Hives, fatigue, and breathing issues stalled my training. Medications made me gain weight. I was heavy and sluggish for about a year.  When I did try to run far, it would be too far, and I would tear up my plantar fascias or other tendons and then need to recover from that. Then I got healthy and started running well, saw a doctor who wanted to try a different medication, which cause liver failure.  Then another few months of recovery through 2011.

Now at the end of 2012, I training well.  I am lean.  I am setting new PRs across the board, just like before!  I am happy, fit, and healthy.  

However, I stayed away from long races except for Hampton 24 and Hinson 24.  Both those races were in warmer than I prefer conditions, but not terribly hot.  Both races ended for me when the vomiting begins.  I can do about 15 miles walking once the puking starts but the violent spasms hurt and the abdominal pain is too much for me when I have been puking for hours.

I cant figure out what to do about this because I can't replicate this problem in training.  I can run comfortably for 12 hours without one inkling of stomach distress or even feeling like I am working.  Then at some point after 12,13,14 hours, like a switch, I suddenly get sick. It doesn't matter if I go faster or slower in those 12, 13, 14 hours.  I get sick and can't stop it.

My stomach gets irritated.  I have puked up the black coffee grinds of curdled blood.  A sip of water gets rejected and I puke.  I can't take in anything solid of an enough quantity to help restore energy.  I can't take in fluids in enough quantity so I cant get rehydrated.  I can't replenish anything that has been depleted or lost.  Without the chance of restoring anything, nothing ever gets better, even if I take a nap.   The only thing that makes it stop is for me to stop.

It takes about 12 hours after the throwing up for me to tolerate food again and usually a few days for me to gain back the weight lost from dehydration.   If I take an hour or two or three nap at races and get up to start walking again, the puking will start all over again.

So What Happened?  

Sid got us a Mooney for the trip and was my pilot for the weekend.  This meant I could pack anything I wanted.  This was awesome and I could be better prepared.

I packed a small cooler bag of things I thought would help me.  I have cut out almost everything from my race fueling plan and kept things simple.  I packed some gluten free snacks (some sweet, some salty) and fluids I can tolerate.  I packed my head lamp, extra batteries, a handheld lamp, my handheld bottles,  the KT tape for my feet, my inhaler, tums, lube, my electrolytes.  I was so proud to get all that needed in some small bag!  Then I left the bag next to the front door.  I thought Sid put it in the car.  He had no idea that I thought he packed it.

After about a 10 minute meltdown, I was over it and we went to Walmart.  I figure this was just a way for the universe to tell me I don't need anything in that bag to run. I had my sneakers so I was ok.  I also found some extra things (a small handheld bottle, an extra inhaler, etc) in my suitcase.   We bought most of what I packed at Walmart.  I was fine with that.

At the Race.
I just start out having fun.  I am using my Garmin but it is not really helpful. It is beeping off miles, but I was not watching my laps.  However, I didn't care. I felt completely comfortable. I wanted to get as much done in the day light as possible, while not running too hard.

In the past, I have come through the 50 mile split under 9 hours.  My 110 had me with a lower 8 hour 50 mile time.  I decided to not go that fast, even though I knew I could.   I made a point to start out strong and then settle down.  When I finally started watching my lap splits I realized I could go slower and slowed down.

I ate chips and drank Powerade more regularly than in any race.  I was drinking a lot of water and Mt. Dew.  I felt fantastic through 50, like it was not even work.  I was running, walking, and just feeling great.  I was getting tired, but not too tired.  Nothing hurt that much.  I have not felt so good in the first half of a race ever.

I hit 50 in 9:45-ish.  That is not an incredibly fast 50 mile split.  I felt very good.

After 50, I started to get tired.  To be expected.  There was not at lot of foods at the aid station that I could eat (because I avoid gluten upon learning that the flour does not digest well for me).  I had been eating Pringles the whole day and I tried a gluten free energy bar I found the night before and it was not working.  It turned to paste in my mouth.  I planed to grab another Poweraid, but I forgot it because my mind was tired, I was getting repulsed by the idea of putting stuff in my body, and I just left for another lap. I grabbed some water but had trouble drinking it.

By mile 60, my vision was getting blurry and I was having trouble thinking clearly.  I had an odd taste in my mouth... the taste that tells me that I will be throwing up soon if I don't figure out what to do.

I came through 100k and sat down to get in calories.  I tried to eat anything that would go down, but already nothing seemed tolerable.  I tried some vegetable broth.  I ate a few pretzel, not caring if they made me rush to a potty.  I tried some papaya supplements.  I took some tums.

I went out for another loop with my headlamp.  It sucked.

Sid appeared at the end of the lap, ready pace me.  We did a lap.  I threw up out there.  Not much but that is how it starts. He left to get me mashed potatoes, after I told him that I was just so hungry and I want something real.  He would leave them for me and then he was going to sleep.

I did another lap.  I couldn't see straight.  I was walking like I was drunk.  I was tripping over everything.  The stomach spasms were starting and I couldn't walk slow enough to make them stop.  I finished the lap.

I saw Jon K when I finished.  I told him I was done.  He was a great help to me when I was running well.  Great Crew. He was giving me good data and it was motivating.  He saw me suffer at Hinson. He didn't try to force me back. For some reason, I feel he really understands since he walked my last 5 laps of Hinson with me.

I saw the potatoes. I couldn't even stomach the idea of them.  I drank a sip of water.  It was hard to swallow.  I sat down and the nausea stopped.  I stood up to move and it was back.

I called Sid, knowing that if I called him at 10 pm, he could come back for me.  I could have pushed out another lap or maybe two, but I had already stopped having any semblance of fun.  The impending violent vomiting was coming and I knew it.

The only way to stop it is to stop moving.

I was leading the women's race.

I left.

I just cant throw up like that any more.

I can't do that to myself again.


  1. Shannon . . . I know you've been struggling with this nausea thing for quite a while. I'm so sorry. I wish I had an answer that might help . . . but I have nothing.

    My only thought would be to start ginger really early and keep taking it (ginger candy, ginger ale, ginger snaps, etc)

  2. Stop the vomiting by stopping the race at the right time. I know you want to keep running, but your body is telling you it can't do it. Please stay safe. Cheryl

    1. Oh, you are so right! I definitely cant do it the way I am trying to do it. I have done it before, but something isn't working this way. I have no intentions of throwing up for hours. That would be (and is) horrible. if I can figure out what I am doing wrong (or what I had done correctly before and repeat that) then the vomiting should stop. This time, I didn't let it happen for too long because I already know it wont pass once it starts. If I can't figure it out, eventually I will have to stick to shorter races... but I am not ready to do that just yet.