As I am writing this, I am laying what very much feels like my deathbed. No, I’m not dying — but, I might as well be. This past weekend was very difficult for me. What started as a promising running adventure out on the Salt Flats and at Thanksgiving Point — turned into something entirely different.
I started the weekend with a mini-road trip to Wendover for the Salt Flats 50K. After a poorly chosen motel — you can see the video here — I was going to run the on Friday, drive home that afternoon after my run, recoup a bit and then run the Tulip Festival Half at Thanksgiving Point on Saturday morning.
Sure, it was a lot of running, but something it was something I felt I was prepared to do with the recent ultras I’ve done in the past six months. I was figuring the 50K would take me about 10 hours and the half probably 3ish hours because of fatigue. All pretty manageable and a challenge I was looking forward to tackling.
On Friday morning when I woke up and got ready for my race I didn’t feel anything amiss. It was a pretty standard race morning. Granted, I didn’t get much sleep the night before, but nothing unusually bad compared to other races. I was ready to run — so I went about my ritual of packing my pack, reassuring I had enough fuel and fueling myself with my standard sweet potato, banana and oatmeal.
After making the trek to the starting line at the Bonneville Speedway I started getting excited for my run. I knew it was going to be difficult — ultras always are — but, I was wanting this challenge and I was just eager to get out and run. After double and triple checking my pack again — I was ready and the gun sounded at 7am.
We were off — not just the 50Kers, but the 50 and 100 milers as well.
Since the usual course out on the salt flats was washed over from the rain gathered the previous week, an alternate trail route was marked. So, after a few miles on the causeway we landed on the dirt trails which was a pretty simple out and back course for the 50K.
There were two aid stations for us, one at Mile 11 and another at Mile 16 — which was the turnaround. For a half marathon or marathon the numbers of stations and distance between them would be an issue. But, I carried enough fuel with me that I didn’t worry about it. I hardly do during ultras — especially when you consider you’re going to always get a feast of some sort at every station.
Once I got onto the trails, the crowd had thinned out and a just a few of us 50Kers remained. The scenery was beautiful and I didn’t mind not running on the salt flats — I was just happy being where I was. I just enjoyed the moment.
Around mile 5-6 or so I ran into Coach Blu and a few of the AIIA team members who driving out to an aid station they were volunteering at for the 50 milers. It was really nice seeing them and it really gave me a boost in my spirits, because I think so much of Coach and the team.
But, it wasn’t much later when they left that my whole race kind of went downhill.
The wind throughout the race was pretty horrendous — as it always is out there. But, there were some patches where it was hard for me to get a good rhythm because it felt like I was getting bombarded by wind from every direction. It was a headwind, then a tailwind, then a headwind and then both.
By about Mile 7-8 I started feeling pretty nausea — I was thinking it was just motion sickness from the wind. But, by Mile 10ish the nausea got bad enough that I ended up throwing.
Thinking it was just the nausea I just forged forward sipping on my water and nibbling on a banana trying to replenish my electrolytes that I just lost. But, that didn’t help. And, I ended up throwing that up not just later.
The idea of dropping the race was now being entertain, but I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. I had never DNF’d before and there is pride in that So, I started playing mind games with see if changing my attitude would help improve my race. So, I was extra enthusiastic when other runners passed me, I turned on some music to distract me and I even tried imagine the narrative of how this race was going to triumphantly play out for me.
By the time I got to the first aid station I felt better — and had a cup of Ginger Ale to help calm my stomach, which still had some lingering effects of the nausea. After munching on some popcorn and another banana, I felt good to go. And, set forward once again.
And, once again — the nausea came back.
And, once again — I threw up.
At this point I was pretty discouraged, because I knew I was probably going to have to pull myself off the course. At Mile 14 the race director even pulled up beside me to ask how I was doing. I lied — I said I was fine. I couldn’t make that decision yet. I still had hope that everything was going to change and I would feel better. But, that feeling never came.
So I focused on just getting to the next aid station. It was a couple miles away and also served as the turnaround point for the 50K, I figured 16 miles was pretty good considering the circumstances. So that was my focus. And, I felt that if I was going to pull myself off the course it would be there that I could make the decision.
By the time I got to the aid station I was done. Completely done. I was feeling pretty weak from feeling depleted thanks to my queazy stomach, so I made a beeline to a camping chair as the volunteers offered me food and fuel my body was quite ready to accept. I just sat down and said I was done and to just give me a minute.
After a few minutes the amazing volunteers got some Ginger Ale and half an orange down me. I contemplated a banana, but I felt the half orange was a more than enough on a stomach that absolutely hated me. I just felt like garbage. So I kept on trying to keep liquids down me because I didn’t want to absolutely dehydrate myself or get my electrolytes too low.
After sitting at the aid station for about a half hour the call to the start line was made that I pulled myself from the race. It was kind of a bittersweet moment. But, at the same time the feeling of lost pride was lost in the feeling that I didn’t care, because I felt like I was going to die. I knew I made the right decision.
Instead of being simply taken back to the starting line I requested if I could go to the next aid station at Mile 22 where Coach Blu and the AIIA were located. They were going to be out there — at what I thought — until 3pm. It turned out to be closer to 1pm. But, in that moment I just kind of wanted to be among familiar faces. So one of the volunteers took me to the aid station.
I wasn’t there long until they were packing up, but I was grateful for the time I had with the team. Coach gave me some Alka Seltzer for my stomach — and again some Ginger Ale. This seemed to help some and made the 22 mile ride back to the starting line manageable. It was nice being able to talk to him along with Jim about my DNF, because it put a lot of things into perspective for me. This just solidified that I made the right decision.
It was hard for me to dwell on the DNF as well, because I got word shortly after I got reception that my sister gave birth to her little girl, Eliza. This really helped me to further put this experience in perspective. I was so happy for Jessie and Scott, because Eliza was truly a blessing and miracle for them. They waited nearly 5 years for this addition.
After getting to my car and everything processing happening to me, I hopped in my car, gassed up and after making a short race recap video — headed home. I still felt optimistic about running in the morning. I felt that some rest, replenished liquids and adherence to the B.R.A.T. diet would allow that to happen.
Half way through my trip my Mom asked me to stop at the store to get some lettuce for her. Which wasn’t a big deal for me since the store is right down the street from me. I was feeling okay — sore and not too queazy. But, once I got to the store and went to get out of the car — I just couldn’t do it. I tried standing up, but felt like I was going to pass out.
I knew I needed to get some more liquids and calories in me — and not wanting to go back home empty handed I resolved to go get the lettuce along with some food for me. So after sitting in the car for more than a half hour I mustered the strength to walk into the store. I got a cart — not because I needed it for the food, but to just keep me upright.
I made a beeline to the lettuce and then got some bananas, a couple of Powerade, a bowl of cut melon and a bag of ice (to ice my sore legs and ankle). Once I got home I quickly got my stuff out of the car, gave my mom her lettuce and raced to the bathroom so I could take a shower and ice my legs before hitting my bed and refueling.
But, it never happened quite that way. As soon as I got to the restroom I felt completely weak and it took everything in me to just shower. Any attempt to ice my legs and ankle were moot — because the focus now was to just shower, get in bed and eat something.
I never felt so ill in my life. I tried to shower and get dressed quickly, but without rushing too hard that I’d pass out. I really felt like I was going to die. Once I stumbled into bed, I drank half a Powerade, some melon and half a banana and before I knew it I was out. I didn’t wake up for about three hours. I was gone — I didn’t even move.
When I woke up I still felt extremely sick, but kept forcing liquids down. I was fevering over 101 as well. So I knew I needed to stay hydrated and fueled. I tried some melon and the other half of the banana, but that didn’t happen. So I just laid in bed for a couple more hours awake — but going nowhere.
I knew by now that I wasn’t going to be running in the morning. So I made the decision to DNS the Tulip Festival Half. Another decision that was difficult to make, but in the moment — the right one. I was bummed.
I tried getting up and watching some of the Jazz, but that didn’t work so well. After eating more of my melon bowl my stomach decided to reject that — and I threw up again. So, I stuck with liquids the rest of the night.
Even on Saturday my stomach wasn’t having anything to do with overly solid foods. I mustered down some broth, applesauce, bananas and lots of Powerade. But, my attempts at a fairly simple salad was meant with another upheaval of my stomach.
At this point I was pretty sure that I was dealing with the flu and not just wind-induced nausea. And, that’s been the case this whole weekend. I just can’t hold anything down and I am just weaker than weak. My fever broke some, but it’s still slightly above average. Needless to say I feel like pooh.
I’m still processing this weekend, especially the DNF. And, I’ve been told by many runners that I’ll learn more from my DNF than from any other race — 5K to ultra. So I am taking that to heart and reassessing everything. I might cut back on some of my races this year — and as much as I want to hit the 180 race goal by next July — maybe I need to rethink that?
I feel that I am beyond seeing value in the quantity of races. 180 is just a number — and running is much more to me than that. That’s why my approach has been to quickly get it done with so I can move on. Maybe I need to prolong it and focus on the other goals sooner than later?
Anyways — I am sure I’ll be making some changes to my race schedule, especially within the next month. So, on races with a transfer policy I might just sell my bib to someone else? But, that’s all something I need to need decide on with a sound mind and careful reflection.
There is much more to life than just running — and racing. The addition of my niece is a great reminder of that belief. What’s a DNF and DNS compared to that? Nothing. Really, absolutely, nothing.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress. I’m still planning on running the Provo City Half this weekend. I am actually sweeping it with my friend Tricia and her daughter. I am really, really, really excited about that — and then I don’t have another race until Ogden. Lots of positives on the horizon, but a lot to reassess as well.
MY NEXT SIX RACES
Running Miles — 10.0 miles
Race Miles — 16.0 miles
Walking Miles — 20.12 miles
TOTAL MILES — 46.12 miles
Race(s) this week — Salt Flats (DNF) and Tulip Festival Half (DNS)
April 2017 Miles
Running Miles — 23.5 miles
Race Miles — 55.3 miles
Walking Miles — 94.95 miles
TOTAL MILES — 173.75 miles
Races in April — Emigration Canyon Half Marathon, Riverton Half, Saltair Half, Salt Flats 50K (DNF) and Tulip Festival (DNS).
Running Miles — 205.25 miles
Race Miles — 151.42 miles
Walking Miles — 420.41 miles
TOTAL MILES — 777.08 miles
Races done in 2017 — New Year’s Half Marathon, Sweethearts 5K, Jackpot Running Festival, SL Tri Club Indoor Half, March Madness Half, Lucky 13 Half Marathon, Emigration Canyon Half Marathon, Riverton Half and Saltair Half.