On suffering (or, Cowtown Race Report)

Going into the race I had some time goals in mind, but I really wanted to get out there and suffer, for awhile. Little did I know what I had wished on myself. This was, hands down, the most horrible I have ever felt in a race. Including my first half, including the full I’ve done and including the 20 miler I did leading up to CIM that ended up a hot wreck.

For some reason I was in a weird mental state before this race. I tried to relax last night but kept popping off the couch to fix something, charge a device, get a snack, etc. I had my normal pre race meal of sushi (sounds weird but it works for me) and frozen yogurt and felt full when I went to bed. I’d had a good day (went to the Stanford vs. UCLA game. Sure, we lost, but it was still a blast) and was ready to roll.

When I woke up this morning, something felt off. My “pre race routine” if you catch my drift was not moving like it should have. Or rather, too fast. If you will. Anyway, I brushed it off and headed off to the race. I felt fine warming up and got in line to go to the bathroom again. Sadly the line was forever so I opted not to go again. The weather was perfect– crisp and cold and very fall in Sacramento (aka beautfiul).

My strategy was to go out slow with the 1:50 pace group and then ratchet it down from there. (Ok I need to rant. Dear everyone, please stand appropriately in the pack. If you are going to walk or run 12 minute miles, I think it’s great you are here but please line up accordingly. It was not cool weaving around you for a half mile. Like, really not cool) So, I started running with the 1:50 pace group. Um, home girl was ticking off 8:05 miles like it was her job. But, I didn’t really realize this because I was trying to go by feel, not garmin.

Anyway, I tried to slow down to 8:15s and succeeded through mile 6. At mile 6 there’s an out and back and so it was fun to see Aron, Tara and some of my other friends out there. This is also when I realized that my stomach was not cooperating and I got a weird, low cramp. Almost like my abs were aching. I’ve never experienced that before. Very strange. But, I told myself that I was going to be tough and evaluate at mile 10.

Miles 7-10 passed sort of without incident. I was very, very focused and don’t remember a whole lot about those miles. I THINK I high-fived with a friend of mine and I think I took some water, but my stomach was in no mood for anything. So, at the aid station at mile 10 I grabbed a gel and a cup of coke hoping that would settle my stomach. It didn’t. And this is where it got terrible.

I started throwing up every 1/4 of a mile starting in mile 10. I tried everything– water, gu, salt, etc but nothing helped. I was beyond nauseated and throwing up on a race course is extremely embarassing. I forced myself to keep running and was pleased that I was keeping a sub-9 minute pace but really not pleased I wasn’t going to PR or even continue at marathon pace. I’m not sure “stomach issues” is even an appropriate term. My legs felt fine but that stomach of mine was just rioting. I was also freezing cold (and that lasted ummmm hours?) which is not a good sign either.

So, I ran through and finished in 1:52 flat, 4 minutes off of my PR. At the finish line I threw up approximately 9 times, in front of small children, and briefly thought about visiting the medical tent. However, I felt a little better after about 5 minutes so I decided to stick with the plan. I ran 4.5 miles after the race for a total of 19.5 on the day and called it. The frustrating thing is that my stomach calmed down a little bit in those later miles. I wasn’t going fast, but I felt ok. I mean, my legs really felt fine. Totally fine. Like, could keep going fine. I ran with the marathoners (the 4:00 pace group) out and on the way back ran the course backward and cheered the marathoners on like it was my job. Like, it was probably obnoxious, but I clapped and cheered and high fived strangers because you know what? That’s how I roll.

After my 20 (or 19 or whatever) I chatted with a bunch of local running friends who told me I was awesome for puking and rallying. I don’t know about that, but nothing says hardcore like running and puking. But I felt really encouraged by them and am so glad to know people who don’t think I’m a freak show. I told them I was taking my whole love of Kara Goucher to a new level– she puked in her last marathon so I had to also.

What happened? I don’t know. I ate things I usually eat, didn’t change anything and they were soundly rejected. Sometimes you’re the hunter and some days the hunted. It took a couple of hours for my stomach to settle down and to keep food down. And even then I ate “sick” food like dry toast and eggs and still felt kind of weak. I hate that on the days I have license to eat a ton, I never want to.

So what did I learn? If my stomach throws a fit, I can keep running. I don’t know that there’s much worse than throwing up while running (not in life, just in running) and I did that and kept going. I didn’t quit. I also learned that I can run 20 miles (basically) without getting tired. That is good news. So today was not, not, not a loss. I achieved my goal of suffering for a long time and rallying (note to self: do not ever wish for this again) and I know that no matter what a race throws at me, I can probably take it.

However… some perspective here. First of all, running is not my job. So having a bad day is fine. Second of all, I am very, very fortunate to have a body that works and does what I tell it to. I have all my limbs, I don’t have cancer or other terminal illness or injury and that’s enough to be grateful. It is. I’m not being insincere here, I mean that. Finally, 1:52, while not spectacular, is a decent half marathon time. I know a lot of people, friends, etc who would be thrilled with that. Heck, a year ago I would have been thrilled with that.

Aron and I... she's the best!

Aron and I... she's the best and did so well!

After I went to brunch at my neighbor/friend/coworker’s house and ate… one banana. I could not imagine eating more. Yuck. Then I went and made it just in time to see Tara finish! I missed Aron but we took a photo (see left) together. I’m so proud of both of them. Tara PR’d and Aron handled a not-PR very, very graciously.

Now I’m sitting in my little house, happily swadled in my compression socks and Oregon Track Club jacket and hoping for a nice nap. I have a new book and the house to myself, so I’m going to take advantage.Β  I’m still cold and have a slight headache, but it’s not bad. I have another big mileage week (although today’s 20 miler should help with that) this week, but I feel ready for it.

8 weeks to go. WOW!

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10 responses to “On suffering (or, Cowtown Race Report)

  1. Wow! Congrats on pushing through. You are one tough runner – keeping sub-9 miles despite the puking. You’re right, sometimes it is more about finishing than about PR or time! I hope you recover well. Very inspiring story. I have to keep that in mind the next time one of my runs/races don’t go well.

  2. Oh no! Not every race can be a perfect one. I am SO IMPRESSED that you kept going. If I had puked during a race, I know I would have stopped! That said, you have such a great attitude about it. It’s funny how putting the body through something so challenging can really bring out an illness. Take it easy, and if you feel too tired or ill to do a run this week, the world won’t end if you skip it!

  3. Oh wow, you just “Keep on Truckin'” don’cha?
    You’re possibly my hero right now. I mean, I woulda thrown up one time and stood around feeling sorry for myself. Well, maybe after this story, I’ll actually attempt to pull an “Amy” and run through it. Pray I never feel that way.
    I know you eat sushi all the time, as do I, but what if you had a bad roll? Or bad fro-yo? That last one may not be possible, but who knows.

  4. oh yes the suffering was in full force today πŸ™‚ you did great pushing through… WOW and to go on and finish up those 20 miles after all that puking, you are seriously hardcore girl!! that will definitely make you tough for CIM πŸ™‚

    so great seeing you again today!! too bad we werent celebrating PRs but we will be in 9 weeks. its time!

  5. Wow! Hardcore girly! Great job on pushing through! You didn’t PR, but you gained so much in learning that you can always handle a difficult running situ when the chips are down.
    9 weeks til CIM? How’d that happen? I didn’t race yesterday, my tendon is still acting up – so pissed right now. But 9 weeks can be a short time or a long time, I’ll take the later. As soon as I am healed we will make a running date!
    Great job on the race! πŸ™‚

  6. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger Amy and MAN! you’ll be strong. I know ALL about running races feeling awful and I can tell you that while it’s ugly while it’s happening in the future you’ll be running a race and thinking “hey I could be feeling totally crappy like I did then but I’m not” and it will feel like a (relative) doozy. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway. The only way is up..

  7. yikes! not the kind of events you want to have going on! hopefully it was either just random and doesn’t come back, or you can figure out what the culprit was. you definitely earned mad points for sticking it out *AND* adding on the miles at the end. (i personally stink at that part when i say i am gonna…) i’m sure i would’ve pulled out of the race if i was throwing up. glad things cleared up eventually, but it stinks that you had to go through that!

  8. It was so nice to meet you at Cowtown!! (Sorry I gave you the who-the-hell-are-you look at first…hahahaha!)

    Great job on your run – my gosh you are a trooper!!!

    Can’t wait to follow you on your training, I added you to my google reader!!!

    P.S. I went to UCLA too…Go Bruins!

  9. You’re one tough cookie! Great job on pushing through the half and still busting out those miles after. Sometimes as sucky as they can be tough runs are a way of letting yourself know you can do this no matter what is thrown at you. Ideally, this does not involve upset tummies or puking 😦 Hope you’re feeling better now!

    It was so great seeing you on Sunday! Looking forward to seeing you again soon and I can’t wait for CIM πŸ™‚

  10. Pingback: 2009 Goal Review « Running Commentaries

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