Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Race Report from Hell

This was originally going to be a post about things gone wrong. With a couple days perspective it will now be about how things could have gone right.

The Ranch: My Race Report from Hell

Part I: Only a 30k

I've run 50 miles. What is 30k? 18.6? Easy enough. My training had been lower than I wanted due to a couple of minor issues but I was healthy enough in time for a one week taper. I got 24 miles in barefoot through hilly country side two weeks before. Who cares about nutrition? Really, I am in pretty good shape. I have a resting heart rate of 46, my bp is 100 over 60... and that is really good in comparison to my high blood pressure when I got out of the Army. But I have to admit, I could tweak this with nutrition. So far I have not needed to, but I can't help but wonder how much better I would have handled the situation I faced on Sunday if I was eating better. But it was only a 30K.

We got a great spot on the lake. It was hot but windy, which is always fun when putting up camp, but we had a great view. And Logan loved it!

The night before we had some dinner, I had a couple beers chased by water (Decision point 1: No more beer on race eve for me for a while), and went to sleep. I had some odd dreams all night and hardly slept but it was still nice being out there. I got up the next morning, took my cold meds  (Decision point 2: If I have a cold on future races I either won't race or won't take cold meds. They can seriously dehydrate you), chugged a Gatorade, a red bull, and some water, and it was time to go. 

Part II: Off I Go!

At 6:30 AM we headed down to the race site put Logan on my shoulders, and headed down where we were told to go for the start. We kept going down this dirt road with people in front and behind us. And kept going. And kept going. Until we stopped and asked the people behind us if they knew where we were going.We said no, we were just following the people in front of us and following the directions!!! I bet we were 3/4 of a mile down the dirt trail! So we headed back and it was 20 minutes after race time now!!! So I figured I was already late, hit the latrine and then started the race. (Decision point 3: Get to races earlier. I thought camping would have us there in plenty of time but we did not head to the start in time enough to account for these types of errors. Sure, it would have been nice to not be pointed in the wrong direction, but if we had got there earlier, it would not have mattered).

I started pretty strong. I felt like I was jogging at a 9:30 pace (with a top pace of 7:27 according to my Garmin) but I was going back and forth from fast to medium effort. At about mile 5 I caught the back of the pack and was passing people asking if I was a 10K runner and repeatedly had to tell people no, I was just really late. I felt great. I was charging up rocks and just feeling perfect. I looked and saw I was at about an 8 minute pace here and decided to slow it back down. I was about 6 feet behind a lady who stopped and turned around and yelled "ON YOUR LEFT!" admonishing me for not saying this while passing. I actually was not wanting to pass her at all... At this point I tried to stop myself from crashing into her and completely rolled my left ankle while doing so. The left ankle was flat on the ground with my foot facing inwards. I still crashed into her but was able to brace us both so we did not fall. I decided to go on by her and her friends at this point but still was there to hear them call me a prick. Nice. (Decision point 4: I should have just got over this, but it put a really negative taste in my mouth for the rest of the day. Almost all trail racers I've met are super nice and I can't let people get me down with their negativity. There was a guy like this at RRUM who was really rude to a young lady and Chaser and I spent a lot of the rest of the day laughing at his rudeness, I should have done the same here).

At this point I slowed down to about a 15 minute mile pace for my last 2 miles(?) of the first 10k loop. Every step I took was pure pain on that left foot when I ran. Speed walking was not bad, but running really hurt. I tried my best to adjust my stride to a more of a speed walk while running but it was either/or. I finished loop 1 at about 1:10, hung around the aid station for 5 minutes, talked to the wife and kid, and was off again (Decision point 5: If I have a cold, am on a hard course, and roll an ankle to I can't run right again, I should seriously call it. They say pride goes before the fall, but in this case the fall came first. I've got to learn to suck it up and know when to stop. I think this is part of being so inexperienced). 

Part III: Hobbling to a Finish

I'm not a quitter. But this is one time I probably should have. I decided if I could do the next lap in under 2 hours I'd keep going. And I hobbled on.

Along lap 2 I was even lapped by the real fast runners. Each politely telling me good work and good job. I wanted to protest so much. I was not doing a good job. I was performing miserably, screw the ankle! I should be able to move through this! I let my attitude turn really sour and that's regrettable (Decision point 6: if I am going to continue on, have a good attitude! It's amazing what we can do to ourselves mentally!!).

It took an hour and a half to hobble through lap 2. But up came Logan yelling "go daddy go!!!" It was so great to have my little cheerer!!

I plugged on lap 3, slowly muttering at almost a 20 minute per mile pace. I stopped as the dirt road you start and finish I turns to trail to think about quitting. A lady passed and said "it may not be pretty but we're not quitting." Well, I guess not.

I pushed along. I had planned on finishing in between 3:30-4 hours and it was apparent it would take me over 5 to get this done. Instead of finishing in the 80s it would be in the mid 90s. Some of the course is shaded but much is on open face granite making it very hot. There was an aid station at about mile 1.5 and again at about 2 miles before the finish. In between is a lot of climbing. I had a handheld water bottle with me that I refilled at all of the aid stations, which were manned by wonderful volunteers. I planned out my drinking and finished off my water a half mile before the 2nd aid station. But when you are moving at 20 minutes per mile, that 10 minutes in the heat can feel like much more.  I was so ready for that cold water...and NOOO!! They were out! A not so helpful teenager at the station offered that he believed the bananas might have water... thanks dude... A lady who I think was his mother scolded him so that was funny. But I think he meant well. The lady pointed me to some stagnant water which I poured over my head.

About a mile down, 20 minutes later, there was a cooler with water (I'll mention this moment later). I mostly used this water to pour over me, thinking I was in dead last. I felt terrible later when I realized there were a handful of people behind me. I drank what I could of the water, filled my bottle, and headed to the finish. At points coming down the trail on my own, with nobody around, I wondered how long it would be after I collapsed before someone found me. I kept thinking about the movie, The Grey, that I really like and a poem in that movie that speaks to me.

Over-dramatic? Yes. But I think the reason I love ultra running and choosing extreme running events is that I have fought my last true battle in the true sense of war. So now all I can battle is myself and nature. And so I do. It feeds the need I have to live and die on each day...

I was dizzy and felt like the lights could go out at any moment but just kept moving. What else could I do?
I crossed the line, was found a tree, and just collapsed under it. My wife got concerned and told the medic to come over who told me all she had was water and to drink water. She told me a lot of people DNFd and that some were taken directly to the hospital. I felt really bad for those people.

We (by we I mean my wife) packed up and headed home shortly after. It was not pretty. I did not finish mid pack like when I started running or toward the front like I have lately, but almost dead last. It was not pretty, but I finished.

Part IV: The Hospital

On the road home, as we passed through Burnet, I began to feel sick and then weak. Then everything turned white and I began to worry. I was pouring bottles of water over myself. I could not seem to drink anything. My wife called an ambulance. By the time they showed up I was feeling better. They checked me out and let me go and I was on my way. All better. Until... We were in south Austin. I began feeling severely weak and nauseated. I was shaking and slobbering, and not able to eat or drink. I was slipping in and out of only seeing white when my wife called an ambulance.

I felt like it was seconds but my wife thought it was much longer before the ambulance got to us.  They took my pulse, looked at me and said I needed to go to the hospital. My pulse was over 100. With a resting heart rate of 46, the paramedic later told me that the kind of increase in heart rate with dehydration I experienced would put someone with a normal heart rate in danger of a heart attack. The ambulance gave me about 1000 ml of fluids through IV (2 bags) and some nausea medicine. The hospital gave me 2 more. They x-rayed my ankle and did a full work up and EKG. When the doctor came back he said I had been severely dehydrated to the point that my "kidneys took a hit." They wanted to push more fluids through me and re-test me to make sure my kidneys had recovered before I could go home.

I was in the hospital from about 3 to 9 PM before being released. I have to go back to my doctor tomorrow to get my kidneys tested to make sure I am recovering and get the sign off to begin running again.

Lessons Learned Recap:
1. No beer the night before races. With the couple of beers and post-beer water, I doubt this was a big deal, but you never know when you need every little drop.
2. Get my nutrition in order. I may not start eating perfect, but I am going to go back to my pre-Rocky Raccoon diet from next week through El Scorcho.
3. No cold meds on race day.
4. Know when to stop. This one is easier said than done for me.
5. Don't let others negative attitudes affect mine.

Hopefully the tests will go well tomorrow and I will be on my way back to training. The ankle is still pretty sore, so I probably will keep it low mileage until at least Friday night either way. I can't wait for my next race.


  1. That wasn't me who said "we're not quitting" was it? I swear I said something like that to another runner. How weird if it was!!
    We never want to quit, and the severity of your dehydration wasn't apparent during your race, I'm sure. It's easy to see what we "should've" done in hindsight. I know I was at my limit and had I not walked the last loop I would've ended up in the hospital, too.
    Take care of yourself this week!!!

    1. No, based on your race pic posted and profile, it was not you. But then I'm not sure if you can trust my judgement at that time. I thought someone was talking to me but it was a fly buzzing in my ear at one point.

  2. Okay, re-reading I am seeing some odd things. My laptop is acting up so I had to take a great Army story out since it messed it all up and my cough medicine is in full effect so I forgot to mention the what the doc said about the part where they were out of water. At this point I went into negative hydration so much that I was not going to be able to orally hydrate after that point. My kidneys began to fail me at that point.