Sunday, September 19, 2010
Have you ever written a blog entry feeling awful because you had to stop 80 miles into your run? This is my first, and I don’t like it so far.
When I was a child, my sister had a ball python named Tamara who was never hungry. We used to have to take her to the pet store to get her force-fed. Many afternoons, my little brother and I would sit in front of her aquarium and plead, “Please eat, Tamara. You’re beautiful just as you are.” Well, this race, I felt kind of like Tamara because I just couldn’t eat—not because I’m a vain reptile or anything. I just couldn’t get food down.
This weekend, I traveled to Ohio with my dad to race in the North Coast 24-Hour. I was well-trained and confident in how rested I was, and I was excited to just get out for a day and run. I planned to hold back some in the beginning to run stronger in the latter half, and I did not anticipate disaster…
Early Friday evening, my dad and I arrived at the Days Inn Hotel, which was 4 minutes directly down the road from Edgewater Park. Listen, I am typically neutral about living situations—not fussy or anything. But all I’m saying is, the pictures of the hotel offered online made the place seem beautiful, regal, and almost palatial, and I’m pretty sure they were doctored photos.
I got cleaned up and pre-set my race gear, and by 7:30, I went to sleep. ALMOST. The hotel was loud. Every step on the hallway above was somehow magnified through the ceiling, and there was a party going on up there. I couldn’t sleep! In the middle of the night, I left the room to notify the front desk. So…do you know how if you have curly hair and you just let it dry on its own when you’re sleeping, it turns into a space helmet of curls? I had that. And I had crazy eyes from emerging from the darkness into the resplendence of the illuminated hotel lobby. I stumbled toward the man at the front desk and said, “I’m sorry, but there is a crazy party going on above my head. Please, please, this restaurant is BANANAS.” I meant hotel, but I was tired. I mumbled and made frantic, sweeping arm gestures so he would know I meant business. I wandered back to my room, and the noises continued for hours. I turned on the fan as white noise, wrapped two jackets across my head and ears, and covered my head with blankets and pillows. The next morning, I gathered up my things and, while exiting the room, discovered that Anna Piskorska had stayed directly across the hall. We shared our lack of sleep condolences. Uhhh.
My dad drove me to the race start and gave me a pep talk. He said that he was thrilled to share this trip with me, and even if I only ran one lap, he already had a wonderful time and was proud of me. Foreshadowing? Even if I tanked, I was still loved.
I think there is beauty even in terrible times, and this race was no exception. I made a bunch of friends. Jill Perry was there. She is a dynamo, full of love and joy for everyone, and I was thrilled with the miles we got to share.
Issues developed early for me. I was in good spirits but was uncharacteristically unable to eat. Typically, I aim for approximately 300 calories every 90 minutes plus water and electrolyte tablets. But every time I tried to eat, I felt uncomfortably full. I looked for liquid calories and tried to eat a bite of solid food every lap or two, but nothing stayed down. Uh-oh. I continued like this for several hours, coercing myself to eat, but I could feel myself getting weaker. For the first time in my running life, I visited a medical tent. My muscles were tightening, as my glycogen stores depleted. I was encouraged to stay loose and to get food in me.
I was still moving, though, way ahead of my pace goals. By this time, my wonderful college friend and current Ohio resident, Caitie, had arrived. She encouraged me and bonded with my dad between laps. I haven’t seen her since college, so it was a huge treat. Seven hours in, I instituted periodic 45-second walking breaks to help digestion. My legs started to lock up, and my left IT band became inflamed. I altered my gait and hobbled into the medical tent.
There was a medical man, and he took care of me. He said that because my glycogen stores were tanking, my quads were suffering. My hips turned in, and my IT band was off track and waaaaaaaaay too tight. I asked if he could just do a quick-fix tape job and send me off, but he told me nothing would improve if I couldn’t replenish my carbohydrates. So, I force-fed myself potatoes while shuffling forward for three laps. I hate potatoes. They taste like the dirt they’re grown in. I got sick again on those laps and lost a couple of things—the mobility in my left leg…and those potatoes. Totally gross, I know.
If you’ve ever seen an ultramarathon, there is a point in every race when people start to broaden their stance, like they’ve been riding especially wide horses all day. I always giggle because I imagine I’m out West, and it only ever happens to me after I’m all done. NOT THIS TIME. I was the most wobbly horseback rider around. I took some Ibuprofen because I BE PRO FUN, even in the worst of times.
I faded and faded and faded and faded and faded and couldn’t look at food and ran one more lap. Dunzo. 80 miles. I told everybody I was a phenotypically-defunct big loser between sobs and went away to brush my teeth. I mourned the drops of some other friends, as well. It’s pretty rough. You can train your guts out and give 100% for months, and one little thing can go wrong and destroy your race. So I guess just make sure that you really love what you do day-to-day in your training because races can end terribly. You have to walk away from a bad race (or a good race) and see that you’re more than just a runner. It’s just a sport, (THE BEST SPORT, but still a sport.)
I’m not so down now. Writing this, I have yet to sleep. (I stayed up all night and got sick 8 more times…confirmation that it was okay to walk away.) I feel honored to have competed with such rockstars. And I was thinking, I have only been racing ultras since 2007…three years. That’s half as long as I was a ballerina, and I never accomplished anything in the world of dance…
(Here I am, doing an extra-credit splits while everybody else just stands there, clearly the hardest-working bunny in the entire class.)
I’m back to school! I love it. It’s a great community, and Yale is the place where everybody knows your name. I’ve only lived in 3 states, but this is what I’ve got so far:
-Connecticut is for lovers.
-Virginia is for likers.
-New Jersey is for the rapid dissipation of the public education system.
At Yale, I signed up for every intramural sport that the graduate schools have to offer, and the soccer season just started! The Divinity School team—the Paracleats—has a history of excellence. Also, a couple weeks ago, I built my own bicycle! The world is my oyster! You can’t stop me now! Do you know how long it takes a philosopher to assemble a bicycle? What is a bicycle, really, and how can I be sure it exists apart from my sensible intuitions?
This semester, I’m taking Biomedical Ethics, Ethics of St. Augustine, Old Testament, and a David Hume seminar. I don’t like Hume, but that class is my favorite. I like to read the things he says and scoff. “I love the way you lie, [David Hume].” –Rihanna.
Happy trails, everyone! Keep at it! Test your bounds. Feed your quads. Share your stories. Have a great week.