Friday, November 8, 2013

Expect the Unexpected

Hey, look, I have a Blog.  :)

I pretty much forgot about this in all the excitement.  I should close this out properly.  I'd have to say I pretty much failed at keeping any interesting or up-to-date content posted here as my training went along.

Here's how it went down:

  • My training was remarkably effective, and I carried off all the long & epic workouts when, where, and how I intended to.  Completely unprecedented, and probably never to be repeated!  :)
  • I got pretty worn down toward the end, like I expected.  My last hard day, a 12-hour trip up Long's Peak with some friends (including biking from home) was successful, but completely miserable.  Great, I thought, I have 3 weeks to recover and taper, mission accomplished.
  • I was smart about my taper (for once!!) and really rested those 3 weeks.
  • Felt great, but weird before race day.  OK, I'd never trained or tapered like this before, so weird is not necessarily bad, right?
  • On race day, right from the start something wasn't right.  I was feeling the morning chill too much.  The measured pace up the first mountain should have felt easy, and it didn't.  The running just didn't open up and flow like I wanted it to.  By mile 30 I was officially having a bad day, with sharp pains in my lower right abdomen.  (if you think you know where this is going, you're probably right)
  • 42 miles in I'm trying to keep my game face on, but the sun is going down and this is just not going well.  My stride is all wack from miles of compensating for the lower GI pain, and everything from my toes to my neck is barking at me.
  • I'm very fortunate to have my good buddy Mike S catch me just as things get fully dark and I go fully into the tunnel of pain.  He walks me to the aid station at mile 53.  I'm done; he goes on his way and will finish the next day.
  • Amazing aid station volunteers make me as comfortable as possible, and truck me and a couple of other victims back to base by morning.
  • After a couple hours of sleep and a cup of joe, I'm pleasantly surprised to feel OK, and spend the morning walking around and trying to be helpful for the race folks.  Quite bummed about having dropped out, as I'm obviously still functional.
  • 6 days later --- suddenly the stabbing gut pain is back.  Hours on the couch and I'm getting worse, fast.  I can't stand up or walk very well.  I make the drastic call to go to the ER to find out what's wrong.  "How do you feel about surgery tonight?" asks the doc ... my appendix is about 5x normal size, parts of it are already dead, and it needs to come out NOW.  How I ran 53 miles without rupturing it is not something they can readily explain...
What did I learn from all this?  Well, for starters it's important to stop in time if something's actually wrong!  I was pretty stubborn along the way to admitting something was truly wrong, but did stop in time.  No guilt about dropping out ... this time.  I also learned that I can do this.  53 miles with that handicap is an accomplishment; without the trouble, I am convinced that 100 miles is do-able for me.  Especially so if I can train again as effectively as I did  this time.

Training-wise, I confirmed that big days rule.  Running every day is completely optional.  Stacking up enormous weekly mileage numbers is not necessary, and may actually be a bad idea.  Mixing in biking works well for me, especially if it's my transportation to/from the trailhead for a run.  But once a week, you have to go big (with occasional recovery weeks of course).  5, 6, 7, maybe 10 hours.  At altitude.  Not necessary to be running all the time (particularly if training for a mountain ultra), but always on the move.  These long days are what prepare you to go the distance.  Trick for the really devious:  "pre-fatigue" for these big days by doing intervals the day before!  This will help you simulate the thrashing you'll fell late in an ultra.  The other days of the week?  Stay active, stay strong, stay healthy, rest when your body asks for it, and be aggressive about taking care of those little aches & pains that won't stay little if you ignore them.

I want a re-match!