The trailmonster becomes the road monster…

28 07 2008

As most of my friends and family know, I’ve spent the past year obsessed with running my first 100 mile race. I chose the Burning River 100 ( because it’s near where I was born in Akron, Ohio. Consequently, I knew I’d have a lot of moral support from family members since so many of them live in the Midwest region. I’ve trained long and hard for this race, which takes place on August 2-3, including getting over a nasty IT injury that lasted for about four months. I’ll be writing some more in coming days about some of the lessons I’ve learned during training for this race (and I’ve got some cool pictures to post too!), but I thought I’d do an entry today about what it’s been like to run through my final couple of weeks before the race. I scheduled myself for a full three week taper to get myself into race mode!

For about two of the three weeks I had to spend some time up in Los Angeles – which I affectionately call la-la-land based on the time I used to live here – for an interminably long software workshop on Pro Tools. That’s the software used in most recording studios; I still engineer on my own part-time and do a ton of MIDI production for theatre projects, so the whole thing was relevant – but ill-timed since I was having a tough time concentrating with my first 100 miler on the horizon. Squeezing in my final hours of training was, well, “entertaining” in more ways than one, especially considering I couldn’t seem to get an endless litany of key commands from streaming through my brain. Talk about information overload!

Tuesday, July 15, was a scheduled 15 miler, and being the dedicated runner I am, I wasn’t going to miss it, even after an 8 hour day in workshops and 2 hours in the wee hours grading online papers (yeah, I still work as a college prof and I teach a bunch of online courses). There’s a definite lack of worthy trails in the greater LA area, so I ended up at Venice Beach on the bikepath. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Venice, it’s certainly “interesting.” Picture a bunch of surgically enhanced ladies in bikinis, skater kids with tons of attitude, and throw in an aging rasta-dude on roller blades who follows you around with a psychedelic looking electric guitar. There’s an image for you. Couldn’t pass this one up. However, Venice can be a bit sketchy, especially after nightfall, so I knew I was going to need company to do this run.

In the past, I’ve rarely run with friends. I learned REAL quickly that if you value a long-standing friendship you don’t want to rock the boat by adding running to the mix. Let’s just say I’ve learned that from experience. My friend Linda ran a marathon with me three years ago and she still hasn’t quite forgiven me (or her husband) for talking her into it. I remember one particular training run in pouring rain when I pushed her over the edge –harsh words were definitely present. I think they were probably directed in my general vicinity, although I prefer to not dredge up the past and ask for clarification. And this coming from a person who’s normally “Miss Sunshine.” Sorry, Linda!

When my friend Austen volunteered to come along with me to Venice, I balked at first, but then quickly reconsidered. He wasn’t going to RUN. Rather, he decided to try to skateboard with me for the entire distance. How cool is that??!! Talk about a sight – me in head-to-toe winter weather gear (still heat-training!) and my big hydration pack and him, an ex-rocker with super long hair on a skateboard careening down a bike path singing Black Sabbath songs phrase by phrase (we alternated) at the top of our lungs.

Yet, at fourteen miles, our idyllic jaunt came to a close as the poor guy’s heel gave out. I’m suspecting plantar fasciitis. He couldn’t walk quite right for the next three days. I don’t think he’s going to be coming along with me again. I don’t know if he’s forgiven me yet. Lesson learned – don’t invite your well-meaning friends along unless you’re willing to be hated and cursed for the next year.

I tried the Venice thing again on Thursday, July 17 – this time alone – and was plagued by horrible stomach issues. The heat along with excessive consumption of Uncle Eddie’s vegan cookies took its toll. I don’t recommend eating three bags of these before a 10 miler (hey, I’m “carbo loading!”), as it’s not fun to continually squeeze one’s sphincter in public for fear of “gambling and losing.” Furthermore, I don’t recommend Venice for its public facilities. You have to fight street bums for a chance at using the nasty toilets. Let me just warn anyone reading that you should under no circumstances allow your dropped running shorts to approach the ground. Eeeeew. I will never again be squeamish about going in the woods. Much preferable to this alternative.

I made it home for a “long” run on Saturday, July 19. I ended up doing a road 20 instead of a trail 20 just because of time constraints. Yeah – the trailmonster became the roadmonster for a week! I took the run nice and slow and easy. Wait – that’s the ONLY way I ever do runs!

On that 20 miler, I began to think I was the human camel. I theorized that I had a hidden hump somewhere on my back as I was able to consume 84 oz of fluid in the first two hours. I had no idea that I was drinking that much until my hydration pack ran out. Imagine my shock when I couldn’t even pee. It took until 9 pm that night to resume normal bodily functions. Just didn’t get it.

Luckily, I’ve got a great coach, Gordy, who immediately was able to recognize the problem. NO ONE should be able to consume that amount of fluid in that short of a time frame, not even a freak like me. The condition is called “hyponatremia”, meaning an overconsumption of fluid paired with a lack of electrolytes. In a lot of ways, being hyponatremic is worse than being dehydrated, because the tissues around your brain can swell up and you can die. That would definitely suck.

I’ve always thought I was too well-informed to allow myself to become hyponatremic. A lot of ultrarunners are good at living in states of denial, doing things like training through injuries (been there, done that), and in my case this time, hyponatremia. I guess we tend to think we’re invincible or something. There’s a fine line between positive visualization (I can DOOOO it!) and extreme stupidity. I think I crossed that line, and luckily, I have someone helping me out who can recognize these things. Another lesson learned. I’m just glad it happened NOW.

I spent the past week in a state of what I like to call “taper madness.” In my case, it usually involves a complete aversion to doing anything physical along with an overconsumption of smoothies and potato chips (the greasier, the better). I had a hard time dragging my butt along a series of short 6 and 8 milers. What’s the point with those kinds of runs anyhow? Boring. Now I’m at the end of my taper with my target race only a few days away and am wondering how in hell I’m going to motivate myself to run 100 miles when I’m having a hard enough time going for 4. This should be interesting…



One response

28 07 2008

Fabulous writing. Thanks for sharing a bit of your experience with us. I will be thinking of you on Saturday/Sunday, that’s for sure. Sending you much love and energy – 100-miles, yes!
Good luck, Steph. Beijos,

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