Monday, September 22, 2014

Pisgah 50k Race Report: In Which I Get Stung On The Tongue By A Flying Insect

So, yes, I really truly did have some sort of insect fly into my mouth and sting me on the edge of my tongue mid-race. It hurt. This was around mile 13. Luckily, Ryan was just a few steps ahead of me, and so he and another kind soul behind me stopped, calmed me down and made sure I was ok before we continued along the course. I am not sure if it was a bee or one of those flying ant things or what, but whatever it was, my tongue was rather tingly and numb and I was fairly freaked out, but luckily, my tongue did not swell up and I was able to continue. How's that for a race story?! :)


 The plan going into the race was for Ryan, John and I to run together until around mile 20 then it was to be every runner for themselves. I was hoping to run around 5 hours or at least faster than 5:34, so it seemed like a fine idea to push a bit with the boys at the beginning and go for it. I believe I was already regretting this decision by mile 1, when I was feeling like I was drowning in the heavy air. It had rained on and off on our way across NH, and although the rain had stopped by start time and temperatures were moderate, it was incredibly humid.

 Still, I hoped I would get in a groove and so continued on, following John and Ryan as we ran through the woods. Bob Dunfey caught up with us a few miles in and we ran along, a merry band tromping through the forest. Somewhere around mile 5, Bob dropped back, saying the pace was just a bit too fast, and soon after, as the trail began its PUDtastic course through the pine forest, I dropped back a bit too. I simply wasn't feeling quite as strong as the boys and was beginning to question how the race would go. I went through mile 6 just as my watch beeped one hour, and leap-frogged with several folks on the way up and then down through the forest to the mile 8 aid station. I found Ryan waiting for me there. As we walked up the incredibly steep (who in their right mind thought this road was a good idea?!) paved road, he said he was already feeling badly, on top of feeling slightly disinterested and just not in the right frame of mind.

 The turn onto the Chestnut Trail did nothing to ease either of our woes. The trail is a mess of slippery roots making it fairly unrunnable. The heavy air hung in the woods. We grumbled and and walked, and ran when we could. It was nice to share the trail with Ryan, I just wish we had both been in better spirits and weren't questioning why we were out there. We do do this for fun, after all, but sometimes it really isn't "fun" in any sense of the word. And if I am struggling through 30 miles, why am I possibly thinking about running future longer races?! These are not thoughts to be thinking 10 miles into a 50k. We ran through the mile 12 aid station, and Ryan seemed to have a bit of a jump in energy; he pulled away slightly, only to be called back by my yelp of surprise and pain along a swampy section of trail by Lily Pond around mile 13 when that pesky flying insect mentioned earlier flew into my mouth and nipped my tongue. We walked for a bit before I determined that I was indeed OK and we continued on our journey, shaking our heads at how off this day was shaping up.

I felt a bit dreary after the water stop at mile 13.5. Last time around, I had no trouble grinding up the carriage road hill beyond, and here we were this time, walking, struggling. I was taking in nutrition just fine, but I was just plain feeling off. Still, I was determined to not totally wuss out on running some of the runnable terrain, so started to run and soon realized I didn't feel too badly. Ryan on the other hand was slowly deteriorating, his stomach causing him huge troubles. We had decided to run together, so I would run a ways then stop to make sure he was OK. I think this was draining for him, and finally around mile 15, after my stop allowed me enough time to move one of the little red newts I had seen off the trail and let about half a dozen runners by, he told me to just go on. I was conflicted in this, but I decided to follow his lead and took off for the mile 17 aid station. In the end, he caught up with me there while I was emptying my pockets of gel wrappers and drinking a few cups of coke, but stayed for a while longer, and told me to head up the mountain alone.

 The climb up the mountain is a lovely one, but it didn't quite feel that way during the race. It felt like a grind. I made it to the top and stopped to pee and take a gel. There was no view through the fog. I waited a few minutes, collecting myself and hoping that Ryan would make an appearance, but finally realized I had better stop feeling badly about the whole thing and just keep moving.

 As I neared the 20 mile aid station at the start of the Kilburn Loop, I noticed TMR drawn in the dirt, which brought a smile to my face. Ian, Emma and baby Iona were there cheering. When Ian asked me how I was doing, I told him it was a bit rough out there with the humidity making it extra tough today. He said something like, well, if you told me it was easy, I would think you weren't trying hard enough. And it's true, this is all self-inflicted, voluntary misery. I was choosing to do this to myself. I was lucky to spend a day in the woods, no matter how the day went. I thought of Amy, who so wanted to run this race and was instead laid up in bed on day 47 or so of bedrest after surgery. I might be thinking I was miserable but at least I was running.

 Ian asked how my fueling was going, and if I needed more water. I had been doing decently with my fueling until then, but I did wish I had packed more salt tabs. I could have used more. I was glad he had asked about water or I probably would have taken off without checking and I was almost out. He nicely helped me refill the bladder and after a few cups of coke, I took off with renewed energy down the Kilburn Loop. It is always nice to see friendly, caring faces out there. Thanks guys!

 I got a bit of a second wind on the Kilburn Loop, enjoying the downhill and not feeling like I was in too much of a timewarp out there :) Still, I was very glad to come to the junction where I knew I had only 0.6 miles back to the aid station. It was a bit depressing looking at my watch, seeing how long it had taken me to come this far, when I had hoped to already be done! But, nothing to do but move forward. I was able to run the road stretch to the parking lot but once back in the woods, had to walk a lot of the uphills. I tried to at least walk briskly and run the flats and downs. My legs were beginning to cramp a bit and I just wanted to get to that gate, knowing that from there, I was almost done. This stretch seemed to go on forever. I passed a few people regardless, which made me realize that of course, there were others out here suffering too. I hadn't gotten passed in a long while, but did get passed just before we popped out of the woods by a woman and her husband, flying along as if they were just out for a short jog. Grrr. I picked up the pace as much as I could on the gravel and then paved road in an attempt to catch back up, passing two people along the way, but they got too far ahead.

 I have never been so glad to see a stop sign in my whole life! Just one quick turn from there into the finish chute,and I was done. 6:19 and change. MUCH slower than I would have liked, but it was what I had to give. Managed to come in 6th female despite not having a great day, so I will gladly take that.

 John had a great race, coming in in 5:47 and feeling really good. Emma did awesome in the 23k, coming in 10th woman, just months after having a baby - impressive! And Ryan, despite his setbacks, managed to tough it out on what was definitely not his day and finish just under 7:00. I am proud of him for that. It is easy to give up when it isn't going your way so to gut it out when you have to sit at an aid station for 25 minutes to revive yourself shows how strong you are. Sometimes it is the races like this that show us what we are made of, or at least show us that we can achieve more than we think we can. It can't be all beer and Skittles out there :) I do so wish I had run faster (1st woman ran like 5:55! Sheesh! I so wish I had had it in me to run faster than that!!!!) but I didn't. Still, there are lessons to be learned from this one as there are from any race, and I will chalk it up in the end to good time on my feet and mental training, and hope that the next race I run won't be on a 98% humidity day and I won't get stung on my tongue mid-race :)

 In the end, Pisgah is really a great race put on by great people. It has a fun laid back atmosphere, takes runners on a challenging and hilly course, and offers up some good food and fun times with friends at the finish line. Many thanks to the race directors, who are stepping down after this year, and to all the volunteers who make this race what it is!

 Many thanks too to Ryan's parents for hanging out with Sam all day. She had a great time and we so appreciate that!
Out on the farm picking pumpkins with Grammie and Grampie

Take Aways/Notes to Self:

1. I really should run my own race. While it was all well and good to say I'd run with Ryan and John, I felt slightly stressed at the beginning wanting to keep up and then sort of deflated when I realized I couldn't keep their pace. And while it was great to share miles 8 through 15 with Ryan, obviously, it was making him feel badly that I was waiting so he sent me on. Company can be a really good thing but sometimes you just have to focus on yourself.

2. Nutrition was good through mile 20. I took in 8 gels in that time period, so basically "on schedule" (every 30 minutes or so). Not so good the rest of the way as I only took in one gel and a handful of dried strawberries, plus 2 cups of coke at miles 17, 20 and 25. Need to work on pushing that nutrition in a bit more! On the upside, I did not have any stomach issues so what I did worked but still need to focus on continuing the intake in the later miles.

3. Should have had more salt tabs! I really could have used them as it was so humid and I was soaked soaked soaked! This would likely have helped in the final miles. I think I was being too hopeful with my time and hoping it would be a wonderful crisp fall day :) Gotta plan for the unexpected!

4. I really need to do more hill training, but perhaps more so for the downhill pounding. My quads are fairly sore today.

5. Despite the humidity and being soaked through for most of the race, I had no chafing issues. Perhaps I have finally mastered applying enough BodyGlide! :)

6. I wore my calf compression sleeves by CEP and really liked wearing them. Even in the humidity, they didn't bother me and I definitely think they helped stave off some cramping in the final miles. I will wear them again for races, for sure.

7. I never drink coke in real life, but it really works for me in races. I will continue a coke regiment in future races. On the other hand, oreos do not work for me.

8. Keep moving. It might be painful but you signed up for the torture by choice, and you'll be glad you stuck it out and finished.

9. Try to keep your mouth closed while running. :)


Anonymous said...

Wish we were there to help cheer you on! We have really had no humid weather to speak of and your (2) major races have been crazy humid and you have toughed it out when other haven't been able to do the same! Amazing work! Thought of you all day!


Michael said...

Way to tough it out! Love the take-away notes at the end. Most times it's our worst races that end up teaching us the most. Some days just suck. It happens. But it's the days that don't suck and the moments that don't suck (within the days that do) that keep us coming back for more. Sorta like life.

PS. Tell Ryan he needs to blog more so he can learn stuff and so I can write dumb things in his comment box. :)

healthyincville said...

Congrats on another 50k! I'm impressed :) And sixth female is AWESOME!!
I haven't made it to the starting line for one yet (although I've started training for one twice). Do you follow a training program?

Sparkplug said...

Thanks, guys! Not my best day but hey, they can't all be great, and at least I finished ;)

Willow, my idea of a training plan is to write one down in my planner and then proceed to modify it HEAVILY as necessary :) You can talk to Snowman about that... The one I've used most often (mostly for the back-to-back runs) is:

Osprey said...

I'm ashamed at myself for not reading your report until now. I think you got some of the story wrong though. You weren't trying to keep up with the boys, they were trying to keep up with YOU! Keep up the great work!