Epic Training Bonk, European Travel Bugs, and the UROC 100k
First off, I’m proud to announce that my new footwear and apparel sponsor will be Scott Sports. Honestly I had never heard of the brand until a couple months ago, but they have quite an extensive footwear line for road racing, trail/ultra running and mountain running.
My first shoe review for them here:
I am very thankful that they will be supporting me in my athletic endeavors now and I look forward to representing them in my next big race at The North Face 50 in December!
I almost didn’t toe the starting line of the UROC 100K . In fact, it wasn’t until 2 days before the race that I decided I’d give it a “go” and try not to embarrass myself in my first 62 mile ultra. I had just purchased my plane ticket to Virginia 2 weeks prior with some hesitation and recently I started going on the airline website to figure out how much money I’d lose if I cancelled my ticket. Despite signing up for this race in the spring and being excited about racing top-level ultra runners for prize money all summer, my enthusiasm was suddenly shot. Basically my gut (more literally than figuratively) told me I shouldn’t be doing something so physically demanding. Let me explain:
A couple days after flying half way around the world and running the beautiful Jungfrau [Mountain] Marathon I freaked out when I looked at my training log. Travel, mountain racing, working in a cubicle, commuting and just being plain lazy had taken a huge toll on my weekly running volume recently as I calculated I’d only averaged 55 miles a week for the last 7 weeks. I guess when you coach yourself you totally lose perspective on what training you actually do over certain chunks of time [not enough in my case as my typical training for marathons and ultras is 100 miles a week or more!]. Worried about the UROC 100 (which was 20 days away at the time) I decided I had one last shot to get in a good long, effort and “hit it hard” on my extremely sore legs (which were destroyed from the Jungfrau Marathon). After a day or two of hobbling around the boulder trails I forced myself to “man-up” and put in a good 30-mile carb depletion run. It was supposed to be a pretty routine outing, just spending a lot of time on my sore legs…nothing fast…nothing too crazy. Well, it got crazy!
After parking my car out by the Boulder Res, I filled my 22 ounce handheld with water and stuffed a couple salt pills in my short pocket. That was all I was going to take…no carbs (but who needs carbs if you aren’t going fast, right?). Starting off with early miles in the 7:30 range my calfs were already protesting. I didn’t feel the need to force the pace down much so I kept it there. After 21 miles I ran out of water and things started to get a little hazy but that was to be expected. My legs had been tight the whole time, but I started thinking that 7:30 pace wasn’t going to be so easy to hold for the last hour or so I calculated I had left out from my car. “Man up, you wuss!” I thought to myself, recalling that earlier in the spring [training just for the Chuckanut 50k] I had knocked out a 28-miler averaging 5:58/mile pace on some hilly gravel roads:
Video of that training run here:
But this day in Boulder was different: I was going to really suffer. After 24 miles I started getting dizzy and thought “good, I’m bonking a bit now it’s time to test the legs and mental toughness.” Suddenly though, after a couple minutes I started worrying about falling and hitting my head on the sidewalk (at that point I was actually on a paved street in N. Boulder). It reminded me when I started walking in the 2008 NYC marathon and got beat by Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher. This was going to be an epic bonk!
In order to make it back to my car (still 6 miles away on mostly trails) I got desperate and found some rotten apples in the street to bite into. That got me going for about 2 miles until I “crashed” again. At this point I just started walking. Feelings of despair, isolation and weakness overwhelmed my mind. I stopped and hunched over with my hands on my knees for a couple minutes. Joggers whizzed past me. After a couple minutes I rallied and mustered up a weak jog that got me back on the trails just west of the Boulder Res. I stopped again another couple times with 4 and 2 miles to go respectively. At the 29 mile mark with my car nearly in sight I hit a real low-point: I decided walking was too hard…then I decided that standing was also too hard: I sat down in the middle of the trail, put my head down and closed my eyes. When a jogger and his dog went past me I looked up to see them starting at me funny. They probably thought I was in some meditative trance, “connecting with the Earth” by playing in the dirt half naked (not an unusual thing to be doing in a town like Boulder!). I had a strong desire to beg them for food, but I had too much (foolish) pride: I was going to make it back to my car under my own power darnit! After about 10 minutes I willed myself to get up and finish off my 30-miler after 4 hours and 15 minutes of suffering.
Initially I was delighted to chug Gatorade, and a Bolthouse Farms chocolate mocha drink while eating a Powerbar and sitting in the driver’s seat of my car. I had dreamed of cooking a pancake feast to celebrate my long run and my craving for carbs so I drove straight to the grocery store. However, within minutes my body became extremely chilled and both of my hands were totally numb. I decided I had to leave ASAP so I could recover in my apartment. I forced down some fluids as I sat in my car in the sunny parking lot tying to warm up and gather up the energy to drive safely. With my stomach suddenly in knots I almost puked on the way back, while also deciding that a pancake feast was not going to be in my near future.
Then the real sufferfest began. Back in my apartment I decided that I was too unstable to take a shower so I curled up in a fetal position on the living room carpet and laid there for about an hour trying not to puke. My roommate came home from work eventually and found me there. Not wanting to alarm him too much, I was able to get up, dust myself off and finally shower. My appetite was totally gone, but I knew I needed something after this ordeal so I made a couple quesadillas that I forced down as “dinner.” By 10pm I was finally able to urinate (a dark dark yellow) and I went to bed feeling sick, bloated and totally dysfunctional. I didn’t wake up until 3pm the next day.
For the next 3 days I spent most of my time in bed or slowly puttering around my apartment forcing myself to drink. It’s a good thing I quit my customer service job before I went to Europe because I was in no condition to go anywhere, let alone work. Some pretty nasty GI issues had cropped up so I was also quickly puttering to and from the bathroom. The dreaded thought crossed my mind of going into the hospital and needing kidney dialysis. I barely ate anything all day and the thought of food was very unappealing. I felt like I had the flu, but didn’t have a fever, headache or any congestion.
Around this time I got an interesting email from several of my teammates on the US mountain running team. It turns out that almost everybody who had travled over to Europe had come down with similar GI issues, bloating, loss of appetite and extreme fatigue. [We later confirmed that the memebers of the Canadian team had also become ill with similar symptoms]. So it then appeared that most of my issues weren’t just from going all hypoglecmic and dehydrated/overtraining from my long run, but from ingesting something bad in Europe!
After another week I was back to doing short runs, eating a couple meals a day and feeling less tired. With the UROC 100k suddenly 10 days out I was very indecisive about racing. It didn’t help that training had not been up to snuff and I had never run such a long and demanding race before. I finally reasoned I was going to give it my best shot no matter what and that a DNF was going to be a high probability. As I flew to Virginia it seemed like my stomach was finally starting to feel more normal and I had the confidence that my legs were at least well rested!
I won’t go much into the details of the race since iRunFar and the UROC 100k website had such excellent race coverage. To sum it up: I didn’t blow up and actually felt pretty decent until the last 3 hours or so. Max King ran his first 100k like a boss and convincingly pulled away from me just after 30 miles. My legs hurt now more than they ever have in my life and I can barely walk.
Here are some interviews (pre and post race respectively) I did with iRunFar:
Overall, I had another good ultra experience and met some really amazing and friendly people along the way. The Wintergreen resort in Virginia is a beautiful place and I felt very fortunate that Bad To The Bone Endurance put us up in the fancy lodging there and offered such a generous prize purse/level of support. I’m also glad that I decided to participate in the race as I really would’ve missed out on such an enriching weekend of events.
If you want to hear me ramble about the actual race, I’ve also posted a video log (raw and uncut) ramble about how things went down:
Hope your running is going well and best of luck with your upcoming races!