"To give anything lest than your best is to sacrifice the gift" ~Steve Prefontane
She looks nothing like a champion. Exhausted, depleted, dehydrated. You could probably tip her over with 1 finger. But she's a beast. She battled mountains and monsters and finished with a full heart and a hunger within....not a metaphorical hunger, the very real get me a burger and a beer hunger!
We arrived on Thursday before Saturday's race. We decided to stay in Springdale, Utah instead of Bryce. We had been to Bryce before, but had never seen Zion. Springdale is essentially at the mouth of Zion Canyon. This put us at about a 90 min drive from the race start.
The Plan was for the boys to crew me...meeting me at the aid stations that allowed crews. The only problem was that the race started at 5:30am. That would mean they would have to get up at 3am for a really long day to catch a few minutes here or there with me at designated aid stations.
I decided they would have way more fun enjoying another day of Zion together. This would also keep me from worrying about them and feeling bad for making them go through the rigors of crewing. It is actually harder for me to "race" with crew in many cases. Often, the benefit of having someone help me is negated by my empathy for their plight. This course had frequent aid stations, good course markings, and the weather, while anticipated hot, would not be particularly dangerous for a prepared runner.
We ate like kings Thursday and Friday before the race. On the course I would regret the richness of my diet and the particularly creamy, over the top margarita cheesecake desert that was sent straight from heaven to my table the night before the race.
So, no crew, no big deal. I'd bring my drop bags so I could have the type of gel (Spring Energy) and snacks that I knew would sit well on my tummy during the race. I Checked the race website... how early do I need to get up to get my drop bags in place for the race?
Typically, you have to have drop bags at the check in by about an hour pre race. With this race the drop bags had to be left at the race start the night before....by 8pm. Well shit, that wasn't going to happen. Oh well, I knew they would have snacks and gels at each aid, and while not my preferred, it would be ok. My stomach can tolerate many aid station options.
I made it to the start feeling great. Oatmeal and coffee in and ready to GO!
I had no clue my race would go south so fast, literally. Within the first or second mile my gut was cramping and I was deciding which tree to go hide behind. Ok back on track. Got that over with and out of the way.....Then 2 miles later...again, off trail. This went on every 2-3 miles to the first full aid at 9-10 miles. Fortunately, I wasn't nauseated or feeling "sick" per se. My gut was just in overdrive, likely from the richness and excessive dairy the night before.
Here are views of heading up the canyon to the top of the plateau.
At mile 9-10 aid station, I took a little extra time to sort myself out, take inventory of what I would need for the next 10 mile stretch, and of course spend more time in the potty. Grateful for hand sanitizer and wipes! I ate 2 cups full of potato chips while filling my water bottles and grabbing gels. I downed 2 dixie cups of cola as well. Pulled my hat out for the next more exposed segment.
Miles 10-20 were no better. I was grateful for the sage brush and few trees to hide myself. Mentally this was a tough segment. I was losing several minutes every 2 miles to time spent communing with mother nature.
I decided not to spend time thinking about the time I was losing. It would not help anything. Instead, I focused on drinking plenty of water and minimum 200 calories of gel per hour. "Don't sacrifice anything" became my mantra.
That meant don't sacrifice mental energy on things I couldn't control or any would've, should've, could'ves. It meant don't sacrifice calories. Eat, take in gels, drink sport drink, whatever it would take to get minimum 200calories per hour in. I knew if I dipped under 200 with the losses I was experiencing, it could end my race. It meant don't sacrifice any physical energy. Make it efficient and make it count. Always asking, can you move a little faster here? Can you move more efficiently? No checking out mentally. Engage in the moment, the people, the scenery, soak it in.
At mi 19-20 I pulled into the next full aid station. I took a couple of electrolyte capsules, and again took stock of where I was at and what i needed. I ate probably 200 calories at the aid station, consisting of chips and pb&j wraps cut up in pieces.
Mi 20-25 my calves and hamstrings started to ache and feel like they wanted to cramp on climbing. I continued go as fast as I could without seizing up.
At mi 25 they had real bathrooms, it was a campground. I was so happy. I ate more chips and cola and loaded up with gels. It was now getting hot and we were going to be hitting the most exposed sections of the course.
This next segment would also be one
of the most scenic. I would trade places with runners, passing on the downs, and being passed on the ups.
My gut had eased up, and I was able to make it 5-8miles without having to hit a potty or bush. But now, my climbing really sucked. Any moderate effort took me to feeling like I was floating, like rising above my body. A weird bonky feeling. I still had energy unlike with a typical bonk, I just couldn't expend it without that floaty, out of body feeling. This was dangerous as a fall could be life threatening, so I kept my effort while climbing just sub-floaty.
Fortunately, when I went down, the floaty feeling disappeared and I could run hard down with good focus. I figured I would cramp and have more diarrhea running hard down, but it was the ups and associated increased effort and body temp that made me look for bushes.
Miles 32-38 were relentless steep up and downs.
Coming down into mi 38ish my quads started feel quite tenderized. Unusual for me this early, even on courses with more elevation change and longer descents. I suspected it was a combination of being a bit depleted and running quite a bit harder on the downs to make up for the slow climbing.
At mile 38 I ate Ramen and more cola and grabbed more gels to get me across the next segment. With the heat, getting 200 calories in became a challenge. No way solids would stay down at this point. So 1 gel every 30 minutes had to be downed. I was not having any problem drinking enough. I was extremely thirsty and was taking in enough water despite my losses, I just likely was not getting enough electrolytes. I was swelling some. Very typical and fairly mild for me at altitude.
The Battle to get gels down was comical. The conversation in my brain.."ok, start that next gel packet", my mouth, my stomach, my everything saying "nope" like a toddler with lips pursed, arms crossed. My brain, "just open the packet, you have 5 minutes to take one sip". I tried to take a sip every 5 minutes, but sometimes at 25 minutes with 3/4 pack of gel left, and negotiating no longer working, my brain just said "times up, get it down". There were a few occasional gags and 1 real heave but all the gels down, every 30 minutes for the next 3-4 hours.
The last significant climb was 47ish to 50.
The course turned out to be a little long, closer to 52 miles. At the last aid station, they had bacon. It sounded amazing. I ate half a slice of bacon and dumped the rest of my gels in the trash, giddy that I didn't have to eat another gel. The last 2 miles were down all the way to the finish. Quads still tenderized I managed a couple 11 min miles.
I milked everything I had out of myself the whole day. I never let up on making sure I did everything possible to create the best race with what I had on that day. I took nothing for granted and never relented. Everything was a conscious choice, even giving myself grace when necessary to catch my breath, settle my gut, bring myself back into my body. Never a moment of "I just got lazy" or "I just wasn't paying attention".
The whole way I was assessing what I could do to make sure I stayed in this race, what I needed, what I was taking in, how it was helping or hurting and maintaining the max effort I could expend without negative returns.
I loved the problem solving and it really kept my head in the right space and out of self pity.
As I came close to the finish, I could hear all the cheering. I was a little sad that my ending would not be met by anyone I knew, that I would get my stuff and leave knowing no one. Now I was feeling sorry for myself. I just wanted a hug. I had never finished a big race with no one there.
As soon as I crossed the finish, a familiar face appeared and said "hey Lori, great job!" It was Don Sims, a friend for years. His wife was still on the course. He gave me a big hug, or more likely, I grabbed him and hugged him. It was the first really big hug I've given to non-household member in over a year. It felt so good. Poor Don, I surely stunk. We chatted for a few minutes, and then I started getting that out of body, floaty feeling again. I went over to medical and explained my situation and desire to get horizontal on my own volition rather than involuntarily. I knew I was fine. All of the blood vessels that had been constricted trying to take care of the essentials during racing were now dilating, and gravity was not helping. My blood was rushing to my feet.
It didn't take long for me to regroup and call Todd and Ethan. They were anxious to hear of my finish and gather together for a big ole meal..... minus the margarita cheese cake!
I am so so grateful to my family, and my coach Eric Orton. They have helped me accomplish the Cool Impossible over and over again.
To coach....the guidance you gave to "stay on it" every mile was critical to my finish. Your coaching guiding me through the difficulties of this course was critical.