As with all of my races, there is a race report tail that goes along with them. While this race was far from what I expected and prepared for, it is the race report that allows me to grow, identify areas for improvement, and identify collect lessons-learned (which there are many).
Before I get into the details, I will sum it up with a simple acronym. DNF
This race took place in Pennsylvania just 12mi from where I grew up. While the elevation in Pennsylvania is greater than what I am accustomed to, and the course had more climbing than I was accustomed to, I was well trained, well prepared, and had a race plan that was going to get me to a sub-7 finish.
To put it simply, I have been a pain here in Pennsylvania. Even while we are here on vacation I was still adamant on what I was going to eat the week leading up to the race ensured I was well hydrated and adequate amount of fat to support the race plan. I did everything possible to set the stage for what I was hoping was going to be a perfect race, except for one thing; I did not account for any type of contingencies that may have transpired during my race.
Over the last 4-hours I have gone over every detail of the race seeing if there is something I could have done differently to change the outcome and there is honestly no point. Everything that I did prior to this race was done for a reason and what I planned on doing. There is absolutely no room for any type of “what-ifs” to be considered. I simply need to take what happened and move forward. My coach said to me “You are allowed to be mad, sad etc for about 5 minutes. Go….” Well 4-hours later I am now ready to go!
Shoes – SKORA Tempos
Hydration Pack – Orange Mud Hand Held / Gear Quiver
Drop Bag – Victory Sport Design Bear II
Socks – Injini Trail
With the race being only 12mi away, there was very little prepping that needed to be done outside of the norm. #FlatJohn had been prepared the day prior, my single drop-bag was prepped and packed, and the coffee pot was ready to make my coffee.
I even had Elizabeth mark my aid stations on my arm so I know when to prepare for the aid stations! The only thing left was dinner and sleep. Dinner was pretty simple. We had pasta for dinner and salad. This isn’t unusual and nothing that I haven’t done in the past. Honestly I don’t really plan anything for dinner. I just avoid fiber and grease to ensure that I have a happy stomach on race day. Here is where the first “difference” comes. Before every long run/race I have a gluten-free beer (Angry Orchard) the night before my race. Unfortunately there was no Angry Orchard available so I had Wood Chuck instead. While made with apples, this one wasn’t gluten-free. Personally I don’t think this had any bearing on race day, but it was still outside of the norm.
I woke up at 4:30am to begin my preparations. TYPICALLY my race day preparations include coffee, Chobani yogurt, and a Banana. Since I was treating this race much different than past races I thought it would be wise to get some more calories prior to the race. Instead of the yogurt and banana I stopped at Dunkin Donuts on the way to the race and had a bagel with cream-cheese (2-hours prior to the race). This is where I am going to get the “tsk tsk” from people! 😉 I have never gone into a race with a bagel and cream cheese and today should not have been the day to start. Much like the beer, I don’t know if this caused an issue, but it was still different.
I arrived at the race around 6am to patiently wait for the 7am packet pick-up and enjoy the rest of my coffee before the race. This is mainly for people watching and talking to people. I talked to some of other runners, actually met some that we share mutual friends with, met another SKORA and Orange Mud Ambassadors; I did what I do and had fun! The race actually didn’t start until 8am so I had plenty of time to allow for my bagel and cream-cheese to get into the system, drank my final bottle of water, and patiently wait. About 15min before the start I went over my race plan one last time, looked at the course profile so I knew where the climbs were, and did a final gear check. I was ready; the gear was ready; my race was READY!
After yet another visit to the porta-me (this is very common for me before races) I made my way to the start line. I didn’t line up where I typically do (towards the back), I was on the line with the lead pack! Yelling over the German music that was playing I heard the RD make the final countdown; 5…4…3…2…GO!
The first 1/4mi of the course was actually on the road before entering the trails. I wanted to remain in top 10 hitting the trails and I did just that. I was able to secure a position that I want and from that point fell into MY pace that I was ready to hold throughout the race. My goal was to keep my HR in check through the climbs and to avoid chasing any rabbits. My fueling and hydration were spot on. Every 1mi I took in a big drink and every 20min I took a SMALL piece of protein (Epic Bar). This is the approach that I have been using on my fueling runs and it had worked perfect in training. Here is where another slight difference came; I had been training with an uncured bacon Epic bar. For this race I was using Beef. I didn’t think it would matter; Epic is Epic, but… who knows.
The Aid Stations where staged 3 – 3.5mi apart. My plan had me skipping every other age station which had me stopping every 6.5mi, which is also how I trained on my fueling runs. This part actually made me REAL happy. I came trucking through the first aid station, tossed up a wave, and thanked the volunteers as I pushed my way through. In order to hit my race plan, stopping to talk was not an option! The miles started ticking away and before long I was at 6.3mi and it was time to prepare for the aid station. My goal here was to be in and out of every aid station within 10-20sec. I drank the remainder of my Tailwind (which was only 1-2 mouth-fulls based on my fueling strategy) and grabbed another Tailwind pack from my Orange Mud Gear Quiver. When I rolled into the Aid Station the cap was already off my hand-held, Tailwind was already added to the bottle, and I was ready for water. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! I hit the water and was back on the trail in under 10 sec! This had to be the most efficient aid station EVER and my next 2 were mirrors of this process!
More and more miles started ticking off as I went into the largest climbs of the course. After the 6.5mi aid station I went after the 4 largest hills of the course which were all back-to-back. Mile 10 was the only mile split that I was off on as this segment had the “ski slope”. All of the other splits remained exactly where I wanted them. After the 13.5mi aid station the next stop was going to be the start/finish line to do it all again! This section of the course had the least amount of climbing and was smooth sailing. I played hop-scotch with a fellow runner through this section.
Along the way I noticed something… I was CHAFING! How is that possible? I ALWAYS use something to prevent that… Well it was “always” until that morning. I never used anything while getting ready that morning… OOPS!
Shortly after mile 16 things started going south. I was getting real sharp pains in my stomach and something wasn’t right. It wasn’t “cramping” but there were sharp pains and I was getting spasms every few minutes. Soon I found myself on the side of the trail leaning against a tree. Something has made my body unhappy. I have read numerous blogs from runners and the commonality was “I threw up and after that I was back on track!”. I kept going over that in my head and began pressing. That didn’t term out to be the case. Not even a mile later and I found myself holding onto another tree for another bout. The more I pressed the more off my body felt. Now I was having strange sharp pains going through my back, legs, and arms that I can only attribute to the lack of fuel and fluids in my body. My goal at this point was to get to the start/finish so I could get back on track. I rolled into the aid station, checked in on my Spot3, and began to triage! I grabbed a fresh bottle of Tailwind, drank some water, grabbed some solid food from the Aid Station, and grabbed a cup of ginger ale. I needed to do something to get something back in my body and try and keep my body at bay. I didn’t even make it out of the aid station before I got sick again and off I went. CRAP! I still forgot about the chaffing and turned around to get that taken care of. By this point I wasted 4min at the aid station and was getting annoyed with myself. To the trails! By this point I had lost my 8th place OA and had no idea how far I dropped and wasn’t overly concerned. I was new plan was to save something.
My efforts at getting my body under control were not working. I continued to have sharp pains throughout my body and emptied my stomach yet again. There was now nothing left in my stomach as it burnt coming up. I came back around to the 23.4mi aid station (3.5mi) and waved at the volunteers yet again and kept going. I was determined to try and maintain some resemblance of my plan. The more I pushed through the more I knew something wasn’t right. I wasn’t fatigued and physically felt great, but I kept getting sharp pains in my stomach, back, legs, and arms. I suppose the only advantage was my stomach was empty and the nausea turned into dry-heaves on the side of the trail.
When I arrived at the 26.5mi aid station I needed to make a decision. I had not been able to keep anything down for the last 10 miles and that was not going to go well for my body. After this aid station I was about to go back into the big climbing section of the course and I was concerned that the lack of fluids and fuel was going to end poorly for me. This is when I made a call that weighed on me for 4-hours after the race. I had to drop from this race. Luckily I came across an amazing bearded guy that proved to be my running savior who introduced himself as Leon. I knew his face but wasn’t thinking clearly at the moment. It wasn’t until I sat in my car did it click that I was just taken back to the start line by Leon Lutz and his epic beard! Thank you Leon!
I sat in my car after being dropped off and didn’t know what to think. I had a wave of emotions going through me. I was mad, sad, happy, PISSED, concerned, etc. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and was even afraid to message Elizabeth to tell her what happened. I know no-one would have thought differently of me but I felt like I let people down and didn’t know how to accept that. I even took me awhile to tell my closest friend and coach.
Now that I have had a chance to think about this there is no single thing that I did wrong, but there were several things that I did differently that may have contributed to the outcome. Elevation difference, cold, different food prior to the race, different beer the night before… There simply don’t have an answer but I know what to look for in the future.
With everything there is a silver lining. I was on track to have the best race of my life and I still walked away with a 30k and Marathon PR on the trails with over 2200′ of climbing. That is something that I can be proud of.
With that… My 5min is over!
Thank you to @Vets2Victory @Epicbars @Trailtoes @OrangeMud @GoTailwindNutrition @SKORARunning @VictorySportDesign @TrailRacingOverTexas and @Injinji You were all spot on when it came to taking care of me! Next I need to work on me! 🙂
This was an absolutely great learning experience for me and will not set me back. This is a stepping stone to something greater!