I may be training for Sugarloaf Marathon in May but running this spring has been far from a traditional marathon training cycle. My hips are decidedly weak and my hamstring often cramps up on hard runs; consequently I’ve been doing physical therapy 2x a week for about 6 weeks. I’ve backed off of speedwork and most tempo runs to focus on maintaining a marathon training distance of 60-70 mpw. And then there’s my stomach. Trust me, I don’t want to go there, but today we’re going there. Crappity crap crap. WTF body? What is going on here? I’m not injured, but my running has been off. In all honesty I feel like I’ve been on the struggle bus since I PR’ed at the SSYMCA 5k in January (19:48 wahoo). On a positive note my athletes are kicking ass in their training runs nailing 4×1 mile repeats, 800s, tempo runs, you name it. It’s been awesome to watch their progress even if my own has been rather limited.
My body’s hodgepodge of issues led me to sign up for Eastern States 20 miler with the intent of running it as social training run with my friends Lisa and Eric. My initial race plan was to run the first 14 miles at a 7:30-7:40 pace (estimated, ideal GMP) and then see what I had left for the final 6.
[Sidenote] Do you have any friends who you’re not sure exactly when or how you became such good friends? Yea, that’s Eric Wheeler and Lisa Grafton. When it comes to Wheeler sometimes we chat a lot. Sometimes we don’t talk for weeks. He’s a crazy triathlete who has been incredibly supportive over the years- not to mention that he’s a physical therapist. It’s possible I have a small ulterior motive for our friendship. Muhahaha. I may or may not have sent him videos of my feet in the past asking him to diagnose my pain from 60 miles away. I consider myself lucky the man hasn’t blocked me on all forms of social media. Lisa Grafton is my athlete, my sister from another mister, my person on this Earth who takes my calls at whatever hour of the day or night. Imagine any awkward question you might have about dating, body parts, sex, bodily functions during running, basically anything mortifying that you’re probably better off asking Google or Siri… right, well, I ask Lisa. Lisa is my Siri, and she doesn’t make me feel judged (unlike Siri, that judgy B)
Oh yea, the race… Eastern States 20 miler is a point to point race that begins in Maine, runs along about 19 miles of New Hampshire coastline and ends after you take 2 steps into Massachusetts. If you plan on running this in the future be aware that the race logistics take a moment to wrap your head around. This year runners parked at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, NH and were bused to the starting line in Kittery, ME. There athletes waited in a local high school until race start at 11 am. The race route runs along the coastline, is incredibly flat with a downhill grade and if you’re lucky you’ll get a tailwind to boot! The race finishes about two steps over the Massachusetts state line and is a hair over 20 miles. There the finishers are bused back to to Winnacunnet High School for post-race food, awards and bathrooms (no showers though).
Wheeler picked me up around 6:30 am to make it to the buses in New Hampshire by 8 am. We… errr, I chatted mostly about the tragedy that I brought jeans to wear post race and that in the absence of a post-race shower I will have to wash said jeans. You read that right: I will be forced to wash my jeans. Whyyyyyyy!?! Wheeler simply didn’t understand my feminine plight. Naturally this fruitful discussion passed the hour long drive up to New Hampshire.
We arrived at the starting line around 830 am, met up with Lisa and had 2.5 hours to kill. What on Earth would we do for 2.5 hours?? Thankfully I’m a chatty one with little to no shame so we played a little game of “remember that time I….” Guys, remember that time last year I pretended I was buying a house so I could talk to the cute real estate agent in my office building? (Technically, I’m not NOT looking for a house… turns out he’s engaged. But we’re buds now, so its cool). Remember the time last fall I couldn’t figure out why I was having digestive issues while running so I spent the better part of a week texting Wheeler to diagnose why I was dying a slow and painful death? Are you doing anything different Kass? … NO! I SWEAR NOTHING!!– Think Kass. Anything different??…. Wait a sec- I have been eating a lot of figs lately. …. Yep, that’ll do it. STAY AWAY FROM THE FIGS KASS. … whoopsies.
Wheeler, Lisa and I played that game for a while and the hours passed. I wasn’t nervous; mostly I just felt impatient and ready to run. My body was a little thrown off by the later race start. Early morning I had dry cereal (my go-to pre-run. It’s weird, but it’s what I eat.), at 8:30 I ate a cliff bar and at 10:30 I had a half a honey stinger waffle. As I think back to my pre-race ritual I suppose I could have/ should have drank more water. I don’t feel like I avoided water, but apparently my body disagreed.
The race started promptly at 11 am and my mind felt at ease. It’s just a catered training run with a bunch of other runners and some beautiful views of the ocean. I ran this race last year too, but this year was different. This year I was alone. I spent the early miles reflecting on last year’s race; instead of feeling sadness at every mile I felt very much at peace. Memories aren’t painful anymore, they’re just memories. I guess this means I’m healing. So I’m going to do exactly what I love to do; I’m going to keep on running.
The miles ticked away for the first half of the race: 7:41, 7:36, 7:37, 7:38, 7:35, 7:27, 7:30, 7:28, 7:28. I felt good, really good. My breath was even, my stride was balanced and I kept my watch on lap pace so I could stay on top of each mile split. My primary concern was the amount of water I was getting in on the run. Not only does this race have water stops every 2.5-3 miles (IMO not enough stations), but the stations had PLASTIC CUPS! Have you ever tried to bend a plastic cup to funnel water into your mouth? I assure you, it doesn’t work very well. By mile 10 I started to get very concerned that I wasn’t taking in enough. I know how much I typically drink during a marathon and during a training run and my intake on this run was startlingly low. By the third station I started taking 2 cups, but it didn’t matter. It was already too late.
Miles 11-14 is where my body started to unravel. You can’t see it in the paces (7:24, 7:22, 7:26, 7:21), but I felt it in my stomach and eventually my heavy legs and clouded thoughts. With no race portapotties on this portion of the course I kept my eyes peeled for other options. I may have had to hurdle some caution tape, but out of thin air the gods answered my prayers and sent me a construction portapotty. Unfortunately during this side shuffle somehow I stopped my watch and saved the run. Not a big deal, except I wasn’t sure exactly how far I had run. Was I on mile 13? 14? 12? I simply couldn’t remember and this race has its mile markers written in chalk on the ground (easily missed, especially if you’re hallucinating).
Miles 15-20 were dicey. I was getting progressively more dehydrated and had a stomach in knots. Instead of descending my splits I quickly turned to survival mode and focused on maintaining my effort. My watch splits are deceiving because I had to stop 2 more times for the bathroom and paused my watch… something I typically wouldn’t do in a race, but this was now just a training run. Splits were: 7:19. 7:22, 7:19, 7:23, 7:32, 7:35. My mind was abuzz with a relentless tirade of one singular thought: Just get to the next mile. Just get to the next mile. I wasn’t actually sure how many miles I had left… 3… maybe 4? Who knows. Definitely not the police man I asked. I refused to go into panic mode. I refused to allow worry or fear envelope my thoughts. My thoughts were foggy and emotionless. They were simple and consistent: Just get to the next mile. DNF’ing was never an option. I didn’t doubt my ability to finish. I just had to get to the next mile, and then the next. One mile at a time. It was the only way I was going to finish. I credit this mental focus to my being able to push through the physical defeat I was experiencing with every stride.
I crossed the finish line in 2:32:27 (7:35 splits) exhausted and with sharp pains in my stomach, but it was done. I had finished and finally allowed myself to stop running. Shivering and a little disoriented Eric and I reconnected and took the bus back to the high school. Once back I changed into my jeans and my body started to officially revolt. I’ll save the yucky details, but it was a rough go of it. I wasn’t interested in eating or drinking; I just wanted to curl up in a ball and moan for a few hours. Ohhhhhhh, so this is what dehydration feels like!?! Fun times. I made it back home by 6:30 pm, forced myself to eat some chicken soup and crackers and then curled into bed.
I continued to experience some dicey symptoms of dehydration Monday and Tuesday so I booked an appointment with my PCP, had my labs run and got the official go-ahead to run again. The doc shook his little fists at me as he announced in a foreboding tone, “You lucked out this time. But if this happens again you could bleed out and need immediate surgery. If it happens again STOP RUNNING IMMEDIATELY.” Ok maybe he didn’t literally shake his fists at me, but a warning like that warranted a little fist-shaking imagery. Am I right? ….Regardless, I’m not worried. The lesson: BRING YOUR OWN DAMN WATER FRENCH AND SUCK IT DOWN LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW.
The silver lining: my run friends are AMAZING and checked in on me throughout the week- THANK YOU to Lisa, Eric, Greg, Anne, Jake, Sarah M, Sarah S., Mark, Laura, and anyone I may have missed. I have far more friends who I can talk about GI distress and intense dehydration with then I have ever imagined. Such an interesting way to feel so loved, but I guess I’ll take it. haha. ohhhhhhh well.
Up next: Washing my jeans 🙁 Then either Newport Half on April 14th or possibly Portsmouth Half on April 22. TBD.
Ohbladi oblada. Life goes on bra. La-la how the life goes on…
Never stop running,