Friday, August 23, 2013

Waldo 100k 2013

My race report for the Waldo 100k starts in the late night hours two days prior when I came down with a sudden urinary tract infection.  I was up all night and got maybe 2 hours of sleep tops. The next day (Thursday) was spent trying to catch up on my sleep between clinic and pharmacy visits and a few hours of work at the office.  Exhaustion kicked in Thursday night and I was able to sleep 9.5 hours.  Friday I felt almost normal, albeit a bit more tired than I had planned to be the day before the race.  Nevertheless, even when I felt the worst, I vowed I wasn't going to let this speed bump ruin my chance to experience Waldo again and earn that hat!

Pre-race this year seemed so different than last.  I greeted many friends and overall felt much more relaxed and confident.  This year I traveled alone so as soon as the pre-race meeting was over I headed to the van to (hopefully) get four hours of sleep.  Thankfully, with my exhaustion I was asleep by 8:30.  But then up again to pee at 10:45. This time it took me longer to fall back asleep, but then a vivid pre-race nightmare about not being able to find my race clothes bag had me wake with a start at 1:13am.  Close enough to wake up time so I was up.

Getting ready in the Willamette Pass Lodge restroom seemed like a luxury. In the wee hours I greeted friends and dealt with a last minute snafu.  My Garmin was being wacky, but fortunately I had brought along my Timex Ironman watch too so it was a quick and easy switch  out.  I didn't care about miles. The only thing I planned to monitor was time of day and  have the watch chime at me to eat every 30  minutes.

Before long it was 3am and we were off climbing away off into the darkness.  I hiked up the mountain with my friend Desiree.  We ended up running most of the way to the first aid station together, along with my fellow Animal Athlete Arron, with whom I ran much of Mt Hood 50 and trained with in the Gorge occasionally.  After Gold Lake AS, Desire was off and I only saw her again a the Mt Fuji out/back. She went on to have the race of a lifetime after coming back from a devastating set-back a month ago.  I'm so happy for her!

Arron and I ran much of the way to the Mt Fuji AS together.  We got separated just before the AS when I had to stop for a bio break.  With my UTI, I decided I needed to be very mindful of stopping whenever I felt the urge.  Unfortunately, as I would discover throughout the day, the OTC medicine I was taking for pain, masked some of the natural signs and ended up really messing with my ability to process fluids.  This may have been the result of the UTI too.  I'm not sure.  But let's just say, my plumbing wasn't functioning normally the whole day.  I tried to work with it the best I could, but in hindsight I think I could have run a better race with all systems functioning normally.  Sorry for the TMI, but this was the reality of my day.

I felt strong on the climb up to Mt Fuji.  I was heartened by the fact that I  had gotten farther this year before it was light enough to turn off my headlamp.  I was eating every 30 minutes as planned, but my stomach felt a little off.  I wasn't worried and attributed this to the early wake up call and the altitude.  Plus I had eaten a lot pre-race so figured my stomach would sort itself soon.  I was right and as I passed through the Mt Fuji AS for the second time, my stomach felt good and I actually was starting to feel hungry and ready to eat.  

It was also at this time that I was supposed to take one of my antibiotics. They hadn't really bothered me yet so I didn't think too much about taking them during the race.  I had just eaten so I downed one with a big swig of water.  Almost immediately, I felt the sweats and my stomach turned. This wasn't just mild tummy trouble but full blown nausea.  I realized I need to slow the pace so I let Arron pass.  I didn't want to puke up the pill but my body felt like it needed a good purge.  I walked and sipped water which was so frustrating since this was a very runnable section.  Worry started to set in since I knew I couldn't carry on for another 45 miles like this. People were passing me right and left and I certainly regretted taking that pill!  My only hope was that it would pass.  Eventually, I dry heaved a bit and then did puke up some water.  Soon I felt like running again but didn't really feel all that great. 

Coming through Pothole Meadow - Steve my trail angel is right behind me - pic by LongRun Pictures

I ran through Pothole Meadows with a few people on my heels.  As I let the man behind me pass he asked how I was doing and I mentioned my tummy troubles.  He offered me a tums which I gladly accepted.  It helped immensely.  We exchanged names and I picked up the pace, following Steve the rest of the way into Mt Ray AS.  Not only did the tums help, but it was really nice to have someone pull me along for awhile and the conversation took my mind off my physical woes.  By the time I reached Mt Ray AS I was feeling pretty good!  And I vowed to skip the antibiotic I was supposed to take in the evening.

Mt Ray AS - pic by Dana Katz
After overcoming that set-back, I ran really well all the way from Mt Ray to the Twins and then on to Lake Charlton.  I passed a lot of people who had passed me and then some.  I just felt really good and pushed the pace.  As I approached Charlton I remembered back to last year and being anxious to get there so I could quit.  This year as I neared, I choked back a little emotional sob.  So relieved to be in a positive state of mind this year and grateful to have the ability and motivation to continue on.

Charlton AS - pic by Dana Katz

Speaking of motivation, during races I often use the mantra - "strong and calm" which has worked really well for me.  This year, Marc gave me a new one:  "Smiles are free."   I have to admit I initially thought it was silly, but it really helped.  Every time I'd get a little down or feel overwhelmed by the challenge I'd tell myself "smiles are free' and I couldn't help but smile (and even giggle at times) and get in a better frame of mind.

It was exciting to run past Charlton into new territory and I really enjoyed the change in scenery to a more arid landscape.  It was getting hotter, but luckily it never got too hot and high clouds often blocked the direct sun.  I was surprised to get to Rd 4290 fairly quickly and it was great to see some friendly, familiar faces.  One of the side effects of the antibiotic was extra sensitivity to sun.   With my already fair complexion I knew I needed to take extra care with the sunscreen so I asked my friend Dana to spray me down.  Dana (an experienced ultrarunner and coach) was there to crew and pace a friend who was behind me, and every time I saw her (at Mt Ray, Charlton and Rd 4290) she was extremely helpful and encouraging.  Thanks Dana!

On the way up to Twins #2 - pic by LongRun Pictures

It was after Rd 4290 on the climb up the back side of the Twins that the already long day started to take its toll.  I began this section around noon having been out on the course 9 hours already.  I'd been leap frogging with Liz and her pacer Caroline who I both know.  Liz commented that her pace chart showed about 2 hours for this 7.5 mile section.  I was really glad to know that, otherwise I may have felt like I was going too slowly.  Everyone says this section is harder than expected.  I asked Liz what sort of finish we were looking at on the current pace and she replied 16ish hours.  Wow.  My primary goal was to get a hat (18 hour finish from the early start), but my secret goal was to break 17 hours. So despite starting to feel a bit rough around the edges I was feeling good about where I was pace-wise.

On the way up to Twins #2 - pic by LongRun Pictures
At my next reminder to eat, it was a challenge to choke down a gel.  I also realized that I wasn't really drinking much (only a bottle between aid stations) and not processing fluids very well.  And I was starting to feel really bloated.  I'd get the urge to pee, but was barely urinating.  Hard to say how much was due to the UTI and how much to just plain running an ultra.  But I know now I probably shouldn't have taken the pre-race medication for UTI pain since it masked a lot of the physical cues to which I should have been paying attention.

On the way up to Twins #2 - pic by LongRun Pictures
The climb up the Twins was long and slow.  I started to think about the really big climb ahead up Maiden Peak.  I was dreading it, but already told myself I'd just have to buck up and do it. There was no way to the finish line without conquering Maiden Peak!  Finally reached the Twins saddle and got to run a mile of sweet downhill to the aid station. And just about two hours on the dot!  I thought back to 2010 when Marc ran this course.  It was here that he spewed all over the place. Thankfully I didn't feel that badly.  I tried to tank up on the things that would go down well - watermelon, popsicle, coke and potatoes - because I knew I wasn't going to be up for choking down any more gels. One of the volunteers offered me a chair. I guess I was hanging out too long. So I said no and was out of there!

On the way up to Twins #2 - pic by LongRun Pictures

On the way up to Twins #2 - pic by LongRun Pictures

After the Twins, it was fun to run back on some of the course I'd covered earlier in the day with some nice runnable downhill and rollers.  I was grateful to still be running 45+ miles into the race.  But man was my belly feeling bloated.  It actually felt tender to the touch.  I'll admit I was mildly worried.  But this far into the race with less than 20  miles to go I figured I could hang on and battle through anything if necessary.  We started to climb and I realized I  hadn't seen anyone or any ribbons for quite awhile.  I was certain I was on the course, but you know how your mind plays with you this far into a race. Fortunately, I soon came upon the Maiden Peak AS, the last before the big climb up Maiden Peak.  They had popsicles too so after more watermelon and coke I took one to go.  No use delaying the inevitable.

On top of Maiden Peak with my bloated belly - pic by Gail Henry

The first quarter to half mile up was deceptively mild.  I probably could have run some of it, but I power hiked eating my popsicle.  No use over exerting myself now.  Soon it got steeper and steeper with no switchbacks.  Everything you've ever heard about Maiden Peak is right!  I tried to see through the trees above to get a read on the summit, but it wasn't visible.  I trudged upwards and despite a very slow pace I kept it pretty steady.  I think I only paused to rest once or twice.  Finally the trail leveled off some and I could tell I was close to the fork and the final quarter mile push to the summit.

On top of Maiden Peak - pic by Gail Henry

The people coming down this last bit of trail told me I was almost there.  Such relief. As I rounded the corner to the final push I saw Bret and Gail!  I knew they were hoping to be there so it wasn't entirely unexpected but still a huge boost!  By the time I time I got to the top of Maiden I was so out of it as you can see in the video shot below, shot by Bret. 

I hardly even looked at the view so I'm very thankful to Bret for this video to see how awesome it truly was up there!  I had only finished maybe a third of my bottle on the climb up Maiden.  The volunteer was right to scold me.  I  hadn't been drinking nearly enough.  It was nice talking with Bret and Gail on the top but I knew I couldn't stay there forever.  I summited at 4:45 but was irrationally worried about making the 9pm cutoff for a hat.  Bret kindly walked with me down to the Leap of Faith and gave me a lot of encouragement and information about the last miles ahead.  I kept hiking down past the worst of the rocks - the last thing I needed was to fall now.  (And as an aside, I did not trip or fall once the whole race---miraculous!)  I stopped for a bio break that wasn't very successful.  The plumbing just wasn't working.  I should have just put my head down and ran.

At Maiden Lakes AS I got the star treatment with a wipe of the face from Kate and a big hug from Laura.  It was 5:20pm and I was still worried about the 9pm cutoff which just goes to show how crummy I was feeling.  Actually, my legs and energy were fine all things considered.  It was the gut that was messing with me.  I ate a piece of watermelon and drank some coke, hoping that would get me the last 7.5 miles to the finish.  Everyone was awesome and reassured me that I could walk it in and still get my hat.  I'm so thankful for their encouragement!

I ran that last section as best I could.  I hiked most inclines and ran, albeit slowly, the flats and downhills.  I stopped again in an attempt to "go" and wasted more time.  Finally decided to just run it in, belly bloated, gut busted feeling and all.  I came to the Rosary Lakes and some campers told me I had 3 miles to go.  That was nice to know but those 3 miles seemed to go on forever.  Finally I reached the buildings and the cutoff to the ski area.  I could see the finish way off in the distance!  I started to hyperventilate so I paused to walk so I could get myself under control.  But as I got closer it started to become real that I was actually going to finish this thing!  So I ran and crossed that finish line with a big smile on my face.  Hearing the announcer call out "Sarah Duncan - Waldo Finisher" was the best feeling! And I was so happy to be done.  Desiree and Yassine were there to greet me and Yassine handed me my coveted Waldo hat!  My finish time was 16:09:29

Arron and I -- showing off our hats!  pic by Yassine Diboun
I realize now that I dodged a huge bullet.  If the UTI had happened a few days earlier or later I would have been either in the throes of acute UTI pain or feeling full on antibiotic side effects.  Completing 62.5 miles on mountainous terrain is hard enough.  I'm  proud of my finish but know that I could have pushed a lot harder in the last third if it hadn't been for that UTI. Without it, I'm pretty sure I could have run sub 16, with a time perhaps closer to 15:30.  While enjoying the post-race barbeque, I told everyone who'd listen that I was so glad I earned my hat because I never wanted to summit Maiden Peak again.  But now I'm not so sure.....


David McClain said...

Fantastic! I will eventually run an ultra [farthest distance for me so far is 16] and I love reading race reports. Hope you took care of your uti!

Olga said...

Oh, Sarah, all that bladder and bloated tummy stuff...You're a true trooper! You got a hat - AND 2nd standing in the Series!!! Yay for you!

Anonymous said...

and I thought running a 1/2 marathon not knowing I was anemic was hard. Impressive! way to go--

Joe said...

Sarah, a terrific race report and a terrific race. Wow, did you ever figure out how to work around a significant physical condition and still finish a mountain 100K!! So happy for you and proud of you!!!

Carilyn said...

You are so tough, Sarah! UTIs are the worst - especially when running. I'm amazed you could run through it. I'm such a baby :) Congrats on your great race!