First off, congratulations to Neal Gorman on his win at Pinhoti! You can read Neal’s account of the race at his blog- http://www.nealgorman.com/.
Now for my account:
To make a long story short, I dropped at mile 40 of Pinhoti. For the full story, read below:
When I signed-up for Pinhoti, I knew there was a good chance I’d be heading down for the race without a crew or pacer. To account for this, I slipped into a lone wolf training mentality. I wanted every run to be an exercise in mental toughness, fully owning a decision to cut a run short or forcing myself to press on towards my goal mileage. I trained hard (and I think smart) and gained a level of fitness I’ve not previously known in my running. Strong runs at Martha Moats Baker and a solid 12/22/28 back-to-back-to-back at Sugar Hollow/Sherando/Priest-3 Ridges had me feeling confident. I added a few more solo long runs during September and October and by taper time I was ready to go.
Pre-race prep was good. Both Friday night and Saturday morning I was eerily calm. I’m usually pretty amped up/nervous immediately before a race, but I had zero nerves this time. I felt I had trained hard and I knew I could go the distance. I wasn’t aiming for one of the coveted Western States qualifying spots, I was just going to run my race, so I didn’t feel I had anything to worry about-I knew I could cover the distance.
The race started and I fell back into a very conservative pace with a huge mule train of runners. The pace was slower than I felt like going, but I wanted to make sure I went out slowly, so I held my spot in line for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, I really felt like spreading things out a bit, so I passed and started to run my own pace. Eventually, I caught glimpses of Mike Mason rounding switchbacks up the trail, and I decided to latch on. Denise Bourassa (who won the women’s race and set a big CR) and Mitch Pless joined as well to complete our foursome.
Our group rolled together at a still conservative pace. The trails undulated similarly to the stretch of the RT between Ivy and Fontaine and the running felt easy. It was a beautiful morning and I was loving being out on new trails and looked forward to a full day in the wilderness. I was most excited that my finicky stomach was feeling solid! I was almost afraid to acknowledge that, but I couldn’t help but feel excited that perhaps this would finally be the day that my stomach held strong…then everything changed.
Somewhere around mile 20 I felt the first rumblings of nausea. I had been on top of everything fueling wise, so I thought I had perhaps taken in a few too many calories, which I’ve done before. I decided to hold off on putting anything further in my stomach for about 15 minutes to see if that settled things down. It didn’t. Taking an s-cap often made things come around a bit when this happened, so I did that. No dice. I forced in more calories and that only made things worse.
Pulling into the mile 27 aid station I was happy to see Cristina and her parents who made the trek down to crew for me. We swapped out bottles and they filled my pack with some water. All I could muster to the inquiries of how I was doing was that I thought there was about to be a whole lot of puking. I was right.
Out of the aid station I walked for several minutes, trying to get my stomach to settle. I popped a ginger pill, pulled off the side of the trail and proceeded to puke like crazy. Of course I felt way better after puking and I thought it was a good resetting point. I let my stomach rest for another 15 minutes, walking and running easily and I then started rehydrating and slowly getting more calories in. I then made two discoveries- I couldn’t really stomach my mixed powder drink and my pack was only filled with 10 or so ounces of water. This was the longest section of the race and we’d been warned by the RD to carry at least 40oz. of fluid or else we’d be in trouble. I stopped for a minute and considered turning around and going all the way back to the last aid station to fill my pack with more water. I opted against backtracking and pressed on.
The ginger pill had stayed down (I could tell by the warm feeling in my stomach), but my stomach continued to get worse. I ran out of water and walked almost the entirety of this stretch to the next aid station. When I finally made it to the mile 34 aid station, I parked myself in a chair hoping to turn things around.
I sat in that chair for a long, long time. I took tiny sips of water out of a Dixie cup trying to get something to stay down. A nurse in the aid station really wanted to give me an IV, which I repeatedly declined. I don’t think I was that bad off, I think she just wanted to give someone an IV! After about 20 minutes in the chair sipping cups of water, I stood up, ready to walk the entire 5 mile climb up Mt. Cheaha. I took three steps out of my chair and was immediately forced into the bushes to puke everything back up. Back to the chair.
At this point runners were streaming through the aid station. I didn’t care at all. All I wanted was for my stomach to feel better. Again, I felt better after puking, so I stocked up water and some oranges and started up Cheaha.
I walked the entire climb at a mere shuffle. It sucked. When I reached the top of the Cheaha I saw Sean Andrish. Sean was great and tried to rally me, but I wasn’t having much of it at that point. I saw Cristina and co. when the mile 40 aid station mercifully appeared. They had bottles ready to go and I waved them off, handed my pack off and told them I needed to sit down and try to get something to stay down.
Cristina sat with me on a rock in the shade. I again slowly sipped some fluids. Then I crouched in the leaves with my head between two boulders puking profusely. I told Cristina I can keep doing this, but I’m not going to make it much farther on this routine. I hadn’t kept anything down in over 4 hours. The day was already hot and it was on its way to 86 degrees. I saw zero reason to put myself through that fate. I walked to the aid station captain and made it official, my day was done.
I was comfortable with my decision to drop at that time and a week later I still feel the same. Now I’m just dealing with the frustration of coming to terms with my stomach and going back to square one to try to figure things out.