Lake Martin 100
On St. Patrick's Day 2018 I found myself at the startling line of the Lake Martin 100 located in Eastern Alabama. All the uncertainty. Bottled up. Months of miles and mental focus. It was soon time to see how the day would unfold.
We were dealt a humid, warm and foggy morning. Miles would tick away.. Up hills, down hills. Up more. Down more. The hills weren't insanely steep. They were plenty. The race direction, course and fellow runners were fantastic. However, my day would prove to be otherwise.
Thing developed in stages of sorts, I'll explain them here:
Stage One: Mile 1 - 7. Doubt
Heart rate was higher than I'd like it to be. I wasn't loose. I'm never loose for the first few hours of a trail run. Shake it off Kat. It's a long way to go. Mud and multiple creek crossing, some of which were easy to jump. Usually I ended up with wet sandy feet. No big deal though. Keep going.
Stage Two: Mile 7ish - 18. Positive Self Talk, Get Your Shit Together
Seriously. You can't say "It's not my day". It's never a good day to run 100 miles. You aren't even reeeealy warmed up yet. Settle down. Relax. You are okay. The nausea you feel will go away. Enjoy the carriage paths. You've got this.
Stage Three: Mile 18-25. Tears, already?
I went through the main (start/finish) aid station and went about a quarter mile the wrong way on the course. Corrected myself and got on the last sub-loop of the first 25 mile main loop. This 'south' 7 mile loop was pretty damn mean. The terrain was not forgiving, it effectively told me I was insane. I ran out of water and realized that I was wrong earlier. I wasn't just going to warm-up and feel better. I wasn't going to relax into the trail. I still feel like I needed to vomit. I am seriously NOT having a good day.
I strolled back into the (start/finish) aid station again after those 7 miles to see my crew for the first time. Their attentive faces made me cry. Damn. They told me that I was on the pace I'd written in my sheets. They tried unsuccessfully to get me to eat. What they didn't know what that I had a few decent miles from 1-18. That I was able to make up time on the carriage paths. That from 18-25 I'd only walked. Already walking. Already crying. Less than 8 hours in. I told them that I wasn't doing well, that I felt sick. They let me cry, tried to get me to take a bladder of ice water. I was just being difficult and I left without extra water. Only refilling my front bottles. I wouldn't eat anything. Food make me nauseous and I couldn't stand food in my mouth.
Stage Four: Mile 25-30. Dry Socks & Trail Taters
This marked the start of the 2nd main loop. Repeating trail at this point. These 5 miles were mostly runnable. The hills were still not playing. I came to Anderson Road to the smiling faces of Chuck, Tiff and Lindsey. My comfort! I decided that I wanted to change socks. After running through streams and mud during the first loop my socks were wet and full of sand. Here, my lovely crew force fed me mashed potatoes. *#trailtaters They were so gross. They also insisted I put the ice-water bladder in my pack because it had gotten warm outside after the sun made an appearance.
Stage Five: Mile 30 - 38. Heaven *Hell* Hill
Getting to Heaven Hill Aid Station at mile 32 I was feeling much better. The socks and trail taters did help. That and the cold pack on my back. Leaving HH to do the 5ish mile loop and return to the Heaven Hill A/S was not great. I had moments where I'd feel okay. Then my lower GI started to cause problems. The nausea had been mild-moderate most of the day. Thankfully no actual vomitting. Once the other end of the spectrum started needing attention, there were multiple visits behind trees. Trees that I must add DO NOT provide a lot of privacy.
Stage Six: Mile 38 - 43 Dance With The Devil In The Pale Moonlight
I grabbed my head light and trekking poles when I left my crew at mile 38. It was close to 6PM. It would be dark before I got to the next A/S. The first few miles of this sub-loop was single track. Before long, I was blessed with nice smooth carriage paths to navigate. Allowing me time to think about things... instead of the trail in front of me.
The sun had set, it was completely dark. I was hiking along at a not so impressive pace. Then it occured to me. I can stop at 50. I can get a finish and a medal. Take my happy ass to bed tonight. I do not have to keep doing this. That's really all it took. I simply decided. I am not putting myself through this tonight. My one and only regret was having to tell my crew that I was done, feeling like they'd wasted a day following me around with no goal attained.
Stage Seven: Mile 43 - 50 Tiff and Lindsey
Pacers weren't officially allowed until mile 50. However, once I got to the main (start/finish) A/S at 43 miles I told Chuck that I wasn't going to continue. He said he understood. I told him that I'd take Lindsey with me since it had been dark and I wasn't going to get past 50 at all. I was a little upset, but not really.
Lindsey wasn't ready to do her pacing duties yet, but it would be 2 miles to another crew access area, so she just jumped along side me. We headed out into the last 7 miles of suck. I tried to explain my rational of stopping at 50. She was NOT hearing it. I basically told her time and time again "you can say what you want, but I'm done". She had plenty of valid points. All of which I've considered since the race. Like, how did I know for sure that I was done if I didn't try?
Once we got to the next crew access, Tiff jumped out of the truck and started walking with us. Those last 5 miles were the best 5 miles of my 'race'. I was tired by then, nauseous and just over it. I enjoyed chatting with them. As much as they continue to urge me to keep going after 50, I started to do math. I know, you don't do the math. I did the math. I was slogging along at a death march 30 minute mile pace. 50 miles at a 30 minute pace would add.... yeah. No.
We slowly made our way to the start/finish Aid Station at mile 50 where I was happy to walk up to the gracious David Tosh (Race Director) and inform him that my day was done. He gave me a medal and I was done. 16 and a half damn hours later.
Back to Lindsey's question: How did I know for sure that I was done, if I didn't try?
Good question. I didn't and I don't.
What I do know, is that I had a shitty day. I hadn't been enjoying myself at all, for hours. I know that ultra running is supposed to be be hard and supposed to suck. But hard parts with fun and amazing parts sprinkled in. This day was 99.9% sucky.
I got to decide this time. I got to pull the plug.
Did we 'pull out all the stops'? No, I don't think so. My crew was amazing, but I just wasn't considering solutions. I was ready to be out.
After my first DNF, I was heartbroken. I gutted out 40 plus miles of nausea, vomiting and diarreha. 24 hours and 80 miles into the race I was done. I felt like my dream had been crushed and taken from me. I tried so hard, with nothing to show for it. Had this been my first 100 mile attempt. Had I not been through that before, I might have never even considered calling it quits?
This time, I didn't want to put myself through that additional heartache and physical pain. I was completely at peace with my decision to be done. I still am.
Sure. I wonder what I could have done better. Should I be mentally tougher? Did run enough long runs? What would have happened if I'd kept going. I don't know. I never will and I'm perfectly okay with that!
Chuck, Linsdy and Tiff decided that they were going to make me eat. The prepared some instant mashed potatoes. Then they mixed up a blend of crushed ibuprophen, an emptied capsule of ginger anti-nausea medince, and who knows what else. When I ate it I kept saying that the potatos were spicy and my mouth was numb. Little did I know that my meal was spiked! Chuck tasted them when I left and said "Oh my, these are gross". He told me what they'd done the next day. I was very amused and touched that they tried so hard!