Fall Racing and Training: Spartathlon Reflections and Upcoming Events

Fall Racing and Training: Spartathlon Reflections and Upcoming Events

As I get ready to race the Tunnel Hill 50 miler tomorrow, I realize that I have been remiss on getting a Spartathlon race report done. So, here goes an abbreviated report…

Spartathalon was a bucket list race for me, because I had heard from many runners that it was an awesome race and their favorite ultra. The 24-Hour World Championship and Spartathlon were my two “A” races for the year. As many of you know, I posted that I didn’t finish and was taken away in an ambulance after 106 miles…what happened?

I got to Greece on Tuesday with plenty of time to adjust to the time change. My husband and I spent Wednesday going to Sunio, where The Temple of Poseidon stands with beautiful views of the Aegean Sea. Thursday, we visited the Acropolis and saw The Parthenon and various other temples.

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Thursday was also packet pick-up and a day to reconnect with lots of friends from the US. Our “team” was bigger than any previous year, and we all wanted to represent the US well. Friday morning came, and the buses left late. We were supposed to leave at 6 for a 7am start and got to the start with just 20 minutes to spare. There were supposed to be toilets, which no one was able to find, so there was a scrambling for the bushes. I tried to find other US runners and wish them well, and then we were off.

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I was planning on starting around a 9:15 pace, but found myself in the upper 8’s. Aly Venti and I shared some early miles together. It was nice to chat and catch up. After 3-4 hours in, it was already getting hot. I took the opportunity to sponge off with bucket water at just about every aid station and dunk my hat. My crew switched out my Nathan vests around the marathon mark and I was off again. I felt fine. I would get to see them again in Corinth at ~50 miles. During the first 50 miles or so, we ran in traffic (most of which was uncontrolled without cones or anything). Lots of the first 50 miles was through the city of Athens and through industrial areas.

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In Corinth at 50 miles, we cross over a channel, which was very cool. Although, I was very hot. Despite my attempts to stay cool (putting ice in my hat, sponging off with water, and dunking my hat), I was hot and had a headache. I was in a low place, telling my husband, I didn’t know why I did ultras. He told me to get going anyway. It would get better. So, I got some tylenol, switched to a handheld bottle, and was on my way. It got better, and I started having fun again. Around mile 70, I was feeling low and dizzy again. I think due to the heat earlier in the day. I was taking 2 Hammer gels an hour, along with a Race Caps Supreme, an Anti-Fatigue cap, and an Endurolytes Extreme. At some point, I got off my schedule and ran out of gels. I ate a banana, knowing it was the 90 calories that I needed. But after eating all of it, I thought it was too much bolus for my stomach.

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I got through my second low and started up the mountain. According to the elevation chart, the climb was supposed to start at mile 92. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to run flat to rolling until mile 95. At that point, I started hiking. I looked at my watch and was walking sub-15 minute miles up the hill. It was less steep than I thought and I was moving well, putting me in a fantastic mood. I got to mile 99 and saw my crew. I was raring and ready to chase down the girls 15 and 30 minutes ahead of me. I was currently the 5th female and knew that I had a lot of downhill and flat for the last 50 miles. I just had to climb the mile trail up the mountain. I got my jacket and headed up. I had heard some runners who had done the course before, but admittedly don’t do much trail, say they had to crawl on their hands and knees up parts of the mountain. It was steep, and I certainly couldn’t run it, but hiked it without having to use my hands, only stopping once to catch my breath. I got to the top and my stomach was starting to turn on me. I was looking forward to running the 2 miles down the mountain, even though I was told it had loose rock and was dangerous. It again, wasn’t that bad, but I knew I needed to hike down to let my belly calm down. I got  to the aid station at the bottom. It had been an hour since I had eaten anything, and I thought I should try. I sat down in a chair and attempted to swallow my capsules with a sip of water. The capsule went in vertically instead of horizontally and caught my gag reflex spot in my throat and BLEAHHHHH. I puked and puked and puked all over the ground at the aid station. It was like I had just dumped out a 64oz slurpee all over the ground. I apologized profusely to the aid station people who told me not to worry about it. They said I wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last. I got up and started walking. I felt awful, but moved as fast as I could. Eventually, I got to the next aid station as it was starting to sprinkle. I asked if I could lay down on one of the benches. I felt awful. I usually never stop and sit. They told me I could lay down in a parked car, which I did. They were concerned and said they had called the doctor. About 15-20 minutes later, a guy in a car came to get me and transport me to a doctor at the next aid station. I told him I didn’t want to get in…I didn’t want be disqualified. I started walking again. He was worried about me and said he would follow me in his car. So, he followed me going zero miles/hour-ish with his car. I remember falling once. He stopped his car, gave me his hoodie and helped me stand back up. I am pretty sure I passed out briefly now, looking back because I didn’t trip. I remember walking and then remember being on my hands and knees. It was weird. I got to see my crew again at the next aid station (106 miles in). Many people were having trouble after the mountain I was later told. I don’t remember how long I was there. My husband said I was passing out repeatedly for brief periods of time. The doctor wanted to give me intramuscular injections of anti-nausea medication and electrolytes. I said I didn’t want them…that would be cheating. The doctor wanted to call the ambulance for me. My husband implored him for more time and they said I could stay if I could get electrolytes down. I tried to take the tiniest of sips of something and the puking started all over again. Long story short…I got sent to the ER via ambulance.

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Thanks to Altra Running for the awesome Torin 2.0’s…my favorite shoes. Combined with the Altra’s and Drymax Trail Running socks, I had no blisters after 100 miles! Thanks to Nathan Hydration for the Vapor Airess and Firecatcher vests and sweet new Handhelds. I also used the Zephyr Fire 300 hand torch in addition to my headlamp on the mountain. Thanks to Running Skirts for the comfy skirt with great pockets. I love how utilitarian and cute the skirts are and without chafing! Thanks Hammer Nutrition for all the great products!

So, what went wrong? I don’t know. I have only puked in ultras where I have gotten overheated earlier in the day. Was it an issue of heat? Was it the banana-too much at once? Did I push too hard up the mountain? Was it sucking in exhaust all day? Was it food contamination off an aid station (I was told not to use the ice from the aid stations because everyone grabs it with their dirty hands, but I did it anyway)? Honestly, I don’t know and won’t ever figure it out. I have consistently run well in most ultras. I don’t DNF often. It is frustrating. My body didn’t cooperate. I had felt like I have this ultra thing down. Although it was a disappointment (to put it mildly), it is what keeps ultras interesting and appealing. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. It makes me appreciate SO MUCH MORE what my body has done in the past. It makes me reflect on and respect the distance.  My year has been full of high highs and low lows…but that’s ultra running! It doesn’t always go your way…but sometimes it does 🙂

After Spartathlon, with another birthday looming, I found myself reflecting on what I still want to do in running. I signed up for Comrades, as it is my other international bucket list race. I still want to break 7 hours in a 50 miler (which I hope to do tomorrow), and I still want to break 3 hours in a marathon. I figured I would need to get my speed back, having been mainly doing ultras (long long) for the last three years. Training to break 3 hours in a marathon would be great training for Comrades. I never do speed-work and feel less confident in that area of training, so I hired a coach.

He has had me running less miles, but 7 days/week instead of 5, and I have started to do speed work. It hasn’t been anything crazy yet. He just wants me to run by feel and start running “fast-ER”. I need to transition from lots of slow miles to injecting more hills and speed into my running. So far, it has been nice not to have to come up with my own training schedule and having someone for accountability. I have run a 5k for fun, which helped me see where I am (still slow) :), but the fast-ER stuff doesn’t seem quite so scary and is starting to feel a little more normal.

I have plans (pre-coach) to run my favorite marathon, the Flying Monkey, next Sunday (11/22) and then a 5-miler that I do every Thanksgiving day. I will be doing Rocket City Marathon on 12/12/15 and am excited to be their guest speaker at the Pasta Dinner. Rocket City was my 1st marathon and will be my 100th marathon (not including ultras) which makes it extra special! I will run a 1/2 marathon in mid-January and break 3-hours (positive thinking/talking starts now) at the Phoenix Marathon at end of February.

A new coach, a new type of training, and new goals have me reinvigorated and excited me for the upcoming seasons!