Ah, the problems of the eternal optimist. All. The. Things. Sound. Like. Fun.
Last week, I may have learned my lesson. A friend from my running club asked if I wanted to accompany her on a trail half marathon on Sunday. (YES! I thought to myself–this is why I’m plugging away at 25 miles per week, just to jump into races at the last minute.)
My friend is on a mission to get to 50 halfs before she turns 50 next fall. This was race 36 for her. So, although I haven’t trained specifically, I knew I can finish, and, the icing on the cake? Bringing my medal to the fancy donut shop in town afterwards and scoring a free donut. So there we were, Sunday morning at 9am, in Sussex county, NJ, toeing the line with maybe 100 or so other people.
The race started in a field and consisted of an 8 mile loop in one direction, and then a 5 mile loop in the opposite. The trail was single-track and technical, lots of roots or rocks, and lots of ups and downs. I only took one spill, although I did lose footing a few times, but caught myself before it got ugly.
It was a beautiful day to run in the woods. The foliage was just slightly past its peak, but the air was fresh (especially after the seasonably warm spell we had), and it was just a lovely, lovely day. The first loop passed quickly–lots of narrow switchbacks and ups and downs, but nothing unbearable. When I glanced at my watch upon reentering the field at mile 8, I think it was 1:50 or so–not bad for a technical trail run.
The next five miles, though? Well, the wheels completely fell off.
Since summer I’ve been dealing with nausea, cramping and (sometimes) chills on my long runs. The cramping and chills come and go, but the nausea is a constant. I thought it would dissipate as the weather cooled, but it hasn’t, and neither has the salty sweat. Clearly, it points to an electrolyte imbalance and/or dehydration, and boy, all this came to a head on those last five miles. An intense headache, foot cramping, nausea, chills, dizziness, blah, blah, blah. I did a lot of walking (and thankfully the loop had about 2 miles of climbing, so the walking actually worked to my advantage).
I have to give a huge shout-out to my running club friend; she is a jack-rabbit and could have finished the course so much more quickly (and perhaps captured an age-group award), but she waited patiently for me and got me through the end of that race with a smile on my face. This is the kind of running friend I want to be.
We ran across the finish line together: 2:53 and change. Totally finishing in the bottom of the pack. I have never been so thankful to see a finish line. And typical of a trail race–the finish line swag consisted of homemade chicken soup, cookies, cider, apples, and tons of other delicious real food.
BUT NO MEDAL!
Which meant: NO FANCY DONUT!
(yes, this is immediately what came to mind, despite my ugly finish and condition).
This was my slowest of all races, ever. I felt every bit my age. But (as is always the case), it’s full of lessons–most importantly, I need to figure out this nutrition stuff. The last five miles was uncomfortable. The aftermath at home was worse–feverish, intense headache, etc. I slept for four hours, but couldn’t eat until much later. One positive, though? I am in freakin’ good shape. I only took one fall. I didn’t sprain an ankle. The next morning, I could have gone out to run–my legs and hips and calves felt absolutely fine. My body is strong, and once I get the nutrition bit figured out, I just might be unstoppable.
Oh, and guess what?
I learned on Monday that the donut shop accepts race bibs, too! Not just medals. (and I’ll start working on that nutrition bit AFTER I get my donut)