Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Georgia Jewel 37 Miler RR

I didn't write a race report for the beer mile(s) or the Brasstown Bald 5k that I ran in between the weekends I ran the Boston Virtual Marathon and the Georgia Jewel 37 miler. But it's been a busy few weeks of racing for me. Especially for 2020!

The beer mile was really just more a stupid and fun time that happened to have some running involved. I ended up running about 7 miles that day, but in no way was this good for my health. Somehow I came back to life enough the next morning to wake up at 4am to go run a 5k up the highest mountain in Georgia. And came in 3rd place pretty much just power hiking the whole thing. 

So things had been going well enough. I honestly was surprised at how well that my virtual Boston went that I thought I was turning the corner on feeling all crappy about (most of) 2020. When I woke up on race morning this past Saturday, I felt anything but good. I was super nauseous and though I choked down a couple of pieces of toast, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was pukey. 

Side note: we ended up eating a super late dinner the prior night and Adam complained that the queso tasted like soap so I was wondering if I was just psyching myself out thinking I had food poisoning or something. 

I got to the race start an hour early and picked up my bib and packet without issue. I then went back to my car and tried to lay down for about 20 minutes because I felt both super sleepy and nauseous. But then it was time to put on my shoes, my pack, my bib, and head down to the start. I saw Jennifer at the start and talked to her for a few minutes before the race started. 

Because of Covid, we started in waves of 10 runners at a time and everyone was wearing at mask. I was in the first wave and while it was nice to not feel choked up in the beginning miles, I suddenly felt like I had a target on my back. I definitely was not running my own race for the first couple of miles because of this feeling. A few of us went back and forth, exchanging places as we navigated the forest service road and pavement. I didn't stop at the first aid station at just 3ish miles in and just kept right on cruising up the hill.

Once we hit the first large single track section, I finally felt like I had shaken the feeling of nausea. The temps were great, I was sipping on my Roctane and water and taking nutrition every 45 minutes or so. I felt really, really good in this first single track section. Even on the uphills, I was hopping over rocks and just enjoying the day. I talked with Sally for a short while and then I was pretty much on my own for a number of miles. 

I felt an immediate and sharp pain on the back of my left leg somewhere in the middle of this section. They told us at the start that a yellow jacket nest had been disturbed in this area and I thought really, is this my luck to be stung?? It had been almost 20+ years since I'd been stung by a bee or wasp so I had gotten lazy about carrying my epiPen (it was in my car). Luckily, it didn't appear to hurt my breathing, but holy shit, it felt like someone was holding a cigarette to the back of leg. (And is super irritated as I write this.)

Nearing the 11.5 mile aid station, I got some Tailwind in my soft flask and grabbed half a banana. I had been doing a lot of running in the previous section and was honestly looking forward to finally getting to do some climbing. The forest service road of this section bottomed out near a creek and then the course climbed to another pretty runnable ridgeline section. Ray and I talked for a good bit in this part and that made the miles go by. This is also the section that I managed to see Shannon somehow looking insanely fresh with 80+ miles on her legs.

Once I got near the top of the ridgeline, I knew I'd start to see some of the faster runners in the field coming back by after the turnaround. I was getting excited to cheer everyone on and shout words of encouragement as we passed. Sure enough, as I made the descent into the Snake Creek aid station, I got a good glimpse of the front of the field. Everyone was looking so strong!

Meanwhile, my nausea started to return on the descent and I was happily relieved to see there was both gin gins and Tums at the aid station. I drank a little bit of ginger ale, got another half of a banana, and then starting hiking back up. I gave myself a solid 5 minutes to just walk and try to settle my stomach. I felt okay enough to do a little running after that and tried to at least run the downs and flats. 

On the descent down to the creek, I saw Stephanie, Jennifer, and Alex and each friend made me feel a little less miserable for a few minutes. Talking to Jennifer for a minute or so was such a bright spot in the middle of my race and for next couple of miles, I actually felt pretty good. However, I was running low on water and was very grateful when I finally got back to the Stover Creek aid station.

I filled up my hydration bladder with about .75L of water and then my soft flask with more Tailwind. I had been trying to shake this annoying feeling of being sleepy all day and decided to drink about 4 ounces of Coke, hoping the caffeine and sugar would help me. Ray caught back up with me at this point and we walked out of the aid station together and then ran a bit on the single track until he stopped to walk for awhile. I went on ahead and was alone again.

At some point in this last big single track section, I took a gel, knowing that my calorie intake had been abysmal and I was running on fumes. It seemed to go okay and then a few minutes later, I was exorcist-style retching. Ugh. I tried to just wipe my mouth and carry on, but it took about 3 times before I apparently emptied out whatever was causing me distress. Honestly, I was happy at that point because while I knew that I was severely lacking in calories, at least I was not as nauseous. 

My watch had been reading pretty accurate all day so I started counting down how many miles I had until I reached the forest service road section. I drank all the water in my bladder, but was so worried about wrecking my stomach again that I was barely able to sip on my Tailwind. Each mile I knew I was a little closer to getting water at the aid station and that was my only goal at that point. I had in my head I could just walk it in from that last aid station to the finish.

The forest service road was a really runnable down once I got there and while I was probably not actually moving very fast, I finally felt like I was getting somewhere. At the aid station, I emptied out the Tailwind in my soft flask and refilled it with water. I was inconsolable at this point and being cranky both inwardly and outwardly. 

Aside from Mt. Baker and a small section of single track though, the final miles were at least relatively easy terrain. I ran for a few minutes with Whitney and then just stayed a comfortable distance behind her as we worked to finish our respective races. Once I got to Mt. Baker, I was just beat. I never have felt my legs spasming in a race before (after, yes, just not during) and as I was climbing, they just started to give out on me. I had to stop a couple of times and try to figure out a way to get up the road, stepping sideways at times because I really was at a loss as to what to do. 

Of course, reaching the top means that the race is nearly over and so I Barbie jogged down the parking lot and then ran the last little section to the finish. I missed real race finish lines and though I had spent the majority of the last half of the race saying to myself eff running and eff racing, I was so happy to finally run through a real finish chute. 

I talked to Abigail  (first place, woot!) for a minute and then watched the awards ceremony for the 37 miler. Not knowing how long everyone would be, I walked back to my car to change and put my feet and legs up for a minute. The temperatures were nice out, but I was feeling really overheated and my heart was pounding so I turned on the AC in my car and charged my phone for a few minutes. As I was lying there with my feet on the car door, I saw a familiar running form charging down the sidewalk and realized that Chantal was finishing. I'd like to say I jumped up and raced to the finish line, but it was more like a sloth shuffling in slow motion. 

She was second female in the 50 and killed it! Somehow I missed Joe coming in not too far behind her, finishing in second for the men. We all hung out after that, watching more friends come in, including Dave sprinting in his 50 miler, Oliver finishing his first 50, and Stephanie completing her longest distance. Even though Meridith and I have followed each other for years on IG, we finally were able to see each other in real life and wave. Our group then hung around to watch John come in for his big 100 finish and had a sweaty group hug at the finish line. 

As I drove home that night, I was feeling an equal mix of disappointment in myself, but the joy for so many others. It was strange. I was frustrated that my body was not doing what I wanted it to, but I was also so happy for others that it was their day. And not just saying that to sugarcoat my own sadness, but genuine happiness that they were doing amazing stuff. 

Much like everything though, now that I'm a few days removed, the good stuff remains and I know I'll be back at it soon enough. 

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