Monday, January 18, 2016

Starting the year off with a whimper.

I always get so jazzed about a new year, guys. But so far, this new year hasn't been so hot. We lost David Bowie and Alan Rickman, I didn't get anywhere near the mileage that I wanted to at Across the Years, and I've been sick for two solid weeks. Things can only go up from here, right?!

I was feeling okay about the Across the Years race. That should have been my first clue that things wouldn't be the greatest. We had a pleasant trip down to Phoenix, stopping off at the Hoover Dam to snap some pictures of some Seraphs.

Totally worth the detour and crowds. 
It was later in the evening by the time we got to the hotel, and had dinner. I knew I needed to go check out the venue before I'd be able to get any sleep though. I also knew that the 6 day runners had started 3 days before, so the course would be open and I could check it out. Upon arrival, a smattering of zombie shuffling runners crossed our path. "So that's what you look like when you've been running for nearly three days,", I thought. The thought did not comfort me.

I did like the set up that they had there, though. The aid station appeared to be well stocked, and the warming tent was fairly large. The course even looked pleasant enough, from what I could tell in the dark, anyway. So I was slightly comforted, and maybe even a little excited for what was coming in the morning.
Silly girl, doesn't know what's coming. Photo credit: Scott M. Stringham.
I lined up with my fellow crazies, and at 9 a.m., we were off on our 24 hour adventure. My training leading up to this event had been pretty craptastic, so it was easy for me to start off real slow. At least I didn't go out too fast, right? After the first couple of laps, I fell into a nice enough rhythm, thinking that maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. I was still feeling pretty peachy around the 5 hour mark when Scott joined me for a couple of laps.
Rocking his guest bib like a pro pacer. Scott took this picture, too. But I think y'all can tell...
Scott did two laps with me to get a feel for the course before night fell. The loop is just over 1 mile in length, so it doesn't take terribly long to get around to the beginning again, but having someone with you makes those miles fly on by. After that, he went back to the hotel to rest up for the night of supporting that loomed on the horizon.
The course had some lovely sections.
I didn't hit my first slump until around 6 hours in. So I took a moment to sit down, change my socks, and grab the iPod. So far, so good. The music was a nice pick-me-up, and the fresh socks were refreshing. The course was really dusty and that dust was finding its way into my shoes in copious amounts. The gaiters were only doing so much. There was a burly biker dude who was working the halfway point water stop who gave me a hug every time I passed by. That helped to give me a boost every half mile as well. I regret that I didn't take a picture with him.
But I did take a picture of my favorite sign. Note: these things were not an issue. That would have added an extra element of excitement, though.
I kept a super slow but mostly steady pace for the next bit, occasionally chatting with the other runners. Scott came back just as the sun had set and donned the guest bib for some dark miles. I only had about 32 miles under my belt by then. It wasn't where I wanted to be, but at least I was still moving.
Artsy sunset silhouette shot. Photo credit: Scott M. Stringham.
Once the sun went down, the air temperature dropped dramatically. The daytime had been downright pleasant. Much fun was had by all. The nighttime was a different story entirely. I noticed the 6 dayers bundling up like they were going skiing. Puffy coats, snow pants, ski gloves. I had none of these things. Being the Utah girl that I am, I didn't realize that Phoenix gets just as cold as Utah does when that sun goes down. I just had it in my head that Phoenix is a hot place, like all the time, and stuff. Oops. I mean, I had layers and whatnot. But they weren't the right layers.

Okay, so it was a little chilly. As long as I keep moving, I'll be fine. I was fine when the sun went down during Javelina, right? This is the same area! Scott paced me through 15 more laps, then we hung out at the aid station for the New Years countdown. After our New Year's kiss (Eeeeewwwww gross! Just kidding, it was super great, you guys.) Scott headed back to the hotel for another round of rest before coming back in the early morning hours to get me through to the end.

Frigid. Cold. Horribleness.
I managed to get through another hour, feeling cold, but not like I was dying. The next hour brought that part. It had gotten to the point that I couldn't keep moving fast enough to keep warm. I had started to shake and shiver like crazy. So by 3 a.m., I was in the warming tent. I planted myself in a chair near the heater and tried to get warm. I was so tired, but every time I let myself fall asleep, I would shake myself awake with violent shivering. I couldn't make myself get up to move around. I was hungry. I needed to go to the bathroom. None of that mattered. I couldn't get up. I manged to send Scott a text so that he would know where to find my body when he came back.

Scott did find me, and I was still alive at 5 a.m. He could tell I was in bad shape. Probably because I couldn't even raise my head to look at him, and I only used single word sentences in our communication. He ran to the car and grabbed a giant blanket. After wrapping me up, he went and got me something warm to eat. Unfortunately, the something he found was vegan French toast. I didn't know this at the time. Even in my weakened and hypothermic state, I knew what I was eating was disgusting. I choked down 6 bites before handing the plate back. I'm fairly certain that vegan French toast is made with a heaping helping of sadness.

Then he came back with a steaming bowl of oatmeal. That was infinitely better. Once I had eaten most of the oatmeal, I finally felt like I could stand up and make it to the porta-potty. Once I was out of the warming tent, though, the violent shivering returned, but now it was accompanied by an even more violent cough. Whee.

I returned to the warming tent, and Scott was determined to get me moving again. So he warmed the blanket with the heater in the tent, and wrapped me up like a burrito. We headed out into the frigid early morning hours, his arms wrapped tightly around me to help keep the blanket on, and to keep me upright. He guided me around the course 5 more times that morning, with another stop in the warming tent after 3 laps so I could eat some more warm food. As Scott was walking his frozen burrito girlfriend around the course, a fellow runner commented that we were the perfect picture of love and support. Awwwwwwww!
No, it was just sadness.Vegan French toast sadness. 
But seriously, it takes a special kind of love to support someone in their crazy goals. Scott's not an ultra runner (yet!) but he was out there with me, logging 23 miles total (the most he's even done, by 10 miles), being patient, kind, and a literal life saver.

Anywho, I called it quits at 23:37. I didn't want to try for another lap in the condition I was in. Even though the sun had come up and things were starting to feel slightly warmer. I ended up with 57.04 miles. I wanted to get 70. I guess I could have, if I hadn't spent hours slipping into hypothermic coma. Live and learn, cats and kittens, live and learn. I was surprised to see that I actually finished pretty well in the standings. I was 32nd out of the 70 women, and 64th out of 172 overall in the 23 hour race. I honestly couldn't believe it. Maybe I should actually try properly preparing for one of these things. Who knows how high I could go in the ranks!
I love the bib belt. I've been wanting one for ages. And the stein is huge!
I survived the hypothermia, but got hit by a nasty sinus infection a day after getting home from Phoenix. That sinus infection just wouldn't go away. After 8 days, it had moved down into my lungs and my throat was burning. So I finally caved and went to the doctor. I had a race coming up, and I wasn't going to not run the darn thing. I don't know if you're supposed to run while you're right in the middle of a course of antibiotics, but I did anyway, because America.
AMERICA. Or something.
I was not optimistic about how the St. George half marathon was going to go. I was having breathing issues when just standing around. How was running going to go?! I knew I could just walk the whole thing if I needed to, so I just went for it. I focused on taking it easy and it worked! I hit a bit of a wall at just before mile 6, but it passed, as it usually does if you can just keep going.

 I had saved my caffeinated gel for mile 9 and was feeling quite rejuvenated by mile 10. Right around this point is also where I could see a lot of the course out in front of me, because the path is on the side of a hill. I could see the man who had leap frogged me through the first four miles and then kept me behind him. I could tell he wanted to beat me. But there he was, slowing down at mile 10. Something kicked in, and I went into full-on hunt mode. By mile 11, I had overtaken him. I stayed in hunt mode for the last few miles and managed to pass about 20 people before crossing the finish line. I guess my body knows how to run half marathons, and stuff, since that was number 76...

Some nice swag this year.
It's not like I finished fast, or anything. My time was 3:02:06. I only beat 37 people. But I finished feeling decent enough. And I didn't start coughing my lungs up until I was in the shower, so that was exciting. Scott ran the 5K, and came in first in his age group. He got a sweet sandstone slab with a plaque on it. I survived, he placed. We ate queso and burritos in celebration. Running is fun, you guys.

The sickness is still lingering in my lungs a bit, but I think I'm going to be fine in a few more days. Then I really need to get serious about training again. My 48 hour race is 4 weeks away. Eep. I know I can't get where I need to be before it happens, but I can at least do my best to prep for survival.

Stay tuned for more fun and frivolity. Until then, happy running!

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