I love this race more than any other!
My plantar faciitis and Achilles have not been super, but they we tolerable. My plan was to DNF whenever necessary, but my injuries are apparently mending, finally. My plantar actually felt better after the race than the day before. Finally a ray of hope.
Unfortunately, with virtually no training the past couple of months, the trigger-point for my chronic and incurable respiratory stress syndrome had lowered. It took me by surprise. For 31 miles, I kept right on-pace for a PR. Last year I finished in 13:50. This year, I wasn't doing so hot - just barely hanging onto that same pace. But if you're a few miles from the finish and doing the same pace, what could stop you from a small PR?
At mile 32, my lungs started filling up alarmingly fast. Actually, my left lung started filling way back at about 26 miles, but at 32, it happened so fast it scared the manure outa me. Even going downhill was hard. I'd inhale as much as possible, but it was as if I had no space inside for air. I honestly don't know how I was able to converse normally - except that I think my brain died years ago and so you can't tell the difference anymore.
Back to this...
It was a glorious morning in the San Juans. The birds were singing and the butterflies were... Okay, I'll make it shorter...
It was warmer than last year, and the rivers weren't so swollen. I started out slightly faster than I would have, to get ahead of the traffic jams. A couple of the jams, I just ran past down-stream. I'll never understand slowing down so much to cross water. You can't avoid getting wet. Getting wet carefully isn't gonna get you any less wet.
I let my injuries decide how fast I could go - not plans for a PR. Still, I hoped. I was feeling like anything was possible, and to keep a level head, not get my hopes too high, and run smart. I knew that by Williams Creek aid, I'd know whether I was going to DNF or have a race in front of me.
Williams Creek - feeling awesome! Carol Gerber was there and helped me out. I was outa there.
Marcus Mueller and I were pretty much always in sight of each other without intentionally pacing off each other. We headed up Carson Road and the weather started to close in. As we left Carson, it started raining. We kept climbing to the Pass and the rain turned to snow right about then. It snowed pretty hard, but not so hard you couldn't see. But we did joke. I proclaimed that I could almost see New Mexico. "Is that Santa Fe?" A woman answered, "I can see my hand in front of my face." But really we could usually see half a mile. The wind wasn't blowing so hard, and as we turned north, it became a tailwind. Awesome - if you get cold, just speed up.
It was amazing to some of us how many people didn't have basics, like gloves or a jacket. DNF's abounded. I figured that even if I didn't get a PR, my placement might be better than ever. Since I train and race in anything and everything, weather has almost no affect on me. Traction is over-rated. Just go.
That's about when I felt this funny left lung start to fill. My lungs have never started filling at different rates. But it seemed minor. I just kept going. Not like you can stop. We were all above treeline running the rocky Divide - the most awesome part of the course. Even robbed of the views, stuck in clouds and snow, it was nirvana.
Marcus and I got to the Divide Aid Station (mile 31) about the same time, and left at the same time. This is when I started thinking about how I was just going to try to hold steady through Slumgullion Aid, do the last climb, and then drop the hammer down and do what I'm famous for... running like a banshee downhill, hell-bent-fer-leather-pilgrim, and take that PR.
But soon after leaving Divide Aid, my lungs really started filling. The snow stopped, then I started downhill towards Slumgullion Aid and the sun actually started shining. But my lungs were gushing. I just thought, "WTF?! WTF is going on?" And the closer I got to Slum', the worse it got, until one mile away i realized my race was over, and not from my injuries like I would have predicted, but from my nemesis, pulmonary edema.
My injuries were indirectly responsible. Without training, my VO2Max had dropped precipitously. With it, the trigger-point for my edema dropped, and blind-sided me.
At Slum', I was hacking on the verge of barfing. But in between, I was helping runners who were coming into the aid station. The paramedics then descended upon me. They put their stethoscopes on me, but the clincher was when one of them said, "Open your mouth and exhale." You could hear obvious bubbles coming up my esophagus. And then I'd cough up a lung. So she shoved me into a chair and said she wasn't giving me any choice and was going to stick me on oxygen and send me to the clinic. This was pretty embarrassing, but i suppose that even if I had postponed it, oxygen would have been inevitable. This was the worst case for edema I had ever had, and the suddenness meant I questioned how valid past experience was this time around. Non-humidified oxygen is scaldingly dry, but exactly what I needed, both for the oxygen and the drying.
It wasn't all bad. New EMT, Sara, was really nice, and really hot-looking, not that I noticed, of course! (My usual disclaimer.) [If she were older, she'd be old enough to be my daughter!]
At the awards breakfast the next morning, I was, again, humiliated in the ugly-feet contest. Maybe I could have come in 3rd. Even my old blood-blisters weren't sufficient. I'll have to train for this better next year.
But even the DNF'ers are honored at the SJS50. I was given a bottle of wine, which didn't begin to cover my insurance co-pay at the clinic, but what the hey? It was more pain-killer, right?
I met new people, made new friends, and drove home somehow not feeling defeated. Ultras give so much back. IT'S THE PEOPLE!! They're great.
I have photos, really, but you'll have to check back.
Sorry this is a week late. I've actually been diverting most of my energies towards yard-work, working on my son's computer, building myself a new Cray computer (okay, it's not a Cray - just an obnoxious beast of a machine that only a hopeless geek would own.)
Blogger.com has broken my blog. No new posts. Doesn't matter what computer I use to try to post, it won't let me create anymore.
If this lasts long, I'm going to switch to my new blog sooner.