In a 24-hour event there are lots of battles to be waged. You struggle with fatigue, exhaustion, soreness, multiple aches and pains, hunger and for some, nausea. The last one has been my nemesis throughout the years. It’s brought me down many a time and even when it doesn’t win it leaves a flesh wound or two in our conflicts.
I have all sorts of remedies and preventive things to ward it off. I mean, I’d run the course with garlic around my neck, carrying a wooden stake if I thought it would help.
With all those efforts in place around 4 p.m. Saturday at the New Jersey Trail Series One Day my cease-fire with Nausea ended fast and hard. I was moving well, feeling good, eating well (I thought) and then it was over. It happened much like when the power goes out. You’re left shocked, disoriented and in the dark.
OK, I was mostly in the dark because it’s daily savings time and the sun sets in New Jersey before 5 p.m. Seriously, what is up with that?
I tried eating quarters of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because I know that even when your body says no food it really means MORE food. It’s a tough concept to wrap your brain around but battling nausea is not unlike everything else in the world of ultra: do the opposite of what your body tells you.
The basic rules are:
It hurts = keep going.
You want to throw up = eat more.
You are tired of drinking water, Gatorade or whatever = too bad.
It seems like a good time to quit = you better crank it up.
So there I was walking around in a circle, possibly a little meandering, but a circle nonetheless and thinking food sounds gross, wait maybe I am hungry, nope I feel sick… well?
Oh look, back to the aid station.
Uh no, that doesn’t look good.
Swaggy J runs by and reinforces what I know but am resisting: EAT MORE.
Part of my challenge is that I eat a vegan diet and while I take food with me, aid stations can be limited. They’re all really nice but they can’t feed me what they don’t have so you eat a lot of PB&J and pray for veggie broth. And when someone throws rice or potatoes your way it’s a windfall.
At 5:30 p.m. I broke down and called Lowi and told her I was trying not to puke on my shoes. She’s been there before (thanks to me) and she gave me distraction while I continued on the course. She talked about what’s happening in her life and it helped me not focus on my stomach, food and how miserable I was in that moment.
Later in the evening, some soup and boiled potatoes found their way to my belly and things started looking up. The second that first potato hit my tongue I knew it was going to be my panacea for this race. It was manna from heaven, angels singing, yang to my yin. You get the idea.
But once you tangle with nausea it’s a tight-rope act the rest of the race. It’s ready to return at a moment’s notice and always with more power than the first time. It demands your respect or it will be your undoing.
I stayed on task and at this point Swaggy was now walking with me so he kept me in line with the food, too. I had a new focus, thankfully, which was to keep him company as he pushed on toward his race goal.
Swaggy hit 51 miles around 15 hours and I was more than ready to throw in the towel. But for the last two hours he’d been talking about “when you get up in the morning and get back out here.”
Around midnight I climbed into our tent, with the wind howling and everything hurting.
After lying down in my sleeping bag on a cot a realization dawned on me: This is nothing like being in bed.
About 45 minutes later, still cold and a tad miserable I decided to get up and take a shower. This was not as glamorous as it sounds but after finally finding a shower that was offering hot-ish water and getting fresh clothes on I felt better. I dragged myself back to camp and tried the sleeping bag/cot situation anew. OK I think I can sleep now.
It certainly wasn’t below zero but it was cold enough that Swaggy J and I both had our respective sleeping bags over our faces to keep our noses and ears warm.
I went to “bed” or “tent” with 46 miles in and a little wishy washy on the getting back up for some miles at dawn. Before I know it the alarm goes off at 6 am. I was already awake, cold, hungry and SORE so why not go out for 3 more hours, right?
Actually, I went out thinking I have to return my mile-tracking gadget and I am already halfway through this mile so I may as well have it count. The first 200 yards were a shuffle, waddle of some kind. It felt awful and I am sure it was even uglier to watch. But after about 7-8 minutes I started to warm up a little and while everything still hurt it was loosening up.
I got to mile 47 and I thought, well I have nearly 3 hours left in the race, why not make it an even 50 miles.
OK I could do that.
I came past our camp and Swaggy was not yet out of the tent. I thought, “Awesome, he’s totally driving home.” I grabbed a Clif Bar and my steaming styrofoam cup of coffee that I carried more for warmth than enjoyment. I mean, I enjoy coffee but this was another kind of substance altogether. But at 41 degrees and the stars still faintly visible you take what you can get.
Just after passing mile 49 Swaggy was raring to go. He was all motivation and positivity as he encouraged me to continue on. Once I hit 50 miles I was noncommittal on continuing. Each time I told myself and him, one more mile. That’s all I could mentally handle.
He knows how to remind me of my goals. I went into this race hoping to accomplish 24 hours. I didn’t come anywhere near that. I did learn how to put two halves together. I’ve never taken a break from a 24-hour race, rested for a few hours, and then jumped back in. That was pretty grueling at times but a great learning experience. Now if I can just figure out how to fill in those 6 hours between, right?!
In the end, I made it to 54 miles, the second furthest distance ever for myself. Not bad considering I wasn’t able to run due to an injury.
What’s next? Right now, sleeping, eating and sleeping again. My most favorite kind of training.
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G