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El Scorcho run: From good to bad to ugly

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5ksandcabernets: El Scorcho run: From good to bad to ugly


Sunday, July 20, 2008

El Scorcho run: From good to bad to ugly

First the good news: The technical shirts the race organizers gave were cool. I met Rich, the blogger from Just12Finish, (Rich picked me out of a crowd as we walked from the parking lot to the starting line: I guess I was easy to find as one of three black guys in a crowd of 400 race participants.) I also ran into Derek from Journey through the Ultra World, and met one of the guys who put the race on, Ryan from Distorted Veracity.

Great finishing medal. Good support. I'm going to run it again next year.

But folks, it was a night that went from, 'hey, the weather is great - i think I'm going to be okay,' to 'oh, shit, why am i cramping' to 'I can't even run a 10 minute mile.'

I finished the 15.5 mile course, which looped five times around Trinity Park in Fort Worth, with an unofficial time of 2:31:54, which is a respectable 9:48 minute mile. But if you've been reading my blog the last few months, you'd know that time is probably a minute or so per mile slower than I thought I could run for that distance.

So what happened? I'm still trying to find the electrolyte-zapping train that hit me. The last 6.2 miles turned into a run, death-walk that was worsened by blisters on both big toes. There was cramping, no, make that leg spasming, and I had cotton mouth (you know how you feel the morning after you drink too much) that got more cottony with each cup of water I swigged. I felt like shit when I walked in the door to my apartment and was freaked out when I stepped on the scale: 156 pounds _ a 6-pound weight loss and I'm sure 5.99 of that was water.

Maybe I should have driven to the hospital instead of home.

But I'll start from the beginning.

I can't use the weather as an excuse: The night was cool, 81 degrees with 20 percent humidity. It felt better than it does when I run in the mornings. Before the run, I stayed off my feet and nibbled on fruits and salads and drank plenty of water for most of the day.

I met up with one of my co-workers at the race, Patrick, and we decided to run together. I usually hate running with people during races because I don't wanna hold them back if they feel faster and vice versa. But he was wearing a headlamp (as were dozens of other runners) that helped me see where the heck I was going on parts of the run where the city street lamps were out.

At precisely midnight, they let the 50kers (31-mile runners) go first, then 10 minutes later, we were off.

I felt great out of the gate. There were hundreds of us squeezed together on a 10-foot-wide trail, so I bet it took me more than 10 minutes to run the first mile. (I wouldn't know for sure, my Garmin 305 picked a fine time to not sync up with the satellites. It would not record any of my movements until mile 3).

And still, that was okay, the slow start. I was using this as more of a training run than a race. By the end of the first 5k, the runners had thinned out. Patrick and I did the first 5k loop in 28 something. We picked it up a little and did the second 5k in 26 something.

I was feeling great, on an effort level I was probably doing a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. I thought I was going to vanquish my long-run ghosts of the past.

And then the problems started. The race organizers had fresh cold water at the 1.5 and 3-mile markers. They also had this electrolyte drink called Nuun. I'd never heard of it before two weeks ago. I had a little of it with water at a some stops and it made my tongue numb.

But I'm not saying it was the Nuun that made the night go bad, or the fact that I was running in the dark, unable to know for sure when my feet were going to hit the unpaved, and paved at times, earth.

No, those factors just put me a little out of my comfort zone.

My problems came from within, I suspect. First, about 6.5 miles in, I could taste my sweat and it was very salty. And I knew that salt would be caking up on my face. Salt/potassium/ or whatever only works well if it is inside your body helping your muscles contract. Not caked up on your face making you look like you have a white beard and white eyebrows.
This used to happen to me all the time during long runs pre 2008. But it hadn't happened at all the last few months, when I started getting into really good shape.

(An aside: Some people may say, "Well, your longest run since January was a 10 miler last month. Maybe you jumped to 15.5 too fast." If my problems started at mile 12 or 13, Id agree. But my problems started just after mile 6. A six-mile run for me on every day but this one is like taking a stroll through the mall.)

I could feel my pace slow as we hit the half-way point. I guzzled some water at mile 8 and felt refreshed for a little bit, but at the 15k mark (1:24) I was feeling terrible again. I skipped the water stop, thinking I was flushing all the electrolytes out of my body, and afraid to take another swig of that Nuun stuff because I couldn't feel my tongue.

At one point, I grabbed the bottom of my shirt and noticed it was relatively dry. Oh. My. Gawd. I wasn't even sweating anymore.

And now, as I overheated, I couldn't keep up with Patrick and told him to go ahead. We were at mile 10. My pace slowed by 15 seconds per mile, then 30. This was happening fast. I finally stopped and and walked. My pride sank as one runner after another passed me. What the fuck? A week earlier, foggy-headed from too many vodka tonics the night before, I ran 8 miles in the blazing sun, the last four in 7:47 pace, and tonight, having not had an alcoholic drink in more than 24 hours, an 11:00 minute mile pace was a struggle.

As my quads and hamstrings quivered and my mouth got drier, I kept going, determined to finish. I don't remember what the clock said when I hit the 20k marker, but I knew this was going to be bad. The last lap was more of the same. Walk. Jog and wince. Walk. Stretch. Shuffle. Wince. My toes were burning. I looked at my watch one more time around the 22k mark. My heart rate was about 80 percent and I was doing an 11:40 mile. Yikes.

When I finally crossed the finish line, I did some math. It took me 1 hour, 7 minutes to do the last 10k. That's 10:48 minutes a mile. I couldn't have run another mile in 10:48. I got my finishers medal, found Patrick, who finished some 17 minutes earlier, said hello to a couple of others that I knew and drove home.

I don't know why I bombed. Maybe it was nerves or something. Maybe I drank too much water in the first few miles (probably like 3 or 4 cups). But if that's the case, why did I lose so much water weight?

Questions. Questions. And not many answers right now.



Blogger Derek said...

Way to stick it out! Not sure if it was the Nuun or the weather, but it was very difficult this morning. I had a good friend drop out of the 50k, and he had never done that before. At least you got a long training run in that will help for your fall marathon!!

July 20, 2008 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Just12Finish said...

Good to meet you Kevin - sorry you had a tough race. Learn something every time though and hopefully the next one will be better.

You still beat me by a WIDE margin. I'll write my report later. I need a nap now!

July 20, 2008 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger Just_because_today said...

you finished it and that is admirable under those conditions.

July 20, 2008 at 4:45 PM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

I agree, it took guts to finish when you could easily have stopped at any time on the looped course. You should definitely draw a sense of victory from that.

July 20, 2008 at 5:43 PM  
Anonymous Nat said...

You got it done Kevin, you got it done. That's the good thing. It was a weird time of day to be running. Maybe that had something to do with it? I suspect that you can analyze this seven ways to Sunday, it still won't make any sense.

Congrats nonetheless...

July 20, 2008 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger Victoria said...

Easy there, tiger. You ran a bunch of miles in the dark, at a time you and your body are used to sleeping, and not running. From what I have heard (not yet experienced), running at night can be really tough for a bunch of different reasons. Do you need to eat during long runs? The whole caloric intake thing is HUGE for me. You can also try s-caps if you think you need more electrolytes... but at the end of the day, you finished and pushed through when it was tough mentally AND physically. Come run a race in California, where the weather isn't so ridiculous...

July 21, 2008 at 12:43 AM  
Blogger rundangerously said...

congrats on FINISHING it - that's what counts. sounds as if you got seriously dehydrated from the heat. that's what it sounds like, and what all that weight loss can usually be attributed to.
you did great out there in those conditions!

July 21, 2008 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger GandaMan said...

Nice work gutting it out. You've got a year to prepare to kick El Scorcho's ass in '09, amigo.

July 21, 2008 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Really sorry to hear you found it so tough. I feel like sometimes races are just like that - you can try your hardest, but they just kick your butt. Will you try again next year?

July 21, 2008 at 6:06 PM  
Blogger Reese said...

I guess I was one of the three. Funny how we always do that, pick each other out in a crowd. Great job by the way. I too had the same sort of problems, and perhaps it was the NUUN. I thought that was a bad choice when I saw that was what they were serving. Electrolytes, but no calories. I'll be keeping up with your blog now that I've found you.

July 22, 2008 at 8:54 AM  

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