Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"But that was when I Ruled the World...."

So I have fun telling the Trail Slammer that every time I sit down to write a blog entry, I think of a really good running story, type away, then look down at the screen only to find yet another Katy Perry entry, complete with Video!  And I suppose it's true, but this time I'll try to keep it running related - a bit deep really.  Put this one in the "how running changed my life" file, because the fact is that this incident I must admit had a very large impact on my personality from the time it happened, until this day.

I often tell people that I "lost any last sense of pride at mile 55 in Vermont".  Whether its at work when I may be wrong on a viewpoint, and really don't hesitate to admit it.  Or during one of my endless arguments with the Trail Slammer.  Or just in general,  I think somewhere along the line I lost a lot of my ego - and I'm telling you, this is how it happened...

To tell the story you need to understand the circumstances, and the time-frame.  The year was 2008, and the Doctor was running well.  Very well.  In fact, that was the year I qualified for Boston.  It was the year I ran my First 50K, and then very egotistically told people that "50K really shouldn't count as an Ultra, because you have 'license' to walk, but it's hardly even longer than a marathon!"  After running a very strong very first 50K, I went on to run an even stronger first 50 Mile, and couldn't help but ask "what the big deal was?"  I ran a lot, I ran hard, and I nearly always took an age group award, and I didn't even use the Trail Slammers strategy of only signing up for runs that under 20 people participated in!  (Ouch!) 

I was the man, and I was on fire.  The term "dehydration" was one that I guess other people dealt with, not me.  And the three little letters, "DNF" - well, I had heard that people do that quite allot, especially during longer distances, but frankly, I was far above it.  I was much like a kid; I viewed myself as indestructible!

OK, that sets the scene for you - so of course I decided to sign up for the Vermont 100.  An easy course by 100 mile standards really; I kind of planned it out, kind of not - just me and my inflated ego, and I would laugh at the course right from the beginning.  And we started.

The weather was predicted to be in the mid 90's - the hottest year yet.  "Interesting" I thought, but paid little attention - and I took off like a rocket in the cool, early morning summer air.  As the morning went by, I ticked off mile after mile, forcing myself to walk up hills, just running up others, while "sorry saps" walked up them - and it worked, by mid day I hit 50 miles - and I should have known the problem coming right then; I had a 50 mile PR!  "Hell, this is a joke!" I remember thinking that, I do....  Of course what I didn't know at the time was that my nutrition plan (if it was a plan at all) was slowly but surely crumbling.  As the temperature went up, I drank less and less, and in my under-experienced mind, this was a great thing - "apparently I don't really even need that much water!"  Never mind that swallowing S caps was becoming surprisingly difficult as my throat seemed to be swelling a bit.  Never mind that I was starting to stop sweating.  After all, I was told I was in the top 10% of the field at 50 miles - seriously?  This is a "major" national event, and at the half way point, I'm up with the big shots?  Come on....

OK, so by now you're beginning not to like the Doctor I'm describing, and frankly in hindsight I'm a bit ashamed myself (in fact quite a bit).  But fear not, the doctors "comeuppance" is close at hand.

Shortly after mile 50, I recall feeling a "bit" nauseated.  And I also noticed my pace slowing a bit.  Headache.  Dizzy. "Hmm", I thought, "Ill just 'run through it' as I usually do - what could possibly be the big deal?"  From here on it goes pretty quick - at this point I've not seen another runner for quite a while - I'm by myself on a dusty, dry dirt road in the late afternoon heat, and guess what?  For the very first time in my running career, for some reason, I'm on the side of the road throwing up!  I was completely shocked by this.  I was confused.  "Would this hurt my run?" I asked myself.  Back on the road, I trudged on, running away, until, well, here it comes again, and this time not only am I throwing up, but I'm hiding in the woods loosing fluids from the other end, and you know what I mean. 

Now at this point, the symptoms are bad, but the way I feel is worse.  I'm now having dry heaves, that cause incredible stomach pain.  I tell myself that if I'm really dehydrated, then my body knows best what to do.  Right?  Right?  Haven't you always heard that?  OK, Doctor lesson for you - that old wives tale is total BS - Tell me why if I'm running fluid-less that my body decided to blow what little fluid I have out every possible crevice?  So then in the span of about 10 minutes, a major storm front comes across the sky, and my world is submerged in water!  A total downpour - my "discomfort" is now compounded 10 fold.  And here the nausea comes again, but this time I'm barely off the side of the road, on all four, barfing up nothing while I'm battling off the next burst of diarrhea.  I soon notice I apparently decided to lay down in a drainage ditch, and here comes a wall of water at me; I'm now up to my butt and elbows in flowing water, rain pounding down on my back, and loosing it out of both ends.

Folks, this was a monumental moment for me.  At this point I was physically, and more  importantly mentally broken.  I recall looking up into the rain and asking God how he could possibly do this to me!  I was suffering beyond belief, and wondered if I would ever see home again.  After all, it was me.   ME!!!!!  Yes, this was the moment that I left my pride.  My ego.  My obnoxiousness out on that road.  I was beaten and broken, and I could barely stand up.  I would have dropped, but frankly I hadn't seen another runner in at least a half hour, and I was nowhere near an aide station.  All I could do was clean myself up, and try to walk, which I did.

In the coming hours I met my now friend Tracy, who I spent most of the rest of the run with, and the weather cleared, and my health improved, although only slightly.  Yes, I made it, because fortunately I had so much time "in the bank" I could afford the coming downward spiral.   But when I crossed that finish line, I knew.  People clapped as if I did something great, but they had no idea what I knew.  How defeated I was, and how different a person I had become from the one that started nearly 30 hours earlier.  I admit I cried like a baby crossing that line, for many, many reasons....

So yes, I lost most sense of pride and ego at Vermont in 2008, mile 55; and I mean that.  This  was a nearly religious, and truly life impacting moment for me.  Yes, running changed my life, and I am a far better person for it now.....