29 June 2011

Western States: Oil and Water

At the starting line countdown

Sometimes I think that 100 milers and me are like oil and water. I've had a few days now and many a great moment to digest everything that transpired during my race alongside thoughts about life, running, people, and the existence we share.

Here's the account of my drop: Around mile 68 I was feeling off. At this point I had started to slow down a bit after a great 8 miles with my friend and pacer Timmy Parr. I felt a little dizzy and weak. It had been about 45 minutes since my last calories. By this point I had had way too many Strawberry Banana gels. Seemed like the only flavor on the course! I opened one up, looked at it, got about half of it in my mouth and proceeded to have the single largest dry heave ever! Couldn't do that flavor anymore so I sipped some Nuun and decided to take a few extra minutes at the AS to refuel.

I refueled with a bunch of potatoes and Fritos. Still feeling off but still in the game. A few minutes later I set off to start working through the last 30 miles. Within a mile of leaving the AS I began to have difficulty swallowing. My airway was restricted and I would clear my throat to help exhale the air in my lungs. On two different occasions I sat down just off the trail to collect myself and see if I would magically feel better. I then would get up and start walking down the hill. I began to notice that the more I exerted the more restricted my airway felt. If you know the ABC's of first aid you know that A for Airway is the most vital. You must have a clear airway before you can begin CPR. I was worried and scared. This kinda thing had never happened to me before. I then told Timmy to run back up to the AS and get some assistance while I began the walk of shame back up to the AS.

It's a humbling experience to drop and then walk back up the hill to the previous AS while 30+ runners and their pacers come charging by. Many of these runners were my friends/teammates/people I knew through the ultra community. As they came by many were sincerely concerned and wanted to help. The last thing I wanted was to slow down another racer. I just said, "I'm fine, keep going." Thank you to everyone who passed by me during this point; your concern and well wishes were heartfelt.

Once I made my second trip to the Peachstone AS I sat down on a cot. As I looked to my right I saw Thornley wrapped up in blankets. What the heck was he doing here? We chatted briefly and I was glad to see him get warm enough to keep going and get another finish. Meanwhile they checked my vitals. Everything normal. I knew my day was done though. At rest my airway would open up more than during exertion but I did not want to risk anything and carry on. Thought about it a lot and knew it was the necessary decision.

During the next three hours I had the chance to reflect, refuel, and get way too existential as I watched other runners come and go as I sat in a beach chair wrapped with blankets. I had a pleasant time with the volunteers at Peachstone. Thanks again for taking care of me as I watched from the sideline. I appreciated all the grilled cheese sandwiches and cups of chicken noodle soup. Runners will never know the importance of AS volunteers and medical staff until they are in need. I am grateful for this lesson. More and more I'm learning about the symbiotic relationship between racers and race volunteers. Both need the other to accomplish their purpose for the day. The ultra community is a cool one to be apart of.

I learn the most from my defeats. I have gained needed perspective from my DNF's at HR and now WS. I believe that everything happens for a reason and it's my goal to learn and find the wisdom in these reasons. After talking with family, friends, and a few medical professionals I think my drop was due to an allergic reaction or a spontaneous bout of exercise induced asthma. I have seasonal allergies and think it could have been due to the different pollen and flora in California or some other airborne particle from the forest fires throughout the west.

Thanks: Timmy, Duncan, and Scott- awesome road trip and spending time with my Gunnison brothers. Grateful for the time, support, and money you spent to join me on this crazy DNF adventure. Team Montrail- big thanks for hosting all of us before the race and putting together a fun bbq. So good to meet and spend time with more Montrail runners and staff! Very fortunate to be with such a down to earth group. Peachstone AS- can't say enough of your service towards me. Truly grateful. Thanks to Peter for driving me to Auburn in time to see the finish! Thanks to MANY runners for their concern, kind words, and support. Congrats to the Research Monkey :) I'm glad one of us put in a good showing for the Fort!

My quest continues to put together a strong second 50 miles of a 100. I am eagerly waiting for the day when I realize and execute to my full potential at this distance. Leadville is just around the corner. ONE step at a time.


  1. I was pulling for you from Idaho. Sounds pretty scary. I'll share a similar story of mine...

    Once on a mountain in Argentina, I lost my vision. I didn't know why, but I figured it couldn't be good and I quickly retreated. Perhaps, I could have waited a bit and saw what happened. Maybe nothing would happen- just some lightheadedness. Maybe I was having a stroke and retreat saved my life.

    Don't second guess your decision. You are hardened and battle tested both physically and psychologically. If you dropped after everything you have sacrificed, then you clearly had good reason to do so. Just like all memories related to this ultra-endurance stuff, the bad memories have a way of easing off and seeming not so bad. Bottom line: it was BAD!

    I like your chances at Pbville. Close to home, pressure off. Not far from your scorching CR at Collegiate Peaks. That's good air up there in the Sawatch.

  2. Wow- I figured you just had a bad day. Not being able to breathe is a whole other level. Glad you're ok.

  3. Glad to hear you're ok. All of us here on the front range were pulling for you, and will continue to! See you in Pb.

  4. Glad you're OK bro. Life, like 100 milers, is tricky sometimes. Keep the outlook you have and keep plugging away! Can't wait to un w/ you in Leadville! koop

  5. Thanks guys, I'm moving forward with optimism and getting some much needed rest before the Pb training begins.

  6. You're still my idol. Love the unshakable positive attitude. Keep on keepin' on and I'll be seeing you soon!

  7. Really nice to meet and hang out with you at the Montrail house. I'm sorry WS didn't go as planned, but I've definitely been there, and DNFs are great learning/motivating experiences; success at Leadville will be that much sweeter. Hope to see you at a race again soon...

  8. So that's what happened! Now I feel like a DICK for saying, "Fix your problems!" :P It's the Craig Thornely/"Team Eugene" credo. Guess they could've "shoved a tube down your throat for 4-5 hours"... Sorry to see and hear of the DNF. Live to run another day! -J