Yesterday, I ran 42 miles on the Mickelson Trail. This will be my last long run before the upcoming Lean Horse Hundred in less than a month. My total weekly mileage this week was 77.2 miles.
It was hot but not unbearable. I kept my heart rate at 130-140 and was barely breathing hard, despite running a full 1:30 min/mile faster than I normally do on my long training runs.
Today, I'm tired but not exhausted. I came home, ate a HUGE steak and went to bed. I was still hungry this morning. Oh, by the way, carb loading is for short distance (ie marathon and less) runners. Ultrarunners crave calories- that includes protein as well as carbs.
I thought about doing another 20 -30 mile run today but I don't want to push it and end up injuring myself with the ultramarathon only a few weeks away. Jeanne and Nathan have returned from Wisconsin. I have a "honey-do" list that includes putting a few plants into the ground and getting our succulent/xeri-garden in order.
Can I run 100 miles? You bet I can!
Now I only need to turn my potential into reality!
Her name is Ruby. She has red hair, freckles, and is very cute. Ruby loves to run with me, no matter when or where I go. If I'm not careful, she'll even kiss me on my lips.
Jeanne doesn't mind when we run together, if fact she encourages it. As you can tell by the attached photos, Ruby is not human. She is our 4 month old red Australian Cattle Dog or "Heeler."
We lost our beloved Jake, a red/blue heeler in December. Our hearts were deeply saddened, but it was time. He was twelve. The last six months he was failing from liver failure.
At the very end, I could see the frustration and embarrassment in his eyes for us having to help him with even the most basic activities, like getting up to go to the bathroom. This was a dog who in his prime could jump into the back of a pick-up truck with the tail gate up. He would unquestioningly take on any opponent I told him to, four legged or otherwise. When I was away on business, I knew my family was safe with him sleeping at the foot of their bed.
Fortunately, Jake passed quietly in his sleep. We never had to take that one last trip to the veterinarian.
I'm sure the feeling of helplessness and loss of control is the same with humans. Getting old sucks.
Australian Cattle Dogs were developed to herd large wild aggressive cattle in Australia. Weighing about 30 – 60 lbs, they are a mid-sized breed; neither too small or too large. They are known to be highly intelligent and fearless in the face of danger. They are fiercely loyal to those they love.
They also have a stubborn independent streak, useful when working in the outback away from the direction of their master. Ruby definitely has inherited this type of personality. Because of this, Australian Cattle Dogs require firm but understanding training. They are not for people unable to be the "alpha" of the dog/people pack. Timid personalities should get another breed.
As one acquaintance told me: "A heeler will be the best dog you've ever owned, or the worst…. there is no middle ground." I think that's true.
Bred to be able to jog tirelessly for hours at a time droving cattle, they are perfect for people with active lifestyles. Jake used to love when we'd go horseback riding or packing up in the mountains. When I look at Ruby, I see many of the mannerisms we used to love in Jake. It makes me sad and miss him; but happy that we have another in our lives.
I have had only a very few dogs whom I could speak English to like another human and have them understand most of what I was saying. Maybe not every word, but at least the meaning. I'd tell Jake what I wanted. Most of the time he had an idea of what I was asking. If he didn't understand, I'd show him and then he knew forever.
I hope Ruby will turn out that way also.
You know you have a true running partner when they watch videos of ultramarathons with you. Even my family won't do that unless I make them (and I've an extremely understanding family).
I've had many dogs look at the TV before. Perhaps they were curious about other animals or dogs. This usually lasted only a few minutes before boredom set in and they moved on to something else.
As I sat and watched a video about the Massanutten 100 mile trail ultramarathon in Virginia, Ruby laid on my lap and watched the entire movie intently. She was very interested in the parts that had humans running. I've never had a dog watch an entire movie with me.
We've just started doing some short runs together. Keeping her hydrated is one concern. Whenever I have ridden horses, worked cattle or run with dogs, I make sure we pass near a cattle water tank or stream to drink and cool off. Working dogs are so driven and focused on the task at hand that if you don't stop and remind them to drink, they quite literally may go until they drop.
However, in the arid Black Hills sometimes good water can be hard to find. As you can see in the video above, the water in my Camelback will hydrate both of us!
It'll be nice to have a friend come run with me. There are mountain lions here. Having another pair of eyes and a sensitive nose to watch my back is reassuring. Although there hven't been any mountain lion attacks on humans here unlike California, I don't want to be the first.
So far, we've only gone on 3 to 5 mile runs. She is still a pup and her joints, bones and connective tissue have not fully developed. Soon, she will join me on 10, 20 and even 30 mile runs. I won't be able to keep up with her then.
She's a good dog!
After finishing 2nd overall place at the PATOOT 10-k race a few weeks ago, I decided to do another short race.
The Runner's Shop, our local running store sponsors the Mystic Mountain 8 mile trail race (actually closer to 7.5 miles).
I decided to try it in my Five Finger KSOs. I admit that I am hooked to them. I can't run as fast in rocks because I must pick and choose my way carefully but I love how I can feel the earth beneath my feet.
For someone who is already slow, what's the problem with being a few minutes slower?
As usual, many noticed my unusual footwear and some asked me about them.
Maybe I'll start a trend?
I saw two colleagues, a nephrologist and a cardiologist, whom I know. It was nice to see people that I know from outside the running community. Now if only we could get more of our patients out and exercising, walking even.
The first few miles were on gravel road to the town-site of Mystic. As usual, the speed goats sprinted off. I'm used to more sedate starts. At ultras, even the elite begin at an easy relaxed jog. Of course a relaxed jog for them is speed training for me.
Along the way, I saw a guy who I had met at Lean Horse Hundred last year. He works for Fed-Ex. He was wearing the US Flag colors again, that is the only way I recognized him. He DNF'd at Lean Horse Hundred at mile 55 (I dropped at mile 65). He is planning on trying for 100 miles again this year so I'll see him at the race.
Hopefully we will both be able to do it!
The race soon left the gravel and headed up a single track, the Bright Angel Trail. Many took it fast, but I caught a few later as the tired.
My kind of running!
Parts of the trail were rocky and I had to slow down to pick my way. It hurts to kick a rock in shoes, in the KSOs you might break a toe. Ow! I don't want to do that.
One of the fun things about KSOs is that you can run right through mud puddles and streams. In shoes, you try to avoid water to keep from getting blisters. In KSOs, there is nothing to rub on and they are so light and minimal that they dry out in 50 yards or so.
As I came up one hill, suddenly I felt severe pain in my calf. I'd pulled a calf muscle!
I had never had anything like this before. I stopped and tried rubbing the pain out and stretching but to no avail. I was reduced to walking up the last big hill before the finish.
At the top, the aid station remarked how impressed he was that I was doing the race in KSOs. He would've been more impressed had I been actually running at that time.
He told me there were only two miles left and they were all downhill.
Running downhill did not hurt as much because it did not put as much stress on my calves and achilles.
Hmmmm…. I started jogging and then running. Even though it hurt, I was able to ignore it. All pain ends- eventually.
I decided to blast down that hill to the finish. I ended up passing five people (or was it six?) on the way down. I never get to do that in ultras. If someone is close enough for me to see, chances are we'll end up running and finishing together. Ultras are about running with and not against others.
My calves were tight and sore all week. Soaking in the hot tub, a few acupuncture needles, using the foam roller and taking naproxen helped.
So what happened?
I know exactly the cause: running down the rocky trail forced me up on my toes. Although that protected my heels, it stressed my calves and achilles in ways they had not been before. That overstressed them and eventually led to a pulled muscle.
As soon as I'm done with this post, I'll be out the door to do a 30+ mile long run. I can barely feel as if I did anything to my calves last weekend. I'll be wearing shoes today, my feet need a break. I love the KSOs, I might even try a 26.2m or a 50k in them someday. But as with anything new or different, I need to be careful to not be too overzealous and injure myself.
Fortunately, this seems to only be a minor acute injury. I can handle those- it's those nagging chronic overuse injuries that worry me the most. I'd be stir-crazy if I had to take weeks or months off from running entirely.
One morning this week, Jeanne and I walked down the driveway to my car so that I could head to work.
On the gravel was a small snake frozen in place hoping we would not see him. He was absolutely beautiful- striped black, red and yellow. It was a Red Milk Snake or Lampropeltis triangulum syspila!
As soon as he realized he was seen, he tried to slither away quickly into the tall grass.
I captured many snakes as a kid and even kept a few as pets. My parents were beyond understanding when it came to all the wild critters I brought into the house. I still remember fondly one of my favorites Clarissa a garter snake I had for a few years. The first year I had her, I woke up one morning to discover she had 24 babies overnight! (Garter snakes are one of the few species that produce live young instead of eggs). Each was a minature replica of their mother and adorable!
Thus, even though it has been over 20 years, my experience and memory of numerous past snake captures took over. I lunged towards the milk snake instinctively.
Once the snake realized that he couldn't get away, he curled into a little ball with his head underneath. When catching any snake the most important end is obviously the head. With the assistance of a small stick, I pinned his head between my thumb and forefinger and picked him up.
Within seconds, he relaxed. I sensed immediately that he would not bite and released his head. He curled around my hand. He tried to hide his head between my fingers where it was protected. I felt his tongue tickle my skin.
Poor little guy!
Milk snakes are nocturnal; he must have been a late getting back to cover. All small snakes are on the breakfast menu of many critters including large birds. I don't blame him at all for being frightened.
I ran upstairs and woke up my eight-year old. At first, he had sleepy eyes until he realized what I meant when I said I caught a snake and had it with me.
His eyes were wide open then!
After petting the snake and telling him how beautiful and cute he was, we took him back to the exact spot we had caught him. When he was released him to go on his way, he slithered slowly and carefully into the grass until out of sight.
I hope we get to see him again sometime. What a beautiful creature.
Milk snakes are harmless and non-venomous. They eat many things, but a favorite is rodents so they are considered a beneficial species. They get their name from the erroneous myth that they suck cow's udders to get milk. No one knows how that myth started.
Perhaps it is because they are often found in barns where they are hunting mice?
The bright coloration is mimicry of the poisonous coral snake to discourage predators. Unfortunately, many milk snakes are killed by the ignorant who think they are deadly coral snakes. The nearest coral snake to western South Dakota is in Arizona 700 miles away, not counting those on display down the road at the tourist destination Reptile Gardens .
When looking at the transverse bands of color, a simple mnemonic can assist in distinguishing between the the poisonous coral snake and harmless milk snake:
"Red touches yellow, kill a fellow.
Red touches black, venom lack."
Milk snakes are favorites of the pet trade because of their bright colors and calm demeanor. Between that, habitat loss and the killing of an unknown number of innocent snakes every year by stupid ignorant people, this species is in decline in some areas. Run on- but tread lightly and watch for snakes and other critters!
Milk snakes are favorites of the pet trade because of their bright colors and calm demeanor. Between that, habitat loss and the killing of an unknown number of innocent snakes every year by stupid ignorant people, this species is in decline in some areas.
Run on- but tread lightly and watch for snakes and other critters!
Over the 4th of July weekend, Haliku and Ashley came up to visit.
It was a lot of fun: good food and great company!
On Saturday Haliku and I went for a hike/jog on the trails of the Black Elk Wilderness. We started at Iron Creek Horse Camp, went up Grizzly Bear Creek and back down Norbeck Trail.
While we were running, Ashley, Jeanne and Nathan went to Custer State Park to see the bison and begging semi-feral burros.
I don't know what species of beetle these are. They seem to be having one heck of a beetle-orgy, copulating and eating rose petals at the same time.
I had not been on this trail for a few weeks. It is amazing how the number and types of blooming wildflowers change with time.
This is a western wood lily or Lilium philadelphicum. In some states it is endangered or threatened, due to overcollecting and loss of habitat. We saw several scattered through out the forest.
We stopped often to enjoy the scenery. Surprisingly, there we very few people on these trails and no one parked at the trail head, even though this was a holiday weekend. It wasn't until we got to Harney Peak loop that we saw more hikers.
For those of you who have been curious…
The rectangular mountain of granite is what the back side of My Rushmore looks like. Sorry, fans of Nicholas Cage and National Treasure: there is no secret chamber with gold. However, there is a vault that is supposed to hold copies of important documents and literature of Western civilization for future generations.
I wore my Vibram Five Fingers KSOs again for this run.
They did great but on particularly rocky areas I did have to slow to a walk and pick my way carefully. I only stubbed my toe once but a few times had a sharp rock poke into my arch. It hurt for a second until I pulled my foot off. The next day my feet were only mildy sore, as if I had simply done a good workout, rather than painful and trashed as I worried they might be.
An unexpected surprise was that once in a while grass, stems and flowers would get stuck between my toes. I had to reach down occasionally to pull them out. Look closely at the foot in the background and the leaf stuck between my big and second toe. This was only a mild annoyance more than anything else. Not enough to keep me from wearing them.
One nice thing about KSOs that I've discovered: I can run right through water and creeks and not have to worry about wet feet. Even while wearing Injinji wool socks, they dried out in 20 minutes.
If I had my shoes on, I would have been wet for much longer and at risk for blisters.
Hmmm…. I am beginning to really like these.
I stopped for a moment and played my Native Flute. It is a High Spirits Kestrel F# built by Odell Borg of Patagonia, Arizona.
After my experience at Javelina Jundred and the curious coyote listening to my flute last November, I regularly carry and play a flute while I run trails and ultramarathons.
On flat trails I can play it while I'm running. I don't play while running technical trails- well- because I really like my front teeth!
We ran a short time on the Harney Peak Loop and got to see some of the Needles before heading down the Norbeck trail. Some hikers saw my KSOs and were curious about them.
In the foreground, you can see some dead and dying pines. There is a severe infestation of Pine Beetles here and the outlook is not good. Much, if not most of the forest has been affected. One lightning strike and this all will go up in flames. I suppose that would cure the beetle problem but it will be generations before the pine forests return.
We headed down Norbeck. My feet were tender on the parts of the trail with especially sharp rocks so I spent much of the return choosing my foot placement carefully.
My toes felt as if they had been extended and stretched backwards during the uphill climb on Grizzly Bear Creek Trail. Although they were sore, it was the kind of pleasant soreness one might get after doing a good workout or stretch. Since running in KSOs, my plantar fasciitis has all but resolved. I think it is from the toe-stretching and constant massage from landing on irregular ground.
Only two miles from our vehicle I heard Haliku shout. He had turned his ankle on a rock. That's how it is with trail running, you're floating along one moment and then the next you are down and injured. After a short rest, we walked the rest of the way back. Hopefully, it's only a minor injury and he'll be back and running soon. Injuries suck!
Our total mileage was 12.9 miles. My feet were tired but felt OK. The next day they were only as sore as one would expect in muscles not used to a new workout.
This coming weekend 7/12 I've decided to run the Mystic Mountain 8 mile race as a training run. I think I'll do it in my KSOs. It will be a good way to see trails I haven't run on before as well as get to know more people in the local running community. If the trail is rockier than expected, no worries, I'll just go slow and carefully.
In addition to this personal blog on ultrarunning, I also maintain a professional blog on the website of the medical journal: Endocrine Today. Occasionally, my personal and professional interests intersect and I get to write a post about extreme endurance activity from a medical perspective.
I recently wrote a blog post at the Endocrine Today site reviewing the causes and treatment of exercise induced hyponatremia from a physiologic and medical perspective
For many years, at least through the 1960s, runners were advised to not consume any or very much water during runs. As the negative effects of dehyration were realized, the pendulum sung the other way and runners were encouraged to "Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!" without understanding that it might be possible to get too much of a good thing.
It wasn't until the mid-1980s and several deaths during and after marathons and ultramarathons that the potential dangers of too much fluid intake were recognized. Taking in more water than can be excreted results in hyponatremia or lowering of blood sodium (ie salt). In it's mildest form, exercise induced hyponatermia results in bloating, swelling and frequent urination. At it's worst, severe hypontremia can cause confusion, seizure and even death.
At first medical personell were unaware of the dangers of hyponatremia. When a runner was confused or collapsed, they automatically gave them intravenous fluids, assuming -incorrectly- that they must be dehydrated. After several deaths, it was realized that the IV fluids actually cause more harm than goodin many cases. Indeed, the IV fluids may have been the direct cause of several deaths by worsening the overhydration and hyponatremia.
Despite how well-informed runners now may be about the dangers of over-hydration and low blood sodium, I am surprised how many medical personel at races do not understand the implications of exercise-induced hyponatremia and how to manage correctly.
We must remember however, that most of the EMTs and other medical staff at races are not runners or endurance athletes themselves.
We were in Iowa for our niece Stephanie’s wedding. At the pre-wedding reception Friday night, I heard that as part of PATOOT, there was going to be a 5k and a 10k run the next day.
We were in Iowa for our niece Stephanie’s wedding. At the pre-wedding reception Friday night, I heard that as part of PATOOT, there was going to be a 5k and a 10k run the next day.
My wife’s hometown, Peterson, Iowa celebrates PATOOT or Peterson Annual Trip on Old Tractors every year. Locals bring their antique tractors to Main Street and then ride them in a parade around the community and on nearby back roads.
“What the heck!” I thought, “I’ve never run in an official 10k race before-why not do it?”
I was planning on doing 5 to 10 mile training run anyway; I decided to do the race instead. The proceeds go to benefit the local X-country team.
Since last week, I’ve been running in my new Vibram Five Finger KSOs on trails and gravel roads. My feet are slowing getting used to running without my toes scrunched together. I love how the KSOs allow me to sense the ground below me but without the pain of going completely barefoot. The best I can describe how they feel is: they are custom removable calluses for your feet. You can feel everything, every pebble and rock- but it doesn't hurt.
I only have had some trace soreness as the muscles of my feet and ankles adapt to this new way of running. I plan on writing a more full prduct review in a future post, once I run some more miles in them.
I was curious how the KSOs might handle on a paved road. Would my feet hold up? Would it hurt?
10k or 6.2 miles is normally barely enough for me to get warmed up. If the KSOs didn’t work out, it wouldn’t be a big deal. I’d just slow down, stop or even walk if I had to. Recalling my recent dismal performance at Bighorn, I thought dejectly, “of course, your pretty good at that.”
Most of the other runners were kids in their 20s or less. There were only a handful of us old farts over 40. We started at 8AM and the young speed rabbits sprinted off. After running so many ultramarathons, it is difficult for me to begin a race quickly, even when I know I’m only going a few miles. It takes me at least four or five miles before my muscles are even loosened up.
Slowly I passed several people as I found my stride.
A woman commented about how hard these hills are going to be. I smiled and glanced back, “These definitely aren’t hills!” I said, thinking about the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming last week.
One thing about KSOs, they force you to run with proper technique. No ground slapping or pounding the pavement with them. Doing that would chatter your teeth, rattle your brain, bruise your heels and shake every other part of your body.
On the other hand, running shoes allow you to run sloppy, land heel first and without paying attention to how you are landing. You might get away with being sloppy for awhile. However, even in shoes, after long distances such poor running technique will catch up with you.
I tried to stay on the soft shoulder when I could. When some of the gravel became too sharp, I moved temporarily onto the asphalt. The painted smooth white line on the hard asphalt felt good underfoot.
As we headed out of town, I saw a young kid in red shorts a few hundred yards ahead of me. He was pushing on and moving fast, “there’s no way for me to catch him,” I thought. We turned around at the 2 mile turnaround and headed back to town. Everyone else was in back of us and falling further behind.
With no one else near me, I decided to ease off on my pace a bit. Why rush when there’s no reason?
We passed back through town and I was surprised to when the kid with red shorts suddenly came up from behind me. I don’t know where he had gone, maybe a bathroom break? Maybe he had gotten side-tracked and missed a turn? His face held an expression of pain. I told him, “Looking good!” as he passed me but he could only muster a weak, “thanks” in return.
He moved ahead and even stopped to walk for a minute. As I caught up with him again, he started running.
I wondered, “Should I stay close behind and try fighting him for first place?”
“Nah, why would I want to do that? I’m having a really good day, I might as well enjoy it,” realizing that if I did try to race him to the finish, I’d be hurting at least as much as he was.
Go on; call me lazy if you wish. I don’t mind pain during ultras but this was just a training jog for me.
I thought, “He obviously wants this more than I do.” So I let him keep the few hundred yard lead he’d built on me.
As we turned around again and headed towards the finish, I saw the rest of the pack far behind us. I smiled, gave a “thumbs up” sign and shouted “Looking good! Run strong!” They smiled back at me.
I don’t know if encouraging other runners is proper 10k etiquette but I don’t care.
I am and will always be an ultramarathoner at heart; it does not matter whether I am running in a 10k or a 100k. Ultrarunners encourage all other runners whether we/they are in first or last place. We are all brothers and sisters; we’re in this together. We do not compete against one another but rather with each other. Ultrarunning is about the experience, facing adversity, learning about yourself and surpassing your limitations. Where you end up placing at the finish line does not matter: to finish is to win. It’s as simple as that.
Not far from the finish, I saw two 5k-ers walking. I slowed enough to talk with them briefly. None of the other 10k-ers was even close to me, so I chatted for a moment before I floated on to the finish.
Even though I had no reason to doubt it during most of the race, I was still surprised when I finished 2nd overall!
I prefer trails over roads and ultras over races on roads, but I definitely see the draw of these shorter races. After this race, I felt energized rather than exhausted as I am after an ultra. I had plenty of energy to enjoy the wedding and visiting with family. If I had run an ultra, I would have been too tired to do much more than sit, rest and eat.
The others were curious about my footwear. After the race I explained what Vibram Five Fingers are and what my limited experience with them thus far has been. My feet felt great after this, even despite running almost entirely on pavement. I only have a slight hot spot at the base of my big toe. That amazes me!
Perhaps running shoes are an unnecessary luxury as so many barefoot runners claim they are?
Perhaps the need for motion control, arch support and cushioning is a myth perpetuated by running shoe manufacturers to sell more shoes?
The race organizers and 5kers who were already finished, commented on how I had jogged in effortlessly not even breathing hard. They were right; I guess that's what happens when you train for a 50 mile race and go only 18 miles. Although I had run this 10k faster than I might for a usual weekend training run, I certainly didn’t give it my all- this was just a Saturday morning jog for me.
I wonder: could I have finished first had I tried harder? I don’t know. However, I do know that that young guy in the red shorts wanted it a heck-of-a-lot worse than I did- so he absolutely deserved it.
My performance at this race was a complete surprise to me. I definitely prefer surprises such as this where I do better than expected compared to the opposite kind of surprise as happened last weekend at Bighorn 50 mile.
I feel that I’ve redeemed myself, at least just a little, by how well I did at this race even if it wasn’t an ultra. After every DNF, the demons of self-doubt creep into your mind. Are you really cut out to be a runner? Who do you think you are entering these races?
Having many more miles under my feet, the sting of a DNF is not as sharp as it used to be but it’s still there. It doesn’t disappear until you redeem yourself in another race.
After this run, I smiled to myself and thought, “Gosh, I really AM a runner after all!”
Until next time my friends: run WELL and run STRONG!
Puzzled and surprised…
That's how I feel about my performance at the recent Bighorn Wild and Scenic 50 mile Trail Run.
I was very much looking forward to seeing the Bighorn Mountains again. When we lived in Wyoming, they were among my most favorite places to visit. A well-kept secret, the Bighorns are less popular of a destination than more well-known Wyoming mountain ranges such as the Tetons, Wind Rivers and the Absarokas. However, the Bighorns have it all: solitude, scenic views, wildlife, wilderness areas, trout streams, meadows of wildflowers, and miles of hiking trails- without the crowds.
We left home Friday morning. At the pre-race registration I was surprised by the number of other runners. This was because there were four races going on that weekend: 100 miles, 50 miles, 50 kilometer and 30 kilometer.
My family and I ate pizza and pasta at Ole’s Pizza house in Sheridan on Friday evening. It was nice having them along on this trip. When I go to many of my races, I often travel alone. Although I enjoy making new acquaintances and seeing friends, I always miss having my family with me.
The bus from Sheridan to the race start left at 3:15 AM, so there wasn’t much sleep for me that night. Of course, many believe that the sleep you get the night before a race is less important than the sleep you get the week before. As long as you are already well rested, one night of less sleep is not a problem.
I felt optimistic about the race. Over the past few months, I had trained hard, running my long runs in the Black Elk Wilderness and doing intervals up and down Harney Peak in the Black Hills to train for the downhill portions of this race. I wasn’t sick with a cold or bronchitis; the weather was going to be good. Although the elevation was going to be as high as 9,000 ft, I had done a large amount of my training at 6,000 – 7,000 ft.
My two previous ultras this spring: the 44 miles at the Antelope Island Buffalo Run in March and the Strolling Jim 40 mile run in May, gave me confidence in the depth of endurance to draw from. However, I knew that I would need every bit of it. Some say that the Bighorn 50 mile is as tough as some 100 mile races.
I never got to find out but the part I did see was very rugged and beautiful.
Our bus missed the turnoff for the race start. Even though that resulted in our race starting a few minutes late, it allowed us to see how close we were to the other side; only a couple of miles.
We really were about to run across the Bighorn Mountain range.
The race started at the Porcupine Ranger station. The Hundred milers had already come through earlier that morning.
For the 50 mile race, we had a final cut-off of 15 hours or an average of 18 minute/mile- which is the same pace as for many 100 mile ultras. Some of the cut-offs were adjusted however based on the terrain. For instance, our first cut-off was 5 hours at the Foot Bridge Aid Station at mile 18, or just over a 16 min/mile pace.
A gentleman sang a nice version of the "Star Spangled Banner" and then we were off at 6:07 AM.
We were only 7 minutes late, despite the bus getting lost.
Soon the sun was in our face as we headed east. We were just under 9,000 ft and there were still patches of snow a couple of feet deep.
We all tried hard to avoid wet marshy and muddy patches but it was an impossible task.
I tried to jump one stream but miscalculated and found myself thigh-deep in ice-cold water. That woke me up! If only someone had been video-taping the expression on my face as I hesitated a second before jumping out of the water.
Now that I was so baptized, I didn't care about keeping my feet from getting wet.
They were soaked!
I ran through the muddy areas kicking up mud all over me and nearby other runners. One girl lost her shoe and scrambled around trying to find it. Soon we all were wet and muddy and laughing at ourselves.
What kind of nut pays to run fifty miles in mountains losing shoes along the way?
We ultrarunners do!
I saw a few ultrarunners I had met at previous races. It was good to see them and meet some of their friends. Ultrarunners are a small, supportive, and tight-knit community. After a while we all get to know each other. If I don't know someone, chances are they know someone I do.. The Bighorn Runs are run through the wild and scenic Bighorn Mountains. Many of the aid stations are not accessable to vehicles and must be packed in on humans or animals. At one of the aid stations, the volunteers were still chuckling. They had llamas and the hundred-milers coming in the previous night has asked if they were really there or only a hallucination.
I saw a few ultrarunners I had met at previous races. It was good to see them and meet some of their friends.
Ultrarunners are a small, supportive, and tight-knit community. After a while we all get to know each other. If I don't know someone, chances are they know someone I do..
The Bighorn Runs are run through the wild and scenic Bighorn Mountains. Many of the aid stations are not accessable to vehicles and must be packed in on humans or animals.
At one of the aid stations, the volunteers were still chuckling. They had llamas and the hundred-milers coming in the previous night has asked if they were really there or only a hallucination.
Slowly we descended into the valley of the Little Bighorn River. I could see the canyons that lie ahead.
These valleys around us are the calving grounds of elk. I saw plenty of sign and tracks but no elk. I'm sure they were watching us from a distance
The scenery took my breath away and it wasn't the altitude. I love the mountains and the Bighorns especially.
I felt a sense of deep gratitude for the privilege of being able to be here and witness this beauty.
Soon we came to another aid station.
The volunteers saw my flute and asked that I play tune for them which I promptly obliged.
The volunteers saw my flute and asked that I play tune for them which I promptly obliged.
I had taken out my flute a few miles earlier and played a few short songs.
After my experience playing my flute at Javelina Jundred and the postive response from the other runners (and at least one curious coyote), I've decided to make carrying my flute a tradition during my races
I won't ever make a name for myself as a back-of-the-pack runner but I might as well serenade everyone with my music!
Just call me Kokopelli!
Suddenly, around mile 10, my lower gut started aching.
The ache became a sharp pain and then a constant knife-like cramp. With every step, it felt as if that knife was being thrust deeper and harder.
It was excrutiating.
I had never experienced anything like this before. It was not upper GI. I had no nausea and didn't feel like vomiting.
No, this was much lower than that. I had used the bathroom before starting the race that morning. I thought my blowels were empty. Maybe not so I went into the trees with hopes that if I went the bathroom all would be better.
Nothing came so I feebly attempted to run again.
If I walked, I could tolerate the pain- but just barely. It was constant rather than in spasms. Running downhill was the worst of all as my tender insides bounced around, They felt as if they were slapping painfully inside of me with each step.
I thought that perhaps if I ran faster something inside me would loosen, I'd get an urge to go to the bathroom and all would disappear- to no avail.
After gritting my teeth suffering in pain at a faster pace for 30 minutes, all seemed completely hopeless. I gave up and jog/walked as best as I could bear.
I had no idea what had caused this pain but there seemed to be no way to run through it. .
All around us the meadows were in bloom.
Despite my misery, the beauty around me was not missed. If anything, my forced slower pace allowed me to spend more time observing my surroundings and taking photos.
I took some photos of the yellow-sunflower-like blooms of the Arrowleaf Balsamroot.
Afterwards, I saw a tiny baby grasshopper perched on one of the flowers. I took a few close-ups.
Had my race been going better, I would have missed much of this as I sped past in a blur.
The trail was well marked with strips of orange fluorescent tape. Some years, the elk eat much of the tape within 24-48 hours.
The trail marker pictured above was tied to the rib of an elk skeleton. I wonder what type of individual had a sick sense of humor to do such a thing?
He/she must have been another ultrarunner.
We had several more stream crossings. Slowly the canyons wall narrowed towards us. The rush of the water became louder and the stream became a river.
The temperatures warmed up. I was glad when we entered the trees.
I kept thinking, "I must be in last place," but just when I was absolutely convinced I was, someone else came up from behind.
One woman thought the cut-off was at 10:30 AM and believed we had already missed it. I told her, "No, it's 11 AM, if you push it you can still make it."
She sprinted off never to be seen by me again. She must've made it because I never saw her at any of the following aid stations.
.We entered deep pine forest. I appreciated the shade. But my gut still hurt and I just could not pick up the pace. A guy I met on the bus, Wayne, came up from behind and we jogged together for a while before he too pressed on.. I caught him again only a short distance from the foot bridge aid station. We looked at our watches: it was almost 11 AM. Even if we pushed it, there would be no way to make it before cut-off, change into dry socks and shoes, refill our water bottles and be out of there by 11AM. We decided to take it easy and walk to Foot Bridge.. However, we were very surprised when we found it only a few hundred yards away.. Still, the time was 11:18AM. We thought we had missed the cut-off by 18 minutes but because we had not factored in the 6:07 AM start, we actually had missed it by only 11 minutes. Nevertheless, even had I made it to the cut-off and had time to do all I needed to, I'm not sure I would have gone on. The next vehicular access would have been at mile 34.5. Struggling 16.5 miles with severe GI pain of unknown cause was nothing I looked forward to. Still, it was embarrassing to stop at mile 18 of a 50 mile race. However, ultrarunners see the good in all things. There is always a silver lining, if only you know where to look. I saw Larry whom I had met at Antelope Island 50 mile in March. It was good to see him again although not because he dropped at the same aid station I did. I got to speak more with Wayne Not Afraid Sr. It turns out that we have run in many of the same races. We both run more for the experience than anything else. I don't know why we haven't met before. He is from Crow Agency, Montana and at 55, is the oldest member of his tribe that's a runner. However, he's gotten his family and others in his community into running. I hope I get to see him again! I called Jeanne and left the following voice mail on her cell phone: "I've got some bad news and I've got some good news: I'm not tired- so we can all do whatever else we want today- together." As expected, my symptoms vanished as soon as I stopped running.. The following day, on the way vack to home, we stopped at Devil's Tower National Monument. It was free day so timing could not have been more perfect. Had I run the full 50 miles, or even struggled on the next aid station at mile 34.5, I doubt I would have had the energy or desire to stop. But since I had only gone 18 miles, I wasn't tired at all. Devil's Tower is an igneous intrusion. Hot magma approached the surface- but never erupted. As the surrounding surface crust eroded away, the tower remained. The site is sacred to indigenous peoples. Their myths of it's creation often involve a giant grizzly bear trying to get at people or children with the earth rising to protect them. The sides were carved by the grizzly bear's claws.
.We entered deep pine forest. I appreciated the shade. But my gut still hurt and I just could not pick up the pace.
A guy I met on the bus, Wayne, came up from behind and we jogged together for a while before he too pressed on..
I caught him again only a short distance from the foot bridge aid station.
We looked at our watches: it was almost 11 AM. Even if we pushed it, there would be no way to make it before cut-off, change into dry socks and shoes, refill our water bottles and be out of there by 11AM.
We decided to take it easy and walk to Foot Bridge..
However, we were very surprised when we found it only a few hundred yards away..
Still, the time was 11:18AM.
We thought we had missed the cut-off by 18 minutes but because we had not factored in the 6:07 AM start, we actually had missed it by only 11 minutes.
Nevertheless, even had I made it to the cut-off and had time to do all I needed to, I'm not sure I would have gone on.
The next vehicular access would have been at mile 34.5. Struggling 16.5 miles with severe GI pain of unknown cause was nothing I looked forward to.
Still, it was embarrassing to stop at mile 18 of a 50 mile race.
However, ultrarunners see the good in all things. There is always a silver lining, if only you know where to look.
I saw Larry whom I had met at Antelope Island 50 mile in March. It was good to see him again although not because he dropped at the same aid station I did.
I got to speak more with Wayne Not Afraid Sr. It turns out that we have run in many of the same races. We both run more for the experience than anything else. I don't know why we haven't met before. He is from Crow Agency, Montana and at 55, is the oldest member of his tribe that's a runner. However, he's gotten his family and others in his community into running.
I hope I get to see him again!
I called Jeanne and left the following voice mail on her cell phone:
"I've got some bad news and I've got some good news:
I'm not tired- so we can all do whatever else we want today- together."
As expected, my symptoms vanished as soon as I stopped running..
The following day, on the way vack to home, we stopped at Devil's Tower National Monument. It was free day so timing could not have been more perfect.
Had I run the full 50 miles, or even struggled on the next aid station at mile 34.5, I doubt I would have had the energy or desire to stop.
But since I had only gone 18 miles, I wasn't tired at all.
Devil's Tower is an igneous intrusion. Hot magma approached the surface- but never erupted. As the surrounding surface crust eroded away, the tower remained.
The site is sacred to indigenous peoples. Their myths of it's creation often involve a giant grizzly bear trying to get at people or children with the earth rising to protect them. The sides were carved by the grizzly bear's claws.
We walked around the base of the tower and later through the prairie dog town.
They barked and whistled at us.
It was nice to spend some extra time with my family. They enjoyed not having to wait until my race was over at 8 or 9PM, then me being tired and grumpy the next day.
As I said- there's always a silver lining…
Once I got home, I thought more about my gut pain and DNF some more:
Why did this happen?
Is there anything I could have done to prevent it?
Will it ever happen again?
What is most worrisone for me is that without knowing why it happened, there's nothing I can do to keep it from occurring again.
Not sure of where to look- I consulted Tim Noakes' bible on all things running: "The Lore of Running."
He spoke of various reasons for lower GI pain and loose stools while running: lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, fructose consumption. I ate a bite of creamy spinach past the night before but doubt that could be the explanation.
Then there was mention of "cecal slap" where the colon gets irritated on running downhills, especially after running a prolonged and steep uphill. It sure sounded like what I had. The downhills definitely hurt worse than the flats. My bowels did feel as if they were slapping around inside me.
I've raced and trained on uphills and downhills and had never had this happen to me before.Some believe that food in the gut can make this worse. I did eat a breakfast but exactly the same as I normally do. They suggested avoiding breakfast entirely to see if symptoms improve.
That sounds fine for a 5-k or even a marathon, but I cannot contemplate starting an ultra on an empty stomach. However, if this recurs I may have no choice but to not eat breakfast and instead eat a hearty meal the night before.
Also, anti-spasmodics supposed to help but I'd prefer to avoid meds if possible. There is no way to know for sure how medication will react in a body dehydrated and exhausted from running an ultramarathon. For example, NSAIDs (ibuprofen and naproxen) are asociated with a higher risk of hyponatremia.
What would an antispasmodic do? No one knows.
Strange. Whatever this was, I hope it is a one time freak occurrence and I won't have to worry about it ever again.
The most annoying thing about this all was not that I DNF'd but that I was forced to stop before I was ready. I knew that there were miles of scenery out there I never got to see. I wish I didn't have to wait an entire year before I get another chance.
But I shall be back. This is a race I will plan on doing again- no matter if I finish or not.
As perplexing as this all is, I don't have too much time to think about it. Lean Horse is coming up in only a couple of months.