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Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Des Plaines River Trail Race 50 Miler – October 20, 2012
I went to Chicago with big goals. The short version: I didn’t meet my big goals. While I’m incredibly disappointed with how the race turned out – or, rather, didn’t turn out – I still feel fortunate to be in a position to take a stab at something as big as a master’s world record. And, I think that I’ll be able to turn things around and take another shot at it. But, first, inquiring minds want to know what happened.
The race started out fine. The first mile, I cruised along and felt light as a feather: 7:10. The second mile felt the same: 7:06. I decided to force myself to slow down a little because 7:00 to 7:15 miles were fine, but if I picked up the pace at all, I would be toasted. I slowed it down closer to 7:30 for a few miles and still felt good. But, around mile 8 I started to have a little bit of lower GI upset. Okay, I thought, I’ll just pay attention and hopefully it will be one of those funny little things that come and go in an ultra-marathon. Within another mile or two, it had gotten worse. I went through ten miles in 73:31 and the pace still felt very easy. I was barely even breathing hard.
I had to make a lower GI upset pit stop right after the ten mile mark. Okay, I thought, maybe I’ll start feeling better now. In the next five miles, I had to make two more pit stops for the same reason. By mile 16 (1:59:04) I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to run through whatever was going on. And, even though I was getting in lots of fluid with electrolytes, I could feel that I was getting dehydrated. I was losing too much fluid with the lower GI problem. My quads started to get sore. I felt cold and then hot and then cold ….
This is the point in a race where you start to wonder if there is anything that is salvageable. I tried slowing the pace. I tried singing to myself. I tried drinking fluids more slowly. I tried everything I could think of while still moving forward. And, as luck would have it, right after the 16 mile mark, there were no more mile marker signs. I had no idea how much I had slowed, so I just kept going forward. Oh well, it was no use to look at my watch.
Somewhere around mile 21 or 22 I had to make another lower GI pit stop … good grief, would it ever end?! I heard some cyclists rounding the curve behind me and heard them exclaim, “Yes! It is! Ha ha ha, you’re right ….” Could it get any worse?! Not only did I have this GI problem but now some cyclists had come around the corner and spotted me and were laughing. I started back running and just wanted them to go on by. But, of course, as they drew closer I could hear them slowing down. I wouldn’t look over because I was too embarrassed. And, then, one of them says, “Hey Missy.” I turned to look and it was my teammate Bob Schrank! And his wife, Joy, was with him. What a blessing! And, an even bigger blessing was that they had been so animated because they had spied a TT1 jersey and knew it was me! I was embarrassed for nothing – even more joy!
I told Bob and Joy what was going on. They asked how everything else was. That’s when I realized that my right foot was in terrible shape, “I think my right foot is bleeding.” Bob replied, “It can’t be too bad because your shoe isn’t red on top.” Okay, that’s one way to look at it. Bob rode up ahead to the Wadsworth Road canoe launch where my crew was waiting for me. It would be the 26.4 mile mark. By then I was nauseous, too, so there was no way that I could continue. With diabetes and insulin, nausea is a race stopper because if I can’t take in fluids and carbs, I can’t continue running. It was over. Joy rode with me while Bob rode up ahead. Joy was great company and it was so nice to have her stay with me. I have to admit that I think I now have the biggest girl-crush on Bob Schrank’s wife! She is funny and witty. She is super nice. She’s so cute.
I arrived at Aid Station #9, mile 26.4, at 3:18:08 and stopped my watch. I paced around for a few minutes to quell the nausea a bit. Then, I sat down on the ground and took off my shoe to get the blood out. The two toes on my right foot that were bleeding had been the least of my concerns with the GI problems. Bob Schrank took a picture for me. Leave it to my teammate to think my bloody foot was cool!
To say that I’m disappointed is an understatement. But, I think I can still share some great information about my prep for the race, my training, and my post-race recovery. I also want to emphasize that, as always, I was very cautious about my decisions during the race when I started to have GI problems. I decided to continue after my GI problems began because at first I could still take in fluid and carbs and because my blood sugars were remaining stable. As far as the foot problem, it was related to a blister from a few days prior and the taping job that had cut open the neighboring toe. That’s not so much an injury as it is a discomfort for which everyone has their own personal breaking point. It’s not a show-stopper in my book. I had to go through a continuous process of evaluating and re-evaluating things when I started to have the tightness in my quads because I knew that meant I was getting dehydrated from the GI stuff. Once the nausea showed up, I knew that was it. I will run through a lot of things, but trying to run through nausea when you are on insulin is not wise. If you can’t take in fluid and carbs, you are placing yourself in a dangerous position. Nausea is a race-stopper for the longer events.
Despite the disappointing end, there were some really positive aspects to note. For instance, I’ve learned over the years to be intensely disciplined about my blood sugars leading up to race day. Good blood sugar control in the days leading up to a big race can make a huge difference in how I perform. I’ll give a short summary. On Thursday, two days before the race, my blood sugars were 102 at wake-up, 68 after a 13 mile run, 168 after lunch, 107 at dinner, 188 after dinner, 77 after 32 minutes on the elliptical, 109 at bedtime, 63 when I woke up in the middle of the night. On Friday, the day before the race, even with travelling my blood sugars were near-perfect. My blood sugar was 93 at wake-up, 139 after breakfast, 111 on the plane, 96 after the flight, 139 after lunch, 70 after a 10 mile easy run, 111 at dinner, 109 after dinner, 92 at bedtime, and a 46 in the middle of the night that I treated with 2 glucose tabs and 2 bites of a Clif bar. I woke up on Saturday morning, race day, at 107. I finished 26.4 miles of the race with a blood sugar of 79.
How do I keep my blood sugars so tightly controlled during the lead-up to a race? There are two very important tools: checking my blood sugar very often and practicing corrections and food responses. If I have worked hard to build up my glycogen stores during training, they are pretty much topped out just before a race. You can’t do much to change your glycogen stores in the days before a race, so in order to keep my blood sugars in check, I eat light and limit my food choices to things that I know through practice will work well. I avoid high glycemic index foods. I pick up on an upward trend right away because I’m checking so often. I know that I need extra insulin when I get on a plane. I limit caffeine. I add fat or protein to everything I eat to slow digestion. These are all things that I’ve learned through practice.
For my race recovery, I take extra basal insulin for two days and limit rapid-acting insulin. My body will have a lot of lactic acid and other metabolites to clear and those substances can make me insulin resistant. But, I can have unexpectedly fast reactions to my rapid insulin. So, upping the basal and lowering the rapid keeps me somewhere in the middle. Middle is good. I push fluids. I happen to love carbonated drinks, so I drink a lot of club soda in order to get some plain water back into my system. I should limit coffee but I already did that to myself leading up to my race, so I cave in the days afterward. I also eat a lot of complex carbs like brown rice, multigrain flatbread, oats, etc. and try to take in extra protein in a variety of forms (i.e. eggs, chicken, cheeses, fish, etc.). A favorite post-race thing for us to do is bake a quiche with a whole grain crust and to bake pumpkin soufflés for desserts. It makes the house smell great and gives us some nutritious food to recover with that we can just pull out of the fridge and reheat quickly.
Even though the race didn’t go well, I have built a huge aerobic fitness base and I think I can turn this around and get in one or two really good races before the end of the year. Thanks to everyone for their support! I’m sorry if I disappointed any of you out there, but I’ll do my best to make up for it!