Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Run - July 17, 2010

I had great expectations for myself going into the TRT 100 Mile. I was not selected from the lottery to run WS 2010, but I had the pacing opportunity of a lifetime to pace Mark Lantz at WS 2010. Coming off of training with Lantz and Skaden, I was very excited for the big day at the TRT 100 confident I would have a strong finish.

As many of you know, many times races do not go as hoped for. My wonderful supportive wife was with me at the 5 am start time. I quickly settled into a comfortable pace ready to run smart and finish strong. At the 11 mile aid station before dropping to the Red House Loop, I grabbed a handful of cantaloupe and continued down the trail. I took about 5 bites or so until my brain registered that something didn't taste quite right. The cantaloupe in my hand did not taste very good at all. I spit out what was left in my mouth and when I looked at the remaining pieces in my hand I realized it looked off color and pretty squishy. Not thinking much of it, I tossed it aside and continued running.

On my way down to the Diamond Peak aid station, about mile 25 into the race, I started feeling a sharp pain in my lower stomach. I knew I handle elevation really well, so I thought it may have been some gas cramps or something minor like that. At the Diamond Peak aid station, I ate a little and said hi to Holly. After the quick stop, I headed up the steep climb. By this point it was late morning and the sun was starting to beat down on me climbing up the exposed ski run. This section really churned my stomach to a mess. Once I reached the top I knew something was wrong with my stomach.

I progressed from one aid station to the next, but found myself quickly losing my appetite and slowing down. My stomach got worse and worse. I finally could not eat anymore and was just praying I could throw up to get rid of whatever was in my stomach to re-start. No such luck. I began taking longer breaks at the aid stations, and noticed a handful of other people also with stomach problems. I never give up and am always determined to finish whatever I start even if it takes me forever, but this time I really wanted to drop out at Mile 50. At Snow Peak aid station approximately Mile 44 or so, I had made up my mind that I was going to drop at Mile 50 checkpoint as there are only two spots to drop the entire race. I walked much of the downhill towards the Mile 50 mark. I finally puked just a tiny bit about a mile from the 50 Mile aid station. This was a welcome relief, but I could tell there was still much to come. I had no idea how much would be coming though.

When I got to the 50 medical check I had already lost 10 pounds, very close to the cutoff of being able to pull me from the course. Coming into the aid station I had already made up my mind that it just wasn't my day and I was going to drop. Mark Lantz was there at the aid station with Holly waiting there to be my "safety runner" from mile 50 back to Diamond Peak. When I approached Mark, I had the look in my eyes of "no matter what you say, I am going to drop." Without saying anything, Mark looked at me straight in the eyes and communicated "Come on Pansy, don't even think about it. We are going to get through this." And just like that, he strapped my headlamp on me and helped me grab a couple things to eat. He knew I was messed up as I took a lot longer than expected, but he made sure I knew not to let it show to Holly and her family that was there so they wouldn't worry.

Mark and I took off, and just as we turned the corner out of site, I puked again, but this was very productive coming from deep within my stomach. After that was out, I felt much better and we took off. We had some good speed for about 30 minutes or so and then again, I had a puke attack. This was the beginning of a very long night. Long story short, I would puke a few times every half hour. All the contents in my stomach were emptied each time. When we got to aid stations, Mark was trying every concoction he had up his sleeve to cure me of my sour stomach, but nothing was working. Right when I left the aid stations, my body would immediately reject the nutrition I had just put in there. At mile 70 or so I was becoming severely dehydrated and weak. It took every once of strength and morale to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Mark did a great job as always keeping pressure on me through his words to keep moving.

We finally made it back down to the Diamond Peak Aid station at about mile 83 around 2:30 am or so. There I met up with Holly, Rena Lantz, and Erik Skaden. It was a great sight to finally see all of them again. By this point I was still about 10 pounds under my starting weight and still could not keep any fluids or food in.

Eric Johnson trying to "keep it in" at Diamond Peak aid station (aprox 83 miles) with Mark Lantz at 2:20am.

Before I got too cold, Holly and Erik rushed me into the lodge and had me lay back in a reclining chair and threw a bunch of blankets on me. Erik brought me some broth to try and get down, so I sat there for about 5 minutes. I soon began to shiver uncontrollably, so Holly and Erik stripped me from my sweat drenched jersey and dressed me in my long sleeved performance shirt. While Holly, Erik, and Rena were taking care of me, Mark was briefing my friend Lamont Hurren on my condition and his task at hand to help me make it to the finish line by motivation and not letting me give up. As the fear of hypothermia setting in began to grow, they all kicked me back out onto the trail to leave the aid station and continue my journey.

Eric Johnson and Erik Skaden at Mile 83, Diamond Peak lodge approx 2:30 am

Erik grabbed my broth and walked with Lamont and I up the steep ascent up the face of the ski run. I was still so weak, at this point all I could do is walk about 100 feet then, lay flat on my back on large granite rocks for a few minutes until I had enough strength to walk another 100 feet or so up the hill. Each time I stopped, just taking a very tiny sip of broth per recommendation of Erik. Each time I was about to puke, Erik and Lamont made me stop and focus hard on keeping it in.

Erik turned back to the lodge after about a half mile, and Lamont and I continued pressing up the hill. It seemed like forever! The ski slope never ended. Finally I made it to the top. Taking Erik's advice I actually made it to the top without puking, but that was short lived. The vomiting continued again very shortly after we got to the top and I tried running again. It was to the point, where vomiting actually felt very good and I looked forward to it, cause after I vomited I could run for about 5-10 minutes before my stomach felt really bad again.

Lamont decided I had better take a little more time at the main aid station about 13 miles from the finish. He had me drink fluids and just sit in the chair for about a half hour so my body could at least absorb something. We stay there for about a half hour, then continued on. Of course the vomiting continued once again. By this time the sun was barely starting to come up as it was already 5:30 am the next morning. Before the race started the morning before, I was hoping to have already finished by that time!

I was still very weak and dehydrated, but we pressed on. I continued vomiting, walking, and taking breaks to lay flat on my back for a few minutes on the huge granite rocks. I was surviving solely on my Clif Shot Gels and any kind of fluid I could get. This continued until we made it back up to the Snow Peak aid station. I got there at about 8:00 am or so. Some fellow Boy Scouts were there and one offered me some strawberry frozen yogurt. Desperate for anything that would stay in my stomach, I ate some. As I sat in the chair eating the frozen yogurt, I realized my stomach was now finally accepting it again. Astonished, I decided to try drinking from my Camelbak bottles again. I was able to now keep fluids down! Excited I sat there for another 10 minutes just stuffing my face to get some energy back.

Lamont and I took off. This was the turning point. The food poisoning that was causing so much misery was finally going away 24 hours later. With my stomach now processing food again, I had a new found energy. With only 7 miles left and much of it downhill, Lamont and I took off towards the finish line as fast as I could. Since I wasn't able to run a lot up to this point, my legs still felt pretty fresh. We picked up the pace hitting close to 7 minute miles. We kept that going all the way down the hill and to the finish line catching and passing about 6 people. We came in with a strong finish, happy it was over. I finished 24th overall with a time of 28:30 hrs, which qualified me for the silver belt buckle. I weighed in still under 10 pounds, but my legs still felt very good as I was not able to run much. That was a very disappointing feeling for me to know that there was so much more I could have pushed, but was not able to due to the food poisoning.

At finish still 10 pounds under starting wieght.

Being the true public accountant that I am, I counted approximately 42 times total that I puked! I never ever have to puke. All in all, this was a race I will never forget. I learned several things about myself that I do not think I could have ever learned otherwise. One is how powerful mind over matter really is! And how with strong determination and will power, you can accomplish anything in life that you set your mind to. I really had to dig deep! This experience has allowed me to help motivate others and has provided a great story that I have already had to privilage to share at Boy Scout Encampments, Youth Groups, and Young Women's groups.

A huge thank you to my wonderful wife Holly, Mark, Erik, Rena, and Lamont! I couldn't have hung in there mentally without all of you! Until next time! Keep it real!

Eric Johnson and Lamont Hurren at finish!

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