As I ran — make that shuffled — toward the finish line of my first 50k, I begged my stomach to accept, without a fight, the water I’d just given it.
It was about the time I saw the members of the Dallas Running Club on the final stretch — the winning female who had lapped me twice and was now resting comfortably included — that it all came back up.
For 50 yards or so I ran, unloading what seemed like buckets of undigested H20 in my path. I crossed the finish line and stumbled toward the sideline, puke continuing. A friend, Jose — not before taking a picture (these are how running friends are, folks) — helped me to a chair, where I sat with my head dangling between my knees.
A girl handed me a towel. A medic-type grabbed my arm.
Jose stepped away a minute and returned to tell me I hadn’t crossed the finish line.
“What the fu*k?” I say.
“Yeah, your tag (on the shoe) needs to cross the mat. You didn’t go over the mat.”
“Ah shit,” I muster.
I get up and stumble over to the mat and wave my right foot across it. There. It is done. 5:35. I told my husband I expected to finish in “a little over four hours – probably four and a half.” One of several stupid misconceptions I had concerning El Scorcho, the 10-times 5k-loop, in July, at midnight in Fort Worth Texas.
I was all set to start slow, at slower than nine minute per mile pace, but a storm came through Saturday night and the weather cooled to about 75 and I said to Paul, who would run with me, “Since it’s cool, we can run faster than planned. I mean, we can do 8:30-8:40s in our sleep, right?”
Paul — who I once considered a smart guy — agreed to this ridiculousness, which was in no way what we had practiced for.
It took about 12 miles (four El Scorcho laps) to recognize that that “pace-we-could-run-forever-pace”, was not a pace I could run forever. In about another three miles, my stomach was very queasy. As we embarked on the fifth lap, just halfway through, I threw up for the first time.
As we started the sixth loop, Paul began talking to me about my breathing and “toughness” and “hanging in there” among other bullshit. I started talking about quitting. “Plenty of good runners have dropped out of this race before,” I told him.
“You’re not dropping out,” he told me. He talked me through most of the seventh loop — stopping and walking through each water stop with me — “Just make it to the next light, he’d say. “We are going to do this in little sections,” he’d say — though he could have kept running at a good clip at that point.
But by mile 21-22, after I had lost the ability to keep down any fluid, Paul was telling me I should probably call it a night. I was scaring him. Each time we passed the start/finish point, I leaned down over my bag, guarded all night by Jose, to grab a towel or piece of ice, but I was really hoping that by leaning over I would lose consciousness whereby, through no choice of my own, I would be forced to lie down.
But I kept standing back up.
So I would start walking and next thing you know I’d be jogging again. Jogging-walking through water stops-jogging … by the last six miles, I was able to continuously
I simply stopped drinking anything so I stopped barfing for a while. Paul — who already had been suffering a bad case of plantar fasciitis — was barely able to walk now. I think if he’d not stopped with me, he’d probably have finished and would have been fine — this is a guy with a 4-hour-flat 50k under his belt. He told me to go ahead and in my extreme delirium and desperation to finish, I did. (I know. I am a jerkface and I am sorry, Paul.)
I knew I was too sick to stay out there any longer than necessary. At that point, I honestly believed there was a chance I could die. I saw my husband at the start/finish area and he’s all, “you did it” and I just walked over hugged him and said, “sorry, I still have about three miles to go.”
It was about a mile from the final finish that I could no longer resist the water. I was dying of thirst. So at that last aid station, knowing better, I slammed a full cup.
The result: the scene described at the front-end of this story.
After I got my damned foot over the finish line, I was hauled off to the medical truck where a nice guy stuck a tube in my arm and “bypassed my stomach”, giving me some essential fluid.
At one point when things were bad, Paul said to me, “I think you just get in these situations so that you have something interesting to blog about.”
Maybe it’s true.
No one wants to hear the braggadocios ramblings of a runner for whom things constantly go well (no offense ladies and gents, because I have friends and contemporaries for whom things seem to usually go well and I am actually very proud of them and I will surely write of them at another, better time); we don’t need to hear lengthy descriptions about how all went perfectly. Screw that.
My audience (Hey, Dad and my 4-6 friends!) wants the struggles, the pain, the violence, the dramatic horrifying puke-filled finishes. (Uh … right guys?)
I remember reading a book called, “Diary” by Chuck Palahniuk in which, if I remember correctly, an entire town collaborates to make the life of a young artist as miserable as possible, because “suffering is necessary to create art.” Do I believe that? Is that why I subject myself to such suffering? So I can someday write a masterpiece?
Hilarious. No, seriously. It sounds good, though. No, really, I just can’t get my shit together.
Nevertheless, one of these days, when I do have a perfect race, you will only need look back on this (or this) and you will understand that I paid my dues.