It's 2:45 am on September 20th, and I hear the morning song playing from the speaker on my phone. I've had a few hours of fitfull sleep in a shared hotel room with my family, as I anticipate the start of the final attempt for a 100 mile completion in 2014.
I spring out if bed, quitely dress, and then walk out the door to meet the other runners in the lobby of the Graywolf Inn in West Yellowstone, Montana.
Soon Jay Batchen calls out "5 minutes until start time" as about 60 runners scramble out the door and line up at the start line. 5-4-3-2- and the race has begun. We all start together to end on our own own journies. It's 4 am, and I am grateful that it is not as cold this year as it has been in years past. This is my third attempt at this 100 mile course in general, and my 8th time attempting a 100 mile distance course. If I finish, this will be my first finish since attempting the first 100 mile course, the Bear 100 in 2009.
I think back through my failed attempts and the work I have done to try to find anawers and cure my body of dysautonomia, and the disadvantages to running that come with it. Ironically, I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tacycardia Syndrome (POTS), about a week before I met Lisa Batchen for the first time. Lisa was running through Utah, during her 50 miles in 50 states run, and I joined the group for her last few miles at Liberty Park.
During the Spring of 2010 I was prompted to see Dr. Elizabeth Joy after I started having some difficulties in everyday functioning and experiencing serious hydration issues, which you can read more about in archives posts , regarding POTS. Two days before I had joined Lisa at Liberty park, I had finished what would me my last succesful 50 mile finish for a few years, at Squaw Peak 50.
Now here I was in 2014, attempting Lisa's course for the 3rd time and hoping that my year of training with her,
and my dedication to healing my body would pay off today enough for a buckle. I felt confident as I started to pass,1 ,2, and then finally 3 people! The reason this was exciting to me was because after my POTS crash in 2010, I experienced a few years of becoming a speed outlier- meaning that because of POTS, I was no longer at the middle of the pack, but sometimes several hours behind the back-of-the-pack.
I made my way to the continental divided, and soon the sun was rising and I crossed the Montana border, into Idaho.
The sun is up and the day starts to warm up, and the unplesentry of direct sun exposure begins. However, I am grateful because I am not experiencing the severe nausea and headache I have in the past when being under the direct light with no escape. I pass the second checkpoint, at mile 25, and begin emphasizing keeping my core body tempurature cool, in order to keep my body from experiencing unstable blood pressure drops and raises that slow me down and leave me feeling dizzy and week. I dip a buff in ice water and put it in my head , I tie a neck band with cooling beads on, and I feel good as I make my way toward the turn off at mile 37.5. I feel confident and I control my speed and the hills that seamed difficult in the years past seem very mild today. I hit the aid station at mile 37 right before 2pm and take a few minutes to prepare for then next climb. By this point I am retaining too much water and so I forgo the salt and potassium directly in my water this time, because I'm feeling restricted slightly in my breathing that comes with not eliminating enough of the water I intake.
I arrive at the first aid station and I am 15 % through the course. I feel good so far, and as the sun comes up I hope I have done enough to increase my tolerance to sun exposure. Because I have POTS, I have insensitivity to direct sunlight and warmer temperatures. I also have difficulty maintaining proper electrolyte balance in my body. To improve my tolerance I have started supplementing with a product called Q96, and it seems to have helped my heat and sun tolerance issues. I mix salt capsules and potassium directly into my water with amounts varying based on altitude and tempuratures I am running through. In 2010, when I was diagnosed with POTS, I was seeing Elena Yorgason, an athlete and dietitian who has worked with the US Olympic ski team, and had done a lot work determining my sweat rate, base metobolic rate, and sodium/potassium hydration balance. We had determined that most of the time I should always mix electrolytes with my water to avoid serious hydration issues I had experienced during my first 100 mile attempt.
Now I'm always playing a fine line between maintaining a proper level of sodium and potassium, which I need in much higher ammounts then the average person, and the unplesent side effects of increased sodium intake on my stomach and gastro-intestinal system. This is what I will be gadging all day long.
Because of these issues, I have to carry a lot of things with me, making my hydration pack heavier than I would like it to be. However, I've learned that a heavier pack and being prepared with what I need to correct my body if it gets out if balance is critical to successful running.
The next 14 miles are a bit rough as I have some stomach issues and am having a start of the breathing constriction. Around mile 45 I decide it is time to incorporate albuteral, which I carry and use very judiciously when my breathing becomes constricted. I'm able to eliminate enough fluid that by mile 51 I'm feeling better.
The stomach issues cost me an hour off my time. I had been hoping to reach mile 51, 2 full hours before the cut off , but instead I reach it 1 hour before the cutoff, or 15 hours into the race. Still, this time is faster than in years past , and I'm still feeling well, as I move on.
Having a little more difficulty through the canyon I reach mile 60 with only 2 hours to hit the next aid aid station at mile 71, and I need to speed up. In order to accomplish this, Jeff, my husband and crew goes ahead of me one mile at a time and I make a head game if cat- mouse , pushing up and down hills. I reach the checkpoint 10 minutes after the 2:30 am cuttoff, and receive permission from Lisa to continue on the course.
However, now my body has a shutdown moment. Suddenly my breathing is very constricted and I'm feeling lightheaded and dizzy, especially on hill climbs. At this point I face the harsh realization that I don't have the ability to go faster without compromising my breathing more, and am probably going to be coming in beyond the 32 hour cuttoff. I struggle feeling defeated and forlorn again about the reality of POTS and it taking away another 100 mile hope from me. I walk a few yards up the hill and then I drop to all fours and moan in defeat. Then I stand up and push up a few more yards and drop again and I'm yelling and singing strange words with no context into the night in attempt to open up my lungs, and make breathing a littler easier. I had made the mistake of using one to many doses of albuteral and for the next 4 hours until it wore off, it made climbing the hills more difficult. Six hours minimum between doses I decide! If I use it at all.
I hit mile 77 as the sun rises around 6:30am, the past four hours only being able to progress 6 miles, and I want to give up. I go through every logical reason to quit and what I'm going to say to everyone about why I couldn't continue. I tell Jeff I am done, and he starts to drive me away, and then in a quarter of a mile I tell him "no stop!" Go back. I do this 4 or 5 times, and finally grab a bottle of Deep Blue rub, and as I'm rubbing it on my calves I decided to rub it all over my chest and back, and my breathing starts to become a little easier. I get out of the car and walk slowly and realize that if I keep a slow pace, that is like a meandering walk and don't push my breathing I can do this without the lightheadedness. So I walk up to the car again and tell Jeff to be prepared for a long day, to go get some sleep, and just check on me every two hours, but that I was not quiting.
I see Lisa's van and tell her she can close the aid stations but I'm continuing and I will see her at the finish around 4-5pm tonight. I also ask my mother to come up and pace me the last few miles of the course, and she makes arrangements to drive up from Utah.
I am in much better spirits, and even though I had Jeff get all my drop bags, the aid station at mile 81 decided to hold out for me and I reached mile 81 around 10:30 am, about 90 minutes before the official race cut off. The next 10 miles were very difficult. My lungs had difficulty with both steep down and uphills, and more so on the downhills. I could only maintains a pace of 2 miles per hour, and when I had 14 miles left , I had to take an hour break to recover my lungs and close my eyes a bit. At 14 miles it was about 1pm and I had now been awake and moving for 31 hours.
I continues on, slowely, and finally around mile 89, about 4pm, I see my mother climb out of my van and she starts walking with me.
We slowely walk and reach mile 91.5 around 6:30pm. There are 8.50 miles left, and we march on. I'm feeling sick and week again, and start to feel confusion and we reach the turn off at the dirt road. One of the other runners who had finished hours before came out to try to encourage and meet me, and unfortunately was in a car accident right in front of me as he crossed the road.
I was very very grateful he was not injured and felt terrible that he was in an accident while coming out to try and support me. I had to continue on, and as darkness approached my breathing became more difficult again.
Around mile 95 I started experiencing hallucinations, and gatoraid started
tasting like pure acid to me. I also started to lose feeling of sensations in my skin where I had rashes that were burning, I could no longer feel the irritation. There is a difference between discomfort, and intuition telling you to stop immediately. My Intuition was saying there was a problem I needed to address immediately . So I stopped around mile 97 and did some internet research on my phone and figured out that most likely due to restricted breathing and the fact that I had stopped eating protein for two hours I was experiencing a combination of metabolic and respiratory acidosis. I consulted my uncle who is a Dr., and started drinking water mixed with potassium bicarbonate ( because I had no sodium bicarbonate that he recommended), and starting eating small ammounts of protien.
It also started raining really hard and the tempurature dropped, so I decided to stop for the night on the course and rest in the van as I waited for the rain and lightening to stop and my body to recover. During the night I eliminated cups and cups of fluid, and finally the rain tell up, and the sun rose for the third time.
It was now September 22nd, and it happens to be my birthday! What a glorious sunrise for a birthday, and hey, I'm going to finish 100 miles on my birthday. I make my way down the final half mile of the dirt road, and enter the highway 2.5 more miles to the finish. Several times I have tears in my eyes as I realize, I'm finishing 100 miles. But I quickly bite my lip to stop crying as I don't want the cars passing by to stop and ask me if there is a problem and get me out of my rhythem.
So now it is 9:07 am actual time when I cross the finish line. Exactly 53 hours after I started this adventure. I am grateful and have no words as I realize I just did my first 100 miler! I hope with many more to come, and much faster the next time around.