My First UltraRace Experience
So I wanted to take time and recap my adventure or should I say journey to complete my first ultra marathon. Well it was actually my first marathon as well.. The main difference between a marathon and a Ultra Marathon is that they are mostly held on trails.
So what did Mayflower and YHC decide to tackle for my first 50K. Well it had to be one of the most challenging 50k courses with over 5200 feet of gain hitting the top of table rock mountain.
So about that training leading up to the TableRock Ultras event I thought it went well. I was dealing with an ankle injury since around P200 time and was pretty worried about that. So my training started out around may with a huge 52 mile week with some climbing at Crowders. After that first week my ankle started giving me major problems which I was really worried about.
So in May I completed 148 miles, then june and july I dropped down to 84 miles and 91.9 miles. So I ended up at Celanese Chiro to get my ankle back on track. In that time I was able to complete the Xterra Trail series. In that series I became the age division champion which is pretty cool, and I got invited to UTAH for the championships which I knew I could not make.
That led me to August where I logged 170 miles and then September the month of the 50k leading to 106 miles due to taper.
My last six weeks of training consisted of 40+ mile weeks with mostly road running(Which I would advise more trail for those doing this in 2018).
So to the good stuff the race itself!
I took the day off friday to get prepped grab a couple of last minute items. Also stopped by Celanese Chiropractic to use the compression boots to finish out my taper. I totally recommend those things for any big race you have coming up! It will flush out lactic acid build up and make your legs FRESH!
I picked up Stan(Mayflower) and we were off to the Steele Creek Camp site in Morganton NC where the race was to start. We were able to get setup early and have our tents ready to go before many other people arrived.
We took a trip back to town to pickup water and had dinner at Abele’s restaurant. Generally before race’s I will have mexican food, I know sounds like a bad idea but it works. However we had southern food which was good but still not everything I wanted.
We then went to pick up our race packets which led us to meet a couple of Pax from The Metro. As racers began to show up I started to notice that this race was full of super fit individuals. Of course that led me to start to panic knowing that I may have not trained to the best of my ability for this race.
Mayflower and I headed back to camp, chatted about the next day, then went to our tents to sleep. I have not camped out for a long time and my air mattress started to deflate through the night. That is where I did not realize my race would take a turn for the worse.
That morning I woke at 5:45am got dressed and started getting my race vest on, then had a Full Throttle Energy drink. I neglected to eat anything(another bad mistake).
I got Mayflower and myself checked in, then soon the time was there to arrive at the start. Feeling confident and unconfident at the same time they played a banjo to start the race! We were off.
I knew that I would not be able to stay with mayflower for long but he did share the first mile or so with me of the race. We first darted across a grass field and into the forest. Shortly through our first river crossing people were freaking out. I tried to avoid getting wet feet but that was not going to be the case. We hit multiple downhills for the next good bit and mayflower was out of sight and I was own my own for the rest of the race. Of course that meant it was time to make some friends. So we passed the next river crossing, I had an emergency bathroom stop after the crossing.
I quickly made friends with a lady from Raleigh and a guy from gaffney. We carried on together up to the first aid station. We had covered about 6 miles in the first hour and a half. I failed to mention that aid station was an uphill run and then back down. Coming up the that hill to the first aid station came Mayflower crushing the downhill!! Gave him a high five and kept trucking with my new found group. The guy from Gaffney ended up messing up his knee so he kept back but still remained with us in a follow. Laura from Raleigh stayed with me as we were able to bomb the hill and make some progress. We were met with several race vets that gave us some insight all the way to the next aid station.
Great thing we did meet up with some vet’s as they gave us the push to continue moving forward. As we quickly ticked through the next two aid stations I realized I had not been able to eat. The ability to eat is super important in a Ultra Race because of the long time of the race your body needs to refuel constantly. I had failed to realize this as I was taking on Gatorade, Coca-a-Cola and water but no food.
Rounding out to the next aid station I started to notice I was not feeling well. It was time to climb Table Rock and it was about two miles to the top. Within the first five minutes I began to throw up and struggled to climb a few feet. I sat down at least three times in the first 100 feet. Then I threw up several more times. I knew that I was in bad shape but somehow managed to power on. Then about a half a mile into the climb I began to cramp. My legs literally locked up so bad I had to sit down.
As I saw more and more runners coming down from completing the summit of Table Rock I realized that I may never make it to the top of the mountain. Many F3 guys passed down the mountain, and many folks stopped to check on me. It was at that moment I realized how lucky I was to be sharing this experience with runners that day. Many folks stopped and gave me water, salt tablets and electrolytes. I was so impressed by the amount of runners coming through and the spirit they exuded in the race.
Finally I was done with cramping for about the fifth time I was starting to make my way. Another runner named Lou McLean came by just power hiking away. She encouraged me to keep moving. In the moment I got up and kept trucking with her leading the way for me. She said she would need help getting up a large rock coming up. Apparently she did repeats on this climb to train for this race. Not to mention that she has been trail running for quite a while, and has a impressive resume! So up and over the boulder we helped each other up. Not only that but she also battles vertigo which should make this feat even more impossible.
Her spirit was enough to keep me going to the right below the summit of table rock. At that point I felt like giving up again but Lou and another guy on the trail motivated me to keep pushing.
I finally made it to the top of Table Rock, the cramps in my legs hit again. Luckily at the top volunteers were there to take pictures for us. So I sat and stared off to what I had accomplished.
I knew I was only 18 miles into a 31 mile race. Embracing the fact that 2pm cut off was looming at the next aid station I soldiered on down the summit and down to the mile 19 aid station.
This aid station was manned by our very own Rock Hill Striders! Which was a welcome site to see up on the mountain. Also this was a chance to change my shirt, socks and shoes. I realized I had already ripped my trail shoes to pieces so I switched to my Brooks Ghost 9 road running shoes for comfort. Lou shared so cramping with me at that aid station. I also dropped off my running vest due to the excess weight. So I took back off with my Nathan Speed Flask and Phone in hand.
Started cramping again on the climb back from the aid station but Lou told me to take a minute and enjoy the view. We were able to power through the downhill and to the next aid station. I reloaded on some gatorade and took a few pretzels even though I knew at that point I could not eat them. So I just started walking, Lou let me know she would be right behind me. As I traveled down the gravel path it let to another trail.
Of course this trail had more hills as I thought I was done with hills at this point but that would not be the case at all! So I had to climb some stairs and began to cramp again. I dug in my pocket and was lucky to have some Sport Beans and began chewing on them. I desperately needed energy and at times felt like I was going to black out. The gatorade in my bottle was terrible to taste and I was no longer wanting it. Lou quickly caught up to me as well as another lady who was only getting stronger.
Lou passed on a downhill and continued to crush it I just kept my walking pace. We finally made it back the original waterfall that we crossed early in the race I dipped half of my body in the cold water. Then climbed across the rocks with several other racers that I had caught up to including Lou. After we all crossed they all seemed to have some super natural energy kick in and they were off!
I was by myself for quite sometime on yet another gravel road path. I thought to myself over and over again that this gravel road was never going to end. I walked forever, finally another runner caught up to me. She was using the 30 second run 30 second walk method. Which proved well for her as I quickly lost sight of her. Hill after hill I took in a slow march towards the final aid station. A red truck passed by with a Yoda quote on the back “Do or do not, there is no try.”
That encouraged me to keep moving. Finally over about the 20th hill I saw the aid station, not to mention I had thrown up about 6 more times at that point.
This aid station was ran my a group of FIA ladies and they were so awesome! Very encouraging telling me I have plenty of time to keep moving. I spent about 30 minutes at that station just in a chair trying to convince myself to keep moving. Finally the last two runners arrived, both in great spirits one even downed a beer before he continued moving. Finally five minutes later I started to walk towards the trail again for the last six miles. I passed the gate to continue on and threw up yet again. Literally all the water I had at that aid station was gone from my body. I found a large stick picked it up and knew it would have to become my best friend to carry me the rest of the race.
So I continued to venture on about three miles into multiple hills on the final leg of my race I laid down. I was battling in and out with dizziness. My contacts began to blur but I knew I had to be somewhere in very back. As I laid there I stared at the sky thinking to myself how am I going to keep moving. Also if I did stop moving who would be there to pick me up? Well as soon as I thought that here came the sweeper, which indicated to me I was the last person out running this race. I quickly got up and started moving along holding myself up with the stick that had become my best friend. He asked if I was ok as he was grabbing all the flags on the course and stayed behind me the whole time.
I passed a giant hay field where there were a lot of flags for the sweeper to pick up. I lost him in the woods again but he would quickly catch up to me on the last water crossing. I was about a mile from the finish and completely out of it, I finally exited the woods to a large field near where the start of the race had begun. I looked up at the sky a quickly asked for some rain as I was losing it in the field. All of the sudden the rain came down and the wind began to blow. This motivated me to keep moving and I kept my slow trudge going for the next quarter of a mile. I then saw came around the corner and back to the campground where I had begun at 7am. The time was now 6:22pm I had spent half a day out on this race! I did this without food or water staying down most of the race.
There is was the finish line, waiting with a smile on his face was the man himself Mayflower. As I crossed the finish line he told me how he had not had the best day out there either. However Mayflower finished the race over probably two hours before I did.
I got my finisher hoodie and took a seat in a chair knowing that I probably would not be able to walk for a bit. I did find out however that we needed to pick up our tents and get home as it was getting dark. I finished last at The Table Rock Ultra 50K but I did finish.
I did not however know that this would not be the end of my race experience. I quickly cramped more and Mayflower helped pick up my tent/supplies. I began to vomit some more to the point I could not move. Mayflower drove us home I threw up about three times on that trip home as well.
That night I continued that cycle at home unable to keep anything down.
The next day my wife took me to Urgent Care. I was quickly then driven by ambulance to the ER. Finding out that I was dealing with rhabdomyolysis I was admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay. I was pumped with about 7 bags of fluid. My kidney levels were at 3.5 the normal range your kidneys should be in is about .5…. So that let to needing lots of fluid and unsure how long I would be stuck in the hospital. I could not sleep the whole night because I was connected to an iv. I kept getting calls on my bed microphone from the nurse desk due to my heart rate dropping suddenly and then going back up. Finally around 3am they came and took my blood. The doctor arrived at 9am to give me my results. He stated miraculously my kidneys made a complete turn around and were at normal levels again. He stated I could go home. This was now monday, and I was very happy to finally get this iv out of my arm.
Now I am back home resting and working from home as I can. My legs are still wrecked, I am having to drink lots of fluids, and eating is not coming easy for me.
At the end of the day I learned a lot from this race, so if you made it this far here is what I learned.
- When you stop being able to eat food figure it out quickly
- When you start throwing up all of your fluids it’s time to stop especially when it’s happening more than a few times every hour.
- Proper training is required to take on big mountains, high mileage and roads will not do.
- Understanding the value of a proper nutrition plan is super important for any UltraRace.
- When you start to blackout you should stop your race it’s not worth your health.
- Having the proper gear along training with that gear over and over again is important.
- Trails are trails and roads are roads there is a major difference.
- There are a whole other list of items that I can add such as what I ate the night before, camping in a tent the night before and other items that I could list.
At the end of the day my new formed friendship with Lou and my continued friendship with Mayflower(Stan) was worth the effort. I am thankful for friends like these that challenge me to dig deep.
Here is to the next one without the hospital and other negative things in this race!