Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Okay, I've already made note that the last time I published this blog was 3 months ago. And I've already beaten myself up for it a little. So now, moving forward...

My allergies had been growing more and more intense over week prior to this weekend's 50k race at Sycamore Canyon 50k due to the onslaught of tree pollen and heat marching in and blossoming, so we'd spent most of the day Saturday hiding in the AC of my bedroom. I swore that Sunday would be better, as we'd be by the ocean which, as we all know, eases the blow of any major weather system. Except for hurricanes, I suppose.

I'd run about 20 miles of this trail and loved it a few weeks' prior: The weather was overcast, cool, and absolute perfection in the mountains beside the ocean. But Ann and I awoke early Sunday and stepped outside at 7AM to load up the car...and it was already hot. Africa hot. But ol' weather dot com (which I now swear to never believe again) promised 82 degrees by the water, so panic we didn't, and out we headed.

And like Yoda, we talked, apparently.

At the start, the race director warned us all that it was going to be less than comfortable out there. I knew from running the route weeks before that there was virtually zero tree cover on any part of the run (thank you , desert climate), so I prepped Ann that I'd likely need my nathan pack to replace my handheld bottles for the next 7.5 mile loop, and man, was I glad that I did.

The 5.7 miles to the first aid station was a good 3.5 miles uphill, but the breeze off the ocean was cooling us in the growing sunshine. I wound up talking with another runner, Sue, who was really strong on the uphills, but eventually, I started getting the ol' itch I try to prevent scratching for as long as I can, and before I knew it, I was winding down the 2-ish mile singletrack drop to the aid station, pulling in at about 1 hr, 5 mns. Considering all the uphill, I was a little bit ahead of schedule.

Ann helped me swap out my bottles for the magic pack and noted that I was SOAKED. In fact, she said, every runner who came in had been drenched (there were 18k and 30k versions of the run as well), aka, it was MISERABLE out there. I knew I'd need to keep it reigned in since the heat would batter us all into the dust, so off I trotted to the next loop of singletrack, figuring it was easily 80 degrees at 9:45AM, and that the canyons, without teh aid of an ocean breeze, would well hit 90+ in teh coming hours.

I caught up again with Sue, and she kept our pace ahead of me. We chatted and made all sorts of small talk, and she revealed to me that she's won the women's division in a 30k race and placed in the top three women in 50ks! If anyone was gonna give me a pull when I needed it, I knew that she could.

We continued our 1,000 foot ascent over 3 miles up the winding switchbacks, and that's when I felt something I'd never experienced during a run: My breathing felt labored. My vision, as a result, was a bit blurry, and nausea began creeping in thanks to that. We pressed on, and the heat began pounding down as we hammered away down singletrack into an open meadow. Now I knew I was starting to fade, because I felt as though I'd need to walk some of the gentler hills I'd normally trot straight up. Sue and I passed several runners squatting in the shade, soaked, gasping, and it began to dawn on me:

Today, "the bear would get us".

Sue stopped to tie her shoe and I yelled back that I'd likely be seeing her soon, and sure enough, about 5 minutes later, she came padding up the trail, passing my sad ass as I rested a minute and guzzled more fluids. The next 3 miles were PAINFUL, but I ran as hard as I could-when I could, and as I emerged back towards the aid station, I saw Ann standing in the trail, waving and yelling my name.

"I quit!" I bellowed, leaving no question as to my condition.

We walked the last 50 yards to the aid stop. I slammed back a few cups of Sprite to alleviate the nausea, but my breathing remained tight and uncomfortable. We talked about how the pollen and dust must be wreaking havoc on my lungs, and I waved goodbye to Sue, who had introduced herself to Ann about 3 minutes prior, which told me she was taking longer than normal at the shady rest area. In fact, about 4 runners continued hanging out at that stop as we left, looking like they'd gone 10 rounds with a very hungry Mike Tyson.

Following a shower at home and downing gallons of fluids, Ann and I made the call: If my breathing remained uncomfortable at 4:00, we'd head to the ER. And after careful deliberation and the bell tolling 4PM, she packed me in her VW and carted my wheezing ass to the hospital, where it was discovered that I was suffering from asthma, likely due to allergies. So now, I have an awesome inhaler until it clears up, which I will wear around my neck. On a lanyard. With my fly unzipped. And I periodically scream, "LAAAAAADEEEEEEE!!!!!"

On the plus side, I'd busted ass in that 25k and nearly broke my 25k PR of 2:38, dropping out at 2:45 or so which, on a good day, would have clocked me in at 5:30 for a 50k, in really tough terrain. As it turns out, the leader finished in 5 hours, which is a full hour + longer from last year's top finisher, and there was another 400 feet of gain during that run.

Also: We are moving to Portland in July.


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