As a reminder, in part one of the story, we had a minor panic over a reservation bungle , but all was now well. We unloaded our stuff at the campsite and then had a visit from the Park Host about not parking on the road and then a short chat with a park employee about whether the gate would be locked after the office closed, and finally Robin and I looked at each other , said, Ready?, Yep!, and off we went. Our official start time was 4:47. (The whole time I was running I thought we had started around 4:15.)
After not having seen each other in person for a while, we had a lot to chat about so the first 10k flew by even in the 90 degree heat. Remember, it was a dry heat. We ran a comfortably easy pace on the main trails and out to the river overlook twice and then stopped at the campsite/aid station. Another friend was planning to meet us so we were checking messages as well. She ended up not coming. But another friend was planning to be there after 6:00 so we were also keeping tabs on her. We had finished 11 miles I think when our friend arrived and we went back to meet her then started running again. She is injured, but not a quitter,and we wanted to hang with her so we ran at her pace for about 5k. She was working on earning a virtual medal as well. We cheered and took photos when she made her goal, then we said goodbye to her and kept going.
Another friend was coming to pace me during the night, the great Victor from previous posts, so we met him at the campsite at mile 17. So now it was the three of us running together and chatting. I was slowing down by this point and we were taking frequent bathroom and campsite breaks, but we were having fun. At 6:32 hours in, which would have been after 11:00 PM, we hit the 25 mile mark and Robin was done for the day. I was sad to see her go, but she had to work the next day. I’m so thankful for her help! Victor was ready to keep me running all night for another 37 miles. I was starting to feel sleepy and tired but trying not to think about that.
By this point, since it had gotten dark, we were mostly staying on the park roads for two reasons, wildlife, and fall risk. This park was closed for awhile due to the Corona monster and the wild pigs had decided to make it their home down in the lower trails close to the river. I was not going to risk running into a herd of them in the dark. We did run the upper trails in the dark for awhile but there were quite a few spiderwebs and scary-looking spiders across the trail that we almost ran into, actually I did hit one. But once it got more difficult to pick up my feet, we stuck to the roads. The roads are made of a gravel-covered asphalt, with some parts less gravelly than others. After many miles, our feet were hurting! During the wee hours, we tried not to disturb the smattering of tent campers that were braving the heat so we ran the loop around the Day Use/Walk-In site area quite a few times. There was only one campsite in use in that area. Hopefully we didn’t keep them awake with our footsteps crunching and constant chatting. We also ran through the RV sites and admired and dreamed about owning one of those beautiful campers. The animals were awake and we caught glimpses of them all over the park. We saw scared possums, scurrying armadillos, deer lying in the grass looking at us with glowing eyes, swooping hawks, heard hooting owls and buzzing insects, and avoided the spiders in their webs.
Victor was doing an excellent job of patiently running and walking my extremely slow pace, talking to me about any topic, and just keeping me going when I started to drag my butt like a dog. He made me laugh with his encouraging, optimistic ultra-math calculations. When we made it to 40, less than a marathon left! When we had 14 miles to go, Only a half marathon to go! Then, Almost to single digits! I was going SO slow it took forever to get to single digits, but we did. I made it to 50 miles in 14:51 and by then I knew that my goal of 18 hours wasn’t happening. We were taking breaks at the campsite as we got sleepier. The temperature had dropped into the mid 60s and we were a little chilly so we both put on long-sleeves. Poor Victor does not like cool weather so he was really cold. At one point, just before sunrise, we took a break and he got into his car to warm up where he promptly fell asleep. I decided to just let him sleep while I ran a few miles around the camping area loop near our site. I did not want to take a nap and risk missing the cutoff! I ran three miles of loops which put me at 48 miles then I woke him up. Time to knock this thing out, but boy was I moving slow. The sun came up so we went back out on the trails. It was now warming up quickly. Back to the site we went to take off our long-sleeves shirts. Then we were moving again.
I had been feeling slightly nauseous for many hours. As we walked and ran I was trying hard to figure out what I needed to do about that. I tried more salt tabs. I tried more water. I drank coconut water. I ate some gels. I ate some chips, cheese, fruit, cookies. I drank Red Bull. I couldn’t decide what I needed. I just kept going and hoping it would get better or at least not worse.
Once the sun came up and it started getting hot, I wasn’t sure if I should refill my pack with Gu Roctane Drink mix or plain water. My brain was not exactly working that well after being awake for over 24 hours. I decided to put the Roctane in my pack and we went back out. Throughout those early morning hours I felt as though I could barely walk, weaving and stumbling on the trail, and just not feeling good. But I kept moving and tried to keep up with Victor’s pace. I would start to fall behind, then try to run a little to catch up. But then I noticed my hands were swollen (not common for me) and my vest felt really tight. I kept loosening the chest straps and finally unhooked the top one. Finally I said, let’s go back, I think I need some plain water, maybe I got too MUCH salt or carbs for a change, even though I knew that both dehydration and too much water could also cause swelling. And too much sugar can dehydrate you, as well. I had actually been urinating more often than I usually do in races, so I thought I was hydrating well. In hindsight, I still don’t know what I did wrong!
We walked back to the site and I sat down at the picnic table. I immediately felt like I was going to 1)puke and 2) pass out. Thankfully, the way I was seated I had a cooler at my back and my legs were bracing me. I remember kinda thinking , oh shit I’m gonna pass out, and then the next thing I saw was Victor staring me in the face saying, Coach, Coach! I looked at him and tried to think. He said, What just happened? (I’m trying to remember the details, but I might get some wrong.) and I said, I don’t know, what happened? He told me that I had started shaking and then my hands curled up and that he thought I was having a seizure, which I think I did. He asked me, what can I do? I was somehow able to know and say what I needed even though I felt barely conscious, so I said, get me that chair. I had a beach chair that lays flat so he put it close to me so I could just ease down from the bench I was on and lie down. Then I told him to cover me in ice and cold water. He took off my vest and started cooling me down, like a boss. Then I got cold so he covered me with a towel. All of this was very surreal for both of us. But praise God, the ice and water did the trick. I regained my senses after only a short time and we were able to talk more normally. I still had my watch going and based on my data, the whole incident from sitting down to getting back on my feet was around 30 minutes. I still had 2.5 miles to go! I was not quitting, even if I had to rest for an hour, but I really wanted to get it done. I called my husband, gave him the short story, and told him that I would need him to pick me up because I wasn’t able to drive and that we had 2.5 miles to go, so not to rush.
As my body cooled off, I was able to think and I remembered that I had a hiking stick in my van. This Sotol stick was brought back from Bandera when Victor and I had run Bandera 100k, so it was very fitting that it was called into action again! I asked him to get the stick and said let’s just try to stay in the shade and finish this. I couldn’t move too fast or even talk much without my heart rate spiking, so it was a snail’s pace, but with Victor’s help, I finished those last two and a half miles! The sun was high which meant that there wasn’t as much shade. We literally walked through the camping area to stay in the shade. My husband and son showed up just as we were finishing the last few tenths. There was no finish line to cross. I just hit the STOP button on my watch and raised my arms and said DONE! I think Victor was as relieved as I was, even though he didn’t seem tired at all after doing 42 miles all night. My husband took a video and a few photos and then loaded up my stuff and got me into the air conditioned van and my son drove me home.
The finish line is never the end of an ultra for me. After that I get to relive the experience for days or weeks. I enjoy the post-race high for at least a day or two and gobble up all the carby and salty food that I am craving. I go over the details in my mind and try to figure out what I did right and wrong and I look at the Garmin record and analyze it. This virtual race felt every bit as difficult and rewarding as a real race. Having my friends running with me and suffering together was pure joy. My task now is to recover well and not forget the things I can learn from this race. Especially the part about getting overheated. After I got home I immediately took a nap. Then I started researching heat emergencies again. I say again because I have researched it before, but I guess I didn’t learn because this is the worst case I’ve had of getting very overheated. This happened last year at Coyote Run and it has happened to me during training runs. I managed the heat better at Habanero 50k last August when I was more aware of it because it was so hot. This time the heat snuck up on me because of the cooler night temps. I should have realized that the nausea I was feeling was heat-related, not just hydration. I’m pretty sure if I had been wearing my ice bandana , which I had brought but forgotten to put to use, I would not have overheated so badly. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be very dangerous. Here is a good link.
I won’t let the heat incident affect my happy memories and joy of finishing this race. I already have my race t-shirt, which I saved to wear until after the race. Now I just have to wait for the mailman to bring my buckle! I’ll add a photo when he does. Once again, thank you to Robin, Victor, Angela, my husband and, especially, God for all you did to make it happen.
Thanks for reading and best wishes for happy, healthy running!