Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Forgot To Wear My Lucky Underpants

No seriously. I have a specific pair and a specific sports bra that I wear for more important races... Totally had on the wrong underpants.

What an experience. So much happened - a lot of good and exctiting and a lot of bad and disheartening. I'll start with the bad and get it out of the way.

Right off the bat things were chaotic. The first part was my mistake though. My flight was delayed and I got checked in to my hotel (which was kind of fun for me since I don't usually stay in such ginormous places):

So I had just enough time to make it over to the expo and get my bib. I got some directions to walk there through other hotels - through MGM, across to Excalibur, through there to Luxor, through Luxor to Mandalay. Each one was like a giant maze and by the time I got to Mandalay I was RUNNING. I finally found someone who knew something about the race and she pointed me down some stairs and down a short hallway. Yes! Just in time! I asked the lady at the desk outside and she said "Hm? No no the expo is at the Venetian." It was going to be over in 2 minutes. I had no time to get there. I shouldn't have just assumed it was at Mandalay but even if I had known the right location, I wouldn't have made it in time. Sent some frantic emails and texts and luckily the elite coordinator (who is awesome and friendly and helpful all the time!) said I would be able to pick it up near the race start at the solutions tent. I relaxed a little. Problem solved.

Race day, I left my room aroun 2:15 to travel the 1/2 mile or so to Mandalay to get ready for the 4:00 start. It wasn't the fastest half mile I've ever traveled but I wasn't feeling too concerned until I couldn't find the solutions tent. The finish area was huge and things were spread all over the place. I finally found it, and after quite a bit of confusion ("Do you have the elite bibs here?" "Ummm... No...") they found my bib. Next stop, Bag check was fairly far away and I was getting a little concerned about the time. I made my way there through mobs of people as fast as I could, checked my bag, waded through the crowd again, and started heading for the start line to warm up. I though maybe you had to show someone your bib to get into the elite corral. As I looked down at my bib, everything inside of me froze. I turned around and ran as fast as I could back to the solutions tent. My bib said F25 Half Marathon. I was running the full marathon. Before I got to the tent I saw someone who worked for the race and told him the problem. He told me to head back to the start line and find a guy in a cowboy hat who would help me. I ran back. Found the guy. He snapped at me for being a little histerical but we did get it straightened out. As long as I had my timing chip, I'd get my correct time.

The rest of the bad stuff didn't come until later on in the race. I stopped for the restroom twice and didn't feel so hot after the second time (which was odd because right before I had started picking up the pace and was feeling really really strong). I thought maybe I was getting dehydrated. I had been taking water at every other aid station and had a full gel (one that had sodium, this time) but going to the bathroom can negate that. I started taking more water but started feeling progressively worse. My head was feeling fuzzy and I was getting nauseated. I'm not sure what mile I was at but toward the end of the race I wasn't running in a straight line and really felt like I was going to pass out. I thought about my friend Amy and what happened at the Colfax Marathon. I thought about how much it was going to hurt if I passed out and cracked my head on the pavement, and I kept picturing it over and over and over. I stopped at an aid station and took two waters. Almost immediately they threatened to come back up. And the dizziness was getting worse. I sat down on the curb and just stared.

I really didn't know what to do. Should I walk back? I really couldn't. A guy in a golf cart with another sick girl drove past. He said he'd come back and get me in a minute. It was more like 30 minutes. In that time, in my little spandex shorts, singlet and arm warmers, I got really really cold. I don't think I've ever been that cold in my life. Finally he came back, put me in the cart, and took me to an ambulance. The ride was even colder since the wind was hitting us and I was making enough horrible moaning noises and dry heaving to attrack the attention of a Japanese tourist who found me amusing and took my picture.

In the ambulance they got me warmed up and took some tests to see what my pulse and blood sugar were. I started crying when she took the blood sugar test - it's just a teeny tiny prick in you finger but I really hate needles and and that point just didn't want anything else to happen to me. My blood pressure was very low (which made sense - my heart was flopping around like crazy but it didn't really feel like it was pumping any blood). I got some Tazamamine (or something to that effect) so I wouldn't throw up, and took me to the medical tent at the finish line. I got all wrapped up in blankets and sat in front of a heater and didn't move for a very very long time. Whatever I got for the nausea didn't help with the dizziness and when I finally got up to go retrieve my bag, I embarked on the longest, coldest, most uncoordinated walk ever. I don't know if people were running into me or if I was running into them but I was getting knocked all over the place. I made it to the bag check though and plopped down on my floor with my stuff and again, didn't move for a very very long time. I just sat and sent some incoherent text messages.

I really just wanted to get back to my room so after an hour or so I got up, put on my extra shirt and jacket, re-wrapped myself in my three blankets, and made my way out.

This is where things got a little dangerous.

The bag check was in a convention hall in Mandalay Bay. So as people were leaving they were all going out into a lobby area (which looked more like the medical tent in a war zone) and then into a large hallway that lead to the casinos. The hallway was big. Really really wide. And completely packed wall to wall with people. We moved forward for a little bit and then stopped. All completely squashed together. Another huge group of people were trying to go the opposite direction to see a show. But nobody was moving. The entrance to the casino had been blocked off (that was the only way out of the area as turning around was completely impossible) so nobody could get out. At all. It was getting incredibly hot with all those bodies packed together. People started passing out all over the place and I thought I was going to go down any minute. I had this thought - "What if there's a fire? We can't get out." - and started to panic. I saw a medic, told him I wasn't feeling well and asked how we were going to get out. He told me there was a bathroom "overthere" if I needed it and otherwise he couldn't help me.

Luckily, there was no fire or riot (which seemed fairly possible with the way people were yelling) and they finally opened up a door to the parking garage and people were able to start moving.

I had to walk back to the hotel, since a cab would've been impossible. But a really nice girl saw me not looking so sharp, asked if I was okay and where I was going... She was in the same hotel and she and her friend walked with me.

So I got back. Ordered some room service and sat in bed. I found one of the little sticky pads they used to take my pulse still on my stomach and started laughing like a maniac - it really wasn't funny but at that point I couldn't do anything but laugh.

It was kind of an ordeal. But there were some really good points.

I really didn't think I was going to like Las Vegas. It just seemed so... Slutty? Overboard? But I'm glad I went because it was actually pretty fun. I didn't go out and party or gamble (next time!) but there's just a ton to see - a total visual wonderland.

New York New York was my favorite hotel - It just had so much! Roller coasters, bridges, statues, everything!

I aslo saw my first real life drag queen. S/he was super nice!

And this guy was right outside my hotel:

So there was a lot of cool stuff to see and obviously some very entertaining people watching.

The race had some great things going on for it, too. The first half of the course was hilly but still pretty easy compared to Denver and there were a lot more spectators. I felt really really good and had a great girl to run with (her name was Melanie and think she was 2nd). I know a lot of people were complaining about the half marathon and the full converging but I loved that. It was exciting for me to see my friends run by and really helped up the energy in the second half. I felt really good and was able to pick up the pace quite a bit with that extra energy.

A lot of mixed emotions about this. I was okay with everything until the plane ride home when we started our descent into Denver and realitly. It started to settle in that that really just happened - I just got my 2nd DNF this year. I keep wondering if I should've tried to keep going. I keep wondering what happened that made me so dizzy. I've read a lot of comments on RnR's Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/#!/RnRMarathonSeries and on RnRLV's Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/#!/RnRLasVegas and one of the things that stuck out to me was that the water was coming from fire hydrants. For a while I was thinking about better nutrition, etc, etc, but now I'm wondering if maybe dirty water didn't have something to do with it. I'm wondering if I should be concerned about giardia, which is disgusting.

But more than anything I'm wondering about my running. Of course I've had that "I'm never running again!" thought. Of course I'm disappointed. Of course I'm not really excited about racing right now. I'm sure all of that love and excitement will come back and I'll have many more successes (and failures, as well, I'm sure - that's just how it goes) but right now I feel like I got plucked out of my life and dropped in the desert. Maybe that's over-dramatic. But I think it's a little hard when something that you've put so much of yourself into, something that's helped you make a little name for yourself, and something that drives you doesn't work out, repeatedly.

I think it's time for me to take a look at what I really want from running. Where do I want it to go? How much of myself can I continue to put into this? When I first started running marathons it was just because I wanted to. But it's increasingly become more about hitting certain times and making sure I was on the podium. This year I set some agressive goals and walked away feeling disappointed almost every race. Even after winning GTIS - which will always and forever be my favorite - I cried on the way home because I felt exhausted and couldn't quite get the time I wanted. RnR Denver was another big race that I've wanted to win since I started racing but falling short of my time goal there was heartbreaking. But, without such agressive goals I don't think I wouldn't trained and pushed and gotten the times that I did. I just wasn't prepared to feel so disappointed.

So I think I need a little break. From the race scene at least. It's a great time to get back into nordic skiing and getting ready for the holidays. In the Spring I'm going to start focusing on some shorter distances and see how I can improve there but it will be some time before I do another full marathon. It's such a fun distance and such an accomplishment but... I just want to make sure I'm doing them for the right reasons and with the right expectations.


  1. Wow! That's quite the story of a nightmare marathon. I suppose that with a little time the story of what went wrong in Vegas will come out - You are certainly not alone with your account where the wheels-come-off, so to speak, for no good reason at all. It seems that there was a whole lot of chaos and mismanagement in Vegas. It seems that this is something that runners need to talk about a bit more. We need to share our stories and get the word out. Sometimes things go wrong because we make imprudent decisions, and that's part of the game, but when things go wrong due to mismanagement, that's an entirely different, and serious, issue that we all need to address and confront.
    Good luck with the soul searching!

  2. The marathon is such a fickle event. Training and preparation can go flawless and then a runner can have an abysmal race experience. Training can also go horrible and come race day, you pop off a great race. I had a similar experience to you when I was going after a Trials qualifier at the 2007 Grandma's marathon in Duluth. I got food poisoning two nights before and flawless preparation, including setting personal bests at many distances, leading up to Grandma's was all negated by a freak accident. Fast forward to a year ago when I first moved out here and I fractured my tibia. I was in the same boat as you. I didn't know if I really wanted to put the investment into training. I was fine with being a recreational runner, a fun runner if you will. It wasn't until about a month ago when I decided to go all in and really train with a purpose and intent with specific goals in mind. Whatever you decide, do so after taking a step back. If you are like me, running is something that came to you organically, an activity that you have never been forced to do. I know that you will come back stronger and it does not need to be the marathon, there are so many distances to run. Changing up what distances you focus on can lead to greater inspiration, like an artitst changing what medium they use to create a work.

  3. This story doesn't make me excited to try one of the Rock'n'Roll series, but begs the question, is the Denver Rock'n'Roll similar? I prefer green running, and haven't really traveled for a race yet, so I was planning on that being my first full marathon in Sept 2012. Should that NOT be the case?

    I don't want to turn running into a stress, as that would defeat the entire purpose.

  4. Whoa!! Sounds like it was a rough one Heather but I know you'll bounce back!! Most importantly I'm REALLY glad you are okay. I was a little freaked when I didn't hear any updates and then there were no results on competitor.com. When you get back to running you'll be better than ever and you are already an awesome runner who I KNOW still has her best running ahead of her. Your best running comes in your 30's especially distance runnning. I was glad you were able to enjoy the sights of Vegas. Get some rest, heal your wounds, and keep your head up! You truly are inspirational!! :)

  5. Wow, so sorry for you for all that, glad you're okay. THank you for that! I am really inspired by your humility to step back and consider motivations and purpose in what you invest so much of yourself in...I'm CONSTANTLY having to do that!! God has given you a gift in your legs and that's really cool, sometimes it's hard to make sense of the things your good at and how they should take place and priority in life. I hope your change of pace is refreshing for you this winter. I had to back off after a fun summer of racing due to injury (after already taking years off due to kids and life), and it was tough, but, as you are now, it ended up being just what I needed to get lots of things in my life back in order and make sure that running filled every other part of my life, rather than sucked stuff out of it!! I'll be praying you get all this crazy stuff figured out and get back on your road happily and healthily!!!

  6. The thought of running with 44k other people doesn't appeal to me which is why I've turned to ultras. Great race recap and enjoyed how you told it from your experience and facts.

    We all have rough races and set incredible amounts of pressure on ourselves, but you are quite gifted in your running! You inspire many others to get better and keep running!

  7. We need to do a happy hour or something sometime! I too, have had an identity crisis this year (twice) and thought the running gods were just against me (twice). Though you probably have more pressure to be amazing, people do expect quite so much from me, hahaha. But, taking time to regroup and reflect and cross-train is highly recommended. Do it before you body doesn't give you a choice :) because if you don't listen to it, it will scream at you until you can't ignore it anymore. Happy Holidays! go ski some!

  8. Heather,
    I was your neighbor in the plane ride to Vegas. I was so anxious to see how you ended your race. I really thought I would see your name as the winner of the race. I'm really sorry you had such a horrible experience. I can understand why you would want to take a break, but don't give up! I want to be able to say that I sat beside an Olympian on an airplane ride to Vegas!!! :)