November 14, 2011

My First DNF

I knew conditions were not going to be probably for Sub 3 this past weekend, but I thought I could still pull off a good time for the Pensacola Marathon. I had some serious self-doubt in the days prior to the race, but other than that, all systems were in order. The temps were not only going to be high, but the course rather hilly.

I do have all my splits up until my DNF, but given the outcome and the normalcy of those splits, I will save my typing. (Plus, my Garmin is in the car... and I live upstairs...)

I started the race a bit behind the Top 3 females of the Half Marathon. I fell in comfortably at 6:48-6:50s. There were some fairly large hills in the first 5 miles, but they were so early that my pace did not drop. I ran with a group of guys for awhile that were aiming for Sub 3, as well.

I hit the half at 1:31:04, but someone told me that the half mark was a little late and that the course would "straighten itself out" later. Mile 14 my stomach felt a little iffy. I was winning by a great deal, and I knew I had better take a pitstop now- or else...

The pit stop (not going into details) was a bit longer than expected, and I was left with some very bad stomach cramps. I was also starting to feel the effects of full sun and warmer temps. I slowed my pace to right at 7:00 and committed to my B Goal. I had stuck to my plan with the gels, and drank water at every stop. ( I think they had a stop about every OTHER mile, not 100% sure, though.)

After the huge hill at Mile 17, I had my first vomit of the day. I began feeling weak after that. I powered through for a few more miles at about 7:30 pace. Things were feeling REALLY rough. I was having trouble concentrating and became complacent about my performance. My stomach was also cramping like crazy.

At about the 20 Mile marker, I really lost it. "It" being all my insides. I vomited like no stomach flu ever. Then I dry heaved. Then the 2nd female passed me. Looking back, I can take humor in that being the WEIRDEST color throw up ever- fluorescent green! I remember telling the ladies working the water stop that I was so sorry. I was basically barfing all over the ground by where they were standing. Then I took off again- had to catch that woman!

This is where it really gets foggy. I was booking it up the hill (booking= 8:50 pace) and making ground on her. Then, things started spinning. I became very short of breath. I made my way to the side of the road where a marine was blocking traffic. I began to go down. He ran over and lowered me to the ground. At that point, I resumed dry heaving, and I think lost consciousness for a few moments. The next bits are foggy, like random moments in time, but like an out-of-body experience. I remember lying on my side and my whole face in this nasty puddle of dirty water. My lips were touching it. I tried with all my might to lift my head, but couldn't. In my mind, I was wondering, "Is this it? Am I about to die?" Things felt so weird, I could hardly breathe and could not move my body.Lots of people gathered around, and I remember trying to tell them to finish their race, but couldn't really get out the proper words. Finally, my Angel Nurse stopped. She cleared everyone away, and got really close to me. She told me her name (which I forgot) and that she was a nurse. She kept telling me over and over to keep my eyes on her and to FOCUS. I felt like I was in some spinny tunnel. She asked if anyone had called EMS, and the marine had already done that. She told him to call again and see where they heck they were. She poured some water on my neck and instructed me to try to swallow some. I did get a little down, followed by more gagging. I was shaking (shivering) uncontrollably and she asked the marine he had anything in his backpack. He ran to his car and got his jacket to put on me. I think I blacked out again for a few moments b/c after that I remember hearing sirens and lots of medical people asking me really difficult questions, you know, like my name. They grabbed me like a limp doll and put me on a stretcher. As I was being carted away, I saw my favorite sparkly Girl in Motion headband and my last Power Gel on the ground by the puddle. I tried to cry, but had no fluids.

I really don't remember the ride to the hospital. I remember being ridiculously cold and confused. Time went by at the hospital and they did things to me- tests, needles, blah, blah, blah. I couldn't remember a single person's phone number that was nearby. Finally TP arrived. They had paged him at finish line and told him what was going on. It was so comforting to have him there. He kept telling me over and over that everything would be okay. Speedy Katie came after she finished the marathon. She cried when she saw me, and that hurt. It was then that I realized my stubbornness had caused people I care about worry and distress.

My final diagnosis was heat exhaustion and electrolyte imbalance. In hindsight, here are a few things I could've done to prevent that. (But you know, coulda, shoulda, woulda...)
* The days prior to the race were very cold here. I didn't enough b/c I was chilly.
* I usually drink until my pee is clear the day before a marathon. We were so busy, that I never got to that.
* I skipped the first one or two water stops.
* I didn't drink the whole cup in the other water stops.
And.... I should've dropped out when the vomiting began. I know better than that. I was stubborn, tried to be a hero. I didn't want to be a quitter. In the end, though, my body quit me. We are all human, and there are limits to what we can do.

In reflection, I don't regret going out at that pace. I regret not being SMART about handling what the race gave me. That's not like me. I think I had just trained so hard, and I feel like I should be able to run Sub 3. Not as a Pie in the Sky goal, but just to run it. I've done the work. It should be time for me. I am realizing, though, that it will probably take perfect conditions and perfect pacing for me to do it.

More than time goals...
The biggest thing I regret about yesterday is not dropping out. It is not the fact that I led the marathon for 20 miles, then completely lost it. There are always other marathons, but yesterday I risked my life. It's the closest I've ever felt to death. There were short moments yesterday that I wondered what was happening, if it was it for me. Running on empty in that weather is just STUPID, not worth any 26.2 or marathon win. What makes me upset is that I worried my boyfriend and friends. I ruined their post-race celebrations and made them scared for me. Worse than that, we had to call my mom and tell her. She was continuously calling and texting me asking for race results.

My mom has had enough fear and worry to last a lifetime. I knew a call from the ER would bring back so many painful memories of my dad's accident. I just couldn't bear to do that to her. THAT is why I will NEVER get to that point in a race again. A runner can risk without danger. I believe it is possible to run a strong, gutsy, but safe race. I just took it too far; I was too stubborn.

So, what now? I'm going to do some reading and researching about to resume training from here. I basically had a repeat of my last hard MP workout (20 miles with 15 at GMP.) With that being said, I know my body needs some down time to rehydrate and replenish. I took off work today (Dr.'s orders) with instructions to drink clear fluids until my urine is a normal, pale yellow color. She also said I would feel very tired and fatigued for the next 2-3 days, which I do feel now. I'm still going for Sub 3 at Houston.

One way I've always dealt with bad things happening to me is by making jokes. My friends and I have so many jokes about my ex and his affairs. If someone heard us talk, they would likely wonder if I even had a soul. That's just one way I deal, though. Anyway, here is how my pee is progressing:

They forced me in the hospital to give a urine test. I was still so dizzy that the nurse had to be in the bathroom with me (hello, embarrassment). That first tiny sample was pretty scary looking- BROWN. I was even nervous that there was blood in there (there wasn't).

My next pee-pee was the color of dark beer, a slight improvement. I had another one of these.

I'm finally up to light beer status. I'm hoping for lemonade by the end of today! Cheers! (Water in hand...)


  1. oh my gosh! I'm so glad you're OK. I don't know if you read this when I wrote about it, but this summer I blacked out/vomited all over myself/went to the hospital near the end of a half ironman. I totally get what you are saying about crossing the line from gutsy to stupid. After I got done being delirious/scared of dying I felt so embarrassed... even though I never really saw it coming I felt like I had made a HUGE rookie-level mistake.

    I haven't done a race that long since, but I do know that my first race back wasn't really fun because the thought of passing out would flash through my mind- and it was a 5K! Twenty minutes, not 5+ hours! I truly think you are going to get that sub 3 in Texas, but just from my experience... get a race or two in before that. I didn't think I was afraid of racing again, but once the thought was there it took a few races to shake it out again.

    hope you make some lemonade out of this! (ewwwww)

  2. We're tough. We're marathoners. We think we can handle anything. We forget we're human...until something like this happens, then we remember. I've done it too. "DNF" isn't a dirty word, sometimes it's a necessary one. Maybe this one worked out how it did for a reason. Your sub 3 is waiting for you in Houston. I have no doubt.

  3. So sorry to hear about your marathon!!

    This happen to me at MB marathon last year. My stomach starting freaking put at mile 15. Made it to mile 21 & starting vomiting and passed out for a few seconds. I was in a pass were EMS couldn't get to me so I starting walking. Meet my family at mile 22...they walked me all the way in for a 5 Hr marathon. yikes my sub 3:40 effort went down the tubes.

    Your sub-3 marathon is waiting for you in Houston!!! I just know it!

  4. I am so so sorry to hear about all this. But I think this might have been a good reminder for you. I got one once (a nice case of heatstroke at an 85* half) and can't even tell you how much better I got at "running smart" after that.

    You put a LOT of pressure on yourself about this goal. But don't forget...even though you've done the training doesn't mean the stars will align at every race. Dehydration, heat, sun - they all play a big part in your performance. It wasn't your training that was off this weekend; it was everything else. Don't let everything else get to you. YOU are kicking butt.

    Sub-3 is totally in your future. Hang in there, plan for Houston (but not until you are FULLY recovered!). I hope the stars align for you next time. You're deserve this!

    On an unrelated note, you mentioned that you had some serious self-doubt leading up to this race. I have to say, since working on that before this last race, my mental game has been a lot better. I know it sounds hokey, but visualization, pep talks and censoring my own negative self-talk has REALLY helped me. Just a thought. Because you are AWESOME and you should tell yourself that! :)

  5. That is really, really scary. I am soooo glad you are safe and okay. What a life-changing experience! You're 100% right that with the marathon EVERYTHING has to line up perfectly and there is a great deal of luck involved. I just wish that it didn't mean you ending up in the hospital. I'm so sorry your race ended the way it did. You know you are a fantastic runner. Your day will come!

  6. Ditto, Ashley and Patrick!!

  7. I'm so glad you're okay. Heat exhaustion is scary. I've had it (Crim 2008) but not nearly as bad as you. Leo and I have a friend who got hit with it mid-race at Chicago last year and he couldn't remember what city he was in.

    Oh and that sub-3? I'm looking forward to congratulating you in person when you get it in Houston!! Not sure if you've seen my latest post yet, but I'm going after all!

  8. That sounds utterly terrifying. I'm so glad that you are okay. I've never had heat exhaustion in a race but I will absolutely be drinking to the point of clear pee the day before from now on!

  9. Anonymous11/20/2011

    Catching up on blogs and saw this, I'm so sorry this happened and so glad you are okay. I will take so much from you sharing this experience. Will make sure hydration is a priority leading up to my races. Take care and rest up.

  10. Anonymous11/28/2011

    Now that I'm back home, I finally had a chance to read through the post completely and barely being able to hold back tears. Been there and know how you feel, especially after putting forward such tremendous effort.

    Bad runs make us stronger. Hell, if every run was spectacular, what would we learn from them?

    I'm glad you're ok now. I can't wait to see your next 26.2 post! You're going to rock the next one, you'll see!