Photo from the 2014 Ice Age Trail 50 Miler by Ali Engin. Permission to use header photo must be obtained through Ali Elgin.

"It's better to feel pain than nothing at all. The opposite of love's indifference." - The Lumineers

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Copenhagen Marathon: Oops! I messed that one up big time.

It started Saturday morning (the day before the race). I was standing, making breakfast for the kids when I threw up onto their plates and all over the counter (then I served them vomit for breakfast. Just kidding of course). This was not some sort of viral gastroenteritis; it was just nerves.

That night we met Justin and Jackie from La Crosse, WI for dinner. Justin had been moved up to elite status in the run because his wife happened to meet the elite athlete coordinator for the marathon in their hotel lobby. We had a great dinner at Pasta Basta, but every bite I ate the more my stomach bothered me. I tried to put it out of my mind. We walked back to Justin and Jackie's hotel and, whoa, there was Colleen De Reuck, who holds the US Female Masters Marathon record of 2:28. She already knew Justin so she got introduced to SR and me and we just started talking like old friends.

After the interlude with Colleen, I began vomiting again (we were out of her sight by that point). And then all night I was holding my stomach in pain. Stupid nerves. I ended up sleeping almost 6 hours, so that was fine. But then in the morning I started having diarrhea. And I was just too nervous and sick-feeling to eat and thus also forgot to drink. By the time I was standing by the 3:15 pacer balloons with a friend from our track club, I realized I was thirsty and hadn't peed in a long time. And I had no water with me. After the first km, I was so thirsty, I started considering steeling a sip out of a water bottle from someones water belt (but of course didn't). It was so extremely crowded that it was unpleasant. By the time we got to the first aid station, it was nearly impossible to get anything to drink, but eventually I did. And then sprinted back up to the 3:15 pacers. We went through the 5k in under 23 min., so I realized they were ahead of schedule and likely going for official 3:15 time and not chip time, which would be about a 3:13 time for those who started with them.

To make a long story short, I kept the 3:15 balloons in my sight through the half marathon, which I ran in 1:38. But every moment of the race was torture. I felt sick and dehydrated. I ate two of the gels and they tasted terrible. My music annoyed me. Other runners annoyed me. The running surface annoyed me. I was not having fun at all. I started to feel dizzy and very tired. My muscles were cramping and I didn't know if I could make it to the next aid station for fluid before I fainted. I ran mile 15 at over a 9 min/mile pace and there was no aid station in sight. I could not go on. I walked off the course and it was a huge relief. But then I leaned against a wall and started crying. It was also a huge disappointment. I guy who dropped out just ahead of me saw me and gave me a hug. He said his name was Hans Andersen and he was from Australia but born in Denmark. He reminded me that at least I didn't fly all the way from Australia to run the race. I reminded him that we had at least just gotten a good 16 mile training run.

I walked back to the start/finish which was luckily just 1 km away. I saw the first place man (from Aarhus Denmark) come in in 2:20 and then there was my old buddy Colleen just 10 minutes behind. Justin was disappointed with his 2:32 finish and 11th place. And SR was also disappointed with his 2:49, but it WAS a PR. We ended up leaving right away after that, both feeling terrible. So I didn't even get to congratulate anyone else. I'm sorry I missed Mette (who I talk about all the time). She DID get under 3 hours and took 5th for the women.

Well, it's back to the drawing board for me. I'm sure part of my problem was that I started out too fast, but with the dehydration, I have trouble knowing how fast to start next time. At least my legs aren't sore and I can resume regular training again. There will be more races and in fact, the 24hour relay run is in just two weeks and the the Aabenraa mountain marathon is in just three weeks. I think I will just have to refrain from categorizing anything as a target race from now on if it's going to result in a DNF! So, yes, my first (and hopefully last) DNF.

Thank you to everyone for your comments and advice. It meant a lot to me. And even if nothing helped me on this run, I'm sure it will come in handy in the future. To Piccola Pinecone: I'm sorry this makes it difficult to determine who won the contest as everyone was infinitely far from my actual time :).

24 comments:

Danni said...

That sounds awful. Good thing there will be other races :-)

Ewa said...

Considering your stomach problems no wonder you were dehydrated and felt weak. It is amazing you were able to run 16mi.
Hope there is something you can do to calm you pre-race jitters.
Big, big hugs.

mmmonyka said...

Pretty hard core! Running 16 FAST miles in such conditions! Awesome training run for upcoming races:)
I did not go to sleep and instead waited for this report, because I was too curious to learn what happened when I could not find you in race results.

Barefoot AngieB said...

I must say that I am impressed with 16 miles under those conditions. So sorry it turned out this way for you. Have you looked into some kind of homeopathic remedy for tension and stress?
Glad you can just keep going with training though :)
Hang in there and cheers from BAB!

olga said...

I am going to be blunt, because that is me. You are not an elite runner. You should not wrap yourself into "I want to do this time, or else". It's ok to shoot for the time. It's not healthy to put so much at stake for the sake of this time, that it's the only thing that occupies your mind, to the point you vomit and poop like crazy. It is also called "self-sabotage". You were so afraid to not live up to your own expectations (because, frankly, nobody else would be disappointed), that sub-conciously your body gave a reaction to provide a perfect excuse.
Now, to the rest of the comment, or nicer me. It's ok to DNF, when you're sick or injured. You were sick. Could you have finished in 4 hrs after taking time to walk and re-hydrate? You betcha. Did you need to? Hell, no. There certainly will be other races. I just hope you learn from this one what not to do, rather than focus on what speed you should be going out. Because that is secondary to taking care of your body, one that carries you through.
Take a deep breath. May be a vacation from blogging about paces and intervals. By next marathon you'll be in perfect shape to go slightly sub-3:20.
BTW, this is why I don't like to call things "goal races".

Brooke said...

Chalk that one up to a learning experience. Its all you can do - learn from it. I did the same thing during a half marathon and never forgot the mental and physical anguish... and I never want to go back to feeling like that again. It can only get better from here!!!!!!

Amber Dawn said...

wow Olga nailed it. That is the entire reason I decided to take a year off 'racing' triathlon and do ultra running. I was putting so much pressure on myself to get certain results that I would make myself sick! It was no longer fun.
It is no accident that your 'pr' times come during longer distance runs when the pressure to achieve those prs isn't at the forefront.

sea legs girl said...

Thanks everyone. And yes, Olga did nail it. Not only am I not elite, I am still a novice. The best evidence of this is I went out at a pace to set a 12 minute PR without any real evidence that I could do it.

From now on marathons will be more about listening to myself and less proving something. It is the only way.

helle86x said...

Tracy, I too messed this marathon up. My asthma wasn't in control before the race. The first half and a bit went fine, but them I started coughing, and it led to an attack. My lungs just closed in, and after 29 km, I walked slowly back to start (but that was quite a long way)
I saw you coming back from Vesterbro, and you looked really tired.
See you in Holte. And we will have a great time there.

PiccolaPineCone said...

most important, i am sorry you did not have the race experience and outcome you were seeking. i'm glad you understand exactly what went wrong but it is disapointing nonetheless. On the other hand your ratio of great races to disapointing races this year has been pretty stellar.
I think that in a perfect world, the concept of training towards a goal race is the ideal way to optimize performance as it allows training, tapering etc. to be designed in a perfect way for a given race on a given day. In the real world, of course, there are nerves and the psychology of the athlete and some athletes will not react well to racing goal races. And yes, it comes with experience to a certain extent. So if goal racing is not for you (at least not now) then trust your instincts and continue to do what you have been doing... you're producing awfully good results in your "non-goal" races.
Finally I really hope my prediction contest did not add to your stress & anxiety and if it did I am hugely sorry.
Big hug!

sea legs girl said...

Hellen, I just wrote a strangely similar comment on your blog at the same moment :).

Piccola, I think it was wearing the socks you sent that did me in, now that I consider everything.

May-Britt Hansen said...

I totally agree with Olga. You put way to much pressure on yourself by making statements about finishing times that will satisfy you, and (unfortunately) we backed you up :-(

There´s only one thing to do: when the disappointment is gone in a couple of days, do you self the favour and sit down and think it all through. The time before the race and the race. So it was a lousy race but something good can come out of it, if you learn from it. That includes your decision on going on despite feeling sick and serverely dehydrated.

On with the shoes towards new goals! Better luck next time :-)

Diana said...

I wish I could offer you some more advice, but I think the other comments have that part cornered. Just wanted to say that I'm so sorry you had such a disappointing day. I still can't believe you ran so far feeling the way you did!
Even if you're feeling down about this particular race now, it sounds like you have some great races in the near future to look forward to.

Anonymous said...

Hej Tracy.

Øv, det er trist at læse, at du måtte udgå igår. Jeg synes jo, at du er en vanvittig sej kvinde, men May-Britt har ret i, at du lægger for stort pres på dig selv. Det var et hårdt løb - med alt for mange brosten og lidt for langt mellem depoterne (her kunne man lære noget af Albertslund) - men jeg synes det var en fed oplevelse, dog savnede jeg dig i mål ... men nu forstår jeg jo hvorfor.

Op på hesten igen (som vi si'r i DK)- det kommer masser, masser, masser af andre løb. Og vi ses om to uger i Holte. Bli'r så skægt.

God dag og TILLYKKE til Rasmus med en fantastisk flot tid. Han burde være meget, meget stolt af sig selv.

Henriette

Gavin said...

Nice seeing you in CPH at the Scandic hotel. Don't stop aiming for pace achieved targets, simply learn to cope better with the pressure. Pressure afterall is the expectations you put on yourself, even elite athletes have to deal with pre-race nerves. You are not the first and will certainly not be the last. One thing you have is the experience of this ordeal and now you can look forward.
Keep believing, have a different approach and work from there.
Good Luck for the future and do drop me an email for some assistance if you want.
From the tall one from outside the hotel with Colleen and co. (ask Jackie for reference)

Marie-Aline said...

Sorry to hear it did not go as you expected... maybe it is my fault (together with PiccolaPineCone's socks) and I should not have sent good vibes!

More seriously, I think I agree to a large extent with Olga, at least as far as the pace/goals blogging goes. It does put a lot of pressure on yourself. That's why I don't do it (oh, and also because I am a wimp)... that, and because I think not posting about it helps reminding myself that I run because it is FUN (ok, painfully fun sometimes, but still, fun). So that's what I am going to wish you for next time: a fun race... no matter the time!

Big hug!

SteveQ said...

Everyone else has covered the essential points, so I'll just add what to do if you never get over the "jittery spews": drink a ton of water before the race - you'll lose a lot of it vomiting and you'll feel waterlogged at the start, but it at least makes you feel you're doing something productive and may distract you from thinking about the race itself (especially if you have to hunt out port-a-potties all morning).

Danni said...

I don't think your problem was your goal. It's totally achievable, you just need the experience to be able to execute. No biggie.

amy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amy said...

I have to agree with Olga, especially if nerves and pressure cause you to puke the entire day leading up to an event. You will never run a good marathon after puking for an entire day beforehand. And if calling a race a 'goal race' leads to anxiety and nerves, you may continue to have this problem in future 'goal races.' You started the race completely dehydrated and running a PR under those conditions is unlikely. But I think you can run a 12 minute PR. I ran a 20 minute PR at Boston, which was my 3rd marathon, which is not hard to do if you haven't run many marathons. If you've run 20 marathons, then it's a different story, but if you've only run a few, than it is likely you haven't come close to what could be your PR. I think I've got another 15 minute PR in there somewhere (I've only run 4 marathons and don't plan to do many more).

I got into ultramarathons because I don't like to race, and used to get really nervous before races. The longer the distance, the less it seems like a race (to me). The joy (and sorrow) of ultras is that so much could happen out there that one shouldn't place too much emphasis on any single day. Doing so leads to unrealistic expectations and feelings of failure if we don't have it on race day. My best races have come on days when I didn't plan to 'race' and just went out to enjoy the experience. From your description of the race, besides being dehydrated, it doesn't sound like you were having much fun out there, and were concentrated more on staying with your pace group than enjoying the experience.

Helen said...

Hey girl - sorry to hear it was a miserable experience. But you were right to drop - take what you can from the race and then move on. A change of focus will be good. I've felt nerves on almost every start line but I've rarely been ill so I can't imagine how awful that is. You're training has been great and the PRs will come.

Congrats to SR. Awesome time even if not his goal. You guys are allowed to be miserable together for just a little bit and then it's onto the next goal!

sea legs girl said...

Thanks to everyone who commmented. Why am I so lucky to have so many talented, educated athletes reading and commenting on this blog? Well, I learn a lot from you guys. And, yes, May-Britt I also think I have learned a lot from the race.

Helle, I'm sorry I called you Hellen! Just a typo.

And Gavin, Wow. You are internet savvy. It was great meeting you, too, but how on earth did you find me on this blog? I'm (slightly) freaking out at the unlikelihood of that. But also think it's cool. I have spent the last few days with Justin and Jackie and will get your contact info from them :).

Gavin said...

I also work with the internet and one the things I develop is a running information portal

Time-to-Run.com

Justin has my email

Keep on looking forward the past is a platform to better performances

OrangeBlossom said...

((Hugs)) I know you were disappointed in a DNF, but I'm glad that you did. I'd rather you stay healthy and run more so that I can read more of your running on your blog.