The Un-Tussey Race Report

After Vermont 50 miler a week ago, I barely had time to savor the victory (ok not at all!) before I mentally had to change gears and start getting ready for Tussey Mountainback 50 miler. My running strategy was definitely dictated by Tussey looming on the schedule in front of me 6 days later. I had signed up for Vermont on a last minute suggestion by Glen, Tussey I had committed to much earlier in the season. Tussey was supposed to be the crowning achievement of my back-to-back 50 milers, not an easy after thought. Though the fact of the matter is, while Tussey’s road would have beat my body up worse, Vermont 50 was by far a superior and tough race, especially considering conditions. Directly after Vermont, Glen and I hopped into the car and headed back to NYC. We ate ourselves silly that evening, but by the next morning, Vermont seemed like a distant memory. Glen had just completed a insane back-to-back-to-back of 2 100 mile races then Vermont 50 (and he still beat me at Vermont) and so I felt little justified in wanting to savor my accomplishment of winning, hell just running, Vermont. I was happy to hear from Glen that Vermont destroyed him in a way that neither of his “easy” 100 mile races had.

But in my mind, I had gone on to Tussey. It was as if mentally I had erased the toll Vermont took on me, like it was a mere jaunt around the block. I consciously know better, but my subconscious was in taper mode instead of recovery mode. My legs were not sore, but I was tired from Vermont. I did well to remember my recovery status on Monday and walked around a lot, ate a ton including a few cupcakes from Babycakes NYC. Recovery is a time to indulge and relax, taper is a time to stay safe (as in not eating any trigger foods for me), sharp and focused. What a balance I was trying to strike! Even telling myself that I merely had to show up at Tussey and just do what I do: run, didn’t help. Running back-to-back 50 milers is freaking hard. In fact, running back-to-back ultras is insane. Just running one ultra taxes the body in unprecedented ways and two so close together takes walking a very fine line. Unfortunately for me, I was unable to walk that line.

About Wednesday, I stopped feeling just tired and started feeling genuinely sick. Glen and I went on a good 12 mile run in the morning. Good only in the sense that my legs felt good. I bonked at mile 5, had low energy and was feeling like I had a head cold, but at least my legs felt good. Overnight on Wednesday I was up almost all night with a stabbing, excruciating pain in my stomach that made me ponder at 2am whether I should wake Glen up and have him take me to the hospital. Usually I wouldn’t be an alarmist, but that symptom coupled with the flu like symptoms and fever that had come on, concerned me. As it is not seasonal flu season, it is more likely to be H1N1 than anything else. After a race with seriously depleted immunity and not regular exposure to the level of germs in NYC, I was left defenseless and my system got bombarded. I spent most of Thursday in bed, rallied for a great run with Glen’s track club CPTC, running a warmup, then a 10k in 39:23 (faster than my Italy win and this run felt easy) and a nice cooldown. I felt good running, crap the rest of the time. I hoped that I would come around by Saturday morning but it was just not to be. Friday, I felt no better and could barely stand up for more than a few minutes without feeling dizzy or naseuous. I also was unable to eat anything for most of the day which does not bode well the day before a race. I was pounding the vitamins, liquid and hoping Saturday morning would miraculously find me well again. Such was not the case. We drove to the race, checked in, I managed to eat some pre-race dinner and watched several episodes of Man Vs. Food on the Travel Channel.

I woke Saturday at 4:50am, did a 15 second self check, hit the snooze and turned over and tried to go back to sleep. Glen woke me at about 5:30 and tried to motivate me to get up and start the race. But I was resolute. I was checked out. I could not even feel good sitting up, so I knew running would be self-defeating. I was running a fever and still dizzy, not good things going in to a run. I had to put my health first. And I had no qualms doing so. That is the breaks of the game. I am ok with that. As someone said, there are plenty of races, but you only have one body.

The only thing that is a bummer is that I didn’t get to celebrate and bask in the accomplishment of Vermont 50. Sure, one could argue that I can kick it into celebration mode now, but my momentum is gone. I am instead still just focusing on getting healthy and finally getting to go home from NYC. I am as ready to be healthy as I am ready to be home, but that’s another blog completely.

I like ninja stealth strikes

If this trip has taught me anything, it is that I am a big fan on the ninja stealth strikes on a race. That is, I like to show up two days before a race, preferably just before bed two nights before (I arrived Friday night for Vermont on Sunday) a race. It gives me only enough time to get to my accommodation, get to the race site and check in, eat, sleep and be off and running. Too much time spent waiting around for a race makes me a bit batty. I spent a lot of time in Boston before the Boston marathon, in Colorado before TransRockies and in NYC between Vermont and Tussey. It just means I spend a week (more or less) with my life dictated by a race, usually doing little more than pacing around like a caged animal. While I enjoyed NYC, I always had it in the back of my head that I was racing less than a week after a 50 miler. And being away from home waiting for a race means I can’t carry on my home routine, can’t accomplish the things I would want to in a normal week and while vacations are nice, the time before a race is anything but, really. The long wait before a race is hard enough when you are at home and tapering, but away from home, it gives you little else to do than think about your race and I realize that doesn’t work for me. For Vermont, I never had time to really think about the race or neurotically think and rethink every little thing. Instead, I had to trust myself, my planning, my training, and my fitness. I responded well and I see now that will be my modus operandi from now on where possible (in international competition it is less possible since recovery from the trip is necessary, as with altitude acclimatization). I am learning more and more what works and doesn’t work for me in terms of running, racing and heck, living.