I feel kind of funny titling this blog post as a ‘Race Report’ since it actually turned out to be my second-ever DNF. But hey, I started it with the intention of completing it so I guess writing about it still counts as a race report.
Here’s how it all went down…
Last year at the Run for Water ultra marathon, two of my teammates were doing something pretty amazing – they were running all 5 Run for Water races in 5 days. Starting on Wednesday they ran the 5k, on Thursday they ran the 10k, on Friday they ran the half marathon, Saturday was the ultra marathon and then on Sunday they ran the final course, the full marathon. I was there on Sunday and even after all of that running, their finish time was still a BQ!! Crazy!
Anyhow, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to cover all of those distances myself but I was totally inspired to try and do something this year. Maybe running the half or full marathon on Sunday would be doable. So early this year when registration was still young, I registered for the full marathon on Sunday thinking that would give me the option should I still be feeling good come race day.
I kept my little ‘plan’ pretty much secret all spring. I really didn’t know how my training would go so I wanted to keep this idea in my pocket and if all went well then I’d go ahead and run. In hindsight, I probably should have been doing more back-to-back training leading up to this but I’ll keep that in mind for next year (yep, there might be a next year!)
If you’ve read any of my RFW ultra marathon recaps then you’ll know that Saturday’s ultra marathon was 52 km of awesome as far as I’m concerned. I was definitely tired by the end but I felt good and I felt strong. All of my hard training this spring had clearly paid off. I was in pretty good shape so ‘Coach’ and I agreed that I’d rest as much as possible when I got home and then go run another 42 km in the morning.
While the weather was just perfect on Saturday, it looked like we were in for a bit of rain on Sunday. I felt just slightly on auto-pilot as my alarm went off, I got dressed and grabbed my stuff to head out for marathon #2 in as many days. I was a bit stiff but I was excited and knew I could do it. I dressed comfortably and of course, wore my medal from the day before…
We got to the race start and it was super nice and quiet. The RFW marathon isn’t a huge field and it starts first in the day so it was easy to find friends and stay chill before the start. We had several friends running that day including one who we guilted into running even though he had run a long race the day before (it ended up that he would be my saviour later in the race) and another good friend Candice, who would be going for her first Boston Qualifying time…
I was feeling kind of nervous but generally pretty good before we started. Before we left, I’d had peanut butter toast and I think I also had a banana and of course, water. It was very much my typical race morning breakfast but as we got closer to the start my tummy felt just a tiny bit unsettled. Probably just nerves, right?
As we ambled around in the starting chute, I spied a fellow Powered by Chocolate Milk Ambassador and ran over to introduce myself. Tom is a local Canadian dairy farmer and also an impressive marathoner! I love that our team of chocolate milk ambassadors includes such a range of athletes and I love getting to connect with them at races.
After wishing Tom a good race (and he went on to run a good one!) I ran into a bunch more running friends from Langley. We all wished each other good races one final time and then we were off. The Run for Water marathon course starts with a solid 4 km of downhill and it was the perfect way to start.
My only plan for the day was to finish and I didn’t care if I was walking or crawling by the time I got there. I started ahead of the 4:30 bunny and figured I’d see how long I could keep up and just coast from there. I was running with my friend David from Langley and we fell into a comfortable pace.
The first 5 or 6 km kind of flew by and before too long we ran into our friends out there cheering for us. A few of them were volunteering at the finish line but they came out on course to see us before their shifts officially started. Our good friend Russ even wore a Wonder Woman tutu for us!
It was not too long after seeing them that I realized my ‘slightly unsettled’ tummy was telling me that maybe it was time to visit one of the on-course port-potties. I don’t usually need to use the bathroom during a run, especially this early on but I wanted to make sure I was going to feel okay so off I trotted.
David was kind enough to wait for me and as we pulled back into the run, our friend who was pacing the 4:45 was right there so we ran along with her for awhile. My legs were feeling fine, although slow, but my unsettled tummy was starting to worry me. Kilometres 7, 8 and 9 flew by and I’m sure I visited the porta-potties just about 7, 8 or 9 more times by then. Ugh.
This was not going well.
I was keeping pretty quiet as I trucked along. I was frustrated because it’s not every day you attempt a marathon the day after an ultra marathon and my legs felt fine. Perfectly willing to keep going. I was frustrated that it was my tummy of all things that was giving me grief. I’ve always thought I’m pretty lucky to never have had tummy issues in a big race. Maybe my luck was running out.
As we carried on, our friends visited Starbucks…
Cheered for us some more…
And planned elaborate wrestling skits to entertain us as we approached the 13 km mark of the marathon…
As we approached the three of them acting out this silly Mexican wrestler skit, all I could think of was where the closest bathroom was. My tummy had gotten progressively worse and more ahem, urgent in the last few km and as silly as my friends looked, I had to bee-line straight through them and get myself to the nearest honey bucket.
Sadly, the closest one was 400 m away and I had to go backwards off-course to get there. As I closed the door I heard my friends toot and cheer as they drove by to get themselves to the finish line for their volunteer shifts.
When I made my way back onto the course, David was still waiting for me and he pointed out that the guy running about a hundred metres in front of us was actually the course sweeper. Sigh.
I have been last many times in running but never dead last in a marathon. Guess there is a first time for everything. I was kind of sad because I was coming to the realization that this marathon was just not going well because of a tummy that was totally beyond my control.
David and I carried on and he was doing a wonderful job keeping me entertained with conversation. I’d been honest with what was happening with my tummy and was starting to doubt how this marathon would end for me. I’m so not one to give up however, so I kept moving as best I could but around the 16 km mark or so, the cramps in my tummy actually forced me to stop at times as they rumbled around. Yuck.
I started this race committed that even if I had to walk it didn’t matter because all I wanted to do was finish the marathon. Walking because I was tired or injured would be no big deal but I could barely walk through all the tummy cramps and felt worried about how far each loo was. I just didn’t think I’d be able to get through 25 more km with such a disgustingness.
I was basically just getting myself from porta-potty to porta-potty and believe me, that’s no way to run a marathon.
David and I talked about the pros and cons of trying to finish the race when a volunteer rode by on his motorcycle and yelled out, “Hey is this a WALK-a-thon or a marathon?”. I think he was trying to be funny but he’s lucky I’m not one of those sensitive people because it would have gone over like a lead balloon. Around the 18 km mark I finally gave in and sent out the following tweet…
It was a sad moment but it was totally the right call. We called Solana and she agreed. I’d carry on until she was able to drive out and pick me up.
Sigh. My second DNF.
David and I continued on, mostly walking but joking and making light of a crappy situation (pardon the pun). We came upon an aid station around 18.5 km and this is where David and I agreed to part ways. He sped up and carried on, I ducked into yet another porta-potty.
I explained to the volunteers at this station that I was pulling from the race and the guy on the motorcycle asked if I needed a ride back. I explained that a friend was coming to get me and kept walking. I made it to around 19.5 km when Solana pulled up but I’d run a total of 20.5 km when you include my off-course trip to the bathroom.
She had been following Candice and Shawn along all day and we raced off to catch them one last time before heading to the finish line. It had totally started to pour by now and although soaking wet, both Candice and Shawn looked great when we saw them. I was starting get chilly but for once got to be the one blowing the huge horn and it was pretty fun.
When we finally got back to the finish line, I hobbled my way over to the bag check so I could get my dry clothes and change. It was a relief to not be running but my tummy was still feeling really gross and I was moving pretty slow. Once dry and warmed up, we headed over to the finish line and waited for Candice to come in.
We finally saw her and she was looking so great and strong. She sprinted her way to a 3:31 finish which is about 4 minutes faster than her actual Boston qualifying time. It was so awesome to see her achieve this fantastic finish but as she ran past was when my own emotions kind of got me and the tears came out. I wasn’t crying because I couldn’t finish a marathon the day after an ultra marathon but I was sad because in my heart I knew I could do it and it was my stupid tummy that brought me down.
In the wake of my own disappointment, it was super exciting to be there as Candice and Shawn finished and several other good friends too. I also got to see my good friend Lisa finish her half marathon and it was great to be there to give her a big hug. She had a tough race too so we shared a few tears. I also ran into another good friend who had just run her very first half marathon in an impressive 1:46-ish…some people are so fast!
We stayed on to cheer in the remaining runners and around 11:30 they were going to be talking about the ultra marathon on the finishing area stage. They asked any of us ultra runners who were there to come up on stage so they could ask us a few questions and we had the chance to talk to the crowd about our experience.
All things considered, it was quite the day. Highs, lows and everything in between.
I didn’t specifically train to run a back-to-back ultra and full marathon but I know I could have done it. My legs were tired and it wouldn’t have been a stellar time but it was the commitment to finishing something tough that I was after. We spent months fundraising so that young women no longer had to walk up to 6 hrs every day, missing the chance to ever attend school, to fetch dirty water. I’m sure that’s a challenge for each of them so I knew I could be uncomfortable and tired for another 5 hrs in comparison.
Anyhow, I guess sometimes your heart gets set on things that maybe your body (read: tummy) isn’t always ready for. And as much as I truly believe you can do almost anything you set your mind to, there are some things your body just has to step in and say, “Uh uh, not this time.” Gee, thanks body.
I’ve never really struggled with tummy issues in a race before so this was one outcome I really wasn’t expecting. I didn’t eat anything unusual to me for the night before a race but I guess perhaps a tummy on the run for 6-7 hrs needs it’s own recovery too. Saturday was a long day and although I think I did a good job of fuelling, it certainly isn’t a typical day for my tummy.
So there you have it, my story of the marathon I attempted but wasn’t meant to be I guess. 52.5 km on Saturday, 20.5 km on Sunday for a total of around 73 km. It wasn’t the 94 that I secretly had my hopes on but I’m still pretty darn proud.
There’s always next year, right?