Our tour de US-and Run to End the Runs #4 and #5 actually started a week before, when we left Arequipa to celebrate the Peruvian long weekend of St. Peter and St. Paul (Monday is off for St. Peter and perhaps Tuesday for Paul?) We bussed it up to Huaraz for some high altitude backpacking as a bit of cross training and “relaxing” with friends. Beautiful views, but no sleep, a dash of possible pulmonary edema on top of (unknowing) bronchitis for the myself, and a squirt of gastrointestinal misery for Mateo.Relaxing in the Andes with Sparkles and Chatts
Matt became the poster child for the Run, bowing out of the Leadville marathon because the only running he had done for a couple of weeks was to the toilet. After hacking my way through the Andes the week before, and as my sister put it, coughing so hard my whole body shook, I thought I should still give the race the old college try. Bad idea.
The highlight from Leadville was the awesome turn out of Run to End the Runs supporters! Scott, Celeste, Cat, Lindsey, and Turnbull all ran wearing RTETR shirts. And Turnbull finished second in the marathon; he later told me that the first place winner got to give a speech and promised to promote the RTETR if he wins any races this year (right, T?).
And there is Turnbull-leading the men's marathon in his RTETR shirt!
The low point was the whole race. I couldn’t breathe, was running to use Nature’s toilet a bit myself, and was super nauseous. Sixty year olds were passing me and passing me cough drops, probably so I would stop passing on whatever communicable disease they assumed I had. A beautiful day, though, making me miss running in Colorado a lot. Although I wasn’t running much….
Seven hours later (which wasn’t even DFL!), I crossed the finished line and Matt and I took a couple’s trip to the Leadville Emergency Room. I was put on oxygen right away, as I had not been breathing normally for awhile now, and the scamper in the Andes the week before did not do me any favors. All kinds of pokes, prods, and pooping in party hats later, we were released. My chest x-ray revealed bronchitis (which had been there for awhile), said the Doc. Armed with antibiotics, my mask (as a souvenir) and a stern warning from the doctor to “put yourself on modified bedrest,” we were on our way. It takes days for the medical system to play with your poop, so Matt was left with instructions to follow the BRAT diet and wash his pants (the nurse spilled a pint of his blood in his pants).
Delayed my flight home the next morning as we were both just d-o-n-e done. Made it home later in the week, and did nothing but rest and recover. Diligently took my meds and slept for days. I was still unsure on Thursday if I’d try to run the 50km on Saturday, but felt pretty good by the time Friday rolled around.
RTETR 5 was in our old stomping grounds, Wisconsin. For those of you that know me well, you will also remember that we had one of the worst races of our lives in 2008 at the Kettle Moraine 100km (tornadoes, 300% humidity, vomiting, you name it). So I was wary of Wisconsin-she can throw some pretty awful weather at you any season of the year.
Saturday morning. I choked down some breakfast, pinned my number on my cute Run to End the Runs shirt, and stuffed my waistpack with gus and a water bottle. My Dad came up for the race and managed to snap a few photos at the start, before he unknowingly switched to videos later in the day. Matt looked so skinny-going on two weeks of the Runs now, but ponied up to the start line, after dropping his timing chip in the toilet. Should have been a sign that things might go pretty shitty for him today....
Gun went off right at 5:30 and we were on our way. There were a number of races taking place this day, but only the 50km and 50 milers started so early. We crossed the parking lot at Devil’s Head Ski Resort-where I taught Matt how to snowboard on ice years ago-and began a gradual climb up the mountain. Having just ‘ran’ up three thousand feet up Mosquito Pass in Leadville the week before (with bronchitis), this didn’t feel too bad. Matt took off into the woods and was the last I would see of him for awhile, but I managed to hang with some of the female front runners for the five mile loop around the ski hill. I love to run downhill and was enjoying myself too much, when I didn’t see a rock and rolled my ankle. Badly. In the first five miles of the race. Always a bit stubborn, and if you believe the research that says redheads (well, red-headed mice, anyways) have a 25% higher pain tolerance than blond or brunette mice, I pulled aside, walked it off for a few minutes, cinched my shoes real tight and kept running.
We ran past the start and onto the Ice Age Trail, a really beautiful section of singletrack that zigzags across Wisconsin. Still feeling good, I ran along and enjoyed being able to run (and breathe) before it got too hot. Came into the 10+ mile aid station and got an awesome water bottle full of ice from my Dad and inquired about Matt. He said he hadn’t seen him yet, so I thought he must have been just killing it out front. The next section was hotter as it ran through several open fields. The marathon had begun, so the few people who passed me didn’t bother me as they were only running 26.2 miles, not 31.2.
Coming into the next aid station, I could hear a train whistle, and as I rounded the last bend coming through the campground in Devil’s Lake park, my jaw dropped as I saw several runners ahead of me stopped. For a train. We must have waited about five minutes for the train to pass, and one guy commented that this was, incredibly, the second time this had happened to him. Hopped across the tracks and there was the next aid station. I had been pretty good about eating and drinking, but forgot to take some electrolyte pills from Matt that morning, so grabbed a handful of potato chips and set off for the climb up the West Bluffs.
Lots of déjà-vu from when we used to come rock-climbing here, but the ascent was not as bad as I remembered it. Granted, we used to do it with 50 pounds of climbing gear on our backs, so a water bottle and an ipod felt luxuriously light. I topped out, got some nice comments about the Run To End the Runs t-shirt, and began dodging tourist families along the beautiful trail. A quick right hand turn and we were cruising downhill again, with one of the cushiest race sections to come.
The Burma Road-a 1.2 mile out and back SHADED section was a nice treat. First of all, you can see how many people are in front of you; which is pretty easy to do when you’re a woman as we tend to stand out at these races. A swallow of cold soda and I was on my way. Still no sign of Matt, so I was happy as I assumed he was having a great day, which would have been a nice change after he bowed out of the Leadville race for taking the Run to End the Runs so far and actually having the runs himself.
On my way back, I stopped dead in my tracks as I saw another person wearing a Run to End the Runs shirt. It was Matt. Who was just as surprised to see me, as we figured that I must have passed him while he was in the toilet at some point. After clarifying that no, Matt, I had not cut the course and that’s why I was in front of him, he weakly mentioned the seven pit (should be pot) stops in the 20 miles so far. I told him to drop out once he got back and he did.
Leaving the aid station, the trail cut through a section of high grasses. Uneven footing and I rolled that ankle again WALKING out of the aid station. This time it hurt so bad I thought I was going to throw up. I stopped, stretched it out, and gingerly made my way through one of the sections race advertisers literally call “stupid.” No trail; just slippery rocks and tree roots. Not fun on a sub-optimal ankle. Luckily, the “stupid” section was pretty short and the next section was a gently paved, flat course around Devil’s Lake. Beautiful, good for the ankle, and always fun to get the stares from tourists who can’t imagine why anyone would be running out here.
Grabbed some more salty snacks at the next aid station as I was finally starting to feel pretty nauseous, and salt always helps. Started the schlep up the East Side bluffs, which seemed to take much longer than the West Side. Grateful for the soft trail on the way down, I managed to literally trip over a coiled, hissing rattlesnake. For those of you that know me well, snakes are the one thing I cannot handle. Not even cartoon snakes. And here I am, skipping over one who was really pissed off that hundreds of people were running through his neck of the woods. Snake sightings do always give me a pep in my step, though, so I took off running at what felt like lightning speed this late in the race.
Still feeling good, I came into the next to last aid station, where Matt and my Dad were waiting. Six miles left and there was still tank in the gas, so I wasted little time here. Off I went for an easy 1.2 mile section to the last aid station. Didn’t even stop here as I was getting really ready to be done. Had forgotten about the downhill on the way out of this section, which meant an uphill on the way back.
A long four miles later, I gingerly rounded the last curve and made my way to the finish line. Felt great to be done and to finally have everything click for once. It was hard to believe that a week ago, it took me longer to run a shorter race and ended with a trip to the ER. We didn’t hang around for the awards as there were Wisconsin micro-brews to be drunk, but I later learning that I won my age group, which in the runner’s world, feels pretty good.
In health news, Matt is finally better and we are both already looking forward to RTETR 6 and 7. Six will take us back to Chile at the end of August for a trail marathon outside of Santiago and 7 is the inaugural Bolivia Sanitation Marathon; we’re going to start the race in one of the regions where Water For People works and finish in Cuchumuela, another region where we work and where all kinds of fun toilet things are happening. Stay tuned…..