I will note that arriving 5+ days before the race, I had no issues breathing and keeping a pace at altitude. So I did at least one thing right. I also slammed back 40 gels by Twin Lakes inbound, which has got to be a PR for gel consumption per mile.
But not all of that gel stayed down. Oh no. I was taking the early miles to May Queen very conservatively to ensure I didn't go out too hard, but by the time I reached the aid station I was slowing down for a very different reason - about 3 bathroom breaks only 2 hours into the race. Seriously, I had to make 2 pit stops on the trail around Turquoise Lake and 1 at the aid station porta-potty. It's not a negligible loss of time - each time involved hiking through the thick underbrush about 100 feet from the trail, digging a hole, taking care of business, and packing up. Each stop was 5 or 7 minutes. This would continue all the way to Winfield. Something was just not sitting right.
Even worse was the puking. After May Queen I had started to work my way up through the field; I was somewhere around 100th at May Queen and was in 71st by the bottom of Powerline, and between there and Outward Bound I had dropped another 10 or so runners. But on the descent on Powerline I had to stop for a minute and go through a few waves of dry heaves that left the taste of stomach acid in my mouth.
I was feeling nauseated at Treeline, and not even a mile out of the crew area I stopped dead in my tracks and spewed forth a mix of gel and orange water. I had to undo the straps on my bottle pack because the muscle contractions were so intense. This happened about 5 times on the way to Twin Lakes, but through it all I continued to pass people. In fact, it took me 1:50 to go from Treeline (27) to Twin Lakes (39.5), which was a fantastic pace. Basically, puking and shitting be damned, I'm still going to race.
I got to Twin Lakes feeling good; I ate a sandwich and got the hell out of there.
Leaving Twin Lakes at 40.5 miles. Photo by VFuel Endurance.
I really love the climb up Hope Pass on the way out. There's the river rushing on your right, a lush forest all around that shields you from the sun, and wildflowers above treeline that color the valley purple and blue. But something felt really off in my bladder on this climb, and it became very apparent on the descent into Winfield.
Weighing in at 6 pounds under starting weight, I parked myself down and drank a couple of pounds of water and some broth. At this point I figured that the bladder pain was from dehydration. My pacer Brad got me going on a good pace down the contour trail to the start of the climb, and we actually passed a number of folks on the climb up the backside of Hope Pass. I was trying to rehydrate on the climb as best as I could, but the pain wasn't going away. Not getting worse, just staying the same.
And then we started the descent to Twin Lakes. About halfway down Hope Pass, every time I needed to juke around a rock or tried to pick up the pace, I could feel a sharp stabbing pain on the left side of my bladder. At this point, all I could say was that I was still eating.
I sat down at Twin Lakes exhausted and defeated. I tried to put back some food but was feeling really nauseated. I laced up fresh shoes for the trip up Mount Elbert and stopped in at the medical area to get the bladder issue checked out. I was hoping that they'd have some remedy for whatever was going on.
And after getting the separate opinion of two medical doctors, I had to pull out. Both diagnosed a developing or very early hernia. I'm 25, there's no freaking way I'm going to risk requiring surgery for a full-blown hernia for a race, no matter how much preparation went into it.
Their inclination was that the sheer amount of vomiting I experienced may have been the culprit.
I'm still trying to process all of this, because it was such a wild end to what could have been a wicked come-from-behind race. Honestly, who gets a hernia at a 100? Who even thinks about that as a possibility? I think I've been hit by one of those things that basically cannot be prepared for; all you can be prepared to do is accept what's happening and make the right decision. Even if there was a 10% chance of that hernia getting worse, I don't think it would have been worth it. This wasn't an overuse injury that I could limp home with; this was, literally, my intestines pushing through my abdominal wall. Hell no, man, hell no.
I'll be back next year, as always. And rather than walking away with my tail between my legs, I'm going to take a hard look at my training and racing schedule. I need solid time off right now for a number of reason - not the least of which to make sure my colon doesn't fly out of my chest.
Thanks to my pacers and crew for coming out, and I hope I can see you all again next year.