Derailed by Dehydration - ORRC Vernonia Marathon 2014

by Jodi
Pre-race Starting Line Intimidation Pose
Don't mess with us - starting line
Marathon number four is in the books.  WHEW!  The Oregon Road Runner's Club (ORCC) Vernonia Marathon on April 13th, 2014, thoroughly kicked my butt.  I was completely humbled by dehydration and the distance, but I am refusing to be disappointed.  I have so much to celebrate and be thankful for.

I love that the Lord gave me perspective and focus for this race before it even started.  I only trained specifically for a marathon for eight weeks.  In that time the phrase, "Hold everything loosely" kept coming back to me. I felt God reminding me continually during my training to hold my time and race execution goals loosely.  And then my friend Krysty threw down some truth when she said, "It's a marathon.  Refuse to be disappointed."  Both of these thoughts were at the forefront of my mind as I raced, and guided the decisions I made toward the end of the race.  As I've processed the race over the past two days, it's this theme that is helping me to let go of the tiny details I would love to perseverate on and beat myself up over.  In the grand scheme of life this race doesn't matter.  Refuse to be disappointed.
FINISH LINE!  With my Man Child waiting by the clock and Devon taking a picture as I finished.

My buddy Devon and I ran this race together.  We had both studied the race course and devised a race strategy based on the terrain of the course and past mistakes we've made.

1.  Go Out Slow.  Devon and I both have sabotaged race after race by going out way too fast, trying to hold the pace, and then dying toward the finish.  I had a tiered time goal.  Run Less Run Faster (RLRF) projected potential for me to run a 3:25 marathon (7:48 pace per mile).  I knew that was highly unlikely, so I had a BIG Goal (7:55 pace), a PROBABLE Goal (3:30 marathon and an 8:00 pace), and a THIS BETTER HAPPEN OR ELSE Goal to qualify for Boston (3:45 marathon).  Based on our training a slow start would be to keep the first two miles above 8:00 minutes per mile.  It was tough because we had all the pre-race adrenaline flowing and the start was downhill for the first half mile, but my first two miles were 8:03 and 8:02.  Mission Accomplished.

2.  Run Based on Effort, Not on the Watch.  When I train I only look at my watch when it beeps that another mile has gone by.  When I race I often find myself checking my watch much more frequently.  It throws me off mentally and gets me second guessing my ability to pace myself.  My goal for this race was to run based on effort, not by the speed on the watch.  Devon and I kept telling ourselves, "This has to feel easy for the first few miles." We adjusted our pace to feel "easy" and ran based on effort, not the watch.  Mission Accomplished.

3.  Soak in the Experience.  I wanted to soak in everything about this marathon experience.  The course was stunningly beautiful and I didn't want to miss it.  All glory to God, I noticed every ray of sunlight, the bright green moss, the towering trees, the beautiful lake with flowering trees reflecting in the water.  I thanked the few spectators on the course for coming out and cheering.  Prayed for my friends running races all over Oregon.  Chatted with Devon.  Listened to my play list that my Man Child made for me of his favorite worship songs.  Thanked God out-loud for health and fitness and the joy of running.  Looked forward to seeing my family at mile 18, then stopped to hug and kiss each one of them.  I praise Jesus for helping me to accomplish this goal.  What a waste this race would have been without taking time to soak it all in.

4.  Kill the Hills.  Miles 9 through 14 were a steady uphill climb.  In most sections the grade was not steep but climbing continuously for five miles was much more taxing than I anticipated.  It was hard to maintain a good pace through this section, especially on the one section of steep switchbacks at mile 14.  I chose to walk briefly on this hill to catch my breath and eat a gel.  It was a relief to reach the summit of the hill section.  Surprisingly we stayed within race pace in spite of all that climbing. Devon and I separated on the hills section.  She's a faster climber than I am, but we still were easily within sight of each other.  Mission Accomplished.

5.  Make Up Time on the Downhill. Miles 15 through 22 were all downhill and I hoped to drop into the 7:40's on these miles to bank some time for the flat miles toward the finish.   My first mile in this section was a 7:46 and I stayed around that pace until I started getting sick. The grade of the hill wasn't steep but there was no relief from the downhill pounding on the quads.  I train on hills and thought this section would be a breeze, but my quads were SORE the next day.   I was gaining a little ground on Devon and hopeful that I would catch her, but then the nausea started.  (Cue drumroll here).  Mission Accomplished (kind of).

5.  Hold a Steady Pace on the Flats to the Finish.  Mile 23 to 26.2 were flat and fully exposed to the direct sun and wind.  My original goal was to just try to hold onto 8:00 minute miles for the last 4.2 miles to the finish.  It was unseasonably warm with no cloud cover and enough of a wind that it was a little tough to run into it.  These factors made it difficult for even the most seasoned runners to run fast to the finish.  CLEARLY I did not accomplish this goal.

In a word - DEHYDRATION.  Which led to electrolyte imbalance and temporary GI shutdown - at least that's what my Medical Doctor Friends tell me.

I ran with my water belt and had 10 ounces of water and 10 ounces of Nuun (electrolyte replacement) in my belt.  I also had five Hammer Gels in my fuel belt.  I planned to eat a gel every six miles and swap out my water bottles for fresh ones when I saw Curt at mile 18.  All of this is exactly how I fuel and hydrate on my long training runs.  Example: when I ran 22 miles I drank about 26 ounces of water and ate three gels.

Call it Race Day Nerves but I just forgot to drink.  I got it in my head that I needed to conserve my water because the aid stations on the course were relatively sparse. This wasn't a conscious choice, rather something I observed in retrospect.  When Curt went to swap out the water bottles at Mile 18 both were basically still full.  Nausea was starting to set in at that time.  It went downhill (pun intended) from there.
One of the best parts of the race - seeing my family at Mile 18.  How I love them!
Fast and furious, wave after wave of intense nausea killed my pace.  I'm a total wimp when it comes to nausea.  I will do ANYTHING to avoid barfing.  I was afraid that if I started retching I wouldn't be able to stop. The only way I could keep the nausea from totally overtaking me was to slow down.  So I slowed down.  And down.  And down.

I kept trying to drink water.  Or my Nuun.  Or eat a gel.  But I couldn't swallow anything.  I had to spit everything back out.  The more dehydrated I got, the sicker I got.  I started to get lightheaded and dizzy.  I had to look at a spot way down the trail and run with my head down to control the sensation of things spinning past me.

I walked briefly in Mile 21.  And Mile 22 when I saw Kelly, Carissa's friend.  We've run races together and she knew something was wrong right away.  I walked again at Mile 23.  This time for a longer period of time.  I wanted so desperately to run to the finish but there was no medical help on the course that I could easily identify and I knew I needed to be healthy enough to drive home.

Carissa met me around Mile 23.5.  She said I was drenched in sweat and super hot to the touch which is crazy  because at that point I was thinking to myself, "I'm hardly sweating and it should feel hot out here but I'm not hot."  I dropped my water bottle and had a hard time picking it.  Carissa said it looked like I was going to fall over.  I was in rough shape.

Carissa walked with me and helped me evaluate my finishing options.  We both agreed that walking to the finish in decent health was a better option than continuing to try to run and collapsing.  "Refuse to be disappointed.  Hold everything loosely" was rumbling around in my head.

At mile 24.5 Carissa texted Curt to tell him I was walking the remainder of the way to the finish.  I knew I needed to preserve my health and running was totally kicking my butt.  (Insert defeated sigh here).  The hardest part for me was letting other women pass me in the final two miles.  I knew I had made the right decision but the competitive part of me struggled with holding THAT loosely!

I decided to run the last half mile to the finish line.  Carissa and I overtook an older man who was literally staggering down the sidewalk. We stopped to help him.  Gave him some electrolytes and some water.  Carissa told me she would help him to the finish, looked at her watch and said, "Get to the finish line."  Our guy did finish the race but he collapsed on the track after he was done.  He told Devon he was passing a kidney stone!  He made me look like a total wimp.

What a beautiful sight to see my husband and four precious kiddos waiting for me on the high school track where the race ended.  The kids followed me around the track cheering for me and telling me I could do it.  With 300 meters left in the race I had to stop and walk one last time.  That was really frustrating for me.  I did run across the finish line and loved the joy of hearing the finish mat beep that this marathon was finally over.
All I have to do is round the track.  The guy in the green behind me is the guy we stopped to help.  What a TOUGH man!!!
rounding the last turn - "I'll run till I finish the race."
My official finish time was 3:48:16 with an average pace per mile of 8:43.  Way off the mark of my goal time, but I am refusing to be disappointed.  Since it was a small race it still put me as 13th place overall for the women (out of 89) and 4th in my age group.  Devon finished in 3:32 and got fourth place overall for the women!
We got our medals

These beautiful women pray for me.  Encourage me.  And challenge me to be a better wife, mom, friend, runner and Follower of Jesus.  What a gift they are to me!
This marathon thoroughly and completely kicked my butt.  It was humbling to walk with 300 meters left in the race, but I think I learn more from defeat than I do from victory.

I have a fresh appreciation for how hard the marathon is.  A renewed gratitude for the ability to cover the distance.  And just enough irritation that The Marathon said, "Thanks for trying have a nice day" and sent me packing, that I want to come back and even the score.  I can feel Curt's eyes rolling now...

Thank you to those of you who prayed me through a tough race and who have lovingly offered encouragement on the journey and post-race.  To God be the glory!

PS At church that night we sang a Hillsongs Live song called Lord of Lords.  It has a lyric that says, "I will run till I finish the race."  Just another reason why I love running - so many life parallels.

This Race by the Mile: 3 hours 48 minutes 16 seconds, Average Pace: 8:43

Mile 1: 8:03
Mile 2: 8:02
Mile 3: 7:49
Mile 4: 7:58
Mile 5: 8:04
Mile 6: 7:49
Mile 7: 7:54
Mile 8: 7:59
Mile 9: 7:59
Mile 10: 7:53
Mile 11: 8:03
Mile 12: 8:06
Mile 13: 7:56
Mile 14: 9:09 (walked the hill)
Mile 15: 7:46
Mile 16: 7:49
Mile 17: 7:49
Mile 18: 7:58
Mile 19: 8:30
Mile 20: 8:19
Mile 21: 9:09
Mile 22: 9:09
Mile 23: 9:06
Mile 24: 12:03
Mile 25: 12:48
Mile 26: 11:44
Mile 26.2: 10:24

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