Wednesday, December 8, 2010

TNF 50 Mile Championship - San Francisco; Mind over …Flu?

The Universe is out of balance…I want to know who out there is getting all the good karma while I on the other hand am being dealt rotten bananas. 

It all started with what was probably a dreadful split second decision in the San Francisco airport the Saturday after Thanksgiving and after a three-day whirlwind tour of visiting both my family and my husband’s family spanning both Northern and Southern California.    I saw the “flu shots” sign.  I knew I needed to tick “flu shot” off my list, and with The North Face Endurance Championship race a full week away, I thought I would be safe in getting a shot.  For the record, my husband said “Are you really sure you want a shot this close to your race?”  I’ve never had a reaction from a flu shot before, so I thought I was in no danger.

Sunday night, a freight train of a headache hit me.  By Monday, it was tearing through my body.  Wednesday was a low point, with little energy to function, I could feel the universe tilting to one side and I was hanging off the end of it.  I found out my pacer for the TNF 50 mile Championship, only three days away, wasn’t going to be able to make it.  And that the shoes I ordered for the race somehow didn’t find their way to Bend.   Thursday some energy was coming back as I traveled down to San Francisco.  But by Thursday night, stomach cramps started. Friday night, lying in bed in the host hotel, I tried my best to meditate the pain in my head and stomach away.  It worked, if only to put me to sleep for a few hours. 

Race morning my alarm went off at 3.20 am.  I figure if I actually have to be woken up by an alarm, it means I’ve been sleeping soundly.  I took it as a good sign.  As I made coffee, I noticed that my stomach was grumbling, in a good way, hungry for some calories.  I took this as another good sign as my appetite had been off with the stomach pains.  After a couple packets of oatmeal and a cup of Peets in my hand, I met up with some other runners from The North Face to ride to the start.

Regardless of the distance of the race, I always run a little warm up.  On this morning, I jogged lightly for 10 minutes and did some strides and dynamic stretching.  Ugh, the stomach was a little sloshy.  I dismissed it as maybe one too many packs of oatmeal.   Think positive.

The first 5 miles of any race, save a 10k, it is impossible to know how the day will go.  I tried to stay conservative, but to keep the lead runners in sight, which included Lizzy Hawker (my TNF teammate from Great Britain via Switzerland) and Anna Frost (New Zealand).    But within 7 miles my stomach was talking to me.  I stepped off the course to double over with cramps.    When I stepped back on, I lost sight of Lizzy but could still Anna.  On the way down the Old Springs Trail into Tennessee Valley, I had to stop again.  This time I turned off my light for some peace and quiet and watched as headlamps zoomed by.  Too many headlamps.  By the time I was ready to step back on the course, I didn’t care what place I was in.  I just wanted to make it to BootJack and then see how I felt.  If I still felt crummy, I was going to stop. 

Into Tennessee Valley, I saw my crew and grumbled about my stomach.  They looked stoic.  No sympathy.  Fortunately, heading out of Tennessee Valley I heard a familiar voice and turned to see Jason Hill, a friend and shoe designer from The North Face.  Yeah, something positive to focus on.  In the spirit of no whining, I mentioned my stomach pains, but said I was going to channel health and positivity.  Although I had to grunt with some discomfort on the road down to the Coastal trail, Jason seemed happy to be out running 50 miles and his positive outlook became mine. 

We ran together all the way down through Stinson Beach. On the climb out of Stinson, I noticed something missing – stomach pain.  I actually felt good.  So I started to run hard.  Between the climb out of Stinson to the finish, I rarely walked, except for the steepest sections of the Steep Ravine Trail, and the unbelievably muddy sections before and after Muir Beach.  I felt strong and was hoping I was catching somebody. 

I received reports along the way…8 minutes back at BootJack (2nd time through); 4 minutes back at Tennessee Valley (2nd time through); and 3 minutes back at the final aid station.  In back of who…I didn’t know.  But at least I was gaining.   I ended up finishing about 2.5 minutes behind Lizzy.  Anna finished some 15 minutes in front.  Well done.  Wishing the course was longer, I feel like I may have been able to make up some of the early mile time loss.    But it is what it is.  I’m incredibly happy to have finished, glad the season is done, and ready to start some serious skiing. 

By Sunday night, the flu demon came back full on.  I can’t remember the last time I couldn’t get out of bed or had at least one gulp of fresh air in a day.  I didn’t have any positive energy to throw at it, and knew I just needed to let it run its course.  Maybe next year the universe will tilt my way and I’ll get a chance to really run.   


  1. You've just reinforced my belief that flu shots are not in my best interest. Thanks for the story!

  2. Such an awesome animal! Sorry you got hit with it hard, but glad it mostly waited until after you finished. Looking forward to having you trash me on some ski trails in a couple of weeks!

  3. The positive! Being able to finish this race and feeling like crud makes you a winner. You have so much strength and perseverance. Good going!!

  4. Congratulations on your tenacity to overcome the elements. The flu shot does shorten the flu symptoms but does not prevent you from being exposed to the various strains out there. I swear by it travelling so much. Great to see you out there.