Taking Refuge

I take refuge in the abstraction of a trail runner. Despite my urging, my stomach appeared unconvinced that it was, in fact, empty. We’d emptied it three times so far last night, and this time I didn’t even try to sneak in any water. Still, the sudden onset of salivation sent me grudingly back to the bathroom. Finally, convinced we had done enough abdominal exercises, the nausea subsided. I managed to rollout my sleeping mat and close my eyes. My final waking thoughts involved the universality of nausea. It feels the same whether you have food poisoning, the stomach flu, an awful breakup, a wicked hangover or low blood sugar/electrolytes. When this feeling hits, you just want to curl up and forget you’re alive. How tough ultrarunners must be! This happens 50 miles into a race… and they run through it! They’re expected to. Crazy, no?!

I take refuge in the knowledge and the practices which are needed to go the distace. My run today represented a new approach to training: leverage the amazing Seattle public transit system. I ran from Chinatown to and throughout Seward Park, a cozy thumb of old growth forest sitting in Lake Washington. Running up and over the Seattle landmass was fun, and turned into a beautiful lakeside trail. A good chunck of that was single track, just at the water’s edge! The whole time you’re watching Seward Park get closer and closer, until finally you’re I the thick of it. Old growth trails entirely within the city. Gorgeous. It really was an excellent run. Too bad I made series of catastrophic mistakes. I took my first gel at 45 minutes, as per usual. When the time to down the second one came, I was already in the forest, and almost done with my run. I punted it. Stupid. Worse, it was sunny and I was pushing a fast pace the whole way. I ended the run with a Banana Blueberry almond butter Pocket Fuel. I was trying to suck the last bits out when the bus I was supposed to catch zoomed by… across the street. Oops. +45 mintutes to the wait. I couldn’t really be sad about being delayed somewhere so beautiful… so I wandered around and took more photos. But as time ticked by, a storm was brewing in my body. Another thirty minutes found me at my apartment. I made the ludicrious mistake of thinking that, since I missed my 30 minute intake window, there was no reason to rush out for food. Instead, I elected to do the Myrtl routine and some core exercises. Stupid. I don’t know why my stomach blew up, but I have a reasonable hypothesis: Lots of effort, lots of sun, but almost no intake. In any case, my stomach exploded shortly after the last leg swing. It was a miserable night. I couldn’t put down any water until I woke up around 3am. My body was running a little hot. I put a pinch of salt in some VitaCoco, took a sip and could feel the chill down my insides. Lesson learned. Follow the rules. Err on the side of replacement. Bring some serious post-run calories on exploratory runs! Respect the distance. Even if it’s only 10 miles.

I take refuge in the trail running community. Years ago, I was lucky to have been mentored through my first Marathon by a girlfriend. She patiently explained the logic behind her own trainning plan and taught me the art of consuming GU on the run. My parents — having run their own marathons in years past — had graciously upgraded my running shoes. More friends gave me more advice: speed workouts on the track, fartleks and amphipod bottles. That help was enough to get me through years of road running with no puking, no blisters, no bloody toenails, nothing. Having such a good education, I thought I knew what I was doing! So much, in fact, that I neglected the logistics and got slammed for it. While I groaned into consciousness this morning, I put on a bunch of old TRN podcasts regarding running nutrition, in particular those with Karl King and Sunny Blende. No words are good enough at this point. Body dysfunctions like nausea can be awful, but in racing it is apparently commonplace! That’s a horrible thought. To think that all that pain and suffering could be overcome while on the trail fills me with awe and a severe sense of respect. And hope.

Epilogue: When I first envisioned this blog, GI distress was not intended as a theme. The realization that this week’s event was caused by running primed me for an emotional experience. It’s one thing to visualize doing a 100 mile race, its another thing to realize, while you’re groaning in the fetal position on the floor with your violently ill stomach, that you could be feeling this exact same thing in the middle of the woods! It sounds ridiculous, but I consider last night’s episode as something of a baptism or induction, which hopefully explains the slant buddhist references in the piece above. Whatever the case, my perspective has changed sharply in the past twenty-four hours, and I’m excited about it.

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