Monday, September 13, 2010

Moscow Mountain Mad/Sickness 2010

I haven't been training for any races, but when I saw that Moscow Mountain Madness was coming up, I decided that I wanted to give it a go.  After all, it was local, cheap, familiar, and a guaranteed PR (since it was a distance that I had never before run).

Admittedly, I was nervous before the start.  I hadn't slept well, and I participated in a beer-drinking/rating activity the night before, so my body wasn't feeling energized and fresh.  (In fact, my stomach could only handle half of a Clif bar, as it was still dealing with the chocolate, vanilla bourbon, and extra stouts.)  I hoped that my max-strength energy shot would give me the energy that my body was lacking.    

Shortly after 9:00, the gun went off and I started up the 3-4 mile ascent.  After only about a mile, however, I started to feel bad.  Really bad.  In no time flat, my half a Clif bar and five-hour energy came up.

That would have been enough for most stomachs out there, but not mine.  (It's a champ!)  Every few steps, my body would start feeling that hot and then shivery feeling, and then I'd immediately have to lean over to wretch a little into the bushes.  With each dry heave I came closer and closer to giving up hope for the race. 

At 2.25 miles, I was ready to quit.  My stomach was tired of flexing up in dry heaves, and my Garmin kept giving me hell about being behind my desired pace.  And to make matters worse, the race sweepers (who walked the whole time) caught up with me.  Morale low, I told them that I wanted to quit.

One of the sweepers gave me her water bottle, and I sucked a little bit of liquid into my empty but vocal stomach.  The other sweeper started to make the call to the bottom of the mountain.

At that point, though, I reassessed the situation and decided that I couldn't quit.  I felt awful, but I wasn't going to let the race beat me.  I decided to keep going.

The next four miles to the top of Moscow Mountain was brutal.  I ended up throwing up the sweeper's water, and it was made apparent to me how far I was lagging behind when packs and packs of other runners were making their ways down the mountain as I was still going up.  I tried not to be embarrassed at my position and smiled as folks ran by saying, "You're doing great" and "The downhill is way better than the up."  I also tried staving off my anger at the aid station volunteer who told me that I would be on the mountain all day at the pace I was running.  (Grrr!)

At mile 6.2, I reached the peak and knew it was time to start heading downhill.  Even though I was a little worried about my knee (since downhills seem to aggravate it more than anything else), I welcomed the change and the opportunity to pick up the pace.  I looked down at my Garmin at mile 7 to see how I was doing pace-wise.  Big mistake.

Another important decision had to be made, and I made it fast.  I wasn't going to let the Garmin ruin the race for me or dictate how I felt about myself.  Yes, I was behind pace, but with nothing left in my stomach and some beautiful trails ahead of me, I decided that the best thing for me to do was to put the Garmin in my back pocket and run at my own pace. 

And I jogged/shuffled mile after mile.  I thought about walking but realized I didn't need to.  Despite the fact that most of my runs these days are only 2-4 miles, my lungs and my legs were in shape enough to finish the race in a jog.

And then I heard something that put a smile on my face.  "All right, Annie!  You're doing great!"  It was my running partner, Scott.  He had long since finished the race, and he had made his way back up the mountain to meet me.  He took a couple of pictures and followed me down to the finish.  I could have (and would have) finished without his support, but I was glad I didn't have to.

I crossed the finish line at 2:52:31, and I finished absolutely last.  And you know what?  I could feel bad about that.  But I don't.

I completed a 12-mile trail race, which is still one of my longest runs to date.  And it wasn't flat and fast, either; the race's website states, "You need to be in good shape to participate.  This is the toughest of the Palouse Road Runner events." Just finishing the race is an accomplishment.  And finally, I met my B goal - to finish in under three hours.  (My A goal was to not come in last. *smile*)

This was a good experience for me, even though I was sick and tired for most of yesterday.  And I learned some really important things:
  1. Drinking the night before a race is stupid. 
  2. Letting someone get under my skin during a race doesn't help anything.  I'll try to make this first time be the last time.
  3. Garmins are great sometimes, but it is good to know when to ditch them and just run. 
  4. Running partners are blessings.
  5. DFL is better than DNF in my book.
  6. Taking ibuprofen on an empty/queasy stomach is a bad idea.
Not too shabby for a Sunday morning.   


P.S. I have nearly 800 miles logged since I first started to run.  Can you believe it?


  1. I'm impressed how you pushed through. Now you know you can succeed even when you're not at your best.

  2. Nice work, Annie! And 800 miles?! Holy crap!

  3. Hey Annie! Okay, so I was reading some comments on Scott's blog and realized this is you. :) I think it's TOTALLY inspiring that you kept going even though you were so sick. I'm pretty sure I could not have done that. And I love that you took your Garmin off. I'm not sure I could have done that either. Nice job on the whole experience!

  4. Ha! Thanks, you guys. And Melanie, thanks for finding me. You just increased my readership by, like, 20%. I'd love to read your blog, too, if you gave me the link.

  5. Sounds like a hard-earned finish. I'll remember your upbeat attitude and smile the next time I slog through a painful run. I'm so grateful for your friendship, your vivid writing, and your willingness to share your stories with the world!

  6. When I finished my first 50K mountain race I was dead last...and felt like I won a gold medal at the Olympics.

    And at the pace I run I am on the mountain all day. That's the point. Nothing better...

  7. Thank you all for your comments!

    Em: thank you for your praises. I appreciate them more than you know.

    And Alan: anyone who finishes a challenging race - whether it be a 50K for you, a half marathon for me, or a 93-mile run for Scott - deserves a gold medal. Finishing a race that tests your limits sure makes you feel good.

  8. Just want to say how awesome you are again...for you know what. I won't spoil it before your next post.

  9. Holy shnikeys, Annie! I just saw this. Blisters and all; nice work!