Ahhh, Keys 100 race report. Where to start?
This race was a ramp-up in my Badwater 135 training. In March, I ran the Prairie Spirit 100 in Kansas to test my body out with a new nutrition plan and a 15-pound weight loss. Things went amazing there, running a 17:56 (down from a 21:07 PR) and I didn’t fade. This race, ideally, was intended to build on that, because it was a heat race. I knew my time would likely be slower, but my fitness was better heading into this so I just wanted to execute well with the heat to build on my confidence (which was good heading in). I was a little anxious though, because I knew that a bad race would hurt my confidence for Badwater.
Two of my four crew members for Badwater — my good friends Ben Delaney and Lisa Hernandez-Bobrow — were on my crew for this. They’ve both crewed me for 100s before, but not together, so this would be good for them to, to get used to working with each other. Lisa’s wife Alex and my daughter Ava were also on the crew.
Mentally and physically I felt pretty good going in, I really thought I was primed for a good day. There was a lot of “who’s who” from the Badwater community participating in this race and it felt pretty special to be a part of it. I was also interested in seeing how I stacked up against the others. Not totally from a competitive standpoint, but just to see where I stand.
The race started at 5:30, it was still dark, but high 70s and humid. I wasn’t paying good attention early on until it was too late. I spent the first couple of miles running and chatting with somebody who has a friend of mine crewing her at Badwater. I wanted to go out however slow I needed to in order to keep my heart rate below 135, and my heart rate in training has been really good recently, but I let it get to 145-148 early. To me, that’s an early concern because if I can’t get it back down I know I’m gonna break down earlier than I want. I stayed in the 130s in Kansas and was strong the whole race. I tried to get my heart rate back down but that’s pretty tough to do. And I couldn’t do it.
I took my salt caps more frequently since it was in the heat, but eventually I realized it wasn’t often enough. I was moving along at a decent pace, low- to mid-9s, and it didn’t feel hard, but I knew the effort was high. Mentally I knew less than 10 miles in that it was going to get tougher later than I wanted it to. I wasn’t feeling anything bad, I felt strong and the heat didn’t bother me at all. But the heart rate alarmed me.
I let my crew know each time I saw them how I was doing. Early on it was just “heart rate is high, but I feel good.” I forget when they started to jump in to pace me, maybe around 25 miles in or so (my memory is kinda foggy, I’ll get to that later), but at that point I started feeling not-to-well. I felt nausea, but not from anything I was consuming. I felt a little light-headed and headachy at times. It was off and on.
I think I started my .4 miles run, .1 miles walk intervals around 25 miles in. Ben was out with me, then Lisa. I remember taking a longer walk break with Lisa I think in the early 30s. I was having problems feeling lightheaded at times, but the nausea wasn’t too bad and while the temp got up to 87, it didn’t feel hot to me, it felt manageable. I just didn’t feel well.
I started taking 5-10 minute breaks in the van, trying to cool down and get my body back under control. At about 40 miles in though, I was cramping really badly in my legs — this is WAY WAY earlier than normal and I knew my electrolytes were really depleted and I was in big trouble. I started taking the salt caps more often, but was concerned it was too little, too late.
My hydration was actually good (I won’t get into TMI, but you can probably guess). It was the electrolyte depletion, and I’m pretty sure that being out of whack is what threw my body off in the heat.
Ben was starting to talk to me about considering dropping I think in the 40s — we went to Florida for a solid training run and to learn, but there was no point really wrecking myself and set my training back. I wasn’t hearing that, I don’t like quitting, I wanted to slug it out. I HATE dropping. You have to dwell on it until you get another race. I hit 50 I think in a little longer than 10 hours, which is slow for me, but I still had a decent day ahead of me if I could get better and pick it up after the sun went down.
But I wasn’t getting any better. The race medical staff checked me out and asked me how I was doing at mile 50 and they told my crew to keep an eye on me, because at 53, you hit something called Seven Mile Bridge, which is exactly what it sounds like, and I have to go over that alone. I went out with Alex from there and I was struggling, and kinda knew I wasn’t going to be going over the bridge. I texted Ben, who had been in communication with my coach, and I asked him what he was saying.
“If you’re asking the question, you know the answer.”
I wanted to walk a mile with Ava before I dropped, but we didn’t catch up with them until we got to the base of the bridge. I knew I was done when I got there, but I still stood there for a minute or two before I stopped my watch before accepting the reality of the situation.
I had a talk with Ava, told her I was dropping, that I wasn’t doing well physically, we went down there to gain experience, get a good training run in, and learn whatever we can. All three of those were accomplished. She’s a big NBA fan and I told her that this is like when teams have their playoff berths secured and they rest their starters. Badwater is what matters, like the playoffs, and I got all I could out of Keys at that point. It wasn’t worth it at that point to risk setting myself back any more. Time to call it a day and focus on July.
“Oh man, I’m gonna have to go to another 100 to see you finish?”
“Don’t worry, you’re going to a 135 in July and I WILL finish.”
I got in the van and we made the DNF drive down to our hotel in Key West. 20-30 minutes into the drive, we had to stop because I had to get out of the car to throw up pretty bad. We got down to the hotel and checked in and I threw up pretty bad in the parking lot again.
At that point, I still wouldn’t have been across the bridge. Ben and Lisa made the right call pulling me.
I’m writing this a little less than 24 hours after dropping and I’ve been a little lightheaded and spacey today. As we drove back, they were talking about some things from the race and my memory is a little hazy. Physically, I felt strong during the race and I think I’m in very good physical condition, but I’m pretty sure these issues were caused by electrolyte depletion in the humidity.
It sucks feeling like a failure, but long game is Badwater. We learned some things about preparedness that we were better off learning now than in July. We have some adjustments we’ll make and have better contingency plans. I’ll be ready. The failure certainly didn’t help my confidence, but I’ll use it to motivate myself and there’s nothing wrong with a little humility.
Onwards and upwards, nine weeks to go, I will be ready.