Before we get into it, I want to be clear that I could not have crossed the finish line without the help of my support crew. Mary Fingeroff and Monique Lynch were there for me throughout the weekend. Crucially, between the two of them they ran the last 40 kilometres with me. I didn’t complete the Tarawera Ultramarathon, we did.
Something felt wrong. It’s hard to describe. With only a few kilometres to go in the Tarawera 100 Miler, I started wondering if I should stop and seek medical attention. I was scared. I kept going. To the finish line. In a daze I choose my pounamu. After all the work to get to this point, I couldn’t really appreciate it at the moment.
Every competitor must go to the recovery tent. They asked me questions. I was given over to the medical team, my temperature taken. Other vitals. My core body temperature was too hot. Next thing I know, I’m on a stretcher, getting ice poured over me. It wasn’t enough. Off the stretcher, and into an inflatable kayak, so that more ice and water could be put around my body. My temperature fluctuated, down a bit, up again, apply more ice, stable temp, then down a bit more.
I actually almost fell asleep. While in an ice bath. I had to pee. Dr. Tom got me out of the tub and walked me to the furnace box that was the port-a-loo. Thankfully, he didn’t make me get back into the tub. Instead, he sat me down in front of a big fan and wrapped me in wet towels, bringing on more uncontrollable shivering. But my vanquished appetite had returned, and I got to eat some excellent vegan food from the end of race banquet area. And then, I almost fell asleep in the chair.
After two hours in the medical tent, I was cleared to go. The free beer tent was already gone for the day and the last competitors were crossing the line or still out on the course hoping they would make it before the thirty-six hour cut-off which was fast approaching. It was about as climatic and anti-climatic as it could get for me. I didn’t want to celebrate. I just wanted to go back to the hotel to rest.
A shower. Half a beer, my first since New Year’s Eve. Asleep for a spell. Wake-up. Eat a little more food and finish my beer, then asleep again. The day is done after being more or less awake for the past 40 hours and over 100 miles of movement on my feet.
I am fascinated by what happened. What happened? I don’t know. I felt good. I was moving well. Then in the final 20 miles or so the wheels started to fall off.
The memory of that last downhill when every step caused a grimace of pain is fresh. I can still see myself almost breaking into tears at the last aid station and saying that I wanted to quit with only a few miles to go. The ice bath was an experience I’d rather not repeat. During much of the later half of the race, I kept telling myself I’d never run another hundred miler.
But the mind has a way of transforming difficulties into resiliency and determination. Only a day or so after the race, I started asking the questions. What could I do better next time?