Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So, what would you do?

Baboo wanted to know what this was like, from my perspective, so here it is.

Well, the first half was like a big giant party, the weather was awesome - because I wasn't running 50 miles in it. I took pictures, and bought crappy food to eat - which actually had a purpose, because I've discovered that if I pull an all nighter I have to fill up with simple carbs or I bonk and start having asthma problems. it works for me. There were children running around, and the runners were still enthusiastic.

The path was beautiful. The first, and last 15 miles were difficult (more on that later) but the 70 miles in between were on a gorgeous railroad bed turned trail. It was smooth, root-free, and covered with a finely ground pea gravel. pink pea gravel. The scenery was gorgeous. What wasn't to love about this run?

Throughout the day, Baboo ate and drank as he should. He drank bottles of Accelerade, Nuun, and water, drank Slimfast meals-in-a-can. He ate powerbars, and at least one salted nut roll. His stomach got a little funky around mile 50, but then he walked for a while and talked to some of the other ultrarunners about strategies for taking in liquids, and felt better. He was peeing throughout the day as he should be. He never, at any time, had any danger of dehydration, hyponutremia, or low carbs.

Then, the sun got lower in the afternoon sky, and it was past the turnaround. Some runners started throwing up. Leg cramps began. Some runners sat down at aid stations, heads hanging, and then asked to be taken out of the race.
Then, the less stalwart of the crewers and spectators, of which there had been few to begin with, went home to sleep and eat, leaving their runners alone in the dark. As the runners started to lose energy, so did the cheerleaders. The party was over.

It cooled down. A lot.

There was this strange, dichotomous drama:
On the one hand, these people had paid to do this, so they were doing to themselves, right? On the other hand, anyone who has ever struggled to complete a endurance event may, or may not, know why they are doing it. There are forces far beyond the cost of an entry fee that drive them. There is some spoken or unspoken thing driving them forward, and they may or may not be able to verbalize it. it is what it is.
So there it is: the runners push forward, struggling, knowing that they can quit at any time, but struggling just the same.

We were late getting to the mile 80 aid station, and just in time to see Baboo walking away from the aid station already, having waited for us by the fire, and then given up.

Seeing him in the glare of the headlights was a startling sight: He was walking, stiff legged and almost trans-like, staring straight ahead into the darkness. He didn't even turn to look as we pulled into the driveway at the aid station. We called out for him to stop, and he was shivering hard. Scott told me later that at some other ultras, they would have pulled him off the course for that alone.

I touched my husband's arm, and his neck. He was cold and wet. We reached into the car to pull out pants, a shirt, and Scott pulled out a knit cap for him to put on his head. He put on a longsleeve shirt, as well, and finally felt better, then he left, heading out into the blackness, him and a headlamp making a very, very small spot of light in a large black void.

Okay. Well, this was no longer a big party. It was a giant worry fest. It stopped being fun, and I started wondering if this was all worth it.

This wasn't fun any more. It was horrifying.

And, it was about 1 am. He'd been running for 19 hours.

The next place that I saw him was at mile 84. He was better but his feet hurt. All this time, he kept forgetting to ask someone to look at his feet: this is a serious lesson I learned, that I must, must, insist on checking everything, regardless of what he says or doesn't say. By this time, Baboo had about 8 blisters on his good foot. The other foot was worse. About 2-3 miles later, Scott and his runner, Don, caught up to us, and Scott helped me take care of some of Baboo's foot issues. At least one of the blisters was so deep it could not be drained.

The last part of the course was a hilly, rolling road with 1-1.5 inch jagged gravel. I drove 3 miles ahead and waited for baboo. On the way to my 3 mile mark, I passed 2 runners. I stopped, turned off the engine, and then waited, getting the second of my 30-minute naps. Each time a runner went past, I woke up. Suddently I realized that about 6 runners had gone by, and no Baboo. I waited for a little while longer, unsure of what to do, and then there he was, dragging his poles behind him, telling me that they were horrible, and to take them. So, I did.

At this point, watching him walk, I wondered if he would even finish. I wondered if, for the first time since I've known him, my baboo would say, "I can't do this. It's too hard." and then climb into the car.

He was jogging a bit on the downhills, and walking the uphills, and it was painful to watch. It was about 3 am, and I was watching my husband struggle. By mile 89, his walk was a stumping, halting walk. Imagine your feet are blocks of wood that do not flex. That's how he walked.

I cried a little, and recorded how I felt.

Eventually, the sun came up. I followed behind Baboo, and he shared his worry with me about making the cutoff. I knew, from previous discussions, that my job was to make sure that he kept going. I knew that, medically, he was okay: He had enough carbs, electrolytes, and hydration to be safe, but his feet hurt so much. I knew how much he wanted this. I also knew that I didn't ever want to see this again: this suffering. It was very hard. During text messages, I assured his parents that I would not allow this again. Nope.

No way.

Now I'm wondering what he's planning. At one time, Baboo gasped to me that this wasn't his event, that he should stick to triathlon maybe, or maybe he was saying that triathlon hadnt' prepared him for this, I couldn't really tell. The gist of it was that I had the distinct impression that he wouldn't want to do this again, and I was satisfied: He'll finish this, it will be a single impressive achievement, and that's the end of that. He doesn't want to worry the people who care about him. The. End.

But what if...What if he wants to do this again?

I'm not sure that I can stand that suffering. On the other hand, if he insists on doing this again, I want to be there, not someone who doesn't have the same investment in his lack of suffering that I do. Is that caring? Or enabling?

On one hand, running 100 miles is just insanity. On the other hand, how can I stand in the way if he decides he wants to do this again?

I mean, what would you do?



  1. It is very hard to watch someone you love suffer. Even if they are doing it to themselves. When people we love are in any sort of trouble we want to help and make it better, sometimes more so that we feel better knowing they are not suffering.
    If Brian chooses to do this again, you should support him and help him be more prepared this time so that there is less of the suffering and more of the enjoying part.
    One thing is obvious is your love for him and I think this experience has only made that stronger.
    I remember a post where you guys did the Duceman and I remember reading BP's post about how tough the course was and it was just kicking his butt and all he could think about was that you were still out there and he could not care less if he finished or not because he wanted to know you were o.k. He was hurting because he knew you were suffering.
    I can only imagine what you went through in your mind watching him and how hard it was for you.
    I think Brian would support you if roles were reversed.

    BTW I totally loved the picture where you put crazy horse and crazy brian on it. That was totally awesome.

  2. Well I had something to say, but really Mike said essentially what I would have.
    Everybody has to chase down and conquer their own demons, and all we can do is support and hold your breath.
    You are a good wife - cheerleading is almost as physically and emotionally exhausting as doing, in my opinion.

  3. I think both of you are awesome and inspiraional. That being said, you could always just have him walk through broken glass to remind him of the pain and see if he still wants to do it. :) Seriously though, even though you have doubts, no matter what he wants to do I have a feeling you would support him no matter how tough it is on both of you. Just like he would do for you!

  4. This may sound harsh but you don't get to pick what he does, only what you do. If he wants to do this again and you can't handle seeing him suffer then you don't go. I know - absurd. But be that as it may we can only control ourselves, not others and I'm sure you would be as reluctant to stomp on his dreams as you would be to watch him suffer chasing them.

    All you can do is figure out how to handle you and let him do what he does.

    Remember how much it hurt for you to get through IMKY? And remember how triumphant you were at IMCdA? See - all better!

  5. Wow-I can see the dilemma..I can feel the pull to do the impossible and conquer, yet also the insanity of pushing the body to such extreme limits that you could really harm yourself..Is it love to support your mate to take such risks? I don't have the answer..all I know is that this 100 mile run makes Ironman look like child's play and it seems alot more scary..yet Brian did finish and is OK (I assume)..tough call..

  6. How is he now? For me, that would be a big part of how I would react to any mention of a repeat. If he's recovering well with no long-term ill effects, you don't have much basis for asking him not to do it again. You'd essentially be saying for him not to do it because you don't like it, not because it's a particular danger to him.

    That said, yeah it sucks to watch someone you love put themselves through hell. If he does decide to do another one, though, be sure he'll have learned from this one.

  7. Ok, I will give you the perspective from the other side of the fence.
    It's supposed to hurt. It's a 100 miles. Of course it will hurt.
    As a crew person, I'm sure this was tough to see, your first 100 mile race, and the person that you love doing this. But like what someone else said, you have to either accept it, or not attend if he wants to do more of these.
    I have a friend who crewed her husband through dozens of 100s and you have to become pretty tough..your runner will be hurting, that's a given. She also knew that's what he wanted to do, and accepted her role to watch his suffering. And to keep kicking his butt down the road to keep continuing too.

  8. All you can do is voice your concerns. But if he wants to do it again, it's his decision. I would consider not going with him, although the not knowing might be worse than the knowing.

  9. Good thoughts, so far. As for how he is, well, he's good. Yesterday when I got home from work I was surprised to see him walking around just a bit stiffly, no more so than I would have expected from doing a regular marathon. As staying home, I'm not sure that's an option. The last time I did something like that, and he had a difficult time, I drove everyone around me (and myself) crazy calling all the cell phones i could find to find out where he was, how he was doing, etc.

  10. Anonymous7:25 AM

    I agree with 21CM that we can't control what other's do, just ourselves.

    Honestly, I don't know how I would respond. I've learned over time that I really don't know until I'm in the situation myself. Too many times, I've said...oh, if that happened to me, I'd do this or that...then when I found myself in the exact situation was surprised that I reacted differently than I thought I would.

    So, until I've walked in your shoes, I won't give you advice, just support. You are a very smart girl, and I know you'll find a good way to work through this :)

  11. Stand by your man...and take a girlfriend with you so you have a distraction and your own support.

  12. what stronger said.

    if my spouse decided to do a hundred, I'd say YOU GO HONEY!!! I would support him completely, and get out of his way, and I would not crew him. Not in a million years. I've spent enough time on the side of the pitch watching him concuss himself playing rugby to know that I can't contribute. I cannot help. I can only be there to draw a bath and get some ice when he's done, and share the experience with him later.

    and he knows it.

  13. This entry is the exact reason why I don't want my wife too involved in any 100s that I do. I wouldn't have the strength to fight to the finish and argue with her (not that you argued, but she definitely would)!

    If he does decide to do additional 100s, they should go more smoothly. Not that running a 100 is EVER easy, but experience helps prepare everyone involved for the things that inevitably go wrong.

    You commented on the lack of Type A personalities and people obsessing over every detail, as you often see at tris. Tri guys obsess over every detail because they hope to eliminate the possibility that something can go wrong. Ultrarunners EXPECT things to go badly but they prepare for it by creating strategies to minimize the effect on the outcome of the race. It's a different philosophy, but mentally it's helpful in getting through the tough times.

    As a crew member/pacer, the most important things to be aware of are signs of dehydration, hyponatremia, hypothermia, and altitude sickness in the higher elevation races. These can be life threatening and cause runners to start thinking irrationally, placing them in even greater danger. Let the small stuff go, but if you suspect one of these, stop your runner, even if you have to tackle him. It shouldn't be difficult at this point.

    Everything else, stomach problems, bonking, blisters may cause suffering but if the suffering gets too bad, the runner will stop. And if they don't, these aren't life threatening.

    This was Brian's first race and it didn't go as well as hoped (they never do), but he learned a lot. His next one (and I would be willing to bet there will be a next one) should go much better, for him and you.

    Take care.

  14. Anonymous6:51 PM

    That is a tough one. After reading both sides of the story I think I would be feeling exactly the same as you. Not wanting to witness it again, but not wanting to stand in his way either.

    I for one know that I would still go and help - it is just part of what makes you guys a great team. The support for each other is huge, and being there is everything, no matter what! It wouldn't be the same for me if my husband wasn't there, as I am sure it is for both of you.

    You guys are both so inspirational! Simply amazing...

  15. As hard as it is for me, I can't ask someone to not do something. If they are going to do it, then I have to be there for them.

    Likewise, I want the same in return.

    For me, it's about interfering with someone else's dream, and I can't do that.

  16. From the other side---

    My hubby cannot come watch me at all. He gets so concerned. He does support and encourage me in what I choose to do. I prefer also that he is not there- when he gets concerned and I see it- I lose my focus.

  17. You could take a page from any other habit that might have an adverse affect on your family.

    I'm all for supporting your loved ones, and I'm all for setting ridiculous goals. I would expect the people around me to stage an intervention should my ability to balance extreme acheivement with those who are dependent on my existence.

    A chart of pros and cons, maybe? Sounds like a family conversation is in order.

  18. I would tell him that maybe this is not his event. Great time the first time around, glad he finished but...never again.

  19. You are SO good for him. I know it was hard, but you did right by him. And you will do what's right for you both in the future. You know how stubborn he can be... But you are both very strong. You both learned a lot from the experience. If (if?, when) he decides to do another, I'm betting you will both use lessons learned to improve the next one. I can't imagine you staying home. Time may give it more perspective. You are a great team.


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