Recovering from a 100 mile run- or- Might as well have been a hospital bed
In retrospect, maybe my body wasn’t ready for that first 100 mile run. My mind certainly wasn’t. Only my ambition was.
But that’s a story for another day.
I finished. In 32 hours and 44 minutes I ran and hiked 100 miles through 100 plus degree weather in the day, rain at night, and maybe even an encounter with a grumpy bear being woken up by thunder. At the time, I think the general consensus had been that this was an “easy” hundred mile race. It was only until two years later that people started referring to this course as being a tough one.
That year, my brother Mike and I were the last official finishers. That landed us a 8th and 9th place. Two more would finish unofficially. Everyone else dropped out.
Still, another story for another time.
For now, I want to share an experience of recovery from an Ultra.
I guess recovery starts from the moment you leave the finish line. Mike drove us back the 12 miles from the race to the room. We had each been awake for maybe 36 hours at this point.
I wanted nothing more than to sleep. But Mike was sleep deprived too. The safest thing to do was to stay awake until he drove us safely to the hotel room.
When we arrived at the hotel. Things weren’t really that bad yet. We could still walk. The distance from the car to the hotel did seem far, but not daunting yet. But our legs were shutting down.
We got to the room. Mike said that before we slept, we each had to take a shower. He said that our cuts, blisters, and chafing areas could get infected because we were covered in dirt. (Not to mention all the dust we had inhaled.)
When it was my turn, I could hardly get undressed. It was a difficult process to get my legs high enough to step into the shower. I vaguely remember the shower itself. The water runoff from my body was red and brown and rocky from the course. I was coughing already (from the dust and exercise)…
AND I was CHAFED. In places. In embarrassing places. What kind of places? Well, let’s just say that my buttocks are included on that list.
I’ll leave the specific details of my chafing areas to your imagination. Or I’ll save them for a conversation we have in person.
But I discovered certain chafed/cut/bleeding areas by the shock I received when the water hit them. Then I would feel these very sensitive areas with my hands and I’d know that some healing had to happen there. This is why runners wear Vaseline, lube, and/or Band-Aids.
My feet were bleeding and especially dirty. I couldn’t bend down to scrub them nor could I lift them. They would have to wait. I struggled to get dressed again and made my way to bed.
Might As Well Have Been a Hospital Bed
It was a two queen bed hotel room. I had the bed closest to the bathroom. I shivered from cold, in and out of consciousness for a good while. My legs completely stopped working by this point. They couldn’t move or support my body weight.
I had to urinate.
I wondered how long I could lay in that hotel bed without pissing myself. I knew that in my condition, the short trip to the toilet would be challenging.
I was exhausted so I slept as much as I could, but I was always waking up because I still hadn’t urinated. Eventually, it was time to launch. I positioned myself to the edge of the bed with my feet hanging over. I used my arms, the bed, and the nightstand, to leverage myself as much as possible into a smooth transition. Each step was slow and low, carefully planned out. I was always leaning on something. I was putting as much weight on my arms, and as little weight on my legs, as possible.
The leap of faith from the nightstand to the wall was a risky one but it paid off.
It sounds dramatic, but I’m not exaggerating here. I couldn’t lift my legs and they couldn’t support my body weight. This was the smoothest process. Even crawling would have been more strenuous.
I made it to the toilet and I finally relieved myself. (Standing up, of course)
During this process, I looked down at my feet. Between my toes, I could see a slimy clear-ish, slightly pinkish fluid. Like I said, the bottom of both of my feet had giant blisters that had popped. The fluid I was looking at was a mixture of dirt, blood, and the clear pus that fills blisters.
And here’s my favorite part….
That mixture glued my feet to the tile floor. I was stuck.
Trying my best not to lose my balance, still unable to lift my legs, I had to peel my popped blisters off the bathroom floor.
With everything accumulating, this was one of the most physically painful experiences of my life, but even then I thought it was funny.
Back then, I always thought it was part of the experience. A few hours prior, I was a “super-athlete,” an ultra-runner. Here I was temporarily broken. I thought this was life’s way of letting me know how blessed I truly was.
After I let out my noises of pain, I laughed a little.
Eventually I was in bed again. I would have to return to the restroom frequently that night, but always just a little bit smoother. My feet never got stuck to the floor again. Trust me, some mistakes you only make once.
In case you’re wondering, it was four days before I started walking close to normal again.
My last 100 mile run was four months ago. I recovered in four hours.
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