Altitude Sickness
September 21, 2016

Blister considerations

It’s the day before the Spartan Race, and I don’t know if I am doing it. I don’t even know if there are open spots left in the race. I have stayed ignorant of this fact for a reason. Last week I successfully put together some very steep climbs for a tough day and insured that I have the leg to get me through any carries that the Spartan might offer.
This week and last week, I proved to myself that I can do 100 burpees in a few minutes, I can knock out sets of 40 pushups nearly all day, and the same goes for sets of 10-plus pull-ups, so obstacles shouldn’t be a concern.
My only concern was mileage (my back and hip have been a real problem this year), and so Monday I put a motion before the committee that is my injury-laden body to lay any mileage concerns to rest. I got up at 4 a.m., drank a dozen raw eggs blended with pickle juice (it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds), stretched, spent 20 minutes moving my legs on a stationary bike, and at 5:30 set out to run my favorite Sherburne/Pico/Killington/Pico Sherburne twice.
The last time I did a trail run similar to this (about 24 miles in six or seven hours), I ended my day screaming on the floor for an hour and a half. Yelling for help with seized feet, legs, hips, and lower back, I finally managed to drag myself to my phone and called a friend who came over to bring me pickle juice, water, and towels, so that I wouldn’t have to lie in a puddle of urine on the floor.
I have had bad cramping episodes before. I had one on the swim team in high school that was so bad that they had to lift me out of the pool and stand me up on my wood-like legs because we couldn’t bend them. We had to use my body weight to flex my toes. The cramps went away in a few minutes, I went to the locker room, puked up my dinner, and went back into the pool and finished practice.
This one was different. I have passed kidney stones, and this was worse. Way worse. So what I did this time was make sure that I had not only my 70-ounce bladder, but also a 16-ounce electrolyte tablet drink on each lap. Further, on the lap break I drank more water and another dozen raw eggs blended with pickle juice.
The eggs made the first two hard uphill miles less fun, but overall they did very well at keeping me from shambling like a zombie at any time. Because they’re liquid, they absorb quickly, and they are the best power food available.
I did a great job hydrating, peeing every couple of hours. I did such a great job that not only did I never once come within a whisper of a cramp (not even later), but I noticed about 15 miles in that my fingers had become swollen (I had no idea why at the time). I had so much electrolyte running through my body that I was retaining water. Even as late as 4 a.m. the next morning, I was waking up with a bursting bladder (I stopped drinking water in late afternoon, concentrating on calorie replacement).
As I peed, and peed, and peed (and peed), my fingers returned to their normal state. My ankle, however, did not.
In the course of my 8.5 hours, 27 miles and 8,400 vertical feet of climb/descent, I turned my right ankle a whopping eight times! I finished my run, but actually had to walk the last few miles of flats, because something I was doing was causing my right hip flexor (the good one) to not really work. I could run the downhills, but was having a great deal of trouble lifting my leg. This troubled me.
I finished out my run, showered, ate, and went to bed, waking up in excruciating pain the next day with a very swollen ankle and a dysfunctional hip flexor. Between then and now I have spent a great deal of time on the stationary trainer, and a few hours into Tuesday I was barely sore in the hip flexor. I have recovered beautifully; even the ankle is almost normal size.
If I can avoid turning the ankle too many times (it used to be the good one), and the hip flexor doesn’t go south on me (that used to be the good one, too), I’m pretty sure that I can turn out an Ultra in well under 12 hours. Maybe under 11. I am in better shape than last time, better prepared (in all respects), I have better shoes, and I know what is ahead of me. I might even be able to knock out a Beast on Sunday.
The thing that is really troubling me the most is a blister I got on my Achilles tendon from my new shoes. It is an open sore, and I am not sure that I want to deal with it.
Later I will look to see if there are open spots in the races and make my decision. It is real that a blister might keep me from 45 miles of races. Then again (with all due respect to Judy Bloom), maybe it won’t.

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