Monday, July 27, 2015

My First DNS--Sljeme Marathon Croatia

I was all ready to rock the Sljeme Marathon
You are probably thinking "she must have done way too much too soon after the appendicitis and surgery."   NOPE. Going into this race I was feeling great.  I didn't feel any soreness in the surgery area at all anymore during/after runs or even with  core work.  My appetite and bowel functions all finally completely back to normal.  I was so excited for this race. It was the pick me up I needed after my unexpected surgery and having to drop down to a shorter distance at Velebit which I had been so looking forward to doing the longest distance for about six months.  I also just love trying all different races in all different places. Sljeme sounded like a great challenge.  3, 14k loops.  First half of each loop 1000 feet down and the second half 1000 feet up and I think mostly trail but runable trail. Definitely my kind of race.

Niko REALLY wanted to come to the race which meant Una wanted to come too.  That's why I asked my sister-in-law and her fiancé if they would mind driving me and the kids to the race and taking care of them while I ran.  They were more than happy to take us so all the plans were made.  

Sljeme mountain is in Zagreb the capital of Croatia and about 2.5 hours from Bihac, Bosnia where Emir's family lives and I was staying the night before the race.  We decided the night before that we would leave at 7 to give us an extra hour cushion getting to the race as it started at 10:30.

The Sljeme Mountain where the race takes place.  We passed it on our way to visit family the week before the race
Race morning we got up.  I had coffee and ate well. The kids ate and we were out the door on time.  Everything seemed great.  About 15-20 minutes from Bihac is a border crossing into Croatia which is how we always go no matter our destination in Croatia.  As we rounded the corner towards the border, our hearts all literally dropped to the ground at the same time.  The line was the longest I've seen it since the early 2000s the first few times I came with Emir.  Back then then the war had not long been over so crossing could be difficult sometimes. But the last few years Emir and I have never waited more than 30 minutes.  Usually on average 10-15 minutes. Even my sister-in-law and fiancé were shocked and they live there and cross on a regular basis. They said that It is never a long wait early on a Sunday morning.  It was awful just sitting there in line not being able to do anything but watch time slip away.  They finally opened a 3rd line and we moved over to it.  But still by the time we went through it was after 8:30.  I knew making it to the race on time was a slim chance at this point but Menso said he would drive fast so we powered on.  

About 20-30 minutes later Una started screaming.  I knew it meant she was about to throw up.  I yelled for Dajana to give me a plastic bag.  Una started puking as I was trying to get the bag open to catch it.   It was all over my hands and arms and all over her.  We pulled into a gas station to use the bathroom to get Una and myself cleaned up.   Time just kept ticking away.  We got back in the car and sped off again.   Now Una only in her underwear was much happier.  And all I could smell was her throw up.  I kept thinking even if I make this race it's going to suck smelling like puke the whole time.   

Una feeling much better after puking and I'm just trying not to go crazy, knowing I'm probably not making this race
About 15-20 minutes later the car started making a weird noise.   We all tried to ignore it as we didn't want to stop again but it kept happening so Menso had to pull over again to check.  He never found anything wrong with it and then it never made the noise again.  It's like the race gods were just stacked against me that day.

Eventually we made it into Zagreb but it was already 10:30 and we still had to get up the mountain.  We drove in circles for a while trying to get to the mountain.  We stopped to ask someone and found out that the main road was closed and we had to go back to the highway and go that way.  But going that way takes an hour.  And at this point it was after 11.  There was absolutely no reason I wanted to drag the poor kids who had already been in the car 4 hours another hour up to a race that I definitely wouldn't be able to run since I would be 2 hours late at that point.  So I made the decision that we were just going to give up on getting there.  

Una in my after race shorts.  She was not happy, she did not like them one bit, said they weren't pretty

Menso and Niko in Zagreb

It was an awful feeling.  I really wanted to just sit by myself somewhere and cry but that wasn't an option.  I had two hungry, rammy kids to take care of and we had to now make it all the way back to Bosnia.  I also felt so terrible that Menso and Dajana did all this driving really for no reason.  As Niko kept saying the whole way home "what a bad, bad day.  This is the worst day."

There was some kind of celebration going on in Zagreb

I think Zagreb is a great city, would have just preferred to be running the race!

We stopped at this huge mall called the Arena to get the kids McDonalds. At least this was the high point of the trip.  They got pretty awesome minion toys with their happy meals and pictures with these Lego statues of "Lego Friends" which is a show they watch all the time.  After that back to the car.  This time about an hour from home Niko's stomach started hurting.  He was crying and it was a little bit to the next gas station.  Luckily he made it to the stop.  But poor kid's stomach kept hurting the whole rest of the way home.  

the kids with the Lego Friends

So about 9 hours after setting off for the race, we finally made it back to my in-laws.  I had sent Emir a message while on the wi-fi at the mall to let him know we didn't make the race.  I knew he would be antsy to talk to me so I facetimed him as soon as we got back.  If it's any consolation for all of this, he felt as bad as I did.  He understood all my emotions and actually was going through all of them with me.  Even though it can make our lives super crazy sometimes, I just can't say enough about how wonderful it is that  Emir is an ultrarunner too.  Ultrarunners are seriously crazy people with lots of intense emotions. The fact that he just gets it, is awesome.  Talking with him was what I needed at that point and I was feeling better but I knew I needed more "therapy" to help me truly get over my first DNS.  

I talked to my in-laws and said I was going out early the next morning for a long run, probably a few hours.  They said no problem.  While I think they don't really understand why we run so much and so many miles as I think it appears to be more like torture than fun to them, they are totally supportive.  Emir had to go back home to work and I still was staying here 3 more weeks with the kids and they have been totally wonderful making sure I get all my runs in which I truly appreciate.  

Anyway my plan was to climb to the peak of the Mountain that my in-laws live on.  It's been a goal of Emir and I for a few years but we never got a chance to do it yet.  Even though I really wanted to do it with Emir, I knew it was what I needed to do after missing the race.  

I set off a little after 6.   It was a struggle from the get go.  My body and mind were so tired from the events of the day before.  As I steadily climbed the road part, I took a few walk breaks as needed.  Eventually I came to signs indicating that I could continue on the road or I could take the trail off to the right.  I could reach the peak both ways but it was longer via the road.  

straight up the mountain
I didn't want to be gone half the day so I chose the trail.   I figured out pretty quickly that the trail way was shorter because it was much more steep rather than the road that was a gradual climb to the top.  No matter, I just set into steady hike mode.   I was getting excited as I got closer.  Finally I reached a sign that said 1km to the top but said over an hour time it would take.  Uh oh.  That last kilometer was extremely steep and very rocky think Velebit.  Whatever I just climbed my way up and about 20 minutes later I saw the sign indicating the peak.  I felt great!  I took a bunch of pics with the gopro and got stung by a bee on my ankle before starting to head back down.  

The peak!

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Once I made it back home and checked out my stats, I felt satisfied.  In only 13.5 miles I did 2600 feet of climbing which wasn't much less than what I was going to do in the marathon.  So what I had just done was actually more challenging which is what us ultrarunners thrive on.  I was feeling good but there was one more thing I needed to fully complete my therapy to overcome my first DNS.   

I hopped on the Internet and was searching around for races near home.  Emir's Eastern States 100 miler is only a couple weeks after I get home and my TARC 100 is the second week of October so I was looking for something end of August, early September.  Within a few minutes I found it, the Labor Pains 12 hour.  I had heard of this race and even Emir had shown it to me before.  I'm not sure why but when he brought it up before I didn't want to do it.  But now I did.   I didn't have any races lined up aside from pacing Emir at Eastern States until my 100 and after missing Sljeme, I just needed another race to fill the void. It seemed like good timing to me about 5 weeks before my 100 miler.  I know coach will be giving me tons of miles that weekend anyway so why not get them in at a fun race?  But since I've never done 100 miles before I definitely wanted to check with coach first to make sure he thought it was ok.  Caleb emailed me back immediately saying he thought it was perfect timing in regard to the 100 and also a perfect opportunity to work on my nutrition and hydration in the setting of a race in prep for the 100.  I was excited.  I messaged Emir telling him about my convo with coach and a minute later I had a confirmation email in my inbox.  I told you having a fellow ultrarunner as a spouse is the best!!!

So that's it.  My therapy is now complete and I'm ok.  I think all experiences good and bad no matter what make us stronger/better people and in this case a better runner.  On to the next adventure!!!!

My last long run in the Balkans.  22 miles on the island of Ugljan in Croatia ending with a jump in the Adriatic Sea

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