I've not run that many ultras but enough to know that I am fortunate to have a really strong stomach during endurance races. I generally just eat whatever I want, whenever I want during races and my stomach never bothers me. That all changed yesterday.
It was especially frustrating because everything besides my stomach felt great. My chest cold didn't seem to bother me at all, my legs felt very strong from the start, and I was running a very efficient and comfortable race.
Right from the beginning though I started to notice that everything I ate/drank seemed to be just hanging out in my stomach, which was steadily filling up and becoming uncomfortable. When I finally puked for the first time (about mile 24) it felt so good to have all that liquid out of my stomach. I knew I needed to get calories and water in as soon as possible though or I would pay dearly later on. I couldn't though.
At that point of the race I had only consumed 500 calories (about half of what I should have) and had just vomited all of it up on the side of the trail. Anything I tried to get down just made me feel horrible. I decided to slow down and give it some time and hope that my body would accept food and water sooner or later. I was running in the lead most of the day but by about mile 35 I really began to realize how much trouble I was in. I slowed considerably hoping that would help my stomach and that maybe I could find some way to get myself to the finish in one of the top 3 spots to still qualify for Western States.
It wasn't goint to happen though. As I continued to vomit I began to feel less and less able to find any energy to keep moving down the trail. I was basically totally bonking with 25 miles to go and had no ability to get any calories in my system to do anything about it.
Eric Grossman (Montrail teammate who went on to win the race) passed me just after I pulled into the aid station at mile 42. I sipped some coke and tried to head back out. A couple hundred yards up the trail and I was hurled over vomiting again. This time was different though. The first few times I puked it made me feel so relieved to have my system cleared out. This time though I just had no energy left in my muscles. I sat down on the side of the trail (because it took too much strength to stand) and almost immediately decided I was done.
I ended up out on the trail for over 5.5 hours in which time I consumed about 600 calories and maybe 40 ounces of water (both about 1/3 normal). It was a very frustrating and disappointing way to go out of a race, especially one in which everything else felt really good. It is what it is though. There's nothing I can do about it now, except learn from my experiences. I have a couple guesses as to what went wrong so now I need to use all this info. to help avoid something like this happening in the future.
Not qualifying for Western States is unfortunate, but again, there's nothing I can do about it now so I'm not going to spend my time getting too bent out of shape about it. I still haven't figured out just where my racing focus is going to shift to in the next several weeks but I'll be working all that out in my mind in the next several days. In some ways it's kind of exciting not to know. I'd be lying if I said I'm not bummed that I won't be lining up at Western States as I had hoped, but I will be lining up somewhere again soon, and I'll be a stronger and more determined runner as a result of yesterday's experiences.