Well, we made it through the day hand in hand, but it was probably the toughest day of running Stuart has ever had. We woke up this morning to a beautiful sunrise over the north rim of the Grand Canyon, which definitely helped raise our excitement level for the day. There are quite a few people here – women especially – who came in the race hungry to compete and hungry to win… so Stuart and I had to work a bit to stay out of the “race chat”. We came here to spend some time together, laugh, run and simply have fun. No matter what was going to happen, we agreed to run the whole race together, for better or worse!!
We set out at a fairly good pace, bantering straight from the start. I was in mid-giggle when I pulled a classic Steph and bailed HARD on a flat dirt track. I went over on my knee (the same one I really banged up three weeks ago in UTMB) and instantly started bawling my eyes out like a little baby. Oh yes, large tears, sobbing… but after taking one look at the lumps of flesh, blood and dirt coming off my knee I knew it would be better to try to run it out than deal with it then. Sometimes I think ignorance is bliss – whatever mangled mess I had left of my knee would still be there in 50 km, so best to forget it until the end! It hurt (A LOT) for the next 15 km, but Stuart and I just kept chattering away and that helped take my mind off of things.
The course was pretty flat today, which was not to Stuart’s liking (he still insists he is not a runner, despite competing in more ultramarathons than me this year 🙂 ). The scenery was beautiful, but yeah, fairly monotonous in terms of terrain. We were cracking on though and soon enough we reached first place female. We actually got a pretty substantial lead… we kept telling ourselves it didn’t matter (I hate being in first!!), but we both couldn’t help thinking a bit about our placing. By the halfway point (25 km) we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves and my knee was starting to die down. Score!
After about 30 or 35 km, everything went wrong. Stuart started to go quiet and I knew something was up. He hates to complain and so when he is really struggling he just goes silent. We joked about how his, er, extended bathroom breaks had slowed us down but then we realized he was getting pretty sick. Running became impossible. Then walking started becoming tricky as well. Stuart was weaving to and from and experiencing moments where he started to ‘grey’ out (not a blackout, but a temporary loss of vision/dizzyness). I have never seen him struggle so much before and I was terrified he would konk out in the middle of the track with no way of getting him help. I tried singing (offkey – Jesus Christ Superstar, Adele, the ‘another one bites the dust’ song, and a few other showtunes). Joking. Showering him with affection and praise. Nothing worked. He started bending over and dry heaving every 15 minutes or so…. It was just awful. I even tried to give him a quick kiss to make him feel better, but comically it made him instantaneously vomit. (I have this effect on men, hehehe). We managed to hobble together to 42 km, the last checkpoint. We were actually still in the female lead at that point, which was surprising… but then people started to stream past. Stuart panicked a little, thinking he was disappointing me, but I really did not give two craps about the race. I was so worried about him and getting him to the medical tent. I tried to take his pack from him, which he stubbornly refused for a while (the only man that has ever out-stubborned me!!) but eventually I just grabbed it off him. He could barely walk in a straight line and only for a couple of minutes at a time. I was perfectly happy to carry our packs if it meant getting him to a cot and maybe an IV!!!
A few kms from the end and I spotted Ray (Zahab, my coach) running towards us. Thank God. He sat stuart down, gave him some electrolyte drinks and other goodies and talked him through to the end. His chat was way better than mine – even got him talking about his favourite kind of scotch (why didn’t I think of that?). We crossed the line hand in hand, with stuart’s pack on ray’s back (he refused to let me be the hero, sigh 🙂 ). We both whimpered sighs of relief and headed straight to the medical tent. Stuart was VERY relieved to be there and my goodness, so was I. We came out here not to win, but to have FUN, and so far neither of those things were happening. He has had such a rough time the past week and he really didn’t need any more struggling!! But we were quickly back to giggling at ourselves in the medical tent with Stuart lying on a cot, doctors taking his blood pressure, and me following doctor’s orders by cleaning my knee. It was disgusting. I took photos and interviewed the doctor to try to prove my hard core-ness. But it was disgusting. I tweezered rocks out of my flesh and cut off parts of my knee with scissors. BARF!!!
We are okay now, both of us. We have agreed if Stuart doesn’t recover fully by tomorrow morning then we are heading to Vegas for pina coladas. 🙂 🙂 Tonight, we are back to giggling, eating and drinking…. no heroics tomorrow. Just a bit of running. And hopefully no barfing….I