We left the convenience store and after I finished my popsicle I started sucking down the water in the bladder inside of my pack. Pam kept asking if I was ok. I assured her I was. She was walking in front of me. I was falling behind. She put her arm around me and reminded me that there was one racer walking the entire distance with a cane. If he could do it I could. But I honestly didn’t know if I could. As we hit mile 5 I was fatigued. The type of fatigue that comes when your blood pressure is low but hasn’t fallen low fast enough for you to pass out – yet. I could see black spots in front of my face, and I was feeling unstable on my feet. I was angry, upset, disappointed. I couldn’t believe I only made it 5 miles and I’d be the first person to drop. Pam and I sat down for a few minutes to see if it would pass, but it didn’t. She called the meat wagon to come get me. She wanted to wait with me, but I encouraged her not to get any further behind. We found a place for me to lie down in the shade and wait for my ride. She ran off and we blew kisses to each other.
GETTING READY FOR THE RACE
On June 27, 2019 I wrote an article, “We’re Screwed” and discussed my sister’s experience with the Last Annual Vol State (LAVS) race and the fact that I was joining her in July for her second race. She was crewed the first time. We were going to be screwed the second time.
I arrived at my parent’s house and Pam was all giddy with excitement about doing the race together. I have to admit I was both a bundle of nerves and excited about this incredible opportunity and the ability to do it with my sister. Bonding time.
I had already purchased my pack – the same one she had, an Osprey Dyna. We bough sun block, mini toothbrushes with toothpaste already on them, extra headlamps, batteries for our headlamps, footcare items, blinking lights for our packs, sun visors, a vented explorer hat with ventilation and neck protection, and a few high-density nutrition items. We needed to keep the packs light. I had also purchased a pair of Hoka One One Gaviota 2 in a size 7 – a full size larger than what I need to make room for swelling. I ran in them one time to figure out where my hotspots were so I could tape up my feet the morning of the first day.
We took just one day to drive from Lebanon, PA to Castle Rock GA. Pam drove the entire way because I get anxious driving in unfamiliar places.
WAITING FOR THE BUSES
The morning that we were to meet the buses, we got up early, and put on our Goodwill purchases. Why Goodwill? We left our good clothing in the car and wore and slept in Goodwill the day and night before the race so we could put on our race gear and just throw away our dollar finds without feeling like we were throwing away a small fortune.
The first day was spent standing and sitting around. There was a mix-up with the buses, and they were 11 hours late. Yes, we waited 11 hours. We got to know one another, and we made chow runs to get food and we took naps. We talked about the race and the race route. Newbies talked to the veterans. We psyched each other up. Mostly though, we made new friends.
THE BUSES ARRIVED
The buses finally came, and we made our way to the starting line of the race where we spent the night in hotel rooms.
It was late and we weren’t going to get nearly as much sleep as we would have had the buses been on time. We had to get up at 4:30 AM to go through our packs and meet the buses on time.
I had my medication with me and took all my evening meds. It was midnight. This was where I made my mistake. I never should have taken the 10mg of Prazosin. I was already having difficulty with lightheadedness and dizziness from low blood pressure, but the fact that it wouldn’t be out of my system before we got an early start just didn’t sink in until after we woke up. I felt fatigued from the hypotension, but I think the excitement of it all helped to balance me out and keep me on my feet. I thought I'd be alright.
We ate a quick breakfast and took the buses to the ferry. We rode the ferry from Dorena, Missouri to Kentucky and back again.
LAZ LIGHTS HIS CIGARETTE
Laz lit his cigarette and that signified the start of the race…off we went. We started off walking – a fast walk and mostly uphill. It was hard. It was ridiculously hard. I was still overweight, but I was determined. I walked faster than I usually jog. It was already hot. We came upon a convenience store. A lot of racers were already stopping for bathroom breaks and popsicles. I don’t think we’d gone for a mile or two. As I was using the bathroom I was getting dizzy. I literally sat on the toilet and everything was going black in front of my eyes. I steadied myself by reaching out and touching the wall. Pam knocked on the door to check on me.
THE MEAT WAGON
She called the meatwagon. I was disappointed in myself. I was beating up on myself. I let her down. I let Scott and the kids down. I let my parents down. I had to reconcile this somehow, but I didn't know how to, until I decided that I'd try again in 2020. In the meantime, I'd stay behind and support Pam. If she decided she needed to be crewed I'd drive the car and meet her – as scary as that would be for me, I'd do it for her.
THE NEXT NINE DAYS
For the next 9 days Pam encountered a lot of challenges – dogs, other racers holding her back by grabbing her by the coattails, pouring rain, cold, extreme heat, nothing to eat, heat exhaustion, and more. She slept where she could – sometimes in the local post office. Sometimes in a restaurant. Sometimes outside in a field, on a bench, or alongside the road.
I stayed in a hotel room near the finish line just in case she needed my help. We kept in constant contact. I was her sounding board. At one point she texted me telling me she thinks she dying from heat stroke. I promptly texted back asking her if she’s really dying and I need to call 911 or if she just needs to bitch to me. She was often short with me, but I knew it was the lack of sleep and the fact that one of the other racers was tagging along with her and wouldn't leave her alone. This other race was also not following basic race etiquette – as in not littering, for one.
On the last day of the race, I traveled to the finish line so I could meet her, give her a hug and a kiss and congratulate her.
She was sore. Her feet were swollen and blistered. She had maceration of the skin. The morning before she finished I walked to WalMart and bought her a pair of flip flops, some clean loose shorts and a t-shirt, some epsom salts, and ordered food so it was ready in the hotel room when she arrived.
She drove back to the hotel room, but she was in pain. I carried everything I needed to inside while she waited in the car. I ran to the room and got the flip flops for her so she could take off her running shoes. She leaned on me as we made our way back to the room. I ran a bath for her. Poured the epsom salts. Laid out her clean clothing. I heated her food while she devoured it. She fell asleep.
The next morning we started the drive home. She drove for a few hours and then I drove for a few hours, until nightfall because I can't drive in the dark. Driving an unfamiliar car in unfamiliar places isn't easy, but I'd do it for her. I breathed my way through it. She was able to sleep a bit more in the car.
This year, I signed up to do a new inaugural race with her, Heart of the South (HOTS) a 333 mile race, dubbed ‘halfway to hell,’ but I’ve been having fainting spells – spells where I fall on my face, crack my teeth, knock them loose, bite holes in my bottom lip – needing stitches on the inside and out, and requiring CT scans, carotid artery ultrasounds, and 30 day event monitors. It was decided that it was best that I didn't need to waste the money to enter the race only to have to pull out again or worse – faint on the race route. So, I reluctantly pulled out. I know it was the right thing to do, but I'm sad about it.
I promised Pam that I will be race ready for next year, as my providers adjust my medication to stop the fainting because as of now I’m diagnosed with orthostatic hypotension due to medication. And, I have a service dog to help me with my medical condition as well.
So, look out Laz. I’m coming for you!