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The Day Shana Got High: A Tale of Triumph and the Attack of the Great Bonk Monster

"I woke in the morning 
and I stepped outside
And I took a deep breath
And I got real high,
And I screamed from the top of my lungs,
'This Ascent course is hard!'"

- Words adapted from "What's Up" by 4-Non Blondes

Sidenote-  I LOVE this song. I sing it at Karaoke often. Nearly my whole life, I actually thought she was singing about living in house in the mountains. So go with me here on the "get high" thing; we are talking about elevation people!! :o)

I enjoyed a trek up America's Mountain yesterday. It was my first time up to Pikes peak. As a matter of fact, this was my first 14er hike ever!  Cindy, Katharine and I began our journey at 0430. I met them via one of the Running Facebook pages that I belong to. We had been exchanging messages, and working out details all week. Saturday was "Go Time."  It was much warmer than I thought it would be at that hour. So of course I began sweating, as the saying goes, like Satine from Moulin Rouge whilst in church.  ;o) (who gets the reference?)  Anyway, so I there we were, hiking and sweating at 0430.  Let me tell you, the sunrise from Barr trail that morning was nothing short of gorgeous. There is no other way to describe it. There was a blast of brilliant reddish-orange from the cloud and then suddenly we were surrounded by that gorgeous pink and purple. I actually felt the sun rise that morning. It was breathtaking... Speaking of breathtaking, I don't know that I have ever been breathing so hard for such a long duration of time. We had it in our heads that the cutoff time for the Ascent was six hours. Katharine and I are Ascent newbies, and we wanted to make sure that we could make the cutoff time. Everything was going swimmingly. The scenery was beautiful. I could ramble on and on for hours about the greenery, the random little sprinkles of flowers, and the points where the water was rushing by! We got to Barr camp in about 2.5 hours (could have been more, I started both my Garmin and my Strava later than when I actually started so I'm not actually sure).  Barr Camp is a joyous place! I am definitely going back there soon to actually camp. Some of the folks up there were making coffee, and I REALLY wanted to invite myself to join them and make some friends, and drink their coffee that smelled pretty much like heaven, but we were on a mission. I changed shirts there as well. It was time, I was sweating so badly. I put on my fun Colorado Running Company tank top.  We pressed on up the hill. We got to what I remember is the prettiest part of the trail. Its right before A Frame. It was humid and the skies were cloudy, and the green was so vibrant. It was like a magic forest. I remember saying as much to my fellow hikers and they agreed. There is something magic about forests. There is magic in being outside. 

We got to the sign that showed that we had but a mere 3 miles left to the summit. I was feeling a little weak at that point, and chalked it up to the elevation. I haven't been up high in a long time, to say nothing of climbing up.  I remarked to Cindy that one of my running mantras is, " I can do anything for 3 miles." Three miles is my default distance. I feel like no matter what, I can do anything for 3 miles. HA!! I ate my words with that one. Those last 3 miles nearly killed me. I remember looking at the terrain, and trying to will my body to run. I really wanted to run, but my every muscle on the backside of my body was screaming at me, and I couldn't get my breathing to slow down.  At the 2 mile mark, I sat on a rock, and I literally had a talk with myself. I spoke out loud to myself, and told me to get it together, and that I could do anything, and that I needed to get up this last bit of trail before my six hour cutoff. At this point, I could see where I was supposed to go and everyone looked SO FAR away.  But I got up, and I kept walking. I walked, and there were some crazy leprechaun-like people bouncing off the rocks on the way down and they would cheer me on and tell me how good I was doing. Then those crazy leprechaun-like people would run back up the mountain past me as I trembled and fumbled my way up. I made it to the top and I took a couple of pictures. I felt like a champion. I almost threw my arms up in the air, like in that scene from Rocky when he climbs those stairs. I wanted to cry, both from emotion of making it to the top, and because I was in pain, all over my body. My head felt like someone was hammering my pulse into the left side of it. I fumbled to the car that we arranged to have pick us up, and I started to freak out a little bit. I couldn't get my breath to calm down, and honestly the rest of it is a bit of a blur. I ate some pretzels, and I got myself to calm down. Coming down the mountain via car helped, and I kept eating those pretzels, and Cindy had this amazing vegan chipotle jerky. I was weak and tired, and my head still hurt, but I felt accomplished. The rest of yesterday is a blur though. I know I spent the whole day in bed, in and out of sleep, and all I can remember is that I had the mother of all headaches and it wouldn't go away, along with feeling weak, nauseous, and extremely sore.

Today I did an assessment. I looked at my pack and I realized some things. I don't eat or drink anywhere near enough. When all was said and done, I drank about 25 oz of water, 16 oz of water/Skratch mix. I ate 1 gel and one pack of Clif blocks- I did all of this over the course of the 6 ish hours, 5:40:00 something of moving time, and for the duration of the entire course.  DURING THE WHOLE COURSE.  I have no idea what I was thinking. I was sweating like crazy during the entire trek. I did pack WAY more than what I ate. I am really good about prepping and packing more food than I will probably need. I always try to have some "emergency" something extra. I have no excuses for the great bonk I experienced yesterday. I still feel crappy today....

 I've never been super "hungry" during events. My stomach doesn't really like it when I eat things when I exercise.  I can only really tolerate Hammer and Skratch products. I am also not much for sweets, especially when I am exercising. Sweet tastes make me feel sticky and makes my mouth feel weird. I've always been more of a salt/fat flavors kind of person. Why can't somebody invent mini nachos to consume while doing activities??  At any rate, I DO NOT want to repeat what happened to me yesterday. I'm embarrassed at my mistake. I know better. I know how to do this, and I know how to take care of myself. Last week I was in a bike race, and it was a billion degrees. I was out there for just over 3 hours riding 34 miles. I drank my entire camelback of water, a bottle of Hammer mix, and I ate 3 gels. I know how to ensure that I don't bonk like I did. However, yesterday I missed the mark. I want to be able to get up to the top of Pikes Peak, and smile and celebrate with all of you on 19 August.  I do plan to go up in elevation again soon, so I am going to really focus on getting the right nutrition and hydration, and actually eating and drinking it.  If you happen to see me on the course during the Ascent, ask me if I'm drinking water, okay?  On a more positive note, I have an AMAZING hydration pack. It's a Nathan pack and it held everything, it didn't move around or cause me any "rub' areas. It sits perfectly against me and I am in love with it. If you need a hydration pack I recommend Nathan, and they have them at Colorado Running Company, who is one of our great sponsors!

I need to give another shout out to Cindy and Katharine for being awesome and spending Saturday morning with me. They were a great encouragement. I always love making new friends!! I look forward to seeing you out on the trails soon!

Next up for me:  I will go to the site of my first trail race (technically my first actual trail run) and celebrate one year of trail running at the Xterra Trail race in Castle Rock on 5 August. Last year I did the 10K, but this year I am doing the 20K. Fun times! I hope to see some Colorado Springs folks there! My mantra for that race is, "No bonking!"

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