Summerfest 12k Race Report (a.k.a. Portraits of Pain Details)

Stubbornness and racing are two key parts to my running. Some people may want to substitute willpower or perseverance for stubbornness but I consider myself to be stubborn. It is really just whatever helps you finish your race. It is that quality that helps you ignore thoughts of slowing down or just dropping out. Personally, I am generally too stubborn to allow myself to slow down, but recently I found out that I may be too stubborn to drop out. Why is this important for the Summerfest 12k race report? Well, because my stubbornness may have lead to me sitting in the ambulance with oxygen after the race. Here’s how that happened:


As Josh has pointed out in “Portraits of Pain,” the weather was not exactly ideal for a late summer race. Jeff and I ran into Josh on our warm-up and Josh pointed out that his allergies were not treating him well that morning. I was feeling tired (well, drained may be a better description, I just felt like I had no energy), but I have felt tired before a race before and then the race would go great. So I still had hope for this race. I actually believed that the first mile confirmed my guess. There was a fleet feet member that took off in the lead relatively fast for a 12k, but Jeff, Josh, and I took the lead by the first mile with a 5:22. Jeff was actually a little ahead, with Josh close behind, then me. I did enjoy some entertainment on the first mile in the form of Jeff getting yelled at by the lead bike. Jeff was being a lazy smart runner by taking the tangents but the biker did not seem to like Jeff crossing the yellow line.


Shortly after the first mile I started to back off the pace a bit. Not really because I wanted to, but because I was starting to feel like I had no energy. I didn’t see this as a problem yet though because we went faster than expected on the first mile, so I thought I could slow down and still keep goal pace. Unfortunately, I was struggling a bit more than expected by the end of mile 2 and came through at 5:59. Jeff and Josh were still in sight and I still had hope of reaching them again later in the race.


I continued to slow down and ran a 6:12 for mile three. At this point I decided that this wasn’t really going to be much of a race for me, maybe just an okay tempo. Sadly, things started to go downhill fast after the 3rd mile. I started to notice that my breathing was not exactly ideal. I’ve never really struggled with breathing while running before. Well, besides the ordinary problems such as running intervals and breathing hard. I seemed to be working harder than I should have been for the pace I was running. I’ve actually had some problems with exercise induced asthma when I first started distance running about 9 years ago, but nothing since then. I’ve also had one season of really bad allergies about 4 years ago but I haven’t had problems since then. While I remember these incidents now, these were two problems that I wasn’t even considering during the race. I really just had no idea what was wrong. At this point I just thought that I should just focus on taking some deeper breaths and I should be fine.


By mile 4 (mile time of 6:33) I was starting to consider dropping out. This is where my stubbornness starts to come into play. I’ve heard of runners continuing races while injured and then just being further injured because of their choice. I always thought that I wouldn’t be one of those people and would stop when I needed to. The only problem was that I wasn’t injured. I really couldn’t come up with a good enough reason to stop. I ended up convincing myself that this was just going to be a bad race and I didn’t want to drop out just because I was having a bad race.


Miles 5, 6 and 7 were all about the same. They all felt awful. I changed my viewpoint from just a bad race to my worst race yet. At every water station I would consider just stopping and asking for a ride back. My stubbornness repeatedly won these mental battles and I continued to push on. The only new symptom to arise was short and shallow breaths. For some reason this still did not seem like a strong enough reason to drop out, but I don’t think I was really in the right state of mind at that point. I would like to point out that I still wasn’t thinking that this could be a medical problem; I just kept telling myself that I would be fine after I stopped. Then I started getting passed by some people that I didn’t expect to be passed by. Looking back, I believe that I really should have stopped once the guy without shoes passed me. Miles 5, 6, and 7 were 6:41, 7:02, and 6:56.


Then I was finally on the straightaway to the finish. I was so excited just thinking about stopping and finally resting. Then to my dismay, shortly after finishing I realized that I was still having trouble breathing. There were a couple of people that started talking to me about the race, but I just gave them short answers and tried focusing on taking deep breaths. This is when I started to remember my long ago run-ins with asthma and allergies. I was thinking about going to the ambulance but it actually seemed like I was starting to get my breathing under control. Then Jeff found me and started talking to me. I thought I was doing better until I started trying to talk to Jeff. Talking and breathing seemed to be beyond my skill set at the moment. So Jeff convinced me to get over to the ambulance and then I just continued feeling worse. I started to get dizzy and still struggled to breathe. So I was taken into the ambulance and put on oxygen.


Being in an ambulance after a race was something that I did not think I would ever experience. I was continually asked questions for a little while, I guess to ensure that I wouldn’t pass out. They started with some random stuff, such as my name, who is the president, and the date (I only knew it was Saturday, I probably wouldn’t get the date right even if I wasn’t struggling to breathe). Then there was one question that I knew they probably had to ask, but it still made me sad. It was, “Is this your first 12k?” While I don’t exactly run a lot of 12k’s, I think they were trying to find out if this was my first longer race. This made me sad because just a few weeks ago I ran a 16:07 in the 5k, my PR. A 12k in 6:26 pace should not have been a problem. So why was I in an ambulance just a few weeks later? After staying on oxygen for a bit I recovered and Jeff was nice enough to ride home with me to make sure I didn’t pass out at the wheel. My goal this week is to find out what went wrong. I’ll update this post once I find out more.


As for the rest of the race, I am not exactly sure what went on in the front. Jeff told me that the race didn’t go great for anyone and was slower then we were expecting. Jeff took second with a 43:49 (5:53/mile) and Josh took third at 44:11 (5:56/mile). Please check out the “Portraits of Pain” photos to see the wonderful smiling faces of the RKR team.


Update: So I just had my doctors appointment and he told me that I have a bronchospasm brought on by some combo of exercise induced asthma and allergies or something like that. Either way, the test showed that I had no problem breathing in, but my max exhale was only about 50% of what it should have been. So I could get air in, but while running I couldn’t get the air out. I have been prescribed an inhaler and everything should be fine for the rest of the season.