Thursday, July 24, 2008


So I've definitely been getting lots of theories thrown my way regarding my stomach. Thank you all for taking the time to do this; I REALLY appreciate your help. I'll list as many as I can remember, then address as many as I can.

Starting too fast
pH imbalance with my system
I'm not set-out to run 100s
Run "faster" 100s so I'm not out there as long
Pushing the envelope too hard / redlining
Not fit enough
Electrolyte imbalance

Heat: yeah, it was hot, but I seriously really never felt over-heated. During the last few weeks leading up to the race, the temps around central Oregon were averaging in the 90s and I was running in the afternoon as much as possible. I was hot at 50, but I took my time there too get my stuff together and cool off. As I was leaving the a.s., Mark Gilligan (2nd last year in a smokin' 19:38) handed me the best present ever - an ice cold bottle of water! I intentionally slowed down the next 11 miles so I wouldn't over-heat. Once in the Red House loop, temps cooled, so Nikki and I started pushing just a bit again. It felt good.

Altitude: definitely a possibility. During my 4-day WS training camp weekend, I ran at altitude every day (between 7,000-9,000'). I ran up Black Butte, 6,200', a few times in the weeks leading up to the race. But on race day, I felt good most of the day, but could feel the lack of oxygen. I tried to remedy that by walking whenever my heartrate got too high. I don't wear a h.r. monitor, but after 21 years of running, I know what my threshold is and when I need to back off. So even if it was flat, if my h.r. was too high, I walked until it mellowed out.

Starting too fast: I'm going to say a big no on this one. Why? Well, I was hungry, eating, and my stomach was digesting food all day. If I had been running too fast, I definitely wouldn't have been hungry, I wouldn't have eaten, and if I had eaten, I would have been vomiting food, not bile and acid.

pH imbalance with my system: hm, interesting. Never thought about that. It never even occured to me...until Kami threw it out there. She's pretty sure there's some kind of chemical imbalance going on, since this happens to me way too often. She suggested I contact some kind of medical person who knows about this stuff and have some tests done. Maybe my pH levels are too high, thus, the reason I puke bile and stomach acid, not food. In the mean time, she suggested I take Wheat Grass to help keep my stomach more basic. I mentioned this to Chris, and he said he does it, so it might not hurt. I know Hart does it, too. So, I ventured to Wild Oats last night and purchased Amazing Grass. I've taken 5 servings already and I gotta say, its bark (smell) is definitely worse than its bite (taste). I'm going to stick with it for a while to see what happens. And, I'm going to contact someone who may know a bit more and can run some tests on me (tests probably mean needles, which I absolutely HATE, but I hate more not knowing what's up).

I'm not set-out to run 100s: possibly. Even though I was sure of that at 3 a.m. on Sunday, and have been right after all of my 100s (both finishes and 4 dnf's), the further I get from each race, the less I'm convinced of it.

Run "faster" 100s so I'm not out there as long: I may give this a try. Rocky, Vermont, Javelina, Lean Horse, Heartland, all possibilities. I'm not too stoked about the 8 laps at Umstead.

Pushing the envelope too hard / redlining: I never was redlining. Like I noted earlier, whenever I was reaching my threshold, I would stop running and walk until my h.r. dropped to a reasonable level. I've been running long enough to know when I'm redlining. I wasn't redlining at TRT.

Not fit enough: definitely not. If you followed my blog leading up to this, you read that I trained very hard for this. I went through stages of beating up my body, then resting to let it recover and get stronger. Only two days after the race, my body felt like it had only run a moderate 50k. I think the stiffest I got was from the drive home on Sunday. My legs weren't/aren't trashed at all.

Electrolyte imbalance: that probably has something to do with it. Except the first hour when it was cool, I drank a bottle of nuun, a bottle of water, and took and s-cap every hour. Without fail. Still, my shirt was definitely crusty when I changed at 76. And if you can't tell, my legs were swollen. But I look happy and chipper; and even better, I FELT happy and chipper. (I stole this picture from Matt's write-up.)

Anyway, that' s all I have for now on theories.

Yesterday, Sascha and I decided to head up in the mountains for a 14 mile hug. Huh, you say? Well, a hug is a combination of Hike/rUn/joG. Pretty cool, eh! I made that up myself. Being at Chambers Lake, right at the base of the Middle Sisters, was pretty awesome. Then today I decided to make it 2-for-2 in hitting the wilderness on consecutive days. I ran 3 1/2 miles up the McKenzie Highway to my favorite short trail in central Oregon: Black Crater. Four sweet uphill singletrack miles with about 2,500' vertical, pretty much all runnable. It was awesome! Coming down was easy-schmeasy; my legs weren't sore at all, and I even ran a couple 6:15s once I hit the pavement again.

Crater Lake Marathon is in only 2 weeks. It's gonna be fun!


Matt said...

Hey Sean,

Another idea for the pile. A good friend and training partner of mine had stomach issues that got progressively worse with each passing year. After years of this, and at another runners suggestion, he finally figured out that if he had anything at all constricting his waist, he'd have issues - massive unrecoverable puking issues. Apparently the waistpack would squeeze things just enough that things sloshed upwards, irritated the "in-valve" to his stomach (whatever that's called) and boom, he was toast - non-stop puking, even with an empty stomach, and it'd take hours and hours for him to come back from the dead, even after removing the pack.

I'll check the details with him, but it was essentially some runner-induced severe version of acid reflux. All the "normal" stomach issue treatments runners talked about had no affect whatsoever.

He switched his fanny pack for a backpack with no waist belt, and his issues disappeared, and he's been running vastly better ever since. He's still slower than snot, but that's another issue. :-)

Not sure if this applies to you, but I did notice from the pics that you had something tied around your waist - a jacket, maybe more? You looked so strong at mile 80, I was shocked to hear about your demise - it just didn't make sense, except that it looked like what I'd seen in my other friend.

I have no doubt you'll figure it out. Keep running strong.


Matt Hart said...

the digestive enzymes in the amazing grass wheat grass will help for sure. keep us posted on how that goes.

Ronda said...

Nice breakdown Sean and you are most definately fit enough. I like the PH balance theory and I also would suggest checking into your carb to liquid concentration level. The sweet spot is 7-10% and believe it or not it's hard to keep below 10% at night. Generally we are consuming gels and other carbs more often then fluid. Above 10% spells trouble in the form of puking.

Brad Mitchell said...

Hey Sean - Sorry to hear about your DNF - a real bummer considering the amount of training you were putting in. I wish you the best in figuring out your system - you'll get it and then nail your next big one!
Matt had a good point - bottle packs use to really screw with my stomache. I am now very careful about anything around my waiste and how constricting it may be.
Best of luck with the rest of your season - maybe see you at Bear? I'm not committed - but its on my radar.

kendra ralstin said...

Hey, Sean, so it's clearly not an exact science, even as an Experiment of One. The array of suggestions here are amazing - way to break 'em down. For me, none of these would help. My shorts were very loose this time, for example. I was hopeful "motion sickness" pills would help (dramamine), but no. I've tried so many things. I think it's just the sheer effort - unless I take it down more notches than I am willing to do in a race, nausea will be a necessary evil. I hope I'm wrong in your case. Nausea has become the single most debilitating and daunting problem for me in races. White River was no exception, and I was actually perfect with taking a Gu every half hour even though I thought I was going to puke every one of them right back up. ANYWAY, enough about me on your blog! >:)

TD said...


As a fellow puker I agree with the waistpack problem also. Another thing that helps me is to keep ice in my bottles. Justin and Jeff were ready to kill "maraca man" but it does indeed help me. Cold drinks empty the stomach faster than warm ones.

saschasdad said...

Thanks all for the feedback.

I did away with waistpacks 5 years ago; the only thing around my waist in the picture is my 3 oz. jacket and a super-loose headlamp. And I make sure my shorts are loose, too. There was definitely no pressure on my belly.

Rooster, I've been staying below the 10% rule for the past two seasons now - thanks to reading your blog. In fact, with Vespa, I was way under. During the day, usually 40 oz. of fluid,a 1 oz. gel, plus a hunk of banana or potato at and aid station, per hour. At night is when things went south, but I was still way under 10% then, too.

I had the a.s. folks fill my bottles with cold water all day, then did away with the ice in the evening.

Maybe what Kendrara said applies to me, too: "I think it's just the sheer effort - unless I take it down more notches than I am willing to do in a race, nausea will be a necessary evil." I hope not, but maybe

William Swint said...

Sean, if your not fit what does that make us who don't run 500 mile months?

Scott Dunlap said...

It's a mystery, that's for sure. Keep experimenting. You may want to try slowing your pace about 2 hours too and see if that helps. It could just be your body throwing down the gauntlet.

I know it's a bit early, but happy birthday!!!


Challenge By Choice said...

Dude - I don't have a theory for you on this one but needless to say, get back out there and kill it like you always do! Maybe it was just a bad day on the trail! Good luck at the next one! seegs