Western States 100 2012, The race that never was meant to be

Posted by Jen on Jun 26, 2012 in Uncategorized |

“A Heart at Peace gives life to the body,”  Proverbs 14:30

This certainly will not be a pity party post, mostly because I cannot indulge in that for a second longer.  Have I  been more excited for a race ever? No.  Did I wait more than 7 years to get in? Yes.  Did I have maybe the worse weekend of my life? Probably.   But, in all reality, I sit here today with a little girl who finally is starting to feel better, who somehow did not end up in the hospital and me with this illness responding to the last few days of rest.  So, though it was rough and though I watched a dream come to an end, I know the right decision was made, hands down, no questions. But gosh, I had a pretty cute outfit on for WS, darn it.  So, what the hell happened you ask…

Well, let me back up a second.  Since December 2011, all my attention has been paid to running Western States.  JB and I love this race so much. I have spectated, crewed, paced, filmed, and of course we made a movie about it! So to run in Western states with the most competitve female field ever was beyond exciting.  Heading into my taper I felt my fitness was spot on, my training since Miwok 100k was the best I could hope for.  But my life and the stress and demands took its toll way more than I could have ever expected.  It all started when  Eva decided about two weeks ago she was done with her crib and took it upon herself to climb out of it every night, beginning a chain of insomnia for our entire household.  Sleep patterns were becoming wrecked and if I got 3-4 hours a night that was considered pretty good.  So much for the taper rest!   I can recall about 6 nights in the last 3 weeks of absolutely never even falling asleep.  Little by little, my overall health was detiorating.  I felt sore on little 5 and 10 milers on what was the middle of my taper and couldn’t figure it out.  I almost fainted in Bikram yoga the Sunday morning leading into race week and I knew something was way off. 

Race week  Monday, Eva began pre-school for the first time. (Why I agreed to that, I have no idea)  Just three days a week to get her some fun social time with kids her age.  Little did I know her pristine immune system was the perfect incubator to harbor a nasty little bug called Hand Foot Mouth Disease.  Yep, its as bad as it sounds.  A 104-105 fever for 4 days, vomitting, sores inside her mouth, diaper area and feet/hands.  She couldn’t eat, drink and would cry for hours as these sores are super painful.   Many kids end up in the hosptial on I.V fluids because they become so severely dehydrated.  We didn’t know she had this until Sunday morning after the doctor confirmed it.  We thought maybe it was a horrible flu.  JB and I had planned on staying at Donner Lake to get some rest  and instead JB rushed home at 3:00am on Friday morning as I got a phone call from our nanny that Eva was vomitting with a high fever.  JB insisted he take Eva to the doctor and that  I  go weigh-in and see how I was feeling.   Aside from the panic in my heart for Eva, I too, was achy, feverish and had some major lung and throat issues.  My pacer, Jimmy Dean Freeman, gave me a shot of Whiskey that morning to try to kill the germs.  I knew it couldn’t hurt, but could it help?   I weighed in, chatted with a few friends and Jimmy Dean rushed me home to Reno to be with my baby girl.  She was hot to the touch, I tried to soothe her, but she was not doing well.  I was also feeling worse and worse as the day continued, but I tried to not let it consume me.  

That evening my mom insisted she would take great care of Eva and that I had worked too hard to not to give Western States a shot.  My dad was my crew captain and Carly Koerner, my other pacer.  All of these wonderful people giving up their weekend to help me.   I tried to eat some soup and go to bed early, but it took 2 ambien to get my mind to shut down and not think about Eva.  I woke up about 2:00am on Saturday morning crying because my throat and lungs were so bad.   JB’s eyes showed me a little panic for the situation that was among us.   I insisted I give  it a go, just to see if I felt better.

Walking to the start line, I already knew it was bad. I was aloof about the whole thing.  Certainly not the excitement I wanted to feel. I knew the day and the weather weren’t going to get better for me, but damn it, I was going to try.  5:00am came and off we began running into the morning darkness.  It was freezing, windy, hailing, raining, and sleeting .  Suprisingly,  I maintained a comfortable pace as though I was going to make my sub-20 hour splits and found myself  in the mix with my fellow ladies when around mile 7, my lungs couldn’t take in enough air.  They felt like they were closing and my legs, head and back ached. I actually couldn’t even focus my vision on the trail.  My heart ached for my baby and my own body wasn’t going to be able to get through the journey that 100 miles demands.  I have too much respect for that distance to know what it takes to make it.  I wasn’ t even 50% that day.  I knew a top 10 spot at Western States wouldn’t be easy on a good day, let alone in my condition.

I saw JB at Red Star Ridge at mile 16 and he knew I was done too.  After a bit of denial, the tears began flowing as I stood there in the rain as the medical personnel listened to my lungs and confirmed I was in no shape to continue.  I watched them cut my bracelet and I panicked wondering if I could tape it back together and just keep going.   I simply couldn’t believe this was happening to me.    As every ultrarunner knows, there is a ton of work that happens to get to the starting line.  The hours we spend running and training, the demands we put on our families, the stress we put on ourselves to compete at a high level.  I mean, I had thought about this day for 7 years.

It’s not all for not.  There’s always something else meant to happen along the path.  To learn to be here now.  To try to relax and let life come back to you.  I think the most amazing part of all of this is how absolutely sincere and kind the ultrarunning community is.  Even while Ellie was out there setting a course record, she would ask about how I was doing when she saw JB.  Or all the texts and Facebook messages I have received giving me encouragement to get better and go find another race.  Thank you.  Sincerely, Thank you.  And to my own parents: thank you- you got us through the most difficult weekend since beginning our own journey as parents.

Western States 100 will be waiting for me to return.  I certainly know my time will come to run it again.   Congratulations to Timmy Olson and Ellie Greenwood and to all my wonderful friends and the rock star moms who went out there and ran a great race.   And to those who didn’ t make it, you deserve a big congrats for just getting there.  Sometimes your day isn’t what you planned for and that’s part of what ultrarunners are known to overcome.  There’s another race.  I will let you know when I find it.

6 Comments

Brett R.
Jun 26, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Jen! It was a bummer to hear from JB and Jimmy and how sick you and Eva were leading up to the race. We all were excited to see you run, but the vast majority has also had moments of varying degrees similar to what you went through the past week. Just one small chapter in a much larger story. AC isn’t going to work out for me timing-wise this year with some life events I didnt predict when I signed up for the race, so if you start looking for another 100 in the fall let Larissa and me know, we may join you at the start line!

You and Eva recover well!
Brett


 
Jen
Jun 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Thanks Brett. You are so right- just one small chapter in the big scheme of things. So sorry you aren’t going to run AC. But life is just getting super fun for you guys- the house, the wedding. Enjoy every last minute of it. We are so happy for you!


 
Wed, June 27 | UltraRunnerPodcast.com
Jun 27, 2012 at 5:52 am

[...] Jen Benna’s WS DNF report. [...]


 
Allyson C
Jun 27, 2012 at 9:28 am

Jen – we’ve never met, though I’ve seen you and JB on the trails, and for everyone I knew who was doing their first WS100, I was over-the-top excited for your opportunity. As I read this, my heart ached for you and my eyes became watery. I too had waited 8 years for the opportunity to run WS in 2010, and so I know how much you had put into it, physically and emotionally. I can only imagine how difficult it’s been for you these past few days, yet your resilience already shines through the grief. I’m amazed by your optimism – and I believe in it too. There will be another day, another race, another chapter — and when it arrives, you will be even more ready, more grateful to seize it. It sounds cliche, but it truly will be that much sweeter for you, and I hope I will be at the track to see it. You will get there. I believe it. I believe in you. Happy trails…always!


 
Jen
Jun 27, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Hi Allyson,
Thank you for the sweet comments. I, too, am sorry you didn’t get to run in 2010… you’ll have to stop me on the trails one day and tell me your story. Keep doing what you love and keep believing in you. I figure a breakdown could also be a breakthrough:)


 
Gretchen
Jul 2, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I’m so sorry things worked out this way for you, Jen! My Western States dreams were a long time in coming to fruition as well, so I know what you mean about the big build up. This race just sits on such a big pedestal. I can only imagine how heartbreaking the timing of this illness was for you.
I was really excited to see you kick some ass at this one, too! But this is not the end of your WS dreams. It’s just kind of a washed out section of trail on your way to the Big Dance, one that you’ll get around in order to keep going after it. I know you’ll be back, and I can’t wait to see it when you are!
Glad to hear Eva is feeling better, and I hope you are as well. Get healthy, and let’s get out and run some trails together this summer, okay?


 

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