Post-2016 Hardrock 100 Update

AJW's TaproomWell, it’s been seven weeks since my run at the Hardrock 100 and the subsequent interview I did with the Ginger Runner and the race report I published here on iRunFar.

In the days and weeks since this life-altering experience I have learned much and with the end of summer looming I thought I’d circle back with an update in this week’s column.

First and foremost, my immediate order of business after the race was to get a full-blown medical evaluation from a trusted physician specializing in running-related physiological maladies. I found that doctor, Siobhan Statuta, at the University of Virginia Medical Center and underwent a battery of tests to determine what might have gone wrong. In the results, I learned several important things.

Perhaps most notably, my initial test indicated that the oxygen in my blood was unusually low. 84% was my pulse-oximeter reading five days post-race. This, of course, was likely due to the adverse effects of the high altitude on my system but could have also had to do with anemia or some other blood irregularity.

The extensive blood work indicated mild anemia as well as a compromised endocrine system. Both my liver and kidney function were good but the kidneys had “taken a hit” and Dr. Statuta did express concern that perhaps I should get back with a nephrologist to re-evaluate my kidney function. Additionally, the doctor flagged mild concern with electrolyte imbalance. In essence, I had, in the doctor’s estimation, a “witch’s brew” of issues that could have led to my struggles in the San Juans. I also more recently had a full once over with a cardiologist to make sure my heart was in good shape and I’m happy to report it was.

The most valuable part of this whole experience, however, was not any of the above. Rather, it was my work with a team of psychologists. You see, during my consult with Dr. Statuta, a doctor with extraordinary bedside manner and truly innate emotional intelligence, she observed something that was, in her words, not quite right with me. One thing led to another and she gave me a psych consult. The subsequent experience working with an experienced team of sports psychologists has opened up many new challenges for me as I have begun to address mood, anxiety, temperament, and general emotional issues that I had heretofore left unaddressed or basically ignored. The process up to now, in the aftermath of such an emotionally jarring and physically taxing experience, has been eye opening, to say the least.

So, at this point, my race calendar is completely clear. Partly on doctor’s orders and partly because it simply feels like the right thing to do. Certainly, I’d like to get another shot at Hardrock but that’s up to chance and the lottery gods. In the meantime, I am really, once again, enjoying my daily running routine. I ran every day in August and am happily settling in to a 60-to-70-miles-per-week pattern that seems to work for my body, my heart, and my head. As time goes by and a new way emerges, I am sure it will become apparent. Until then, I’ll remain content lacing them up each morning and getting out there for what is always, without fail, the best hour of my day.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Uinta Brewing Company Hop Nosh IPAIn honor of my good friend Karl Meltzer’s attempt at the Appalachian Trail supported speed record, this week’s beer of the week comes from Uinta Brewing Company in Salt Lake City, Utah. Uinta’s Hop Nosh IPA is a refreshing and fruity IPA that proves good beer can come from Utah. I am pretty sure Karl would even approve!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

Has a race ever taken more out of you than you ever expected it to, such that you learned some new things about yourself that needed to be addressed?

There are 12 comments

  1. Marcus

    Thanks for sharing these private experiences, Andy! This column is awesome and has become a must-read on friday!
    I recently ran my first 100k and overcame two points where I was extremely close to quitting. In the end, I finished inofficially 3 hours after cutoff and I am glad I did.
    Up to then, I never quite understood David Horton when he said “We need people”. My run, I would have never finished if people hadn’t continued to motivate me, because my inner voice just told me to stop and be happy at both 70k and 90k.

  2. Tony Mollica

    I very much enjoy the articles you write and share with us. I admire how introspective you are; something I’ve never been very good at. I wish you continued health and joy throughout your life.

  3. Andrew

    I am very suspicious that your pulse of was 84%. Either that was an error or something was seriously wrong. Most people do not walk around with that low of an spo2. I am also doubtful that anemia is the cause. Ones hemoglobin level can be extremely low and still be 98-100%. All that pulse oximetry measures is what percentage of hemoglobin is bound to oxygen. Were you admitted to the hospital for a more extensive work up? I hope you are ok.

    1. Lou Brenner

      With all do respect AJW, I agree with the post above. 84% more than likely was mechanical error, which is common. Retest was likely normal. With an Spo2% truly this low you are either hospitalized or placed on supplemental oxygen prior to going home. If you left a medical facility with an Spo2 of 84 without oxygen, avoid that facility in the future.

  4. Steve Pero

    Andy, glad to hear things aren’t all that bad with you physically. I really enjoyed listening to your GR interview…even after running ultras since ’87, your experience taught me some things.

    As for Hardrock and it’s effect on the body….after my finish in 2013, I ended up with an infection that caused blood in my urine and a severe fever. My doc said that most likely it was due to being out in the San Juans for 44 hours. I took a year off from entering and paced a friend in 2014…since then I haven’t been able to get in. I’ll be trying again getting a HQ at Grindstone, so hope to see you there. Watch for the skinny old man ;-)

  5. Keri

    Andy, thank you so much for your intimacy and honesty. What an honor to be able to be witness to some of your experience! Doctors sometimes get such a bad rap, and I’m thrilled to hear that you had a positive experience with someone who was truly concerned for you as a whole person. And the fact that you took her up on it, agreed to do what is likely painful, or at least sensitive, work bodes very well for your future well-being. I also think it is an amazing example to set for your kids – emotional health, intimacy, and sharing vulnerability are all true signs of courage and take at least as much strength as running long distances, and probably more. I’m new to running (completed my first marathon in March and have signed up for my first 55K this coming Feb) and to your blog, but I look forward to much more of both!

  6. Bobby O

    I’ve been thinking about Andy’s post and I’m curious as to what a sports psych can offer an ultra endurance athlete. I know I can google this, but a google search has nothing on responses from this community.

  7. Nathan Toben

    We often discuss the mercurial nature of highs and lows during an ultra but somehow emotions, moods, attitudes and corresponding emotional reactions—WHILE AT REST or RECOVERING—are often inflated as intimate or curiously more “me-like” than if I were in mid-ultra. This is not to say that they are not intimate, that it does not take a kind of bravery to share them. Likewise, ultra culture is unique in its capacity for open-mindedness and emotional availability, but perhaps AJW’s article is a good reminder that the race for mental and emotional balance doesn’t start and stop on the course; that highs and lows off of the trail can be much more discreet and we can still benefit a lot from letting our guards down more, inviting others in to the process. How else can I cultivate right-sized perceptions of my moods and beliefs?

  8. Bobby O

    I think I need a paraphrase, because when people start discussing the right-sized-anything I get real curious as to what they are referring to.

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