Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Vermont 2013: DNS

On Wednesday night of last week as I lay in my tent, a wave of tremors, cold chills, and body aches came over me. I pulled on my boots along with my thickest hoodie and tried to sleep it off, I had a 25 mile road run on tap for the morning and suddenly, the Vermont 100 just two weeks away.

Since pacing my friend Jeremy in his stellar 2012 performance at Vermont I've wanted to run this race. I didn't expect this years registration to fill as quickly as it did and I ended up with my name at the rear end of the waiting list. I e-mailed the director to inquire about my chances of getting in and her (always prompt) response was: Highly unlikely. I might want to consider the 100k or plan for next year. But she'd keep me posted.

With these odds in mind I didn't give much thought to the race and put the Hampshire 100k and The Pine Creek Challenge 100 miler down as my goal races for 2013. I began camping full time back in June to train.

Flash forward to a rough race at Wapack and Back, a series of 20-25 mile redemption runs with the Hampshire 100k on my mind, and the fact that I'm living at Bradbury Mountain and biking 15-20 miles a day, every day, on top of my running starting to pay dividends. Flash forward to an out of left field e-mail from Julie two weeks ago. Congratulations! You've been accepted into the 2013 Vermont 100!

I immediately began reaching out to friends in my tight knit trail running community for training advice and resources while sourcing out every opportunity to make this small adventure happen. These are some of the best people that I know and their supportive responses only reaffirmed that fact. A dream race was suddenly in sight and I began running harder than hard. After a series of good trail runs culminating in a 6 hour mix of hills, roots, rocks, and roads I was feeling good. Flash forward to me shaking in my tent on July 3rd bundled up like it was January 3rd, feeling bad.

I woke that morning a little behind schedule, rushed down a quick breakfast (had to go without coffee,and everyone knows that you can't run without coffee), filled my bottles and hit the road. I couldn't tell if what hit me the previous night had moved on but the next 25 miles would reveal. And if I were really sick my amazing partner Jes, whose house I was running to in South Portland, would scoop me up. I had my cellphone in my Northface waist belt along with a $20 bill. And hey, it was the Fourth of July.

I used the high and humid temps to explain away how badly I was feeling, and how poorly I was running. But by mile 4 I was legitimately thinking of turning around and saving my legs for another day when I could actually do something with them. Finally I decided that suffering through a hot stretch of road with absolutely no energy would surely be a part of the VT 100 if I ran it and this would be as good a training opportunity as any. Plus, I had a bunch of festivities to run through in nearby Freeport, an easy afternoon with my lady to look forward to when this thing was done.

I made it 16 miles before a combination of hydration issues, a strange stiffness in my neck, and the extreme fatigue that I'd been battling all morning caused my to pull out the cell phone and make the call. I told Jes I'd meet her near the Martins Point Bridge in Portland 4 miles away to give her time prepare and to round the run out to an even 20.

Afterwards we went to one of our favorite cafe's to eat but I could barley get anything down. My appetite picked up a bit later on and then died out completely. For the next several days.

By Friday night I was getting worried as I was suffering from fever, chills, a migraine headache, and an inexplicable pain in my neck and hip. I was also beyond fatigued. As I cooked another dinner on the grill that I wouldn't be able to eat I ran my fingers through my hair in frustration-and there I found it. An engorged tick buried in the crown of my head.

Upon removing it, and realizing that it had likely been there since at least Wednesday and rode the 20 miles to Portland with me, I suddenly felt sicker than sick. I jumped on my phone and started researching all that I could about Lyme Disease. I've got some smart friends and resources began streaming in.

By this time darkness was setting in, the chills were getting worse, and one of the scariest nights I've ever had began to unfold The stiffness in my neck shifted into a panic inducing numbness and my heart started beating fast. I felt too weak to move and as I lie in my tent I began to seriously wonder how something like paralysis sets in? How does it feel to fall into that last deep sleep? I'm not exaggerating here. Things got deep. I knew that I was hospital bound at this point, the question was whether to call an ambulance to the camp that night or head over first thing in the morning. After much debate I found myself nervously drifting off and anxious for sunlight.

Morning came, along with an unofficial diagnosis of Lyme's (blood test results still pending, and from what I can tell, close to worthless), my first dose of doxycycline, and a day spent totally racked with pain. Jes is a healer in the truest sense of the word. Her strong spirit, endless patience, and attention to all of the little details of the day got me through the roughest stretch of road that I can remember.

It's been tough travelling since but I'm far from beaten. I'm learning more about the disease, it's co-infections, and other possible forms of treatment. I'm also discovering one of the most contentious debates in the world of science and medicine and watching big ego's, big money, and big ideas fight for space in a crowded room. I'll be posting more about the resources that I uncover and the experience as it unfolds.

I'll also be posting more about a planned peak bagging adventure in NH, a race report from the Hampshire 100, and my backyard adventures at Bradbury Mountain. All leading up to my next 100 miler in September. Vermont 2013 wasn't in the cards for me but I'm looking forward to seeing my teammates go down and do their thing. My heart is with them and I'm sure they'll be bringing some hardware back to Maine. And my 2013 racing season is far from over, this is just a bump on the road, an unexpected scale back week, and a reason to run harder, stronger, and better than I ever have.

On a final note, to all of my trail running friends-do your tick checks and do them well.  For real. Keep safe, keep smiling, and keep scaling mountains.

I'll see you up there.



  1. Wow, tough 4th of July. I hope you recover quickly. A couple of insights but not much of any value.
    1. I don't know how long the tick you found was attached. If it was only a few days, then you are unlikely to be sick from that tick. Also, this is probably too short of a time to generate the antibody concentration that would result in a positive test. But maybe that tick was attached for 2-3 weeks? Then the sickness might be due to the tick and you'd be more likely to have a positive lyme test.
    2. Coincidences occur frequently, so we often put 2 and 2 together and get something like -20 (that is, the wrong answer). People get sick in the summer. People get ticks in the summer. So the likelihood of the two co-occurring is high. This is GOOD. I hope its a coincidence. That said, early treatment of Lyme generally has a good outcome.

    Best of luck with the recovery and running VT.


  2. Many thanks Jeff. VT is off the table at this point but I appreciate the kind words and hope to hit the trails and talk ticks with you soon.

  3. Sorry to hear that Dave, horrible news. Good luck and quick recovery!

  4. Damn. Antibiotics are almost as fun as being sick in the first place. And not really knowing what you have or how bad you have it generally sucks as much as both combined. Anyway, whatever you have, feel better quick.

    I agree with Jeff that your most recent tick is unlikely to have been a culprit if you do indeed have Lyme. (I wouldn't necessarily hold it against you for blaming the little bastard anyway...) Your typical environment has you at pretty high risk, as you are well aware, so maybe you had a nibble from another tick earlier too that you didn't find. Stranger things have happened!

    Rest a bunch and maybe see you soon. VT will be waiting for you, when you're ready for it!

  5. Thanks again all. Looking forward to putting this behind me and looking forward to the Pine Creek 100 in September. Knock on the tent sometime and let's get a run in,