This is not the best race recap I have ever written; the fatigue of doing the race and Jeopardy auditions (next post) in five days has fully set in and I’m brutally exhausted. Enjoy this book length post of 24 thoughts for now…
The Important Facts
This was my first 24-hour race, part of 3 Days at the Fair, which was held at the Sussex Fairgrounds. This was a timed, rather than distance race.
And, as not to bury the lede, this is the first time I have completed 50 miles.
2-A Visit to PR City
Scored PRs in the Marathon, 50K, and 50mile distances.
Here are the stats!
Marathon = 4:59:30 (previously 5:11:26)
50K/31 miles = 6:02:34 (previously 6:15:17)
50 miles = 12:41:10 (auto PR)
At the Nike Women’s Half last month, I PR’ed the 5K, 10K, and half-marathon distances. In one month, I was able to PR at all of these distances. I think that’s pretty neat.
Finished 8/18 in the Women’s division of the 24 hr race.
Considering I started running at the end of June 2011, I’m pretty happy with how things are moving for me in terms of paces and placing.
3- Finally A Real Ultramarathoner
What got me to 50 miles, to be blunt, was the desire to be a “real” ultrarunner. I think while friends, family, and co-workers thought 50K/31 miles was crazy, I heard “Well, it’s only 5 miles more than a marathon,” quite a few times, often from people who have not or don’t run. Therefore, I really wanted to get to 50 miles at a race this year and I had planned on it happening in October at the Can Lake 50 in NY.
Looks like it came a little earlier ;)
While I regret that I didn’t have a better strategy for this race, I love a good goal, and I love hitting good goals. Now I have a new goal: 50 miles in 12 hours or less.
I’m not going to lie and say I would have been satisfied with a 50K. While I may have told people beforehand that I just wanted to finish a 50K in 7hrs and then maybe start working on higher distances, this was pretty much me setting low expectations (which is not normally a thing that I am into, but having given Nike my all a few weeks ago, I knew I was not a peak condition going into this event). I knew the whole time that I wanted to PR the marathon and 50K distances and also get to 50 miles. I was going to get that 50 even if I had to roll myself or crawl along the course. I was pissed I missed 50 miles in 12hrs, having come so close to getting that, but issues happened and I can’t do anything about that, so I am going to try and be pleased with my 50 mile time.
5-Well, How Many Gus Did You Eat?
I had 5 Jet Blackberry Gus. Had them every 5 miles, with my last one at mile 26. This was a mistake. In the future, I will consume more Gus, or at least a coffee so I can keep getting the caffeine. I tried a strawberry banana Gu the other day, this was also a mistake. Fake banana taste + the consistency of a mylar balloon do not a good Gu make.
6-Graph of Paces
Since every mile loop was timed, this race is a stats dream. Mile 51 is so long because I needed to stop after 50, stretch, and sleep. Yes, I plotted this in R (any excuse to use my favorite language). At some point in the future, I’d like to make a sweet running app that lets you upload a csv of the data, pick last names, and plot graphs from a drop down menu. In all honesty, this is fairly easy and I’ll probably get around to it when I have some downtime.
The Race Itself
Almost all of my pre-race rituals are food-based. The day before, I like having half a chicken breast, some farfalle pasta, Prego sauce with meat, and a cup or two of broccoli for lunch or dinner. Snacks on the day before include mini pretzels, Jelly Belly jelly beans (only the good flavors!), and Haribo gummy cokes. For breakfast before a race, I need to have a cup of Vanilla Almond Special K and 12-16oz of water. I also like to try and get to bed on time; for this race I was asleep by 9PM.
The 9AM start time was VERY difficult for me. I get up at 6AM everyday, and try to start my runs around 6:30/6:45. I’m not very good at sleeping in, so I got up, and had to wait around for a while, which zaps me of a lot of energy.
9-Heat/Body Image/What to Wear?
This was the second hottest race I have ever done; and the first hottest I had completed caused me to get very sick by the end. Needless to say, I was worried. The outfit I started out in wound up being too hot even one mile in, so for the first time in my life, I ran in only a sports bra and shorts. I’m normally a bit worried about how this would look, but it was run like this or not run at all, especially when I saw red splotches on my core after mile three. In the winter, I posted a quote that says “Every mile is two in winter”. I have a new quote: “Every mile is 10 in summer.” This east coast heat makes me miss running in Seattle that much more.
Also, in the first three miles, I realized my running tank top had bit the dust. RIP blue running tanktop, you were awesome for all the miles we’ve run together and all the sweet race photos we’ve been in together. You will be sorely missed.
The following two photos are from James Kavanagh’s Flickr page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/45787513@N02/sets/72157633577672049/with/8781511291/):
Me at the start (legs are looking good!):
Looking a little too warm:
10-Breaking it Down
Even on my short runs, I like to break up the route into shorter, mentally manageable sections. I chose to do this for each loop because it made the process of doing laps 40-50 much, much easier. The first part was from the start to the area near many of the tents, and to the gate. A short “uphill” section came after this, followed by a long grind along the outside of the fairground (this was also part of the NJ Ultra Fest course). Then there was a short zig-zaggy part that went where the horses were (with some grass to run on if you wanted) and then where there is what is probably a food stand at the fair for a boy scout troop. Finally, there is a short uphill section back to the start line. This helped me with running/walking strategies.
11-Going beyond 50K
In some parts this was fun, and in some parts this was hell. First few laps post 31-miles were filled with irritation, so I barely noticed them.
At 5PM, I knew I could get 40 miles by 6 if I ran/walked 15 min miles. I did this and got to 40, and rewarded myself with a cup of broth and a cup of ginger ale.
At mile 43, I was done. I kept repeating that I was done, that I wanted to stop, that 43 was an okay number, and that everything hurt. Pain while running is like a flock of migratory birds: it can be your hamstrings and then move to your hips, or knee, or IT bands, or feet, but then it will return to your hamstrings and cycle all around. I kept singing my little “Thrift Shop” parody about running to myself during a lot of these laps.
After sitting at 43 and grousing, I picked myself up off the bench and developed a plan. I would walk the next lap with a friend, then I would do three solo laps, and then I would get to call my mom and talk to her for a lap. Someone on the course accused me of a race foul at one point for being on the phone. Yes, I admit I’m not super fond of doing this, but this was the mental strategy that was working for me, and so I did what I needed to to meet my goals. I walked lap 49 with a friend as well.
Lap 50 was all for me. I was so excited for this lap that pain didn’t even matter, just seeing that sweet “50” under my name was all I wanted. My mom called during this and I talked to her for a few minutes before getting back to grinding the last section out. Here’s a pic after this lap!
You’ll notice I have much more clothing on now. I have a problem maintaining my body temp well, and so when I started moving slower and the sun started setting, I changed into warmer clothing. At one point, it became apparent that my hands were cold and clammy, so then it was time to put on some gloves to keep even more of my heat. Once I stopped and sat down, I started shivering. Had to put on even more layers and have a cup of soup and a hot chocolate. Around this time, I noticed that I couldn’t straighten my right leg fully; my hamstring and knee were locking. Took some ibuprofen for the first time all day.
I can never sleep after running long distances, I’m always a bit keyed up from the experience and worried about injury. The fact that I couldn’t bend my leg was also weighing on me a bit, so I got in the tent, put on some headphones, and listened to podcasts while taking short naps. After each one, I would move my right leg from bent to straight or straight to bent. This really helped me get the range of motion back without pushing it too hard.
14-The Next Morning/Going beyond 50M
It rained all night and was grey and drizzly when I got up at 6am. If you know me well, you know 50s and drizzle is my favorite type of weather. First, I took a shower to try and help my legs a little bit more. I was full of energy, restless, and since this was a 24-hour race, I knew I could walk some more laps before everything ended at 9. I thought that doing a victory lap would be fun, so I picked up two pancakes and decided to walk a mile to shake off some of that energy. You know what my favorite kind of lap is? It’s a pancake lap. Eating a pancake makes a lap go that much faster. I was feeling pretty good after this lap, so I decided to do another lap. These were my out of clocktime loops (more on this later). Less people were out on the course at this point and it was pretty peaceful. At that point I had 52 miles, so I thought to myself, why not do 53 and say that I had completed two marathon distances in 24 hours? Well after 53, I knew there was one hour left in the race, so I decided that 55 would be my ultimate goal. I walked these two laps pretty leisurely and just enjoyed being in the wet, grey weather with all the participants trying to get their last few laps in.
On Sunday morning, once I finished, I enjoyed some pancakes, eggs, bacon, and some oatmeal. Went out to the Delware Water Gap and got the hot dog/apple pie “True Love” special and picked up four of the my favorite chicken empanadas.
Other Odds and Ends
Going into this race, I wanted to do what Jon Kabat-Zinn would call taking a “step out of clocktime altogether.” I didn’t want to let small, personal worries or anxieties troll me for the weekend. I was excited to not be plagued by emails and meetings and an office and to instead be out in the fresh air doing something that I love. Getting to a good mental space can be difficult for me. Often, I make race playlists that allow me to either get psyched up or zone out .
I’m also a big fan of mantras, like I said in my last race recap. In this race, I didn’t have that many, or more to the point, did not have that many I could remember. There was one loop where I made up some two-line song about how if my foot wasn’t broken before this race, then it most certainly was now. After I finished the 50K distance, I kept picturing the number 50 and saying “50” and that helped me get there. Also muttered “relentless forward motion” to myself a lot.
Do you like to run? Do you like to eat? Then you should do an ultramarathon. Seriously, here’s a picture of the race snacks table at the very end of the race. I can’t thank the volunteers enough for that fresh PB&J, some great pancakes (my new favorite race food!), water, and all kinds of tasty treats. My active metabolism can get very high and it was very helpful to have great support in the food/drink department.
First and foremost, I owe an apology to the McNulty family for my inability to read the instructions for not one, but two, race registrations. Race logistics were fantastic, the volunteers were great, I had no technical or race-related problems and the encouragement was greatly appreciated.
Comparing this experience and the way I felt after my first 50K to the way I felt after 50K during this race, I think the hugest measurable difference was terrain. While I did set a PR at 50K here, I do not think it was terrain-based, I think it was training-based. I’ve been running longer distances at better paces since the Ultra Festival. Terrain-wise, the NJ Ultra Festival was 3 loops of mostly muddy, wet, or snowy trail/rail trail, as compared to concrete/pavement repeated 1 mile loops at 3 Days at the Fair. Perhaps it was mental, but I felt the pavement that much more during a lot of my laps.
20-Location, Location, Location
Like I said above, this race was held at the Sussex County fairgrounds. During the weekend there was a poultry show (with an escaped chicken who came to visit near our tent), two weddings (I think?), and a horse/riding show. Hearing the weddings blasting Psy from far away on the track was kind of amusing, and I was more than a little envious of their food trays during miles 40-50. It’s always nice to go back and visit NJ, even just for a weekend.
21-Running Your Own Race
Just because someone is out on the course going the pace you want to go doesn’t mean that you need to. Be where you are, be where you need to be. I had a hard time staying mindful for parts of my race and I really should have focused more on myself and less on competition or personal issues.
In other races, I always wanted more mile markers, so that I could see exactly where I was at any given time. This time, it felt mildly distracting to know every time 1 mile was up. Normally in a long run, I zone out and stop thinking about the number and that helps me get out of the anxiety over the numbers game. In this race, I had a much harder time getting in the zone.
I mentioned this is the first time I camped out for a race. Having that option is pretty nice, some of the best sleep I’ve had in awhile (minus the fact that it was slanted and I had some new between the shoulders pain). Also, this allowed me to store things and change just a stone’s throw from the course (I did change it up to a drop bag around 26 miles). Plenty of bathrooms and showers close by.
Part of the reason I like smaller local races is that you get the opportunity to talk to some of the other runners while you are out on the course. I did get the chance to do that during this event, but maybe not as much as I would have liked to. I think this happened for three reasons. The first is that I’m a kind of a loner to begin with, and I like to run large chunks of a race to music (which helps me tune out the pain). Second, it is easier for me to socialize if I am alone, which for all of my races this year, I have not been. Third, I’m at the young end of the spectrum for ultras in this geographic area and I know that I look even younger than I am. The first two probably played the biggest part in this aspect for me, and moving forward, I’d like to prioritize getting to know the other runners more.