Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Less Befuddled

The post-race fog has lifted somewhat and I'm going to try to write a semi-comprehensive race report for last weekend's Ultracentric. I went into the race hoping to beat my personal best of 118.25 from FANS in May. I knew that I would need at least 120 to be considered for the US 24 Hour National Team, but frankly, Ultracentric is not known for being the most forgiving course so I was going to be happy with 118.35!

Race morning, my husband, Tim handed me a folder with a complete loop/mileage breakdown. What the heck? I hate tracking my splits. I hate anything involving numbers, pace, plans. I drive my coach, Scott, bonkers. But, even though I was irritated with Tim for bossing me around, I sat down and gave him what I hoped would be my projected mileage at set times because I was so grateful that he is always willing to (and pleasant about it) crew for me. Because I hadn't really given much specific thought to it, I just put down where I wanted to be at 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100 miles. I just guessed. The only thing I knew for sure, was that I wanted to be at 100 miles by 19 hours because I figured I would need 5 hours to run the last 20 miles.

At the start of the race, temps were mild, but not nearly as cool as I had expected. Dallas is usually pretty cold by mid-November, so I was pleasantly surprised that I could start in shorts and a t-shirt with only gloves for warmth. I would regret this false happiness later. The first few loops were the usual for me - slow, trying to just get a rhythm and get my breathing to even out. I'm always pretty far towards the back of the pack at the beginning of an ultra. I don't know if it is nerves, or lack of experience, but I can't seem to get my breathing and heart rate to settle down until after the first hour. I ran some of the beginning with Jamie Donaldson and a super nice guy named Chisolm from Oklahoma. We had a nice chat, each of us commenting on our desire to start slow and run smart. This made me relax significantly because sometimes I start to panic that I am running too slow and will never catch up! Although I told Tim I would pay attention to my split at mile 20, I forgot and didn't look until mile 26 - 4:00. The problem with not having a specific plan is that I didn't know if this was good or bad. I just kept running, hoping for the best.

Mile 50 brought me in at about 8:30. Again, I forgot to look at 40 and then forgot to look at 50, so this is more of a guess. But it seems close. Frankly at this point, I was just hating life and really couldn't have cared less what my split was. This was the point where I started thinking, "What the heck am I doing. This is insane. Only a moron would be out here in 87 degree temps running for 24 hours!" Yes, it had gotten up to 87 degrees. Those earlier warm temps that I was digging were now making me wish I could just lie down and quit. Tim started giving me towels filled with ice at about noon, and Jamie told me to start pouring water over my head at the aid stations. Those two suggestions definitely saved me. I sweat more than a 250 pound man, so heat running is not my strength.

Anyway, as the night wore on, the temps dropped and I kept expecting my spirits to rise. But they didn't. I don't know why. I just felt lousy. I started throwing up (the first time ever in a race) and then panicked that I wasn't going to be able to finish. I'd run 10 yards, throw up, get my act together and go another 10 yards before repeating the process. What stood out the most for me, though, was how all the other runners just took it in stride. After a quick check to make sure I was okay, they would move on. I love that about this sport! If you are not lying flat on your face, people are going to expect you to keep going. So I did. And it was a good lesson for me that I could. I re-hydrated and re-fueled (once I could keep something down) and then moved on to trying to get to 100 before 19 hours.

At 18:15, I reached 100 miles and I was elated! What a struggle it had been from 50-100. I hated the sport. I hated the course. I hated bushes, trees, lakes. I hated orange traffic cones. You name it. But at 100 miles, I knew it was all about just keeping moving. No matter what. The aid stations workers played such a critical role at this point. Even though it was 3:00 in the morning, they were so upbeat ("You look strong. You're doing great.") that I couldn't help but try to be strong and great. Seriously, I didn't want to let the aid station workers down by coming in looking defeated. And it is amazing how much that helps your disposition - if you don't act defeated, you aren't.

At 8:00, the RD gave us the option of going out one more time or starting to run small loops close to the finish for the last hour. I had no idea what the best option was, so I just stayed in and ran small loops. This was where, about 20 minutes later, Connie Gardner began her final push for the record. It was so exciting, everyone cheering her on, the faster runners running with her to keep her pace up. It was awesome! Finally, at 9:00, the horn blew and we all sat down right where we were so that they could wheel off the exact distance. I ended up with 126.99 and I was really happy. After 100 miles, I had no idea what my mileage was. Tim didn't ask me to write anything down for post-100, so I just moved forward. I was so grateful to have beaten my PR, and thrilled to have gone past 125.

Things I learned:

1. Even if you are a "Let it be," kind of runner, set some time/distance goals. This saved me in the middle of the night because it gave me something to focus on besides my misery. Next time I will even be more specific so that I don't "waste" precious time just cruising along.

2. You can recover from heat/sickness/bad attitude.

3. It really is okay to start slow if that is what works for you. It is so tempting to try to follow others' plans.

4. Aid station workers can have a huge impact on your race! Thank you to those who volunteer at races!

5. Even if you think you know how you want to run a race, listen to others' ideas. I really was kind of irritated at Tim for trying to "manage" me. But in the end, his focus kept me on track.


olga said...

I thought I was the only one who drove Scott bonkers on that:)

WOW! I mean - wow!!! 126 miles - that is awesome! Will have to read it more careful, working on weekend sucks to stop more seriously. ongrats!!!

olga said...

Loved the lessons you outlined! Volunteers are what made me stick to the sport the first 50k I did - it felt so personal the way they cheered everybody one by name and stood there long time...and 18:15 for a 100 - phew, girl!

Julie B said...

Congratulations on your awesome run. Wow, what an accomplishment!! You enjoy your three weeks off now, rest up that hip and think about next year. I am just amazed at your mileage, girl! Woohoo!!