Monday, August 8, 2011
...or celebrating my 37th birthday by running around in circles for 8 hours.
I know it's been a while since I've posted a blogpost - I wouldn't be suprised if this post goes mostly unread...that wouldn't be anything new! However, I am going to recap yesterday's race, mostly as an opportunity to reflect on what went wrong & what went right and as record for me to look back upon as a training tool.
Let's get to the good stuff! First, here's a few photos Sean Oh took yesterday. He is a great photographer and also a fantastic ultra/trail runner! Thanks Sean!
The H2T course is a 1.18 mile loop at Sweetwater Creek State Park, a personal favorite of mine. It is a really enjoyable loop with a majority of the course being shaded trails, there was some nice downhill sections and two "walking hills"(Unless you are eventual winners Jim Bickelhaupt & Kate Brun, then you ran them. Every. Damn. Loop!)
Due to the fact H2T landed on my 37th birthday, it was only fitting to set my goal at 37 miles - 32 loops on the day. My pre race plan was to go out with an average pace of about 10:30 m/m and grind for the 1st 4 hours and see where I ended up. There were to be a lot of factors that would determine the type of day I had. The first being my less then stellar long runs recently. The 22 miles I ran at Chattooga 5 weeks ago was my longest run since SweetH20 50k in April. I was a little worried my legs wouldn't have the endurance to go 37m.
The second concern I had going into the day was the predicted record temps we were going to get. I don't run well in the heat & humidity and every Summer I whine and complain to my wife and tell her to not let me sign up for ultras in June, July & August. Of course after the weather passes and I run in fall, spring & winter temps, I forget how horrible I feel and sign up anyways. Plus it was on my BIRTHDAY! How could I not run H2T?
The morning was overcast and a few minutes before the race started, it began to rain. It was a light sprinkle that never really picked up or became annoying. The rain was welcome by most runners as we knew this would keep the heat & humidity down. The rain left us within the first hour, fortunately the cloud cover lasted for a majority of the day.
I ran with a bunch of different runners for the first few hours and held a comfortable pace. I hit the 11 mile mark before my 2nd hour and was feeling good. I was concerned that my HR was a little high, sitting in the low 140's, ocationally spiking to 150 on the hills. Typically my HR is in the low 130's at this pace. In hindsight, this may have been a factor in the remainder of the day as I was having trouble keeping my core temp down. (note to future H2T runners - have a plan in place for cooling core temp)
By the 4th hour, I was rolling past my 22nd mile - still feeling strong. My fueling plan was to take an Ensure replacement drink, every hour on the hour, and grab whatever looked good off the aid station table. For fluids I was alternating water & Powerade in my handheld, aiming to drain my bottle at least twice an hour. As the temps rose I was going through three bottles an hour. So to recap, I was taking in a minimum of 250 calories and 60oz. My energy was perfect, I never felt sluggish. However, midway through the 5th hour, the cramping started.
The good news about the 5th hour was my awesome Sweetest Boo showed up! It was great to see her face and she arrived just when I needed to see her. She brought Holla and my favorite ultra treat - Rice Crispy treats! I brought her up to speed and told her my concerns about managing my electrolytes. I continued my loops but was having to walk more than I wanted to walk. She joined me just after I completed my "marathon" loop. I took a second bottle out on that loop to focus on replacing fluids and spiking my electrolytes. This worked and the cramping stopped.
As soon as I started to feel better - Everything flipped while I was running downhill. My left hamstring cramped again, it felt like I was hit in the leg with a baseball bat. I was ready to end my day and hangout with the other runners. Except, the night before I told Holly that no matter what I said, "you can't let me quit" ...and she didn't. She came out for another loop and pushed me when she could.
Upon finishing what I thought was my 26th loop, the counter told me it was my 25th loop. I was mentally defeated. This changed everything. I sat down and put a towel over my head and wanted to cry. I was forced back out and decided since I couldn't give up, I wasn't going to give up. I focused on finishing one loop at a time and running when I could. In these last couple of hours I spent more time running and talking with other GUTS runners. I ran with a couple of guys I hold in great esteem; Ray K & Laz. I learn so much from the stuff they post on the ultra list, it was great to meet them in person. Fellow bloggers Brad G, Joja Jogger, C$ & Jason R were out there keeping me company and helping me forget the cramps.
I finished loop 29 with 15 minutes to spare. Too close to not try for one more. I ran as much of the beginning of the loop as I could. The legs didn't have it. I missed "officially" finishing my 30th loop by 2 minutes. On paper, I ran 34.22 miles in 7:45. I finished my day with 35.4 miles in 8:02. I now have a new distance PR!
Sarah Tynes & the volunteers were awesome! The race was top notch - under some extreme conditions. The heat index topped out at 101 degrees, humidity of 94% What a great way to spend my birthday!
Let it be officially recorded, I do not want to run H2T next year; I will volunteer!