2010/09/11: Run for Remembrance 9/11 Ultra (race report)

This is long, so here is a snapshot:
Against my better judgment, a week before my first 24-hour run, I decided to do a 9/11 remembrance race that lasted 9 hours, 11 minutes. I completed 38 miles. I am sore. More detailed version (and photo) below.

Let me start by saying I should not have done this race, and I could have told you that before I started, or even before I signed up. However, I don’t regret doing it.

Now let me say that I signed up for my first 24-hour race 6 months ago, and it is taking place this coming weekend (17-18 Sep). Training has not gone as planned, as life has gotten in the way, but I have no concrete justifications to provide regarding my subpar training.

I’d planned on doing 3 5ks this past weekend (one Saturday morning, one Sunday morning, and one Sunday evening). They were all benefitting great charities, so I was just going to do them for fun. (I ended up still doing the Saturday morning one, and I even decided to walk the Sunday evening one although it was cancelled due to wildfires in the area.) Then my plans changed when I started considering a local fixed time race in remembrance of 9/11. It was 9 hours and 11 minutes, and runners covered as much distance as possible during that time. There was also a relay option, where members of the 9-person teams took turns doing laps.

I decided on Wednesday to do this race. I also discovered that there was a “highly encouraged” minimum fundraising goal for entrants ($200), so I quickly started doing that. Thanks to a bunch of my friends on Facebook, I was able to raise just over $300 in about 3 days.

Having done a couple timed races in the past, plus 3 other ultras, I put together a drop bag with some extra clothes, bandaids, body glide, electrolytes, and some other foods.

Since the race itself had just been thought into existence a month ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect from it. There was a decent turnout, although as it’d be expected, most people chose the relay option. There were 24 individuals and 10 relay teams who participated.

The race, called Run For Remembrance 9/11 Relay and Ultra, took place at Olmos Park here in San Antonio. The course was a 1-mile paved loop that was entirely flat; there was a .2 section that took place in a parking lot across the street, meaning we crossed the street twice on each loop. There was a police officer who was out there the entire time stopping traffic for runners; runners (or walkers) had the right of way 100% of the time, although there wasn’t much traffic in the wee hours of the morning. The race started at 10pm on Saturday and ended at 7:11am Sunday. The loop was well-lit so no one needed flashlights of headlamps. My favorite part of the course was about a tenth of a mile that had the aid station, the start/finish arch and clock, and a bunch of “spectators” (most of them were actually relay runners who were waiting for their turn, since they got an 8-mile break between their legss) that would cheer for the runners as they ran past.

Before the race, I’d set a tentative goal of 36 miles, not because there was an expectation for any particular mileage, but because I’d figured out in the past that having goals occupies my mind and makes time pass quicker as I constantly analyze where I am with where I thought I’d be and how to modify my pace or my goal based on the amount of time left. For this particular event, I loved the charity it supported, Soldiers’ Angels (http://www.soldiersangels.org/), and loved the idea of doing something positive on the anniversary of 9/11, but I wasn’t trying to go all out and risk getting injured.

For the first hour, I took a 1-minute walk break for every 4 minutes of running; I did about 5.5 miles during that hour. That annoyed me for some reason, so I switched to running certain segments (i.e. from “that post to the next trash can”) and walking the rest. I did this for the next hour and a half and stayed just under a 12-minute/mile pace. To this point, I was taking in a gel every 45 minutes and just drinking water. I’d also taken an endurolyte capsule just before the race started.

At about the 2 and a half hour point, about 10 minutes after I’d taken 2 endurolyte capsules, I got a cramp in my stomach. I don’t know if it was the capsules or not (I typically only take one at a time), but that made me leery of taking any more. I walked a lot more the next hour or so until I started to feel a little better. I’d taken 2 capsules instead of 1 because I wanted to skip my next gel. The last couple ultras I’ve done, I’ve noticed my body has developed a slight aversion to gels. If I only take a couple, I’m fine. However, if I run for a few hours, my body doesn’t really like anything super sweet, including gels. I used to be more tolerating, but something changed (not sure what). I resorted to cheez-its, which was my primary caloric intake during my 12-hour race earlier this year; my body handled these fine. I also kept refilling my handheld water bottle every couple loops; every other time or two, I’d refill with sports drink instead.

As the event wore on, I noticed the field thinning out a bit. The relay team members were still flying by on every loop, but there were certain individual runners I’d seen previously that seemed to have just disappeared. On the flip side, this doesn’t make any sense, but there were relay runners I saw hours and hours into the event I swore I’d never seen before. Since the relay runners had to run in order (i.e. every 9th lap), it was nonsensical that we hadn’t crossed paths (i.e. they passed me) before.

About halfway through the event, pounding my body on the pavement began to take its toll on me, particularly the bottoms of my feet. I started running the straighter parts of the course on the grassy path by the pavement. Many others had the same idea; no one said anything, so we figured it was okay. At the 29-mile point, I sat down for the first and only time during the race. I had to get some grass out of my shoe and do a quick self-massage on the bottom of my feet. The bottoms of my feet felt a lot worse than they ever had, but they felt significantly better after I rubbed them each for about a minute; that lap was my longest mile, which was 19:26. My fastest mile, in comparison, was 10:20.

As time continued to pass, I was surprised at how fast some of the other ultrarunners were still running. Granted, I was walking most of the time over 30 miles, except for random times when I felt like running, and nearly every single time I ran by the “spectators.”

Partial laps didn’t count, so when I finished my 38th lap at just under 9 hours, I stopped (since I knew I figured the odds were against me to run the last one in 11 minutes). The top relay team, of 10 teams, completed 74 miles.

The top individual male ran 54 miles and the top female ran 50 miles. My 38 miles put me in 12th place out of 24 starters. Of the 24 starters, 19 completed a distance greater than a marathon.

RANT (feel free to skip). I should consider myself lucky that I didn’t meet anyone like this until my 6th ultra… My least pleasant experience of the whole event was talking to the mom of one of the runners. She was rude, invasive, and just not a very nice person. It just so happens that I put my drop bag near where she was sitting, so we had multiple “encounters.” She was convinced there was a conspiracy against her daughter and that the timing system was incorrectly counting her laps, even after the lap results were confirmed. She was also condescending; every question she asked seemed to have a response to the answer already cued up. For example, before the race started, she asked if I’d one of “these” before. Not knowing exactly what she was referring to, I told her I’d done 5 ultras including an 8- and a 12-hour. Her response was, “Oh, that’s nice. So you really don’t know what you’re getting into because you’re brand new.” Okay… At the end, after seeing my wedding ring, she gasped and said, “Your husband chose not to come out here and support you? Such a shame he made you do this by yourself!” I’m patient, but at this point, and after not sleeping for over 24 hours, I almost lost it. Seriously? The number of assumptions she made in that statement blew my mind. I took a breath and then explained to her that no, he wasn’t there, but it wasn’t by choice. Seeing as we’re both military, the Air Force has not found a way for us to live together yet and we live in separate states and that he’s actually overseas at the moment defending our country, so that she should think twice about passing judgment on what she does not know. She then decided she wanted to ask more questions, at which point I excused myself, walked away, and avoided her. I’d never experienced anyone like her in any ultra event I’ve done; the entire community, not just the runners but their families, supporters, volunteers, etc. is extremely down to earth and encouraging.

After the race ended, there were breakfast tacos for everyone. There were also moments of silence at the times when the attacks at the Twin Towers and Pentagon occurred. Sprinkled in there were also the awards presentations.

All in all, it was a great event (minus the one lady and all of the pavement). Also, zero chafing and zero blisters, which may be a first for a long run, since typically I have at least one of those two.

Yesterday I was VERY sore. My muscles from my abs all of the way through my feet were sore. Today (48 hours post-run), I feel about 60% better than yesterday. My knees surprisingly don’t hurt at all, but my ankles are sore from all of the pounding. My calf muscles are still pretty sore, but the rest of me feels a lot better. I am a bit concerned about the 24-hour race this coming weekend. I’ve realized that psychologically, I rely on selective memory to forget the pain and thought of how long certain races last before signing up for another one. In my mind, I have no desire to be on my feet over twice as long as that, regardless of when the race is. I’m hoping my mind changes by Saturday. As for my soreness, I’m hoping it will subside more as well. Honestly, when I signed up for the race this past weekend, I knew I was prioritizing that one over the 24-hour one, and I still felt compelled to do it. That doesn’t mean I’m going to bow out of the 24-hour one, but it does take the pressure off of it (not that there was really much pressure for me anyway). My primary goal at North Coast 24 is to meet (or re-meet) lots of people here from RWOL and have fun. I’ll let circumstances completely dictate my mileage. On the bright side, it’s impossible to DNF! šŸ˜‰

Taken right after the race:

911 race



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