Since I did a 9-hour ultra the week before NC24 and covered 38 miles, I figured it only made sense to “reverse taper” (which is a practice lots of people recommend) and do an 8-hour ultra this weekend following my distance PR at NC24 of 66.48 miles last weekend.
Okay, I kid… not about the races but about it actually being part of a planned reverse taper. 😉
Short version: This was my third ultra in 15 days. I completed 32.4 miles in 8 hours. It was lots of fun!
The 8-hour race I did today was called Run From the Ducks. It takes place at a botanical gardens in Weatherford , TX. It benefits a Vietnam War Museum. The course this year was a 1.08-mile loop; it had no signifcant elevation changes, but it had some definite uphill and downhill sections. I first did this race last year as my first fixed time race and completed 35 miles. I loved the scenery, the organization of the race, and all of the people (including the RD, volunteers, and other runners). The whole race had less than 40 runners.
This year, I’d mistakenly thought that NC24 was the same day as this race, so it wasn’t anywhere on my radar. It wasn’t until one of my friends, Dan, who I met at the race last year, who I knew was doing it this year didn’t post anything about it on Facebook. This prompted me to look at the web site a few days ago and realize it was this weekend instead. Since NC24, one of my achilles and one of my knees have been a little irritated on and off. As a result, I wasn’t sure how many miles I’d be able to get in, but Dan convinved me that there was only one way to find out. I love my evil friends. I really wanted to do this race, and since this is my last weekend in TX before I move, I wanted one more opportunity to do this race. I didn’t make the final decision to do it until yesterday afternoon.
I want to brag on Dan for a second. He used to weigh 400 pounds. He ended up having gastric bypass surgery a couple years ago. While this may seem like the “easy” way out for some, he’s totally transformed his life as a result. He’s not only kept the weight off but has gone on to run marathons, ultras, and a bunch of triathlons (including several full ironmans). He now raises money with his racing to combat childhoos obesity. Not only has he made great progress and done awesome things, but he is extremely down-to-earth and encouraging to everyone he meets. The way he approaches life makes it difficult for people around him to say they “can’t” do something. This is a quick video of his progress that I wanted to share: http://youtu.be/z8alLFviwMA.
I wore a pair of CW-X 3/4 pants that had a lot of compression, and this kept my knee from hurting at all. They were pricy, but totally worth it in my opinion.
This year there were about 42 participating. The race started a few minutes after 7am with tradition #1: the RD drew the start line in the sand, and then we were off.
I ran the first 4 and a half hours or so with an older man named Gary. I met him last year at this race, and during our hours of talking, we discovered that we’d done 3 previous races together without knowing it (a half marathon as well as my first two marathons). He was really nice and was shocked to find out how quickly he was moving; his Garmin had died, so he was relying on my pace. I discovered something strange with my achilles: It started bothering me as soon as I put my shoe on this morning, but it only hurt when I walked, not when I ran. This meant I ran a lot more than I should have at the beginning. We got to 15 miles in under 3 hours. Also, after the first two hours, the RD started posting the top 3 males and females on a whiteboard. As I was afraid, since I’d started off too quickly, I was somehow tied for first for the first few hours. Since I was doing this race for the experience and I didn’t want the pressure of having to do well (which seemed to already be there since I was the first place female last year…proof that rankings can be shocking, depending on who shows up to race on a particular day). I was thankful that by the time the 6th hour rolled around, I’d disappeared completely from the list. This made sense, too, as I’d slowed way down. I was walking more, and I’d stretched out of achilles or something because it was no longer bothering me very much. And my knee didn’t hurt at all while I was out there.
Lots of people kept lapping Gary and me when we were running together, but as was the case last year, everyone was super nice. Even the front runners were never too busy/focused/tired to tell someone “good job” or respond to someone else’s encouragement for them. We also ran with various other people hwen we caught up to them or they caught up to us.
One lady I met today, whose name is Karen, was at NC24 last weekend. We talked for a couple miles as I explained that I was there with a group of people I’d met on a running forum online, how I’d taken a 3-hour “nap” in a long chair, how I’d woken up feeling energetic enough to run at the end, etc. At one point, she asked me if I’d been walking with the group that had the “lady with the colorful blanket” (Lori). I told her that those people were indeed in my group but that I hadn’t been walking with them at that point. She’s then silent for a few seconds and then says, “I know exactly who you are now!” I look at her with a confused look on my face, and she says, “Yeah, when I was by that group, one of the women in it said, ‘Look at Katrina! She’s running!’ I wondered who this Katrina person was. And now I met you!” Talk about the ultra community being small…
In the last hour and a half or so of the race today, I was mainly doing a brisk walk with another older man named Andy. I’d met Andy last year too at this same race. Since only full loops counted, at about the 7-hour point, we knew we could easily fit in 3 more loops but that 4 was not doable. We did end up running the last quarter mile and sprinted the last tenth of a mile (and even picked up another random guy along the way to run in with us).
The RD, Tony, is awesome, and so is his daughter, Cayla, who was responsible for the aid station. At one point early on, Tony asked me if I’d done the race last year, and I told him I had. A couple hours later, he said he remembered who I was, and he ran about a half mile with me telling me how appreciative he was that I’d returned from my deployment (which I was leaving for a week after the race last year) and that I came back to his race. He even mentioned how he’d forwarded an email I’d sent him last year (telling his what a great experience the race was) to the entire race committee. Cayla still remembered my name from last year. During the course of the race, just like last year, the RD learned everyone’s names so he could greet them as he walked to various points in the course during the day.
I had planned to walk an extra loop after the race to take photos, but the awards ceremony started very soon after the 8-hour mark, and we were warned to get out while we could after that, as there were two weddings taking place in the park in the afternoon. I still took some photos on the way out.
At the awards ceremony, there were 2 more traditions: Anyone who enters the race does not come in last…he and Cayla reserve those two spots, for the males and females, respectively. Also, every single person is individually recognized by name and mileage.
My Garmin said 33.89 miles (in 7:51:43). However, I must be a pro at taking indirect routes, because my official distance was 32.4 miles. I was happy with that. My “probably won’t happen but it’d be nice” goal part way through today was 32 miles. Also, I had to laugh at the fact that out of the 20 females, while I wasn’t in the top 3, I’d only dropped to 4th place, and it was only one lap between 4th and 3rd (as well as between 3rd and 2nd, and 2nd and 1st). The top female only beat my distance last year by .4 miles, which was surprising to me. I finished 17th out of 42 overall.
Anyway, it was an awesome experience. Small crowd, great course (although it did get up to 101 degrees by the time the race ended), and wonderful people. I am so thankful I found a way to fit this race in before I left TX.
So, after 136.88 miles in 15 days, spread amongst only 3 runs (not counting a 5k I ran the morning of the first ultra), it’s time for me to rest a little bit. 😉
Here are some photos from after the race…
Gary (who I ran over half the race with) and me:
Andy (who I spent the last hour and a half with) and me:
One of the Vietnam vets who was a volunteer. They were all encouraging and funny (and also knew everyone’s names somehow). And they’d blow duck horns when we’d run by: