2012/09/22: North Coast 24-Hour (race report)

VERY short version: I ran NC24, which was one of my two goal races this year.  I hoped to run 100 miles, but ridiculous weather got in the way.  I ran 89.28, which was a 23-mile PR for me.  I finished 20th out of 108 runners overall.

VERY long version:
I had two goal races this entire year: the Labor of Love 50-miler in April and North Coast 24 (NC24) this past weekend.  I added a third goal race (a marathon) six weeks after my 50-miler to take advantage of the fitness I had at that point.  All other races I’ve done this year have been “tune-up” or “supported training runs,” including two other marathons, a 51k, and a 12-hour race.

I also got a running coach to help me reach more of my potential than I’d previously done on my own.  Ian Sharman is a noteworthy ultrarunner whose style of coaching has been exactly what I needed.  It took a lot of the guesswork out of my training because all I had to do was run whatever miles I was told at the effort level that was prescribed.  Of course Ian took into consideration any issues that came up (like my exercise-induced asthma, tendinitis, long work hours, commitments out of town, etc.) and modified my plan accordingly.

I ran NC24 last year with very little training (meaning no “adequate” training) and had also decided to do a 9-hour race the weekend prior (38 miles).  I managed 66 miles in those conditions, so I definitely wanted to surpass that mileage this year.  I figured that if everything went perfectly (does anything ever go perfectly on race day? haha), I might be able to come close to 100.  I’d done 53.6 miles 3 weeks prior in a 12-hour race and felt like I could have kept that pace a while longer (but how much longer I really couldn’t speculate).  I also knew that being a certified loop course that the mileage I would actually run would be a bit longer than the official distance.  The race director posted a few days prior to the race that not running the absolute shortest distance each loop could add roughly .04 miles per loop; this might not sound like much, but it definitely adds up!  I set a tentative goal at anything over 80, hopefully at least 85.

Since the loop was only .9 miles long, it meant we were passing by the main aid station and our RWOL aid station (where we had our extra clothing and stuff) very frequently.  Ian had recommended that I try a 9/1 run/walk ratio.  I used to do a 4/1 ratio pretty religiously, but for the past year, I’d only really run; during ultras, I let the circumstances dictate walk breaks but didn’t have them set at specific intervals.  I’d intended to try out the 9/1 ratio at my 12-hour race earlier this month, but since the course was a gradual uphill for .6 miles followed by a gradual downhill for .6 miles, I didn’t feel it was conducive to it (as I hate walking downhill and felt the long uphill sections warranted more walking).

The course at NC24 is relatively flat, although the uphill sections seem to get more steep as the race goes on, haha.  There was an area on the back part of the course that seemed like a good walk break place.  Since I’d be hitting it every 10 minutes or so, it was easier to just walk whenever I got to a particular landmark than to have to stare at my watch the whole time.  Also, after quite a few laps, I knew which point equated to a minute of walking from the first point, so I didn’t have to look at my watch for that either.

I remember the weather being cold in the middle of the night last year, particularly with the wind coming inland from Lake Erie, so I brought a lot more layers of warm clothes.  I also knew there was a chance of rain, but I underestimated what a challenge this would pose.  It doesn’t help that I live in Las Vegas and am not accustomed to running in the rain.  The few times here I have run in the rain (and also when I ran in the rain when I lived in Texas), while I got wet, I didn’t really feel cold.  I am NOT used to running in cold, wet conditions.  The combination of being cold and wet is one of the worst sensations in the world for me.  (When I was in combat survival training as a cadet, while most people remember the hunger, I remember the cold and wetness…I actually saved some food throughout the training that I was waiting to eat until I got *really* hungry, which never happened.)

I brought a jacket I thought was water resistant, but it wasn’t!  I also brought multiple hats and gloves, but NONE of them were water proof.  I figured that the under layers I brought would stay warm with my water resistant jacket (haha).  Due to that error in logic, I totally overlooked the possibility that I could be wearing four layers of clothing and have them entirely soaked through.

My husband and I flew out of Las Vegas early Friday to ensure we’d get to Ohio early enough to get settled and get some sleep before the race the next morning.  It was actually a lot cheaper to fly into Akron AND get a rental car than to fly straight into Cleveland without a car; there were more flight options too.  Looking at flights into Cleveland, the only ones under $600 had at least two connecting flights and wouldn’t get us in until 11pm.  That was not a risk I wanted to take!  On the way to Cleveland, we stopped at a Walmart to get some snacks for the race, checked into our hotel, and then met at the park for some pizza with a handful of RWOL people who’d be running the race the following morning.

We got to the park about an hour late due to some trucks that were jackknifed on the freeway, but luckily people were still there.  Anyway, the weather was nice when we got to the park and I was wearing a short sleeved shirt, but within about 30 minutes, it got cold and it started raining.  This should have been a sign of what was to come the following day.  After getting back to our hotel, I got a call from George who had gotten delayed three hours with his flight but he said he was finally on his way from Akron to Cleveland.  We’d planned to maybe meet up once he got to the hotel, since he was staying at the same place, but by that time, it was late enough that it was easier for everyone to just go to sleep since we’d meet at the race in the morning.

I slept surprisingly well the night before the race.  I’d organized my drop bags the night prior and had my clothes laid out, so there wasn’t much to do before heading back to the park that morning.  I had three bags:  One with my extra clothing, one with stuff I didn’t need at the beginning but would likely want during the race, and one with gels and other snack kinds of foods.

I normally run in a running skirt, but since the weather was a bit chilly, I opted to start out wearing my CWX compression capris with the intent of changing later when it warmed up (haha).  I wore a short sleeved shirt with a very loose long sleeved shirt over that to begin with.  I ate a banana and a muffin that I got from the hotel, then we went to the race site at the park.  Arriving at the park was déjà vu from last year and I felt very “at home” with the people there and the overall environment.  The weather was cool, but I felt like I was wearing the perfect clothes (including my loose long sleeved shirt I would toss after a few laps).

The cooler weather felt great to run in and I was running faster than I’d planned.  I was effortlessly running a low 10-minute mile pace.  After a few minutes, I told Asa, who was running with me at the time, “I think I should maybe slow down because I’m going too fast.  His response was, “I know, you just passed Sue!” (While he hadn’t been at NC24 last year, I’d told him lots of stories about people, including Sue’s awesome performance, including being high on the leaderboard at one point amongst the elites at a point, prior to crashing under a tree for multiple hours in the middle of the night.)  I slowed down and Sue and Angela passed me.  After a few laps, Asa dropped back a bit and I ran and chatted with whoever happened to be in my vicinity.

I kept my eye on Angela and Sue who stayed about .1-.2 miles ahead of me.  They were taking walk breaks too, but they were at different points and for different lengths of time than mine; however, we were maintaining the same approximate pace.  Every time I thought I’d catch up to them on a walk break, they’d start running again.  This kept me occupied for a few laps; I wasn’t speeding up, but they weren’t slowing down either.  Finally, I think it was on the eighth lap, I caught up to them.  Sue was convinced I had lapped them, which I thought was really funny, but I assured her that we were on the same lap; Angela’s Garmin distance was almost the exact same as mine.  The three of us ran together a little bit, and then we played leapfrog for quite a while (just based on walk breaks being in different spots on the course).  Even this early on, I knew Sue was going to keep a similar pace the ENTIRE race, whereas I was intentionally trying to bank some miles earlier since I was concerned with how the weather later on would affect my running.

One of the neat things about a looped course, particularly a small one, is that you get to interact with everyone on the course (MANY times!), regardless of how fast or slow you are.  I loved getting to see RWOL people over and over again!  I was impressed with Alex’s consistency; I think we exchanged words every single time we crossed paths!  Jen was out there doing laps and she made it look really easy!  Angela (other Angela) was also out there knocking out the miles.  Chuck cracked me up and I made an effort to try to tap him on his right shoulder whenever I saw him (before passing on his left); he eventually caught on, of course…probably much sooner than he let on, but I appreciate him letting me amuse myself.  I tried to talk to everyone from our group whenever I saw them, but sometimes I was in a “zone.”  Also, sometimes people changed clothes and were therefore more difficult to recognize, haha.

The first several hours of the race were relatively uneventful.  I was taking a gel every 4 miles and I was taking sips from my handheld water bottle whenever I got thirsty.  The miles were going by quickly.  I got to the half marathon distance (based on Garmin distance…all of the distances in this section are Garmin distances since those are the numbers I had constant access to) in just under 2:15.  I got to the marathon distance in 4:35, which was kind of crazy to me.  That’s the second fastest marathon distance I’ve ever run (out of the 18 times I’ve run 26.2 or more miles in a race or in training); it was especially surprising because I still felt very good.  I was continuing to keep to my one minute of walking per loop and it was working out well.

I was very excited when I got to 50 miles in just over 9.5 hours; my previous 50-mile PR was 11:21.  As a testament to the huge dork I am, I was incredibly stoked that I got to the equivalent of two marathons in JUST under 10 hours; I’d struggled to ever get under 5 hours for a marathon, yet I managed to do double the distance at an average of under a 5-hour marathon pace.  I hit just over 60 miles by the 12-hour mark and I was feeling great, mentally and physically.

About 6 hours into the race, people started remarking that the storm was coming.  Looking out over the lake, it was very apparent that conditions were going to change.  There were a few crews who had dry erase boards on which they wrote words of encouragement, trivia questions, etc. for all of the runners to see.  One of them said, “Prepare for rain and hail!”  Hail?!  I sort of dismissed the latter part of that statement because my mind failed to comprehend it.

As I ran past the main aid station before the storm hit, I heard an exchange with one of the runners and one of the officials in which the runner seriously asked confirmation that the race would be paused if it rained; the person was of course told that the clock wouldn’t stop but that people had the option to seek shelter.  This made me chuckle.

When the rain first started, it felt good.  I’d finally started to get a little warm and the rain was refreshing.  Quite a few people opted to seek shelter, but I was actually having a great time.  I actually felt worse for some of the crews out there who were having to contend with holding their tents up with the downpour and heavy winds that accompanied it.  I heard of some tents collapsing and totally flooding runners’ gear (including extra clothing).

After a couple laps in the rain, I remember running by the RWOL aid station and exclaiming, “This is awesome!”  After a couple seconds of everyone under the awning just staring at me, I asked, “Why are you all looking at me like that?!”  I felt great.  I started to feel a little cool and noted that the other people out on the course were wearing jackets, but I chose to wait to put one on, so I was still just wearing a short sleeved shirt on top.  Then the hail came, ouch!  It was very surreal.  Half inch pieces of ice–craziness!  It didn’t last for long, but when it first started, I was on the back (south) side of the course and was getting hit on the right side; when I turned right and faced north, I discovered it hurts even more to get hit in the front (particularly my FACE) with hail!

After about an hour of the pouring rain, I started to get COLD.  I finally opted to stop and change my short sleeved shirt and put on my jacket that I thought was water resistant as well as some gloves and a hat that would keep my ears warm; I continued to wear my normal running hat too as the bill kept the rain out of my eyes.  I went back out in the rain and was still cold but felt a little better with a jacket on.

My lower back had been hurting a little bit.  Whenever I went to the aid station to get something to eat, I would take a few moments and bend over and it made my back feel a bit better.  I remembered the miracle workers in the med tent last year and decided to try them out again.  One of the guys in there actually remembered me from last year and recognized me the previous night at the hotel, haha.  Anyway, they did some poking, prodding, and stretching, and it didn’t seem like they got to the exact spot that was causing me issues, but upon getting back out on the course and running, I realized they had healed me.  I love them!

As time went on, I noted that getting 100 miles seemed more realistic.  By the time I got to about 14 hours into the race, I only needed to maintain about 18.5-minute miles.  Theoretically, this seemed like it should be easy, but I am very aware of how quickly things can change.  During this time, I spent some time with Keith, Chris’s friend.  He was several miles ahead of me but still looked strong.  Meanwhile, Chris was very consistent too.

The novelty started to wear off of the race right around the 65-mile point.  I’m not really sure what it was, but I just started to have less fun.  Almost every single moment up to this point, I had experienced a lot of joy.  (For much of the race, I was truly happy to be there doing a race I’d trained for so intently; I felt so lucky to be able to do what I was doing.)  I was still glad to be there, but it was more effortful to keep moving forward.  I was extremely cold, which I think was a large contributing factor.  I also finally saw Asa again and I pulled him into a tent to help me with an issue I’d recently discovered that had also begun causing a lot of pain while running (walking was okay).

While I’d changed my rain-soaked shirt a few hours earlier, I never changed my sports bra and there was a 4-inch by 1-inch horizontal section right underneath the front band that had been totally rubbed raw.  He helped me get the old bra off, cover the area that now looked somewhat blistered with bandaids, and I got back out on the course.  It was still apparent that I had chafing there, but it felt a lot better now that I had a barrier between my skin (or lack thereof) and the (dry) fabric.

The night was lonely at times because so many people had either retreated to tents, cars, and hotels for the night, or they’d turned in their chips early.  I just kept trying to maintain forward motion.  I really liked the moments, whether they lasted for just a few seconds or longer, when I got to interact with other people; this is sort of atypical for me because I am very un-social in most circumstances (pretty much anything outside of utlras, and I am much more happy sitting home by myself or with my husband than going out with groups of people).

I was also beginning to cough more, which is a “great” side effect of exercise-induced asthma.  A LOT of people noted that my breathing didn’t sound good and that I was coughing a lot (as if perhaps I maybe did not notice, haha).  My legs were feeling fine at this point, around midnight (15 hours into the race), but the coughing got a lot worse when I tried to run.  However, maintaining a walk pace was not keeping me warm enough and my teeth were chattering.  I made a decision to stop for 5-10 minutes and see if I could warm up a bit.

I went into Bob’s tent and Pam was laying down.  I felt bad because I didn’t know where else to go that was away from the elements, but I knew it would be impossible for anyone to sleep in the proximity of all of my coughing.  She noted that my asthma must be acting up.  Indeed.  I tried using my rescue inhaler to see if it’d help, but it had zero effect.  After about 10 minutes, I noted that I was still extremely cold.  About this time, I heard another downpour of rain outside.  I decided to put on my last long-sleeved shirt, but when I picked it up, I couldn’t figure out why it felt so heavy.  It wasn’t until I was trying to pull it over my head and realized it was dripping on me that I realized it was entirely soaked.  Okay, change of plan.

I was then in my warmest set of tops I had, even though they weren’t totally dry.  I realized that I had to make these clothes last, so I chose to wait until the rain stopped.  I knew that if the clothes I was wearing soaked through that my race would be done.  I’m not sure why I didn’t think about it at the time, but I should have changed my compression tights; while it was mainly my torso and arms that were so cold, it surely didn’t help that I’d been wearing wet tights ever since the first storm hit 8 hours prior.  I also never changed my socks or shoes; I never change things unless I have a REASON to do so.  Since my feet felt okay, I decided to leave them alone, but being in wet shoes and socks the entire time could not have helped.  Anyway, after about 2 hours in the tent, I had not warmed up at all but I hadn’t heard rain in a bit and knew I had to get back out and do some laps.

Since I was still so cold, I put on the warmest hat I had and also took the blanket from the tent and chose to walk with it.  The course was even more empty than before, and I was by far the slowest person still out there then.  I was generating no heat and it took everything I had to just keep stepping forward.  However, I’d only made it a few miles over 70 by this point and it wasn’t good enough for me.  I knew from the previous year that any progress forward accumulated more mileage than not moving at all.  I also remembered that I was raising money for the Fisher House and that a bunch of people had made per-mile pledges for this race.  This meant that there was a direct connection between the mileage I put in and the amount of money they charity would get.

After a few laps, I ditched the blanket because it wasn’t helping.  I saw Sue out there and she was still going strong.  I also saw Chris who was making steady progress.  There were a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a long time, though, and I wasn’t sure if they were just taking a break or had left the race early.  When I went by the RWOL aid station just over 80 miles, Angela asked what mile I was on and when I told her, she said she was in the same place (actually one lap ahead, but at that point, it was essentially the same) and said she was coming with me.

Angela and I spent the next 3 hours or so walking together talking about the race and lots of other things.  I loved having someone to talk to, and it was neat that not only did I know the person but we’d ended up in essentially the same position mileage-wise after having the same 100-mile goal this year.  She’d had issues with the cold and took some time to go to the medical tent to get warmed back up (smart…why had I not thought of that??)

We both became convinced that things would have turned out differently if the weather had been different, but alas, it is what it is.  I remember when it started to get light outside, we looked across to the far side of the course and there was literally not a single person over there.  The downpours had stopped, but there was still a light rain on and off.  The weather had definitely taken its toll on people.

One of Angela’s children (she had four beautiful kids who were cheering her on, along with her husband who was there) walked with us one of the laps.  Toward the end of the lap, I noted I was still very cold.  Angela’s daughter took off to go get me a blanket (Angela had been walking with a blanket since we’d started walking together).  I knew I was losing a bit of my logic when I saw her daughter take a short cut back to the aid station area and thought she’d gone in the wrong direction.  We were on the back section of the course, and there is a point where the course goes right, but there is an option to take a path straight ahead; way out in the distance there was land jutting out to the right, and for some reason, I thought we had to run all of the way over there.  Since I saw water between where we were and the distant land, I didn’t understand how Angela’s daughter was going to get over there without going through the water.  Wow, I was out of it… But I gave Angela a laugh when I told her that, haha.

Even with the blanket, I wasn’t warming up, so I chose to sit out a lap at the aid station.  Bob had brought coffee, which I graciously accepted.  I actually don’t even really like coffee but it had two big things going for it: first (and foremost), it was hot!  And it also had caffeine.  Asa also showed up around this time; he’d smartly gone to the car during the night.  I knew I would have gotten warmer in the car, but I feared I would not want to leave it if I got used to that warmth.

After a lap of sitting there, I went back out with Angela and Asa.  I came up with the crazy idea to run a little bit more.  After about a minute, I realized it wasn’t worth the effort I’d put into it; Angela, who’d followed my plan, seemed to agree.  There’s something logical about the thought that something will be over quicker if you move faster, but in a race like this, it’s not the case.  As is the case with events like this, when it starts to get light, more people magically appear back out on the course.  However, unlike last year, the sun was nowhere to be seen.

I was happy to see Pam back out there doing some laps and looking strong.  Groove was also out there racking up the miles; he was THE ray of sunshine in the gloom out there, and I loved his attitude.  Eric was back out there too and looking great!

In the last 45 minutes, it actually seemed light outside, although the sun didn’t officially make its appearance until the very last 30 minutes.  This was rejuvenating, though.  I decided to pick up the pace a bit more toward the end.  I always seem to get a second wind in races–I’m not really sure how this works, but I’m not questioning it.  My last full lap was almost entirely running, and partway through that lap, I decided I wanted to complete that lap.  However, I had no idea how much time I had left. Luckily, Asa’s smarter than me and had synchronized his watch to the race clock (brilliant, I say!).

I suddenly had a bunch of energy and just wanted to make it to the timing mat one last time.  While making the final turn on that lap, one of the males went flying by which only energized me, so of course I chased him.  I’d managed to capture the last .38 miles of the race before the horn sounded (.3 before the timing mat and about .08 after it) on my Garmin, and that segment was done at a 9:29 minute/mile pace (with the fastest instantaneous speed being a 6:33 minute/mile pace)!

What I find very funny is that my body knows when a race is over.  The last few minutes of the race, I felt no pain and ran my fastest pace of the entire event.  However, upon walking the few dozen yards to the RWOL aid station, I became very aware of every little issue with my body and it was difficult to even walk.  Everything suddenly seemed to hurt, not in an oh-my-goodness-I’m-in-pain-and-I-feel-like-I’m-dying way, but instead in an I-don’t-have-any-energy-left-and-I’m-so-glad-this-is-finally-done way.

My final official mileage was 89.2804 miles (which is a 23-mile PR).  Based on not taking the most direct route around the course, I suspect I added about 2 extra “bonus” miles to the race, but that’s to be expected.  That equates to just over 99 laps.  And contrary to the reaction I get from people when I tell them that, it really isn’t that bad!  It didn’t *seem* like it was that many laps while I was running them.

Thankfully, Van (as well as others) offered to let us shower in his hotel room (since we’d checked out of ours the day prior).  Sadly, he wasn’t in his room when we got there, so I didn’t get a chance to say bye and give him a hug; I’d neglected to do this after the race at the park because I assumed we’d see him in his room.  Oh, and also, Van was kind enough to give me a key to his room the day prior during the race in the event Asa wanted to sleep in a hotel that night (he knew I was planning on staying out there).  This kind of generosity is what I love about people at these kinds of events.  It gives me faith in humanity, really.

I was very happy for Sue, who won (really not a big surprise to me, honestly).  I loved seeing everyone else out there persevere too.  There’s something about enduring miserable times together than bonds people to one another.

The weather wasn’t in anyone’s control, so I can’t hold that against the race.  The race director, John, was incredibly helpful, engaged, and accommodating during the entire event.  I was also surprised when I met him before the race (he was going around meeting everyone) and remembered Asa and I were registered together and that we’d come from Las Vegas.  During the race, he’d give words of encouragement, even by name!  He was awesome.

The volunteers at the race were amazing.  The people at the main aid station stood out there in all conditions to refill water bottles and ensuring runners had everything they needed.  There’s something incredibly special about seeing people take something so simple a request for hot chocolate so seriously and literally run back and forth to get the hot water, mix it with the powder, and give it to the runner as quickly as possible to minimize the amount of time the runner is stopped.  The food the race had available was incredible.  As a sample, just based on things I personally consumed is as follows: ginger ale, coke, sprite, mountain dew, Gatorade, chips, watermelon, ramen (calories+salt+warmth), potatoes, rice, oatmeal, grilled cheese (majorly delicious, particularly during the downpour), and pizza.  I actually just relied on the aid station food and drinks the last half of the race.  I took just gels until then, but as it was expected, I lost my ability to even think of them without gagging, haha.

The RWOL people who came out to crew are awesome.  Bob got there really early to set up out aid station, including a tent that anyone was able to use (that I took advantage of a few times).  Jenny was out there a lot too taking wonderful photos of everyone.  She has a talent for taking meaningful photos.  I’ve seen a lot of race photos, but so many times, there’s something missing from them–some kind of personality that Jenny is able to bring to hers.  Jenny is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met; if you’ve met her too, I’m pretty sure you know what I mean.  It was also great that just prior to the race marked her 5 years since ending chemo!  All of the photos below are ones that she took during the race; I especially love the ones that include both Asa and me.

Tracie was part of the RWOL crew too, and while I never needed anything from her, she asked quite a few times if I needed anything and always had kind words to say.  George was there too, which was awesome; it’s hard to believe he flew all of the way there just to help out.  I foresee some kind of ultra event in his future…  Jen ran the 12-hour event, then she hung out at our aid station to help out too, which was very nice.  I actually thought at times that being stationary at the aid station would have been more difficult than actually doing the race; at least the runners were generating some heat through their movement!  I really appreciated all our crew members.

I was proud of Asa who committed to NC24 many months ago in order to share the experience with me.  His longest distance run ever had been a half marathon, and that was one time over three and a half years ago!  He’d done a few higher single-digit runs with me, but needless to say, his “training” was not ideal.  We joked that he was following the “Chuck” plan from last year (since Chuck’s longest distance prior to last year’s race was only a half marathon).  Asa ran with me a little bit at the beginning and the very end, plus a bit in the middle.  He racked up 35.24 miles total.  And as of tonight (60 hours post-race), he said he isn’t sore anymore and just has a little pain in one of his feet.

One of the moments during NC24 when I realized how awesome the ultra community is: The rain had temporarily stopped, but there was still ankle-deep water on some parts of the course.  I saw someone out there braving the cold and wind to sweep water off of the path.  Who was the person?  Connie Gardner, the current American 24-hour record holder (who earned the title just 2 weeks prior).  She was not running the race, but she was still there helping out and giving out words of encouragement.  In how many other sports would there be a champion doing menial labor just to help others without even receiving any credit or reward for it.
It’s now been just over 2 days since the race ended, and I feel a LOT better than I thought I would.  I’m still coughing a bit, I have a little tightness in the top of my calves (right below my knees), and my feet are a little sore.  Oh, and my bra strap chafing (which was also on my back, I discovered) as well as some spots around my ankle from the chip strap and a quarter-sized patch on the back of my left knee from my wet compression tights are all healing well; all of the areas were BLEEDING by the end of the race, but now they’re all scabbed over and healing fine.  And I otherwise have ZERO issues.  Right after the race, I had a couple blisters on my feet, but by the end of yesterday (36 hours after the race ended), they’d been absorbed back into my skin.  No joint issues and not even any soreness, with the exception of the tops of my calves that I already mentioned.  I LOVE my Hokas; my feet were hurting so bad last year from all of the pounding on the pavement.

It’ll still be a few days before I venture out on another run, but I’ve been walking a few miles each day which I think has helped keep me loose.  I’ve also done some static and dynamic stretching.

My mileage this year was good enough for 20th place overall out of 108 runners.  This is a huge improvement over last year when my 66 miles got me 111th place out of 185!  I was better trained and covered more miles this year, but I also attribute my ranking to my ability to deal with “suck” a little better than the average person.  I’m not a “fast” runner, but I seem to do better in races of attrition.  (Almost exactly 2 years ago, I won the female division of a fixed-time ultra, an 8-hour one, in muddy conditions pretty much because other people gave up and I simply stayed out there.)

As I mentioned, I was raising money for the Fisher House in conjunction with this race.  As an additional way to motivate myself, I requested that people make per-mile pledges (although some people chose to donate flat amounts, which I surely accepted!).  I knew that for every mile I did that that the charity would get $10.47/mile plus an extra $400+ in other donations.  Overall, once all of the donations are input, this will equate to over $1,300 for deserving families of wounded and ill military members!  Quite a few people from RWOL made pledges and flat donations, and for that, I want to say thank you.  It means a lot to me.  If anyone else is interested in making donations, the fundraising page is still open.  The link is here: http://www.active.com/donate/2012TeamFisherHouse/KatrinaMumaw

There are a few things I learned from NC24 2012 that I will consider in future races (that maybe other people can apply to their own races…or maybe not):

1)  Prepare for the conditions.  If you’re not used to running in rain and the forecast calls for rain, bring supplies to deal with it.  If you don’t know what you need to bring, ask other people and/or do some research.  I literally had no water resistant clothes, and piling on more layers did not help because they all got soaked.

2)  Practice walking in training.  I ran all of my long runs and most of my training races, but I did supplement the runs with additional walking.  I think this helped me.  Don’t underestimate the difficulty of walking deliberately if you aren’t used to it.  While it may be different for other people, not throwing planned walk breaks into my training runs actually made the race seem easier because it felt like I was constantly getting to walk (because 1 minute per .9 miles seems like a lot when you’re used to not walking at all).

3)  For a long race, I keep myself in a zone where running is not effortful for a long period of time, for example, at least the first half.  If I’m getting tired and it’s only an hour into a 24-hour event, then I am in a bad spot and need to slow down or even walk.  If I’m getting out of breath and I still have over 50 miles to go, I need to slow down.  This is a big difference from shorter races, even marathons, where I expect a certain about of discomfort from the beginning.  However, for LONG stuff, it’s not worth it to me to be uncomfortable the entire time.  I enjoy running and racing, and if it hurts the WHOLE time, it makes me not want to do it.  Of course this doesn’t mean I want to finish the race with lots of energy; I just don’t want to burn out way before the end.

4)  Accept the fact that it will hurt.  No, not the whole time, but you will push your limits, and it will not be sheer physical joy the entire time.  But it will be worth it.

5)  Your attitude is HUGE, and it will greatly determine your performance and your experience as a whole.  Remember that you chose to do the event–no one made you do it.  You trained for it (hopefully).  You made sacrifices.  You owe it to yourself to do your best.  I asked a veteran 100-miler earlier this year how much extra training was needed to step from a 50-miler to a 100-miler.  His response was, “If you’re physically able to complete a 50-miler, you can do a 100-miler.  The only difference is mental.”  I understand this more now, even though I didn’t make it to 100.  Confidence that I could go farther carried me through times when realistically, in the given conditions, it may have made sense to stop.

6)  Have a mileage goal and a plan for how to reach it.  But don’t be afraid to adjust it based on conditions and how you’re feeling on race day.  I think the flexibility part is especially important if you’re racing in conditions you don’t train it.  I live in Las Vegas, and most of my runs the last few months have been in temps ranging from mid-80s up to about 110 degrees; lows have only dipped to the mid 70s.  In Cleveland, the HIGH was in the 60s and the lows got down to the 40s.  The cooler weather made it a lot easier to run a bit faster than normal.  However, the rain and COLD later on caused me problems because I wasn’t accustomed to them.

7)  Break the race into manageable pieces.  I’ll set goals for where I want to be in the next hour or so, or at what time I want to be to a certain mile.  My mind cannot comprehend anything over a few hours, so I tend to only think about things in smaller terms.

8)  Don’t feel obligated to stop at an aid station every lap (on a looped course…or every aid station on a more traditional course).  Stopping every lap to browse the food selection may seem harmless, but even if you just stop a minute every lap, that adds up a LOT over the course of the race.  You have an entire lap to figure out what you want, so get there, get it, and leave.  Or just don’t even stop.  Don’t waste time.

9)  Don’t fix things that aren’t broken.  If you’re not having any problems with your shirt, there is no reason to change it “just because.”  It saves time and you don’t risk doing something that may actually cause a problem.

10)  If things ARE “broken,” deal with them immediately.  Have a hot spot?  Deal with it when you notice it; it will NOT get better over time.

11)  Experiment with different foods in training.  While some people may be able to subsist entirely on gels, I cannot typically do that.  I have a list of go-to foods that I have on hand at ultras.  It also helps that my stomach is pretty tolerable, but I know some people aren’t so lucky.  During a race is not the time to realize your GI system cannot handle a particular kind of food.

12)  I discovered that I’m pretty self-sufficient at aid stations, meaning I appreciate crews and volunteers, but they’re somewhat of a luxury.  However, I benefit GREATLY by having someone with me, particularly at night.  When I was by myself, I tended to go slower, not move in a straight line, trip over things that weren’t there, and even nod off.  However, being able to talk to someone, I was much more alert mentally and this helped me physically too.

13)  Running farther than I ever have before is a neat feeling.  It has always been fun for me, even before I got into ultras.  Whether it’s 50 miles or 2 blocks, if it’s a distance you’ve never tackled before, it feels great.  That’s one thing I loved about training for my first marathon… Every (or every other) Saturday, I woke up knowing I’d travel on foot farther than I ever had before.  The longer I run, I harder it is to do this (since the bar keeps getting raised), but the “magic” of it is still there when it does happen.

14)  Be okay with the decisions you make.  If you choose to slow down, which might mean missing your goal mileage or time, or if you stop early, can you justify the decision to yourself the next day?  If you can, regardless of what the decision is, good.  But if you can’t, reconsider your decision.  What other people think really doesn’t matter.  You don’t need to justify why you did or didn’t so something to anyone else.  Sure, you can share your story with others, but you don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology.  This one is a bit difficult for me, but I know it is the truth.  I really wanted 100, and a few people who knew me well said I could do it.  It wasn’t in the cards, but looking back, I don’t regret the decisions I made (like my 2-hour break).  This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t do anything differently, but I know things always seem clearer in retrospect.

15)  Running should be enjoyable.  If you derive no pleasure in any sense from it, pick a different hobby.  I can tell by the looks on coworkers’ faces that most of them would never consider running an ultra, particularly one of a looped course, but I can say that experiences like NC24 are moments that truly enrich my life and I would not trade them for anything.

And some photos from the race (taken by Jenny):

Just me:

Just me (note how pretty the weather WAS):

Me, Sue, and Angela:

Asa (hubby) and me:

Just me again:

Asa and me:

This was a couple hours before the race ended and I was COLD.  Asa and Angela are there too 🙂

This was toward the very end when I ditched the blanket and was trying to run some (roughly 88 miles elapsed by this point):

Most of our group afterward.  I love this pic!

And the medal:

And one last set of photos.  Last year, Jenny also took photos at the race.  I LOVED the photos, and this is my favorite one from that race (below on the left).  This year, a few people commented that they noticed I’d lost some weight.  I said I had lost a little bit but hadn’t really noticed appearance-wise in running clothes.  However, comparing one of last year’s pics to this year’s, I can see a difference.  And the extra weight does make a difference in my ability to move quicker (basic physics). 🙂



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