Friday, November 6, 2015

Dizzy Goat 12 hour / Nebraska (10/50)

Dizzy Goat 12h

Schramm Park, South Omaha, NE

6:42am… I’ve decided to sit down to calm my nerves. I’m going through my mental checklist for the race preparations. Granted I’ve completed this list 5 times already in the last 10 minutes, but I can’t think of a good reason not to. I’ve got my personal aid station set up:
Drinks: check.
Blister kit: check.
Energy gels: check.
Extra socks: check.
Extra pair of shoes: check.
Hat: not found. Crap.
Band Aids: check.
Sun Glasses: check.
MP3 Player: check.
Many more things that I have never needed before, but who knows: check.

No shirts means fast guys 

6:47am… Next to me sit two other guys. They look fast. There tends to be a “fashion trend” for guys that are taking ultra-racing serious. The more efficient “outfit” or the less you care what you look like (no matching shoes/shorts/shirt), the more other racers can expect that you will be giving that race your utmost.

Well, these guys wore shoes and shorts. That’s it. A bottle in their hand and a watch on their wrist. As if we called each other the night before like high school girls matching outfits. I knew these guys were fast. Little did I know I’d be seeing much more of them throughout the day.

Breaking the silence, I asked what mileage they were going for…

{See, this race was a timed event. It’s not like other ultra-marathons, where you see who can run fastest over 50 miles or so. Here, you run for 12 hours and see who can go furthest. My goal was to set a new person record for distance. I’ve never run further than 50 miles (well ~52-54 due to some bad turns in a couple of races, but that’s neither here nor there). I’ve run for more than 12 hours before. Actually, it was around 12 hours, 2 minutes or something like that, but I covered only 50 miles that day. The elevation gain during this race in Maine was too much for me, and getting lost didn’t help either.}


Calmly they state “60ish” and “yeah, about that”. I confidently say: “same here”. Again, they looked fast. If they go for 60, I ought to go for 45-50. I’m quiet now. Re-thinking my entire race strategy. Forecast shows a high temp of ~93F and ranges of 88-93 for about 11am to 4pm of the race time. I hear people talking about “banking mileage” before it gets hot and then hanging on. I have a tough time re-planning my race, simply because I don’t want to red-line for 4 hours to get a high mileage and then zombie walk for 8 hours just to finish. Contemplating other peoples’ race strategies made me actually more confident. Their plan does not seem to fit for 12 hours of racing. I’ll let them go at the beginning and will catch them later. It’s not a sprint, it’s a (ultra)marathon.

6:52AM… the race director addresses the 12 hour racers. Going through the traditional pre-race speech, I look at my watch, which shows my heart rate. See, my resting heart rate is 47 beats per minute. I’m standing. It should be slightly higher. Hmm…103 bpm doesn’t seem right. Ohh duh, nerves. Alright, now I got really nervous and actually saw it climb to 118 bpm. I sat back down. Closed my eyes and analyzed my training. It hadn’t gone ideal by any standards. Having recently raced the Kalamazoo Marathon in Michigan, I strained my right knee and it still bugged me. I took off hard training for a full month and only did easy mileage sparingly in between. That’s not really what you want to do when you build an endurance base for a long-distance race. Also, the night before I ran barefoot around the yard and stepped on a perfectly placed rock that shot a sharp pain through the skin and muscles all the way through the bone (that was 2 months ago and I still feel it!). All night I couldn’t bear weight on my heel. I slept with an ice-pack taped to my foot, hoping for any kind of relief. None was to be had.

4:30am… (jumping back in time)… the alarm goes off. I quickly throw my phone across the room to shut it off. See, I didn’t want to wake the wife and baby. I am nice like that. I get up on my way to the bathroom and have to immediately sit down. My heel was bruised heavily. I had to walk on the ball of my foot. Great. How about running for 12 hours today? Sounds like fun.  

4:55am… I’m out of the door. It’s pitch black out and I am stuffing a banana and granola bar down my throat. I have a hard time eating this early with a race coming up. But I’ll need the calories. It’s about a 30 minute drive, but I need to find something to take care of my heel. I stop at a total of three gas stations to get something to cushion the inside of the shoe to relieve some pressure from my heel. I ended up with some tissues and electrical tape J.

6:53am… I’m sitting. Feeling the home-made heel-cushioning device in my shoe (patent-pending!), I finally calm down. I take the stress out of the race, because it’ll be impossible to race 100% today. Therefore, I will simply go out and enjoy the race.

7am… On the dot, the race gun goes off. Run a 3.25mile loop as many times as you can in 12 hours. 600 feet of elevation change per loop (that’ll add up, trust me!).
I was in the first row. No reason to run 30 extra feet from the back, it’s a race after all. Within 15 seconds I was relegated to 25th place or so many others took off as if they were running a 5K. Believe me, it’s very hard to hold back. All the adrenaline that you’re dealing with. The whole anticipation from the weeks of training specifically from this one event, and now I need to make myself slow down.
It helps that I’ve run a few ultras by now, as I also started off fast in my first ultras, only to truly suffer towards the end.

The section around the Start/Finish area was flat and paved. You didn’t have to watch your steps, so I used to opportunity to take inventory off how things felt. Heart rate strap felt a little tight, but was ok. Shorts were comfortable (two gels stashed in the back pocket). Had to run on the ball of my foot, which is a concern. This will strain my calves more than I have trained thus far, but I can’t put weight on my heel, so there is nothing I can do about it.

The two guys I sat with earlier, are way out of sight. So much for “same here”!

I strike up a handful of conversations throughout the first loop as people pass me and I’m passing others. Trying to get the first loop completed without expanding too much effort. My goal was to run each loop around 35minutes, and forcing myself to talk to people helped slow down.

I reach the end of the first loop after only ~28 minutes, which is reason for concern. The loop is about 5K, with said 600 feet elevation change, and 28 minutes is a decent 5K (especially if you plan on running 17-20 of them in a row!). I guess I’m banking a little mileage after all. However, I have to address my foot. Running only on the ball of my foot has caused a large hot-spot. If I don’t take care of it now, it’ll end up being a big blister within a couple of hours and can potentially end my race early.  I apply some Vaseline, tape it up to avoid future friction and take off one of my socks (I wore two pair to increase cushioning). I ended up changing my socks completely one more time a couple of loops later as I kept dumping ice-water over my head to cool myself down. That water trickled down into my shoes and my feet were constantly wet. Not an ideal situation to prevent blisters!

The next 8 loops go by un-eventful.

12:30pm…I’m on loop 10. Finishing this loop will put me at ~31 miles. We’re 5 and half hours into the race. Not quite half way done. Crazy, I know. It’s getting hot. I’m sweating like crazy and refill my water bottle every 15 minutes or so with pure ice and it’s melted completely by the time I reach the next aid station. Due to the heat and sweat loss, I make sure to consume a lot of salt. Because I am drinking so much water, I need to make sure to keep my body in balance and not suffer from Hyponatremia, which is just short of water poisoning.
I catch up with one of the two runners that I sat next to earlier in the day. We were greeting each other throughout the day as he ran towards me since he had started each loop before me (every 2nd loop, you ran the other direction). He’d been struggling with the heat. I told him that I’ve noticed that my fingers have swollen a bit and my wedding ring is getting a bit tight. I’d been trying to remember for the past 20 minutes whether that meant I had too much salt or too little. So many things that you need to know about your body once you start running beyond the marathon distance. He explained that I must have too much salt, as it make my body hold onto water, which in turn makes my fingers swell. Seems reasonable. For the next couple of hours I chose gels with little sodium and the problem disappeared.
My new friend tells me that he plans on taking an extended break at the next aid station to get some calories and liquids in him and to cool down.

The aid station in the middle of the loop was awesome! different costumes overtime I came by. Unless I started hallucinating...?

It’s ~95F. Running the paved section towards the Start/Finish area seems like torture. I see other people run a longer path just to stay in the shade. I feel good though and keep going at a steady pace. Cicadas keep attacking runners on this stretch as well. They are huge, fast and hurt when they hit you. One runner cramped up when he jumped out of the way of one. I contemplated the extra energy expenditure each time I swiped one of my clothes. I finish the 10th loop in ~5:57 hours elapsed and wait for an extra moment, so that the racers of the 6 hours race can start in front of me. Half-way done. Yay!

Christina and Leiana had waited for me and handed me my hat that forgot in the morning. I finally could put some ice into the hat and cool my head. This ended up helping me race as well as I did.
mid-race motivation! note the shirt on Leiana! >26.2!

Another 2 hours go by and the sun is just beating down relentlessly. Every time I come into an aid station I see runners that were far ahead of me earlier sitting on chairs refusing to go on. At this time I am in ~6th place I think. I run by another racer and she enthusiastically yells: “Only 4 hours to go!”

Felling chased at the start line
 by the 3h racers
I finish my 14th loop after about 8:57 hours. After an extensive ice-water-sponge-shower to cool off my head, I run towards the Start line. I hear the race director go:” 8..7..6..” and I sprint across the line. I was having some fun with the 3 hour racers. Several itched to jump the gun, but realize I wasn’t in their race. Therefore I was about 15 yards ahead of them as their mass start began. I smartly moved to the side of the road as they didn’t have 9 hours in their legs and the faster runners quickly sped by me.

I turn off my brain for a couple of loops and try to only focus on where my feet went, as now would be the easiest to get hurt by being careless and not watching the many roots that crossed the trail throughout.

I finish the 16th loop at about 10:55 hours elapsed. I speed through the aid station as I am trying to finish the next loop by 11:30 hours, because otherwise the race directors doesn’t let anyone back out on the course. Running by the water spot I noticed another couple of runners that were sitting in the shade. They were ahead of me all day. Sweet. Just moved into 4th place.
The 17th loop goes by without a hitch and I come in at ~11:22 hours elapsed. I get to go for another loop. The 5th place is right on my heel. I was racing myself and the time for 11 and a half hours, but I finally had a person to lock in on. Well, she did too. She actually passed on the first hill of the course (greatly named:” What the hill!”). She is looking strong and her pacer keeps her motivated. At the top of the climb I see her escape into the forest as I come around the last turn. My uphill legs were long gone, but I’ve always been able to go hard on the downhill, even after 10-12 hours. She had a good 30 second lead, but I caught up after the first downhill and stuck to her and her pacer’s heels. Catching my breath for a moment I contemplate my plan. I gotta look strong when I pass so that they don’t even think about chasing me. The ideal spot came up. A small downhill leading into an aid station. I pass on the downhill and put 15 yards between us and sprint through the aid station. My bottle is halfway full and I won’t need more water for the rest of the course. This immediately is

throwing caution in the wind on the final downhills

followed by a long uphill and my heart rate is spiking. I dumped the remaining water on my head. It’s warm. Not refreshing at all. I tuck the bottle into the back of my shorts, put my hands on my knees and power hike up the hill. At the top I resist the urge to look back. Only scared runners look back. If you see a runner look back at you, they are fearing that you will overtake them. I short flat section ensued and I am altering my running gait to avoid cramping. I am approaching a long downhill. I had grabbed my MP3 player for this last loop and the music (at 180bpm) matches my running stride perfectly. I am experiencing the most perfectly timed runner’s high ever! Nothing hurt. Adrenaline rushes through my veins and I’m basically freefalling downhill. Keeping only the minimum amount of contact with the ground to avoid eating dirt I run the fastest mile of the day. I cruise the last aid station and now I’m less than a mile from the finish. I run around the switchbacks fast enough that I need to hold onto trees with my hands as I take turns. Otherwise I would run down the deep end, and that wouldn’t be pretty. I pop out of the forest with a third of a mile to go and I put my head down and go for broke. Before crossing the finish line I see Leiana, Christina and some of her family who came to see the finish of the race. It doesn’t get better than this. I cross the finish line in 11:52 hours elapsed. 18 loops finished. 58.5 miles (~94km). 10,800 feet (3,6km) of elevation change. I stopped so abruptly that I needed a moment to catch my balance before hugging my family. What a race. I plan on coming back for sure! The other runner I sat next two earlier, had won the race for a third year in a row and was only 1 loop ahead of me (still, 3.25miles more!). I caught up with the runner I thought to be in 2nd or 3rd place, but he
informed me he only did 17 loops. That meant….I was 3rd! Sweet! Podium! What an excellent end to a great day. I sat down for a moment and the saying “Beware of the Chair” came true. Once you sit down, you might not be able to get back up. I seized up heavily and finally noticed the two huge blisters that formed on my feet as well as my heel. I sipped on the slushie that Christina had brought and already began planning my next 12 hour and what I could do different to add another loop or two J.

One last note. My theory from earlier came true. Run in shoes and shorts and you’ll be fast. The guys I sat next to were first and 4th overall. The 2nd and 6th place had the same “outfit.

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