My plan for the race was pretty simple: I wanted to do at least 17 miles and I wanted to do a 2:1 walk to run ratio. I chose the 17 mile goal both because it was what the last place person got last year and I wanted to match or beat that (since I figured I’d be last this year. At least I could beat last years last) and because it seemed reasonable given my current level of fitness and training.
The race was on a loop that is just under 2 miles so my plan was to think about the race in groups of three. I’d do two walking loops and one running loop three times. Each set of three had to be done in under two hours in order to get in 17 miles in the 6 hours I was signed up for. Totally doable, right?
Lap #1 Hey this isn’t so bad (32:04 total time, 16:38 min per mile pace)
I was literally in last place from the moment the race started. The gun went off and all the other runners started you know, actually running, but I set out on a brisk walk. Part of me was tempted to run so I’d look cooler and less like the total novice I was but I reminded myself that I had a plan and just kept walking. After about a mile or so of stiffness (I didn’t warm up before the race because I figured I’d have plenty of time to warm up during the race) I started feeling pretty good. The weather was cool but I was plenty warm in my capri pants, long sleeve t-shirt, vest and gloves. My goal was to finish in as much under 40 minutes as I could so I felt quite on track to finish the first lap in just over 32 minutes.
Lap #2 The husband and kid arrive (31:30 total time, 16:35 pace)
Mr.Monkey and the kiddo arrived in time to join me on the second lap, which was really nice. We walked briskly, I made a quick bathroom stop, and I continued to be well under my 40 minute per lap goal. I would describe my mood as upbeat and positive. 17 miles seemed like nothing at this point. My legs felt good, I wasn’t breathing hard, everything seemed, well, easier than I expected.
Lap #3 And now we run (26:37 total time, 13:54 minutes per mile)
The third lap was the first planned running lap so I set off at a comfortable jog, Mr.Monkey pushing the jogging stroller along side. Other than some whining from the little monkey (who wanted very much to get out of the stroller and to run himself) this lap went smoothly. I could maintain conversation and I still felt great. I was starting to feel a little bit of a hot spot developing on the ball of my right foot but I figured that would go away when I walked the next lap.
Lap #4 Unrealistic thinking takes hold (32:30 total time 16:50 min per mile)
I took a quick bathroom break and got right back into lap #4, which was another walking lap. Despite the fact that the bottom of both of my feet were starting to feel a bit hot, I was feeling ridiculously positive about things. I was holding a steady pace, wasn’t feeling that tired and was starting to think that I’d be able to do way more than 17 miles. Maybe I could do 18 or even 20? I even thought, for one crazy second, “hmm, maybe I should have signed up for the 12 hour race”. I felt pretty confident that ultra racing was the ticket for me. Clearly I was much better at things requiring stamina than things requiring speed. Lap #4 was also notable because, prior to this race, I’d never done over 6 miles at one time before so I was entering uncharted territory in terms of mileage.
Lap #5 Moving right along (31:41 total time, 16:16 minutes per mile pace)
Lap #5 was my fastest walking leg, aided in part by the fact that I was walking with another racer, a woman named Angela who was signed up for the 24 hour race. Angela is an ultramarathon junkie, a woman who has done well over 100 of these types of races since 2004. Amazing.
Lap #6 Uh oh (29:30 total time, 15:21 min per mile)
If I had to pin point where things started getting rough, it would be lap #6. Lap #6 was the second scheduled run lap and I could tell as soon as I started running that I wasn’t moving as quickly as I did on the first run lap. My hips were starting to hurt and the burning feeling on the bottom of my feet was starting to get more and more insistent. At this point I hadn’t stopped for any rest breaks and was well ahead of my goal pace. After about 3/4th of the lap I started feeling a bit light headed so I slowed to a walk. At this point in the race I had eaten one package of sports beans and had finished a couple of bottles of water and sports drink. I needed fuel but it just doesn’t appeal to me during races. I’ve had this problem during the triathlons I’ve done as well. I need to make an eating schedule during these long races and force myself to take in more calories.
After I finished this lap I sat down for the first time. My friend E had arrived to do a couple of laps with me and I was thrilled to see her, although I was a little concerned that I was not going to be moving as fast as I had been. I rested for about 5 minutes and then got to my feet again and discovered how very quickly the stiffness can set it. Everything from the waist down seemed to hurt, my poor feet especially.
Lap #7 The slowdown begins (36:07 total time, 18:18 min per mile pace)
The only good things about lap #7 were the fact that E and Mr.Monkey and the kiddo were all with me. That and the fact that lap #7 was not lap #8 or #9. I was starting to get whiny on this lap and was starting to realize that my dreams of doing anything over 17 miles was not going to happen. My feet were burning and every step hurt. The kiddo was starting to whine a lit bit in the stroller again, which was totally understandable because this was his fourth or fifth lap and that is a lot of stroller time for a little person but it was starting to bug me. To be fair, a lot of things were starting to bug me.
Lap #8 Wherein I find myself on the ground (45:46 total time, 23:29 min per mile pace)
The support crew (E and my guys) and I started out on lap #8 and I was moving really, really, really slowly at this point. I started getting very worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish the 17 miles. It was kind of shocking how different things seemed at this point compared to just a couple of laps before. I still don’t think I went out too fast or anything on the first 5 or 6 laps. I think I just didn’t have enough training time on my feet and it was biting me in the ass. About half way through this lap I had to stop and lay on the grass beside the trail. Mr. Monkey tried to help me stretch my hips out, which felt okay, but I was kind of embarrassed to be on the ground in pain as the racers who were doing the 24 hour race were trotting on by asking if I was okay. I got back on to my feet and suffered through the rest of the lap.
After the lap I rested on the ground for about 15 minutes, hoping my feet would stop aching, and then decided just to push through the last lap. I was under no illusions that I’d be able to do anything past lap #9.
Lap #9 If I was a horse they’d have shot me (44:13 total time, 22:49 min per mile pace)
For reasons that are no longer clear to me I decided I wanted to do this lap on my own (E offered to do it with me). I put on my iPod and started my painful shuffle. I had over an hour to finish the lap, which I hoped would be enough time. I just so desperately wanted to be done. I had never hurt like this in a race before. I’ve struggled in races before and been tired but I hadn’t had such acute physical pain before. Every step hurt. There were times I felt like I was going to cry. I was tired, I hurt, I felt super emotional. Given how many encouraging comments I got from other runners during this lap I must have looked like the walking dead. At one point Mr. Monkey pulled up near the path in the car and all I wanted in the world was to get in the car and go home (Mr. Monkey says he wouldn’t have let me get in the car, which I believe. That loving supporting bastard).
I also cried with relief when I finally finished this lap. I still had about 25 minutes left on the race clock and the race director gave me the option of doing 1/4 miles laps but I flatly refused. There was no way I was walking anymore. I could barely handle thinking about how I still had to drive home.
I didn’t stick around for the award ceremony. I was mentally and physically done. I managed to get to the car (after an assist from the kids of another racer who were nice enough to carry my stuff for me) and drove myself home. When I got home I cursed the fact that we live on the second and third floors of our duplex. I had to climb stairs. This seemed to be to be a grave injustice.
Once I managed to get up the stairs I collapsed on the couch. Mr.Monkey had to take my shoes off for me and quickly got me some pain meds and started a bath (he is a keeper). The rest of the day was a festival of pain. My knees hurt, my feet burned, it felt like I was being stabbed in the ass repeatedly. I was very, very whiny.
Sunday was better and today is better still, even though I have a nice blister on the ball of my right foot which is still not fun to walk on. I think I should be back to training by the end of the week.
A few coworkers have asked me if I would do it again and right now I’m not sure. Mr.Monkey had some race envy on Saturday and I think he’d like to do the 12 hour race next year so if he does that I for sure won’t run as I’ll want to be his support crew and I feel like there is no way we could take care of the kiddo if we both raced.
But some other year?
If my feet forgive me.
Total miles: 17.62