Monday, October 25, 2010

A First for Me - Literally

Saturday, October 23, 2010 I ran a 12 hour race which was part of 24 The Hardway, and the Dirty Double Dozen. These are combined trail and road races. Since I ran a road race, I'll just explain how those worked. On Saturday three different races were run on the same one mile paved loop. The 12 hour race started at 6 a.m, the 24 hour race started at 9 a.m. and the 6 hour race started at 12 noon. Last year I ran the 24 hour race. This year because I want to run the Mother Road 100 (Nov. 13, 2010) I decided I'd run the 12 hour race as a training run for the 100 miler.
We started right on time, 6 a.m. It was still dark, but this is a smooth track so I didn't take a light with me. A friend of mine (Kelly) was running her first ultra marathon. She had done one marathon before this but she is a very strong runner. She asked me some questions about doing this run, and I told things I thought would help her. And even though she is a faster runner, we felt like in a run of this duration, we would spend some time running together. She asked me about how to start, and I told her it takes me a while to get going so to feel free to take off, but not to overdo it.
I had a goal of running over 60 miles during these 12 hours, but first and foremost I wanted to run smart and within myself. I started out feeling pretty good and was running mostly sub 9:30 miles for the first 20 plus miles. I started slowing into the 10's after that, but all I needed to do was keep my average under 12 minute miles. Kelly and I didn't run together much during this period, in fact she lapped me twice.
As the day wore on the weather started getting a little nasty. As you can see by the pictures above I was wearing a singlet. The wind really picked up, and those with tents were having to either secure them better, or take them down. It got cooler and started to rain some. I was never cold, but had a jacket and thought if it gets any colder I'm putting the jacket on. I never did use the jacket and eventually the weather calmed down and began to warm up a bit.
As with any long race I had my ups and downs. I just had to keep powering through the downs with the knowledge that an up would be coming.
As the day wore on I passed Kelly and she was also going through her own ups and downs. We found out that we were leading the race. When someone first told me that I thought they were joking with me. But Kelly confirmed that we were leading. We knew that others had started faster than us but they had either dropped out or slowed down. We began to think about what we would do if it came down to the two of us at the end. I told her to do her own thing, if she wanted to pick up the pace to go ahead. We both did run our own races for a while and I think I was leading her for a time. I didn't know if she had slowed or stopped. While I did want to win I also didn't want to be a jerk. Plus I knew when it came right down to it Kelly was a faster runner.
To digress for a moment, one of my running goals was to win a race outright, not just my age group or the masters category. But here is how I pictured that happening. In the next year or two I was going to start running in small town 5 k's. I'd noticed that occasionally I'd see a winning time of 22 minutes or more, so I thought well I could have won that race. It just goes to show that things don't always happen the way I picture them happening.
With about 30 minutes to go Kelly caught back up to me. I have to tell you she looked good for having run almost 60 miles. You'd think this was just a afternoon jog for her. So we again started talking about what we were going to do. I said feel free to take off and do what you can do. She said no, she didn't feel that great. So we started talking about tying for first. At first we thought about slowing down so that we would cross the timing mats right at the 12 hour mark. But even though we had slowed, we knew we'd have to slow down a lot more to time it just right.
One more small explanation. Since this is a timed and not distance race, the race ends right at 12 hours, regardless of how far you've run. The way they handle the end of the race is on your last lap, you get a flag with your number on it, and when they shoot the gun ending the race you place your flag where ever you are at that time.
We talked about it some more and decided we would tie for first. We also decided that rather than trust the timing mat to record our finish times as being exactly the same, we would simply place our flags side by side when the gun sounded, and that's what we did. The first picture above is beside our flags and our actual finish spot. the second is us crossing the timing mat together. Final milage for both of us 62.35 miles.
This was a great race for me. It taught me more about focusing during a race. It also taught me some things about myself. From the time they told me I was leading the race, I had to start thinking about what I would do if Kelly caught back up with me. What should I do? What should we do? I haven't asked her, but I suspect she had some of the same thoughts. The main advantage I have over some of the newer runners is experience. All other things being equal, Kelly would out run me most of the time.  But when it came down to it we both made a decision to defer to the other person. During the time I was thinking about this, I thought about what it would feel like to actually win a race. But that does not compare with the feeling I had sharing the win with a good friend.
Thanks Kelly for a great run.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tri-State Mother Road Marathon

My running club sponsored a road trip to the Mother Road Marathon in Joplin Missouri. This marathon was to run through three states. Starting in Commerce Oklahoma, through Baxter Springs Kansas, and finishing in Joplin Missouri. I was running this as a training run for the upcoming ultras, but also felt like I was in shape to run sub 3:50.
I arrived at the pick up spot late Saturday (October 9th) morning. The bus left on time and it was nice, equipped with DVD, and wi-fi. I knew almost everyone on the bus, and it was a festive ride. We arrived at our hotel, I got checked in and then on to the packet pick up and "pasta feast." These two events were not up to par. The "expo" was nothing more than packet and t-shirt pickup. The "pasta dinner" was ok, but not worth eight dollars.
Some of the runners ate again at a local chain restaurant. I went to my room to finish off the sandwich I had brought for the ride up, arrange my running apparel, and retire to watch football. Next morning I boarded our bus for the ride to the start. We decided to use our charter rather than take the race shuttles to the finish line, and then other shuttles to the start. We arrived at the start with more than an hour to kill. There were plenty of port-a-potties, and water seemed to be the only choice for drinks.
Showtime, we start just after 8:00 a.m. I had decided to run this race by feel. I had talked with a friend, and she said she planned to run an 8:30 pace. I thought about it for awhile and while I wanted to do the same, I said I wouldn't push to do it. I started out running near 8:30's and it felt ok. The roads were sloped or cambered most of the time during the first half. The race really could have started at 7:00 and we wouldn't have had as much problem with the heat as it ended up. I pushed to the halfway point in about 1:50, right on pace. The race ran us into this parking lot, I can only imagine to get the mileage right and to cross us over a timing mat. While exiting the parking lot I tripped over a speed bump and fell. Guess I was going too fast. I scrapped my right shoulder and hands, but only my pride was hurt. I jumped up, and the guy behind me told me my shoe had become untied. I stopped to tie it back, and then promptly tripped on another speed bump, this time I only stumbled, but didn't fall. I pushed on determined that this little incident wouldn't affect my race, and it didn't. The second half of this race is more uphill, and had a steep one at eighteen. While I knew I was faltering, this is where it was all over. I was tired, probably dehydrated, and just knew that I was going to be walking a lot from here to the end. If I could have kept a 11/mile pace, I still could have come in under 4 hours, but I had the "I don't cares" by now. So every time I would start running, and then my head would spin and I'd feel nauseous, I'd slow back down to a walk. I did not run for a non-stop mile from this point on. I never got over the wall but when I saw the finish line, I ran all the way in. I finished in 4:04 and suprisingly took third in my age group.
My critique of this marathon is that the run itself was done well. There were plenty of aid stations, the city police/state police/sheriffs dept handled traffic well. The expo was not good, nor was the pasta dinner. The race should have started an hour earlier, but the weather was unseasonably hot, so I can see where they thought it would be ok. I won't return to this race unless we do another road trip.
As I said this was really a training run. In two weeks I'll be running a 12 hour race in Oklahoma City. And in five weeks I'll be running the Mother Road 100 which will run on a small part of this marathon course, but in the opposite directon.