A few weeks back, it all started on a Tuesday, when my grandmother called, asking if I could possibly come the next week to take care of my grandfather as he would get out of a nursing home and get back to the house. Due to his broken hip, he wasn't able to do much, and they needed the help. I readily agreed and started making plans... because Wednesday, I would be removing 4 wisdom teeth. That all went well but that also meant I would not be able to run for a week! I hoped recovery would go well (and surprisingly, I was better off than 99% of the population) and only did small things like yard work and walking 6-7 miles a day to keep up some sort of exercise. However, during the yardwork, I made some contact with poison ivy and so it became rather uncomfortable.
Having dealt with it before, I just went on my daily grind, and made plans, as Sunday through Friday, I would be in southern Georgia, while Saturday, I would be running a 12 hour race (a great way to get back to exercise, right?) and then continue on with my journey... but there were a few more extra bumps to be made prior to the race. First, due to me getting severe back pains from sleeping on an extremely soft bed, I slept on the ground... where I believe there may have been dust mites or something. The next days, I was covered in bites! After then, I slept on a blanket on the floor and my back was good and I wasn't getting bitten anymore. I was able to do 3 runs (Tuesday-Thursday) and enjoyed helping my grandparents as they adjusted to what he could and could not do... but Friday came and it was time to go~
Driving 7 hours to Bristol was going to be tough, but it needed to be done, but to my horror, when I opened my car door on Friday, I discovered a few hundred fire ants crawling around (I think...) and was 'excited' to have passengers along with me. I got bitten and stung a few times but since it wasn't THAT bad, I figured they weren't really fire ants, but I continued on my 7 hour journey. Unfortunately, as it would have it, my car decided to act up. The speedomoter and odometer stopped working, and after 4 hours, the transmission had had enough, started revving, and in the end, stopped. I was on the interstate and there was no-one I knew close by.... and so I figured out that as my car had 2 seconds of gears every time I turned it on, I slowly drove down the road for close to an hour (without A/C) until I finally made it to the gas station. There, I did my best, but being a Friday and past business hours, it was futile. I was stranded. Fortunately, my other sister who was driving to Bristol was able to take a 3 hour detour, and picked me up, and we arrived at my sister's house at 1 am, in time to sleep, get up, get ready and race at 8 am.
1.5 miles of gravel and dirt with a few little uphills. Most of the course would be out in the sun and should the day be sunny, it would be brutal. It wasn't hard, but it wasn't easy. Quite a bit of turnarounds and so one would have to drop speed and then pick it up, in order to maximize efficiency. The Timing was done by Run Corps and they always do well with exceptional coverage to insure that runners get everything done! The aid station is also done well, and overall, the RD Netta is fantastic and prioritizes runners, giving us the best support we can receive... a race to help runners succeed.
Gear and Nutrition:
3 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 (running out of miles on these guys...)
Injinji socks with a generic sock covering it
Nike Combat Compression Shorts
SWORD SWORD AND MORE SWORD
Peanut Butter Sandwiches (thanks Mary and Tim)
and that was all because I was going minimal at this race. Training races are tough!
First, this was a training race. I needed to do a decent job but have the energy to recover quickly after the race and so I can get back to training again. I needed to prepare for the sun as it would be too hot, despite cool weather comparing to the prior year. I also needed to break my own course record of 61.5 miles despite not being in the same shape. With this, I needed to run smart and keep myself going forward with a controlled 'spiral' as I slowed down throughout the race. If possible, I would like to win, but I needed to be smart first as I have another race in a month, so this was going to be fun. With the break from running due to my wisdom teeth surgery, I needed to stay loose and enjoy the race as much as possible. I would start off with 5 laps on the first hour, then continue with 4 laps an hour until I decided it was time and then go down a notch. The main thing is to slow down as the race goes so I could take it easy. I thought about doing 4 an hour to start it off, but with my training, my legs would go on automatic and it would be futile to control that in this race, so 5 it was. I would take this all one hour at a time and only focus on that hour and the lap I was on. I would forget anything else as it would not be important to me.
First 6 Hours:
Like I planned, the first hour went smoothly. I still went a little fast, finishing the first 'hour' in about 55 minutes, so I did my best to slow down accordingly, but the second hour also came by quickly, as I continuously ran a sub 8 minute mile average (including the walking) and made a mid-race decision to wait for the third hour to walk more to slow myself down. Adding more walking points allowed me to continue running at a fast pace, so I was able to get my third hour to 4 laps, still finishing a little early... I was pretty sure that I would end up with an extra lap somewhere... but didn't pay too much attention to it. The sun was starting to do its job and I made sure that liquid consumption was my priority. I ate a little bit too, as I needed to make sure to continue to add energy to my body as I used it, and the 4th hour went down. My sister was also running her first 6 hour race and so she was running, and paying attention to how she was doing kept me relaxed, and I made every effort to cheer her on whenever I could, and enjoyed encouraging other people as they went on around and around. At the 5th hour, I was still doing pretty well. I had changed shoes so I could be somewhat fresh, but with the heat starting to come out, I wasn't feeling too good. I always have a saying which is 'fake it til you make it' and it's done wonders for me in running ultras, so I was ready to start faking as the sun rose to it's most deadly position of the day... straight above me. It was hot, but I was ready and drank, drank, drank. The 6th hour had come, and I was still doing my 4 an hour run with a little extra, and at the end, managed to squeeze in the extra lap, finishing 40.5 miles for the first 6 hours.
Last 6 Hours:
At this point, I wished I signed up for the 6 hour race. I would have won, felt good about it, went home, and hung out with my family and played games... but of course, I decided that a 12 hour run was exactly the training I needed to get back on my feet. Good job me! And so I continued. This time, I was calculating what I needed in order to win without putting in too much effort.... Most everyone was quite a bit behind me, so I decided that I would think about it after 2 more hours, and then after that, start doing some math. I needed only 21.5 miles to tie my record, and doing that was easy even if I was walking.... but I still had a good bit of energy in my legs that needed to be pulled out, so I took the two hours pretty easy, finishing my '4 an hour' at around 1:02, and then having to switch shoes, I took a nice long rest in my chair, and started doing some calculations. I was at 52.5 miles and ahead of 2nd by about 9 miles.... I figured that I would try to get my competitive juices up talking to them, but they were too nice to be competitive against, and so I had to make a decision. I had 4 hours, and wanted to do well, but not destroy myself.... it's wonderful how it came down to somewhere between those two points... I figured it would be possible to get to 70.5, so I would 'try' for that, and slow down as I saw fit. I ran with Whitney for a few laps because she was fun to talk to, and chatted while running. Her pace was so consistent, I knew that after a while, I would need to slow down, so after about 2 laps with her, I let her go, and did my own thing. Taking it easy, walking more, I slowed down, sometimes feeling the legs ALMOST lock up, but it never quite got there. I drank drank drank, but this time, I wasn't too hungry, and knew it would be a bad decision not to eat, but as my stomach couldn't stomach it... it was a tough choice. I continued drinking SWORD to replenish my electrolyte balance, and it kept me from totally locking up. I was able to slow down, and it looked like 70.5 was possible... but I wasn't feeling it. I know I talk about doing ones best at all times, but because of another future race, I was going to have to make a decision... so I decided to drop down and do 69 miles, and if I really really didn't want to do the last lap, I would go to 67.5 miles. I continued on, slower than before, and there was 2 hours and 10 minutes left and I only needed 6 more laps to get to 69 miles, but my legs were telling me stories of how they haven't been running for a week... and I listened. I jogged 3 more laps, and then for the last hour and change, I walked for 2 laps. The final lap, I decided to shake it up and run again, and after finishing it, saw that there was still 20 minutes left on the clock. I had time... but I was done. I still loved running, and it was a good place to go. I was able to win the race, make a new course record (67.5 miles!), and run with some amazing people. Whitney came in about 9 minutes later to finish 64.5 miles! She really kept it consistent through the race! Had it been a 24 hour race, I would have gone down!
All in all, the race was well done, I enjoyed meeting my friends and making new ones. Next year I won't be able to return, as I will be in Leadville getting ready for the race there, but I hope that more people come to this wonderful race! Netta did a great job in RDing the race, and Tim did an awesome job with the timing. There are many many other names that deserve praise, but out of fear of forgetting a few, I'll refrain from trying, but I'm grateful for every individual that made this race the way it went, runners, aid station peeps, and the families/crew that came. It was such a wonderful experience!