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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Pistol Ultra

It's been over a week since I've run the Pistol Ultra 100 mile race.  It was a great experience for me, to run my first official 100 mile race near where I lived, having family and friends come in and support me.  Held on January 4th, 2014, the Pistol Ultra started and finished in Alcoa near Alcoa Middle School, where the course was mainly on the Greenway.  The course was designed to be 9 laps of 11.1 (which technically is 99.9 miles, but I'm sure they had that extra .1 mile somewhere during the course).  Having the course divided up into 9 loops, I planned to run them "3 at a time" where I would restart my stopwatch every 3 laps, so I would be able to do my best in keeping a consistent pace throughout the race.  With an aid station 4 miles away from the start on the 9.4 mile out and back and just a small 1.7 mile loop the other way from the start, I was able to run without carrying anything.

1st 3 laps:

I finished the 3 laps planning on running it at about 6 hours, so I would average about 18 hours, but even with my 5 min run 1 min walk, I finished that in 5.5 hours.  Spending about 12 minutes at the main aid station, I totaled the whole 3 laps as 5:42.  During the beginning, there were quite a few people in front of me, and even with the 5/1, most people thought I was going too slow, while I thought I was still going too fast.  I was nervous before this race and wasn't sure exactly if I was going to do that well, and even felt like giving up because mentally I wasn't where I needed to be.  As the race progressed and I wasn't working 'too hard' and keeping my pace, hope started building up, and the confidence in myself started coming in.  I knew I had trained to run at a 16 hour pace, but figured I'd get somewhere between 18-20 hours for the actual race, and thus far, I was on track.

2nd 3 laps:

The middle laps were harder than the 1st 3, and I knew that it was going to cost me, but my first lap went by quickly... a little too quickly, as I finished 10 minutes faster than what I had been doing up to that point... and I knew that I might be in trouble if I kept it up.  The 2nd lap proved to be harder, and the 3rd lap the hardest.  My shoes were hurting my feet and I needed them changed.  By the time I was finishing up my third lap for my second set, I was slowing down like crazy (over a 13 min/mile pace) and the time I finished was at about 6:08, which was slower than what I wanted my average to be, but understandable because I've been running for over 50 miles.  Right before my final 1.7 miles, one of my Cross Country runners, Greg, came over and went to run the 11.1 miles with me, finishing my 6th lap with me and beginning my 7th lap with me.  Knowing that the last 3 was going to be important, I raised the stakes and ran that last 1.7 mile loop, and finished it at a 9:59 min/mile pace.

Final 3 laps:

If the last lap before my final 3 laps was a hard one... this would be what I call extremely hard.  Raising the stakes meant that I would be going longer without breaks and push myself closer to my limit in order to finish the race.  It meant that I would be pushing hard in order to get the best time possible and hope that I don't fall apart.  Having Greg run with me was good, and I pushed myself to run that 4 miles to the aid station, where I stopped to eat a little, as I always did, and ran that mini loop back to that aid station without stopping, and after walking a little bit, I pushed myself all the way back to the start, averaging just at 10:22 min/mile for that 9.4 miles.  Then since Greg was done, another friend, Drew, came and went running with me, pushing me faster than I would have gone alone.  This race was the first race I actually had pacers run with me, and it was during this race I realized the importance of having pacers, and how much they helped me run faster.  Finishing the first lap of the final three, I went on and averaged 12:05 min/mile for the 9.7 miles, and saw that I had enough time to make it under 18 hours for the whole 100 miles... but I wasn't done yet.  I was greedy and wanted more.  I wanted to push myself to the best of my abilities and finish this race as strong as I could possibly finish it in.  I surged passed and pushed myself forward aiming to get under 18 hours if I could.  I continued what I left off earlier, running 5 minutes and walking 1 minute, and pushed myself faster during the faster times, because I was using different muscle fibers, and knew that I had more in me than I gave myself credit for.  With that, I pushed myself until I got closer to the aid station, where I met up with DK, who said that he would help me on my last lap... and help me he did.  He pushed me, I followed him, he got me exactly where I needed to be, just at the point of breaking, but never breaking.  Getting to the aid station, I was able to eat and drink a little bit, and then went for that small loop.  After getting back, I didn't follow the 5/1 plan and it became a "try as hard as you can all the way" plan which didn't suit me well but it pushed me beyond my mental limits.  I was complaining so much, that I didn't want to go forward, but deep inside, I knew that I could push myself, and so I kept on pushing.  I dug deep and kept on digging as I went further, and when I was about 2 miles away from the main aid station, I had to stop to walk because my mental capacity was on overload and I needed that break.  After that, DK helped push me to the best of my abilities, and painfully, I kept on going, finishing that 9.4 mile section in 9:46, going for my last 1.7 miles and pushing without stopping to walk.  Nathan joined me at this point, and both Nathan and DK encouraged me to keep pushing, and even though at that point I was getting annoyed, I kept on pushing because the end was in sight.  I only had a little more to go til I finished.  I pushed through with great effort and with the last hill to the finish line, I mustered all I could and sprinted the last 100 meters to the finish line, crossing the line at 17:45:10.

Afterwards, I could hardly walk because the pain was unbearable.  The arches of my feet hurt so bad, and I just could not do too much after that last push.  I took the picture with the RD, I hobbled back and gave a couple high fives to the aid station crew, and somehow got in my sister's car, and was driven to a friend's house where I took a bath and attempted to get some sleep... which is hard when your whole body is screaming at you....

But you know what, overall, I had a great time.  The people were nice, the course was nice, the other runners were nice... I was able to push myself and run my best race.  I'm a step closer to where I need to be... because finishing at a 10:39 min/mile pace, if I was able to keep that up, that would mean that I would have been able to run 135.2 miles in 24 hours, which would be enough to qualify to get in the National 24 hour team trials.  Every step I take is important because it gets me closer to where I'm aiming to be.

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

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