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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Merrill's Mile 24 Hr

Wow... I sure did a lot of things this past week... it just seems a little unbelievable that all this happened in one week.  Thursday morning, I bought a house, became a landlord, and received my first rent check, and soon after, I went down to Georgia, celebrated Jordan's birthday at Maggiano's, and then back at her place... it was prep time.  It was nice to have someone to talk to while packing because otherwise, my mind would have gone crazy thinking about the race, but in a chill atmosphere, I was able to pack my things up and divided them up and just enjoy a good night's rest.  The medial side of my right knee had been giving me problems, so I was fortunate she was skilled in putting KT tape on it, and so I had that put on in the night before I went to sleep.  In the morning, I got my stuff and made some onigiri (rice balls) and headed off to Dahlonega, GA.  The trip was nice... but when I followed google maps on my iPhone... it stopped at a certain place and told me that I was there.  The only problem was that I wasn't.  So with a little adrenaline rush, I drove around, found a person driving, he stopped, he told me that the race was further down the road, and that I better make it there in time.... and I may have broken the speed limit to get to the camp in time to partake in this wonderful event, with only 20 minutes to spare.

Not having a support crew really bummed me out, so I had to bring all my stuff and make a makeshift picnic area, and dressed in my battle gear:

2 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33
2 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 2 (my favorite pair!!)
Underarmour Compression Shorts and Shirt (helped me from chafing)
Your average running shorts that I bought at Hammers...
My first ultra shirt I received running TNF Endurance Challenge 50 mi
My wonderful bandana (x2)
Asics running gloves for the night

The first sunny parts, I would go shirtless and get a free suntan, but knowing my weakness to the cold, I was prepared with the compression shirt and good thing!!

The other things I brought to give me whatever help I needed was... Pedialyte, Pickle juice, Equate Pain Relieving Cream, Ibuprofen, Riceball (onigiri), bananas, chocolate covered espresso beans, and a headlamp (I'm sure I brought more... but this is pretty much the important stuff)

At first, I divided up the 24 hours into the 6 hour increments when we were suppose to switch directions... so here's what happened.

The Plan:

I decided that I wanted to get as close to 144 miles as I could, which would be a 10:00 minute per mile pace, but would be happy with a 120.  As the loop was .9902 miles long, I needed some way to keep myself sane, and so I decided that I would tackle this thing 6 laps at a time.  Each lap, I would run the full lap, but as soon as I finished the lap, I gave myself a 40 second break.  I would take 40 seconds to walk, get whatever I needed from the aid station, and then go run another lap.  If I could do 6 laps under an hour, that would get me close to the 144 mile goal because I knew I wouldn't be able to hold that pace.  As the first 12 hours involved a lot of sun and high temperatures, I made sure to drink enough fluids, so made my own little system.  Lap 1: water, Lap 2: water, Lap 3: coke and water, Lap 4: water, Lap 5: water, Lap 6: pedialyte, pickle juice, food.... and then go with the next set.  On the 6th lap, I would drop the 40 second rest rule, and give myself enough time to rest as long as I wanted so that I could take care of myself.

 There are three important things that we need in order to get through the race.  Water, Electrolytes, and Energy.  Should you deprive yourself of one of them, your body will not work efficiently and you will slow down.  Previously, I kept on playing with my hydration, drinking too much at times, drinking too little at times, but the main thing that allowed me to know how I was doing was when I went to the bathroom.  Though it's gross topic to talk about, it's still very important.  Whenever I dropped by the rest room, I was able to see how much fluid I had inside of me, and that allowed me to understand how much or how little I needed during the next ten, twenty minutes.  Another thing that helped me get through was the fact that I was licking the salt encrusted on my shoulders and arms.  It has the perfect balance of what I was losing, so why shouldn't I take it in?  As for food, it's important that you take in as much as you can so that you'll be able to stay ahead of your glucose usage, but not too much so your stomach is working too hard.  It was important that I eat whenever I felt hungry, breaking guidelines because it's important that I listen to my body.  Using these barbaric methods of understanding where I was and how I was doing, I believe I could add extra miles under my belt.

First 6 Hours:

The first lap was led by Beth McCurdy, who was just running for fun (didn't she do like 60 miles or something? haha) and I was following her lead, but decided afterwards that I just needed to do what I usually did and just take it easy and warm up during the first couple of miles.  After slowing down, I was passed by a couple of guys and didn't care about it because the only person I was actually racing against... was myself.  Instead, I focused on how I was going to get through the race.  As I explained to the aid station crew what was going on, they immediately asked me every time I finished a lap what set and rep I was on, and that really helped out because I was able to work through this whole thing one set at a time, focusing on finishing the set, instead of looking at the 24 hours as a whole.  As the sun came out, the temperature went up, but I actually sort of enjoyed the heat and had trained for it, so I pushed through at a decently fast pace.  I remember passing the 42nd lap and then having to turn around because I had finished the 7th set.  I was doing pretty well and knew that I wouldn't be able to keep it up, but it would give me a good cushion towards the end of the race when it got dark and cold.  The aid station crew was so kind I was encouraged to continue what I was doing and get myself through to the 12th hour so that I could do my best.

Second 6 Hours:

By then, it was 3:00 in the afternoon, the temperature was going down... but we were all suffering from it.  By this time, I was still going strong, but I was starting to slow down.  I wasn't able to get my 7 sets in, but if my memory serves to be correct, I was able to get in 6 sets, 36 laps... but by then, I was exhausted and even right now, I can't truly recollect how many laps I did... I just remember that I was going for 6 sets for this quarter.  12 hours had gone by and I had done about 77 miles.  By then, my higher end goal was 135 miles, and the lower end still at 120.  I knew that 144 miles would be next to impossible to reach, but I didn't want to throw that away and see if I could get as close as I could possibly get.  By this time, the physical battle was over and the mental battle was about to start.  The aid station crew was still supportive and even though the 144 miles was out of the picture, they encouraged me to continue to do my best.  The runners at that point also started really cheering for me because I was going at a quick pace... I honestly don't know what I would've done if I hadn't had such a strong group always encouraging me as I ran.

Third 6 Hours:

I honestly don't remember how many laps or miles I did on this quarter.  All I know was that I finished 100 miles at 17:42, which is my personal best for a 100 mile run.  Understanding that, I know I did one more lap before I turned around, because I stopped early before the time went to 18 hours just so that I could drink and just turn around... something about waiting made it easier for me to start anew.  This third quarter was the hardest quarter.  I had kept up the 40 seconds of rest/walking each lap and then running, but after 12 hours and 77 miles, I knew that I needed to slow down or I would self destruct.... and made the executive decision to walk a lap for the first time.  It was a long lap.  I walked and although it was a mile... it took longer than it should have, and my pace was a mess.  After that, I kept it going as much as I could, but I was quickly shutting down.  As it got colder, I put on my underarmour compression shirt, my running shirt, and gloves.  I was slowing down and it was getting colder.  As I was using an extreme amount of energy to continue on, it was important that I keep myself warm so that I would be able to use the energy to move instead of keeping myself warm.  There was an inverse relationship between the battle of the physical body and the battle of the mind.  If the 1st 12 hours was about the body, the 2nd 12 hours was definitely about how my mind handled this race.  This quarter, I was only able to get in 24 loops... 4 sets... 23 miles... and things weren't looking good.  I had slowed down a lot, and at 3:00am in the morning, things were looking bleak.  Before the loop ended, Willy (the RD) encouraged me and told me that I was going at an exceptionally well pace... but at that point, I didn't care too much, and I wasn't feeling that great.

Final 6 Hours:

All I needed was 20 laps in 6 hours to get to 122 laps... which would be 120 miles.  The goal was within reach... but I was too exhausted to get there and it was a dangerous place.  Physically, I was more than capable of finishing... but mentally, I was ready to drop out.  The aid station was really supportive but I was not the happy Sho that I usually was.  It was in the wee hours of the morning, and I was tired of running, still miles away from my goal, and I just wanted to stop.  At one point, I was broken... I couldn't smile, I couldn't go forward... I couldn't go on... so I found a seat and stopped for 5 minutes.  It was the first time I stopped to sit that wasn't part of the 6 loop plan.  It was then that I looked back at the different people that supported me before the race, the people that believed in what I could do.  I wasn't running just for myself, I was also running for them.  The people in Haw Ridge that I run with on Tuesdays, my friends that started their running after meeting me, the people on Facebook that encouraged me, Jordan for giving me a bed and taping me up, Beth who kept on saying, "Go Sho Go Sho Go Sho" and making me smile, Keith who cheered me on and cracking jokes at me, Chris who encouraged me and believed in me when I couldn't, I built relationships during the miles around the track, and there were a lot of people that kept me going, and with that thought in my head, I had to get up and keep going.  I got up, and began my trek towards 120 miles.  I pushed through every miserable loop thinking about the people that supported me, and though it wasn't fast, it was still a forward progression.  By this point, the 10ft elevation change was very apparent when going out, that I found it hard to run.  However, I talked with a husband and wife (curses... I forgot what their names were... but I know all about them, haha... silly how ultras mess with your head), and was able to walk with them up the 'hill' and run the rest of the way down to finish each lap under 15 minutes.  I held on for about 3-5 loops, but after that, I couldn't keep up because I was still mentally exhausted... but by then, the sun began to come out.  As the track became visible, I became stronger, and as I became stronger, I found hope.  The people that supported me, the 2 hours I had left, the opportunity I had in not making a personal record, but a course record, the fact that I could see the road ahead of me... they pulled me.  At about an hour and a half left in the race, I started running.  I started running because I saw that it was possible.  I could finish, and I could finish strong, and as the light became stronger, so did my run.  As I finished the last few laps, Keith was there with my cup filled with water, bringing the water to me so I didn't have to walk that extra 10 feet, and encouraged me as I went on.  The blisters on my feet hurt, but I knew I could handle it.  I pushed on, getting closer to that 122 lap mark.  But I still had more time.  I could go further.  I could push forward and get myself further.  As Philip encouraged me to push on, I knew I could get in a few more laps.  I knew that I could get in 125 laps.

and so I did.

After 124 laps, my blister on my right leg really got big and hurt, so even though there was a slight chance I could have gotten to 126 laps, I decided that I would walk my victory lap in the end, and walk I did.  My head held high, as I finished 123.775 miles, making a PR, 1st place, and a course record.

When I came to this race, I didn't expect to go far.   I was sick a few weeks ago and only ran 3 times the last 2 weeks.  My right knee was hurt and hadn't been fully healed.  I didn't even have a support crew.... but the rest that I was able to get during the last two weeks gave my body to rest and fully recover from my training.  The right knee that was hurt was well rested during that time and it was wrapped up... and I made sure to run properly and not too fast, so I was able to pace myself properly.  I didn't bring a support crew, but there were always people around me that was willing to help me as I made my way through.  Willy, Philip, Beth, and the rest of the aid station as well as other runners encouraged me and gave me exactly what I needed to push on.

Looking back, the things I thought would prevent me from doing what I did became the stepping stones to being able to do something great.  I was able to meet a lot of new friends, and I was able to run a great race... and now I feel like I can take steps towards my next big goal.

I thought that becoming part of the USA National 24 Hour Team was something that I wouldn't be able to achieve in the near future, but with this race, my perspective changed.  Now, I believe that it is very possible that I can become a part of the team a lot sooner than my original plan.  If I put in the work, I race wisely, and take the right steps... it's possible.  I'm definitely excited for what this next year is going to bring me.  I'm going to make my dream a reality and continue to become the best that I can be.

Thanks to everyone who supported me in this race, and special thanks to Willy for putting up such an amazing race.  Should I come back next year to see if I can beat myself?  Haha.  I appreciate the support I got from my old and new friends, and I want to encourage everyone who ran to continue running and beat themselves and constantly get better.  Never give up and be the best you can be, because if you never give up... then eventually you will succeed.

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