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Monday, January 19, 2015

12 Hours of HOSTELITY

First of all, forgive me if I write too much.  Unlike a 24 hour race or 100 mile race, I only ran this 12 hour race so my mind was functioning like normal, and there was no traumatic memory loss...

It was 2:00 am and I was still awake on Saturday.  For some odd reason, I was nervous about the race that would occur in 7 hours in Dahlonega, GA.  I drove in to Cumming, Friday evening so that I could chill and hang out with my sister and friends, but I could not stop thinking about the race.  My heart was racing, and I was feeling anxious.  There was no reason for me to be anxious, but because of the race, I just couldn't focus.   Though my heart felt like a beating drum, my mind was calm.  As long as I slept at least 3 hours, I would be ready to run a 12 hour race, as I had enough sleep the night prior... and before I knew it, I was waking up to my alarm at 7:00 am.  Everything was scheduled... including me being off schedule.  The plan was to leave at 7:30, get there by 8:15, and dilly dally til the start at 9:00.  I changed into my clothes, wrapped my right knee with KT tape, listened to some pump up music, and left for the course at 7:50, got a little lost once I reached Dahlonega, and arrived at the course at 8:40, giving me 20 minutes to sort everything out.

My sister Maika came with me and during the car drive, I told her that I didn't really have a plan, except to stop for a drink and 'something' every two laps, so once I started running, I'll make up a plan and would at that point tell her exactly what I want to do, and being a very kind and understanding sister, she sighed, shook her head, and didn't freak out.  It's a Sho thing, and she's used to it.  My other sister Mary would eventually come with her fiance Tim and they would help with the support so things on my sister's end would be just fine... or so I thought.


4 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 3
Injinji socks so I wouldn't get blisters
Breathable socks that I put over my Injinji socks as an extra layer for extra blister prevention 
KT tape to support my right knee and arches on both feet
Underarmour briefs to prevent chafing as much as possible
Lucky shorts because I needed a little luck here and there
Underarmour shirt to prevent chafing and to keep me warm
Red breathable t-shirt from my first ultra (TNF Endurance Challenge ATL)
Assassin's Creed jacket to keep me warm... and because I thought I looked pretty cool
Asics gloves, a thin pair to keep me warm~
Winter gloves that I put over my thin pair to make sure my hands were warm
Black bandana, because I always wear one, keeps sweat out of my eyes, keeps me my head warmish
Garmin Forerunner 310XT to keep my time... not my pace
Princeton Tec Headlamp... so that I could see in the dark.
iPhone with only a few songs downloaded, to make the torture... less so
Ben Gay and Aquaphor, my two important friends that keeps my body... not as pain-filled

The Course:

It was a .65 mile looped course, and other than the start area, nice trail.  Not technical at all!  There were only a few roots and rocks that jutted out that would trip you, but they were all marked with a neon green paint, which made life so much easier!

Start - 3 Hrs (including detailed course description):

It was about time for me to find out what the course was actually like.  I had no clue what to expect, but at the same time, I knew what I had to do.  I didn't put on any Ben Gay because I didn't have time, arriving just before the start, but eh, that was okay, I just wanted to have fun.  After applying the Aquaform, I came out of the toilet to hear the last bit of the announcements about how every 6 hours the course would change directions, and then there was a minute left for me to get to the start and head off.  The starting area was a little small, but then again, there were less than 40 people running around in circles, so not a problem at all!  As soon as they said go, I did my usual take off, let a few people lead the way so I get the lay of the land, and started chatting a little bit with the people around me.  The course took me around the hostel, and as we passed the chicken coops (which I honestly did not see til about 4-6 hours later), we went down a mini embankment, which led us to a 'long' stretch, which at the end dipped down to the left and then went back up a bit to the right, a nice U turn and started going up with a single switch back which had us going back towards where we were going, but a little higher.  The trail was slightly going up, and as we approached the chicken coop (from the higher elevation), we did another U-turn which had us going on a very slight ascent, a U-turn still going slightly up, and then crossing a gravel road, we went back into the trails, but the wider trail became a single track trail as we went to the highest point of the course.  At the top, we started down the descent through the woods, and went all crazy til we finally came out at the top of the Chasm of Despair, where you would have to run down to the bottom, only to go back up again to the gravel road to the hostel.  After the first loop, I decided that I'd just stretch out my legs and hurry along and catch up with Deano, who had already gone up a little ahead.  Leading the pack was where I liked to be, but after a few laps, I thought about it... and decided that I needed to chill and run MY race and not someone else's race.  I slowed down, gave up my lead to Deano, and just ran what I thought was a comfortable pace for a 100 laps.  I didn't know exactly how hard the hill was going to be, but I thought that I could at least get in 65 miles... right?  Well... when people heard what my goals were for the race... they gave me the crazy eyes look.  Yes, the people who signed up for a 12/24 hour race giving me a crazy eye look... that kind of told me that I may have set the bar too high... but there was only one way to find out!  Keep going, run smart, and hope for the best.  The first two laps came by and my sister Mary was there... but they forgot to give me water... so I said it was fine, I'll be back in two, so get me some pedialyte... and in one lap they had the pedialyte ready, but I ignored them and kept going... but after my 4th loop, I got back, they got the pedialyte... they didn't take the covering off the bottle!  I was ever so slightly not as happy... but you know... it was my fault for not explaining, so I told them I'd get back in two laps, and then after that, I gave them an order for every mini-stop I had.  Pedlialyte, Coke, Water, Water and repeat forEVER!!  Every hour, I would take in S-caps, but other than that, I would listen to my stomach.  If I wanted something extra, I'd let them know, and after that, everything went smoothly.  

3-6 Hrs:

I stopped at the 3 hour mark to switch shoes (change through 4 pairs, 3 hours each, 12 hours total, BOOM, life is good) and by that time, I had talked to practically everyone on the course, and went by several nicknames, from Viper, Shadow, Sho-time, or anything... sometimes I don't know where the nicknames came from.  Also, by the 3 hour mark, I needed to be a little more than 25 laps to get to the 100 lap goal, and I was at about 27 laps in.  I was at a decent pace, and I felt okay... well... my gluteus maximus was a little sore.  I kind of regretted doing leg day the Thursday before... but hey, it'll be alright as long as I ran smart right?  It's only 12 hours... or that's what I thought at that time.  For the first 3 hours, I needed to restrain myself so that I could get to my goal, and now, the main thing for me was to ask myself how my muscles were feeling and if I needed anything else.  It was smooth sailing, and I figure the sore glutes feeling would feel away... but I was wrong, and by then, I divided the course up to the runnable areas and the walking areas.  The steeper hill I would walk/hike, and the rest I ran.  By the 4th hour, I was somewhere around 36-7 laps, which was a good pace, but I felt a little more tired, and so I got the iPhone and put in some good tunes to keep me situated.  Now it became serious, the turning point where I would figure out if I would make it to the 100 laps, or burn out.  Somewhere between the 4th hour and 6th hour, I hit a mental wall and slowed down tremendously.  I could not go as fast as I wanted, nor did I want to push it, because that might cause me to burn out earlier... I just wanted to finish.  Things weren't looking too good, and I wasn't feeling my best.  Though the sun was shining and it was daylight, I was still cold, and I didn't like racing in the cold.  In my head, the voices suddenly told me that I couldn't do it, and I hit a mental low, which stayed with me for the duration of this 3 hour period.  At the end of the 6 hours, I hit 51 laps, which was 33.15 miles... hitting 100 laps might have been a little too daring... but did that goal also mess with my chances of finishing 88 laps?

6-9 Hrs:

Turning around and doing the course backwards was a relief.  It really changed everything... including my mindset.  Though I was still in a bad place, filled with negative emotions, the change in direction added a small light.  The difference didn't affect my speed, in fact, my speed still continued to slow, but it did allow my mind to regroup and rest.  In the midst of this darkness, I asked myself a question. "Is my body not strong enough?"  I did a body check, and answered, "It's strong enough.  It can handle this."  The next question I asked myself was, "What's causing me to be weak and slow down?" and in reply, I answered truthfully, "my mind."  My body was capable of handling this course, but what got to me was how weak my mind was.  The hill had slowly changed into a mountain, and my perspective changed, allowing me to become weaker than what I actually was.  At this point, I had finished about 66 laps, and I was passed the 8th hour, which meant that realistically, I wasn't going to make the 100... but I would still be able to give it my best.  Still down, I had sat down to eat the wonderful tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich, and started taking in as much energy for the final push, and as I stood to go out once more, Philip gave me one sentence which gave me that final shove, "You only need to run 21 more laps to tie the record." and with that, everything fell into place, my mind was strong once again.  It was Sho-time.  I put my iPhone to repeating one song and one song only... Happy by Pharrell Williams, and from then on, I took every breath on beat, semi-hyperventilating, but at the same time supersaturating my body with oxygen, getting rid of excess carbon dioxide.  I started running again.  There was hope, there was a chance, and I could make it.  In the midst of despair, I had created a small mantra, asking a question and answering it.  Four simple words:  Mind?  Strong!  Body?  Strong! and in asking and answering how I was doing, I believed in the power of my words, and pressed on.  I was going to make it to 90 laps.

9 Hrs - Finish:

The margin for error when trying to do your best is so small... go too fast and you risk bonking out and failing, go too slow, and you finish the race without giving it your best.  It was a scary balancing act.  Sometimes, I would run out of energy, but with the last minute eating from the previous few laps, the energy would miraculously appear, and I was barely making it through, running my best, and achieving my new found goal.  Time was coming to a close, and every moment count.  I couldn't be tempted to stop, I needed to push on, to do my best.  I promised myself that no matter what happened, I would continue and do the VERY best I can.  There was no lap count I was going for, but just the promise that when I finished the race, I would have given it my all, leaving behind no regrets. Sometime during the last 3 hours, Miriam and Marisa came to cheer me on, and with them here, it gave me another reason to continue on.  There are people here cheering and supporting me on this journey.  There was no way I could let them down.  2 hours left and I was on my way to getting 88 if I had about 10 minutes per loop, which was easy.  1.5 hours left and I needed to be able to average a 9 minute loop if I wanted to get to 90, but I wanted to give it my best, I wanted more.  I started averaging close to 7 minutes per loop and if I could continue to push onward, I might be able to get to 92 loops... it was possible, and that possibility pushed me onward... until the 88th loop.  All of a sudden, the momentum I had built up suddenly collapsed.  I had run out of energy.  My muscles were fully capable of running, but they had no juice.  I was done.  24 minutes left, barely any energy within me to walk... I was in trouble.  At that moment, I saw a smore that was in my sister's hand... and said, "I want that smore." and took it, ate it.  Finishing 2 laps was definitely doable.  4 laps, impossible.  3 laps... I just might be able to make it.  A quick calculation in my head and even though 3 seemed too strenuous, all I asked myself to do was to focus on this one lap, the 89th lap, a crucial lap that could either give me hope, or throw it all away.  I needed to finish this lap in under 9 minutes.  That's all I need, and that's all I focused on.  After getting cheered on as I broke the record, I walked a little more and then started my run.  The course seemed longer, but I knew it was just my mind, and I kept on going.  I finished the lap in a little more than 9 minutes, and with another smore, I left for my 90th lap with about 14 minutes left.  This was it.  Sacrificing one lap, I was able to recover enough strength to give me just enough energy to get me through my 'final' lap at a faster pace.  I ran a little faster, kept going a little further, and was able to get in with about 7 minutes left on the clock, and then I shouted at my sisters and the aide station, "1 more lap" and without stopping, I picked up my pace.  The 91st lap was the last lap, and I was going to finish it before the 12 hours were up.  The hill was daunting, but it was just one more hill.  I only had to get through it once and then I was done.  It didn't matter how tired I felt... nothing else mattered to me except for my finish.  I was going to finish this lap, no matter what happened.  As I flew down the course, my sisters and friends spread out around the course and cheered, and I ran harder.  I had to make it.  I needed to make it.  I wanted this lap.  As I crested the final incline, I turned left towards the finish line, and sprinted.  With my heart beating fast and my labored breathing, I heard the announcer saying there was 90 more seconds til the end... I had run my fastest lap at the end.  I finished 91 laps, a total of 59.15 miles, a new course record.


The race was so well done.  Leigh did a great job with volunteers and EVERYTHING.  The people at the aide station were amazing and helpful, cheering all the runners on.  The other runners were also amazing, some of them so kind to stop and just wave me through as I went through the last few hours as fast as I could.  If the 12 hours was this tough... what would the 24 be like?  Philip told me that nobody had broken 100 in this race, and told me that if I trained well enough, next year, I could come back and claim that title... interesting...

After the race, I had the most wonderful massage and also that compression leg thingy... whatever it was, it was amazing, but in the end, the best thing about this race was the amazing group of people that made this possible.  Without a director, volunteers, runners, friends, families... none of this would be as fun as it was.  This was definitely an amazing race.