Search This Blog

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Delirium Ultra: 12 Hours

It was 7:22 am, Monday morning, January 19th, a few days after I ran the 12 Hours of Hostelity when I received a message on Facebook.  It said, "Hey! If you are interested in Delirium I can talk to the RD..."

Standing at the starting line of the race on February 7th, I was both nervous and excited.  Who knew that a Facebook message would end up with me signing up for a race 3 weeks later.  The night before the race had also been an interesting night.  I did things I normally didn't do, eating burgers and fries for one, but also camping out at the course in sub-freezing temperatures without a proper sleeping bag (apparently, mine could handle cold temps... just not freezing).  On the bright side, I could sleep in, and had more than enough time to prepare for the race.  Being nervous, I didn't eat breakfast, as I could still eat during the race, after all, it was only a 12 hour race... right?

My Weapons of Choice:

4 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 3
Injinji socks
Breathable Socks
KT Tape
Underarmour briefs
Lucky Shorts
Underarmour shirt
Red Breathable T-shirt (from my first ultra)
Old Sports Jacket
Assassin's Creed Jacket
Asics Gloves
Winter Gloves
Black Bandana
Garmin Forerunner 310XT
Princeton Tec Headlamp
iPhone and accessories
Bengay and Aquaphor

The Battlefield:

Located in Ridgeland, SC.  A 1.695 mile loop with hardly any elevation gain.  Although it was a little muddy and wet, not technical.  There was enough room on the trail for people to run together or to pass others.  Beautiful scenery, various sights, shaded and sunny areas... just a wonderful variety throughout the course.  Though the temperature started at about the mid 30s, I believe it went up to 60 during the day, and then went down to the 40s by the time the 12 hour race ended.

The Plan:

Run every lap, after finishing, walk to the aid station, drinking water/heed/coke and eating bananas or potatoes before feeling hungry.  Every hour take 2 s-caps, pickles and m&m's when needed, and then ease back into running the next lap.  Because of the lack of time for training due to coming off a different race, I was willing to look at 50 laps (84.75 miles) as the improbable A goal, 46 laps (77.97 miles) as my B goal, and 43 laps (72.885 miles) as my C goal.

Start - 3 Hrs:

We took a group picture right before the race, and then went back to huddling with friends due to the cold, but at 8:00, we were off.  I jogged around in the beginning, but after Kirby yelled at me to hurry up and go ahead, I shot out and eventually caught the leaders, pulling ahead to run alongside the guy on the bike leading the way for the first loop.  I got to know him a good bit, but as the loop ended, I drank a cup of water, ate a banana, and kept on truckin'.  I was going at about a 7:30 pace, which was pretty fast for what I wanted to do, but in the back of my mid, I had my A, B, and C goals and the 7:30 pace would keep me at the A range, which was good.  However, my body had other plans.  I'm not sure if it was because of what I ate the night before, or what else, but it seemed as if every other lap, I would have to go to the port-o-potty to relieve myself and continue on.  This was not good for two reasons.  Firstly, it would slow down my time, not only losing time, but also the momentum, which meant I'd have to warm up my muscles again to continue.  Secondly, I was worried about how going to the bathroom would dehydrate me faster than I would fill myself up.  I had already planned on drinking every single lap, but with all the bathroom stops, things weren't in my favor.  If everything worked perfectly, then I would push for 26 in the first half of the race, 24 in the second half would be possible.  Though I continued to have bathroom stops from the get-go, the first 2 hours went without a hitch.  However, after the second hour was up, I started feeling worse and worse and my stomach started acting up more and more, and things weren't looking too good.  I knew at this point that this race was going to be a tough one.  The aid station crew noticed that too, and though I looked fine and ran fairly well, the internal battle started to show in how I acted.  Most races, as I would pass others, I would encourage them and do my best to make them smile and be happy.  This race, it was not going to be that easy.  I was fortunate enough to have a great first two hours that I just finished the 13th lap when it was time for me to take s-caps and change shoes, but this next three hours were going to test how much I could do.

3-6 Hrs:

Though the weather was warmer, the stomach issues continued, making my every lap harder as it became a heavy burden to continue at the pace I was previously going for, and at that moment, the hope I had of getting 50 laps in was snuffed out and from then on, I had to reevaluate where I was and whether 46 was even possible.  Since my body was feeling pretty awful but my brain worked pretty fine, I thought that as long as I just did 12 laps in this next 3 hours and then 11 on the following and 10 after that, I would be able to get in 46 laps... but I wasn't sure whether or not my body could handle it.  At this point, my hamstrings started to get a little sore from running.  I wasn't sure whether it was because of the electrolyte imbalance with all the bathroom trips or because it was a flat course and I was only using my muscles in a certain way for an extended amount of time, but it was another mental thorn which tore at me, making this not just a physical battle, but a mental battle as well.  If I fell under the stress and self destructed, I would end up ruining my race plan, running considerably slower than what I was capable of.  It was crucial for me to intensify my focus and I said my mantra, "I'm a monster, I'm a beast" to keep a rhythm going and center my thoughts on this loop that I was on.  I was still a regular visitor at the port-o-potty, but once I started running the loop, there was no stopping til I finished it.  I still had some energy left in me in the beginning portion of the 3 hours, but towards the end, because I couldn't consume enough food, I was running out of gas, and thus I started to slow down.  I needed energy, and the only way that I could get this energy was to put on my headphones and listen to "Happy" by Pharrell Williams on repeat for the duration of the race.  I hoped that I wouldn't regret this decision.  I was only able to finish 11 loops, and at the end of the 6 hours, I was at a total of 24 laps.

6-9 Hrs:

Things were looking grim as I put on a new pair of shoes, but 46 times around the loop was very unlikely and if I went for it, I would most likely end up hurting myself and not even finishing the full 12 hours.  My stomach was feeling a little better, but it wasn't back to normal, and with 6 hours left, I needed to make the best decision to finish the race running the best I could.  By this time, it was 2:00 pm and though others were taking layers off, as I was undergoing some sort of shock to my system, my body was starting to get colder and so I started layering back up.  I noticed that my head was feeling a little feverish and knew immediately that it was important for me to cool down my head, just as much as I needed to warm up my body.  I doused my bandana under the cold water, and putting it on my head where it instantly relieved the heat that was building up, and feeling a little more energized, I continued on my trek.  An hour passed and by then, the sick feeling in my gut finally went away, but there was still the new problem of not having enough energy.  I was running on fumes and it was important for me to get in 19 loops in the last 6 hours, so that I could run 43 loops to meet my C goal.  I honestly felt like crap, but I understood the importance of continuing to the best of my abilities, and came up with 2 options.  First, I would either run 10 laps here and run 9 laps at the last 3 hours, or I would run 9 laps here, conserving as much energy as I could so that I could run 10 laps in the last 3 hours.  I wanted to do 10 here and now to get it over with, but I wasn't sure what my body could do, and in order to do 9, I needed to do a lap every 20 minutes, so I decided that I would try to give myself as much of a head start as I could for the last 3 hours, but not push it til the end.  Little by little, I gained an extra minute each lap I went through, and by the time the 3 hours were up, I finished 9 laps and was on my 10th.  During the last few laps, the volunteers at the aid station 'forced' me to eat so that I could get my energy back, and it seemed to work and I was ready to do my final push.

9 - Finish:

Things never work out the way you want them, and in today's case, it seemed like a lot of things went wrong.  It was the final 3 hours and I was ready to step it up a little bit to finish 10 laps and get to 43, but little by little, I noticed the pain on my left leg getting worse.  It was my IT band.  It wasn't feeling good.  I knew that for the time being, the adrenaline coursing through my body was preventing me from feeling the pain.  I had to sacrifice some time to wrap it tight and keep my IT band from getting injured beyond repair.  I stopped and asked the aid station guy for tape and if he could wrap it up.  He did the best he could, and though it took more time than I wanted, the job was done and I was able to get back on my feet with my left knee wrapped.  It didn't 100% fix the problem, but it did prevent it from getting any worse, and so I had to reclaim the time I lost.  I had a little over 2 hours and I was starting a little behind already.  Every second counted.  After a lap, I talked to another volunteer, asking her to fill my cup for me, and get ready for the next lap, and from then on, I shaved off an extra minute each lap because I had someone supporting me.  Gradually, I gained the time I lost, and with about an hour left, I needed to get in 3 laps in order to get 43 laps.  I was pretty sure my knee could handle the distance, but still, it wasn't definite and as I ran the first of the final three, I was a little excited.  By this time, it had gotten dark and I was running with a headlamp, and so one misstep and I could slip and fall and at this point of the race, I couldn't do that.  After finishing the lap, I had about 44 minutes left for the final two, about 22 minutes per lap.  More than doable.  I finished the penultimate lap, excited, I drank the water, got ready, and off I went.  I made sure to run at a slow pace to ensure that I didn't slip or fall, but as I came to the last mile of the loop, I started speeding up, and upon reaching the finish line, I was greeted by a good crowd, congratulating me on a new course record and first place overall.  43 laps completed, 72.885 miles.


I never thought that this flat and fast course would be as hard as it was.  I would have loved to continue encouraging others as I ran, but focusing on my goal, I ended up passing others without speaking, and still kinda feel bad for doing that.  Hyperventilating (instead of talking) was definitely my secret weapon, getting as much oxygen in my body as I could to maximize my running, and hey, no cramps during the race!  During the race, I felt sick for 5 of the 12 hours, and though it was a physically exhausting race, what got to me the most was the mental aspect.  There were multiple times during the race where I felt like giving up, as if the sick feeling in my gut was too much for me to handle.  However, due to the support from the volunteers and friends that I gained during this run, I was able to continue to run solid.  Also, during the tough times, I also thought of my Cross Country team and asked myself what kind of coach I would be if I gave up because I felt bad or tired.  To me, as a coach, it was important to be a good example to my team, and despite how bad I was feeling, it would be better to give it my best no matter what went wrong.  I ran a good race not because of the distance or the course record, but because I had the tenacity, the determination, never giving up despite the everything that worked against me.  I still was able to enjoy the beauty the course had to offer, meet others that were running, and continue to pursue my path to become the best I can be, no matter what.

Thanks to Tim Waz for providing a spectacular race.  I enjoyed everything you did, from the swag and awards to the volunteers and entertainment.  What you put together was so awesome that it makes me want to be a RD and make a 6/12/24 hour race of my own here in Knoxville (if you have any tips, I would love to hear them)!  Thanks to David Dowling for most of the pictures on this blog (Tim took the last two, I believe).  Thanks also to Kirby Russell who sent me that Facebook message, getting me to take part in this awesome adventure, and also congrats for finishing 100 miles during the race!  You really did an awesome job!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Humble Runner

No matter how hard you try, you cannot put water in a bottle if the bottle has a cap on it.  Instead, you need to take the cap off in order to add more water in the container, so that it can serve its purpose.  In the same way, the more you accept how incomplete you are, the more you can grow.

It's easy when you're a beginner because you know you don't know everything.  When you don't know, the easiest way for you to learn is to ask.  The more you ask, the more you can grow, and the growth is exponential.  The more you understand what you know and don't know, you begin to ask the right questions and you start to learn at a faster pace, becoming skilled in the art of seeking knowledge.  Eventually, the beginner evolves into a skilled individual, and instead of being the ones asking questions, the individual is the one answering the questions and more often than not, this individual's growth reaches a plateau.

The thing is that once we become skilled or become an expert in a certain field, our quest for knowledge diminishes, leaving behind a rather skilled individual that has put a cap on his or her field of expertise.  We begin turning a blind eye to the constant growth of information that surrounds us and instead of that exponential growth, we begin climbing a slow incline, if anything, and look around us as others fly by as if they had on a pair of wings.  At this point, some of us will go back and start asking those flying by how they are doing so, and once again jump on the exponential growth that is going around them and fly up even higher then they were before.  Others will instead stop and wonder why they are in their current status.

There will be the exceptional few that never stop their pursuit for knowledge and they continue to propel themselves forward, growing at an astonishing rate.  How can they do that?  What makes them different than the others around them?  Are they just that talented?

I think not.

There is a simple solution to their extraordinary growth.  They simply threw away their cap.  They understood that they will never get to the point where they know everything and so they constantly add to their expertise, expanding their mind, allowing them this incredible growth.

One of my runner friends, DK always tells me, "Sho, stay humble." before every race, and I believe that it's essential to be that humble runner in order not just to race, but also to grow.  It's easy for me to learn and grow from the knowledge of those that have more experience than I do, and so staying humble among the veterans of ultra-running is easily done.  Through this, I have been able to grow and become a stronger runner.

As I become faster and stronger, I continue to learn from those around me, as well as from my own experiences, continuing the yearning for growth.  I understand now that as long as I train properly and prepare well enough, I can perform well in races.  However, it is during this phase that I often find myself falling into a trap.  Although I ask for advice and listen to those with more experience than I have, at times, I fail to give adequate attention to those around me that may not even be runners.

It is very easy to listen to someone that has a million dollars that gives you advice on how to earn money.  It is a lot harder to listen to someone that doesn't have a cent to their name that may have knowledge that you may not have.  However, there is one important fact.  Truth is truth.  No matter who says it, whether it be a child or an older individual, the truth will remain absolute.

To be honest, when someone that didn't run gives me advice, my initial reaction was skepticism.  Even if they are absolutely inaccurate and their advice was invalid, my action and attitude was a poor response.  My automatic reaction was to dismiss the advice and continue on my path.  However, had the advice been good, I would have missed the opportunity, and continued on my path without growth.  Little by little, I am beginning to understand that it is important to have an open heart and learn to the art of discernment so that I can continue to grow.  It hasn't been an easy journey though, as I take pride in knowing things... especially about running, but learning how to harness that pride has been the most helpful and effective thing for my own personal growth.

That being said, I'm still not done in correcting my bad habits and working on my new ones.  I suspect that it'll be a continuous battle, but in the end, it's worth the effort.  It's important that I have pride as a runner, but not let that same pride control me.  To be the best I can be, I must yearn to become humble.  To continue the exponential growth, I need to learn to throw away the cap and continue to learn, from both runners and non-runners, because after all, truth can come from both.

So what about you?  Are you ready to throw away your cap too?