It's been too long since my last blog post/race report but here's something worth sharing. If you're wanting to go to the race report, just skip to the Race section of the post. I'm a story teller and I love my stories~
Normally, when running a race, I have this one question: How can I perform at my best? However, this race was completely different. This was the final shot to qualify for the US National team. It was my only chance to run in the World Championships for the 24 hour race! Looking back at my training, I understood that with my current ability and training, I would probably finish a 24 hour race with between 135-140 miles. However, in order to qualify for the team, I calculated that I would need 153 miles, given the talent of the field and who already was in the top 6. That was 13-18 more miles than I was physically able to do... which meant one thing. I either just do my best and be happy with a PR, or go balls to the wall and hope I don't blow up (I'd give it a 10% likelihood of success... probably less). My question for this race was this: Am I willing to risk not finishing the race because I ran with a pace faster than my body could possibly handle?
Obviously, I answered yes.
I have a dream and I'm willing to do what it takes to get there. I was willing to 'look bad' or 'fail' or just have a real bad race if I had just a glimmer of hope for success. In order to do so, I needed to plan to succeed and hope my body followed the plan. Studying a few professional runners and their pacing patterns and then applying my own personal variables, I calculated that I would need to run this race with 4 phases. Phase 1: Run the first 5 hours at a 7 miles per hour. Phase 2: Run the next 7 hours at 6.5 miles an hour. Phase 3: Run 10 hours at 6 miles an hour. Phase 4: Run the final 2 hours at 5.5 miles an hour. Obviously, this would only result with 151.5 miles, but I assumed I would go a little fast and get the miles needed and get to approximately 153 miles by the end of the race. Perfect planning! I studied Yiannis Kouros as he made the 24 hour world record and looked at his pacing and created my own plan for success, assuming my body could handle a faster than anticipated pace. I wasn't really worried about the first 5 hours.... I wasn't even worried about the first 10 hours, but after that, I didn't know what my body would do as with my own planning, I would be up 6 miles more than where I suspected my body was capable of doing. However, there was no turning back. This was not a race for running as best as I could. It was a race to see if I could handle a USA Team qualifying standard.
Due to my shoes untimely 'death' I scrounged 12 pairs of my Asics Gel Lyte 33 3s as these shoes matched my feet well and I have never gotten blisters from them... however, with all the miles they had on them and some of them being tattered up in an early demise, It would be rough on my feet... but outside of that, here's what I got!
KT tape - taped the bottom of my feet and ankle as there would be swelling, I needed the stability and compression
Injinji toe socks - best thing ever! Extra help to prevent blisters
your average socks - second layer of protection
Nike Combat compression shorts - the best anti-chafing compression shorts ever!
Adidas running shorts - I do like the color black for running!
Underarmour compression shirt - in case it got a little too cold and no armpit chafing
tech shirt - breathable and red, fav color!
Asics Running Gloves - because I have delicate hands... not! I do get cold hands when running
Sinister 7 Buff - keeps my head warm AND holds cold water when it's warm
ipod shuffle - because sometimes, running around in circles gets a little boring
Focus 100 earphones - helps them stay in and don't have to worry about them giving your ears too much pressure
Sword and UD waterbottles - gotta keep my drinks in something!
SWORD - the best electrolyte/energy replenishing product I've ever taken that hasn't upset my stomach
water - splash myself, or drink
Coke - because we all need caffeine
Red Bull - because some caffeine is better than others....
Peanut Butter Crackers - best small source of energy that I would need throughout the race
Ben Gay - gotta keep my muscles loose!
Vitamin B pills - get some vitamin!
Aquaphor - because raw skin isn't fun to run with
extra jacket and other warmer clothes as well as some extra shorts
Outside of running the 4 Phases, it was rather simple. My lovely little sister Maika was crew captain and she made sure that I got what I needed! Each mile, I would walk for 20-40 seconds and during that time, I was given everything I needed. During that time, I could recover, re-calibrate, and start anew! Every mile, I was to receive a drink (rotation between water, SWORD, and Coke). Every other mile, I was to receive two peanut butter crackers. Every 3 hours, I needed a shoe change pit stop. I also needed to know how fast I was going so I could figure out if I need to speed up or slow down. During normal eating hours, she would ask me what I may want for a meal, and basically treat me like a prince for that day. She's really the best. She handled all that and directed the crew to help me in whatever way I needed help and that's part of what makes the race go smoothly!
In Lebanon, TN, around Winfree Bryant Middle School, a small 0.50849 mile loop stood. Though it started out flat, over the course of a few hours, a few hills do seem to pop up as the slight inclines become more noticeable as your body gets attuned to the race, as well as some of those speed bumps... but nevertheless, a simple course designed for high mileage. Average temps are just crazy great! 45-65 which is good running weather for most people (I like the 65 side better, but eh, it's cool)
Phase 1: the first 5 hours
As I needed to go at a faster pace than originally anticipated, I just needed to hang on a little more and needed a good distraction. Running the first 3 hours without headphones and the last 2 hours with headphones really helped me out. I figured out I had a bigger breakfast and therefore didn't need the crackers and even had a bathroom stop the first hour without losing too much time (which meant I was going about 20-40 sec/mile faster than planned) but I slowed down and was able to get to where I needed to be by the second half of the phase. I was a little more tired, and so I think I needed more running during my tapering phase of my training so that my legs wouldn't get too stiff from not running. Everyone was saying I was going too fast, and though I was going slightly too fast compared to my plan, I knew that it was vital that I find a good rhythm and keep it and so I continued. I finished a little more than 36 miles.
Phase 2: the next 7 hours
Coming down from 7 miles an hour to 6.5 miles an hour was rather nice, because in my original plan, I would've been here a lot sooner. The relief was good and I was able to keep a decently consistent pace, but by the time it was 9 hours into the race, I had built an extra 20 minute buffer that I needed to use, so I decided to use it the last 3 hours of phase 2. Part of me thought that this would be a good break, but another part of me was thinking that in doing so, it could possibly accelerate the downward spiral, so I was at a crossroad... or perhaps the impasse. I chose to go down to 6 miles an hour and still meet the original plan's goals, but by the eleventh hour, I felt that exhaustion creeping in. The change of plans and my speed had caught up. I had no care to placing up til then (I had learned that I was first for a long time, but knew Jon Olsen was going to go at his leisurely pace and overtake me, which he did during the latter half of Phase 2) but my legs were telling me that I had pushed myself and that small glimmer of hope in making the team slowly flickered out. I'm not much of a gambling man, but given the odds of me making the team before was 0, I knew that taking the chance was a no-brainer. However, it seemed like at this point, my body rejected the idea and I was out of tricks. I believe I was at about 80 miles
Unfortunately, after the heroic tale of the first 12 hours, my body was done in and the choice was now to walk to my 100 miler or to stop. I talked with my crew and they suggested I continue on towards that 100 mile and take that 5 hours to finish... but even then, with their encouragement, my willpower depleted as I no longer had a true goal, I slowly faded. Of course, by fading, I meant, I had a nice 30 minutes massage which to my crew was a hilarious show of me yelping, jerking, making other unreasonable noises, but it was fun. I knew the odds were not in my favor (thanks Hunger Games) but I knew that in not attempting that, I would be cheating myself of that opportunity and I would regret that. At 87 miles, I decided that it was time for me to drop and thus go home to a lovely 4 hour nap before going through the next day limping and hanging out with my awesome family and friends.
Did I run a good race? Nah. Do I regret running as I did? Never. Did I learn something? Yes! My training quality worked but my quantity needed more improvement. As always, I'm happy to be with my running family and meet new people and make new friends.... it was an enjoyable occasion. Thanks to Greg Armstrong for being an amazing host/director/dude/runner/friend. The course was amazing. Thanks to my sister Maika for captaining the crew, and all my other crew-mates, for helping her out and helping me tremendously. There is no way I could do any of these races as good without you guys helping and dealing with me. Thanks to SWORD for sending me an amazing care package and allowing me to use their products. No stomach issues means high mileage! Can't wait to show you guys off!
So much happened that day and I am happy to be able to share the road with some of the greatest athletes in the USA. Good news is that I have 2 years to get ready for the next world championship... but I think I'll just take 6 months of training and take a stab at the USA National Title. This race may be the end of a phase, but I'm already on the next phase and excited to see what happens now.
Side note: Run4Water is a non-profit organization that serves to help the water crisis going on in the world by raising support and awareness through these running events. Pretty cool organization. You should check them out!