I am an ultrurunner! Woo!
On Saturday, I ran the New Years One Day 12 Hour in San Francisco. It was my first race longer than a marathon and I wanted to end the year with a bang! I had set a goal of completing 50 miles during the 12 hours which worked out to 48 laps (each lap was 1.061 miles long). I guess it was too ambitious but I really thought I could do it. I did prove to myself something very important though: I am not a quitter! So I can live with only completing 43 laps. :)
You see, that was my biggest fear going in to this. Not that something would go wrong but that I would give up and quit before the 12 hours was up. I just wanted to keep moving the whole time, preferably running, but walking if I had to.
I was nervous before the race but also ready to prove to myself that I wasn't a quitter. I was determined. They say the universe will often throw you a curve ball to make sure you really want your goal. I think it threw me one before the race even started. While I was pinning my bib on, I met a guy there also getting ready. He asked me if I was ready for this and I said yes. Then we started talking about training and he grilled me on what I'd done. Then he told me that I hadn't done enough! That 12 hours was a lot longer than my 4 hour marathon and I would be in a world of hurt. WTF? Seriously? Why would he tell me that? Hello Mr. Negative! :( But I just told him I would be fine and walked away. Instead of him planting seeds of doubt in my head, our conversation had pissed me off and made me more determined than ever. I COULD do this. I knew it.
Then in the blink of an eye, it was mere minutes to 12 and the race director gathered us at the "start" line and gave us last minute instructions. He counted us down and we were off!
I've had a really hard time writing this recap because the laps have blurred together. So instead of doing a straight recap, I'm going to highlight the things that were most important to me and stood out.
Jason and I had talked about my plan for the race. We'd talked about running 5 miles and then walking one so I ran at a leisurely pace for the first 5 miles. I felt like I was running too slow and kept checking my Garmin but I wasn't wearing it. I guess old habits die hard, eh? So I made sure my breathing was very easy and I was relaxed. However, when it came time to walk the mile, I couldn't. I'd gone through Pit Road (the aid station) after lap 5 so I walked while I ate the food I'd grabbed but I am such a slow walker, it's depressing. So once I finished what I'd grabbed, I started running again. Then I debated with myself on what run/walk I could live with and I finally settled on 9 minutes running/1 minute walking. I set the interval timer on my watch and that's pretty much what I stuck too. The only time I veered from that was when I went thru Pit Road and then I gave myself a few extra minutes to grab food and walk while I ate it. I kept this up until about 9:30 when I couldn't run anymore.
Looking back, I think I ran those first miles too slow. I should have run them a little faster but started walking right away. I think. Anyway, I would do that for the next one.
I think I did pretty well with this. My plan was to only go thru Pit Road at the top of every hour, give or take a few minutes. I started off with Gu before the race but for some reason, my stomach had issues right away. Nothing major, but it was a little gurgley. When I went through Pit Road for the first time around 1pm, I refilled my water bottle and grabbed pretzels and a PB&J square. They went down and stayed down but I felt like I had to go to the bathroom. I should have just gone but I stubbornly decided to wait and see if it would go away.
Finally, around 3pm, I hit the porta-potties and then I felt better. After that, I could eat anything and I was good. You name it, I probably had it on Saturday: pb&j sandwiches, pretzels, M&Ms, oreo cookies, ginger snaps, brownie, peanut butter pretzels, cinnamon roll, chips, and boiled potatoes. I loved the pb&j sandwiches and the boiled potatoes the best. The pretzels were my staple thru every pass too. I didn't grab a lot, only a handful each time.
I was pleasantly surprised with how well my stomach did with all this considering it hadn't been happy at the start. The only other time I had a problem was after the last stop. There was pizza and I'd been craving meat for a couple of hours so I grabbed a slice of the pepperoni & sausage. It was cold but it tasted really good. I think the crust was too thick though because it sank like a stone but since I was walking by that time, it didn't really affect me.
I had some surprises with hydration as well. I carried my small Ultimate Direction bottle filled with water the whole time. I'd planned on only drinking water throughout since I was eating calories. But for a few hours, from around 5 to 8pm, I was drinking lots of water (enough that I had to go to the bathroom again and let me tell you, porta potties are not fun in the dark) but I was still super, super thirsty. Water wasn't cutting it and I couldn't figure out what to do. Finally, when I went through Pit Road around 8ish, they had some Orange Crush and I tried it and that seemed to satisfy my thirst better. After that, I had Orange Crush or Sprite at every stop. Thirst gone!
Like I said, I think I did a good job with nutrition and hydration but there were a couple of times when I got a little loopy. I don't remember what lap the first time was, I just remember that I started going a little crooked when I ran/walked and had to focus on keeping straight. It was towards the end of a loop and I stopped early to get some food.
The second time was worse. I think part of it was that I had just started walking and was a little frustrated and also starting to get cold. But I had a really hard time keeping a straight line for a whole lap. (I tweeted about my rough patch and luckily I got a lot of encouragement - thank you tweeps!). I know I wasn't thinking straight at that point because when I got to my chair, I pulled off my jacket because I felt "hot" and did the next lap without it...and froze my ass off. But I'd grabbed food and was starting to feel better so the next time around I grabbed my jacket and never took it off again.
But other than those two loopy incidents, my energy level was really good the whole time.
Where I "failed" was my feet and my legs. I started off wearing my Merrell Trail Gloves and they felt great on the dirt but not so much on the pavement. I decided to change into my New Balance Minimus after I hit the porta potties at 3pm. I think if I had worn them the whole time, my feet would have been a little happier. Yes, they hurt but the pain never got any worse so I was fine. Actually, I was very happy with how my feet did. :)
The thing that surprised me was my left leg. It started off with my ITB feeling a little tight around 4:30/5pm. And then my left knee started hurting on the outside but I could still run. I think I changed my form though because eventually, the rest of the leg started to hurt: first my quad, then my groin, then my calf & foot. Towards the end of my running, I felt almost like I was dragging it along. :( It also got harder to get going after the walking. It would take a few minutes of running to feel comfortable. I tweeted about that too and Joshua (@bayou) replied with "be smart" and when I started getting a sharp pain in the knee, I decided it was time to walk. I tried running again a couple of times but I would either get a sharp pain or it would give out so I went back to walking. I don't know. Maybe if I'd kept running I would have eventually worked it out but I think I was afraid it would give out completely and I would have to stop and I decided walking was the lesser of the two evils. But it's done and I'm not going to second guess that decision anymore. I did what I thought was best at the time.
The funny thing is that my knee has been fine the past two days, a little stiff but fine. The things that have been giving me the post discomfort were my left foot/ankle, ITB, and quad/groin.
I think where I failed here is that I should have done runs closer to what the loop was like and practiced running in circles. I didn't do that and I think that's why I had trouble. Next time, I will train for the course better.
There was plenty to see while we were running in daylight. The views were spectacular. We had the Presidio on one corner of the loop, then a fantastic view of the Golden Gate Bridge, a great view of the bay & Alcatraz, and then a view of the city. Not only that, but it was such a beautiful day, there were tons of people out there with us: couples, families, lots of happy, wet dogs with balls & sticks & big grins, people flying kites, sail boats and para sailors on the water, a wedding party, sea birds in the inlet. I am a huge people/animal watcher so the laps passed quickly for me with all there was to see and hear. We had to do a lot of dodging during this time but I think that helped keep me focused as well.
Once the sun started to set, the crowd thinned out but then we got to see a beautiful sunset, New Years Eve partiers all dressed up, and then the Golden Gate Bridge lit up, the city lit up, and lots of stars and the moon. It was just as pretty as the day time.
And of course, there were the conversations with the other runners and sometimes people asking about what we were doing. While I walked, I read all the great tweets and emails that my friends sent. I was alone in this but not all by myself. It was a great feeling!
Once it was dark, there were long periods where it was just me and my thoughts. I don't remember thinking about much but putting one foot in front of the other. I kept losing track of what loop I was on and then if I happened to be walking when I crossed the timing mat, I'd look to see what lap I was on and then I'd spend the next lap trying to figure out how many miles that was. I remember laughing because I had set my ultrarunner goal at the 50K mark. When I passed that, I could consider myself an ultrarunner. Well, I totally missed it. I think I didn't check to see where I was until lap 32 and by that time it had come and gone. I'd wanted to tweet about it but missed the opportunity and then it seemed anti-climatic. But I did have a mini celebration of my own out on the course. Did a little shimmy, skipped a little, and just smiled.
I, of course, knew when I fell off pace for 50 miles but I refused to dwell on it. At that point, I just wanted to get in as many laps as I could. I'd wondered if I would feel like a loser for throwing out a big audacious goal and then not hit it but I was fine with that. I won't lie, I was disappointed. But by that time, I was happy I was still moving.
At no point did I think about stopping. Even when I was talking to other runners and they told me they were done and calling it quits. It wasn't a conscious thing. I'd just decided it was not an option so I never let that thought in.
I think a lot of what I did was on auto-pilot. Like setting my watch to beep at me when it was time to walk and when it was time to run. Like not sitting down except to change my shoes or when I ate that one slice of pizza (still made a mess and got some on my jacket...sigh) and talked to one of the 24HR guys about how he was doing (not well and I was worried about him later on the course since he was moving slower than me even!).
Even after I started walking, I was doing a "fast" walk (curse you short legs!) but by the last lap, I knew I wouldn't be able to get in another before 12 and that lap was more of a leisurely stroll. I used that time to think about the day and all that I'd seen and felt. I wanted to savor the fact that I stayed on my feet for 12 hours. I wasn't emotional when I crossed the line. It was more of deep satisfaction. A knowing that I really had put the Lazy Lisa to rest. A happiness that it hadn't been nearly as hard physically or mentally as I thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, it was hard. But I kind of thought the whole thing would be a sufferfest and it wasn't.
In fact, while I was glad that it was done, I was already ready to do another one! Because next time, I'm going to work harder and run smarter and I'm going to run the whole damn thing! I'll be back. And maybe sooner than you think. I'm thinking of doing the Nanny Goat at the end of May which is another 12/24 HR event just a few miles from where I live. I just need to do a 50 miler before then as a "training" run.
So...the final lap count for the night was 43 and that came out to 45.6 miles. I officially became an ultrarunner in 2011. We had champagne/sparkling cider as we counted down to midnight and then watched fireworks go off over the city. It was a very, very good way to ring in the New Year. I walked the mile back to hotel in a happy daze. Mission accomplished! :)
I'll post a few more thoughts later but I think this is long enough for now. Thanks for reading!