Monday, December 10, 2012

Round and round we go - 10 Hours, or 53 Loops

My plan was simple. Run. Or walk. OR DON'T. My choice, whatever sounded fun to me. Life had kicked my family in the teeth for the last 3 weeks.

  • I was really sick with an awful cold over Thanksgiving.
  • My mother was sick over our family's Thanksgiving, which is on the Saturday, so we had to cancel Thanksgiving.
  • Steve's grandfather went on a ventilator in the ICU and after several days, the family had to make the hard decision to withdraw care. Steve made a trip to Arkansas early in the week, and then the girls and I went up with him later in the week for a few days.
  • The toddler spent last week with a strep infection and double ear infections.
  • In with all of those items is the fact that I've been trying to work on 2 days of event production for 1000-person marathon events for my New Years Double race. And trying to launch a new event, which has been delayed with all of this.
  • With Steve's grandfather's passing, I had not gone to my planned race for this timeframe, the North Face 50K in San Francisco. I had been looking forward so much to the race, but in the end, it's all for the best - they had some nasty weather conditions!
So I needed a long run after 3 weeks off of running. I needed no goals, no pressure, no planning, no time cutoffs, no DNF possibilities. Just a catered training run.

I talked with Steve and we quietly planned out that I would go down late Friday night to Austin and register the next morning for Run Like The Wind. I told very few people because the last thing I wanted was to feel a need to perform for someone else. I only needed to do what I wanted to do. A supportive, "I bet you can do 48 miles" would have turned into a feeling in my head that I HAD to do 48 miles. 

I signed up for the 24 hour race. Not because I thought I would keep going for 24 hours, but I wanted to have no pressure of time. And if I felt great and wanted to go for 13 hours, that would have been disappointing if I was only signed up for the 12 hour race. Yes, things ultra runners say. Why not be optimistic and hopeful and plan for the best?!

The course was a 1K loop. Yep, 0.6-mile loop. It was located at the Canine Training Center that was the source of the non-profit cause they were raising money for. It was advertised as a "mulchy" loop. After being there for 10 minutes and chatting with others, we found that it was mulchy... when they laid the mulch 3 years ago. At this point it was slightly uneven rocky ground with larger sticks, nice trippable sticks, of leftover hardwood mulch, and small stumps sticking up.

Things I Learned on a Looped Timed Course

  • A loop that short is mind-numbing. I completed 53 loops, that's 53K. That's a lot of loops. My fastest loops were actually around mile 27 when it got dark. I put on my headlamp and with the change in lighting, it was like suddenly the course was new again!! Invigorated me to have a (kinda) change in scenery. Friend Dat said, "Wow, Libby, you're really running. And not that shuffle walk thing you've been doing." Gee, thanks. :-)
  • Late miles I practiced letting runners pull me. As a runner would pass, I would hop on the train and try to keep up for a couple tenths of a mile. Worked well.
  • I had thought I would come up with a strategy of "Run X Loops, Walk Y Loops". Instead, the very flat course quickly became, "Oh, here's a slight uphill, here's a slight downhill." or "here's more even runnable terrain." I changed my methods and started doing walk this section, run that section, walk this section, run that section in every loop instead.
  • I practiced the mentality of being out on a course for 24 hours even if I wasn't going to. Conservatism early in the day, ignoring the need to run hard the first 20 miles, planning out shoe changes as if I was running 60 miles that day even if I wouldn't. 
  • I worked on eating heavier real food - again, practicing mentality of being on a course for a long time. The Race Director, Sam, cooks the whole day. Grill out there and everything. He put up a white board with a "Menu. Now serving..." and would list the foods so you could check every loop. He had chafing dishes set out to keep food warm. I had a half grilled cheese sandwich, sat down for meat lasagna 2 times, and had a grilled chicken breast. This is on top of the ultra food grazing throughout the day. I learned 0.8 mile leisurely walk after a heavier food was good, and then I could run again without having my stomach revolt.
  • Blisters suck. Mentally I was thinking I'd go another 5-8 miles than I did. But at mile 30, after a shoe/sock change, in just one loop, I gave myself a big quarter sized blister on the exact bottom of the ball of my foot. And 3 other small blisters that hardly bothered me. Maybe I didn't lube my feet enough. I'll have to work on that because I'm not blister prone.
  • I learned maybe I need to let a blister get worse before attacking it, and I need a blister kit. I had a couple bad loops with the blister after I couldn't seem to fix it, decided I was done having fun, and called it a day. It was my first time trying to fix a blister with a safety pin by headlamp and I think I was a little cautious, and I think the blister wasn't big enough to drain well yet. And I wasn't prepared with a kit for blisters since it's not usually my problem, so I didn't have duct tape on me or any kind of tape.
  • The time being out at a race is good, even if it's not moving time. I was on the course for 10 hours and 2 minutes officially. Of course my moving time was less than that. Did you see the list of foods I stopped to eat?!
  • Don't take off the timing chip if you can avoid it. At mile 20, I removed the ankle strap timing chip to change shoes. When I came around on the next loop, I didn't hear the timing system ding. Because I wasn't wearing a chip! D'oh! Stupid mistake. I must have been a little out of it. Ran to my chair, saw the chip, put it back on. So officially, I did 52K. LOL. Next shoe change, I loosened the chip and hiked it up my leg but never took it off.
  • I liked the camaraderie, as a back of the packer, of making so many new friends and getting to know existing friends better. People like friends Chip and Dat are so much faster than me that I would normally get 5 minutes before the start to chat. Instead, I felt like I hung out with these people all day.
  • With a 10:30 am start, in December, that was a lot of time in the dark for the 10 hours I was out on course.
So it was a great experience and a lot of fun. I was exhausted from the last 3 weeks and didn't have the fight in me to push for huge major hours or miles. But at 33 miles completed, I am thrilled. 

By the way, the next part of the ultra was jumping in my car at 10 pm and driving 3 1/2 hours home without stopping. Ouch! Worth it though to be there when my girls woke up Sunday morning!!


  1. I think finishing 33 miles is pretty amazing! Especially considering you signed up at the last minute.

  2. Glad you got a fun race in! 33 miles is awesomesauce, especially with all the crazy in the last few weeks.

    Wow, might have to look into that one some year. I like the no-pressure aspect of just "run til you're done". And living near there (well, 20 mins away, but still) helps!

  3. Simply amazing! I'm going to keep a watch on this one and maybe sign up for it if it doesn't conflict with the Dallas Marathon.