Monday, June 23, 2014

2 Races, One Day, 71.2 Miles of Memories.

Fathers day weekend.  What does Dad enjoy doing?  Running.  Then why not run 2 races in one day.  They weren't 2 any old races. How about a 45 mile ultra marathon in the morning and then a night trail marathon that evening.  71.2 miles of fun!!  I decided several weeks back that I was going to run the night trail marathon with my good friend Ashtyn from the page Fit Life With Ashtyn.  Also depending how recovery from my 100 went there was another race on that day.  It was a 45 mile ultra in the morning.  I thought it would be really cool to be able to run both races in the same day for a total of 71.2 miles.  Since Ashtyn was coming down she could crew for me during the ultra in the morning and we would run together in the evening.  Doing this would give her the experience of what it would be like to be up all day and run all night.  Perfect mental training for her upcoming ultra's.  I am coaching her right now as she trains for several marathons and ultras in the coming year so what better way to train her for an ultra than with a trail marathon at night.  I had just finished a 100 mile ultra 3 weeks before this and my recovery had gone pretty good.  The first week was a little hard but by the 2nd week I was back to my running self logging around 60 miles.  I wanted to get in a good solid week of training before the race so there wasn't really a taper except for the few days leading up to the race. I ran a few 6 mile runs and my normal 1 mile rest day runs.  I decided to sign up for the 45 mile ultra as I was feeling good and fully recovered from the 100.  My goal would be just to finish both races.  The 45 mile ultra had a pretty aggressive cutoff time of 9 hours.  The Hendricks Co Park 2 Park Relay has 2 options.  A relay option consisting of 2-12 runners on a team or an ultra division where 1 individual can run the entire 45 miles themselves.  I chose to run the entire distance myself.  This race was the site of my very first ultra.  2 years ago.  It was 55.5 miles then.  I had signed up for it 2 weeks before the race not really knowing what I was getting myself into.  At that point I had only run 2 marathons with 26.2 miles being my longest run.  I said to myself just sign up and see how far you can get.  See what this ultra running is all about.  I ended up finishing the entire 55.5 miles in around 11 1/2 hours.  That is how I got started into ultra running.

Ashtyn and I met the night before to discuss race strategy for the upcoming day.  She came over to the house and met my wife and our kids then we decided to go out to eat and talk race strategy.  I suggested Subway which is my normal pre race meal but she wasn't feeling Subway so we decided on BW3's.  Probably not the greatest pre race meal choice but it would have to do.  I had boneless chicken strips and fries hoping it would settle well on my tummy.  We talked about the checkpoints where she would drive to and meet me at different parts of the course as this is a point to point race where you provide your own support along the course.  We also talked running of course and kinda lost track of time so it was later then I would have hoped to be when I got settled in for the night.  I still had a few things to get prepared before leaving in the morning for the 5am start.  I got the coolers ready consisting of Coke, Gatorade, and water.  I also made up several peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and had my food ready in bags consisting of PB&J, Pringles, peanut M&M's, Fig Newtons, Snickers bars and Plow On Gum.  I was planning on using gel and water for as long as I could stomach it and then switch to other foods when I needed to.  The plan was to take a gel about every 45 minutes and see how it went.

We arrived at the race around 4:30 am, picked up my packet and got started right at 5 am.  The weather was perfect at the start.  A very comfortable 54 degrees and would only reach the upper 70's.  Much different than the last 2 years I had run this race with temps over 90 degrees. The ultra runners start at 5am and then the teams start later and have a staggered start based on estimated finish time to try to get everyone to finish at around the same time.  For safety reasons they require you to wear a safety vest and headlamp until the sun comes up.  There were 12 check points along the course where I would see Ashtyn for food, supplies, etc.  There was a strong field of ultra runners this year which like I said before my goal was to finish but once the race adrenaline kicks in who knows what is going to happen.  I had a pace band on with 2 different paces on it.  One the pace I needed to finish in under the 9 hour cutoff and two what it would take to run under 7 hours. I knew that was a very ambitious goal still not knowing how the 100 just 3 weeks ago was going to effect me.  I started out at a very fast pace.  There were 2 other runners ahead of me and they were flying.  I knew I wasn't going to try to stay up with them and just run my own race.  I stayed with my friend Dave for the first several miles until he needed to make a pit stop and told me to go on and he would see me out there.  I just kept doing my thing, alone on the road in the dark and the miles just kept ticking away.  10 miles in and I was averaging right at a 8:00 pace.  Wasn't sure how long I could keep that up but was feeling really good.  At around the 4th checkpoint I caught up with the top 2 runners.  They were moving and I tried staying up with them for a while till I decided to back off a bit as the pace was just too fast for me to keep going if I still wanted to keep running strong at the end as there were several miles in there that were now in the mid 7's.  Overall pace after 13.1 miles was still right at 8:00/mile.  Ashtyn is there to meet me at every checkpoint and was never late getting there.  She would see me coming and I would yell ahead what I needed and have it waiting on me when I got there which made for a smooth transition and saved me time.  At mile 16 I have my first mile in the 9's however I stopped for a bathroom break so all things considered that was still a great mile.  At this point in the race I am in a zone.  Taking my gel's every 45 minutes and drinking lots of water to stay hydrated.  I'm feeling great and am on target to run around a 3:38 marathon which is fast in the middle of a 45 mile ultra.  We enter into this subdivision which goes to the back of these woods we have to cut through.  The course is really marked well up until this point where someone thought they would be cute and mess with the signs marking the course turning them around to point them in the opposite direction.  I am getting angry by the minute knowing this is not the correct way to go but not knowing where to go.  I try to make a call to get some info but can't get anybody to answer the phone.  I start looking at the map on my phone which is really hard to see on such a small screen when another runner approaches and we figure out which way to go.  I have now lost 11 minutes trying to figure out which way to go.  Valuable time and I am pissed at this point.  I think Ashtyn saw a side of me that didn't know existed as I dropped to 4th place. I might have said a few choice words. I get to the  checkpoint and tell the race people about the sign issue.  They go back and get it fixed however it has now cost me valuable time.  Ashtyn tells me that the next guy is about 15 minutes ahead of me.  That anger lit a fire inside of me and gave me some more fuel for the fire as my next 2 miles are 8:49 and 9:06 putting me at the marathon in 3:50.  Descent time but the 11 minutes I lost cost me big time.  I was going to have to dig deep if I was going to catch the next runner.  I'm starting to feel tired as I'm using extra energy to try to make up the time I've lost.  I decide on taking some Coke at the next checkpoint and that ends of giving me a burst of energy so now I am alternating between Coke, Water and Gel.  I am able to knock off some more miles in the 8's and before you know it I am at the 50k mark.  Just 14 miles to go.  I somehow end of breaking my 50k PR in the process arriving to that point in 4:33.  I know the part I am going to be approaching soon in North Salem is very hilly and I will have to work hard to keep my pace going.  We get to the next checkpoint and Ashtyn tells me the next guy ahead of me is only about 5 minutes ahead.  I'm feeling good and know I am going to catch him but just not sure when.  About a couple miles later I see him and fastly approach him.  He is walking at that point and looks to be in some pain.  I stop for a minute and ask him if he is OK and stick with him for a few minutes.  He assures me he is OK and is just cramping some but will be OK so I continue on.  Now the thought in my mind is how far ahead is the guy in 2nd.  I am still feeling good at this point and have not walked yet.  As I approach the next checkpoint Ashtyn is there once again ready to help me and tells me the next guy is about 13 minutes ahead.  I am running out of time at this point with only about 9 miles to go.  I'm still running strong but time is running out.  Not really paying attention on my time at this point just pushing forward with all I've got to the finish line.  The next checkpoint will be the fire station outside North Salem and then about 6 miles to the finish line from there.  Somehow I am still powering through the race and fueling on Coke, Water and Gel. I'm still running miles in the 9's.  I decided to try a piece of Plow On Gum and man did that provide a boost of energy to help plow through the end of the race.  As I enter the final park there is a 5k left.  It consists of grass and some rugged uphill trails.  All I can think about is finishing the race and being able to run again tonight.  I finally look at my watch and realize I an going to break 7 hours.  Even after a 11 minute mess up earlier in the race getting off course.  I approach the finish line full of energy finishing in 6 hours 53 minutes taking 3rd overall(new PR for that distance by 1 1/2 hours) and just 10 minutes behind 2nd.  The guy finishing 1st finished in 6 hours 22 minutes.  I was ecstatic with my time all things considered.  Cool thing is was that I never got passed by any of the relay teams.

I wanted to wait for all the ultra runners to finish before leaving.  We had plenty of time before the next race so we waited. The race provided a nice meal after the race so I decided to eat and try to get as much food in me as I could before the next race as I would need the energy.  It was nice being done so soon as I had extra time between races but I was afraid I had pushed too hard in this race I might not have anything left to finish the next one.  I was thankful Ashtyn would be running with me in the night race to help keep me going.  We decided to stop at subway to get some food and there was actually enough time for me to go home, get a shower before heading to the next race.

Packet pickup for the next race was at 7:30 and the race started at 9pm.  Most of it would be run on the trails in the dark so a headlamp was definitely necessary.  There was a full moon out which would be nice and it was going to cool off a bit with the lows back in the 50's which would be perfect running weather.  We got there in plenty of time and got a great parking spot right by the start/finish line which I knew would be a plus for after the race so I wouldn't have to walk as far.  The course consisted of 4 - 6.55 mile loops with aid about every 2 miles or so.  I had run this same course in the winter time at night when there was a foot of snow on the ground.  No snow now but already 45 miles for the day made for some sore, tired legs but I knew once the race got started they would loosen up.  We got started and got bottle necked as it started.  All the runners were just standing there waiting to get on the narrow course.  It was supposed to be a waive start but for some reason they let everyone go at once which really hurt some peoples time costing us 10 minutes in just the first mile.  I wasn't out to set any speed records in this race, just finish so it really didn't matter.  We had to be started on the final lap before the time hit 6 hours in order to make the cut off.  We knew I was going to be slow so we opted on a run/walk method walking all the hills and running the flats and downhills for the first loop.  I was surprised at this point I could even run some but the legs were still going.  Not fast but still moving.  Darkness sets in and at this point I realize it's going to be a long night.  About an hour into the race and it's already beginning to become a struggle for me.  Luckily Ashtyn is there to help push me along.  We finish the first loop and proceed for the 2nd.  Somewhere on the 2nd loop we get lost and run an extra mile.  We missed a turn or something but at this point the last thing I wanted to do is run even more miles than what I had planned.  I could tell Ashtyn was a little discouraged by the whole thing but I assure her it is going to be alright and just think of it now as you running your first ultra.  She shook it off but we continue to think about how we should be at this point in the race had we not got lost.  Trust me when there are some 20+ minute miles going on that extra 20 minutes being out there can start to play tricks on your mind especially when you are at the point of exhaustion.  We pass the 2nd loop still moving forward with lots of walking and some running but a lot of walking at this point as it's hard for me to run especially with the changes in elevation and my legs hurting from pushing so hard earlier in the day.  At this point I can't eat or drink anything as I feel I will get sick so I am taking little sips of water here and there and that is all.  Around the mile 19 mark I finally try to take a gel and it seems to work.  I have a little energy now although I am still walking there is a little pep in my step especially when I realize we are going to make the cutoff.  We finish the 3rd lap in 5:40 with 20 minutes to spare.  At this point we are saying to ourselves just keep moving forward, don't stop and we've got this. I'm hurting, I'm tired but I have never had a DNF in any race I have ever done and I didn't plan on having one now.  Now, tired, exhausted and not much energy left I take another gel about mile 23.  It works again.  Around mile 24 I run into this huge log and bust my shin up pretty bad and it starts to bleed.  Thank goodness for the calf sleeves provided by 180's which helped.  As we approach mile 26(actually mile 27 because of getting lost) we can hear the announcer and know the finish is close.  I look down at the watch and it is still under 8 hours and tell her to run!!  We might be able to go under 8 hours which might not be a great marathon time but finishing is winning and at this point I am trying to show her that even when you are tired you still have something left to give.  We start to run but the finish line is a little longer away than I thought as we cross the line right at 8 hours.  I learned a lot in this race and on the day.  My body can endure a tremendous amount of punishment and keep coming back for more.  My total racing time for both races was 14 hours and 53 minutes to cover 71.2 miles which when you put it that way sounds pretty good despite the fact I ran 45 miles earlier in the day 1 hour and 7 minutes faster than it took me to finish 26.2 miles but a finish is a finish nonetheless.  It doesn't matter how fast or how slow as long as you keep going.  Good enough for marathon/ultra finishes #23 and 24.  Ashtyn showed a lot of guts out there.  She helped me during my first race and we helped each other during the night race.  Good team work makes a good team and she definitely has what it takes to be a great ultra runner.  It takes heart, passion and drive and she has all those things.  I look forward to coaching her this year and seeing what she can do.  2 races, 1 day, a lifetime of memories.

I wanted to also share Ashtyn's Race Recap.  Here is what Ashtyn wrote about her experience of the weekend: 

RACE RECAP!

Last November I realized that running a marathon wasn't my limit. I loved the distance and the mental battle it brought. I started this page to share my journey... both the good and bad. I have some crazy goals and some even bigger dreams, dreams that will take years to achieve. I knew going into my first ever trail marathon that it was going to be tough. My emotional stress alone this week was enough to put me over the edge, and after traveling 7 hours from Wisconsin to Indiana I only got 3 hours of sleep before I woke up to crew.

So here I am at 330 AM yesterday starting my day and supporting a good friend on his 45 mile ultra. The race was point to point and un supported so I had to keep up and provide fuel and aid. Watching the race pan out was so inspiring, the first four runners were all close in distance so it was very competitive. And the support between the runners and their families was unlike anything I've ever seen! In a marathon road race every one runs for themselves, but here in the ultra world, runners and family members were helping each other out when ever they could. A runner would come up and all the families where there for them... Plus I made friends being out there. I watched @run beat his 45 mile time by an hour and half! Talk about proof that hard work pays off!! When he finished we hung out and ate and chatted with the other ultra runners. They all wanted to talk about everyone's experience and it was like a big family BBQ or something!

In August I have a trail 50k with 4,000 feet of elevation and a 50 M in October. I often wonder whether I could do more, a 24 hour race, a 100k or a hundred miles. Although I'm not sure why I'm crazy enough to even think of these distances, what I do know is I need to train and take an opportunity to prepare myself. We did not rest or nap between races, we stayed up and by the time we finished our full we had been up and on our feet for 26 HOURS.

For those who don't know, Mike is my coach and promises he can make me into an ultra runner I signed a coaching agreement with him last week. We decided to use our nighttime trail race as training. When else would would I learn to run all night... in the dark... in the middle of the woods when I'm exhausted?! He swears these experiences will help me out greatly! Haha. Our course was a 6.5 mile loop four times around. Our first loop went well and besides some bottle necking at the start we had no issues.

We were chatting with runners and planning out who we couldn't let pass us! I have never run trails with this much elevation or terrain changes. I knew I was going to have to dig deep to catch up. It was hard when the sun went down because you have to look down to make sure you don't trip over roots and branches. All the elevation and hills made my stomach upset from the bouncy ness of my running.

Somewhere in loop two we got lost. It was our fault and on loop three we located the issue. But let me tell you, there is nothing that will create a huge pit in your stomach and make you anxious like realizing you are lost and not on course and you've run an extra two miles. I did not sign up to run more than 26.2! We had to re run parts of the loop to get back on track and I felt so defeated.

By the time we started loop three, we were already over 3.5 hours. I struggled a lot in the third loop of 6.5 miles. We eventually realized we could walk faster than we were running. I couldn't believe how long it was taking and how hard it was for me physically. I tripped and fell multiple times. I kept thinking if I get to the fourth and final loop I'll be so refreshed to know I'll make it. We were so sure we were in last place for the race also. However, we were lapped by a runner right at the end of the third loop who told us their were quite a few runners still out there- great news!! We had to finish this loop by 3AM to make the cut off- and we did with a half hour to spare!

The fourth loop came and by 3 am I was hit with a fatigue and exhaustion I have NEVER felt before. I'm so glad we were in the race together. There were a lot of times we were each hurting and the other kept us going. I don't know that I would have made the cut off had I been alone out there. I was out of fuel, starving and couldn't decide whether I was going to vomit, faint or fall asleep on my feet. I realized we'd be lucky to finish in 8 hours but we could walk the whole loop. I was barely moving and was hitting 25-27 min miles. I felt like I was failing and I was trying so hard to just get one foot in front of the other.

My doubts were quickly short lived as another two runners came up on us. They seriously pulled me out of the abyss... New people to get to know. They helped us through the toughest mile of the last leg and then ran off. Believe it or not they even waited for us at the finish!!

I don't remember much about the last few miles, other than we just kept going. Chatting, laughing and joking about the whole experience! We were really hoping to find a short cut so we didn't have to run more miles but it didn't happen!

I am so lucky to have such a great coach, friend and mentor. Even though he was hurting and had logged over 70 miles he never stopped telling me that he believed in me and my ability to finish.

(I run because I grow. I run because I don't like to quit. I run because I don't want to give up... on my training, on a race or on myself).

Sure, 8 hours isn't a pretty trail marathon time. But it gives me lots of room to grow. It showed me that I can do tough, I can do hard and I can prevail. Twenty- six hours awake and 8 solid hours on my feet running on this beautiful, challenging earth... I never thought I could do that.

Here's to going forward! I promise this is only the start of my running journey!! #stilllovingtherun