Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Howl at the Moon 8 Hour Ultra Race Recap

This is one race I look forward to running every year.  The Howl at the Moon 8 Hour Ultra Marathon in Danville, IL.  This was my 3rd year running this race.  In my very first year I had only been running for a little over a year.  I had only run 2 marathons and hadn't really trained for it but somehow pulled out 43.77 miles in the 8 hour time limit.  Last year I ran a little over 37 miles.  The last 4 hours during that race I stuck with my wife Melissa and she ended up getting her first 50k during that race which leads us to this year.  In the last couple of years since my first race here I guess you can say I have gotten a little crazy with running.  I've run and finished 2-100 mile ultra marathons, finished 24 marathon/ultra races and run the marathon distance over 70 times in training over the last 2 years.  I run a marathon or beyond distance almost weekly during my training and leading up to this day I was on a 991 day running streak where I have run at least 1 mile outside for almost 1000 days in a row (8/18/14 will be the 1000th day).  My training plan usually consists of running a 10 mile run on Tu, We, and Th.  Do rest day 1 mile runs on M and F and usually do a 26-30 mile run on Sat and another 10 mile run on Sun.  I use that plan to train for my 100 milers and I just decided to stick with it leading up to the Howl.  I didn't really taper the week leading up to Howl and ran 65 miles the week leading into it.  With it being in August it is usually hard to tell what the weather will be like.  It's been pretty hot the last couple years.  This year it was a little bit different.  60's and it never got higher than about 80 degrees but was overcast most of the day which really helped.  I had my pace band ready and my first goal going into this race was to just beat my mileage PR for 8 hours so if I could get to 44 miles that would be great but in the back of my mind I had that #50 in my head.  50 miles in 8 hours would for me as great of an accomplishment as completing a 100 mile ultra.  50 miles in 8 hours is flying.  That's right around a 9:30 pace per mile for  8 hours of running.  Only time would tell.  It is a 3.29 mile loop course with a huge hill you have to go up at around the 2.5 mile mark of the loop.  I swear every time you run it it gets bigger and bigger. Let's just call it the big hill of death. There is plenty of aid along the course with 3 aid stations in the 3.29 mile loop.

15 times I kicked that hills ASS!!
I get started and start toward the front of the pack and take off at a blazing pace.  I get to thinking to myself, "you are running for 8 hours dummy, slow down!!"  Well my brain didn't listen, my heart just said go with it and see what you can do so that is exactly what I did.  I maintained a sub 8 minute pace for the first 20 miles of the race, then I started to tire and though to myself, just keep running.  Keep running till at least the marathon.  That is exactly what I did.  I ended up getting to the marathon which was 8 loops in 3 hours 38 minutes which was a new trail marathon PR for me.  I am really feeling tired at this point but still have around 4 1/2 hours to go.  I start thinking to myself again just keep running, get to the 50k and then maybe walk a little, possibly do a run/walk so I did.  I made it to the 50k mark in 4 hours 27 minutes(8:36 pace) which was a new 50k PR by 7 minutes.  At that point I am really getting tired and it is starting to get warmer.  I am fueling on Coke, Gel, and water.  It worked well for me in my 45 mile race a few weeks back so I though I would go with it again.  I just keep going though with still no walking.  I'm not running nearly as fast as at the beginning of the race but the legs are still managing a run.  I just decide from that point I will run as long as I can and walk the rest of it.  Well, lets just say the walking never happened.  I ran the entire 8 hours without stopping to walk. That big hill of death I was talking about.  15 times I ran up that stupid thing.  Every time I ran up it I looked down trying not to focus on how steep it was but focusing on my next step ahead of me to get up that hill.  The last loop I saw a guy going around for one more loop.  He asked me how long it took me to get around the last time and I told him somewhere around 35 minutes.  With a little over 50 minutes left he said, "Good, you'll make it.  Want to stick together for this last one?"  I said sure!!  What a relief to have someone there with me the last loop.  If I was going to get to 50 miles I would need to finish this last loop then do 2 out and backs(which are 1/2 miles each.  You can start doing out and backs with 30 minutes left in the race. If you don't make it around on the loop before the 8 hours is up that loop doesn't count so sometimes if it is going to be close people will wait till the 30 minute mark and start doing out and backs.)  I get to talking to this guy running next to me and find out his name is Tim.  Tim has done this race 14 times.  I ask him what loop he is in and he says the same loop as you.  #15.  I said do you know what place we are in?  He says do you really want to know?  I said yes.  He says, I think either 2nd or 3rd but we are tied.  From that point on I am in disbelief.  This is one of the largest timed ultra's in the US and I am toward the front.  I knew I had to of been toward the top because like I said earlier I started with the lead group but never really thought about it till Tim said something.  I really didn't remember anyone passing me from that point.  He kept telling me we will get you to that 50 miles.  Let's go!!  So we start running at a pretty good pace.  I pass this girl not really focusing on who it is and she yells Michael!!  I look back for a second and it's my wife.  I wave at her and just keep going.  I knew she was killing it as well because I hadn't really passed her too many times today.  Every time I saw her she was either power walking or running and I knew she was on a mission.  Tim and I kept going and somehow I knock out some miles in the 9's on dead legs.  He really kept me going.  We finish the 15th loop with 14 minutes to spare and sitting at 49.35 miles so in 14 minutes we have to do 2 out and backs to get over 50 miles.  We run the first out and back with still about 9 minutes left to do 1 more consisting of 1/2 mile.  We decide at that point we are running to the turnaround and walking it home from there.  Our reward for a great race.  I hit the 50 mile mark at 7 hours 53 minutes and finish with 50.35 miles(7 miles further than I've ever run this race) giving me a tie with Tim for 3rd overall.  He kept saying.  Come on.  We are going to get you to that 50 miles in less than 8 hours.  When compared to a 100 mile race a sub 8 hour 50 miler is much like a sub 24 hour 100 miler as far as importance.  Tim didn't have to stick with me but he did and I am truly grateful for that.  Heart of a true ultra runner right there.  Something I will never forget.

Sign I had made for Shaelyn
So overall I finished with a total of 50.35 miles in the 8 hours which is a 9:30 pace for 8 hours of non-stop running.  I broke my trail marathon PR, my 50k PR and ran 7 miles further than I ever have in this race.  I tied for 3rd overall with Tim. Met a great new friend, had a great race, had a lot of fun with my friends for an overall fantastic day.  During my race my fuel was water, Cliff Mocha Gel and Coke.  Nothing else.  Anyone looking for their first ultra marathon look no further.  This is the race to do.  The Kennekuk Road Runners always put on the best events and know how to party!!

This was my first race for my buddy Shaelyn where I was recently matched with her through the I run 4 organization at www.whoirun4.com  She is the sweetest little girl and I gave her a hi 5 every loop around on a sign I made for this race.  She really kept me motivated to keep going and do well.

You ask, how did your wife do?  She kicked A$$!!  She got her goal of 10 loops totaling 32.9 miles!!  Her best Howl ever and placed her 13th place in the open female division with over 50 runners.  Every time I saw her out there she kept pushing.  She was on a mission.  She is my inspiration.  She works full time, takes care of our family, and still finds time to get the training plan I set up for her done. 

Tim and I after the race
I am still a little sore today but have still been able to run the last few days.  My runstreak as of today is at 994 days and counting to the big day for day 1000 on Monday, August 18th.  My next big race is the Pistol 100 mile Ultra in Alcoa, TN on January 3, 2015 which will be my 3rd 100 mile race.  I've got a few marathons planned for the rest of this year including the Eastern Kentucky Marathon on September 6th and then my first Boston Marathon in April of 2015.

What do you ask my goal for next year at the Howl? A double marathon perhaps?  I think so. :)

Mile splits during the race
Buckle I got for placing 3rd overall
Dan from RunJunkees and I after the race.

Greencastle group.  Everyone received awards in their division

My wife runs for Maddox