“Good afternoon folks. We’re about 40 miles outside of St. Louis, beginning our descent. Please put tray tables in the upright and locked position…” It’s Friday and I’m flying home from Boston. I’m set to run in the Howl at the Moon 8 hour endurance run on Saturday and I think I was just given a sign as to how many miles I should attempt. 40 miles in 8 hours, average 12 minute miles? I should be able to do that…
In my quest for 2014 miles for the kids of SouthSide Early Childhood Center (http://southside-ecc.org), I’ve embarked on an ambitious plan that requires me to keep to a fairly strict running regimen. I’ve fallen a bit behind so 40 on this run will get me over 700 and closer to being on track. The run is a timed run around a 3.29 mile loop through a park in Danville, IL. Don’t be confused by the title, the run is during the day and if it’s anything like other timed races I’ve run, should be a lot of fun. Billing itself as “The largest timed ultra in the United States”, there are almost 300 runners that will be toeing the line tomorrow morning. First, though, I have to get there.
I quickly jump home, pick up my gear, kiss the wife and kids and head back out. I decide to “Jeep-camp” at the race start, using an inflatable mattress in the back of the jeep, as I’ll get there too late to set up a tent. (Those of you who read about the camping disaster in Florida may be wondering why I’m trying something similar. Let’s just say I wasn’t going to let it beat me. Plus this is different, I’m in my Jeep, I have a warmer sleeping bag, etc.…)
The ride up was uneventful and I found a spot about 10:30pm. Mattress already inflated, I hopped in the back, set the alarm and went to sleep (sort of). It took me about 30 min to fall asleep and then I was up at 5:20, never to return to the land of slumber. (But, compared to last time, a resounding success)
Time to get ready.
I had my cooler (with ice water), salt pills and food. All, except for the salt pills, were backups. Being in this race for the first time, I didn’t know what nutritional support expect. I shouldn’t have worried.
I dragged my cooler to what I can only describe as “pit row” . A lot of people had pavilions set up both for them to rest in and for their adoring fans. Immediately, a group asked if I wanted to use their tent as shade. They were working one of the aid stations and had set up near the start. It’s that kind of camaraderie that you don’t see everywhere and it’s one of the reasons I really like the ultra community. Thus set up, I eagerly awaited the start.
I knew at least two runners from the SLUGs (St. Louis Ultrarunners Group) would be there and at the start, immediately met up with Rob Raquet-Schofield and Jen Eichelberger (they finished 3rd and 7th overall respectively, and I always find it’s good to know real runners). I stayed with Rob for about ½ a lap and I somehow kept up with Jen for the first two laps (6.58 mi). I checked my watch and we were averaging about 8:45 miles, so a bit faster than I should have been going (I decided to see if starting fast then tapering quickly would work). I switched to run/walk and Jen disappeared into the distance… The next few laps were uneventful, but it was getting hotter. I resolved to eat at every aid station (at least a little bit) and was sticking with 20 ounces of water as I knew it would get warmer The first aid station had bacon and the “top of the hill” aid station had green olives, which I quickly learned should be eaten in moderation, but I figured the sodium would help. So, I began a routine of water, bacon, olives. Unfortunately, too much of all three.
By about the 6th lap (around 20 miles in) my stomach had slowed me down. Not bad, just a very full feeling I couldn’t shake. My heart rate also wouldn’t come down as much as I’d like during my walk breaks, so I laid off the bacon and cut back on the water. Another few laps of moderation, both in pace and culinary indulgence, and I was feeling better. I picked the pace back up, but I had lost too much time to really hit the 40 mile mark. Rob and Jen had kindly shouted words of encouragement as they lapped me (on their way to podium finishes) and I had some great conversations with runners of various abilities and experiences. One guy I spoke with had run over 90,000 miles, another had climbed most of the 14,000 ft peaks in Colorado. I was wearing my SouthSide 1inspiredidiot shirt and that stimulated conversation from time to time as well. As I had hit my rhythm, I really enjoyed the run.
With about 30 minutes to go, I finished my 11th lap. The race organizers, to allow everyone to get in as many miles as possible in the 8 hours, start a ¼ mile out and ¼ mile back loop during the last 30 minutes of the race. I finished my final loop at the perfect time and headed out for the out and backs. I completed 4 loops for another two miles, finishing with 38.19 miles, enough for 9th in my age group and 57th overall. That worked out to about a 12:35 minute per mile average pace, so not far off my original goal. As for the announcement being a sign? Maybe..
If you look back, what the pilot said was “…40 miles…put tray tables in the upright and locked position…” Clearly meaning that if I wanted to get 40 miles in, I had to stop eating as much (I have trouble snacking on planes). I didn’t listen or interpret the words correctly. What I did learn, though was:
- Pace- I have to stop thinking that I can sprint at the beginning and still finish strong. Patience and Persistence need to be my motto.
- Watering/Fueling- First, I can’t drink/fuel too much in anticipation or try to follow a regime designed for Death Valley. I need to start slowly and then respond as my body demands. Second, even though bacon and olives are awesome, like everything else, they should be eaten in moderation.
- Isolation- I usually train with music and have mostly run with it too. This marks the second full race I’ve done without music. I missed it during some parts, but overall enjoyed the conversations and environment a lot more.
- Gear- You can find shoes/a system that won’t cause blisters. What has finally seemed to work for me is: Body Glide in between the toes, DryMax Socks and Altra Torins (NFI in anything)
- Signs and Omens- understand the ENTIRE message. Or, just reinterpret it after the fact…
Regardless, I’m working my way through these 2014 miles for a greater purpose- to help the kids and families at SouthSide Early Childhood Center. If you get a chance, take a look at their site (http://southside-ecc.org). If you get two chances, come down and see how they’re helping the kids now and where our new school will be. If you get three chances, help us help them by donating! If you need a sign, here you go…