I did it! Yesterday I was introduced to Ultra Marathon Running and I loved it! It was definitely one of the hardest things I've done up 'til now and I want more. :) My last two marathons put me on my butt for quite a while after the races. The Trail Marathon put me down for 2 days, the Grand Island Trail Marathon put me out for 1 day. This race was 11 miles further, so I thought I would be down and out for a while... it didn't put me down at all!?! Today my legs are surprisingly fresh; I still can't believe it. You'd never guess I ran 37 miles yesterday if I didn't tell you. I'm sure it has a lot to do with my long training runs, but I didn't expect to feel this good at all. It is a nice surprise.
For those that just want the results and not the fluff, here is a quick summary:
- Started around 7:15
- ran 60 kilometers (ie. 37+ miles)
- met a great new friend
- struggled on the last few hills
- fought a spout of nausea
- ended around 3:45
- drove ~2 hrs home
- I feel great today
I drove down the night before and camped out under the stars in my sleeping bag. I stayed at the same place I stayed last year. I wanted to get to bed early because my race started at 7am, which meant I had to be there by 6:30am... which meant I had to wake up around 5am to break down the tent and drive to the Hocking Hills Dining Lodge. It was hard to fall asleep since I was not tired. I got in the tent and tried to go to sleep around 8pm. Unfortunately my brain was going crazy and I didn't actually fall asleep til around midnight.
The cell phone alarm went off at 5am, and I hit snooze a few times, then decided to get up and pack the tent up. The moon was awesome and it had the whole camp ground naturally lit up. I didn't even need to use my flash light. I got everything packed up and headed for the Hocking Hills Dining Lodge. When I got there, there were only a few cars there so I got a great parking spot near the starting line. I decided to use my trunk as my "drop bag". Before checking in, I got my trunk organized and laid out so that as I came through, I could get in and get out. I had replacement head bands and handkerchiefs (I sweat like crazy), 2 peanut butter sandwiches, a couple of high calorie granola bars, a few bottles of Gatorade, a change of socks, Vasoline (yes, you read it), and oodles of gel packs. The routine would be to empty my pockets of the gel packs, pick up some new packs, swap sweat rags, consume lots of calories, and move on. I got everything lined up and headed up to the starting line to get ready for the start.
Let me start this race report by thanking Mike Allen of Ohio River Road Runners Club. He totally helped me finish this race and I'm very fortunate to have run into him (pun intended). Mike is 60 or more years old and is one of the most active people I've ever met. He does triathlons, ultras, and is also into adventure racing and orienteering as well. I hope that I'm half as active as Mike when I'm his age. He and I found that we actually had a lot in common: he started running at age 30, I started at age 28. He raised 4 girls, I'm raising 3. What a dude! He kept conversation with me while we "chugged" along; his conversation really helped me to not focus on the 37+ miles. He complimented me many times for silly things too like my running form, my ability to laugh at his zany humor, and my passion for this sport. Thanks Mike!! I can't wait to see you at Mohican 50 miler and/or Forget The PR 50K next year. Call me any time you need a pacer. Seriously.
All the runners gathered around the starting line while the park ranger briefed us all on the course. He went over each step of the way and told us what to expect, where to expect it, and warned us about some tricky spots. The 30 (or so) of us all took off around 7:15 am. The first loop was so much easier this year than it was last year. :) I made sure not to take off at the start, I just started off jogging very slowly, which was extremely difficult with all the adrenaline. Around mile 2, I ran into a runner by the name of Mike Allen, and we talked for the next 6 miles about all kinds of stuff. He was great company and I learned a lot of history about Dayton, Ohio and the Great Flood of 1913. I would have never guessed I would learn so much history on this race, especially by mile 3. :) We parted ways around mile 8 and I ran the remaining 4+ miles of the first loop alone with no problems what so ever. I remembered back to last year and compared my fitness level to today's level. WOW! First loop was no problem this year and I felt great!
I stopped at the car and threw away my empty gel packs, grabbed some new gels, pounded a bottle of Gatorade, grabbed a peanut butter sandwich to go, then took off again for my second loop. The whole process took me right at 1 minute. As I started my second loop, I ran past Mike on his way in and we traded greetings. I felt real good on the road course and had no problems what so ever. Around mile 15 I ran into Steel Hill again... This is a hill that goes strait up for about 1/4 mile. Ouch. During my climb, Mike caught up with me and started conversation back up. He and I ran together for the next 8 miles keeping conversation and just talking. It helps so much to keep conversation with another runner. I now understand the importance of "pacing" people in ultra marathon races. The second big hill on this loop was very tough for me. I came to a crawl and Mike went on without me. I told him I catch up to him later but had to catch my wind up this thing. This was around mile 22 and I was feeling pretty used up by this point. Once I got to the top of the hill, I got my wind back and caught back up with Mike. We crossed the lap marker together.
At the lap marker, I stopped at my car again to dispose of my trash, pack some more gels, replace my sweat band and handkerchief, pound a Gatorade, then grab a high calorie granola bar to go. Off I was to the 3rd and final lap.
About 1 mile into my 3rd loop I came upon who other than... Mike again! We ran a few miles with another runner named Alfred. A few miles down the road, Alfred held back a bit and let us move ahead. This time Mike and I really bonded. I had already told him it was my first ultra and he was genuinely excited for me. He told me on this lap that (pending no injuries) he would help me finish this thing and it was "his pleasure". I thanked him big time and ensured him that he was not obligated. He was very sincere in his claim and I was extremely grateful.
Ironically I looked down at my watch and it showed 26.22 miles on my Garmin. This meant that every step from here on out would be farther than I've ever ran before. I was surprisingly in really good shape at this point; a lot better than I thought I would be. My quads were a bit tingly, but not necessarily hurting and my knees had a bit of pain only when doing the downhill sections. Nothing serious at all. As we approached the end of the road section down RT 664, we ran face first into Steel Hill again. This time, it literally crushed me... I wanted to get on all fours and crawl up it. However, I kept some dignity and pushed down on each leg with my hands every step of the way. It probably took me 10 minutes to get up this hill and I was totally spent when I got to the top... I mean completely exhausted. It was right at the mid day heat by this point, so I took some time at the water stop and poured some water over my head to cool down. It helped.
Mike totally waited for me at the top, then we took off up the (now gradual) hill on Chapel Ridge Rd. Right before we entered "Old Grandma's Trail" for the last time, someone left a pleasant surprise at the entrance to the trail. Someone had left a gallon jug of water sitting in a tub of ice with a bunch of cups... I drank a big cup of ice water (right or wrong) and then we mozied on into the forest with welcoming shade and breeze. This part of the course got me back to reality, and I really soaked in the beauty of Hocking Hills this time around. My legs were pretty numb by this point so I walked up most of the hills, even the small ones. I totally appreciated the flat sections and downhills. When we got to Rose Lake, we ran into another runner named Ted (I think... may have been Tom??) and he was taking his time through this area, as it was very technical. There were roots, bumps, dips, rocks, and drop offs for about a mile. I was slipping into a deep funk about this time and Mike really pulled me through it with his conversation.
The Last 5 Miles
The last 5 miles were pretty hard for me. There was a big hill at the end of Rose Lake that got me winded again, and then the nausea came. I couldn't drink my water because I feared it would make me barf. I didn't want to consume any gel packs for the same reason. I think the jogging motion of bouncing up and down was just shaking me up and I felt I could toss my cookies at any minute. I decided to walk for a while to see if that helped, and it did... a bit. The last 2 mile climb to the finish line was very slow going. I jogged when I could and walked only when I had too... Sure enough, Mike stayed with me each step of the way. What a guy! He could have finished his race 1 hour ago if he wanted to, but he didn't.
The Finish Line
Mike and I crossed the finish line together.
The After Math
Nothing! I feel fine! Can you believe it? I was a little sore when I got home last night, but today (ie. Sunday) I feel great. I've been on my feet all day with very little pain whatsoever. Daizi had her 2 year birthday party today and I cleaned the yard, hauled things up and down stairs, everything I'd normally do and I'm fine. Here is a picture of me with my (extremely cute) little niece, Gracy on my shoulders. I think this is my body telling me that it's ok with my decision to continue running ultra marathons... which I plan to do.
It's official, I'm an official ultra runner, and proud of it. :)