Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pacific Rim One Day

Well, here's another thing I said I'd never do - run little loops over and over again for 24 hours. Who would want to do such a crazy thing? Sounds pretty insane. (I think I remember a similar internal dialog before running my first marathon, ultra, 100 miler...) Of course, the folks who do timed runs must be the crazier of the crazy because wouldn't it be boring to do the same loop over and over and over? And it would be so easy to run flat loops over and over - where's the challenge in that?

Indeed, this was a unique experience for me and easier in ways I did expect but much harder in ways I didn't. I am humbled. At first I figured that if I was well trained I could get close to 100 miles. Even if I reached the capacity of my current level of training and I got too tired to keep running, I could then just easily switch to walking and keep going to rack up more miles. Maybe this wouldn't quite equate to 100 miles, but I should be able to get close. (Ha! Fool.)

The loop course wasn't nearly as loopy as I thought it would be. I wouldn't call it boring at all. It's a whole different beast though, that's for sure. There's very little variation in stride for the whole 24 hours and that's pretty difficult. I ache all over - legs, feet, arms, shoulders, forearms (?).

You can see the start/lap counting area from just about everywhere on the loop and it didn't look that far. The trail around the lake was very nice and it's a beautiful city park. There were lots of people using the park all day, with lots of dogs and activity. There was always something new to see every time I went around. And you get the chance to interact with your fellow runners more. I didn't ever have to carry things with me because I wasn't ever very far from my pile of things at the start area just as I had anticipated.

Every one made a little station for themselves on the sidewalk next to the lap counting booth. Lots of people had pop up tents and/or canopies in case of rain. I had two big plastic boxes, one for clothing one for food, a chair and a cooler with other foods. A guy who set up next to me had a canopy and he let me keep my stuff under it out of the rain. It actually hardly rained at all - just a few random drops once in a blue moon. It was a remarkably good day, weather-wise. I had expected to contend with lots of rain and I brought lots of changes of clothes, just in case. In the end it didn't materialize and we even got to see that great big moon most of the night.

There were a few small hills on the route that I sometimes walked up as part of some planned walking breaks. For the whole one mile loop I estimate I walked 1-2 minutes at the most. Often, the hills being so small, I'd forget to walk them at all. It didn't seem to waste much energy, especially after dark when I couldn't even see them as hills. I tried not to just walk entire laps but rather walked sections of them when I needed more rest. I was especially driven to not walk loops until I had passed the 50 mile mark. When I had to, I did my "run 25 steps/walk 25 steps" alternating strategy. It kept me warmer than doing long stretches of walking. But, in the end, at least moving slowly (walking) was better than sitting or standing around.

There was a big race-sponsored aid station but I tried to avoid stopping every lap and instead stopped just once an hour all day. Eventually I also saw the wisdom in grabbing a little something every time instead of something big every hour. Both strategies worked well at different times. Having lots of changes of clothes was nice. When I was running I needed far fewer clothes but when I went through spells where I was walking more, I had to bundle up. At one point I went to the UltraMobile (my camper van) to get on some leggings (warmed the place up with the furnace while I was in there) and try on some other shoes. It was nice to not need to strip outdoors (brrrr) or in the bathrooms (semi-icky public toilets at the park). I had to take care of a blister once and changed socks and reapplied foot lube.

Some people showed up to do just certain distances, 50K or 50 miles, etc. and they had no intention of staying over night. Others showed up late to run through the night only. There were probably over 50 people at the start or at various other times but only about a dozen of us who started at 9 am and also ran all night into the next day. Some people left in the evening but then came back in the morning for a few more laps and to see the finishers' totals. There were walkers as well as runners and some old folks including one ancient old bowed-over guy who moved very, very slowly but kept it up for about 12 hours shuffling along. Amazing!

At the beginning I was shocked at how short a mile loop was and it seems like going around it 100 times wouldn't be a big deal. Ha. Fool. 100 miles, plus or minus 20, is always hard. After about 30 miles I started to get really sore and tired in my feet and legs. I slogged through another 20 miles and then had a second wind. As the day turned into night it got cooler and even with the tights I had to put on fleece pants to stay warm. As I had more energy I would have to drop layers again as I got over heated. Then I had to put them back on (or zip up layers) when I ran slower or walked or got low on fuel. As would be expected, the miles started to crawl by instead of fly by. Occasionally I'd have a surge of a second wind then it would dissolve away again.

Once it was dark there were still enough street lights in the park that I didn't really need a head lamp. There were some darkish areas but by then I had the path memorized and it was a nice smooth surface so I didn't want for extra light. I put on my flashing safety vest and it was a huge hit! Every one seemed to love it and I made a great target for the faster runners to gauge their progress. I hope they used me as an incentive to gain on and pass me as they accumulated distance. I was happy to help! Apparently you could see me all the way around the loop from almost any vantage point. If I had a supply of them for sale I'm sure they would have all sold out. I even put on some glow stick bracelets for an enhanced effect. It was festive and added a lot to the fun.

At one point I thought we were in the 20th hour and I was so happy that the time was passing quickly only to confirm on the clock the next time around that it was only the 17th hour. 24 hours has rarely passed so slowly. At one point I asked how far along I was (I generally just checked in every hour or so and didn't keep track much in between) and I misunderstood that I was at 65 miles. Wow! I was making pretty good time so I pushed on harder, calculating that I had a really great shot for the 100 miles. But then I started to think about it and realized it couldn't have been right. By the time I asked again over an hour later I was at 61 miles. Luckily I was anticipating it and it didn't disappoint me at all.

Along the banks of the lake in the middle of the night a bunch of nutria were out feeding. At first they looked like giant rats and they scurried off when I tried to get close once to confirm they weren't actually beavers. I talked to my husband Rodney once on the phone while I walked on a lap and he joked that maybe I should be concerned they night attack me. Nope, I said, I think they're vegetarians so I should be safe.

At one point - 3 am or so - I saw one of the walkers/runners weaving all over the path. She said she was freezing, couldn't get warm and was falling asleep. She just wanted some place to get warm and wondered if anyone would let her sit in their car for a while. Well, you're talking to the right person! I set her up in the heated UltraMobile and she warmed up and slept for a few hours. When I finally went in to rest myself at 6 am she got up and went back out. It was nice to be able to use the thing for someone besides myself.

I had on my running schedule from Coach Jonas a total of 75 miles for the run so I was shooting for at least that. Early on someone asked me what I thought I was shooting for and even though I thought 100 miles was doable I hedged and said I'd be happy with 80. The longer I was out there the more spent I got. I kept trying to encourage myself to just keep going. Just get to 50 miles. Just get to 75 miles. Just get to 80 miles. By then I was done. I couldn't make myself go on any longer - my feet and legs ached like crazy. I will chilled. I was defeated. I was done. My smug thoughts from earlier in the day that if I got too tired to run I could just go ahead and walk....Ha! Fool! It was 6 am and I had to rest for a while. Maybe I'll be able to get up later and do a few more laps. I doubted it. I went to the UltraMobile and laid down for two hours. I dozed off and on but didn't sleep because my legs and feet were so uncomfortable.

Eventually the sun came up and I looked out the window and saw people still making loops and some people who had left in the night were back doing a few more. So, I got up and my feet felt much better, probably because the swelling had gone down. I pulled on my shoes and multiple layers of clothing and started out again. I felt great and put down some 10 minute miles and got overheated so stripped down to just two layers again. I had just under and hour so I got in an easy 4 miles to add to my 80 from the night before. I felt the best in that last hour than I had since the first hour of the run the day before.

I am already plotting how I will execute this run better next year to get a new PR on the course. It was a lot of fun to do this sort of run - more than I expected. Even though I can't say I went very far while running 84 miles I certainly got my money's worth.