Tuesday, May 15, 2012

54.9 miles in one weekend!

This past weekend I ran my slowest marathon ever. But the goal wasn't to see how fast I could run a marathon but to see how far I could run in 48 hrs. I did this at 3 Days at the Fair put on by NJ Trail Series. At this "fixed time" race, the goal is to run as many miles in the time you registered. People were participating for 72, 48, 24, 12, or 6 hrs and running a 0.857 mile loop at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta NJ. I had registered for the 12hr event but over the course of the past couple of months Rick, the race director and a close friend, kept egging me on via Facebook to move up to the longer times. First it was 24 hrs, then 48, and finally 72 hrs! Considering I've only participated in the 12 hr event last year and haven't run longer than 31.7 miles I felt that participating in any event longer than 24 hrs would not be a good idea.

I planned on getting to the site on Friday morning but had to give an early final exam. I made it to the fairgrounds around 1 PM and got my bib and let Rick know that I was moving up to the 48 hr event. What the heck, I was going to be there all weekend I might as well run (or walk). I changed into running gear and put on sun-block. It was going to be a warm, sunny weekend and I couldn't afford to get sunburned on the first day! I started out slow, chatting with other runners. Dave was well into the 72 hr race and looking good. Jessi and Marie were volunteering for the weekend and running the kitchen. Jessi was also putting in serious miles on Friday. By the time I started I think she had already run 44 miles! At the beginning, I didn't have any firm goals except to run more miles than I had - which would have been 31.7 miles. I could have easily done that distance in 8 hrs or so but I wasn't planning on running that fast. So I made 50 miles as my goal - and the goal evolved as the weekend progressed.

I wanted to make sure I ate consistently and hydrated so I started to keep a log. I also wanted to try to stay away from a lot of the junk food that is typical at an ultra aid station. Many non-runners - and those that run shorter distances - don't understand why pretzels, potato chips and candy are typical aid station fair. The salty snacks are to replenish the salt lost through sweating and the candy is a source of simple carbohydrates (glucose) that can be easily absorbed by the intestines and quickly transported to the muscles and brain via the blood. I tried to stick to fruit, Clif bars, Power bars, and other 'real' food. But of course, as the weekend continued I couldn't help but eat some of the junk as well. And Jessi brought baked goods, which could not be be passed - the cinnamon chip scones were delicious!

In the first hour I ran/walked 4.5 miles. Way tooo slow but I was looking to put in lots of miles during the weekend so I was sort of ok with this pace. Early on I started developing IT band issues and ended up walking most of the afternoon. After each lap I would stop and use Dave's foam roller (thanks Dave!) and stretch. At about 5 PM, and after 12 miles, I took a 1 hr break for dinner (rice & beans, pasta, Girl Scout cookies) and to try to grade some papers. The IT band continued to be tight and I took an Aleve shortly before 7 PM. I continued the walking and stretching through the evening and at 10 PM took another break. I was sore and hungry, and it was getting cold. I had some hot soup and Johnny offered me a beer. Some combination of what I was doing and eating finally worked and I was able to start running again - always interspersed with walk breaks - and stopped around 12:30 AM for a total of 26.59 miles for the day. My slowest marathon ever! But there was another day and part of Sunday morning to continue putting in the miles. I ate some food, took a shower, and then hung out in the kitchen (for warmth) and drinking hot green tea until about 1:45 AM. I then went to my tent hoping to be able to sleep. But I figured that was going to be tough. The lights from the fairgrounds were on for anyone running through the night, it was cold! (probably around freezing), I'm not used to sleeping in a tent, and I was sore. I had borrowed a sleeping bag and sleeping pad but the pad is very narrow and thin. I really need to invest in my own sleeping bag and a larger air mattress!

I tossed and turned until my alarm sounded at 6 AM. I shut it off and didn't wake until 8 AM. That was 2 hrs of sleep that I knew I had. I got up, dressed, and made my way to the kitchen for breakfast. Breakfast was 2 large cups of coffee (I brought my own mug), 2 hard boiled eggs, 2 pancakes, and 1 Aleve. Before starting to run again, I taped the hot spots on my feet to hopefully minimize any blisters. The legs were sore but I was able to run most of the morning, always with walk breaks, and the IT band did not seem to be an issue. I continued to drink and eat during this time (but I don't know what it was. I stopped keeping track). Sometime shortly after 10 AM I reached my first goal which was to run the farthest I've run - 32.56 miles so far for the weekend. At about 1:45 PM I decided to take a long break. The sun shone through out the day and it was pretty warm, probably a high of close to 80 F. At this point I had run 22 laps (18.87 miles) for the day. The break was about 1.5 hrs long. I was feeling dehydrated so I drank a lot of G2 Gatorade and even tried to take a little nap. I wanted to make sure I could meet two more of my goals that day: 'run' 50 miles and 'run' back-to-back marathons. Run is in quotes since I really was doing more walking than running.

I got back onto to the course and ended up walking the remaining miles. My legs, especially the muscles on the front of the shins, were quite sore. I think the shins were so sore because they are used more during walking than running and I was walking more than I usually do. I ended up at the 50 mile mark and stopped for a celebratory beer! After the beer and some food, I headed back out to meet my third goal - a second marathon in two days. I brought with me Max, Marie's son, who was trying to complete a marathon that weekend, and Ryan, Rick's son who was trying to run a marathon faster than his dad did that weekend. There was money on that bet and I know Ryan would love to beat his dad at something! Ryan needed encouragement and advice. I knew he had gone out too fast and was struggling. Ryan is a good athlete but he's young (15 yrs old) and wasn't trained for the distance, even with playing soccer in the fall and running track in the spring. After our talk while walking part of a loop, Ryan continued at a slow jog and completed his marathon. And did it faster than his dad by 20 min! Max and I continued to walk and I completed the marathon. Yeah!! I was done for the day, even though there were plenty of hours left to run/walk. I was sore!

I relaxed, ate, had a beer, showered. Thank God for hot water! And then had another beer. After chatting for a while and encouraging runners, I decided to go to bed. I saw Lisa run more miles than she had ever run. And I would have liked to see what the fast 12 hr guy was going to do (his pace was so fast I didn't think he could sustain it. But I think he ended up running 88 miles!) but I was tired. Thankfully Saturday night was warmer than Friday night. I took an Aleve and went to bed. I slept much better the second night - but definitely not as well as if I was in a real bed.

I woke the next morning and decided that I would walk two more laps. I might try to get a running streak started again. Walked the first lap with a coffee in hand. Saw Dave running hard and really focused. I could tell he was really pushing to make his goal of running 200 miles in 72 hrs. He made it! Awesome job Dave! It was starting to warm up so at the start of my second loop I changed into my kilt and grabbed my camera. I wanted a few pictures for the weekend to post here and to Facebook. Total miles for the weekend: 54.9! Next year I think I may just stick to the 24 hr race and see how much I can do while staying focused on running/walking almost all of the 24 hrs. Of course, this could easily change. This weekend I was planning on only running the 12 hr race and try to get more than 31.7 miles!

There were a lot of people who made and surpassed their goals this weekend. The 72 hr race was won by Darren Worts who ran 270.2 miles! My friends Dave Lettieri and Lisa G. met their goals. The race directors, Jennifer and Rick McNulty, put on another fabulous event. And none of this could have happened without the volunteers. Marie McNulty and Jessi Kennedy spent quite a few hours running the kitchen and organized the kitchen and food so that there was a variety of foods through out the weekend. Other volunteers included Jason, Chris J., and Chris W., and lots of others. I was able to run with friends, get reacquainted with people I met last year - Bill Gentry and Fred Murolo, and make more friends. I have another long race in about a month - the Finger Lakes 50km race at the end of June. This one will be a little more difficult than the 50 km race I ran in March. There are hills! So hopefully the legs recover quickly so I can take advantage of the increased endurance I have from the nearly 55 miles this weekend.

Keep running and stay healthy!

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