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!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Weight Loss Journey in Pictures

These two pictures were taken about 1 year apart at the same race: 3 Days at the Fair. In 2011, I participated in the 12 hr race and ran 31.7 miles. In 2012, I participated in the 48 hr race and ran 54.9 miles (marathon on Friday, marathon on Saturday, and about 1.7 miles on Sunday). The weight difference between the 2 years isn't significant - 8.6 pounds. But what is very different is the miles I have been running. By the start of the race in 2011, I had run 269.4 miles; in 2012, I had run 349.6 miles. I have also been trying to be better with my diet. Not sure if I've made any significant changes with the diet but I know I have been trying to be more focused about running more consistently and trying to stay away from the desserts and alcohol. Hopefully by this time next year I'll have reached my weight goal (need to lose 12 more pounds) and will run even farther at this race - or maybe as far as I have this year but in less time, 24 hrs or less perhaps?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

NJ Ultrafest

Still being a relative newcomer to ultra-running, I'm still learning what I need to do during a race. Two of my issues during these long races are usually GI (and more I than G) and nutrition. Both were an issue while running the 50 km distance at the NJ Ultrafest on March 24. And a third issue has resurfaced - a tight IT band. This was my forth attempt at the 50 km distance. Last year I ran the 50 km for the first time at the Ultrafest and finished in 7 h 11 min. This year I had hoped to better my time. My training was better - I've run more miles in 3 months than I have ever run in that time span and I had a 20 mile training run at the HMRRC Winter Marathon in February. Unfortunately that was my last long run except for the 10 miles at Febapple. None-the-less, I felt confident that I would finish the race and have a decent time.

I didn't start packing for the weekend until Friday morning (darn teaching job!) but I had Jessi's packing list that I modified so I was confident I wouldn't forget anything important. I couldn't find the Immodium that I purchased but I hoped I wouldn't need it. This year I would camp at the race site. I had a tent and a sleeping bag from friends so I was set. After packing I drove up to the race site stopping at the RD's house to pick up their oldest son. Arrived at the race site, got my parking pass and parked my truck next to the building and right along the race course. I had already volunteered to help where I was needed so I quickly jumped in to help with packet pick-up. Despite the nearly 260 people registered for the five race distances (marathon, 50 km, 50 mile, 100 km, and 100 mile), registration never got too crazy and I was able to get some dinner and socialize. Then it was a quick set-up of my tent and hopefully some sleep.

Not sure how many hours I slept but I know it wasn't a lot. The noise from the road and the movement of the tarp over the tent due to the wind (was that an animal??!?) didn't help. The sleeping bag was warm (thanks Tony!) but the camping pad was narrow (I think I may invest in an air mattress). But that's ok as I had plenty of sleep leading up to the race.

This year the race would be at a new location at the NJ State Fairgrounds in Sussex County so the course would be different than last year but still relatively flat. The course was a 10 mile loop starting on the fairgrounds then to the gas line. First a 1 mile out-and-back back to the fairgrounds (2 miles) for another out-and-back (6 miles) and then a loop through the fairgrounds back to the start. This last bit had two decent inclines that allowed a little break for the legs (walk the hills!).

The weather proved to be nice for a run - sunny and in the 50's to 60's. I got up a little after 6 AM, changed into race gear - shorts and a short sleeve shirt - and threw on some pants and a sweatshirt since the 50 km race didn't start until 7:45 AM - civilized! I had my breakfast - a bagel with pb&j and coffee (thanks Jessi!). I should have gotten up earlier to eat breakfast and drink the coffee as there is one bathroom stop that I wasn't able to take and later wished I had. I packed my Powerbar cut into thirds and my electrolyte drink. Rick had his usual pre-race talk, including the directions for the initial 1 mile loop. I made a quick dash to the bathroom and started about 30 sec behind everyone - oops! There was supposed to be a short 1 mile loop through the fairgrounds and the back to the start before we began our first of three 10 mile loops. But everyone forgot the directions and followed the front runners and the 3rd volunteer on the course failed to direct everyone in the right direction. Of course, I didn't really know this until later in the day but after 11 min into the race, and the fact that we were nowhere near the finish area, I knew that we missed some turn. So I and another runner made our way up the hill with everyone telling us to head back and continue on the course - that the RD had made the correction and that we should continue with the race along the gas line.

The first out-and-back is pretty uneventful. Some mud, no water, and very little in  terms of a technical trail. Then it was back to the water stop and the next out and back. I knew this section would have more uneven footing as I had run this part of the course in January. The only really worrisome parts were potentially the bridges and one spot where there wasn't a bridge. But the RDs took care of the uneven footing on the bridges by nailing down plywood. The one water crossing wasn't much of a problem - there were rocks that a veteran trail runner could use to prevent the feet from getting wet. I wanted to maintain a steady pace during the race, especially since I know that I tend to start out too fast. Not having a GPS watch or any mile markers on the course could make keeping pace difficult but I decided a 10 min run/1 min walk should be good. The first 10 miles or so seemed to go well. I felt good and tried to eat something early enough. Though at the first aid station (~7-8 miles into the race) I only took 1-2 orange slices and not much else. But I had the sinking suspicion that I was having a bit of an intestinal issue. I made it back to the start, refilled my water bottle with G2 and water and packed more Powerbars. And went to the bathroom - yep I had the issue again. Took care of what needed to be taken care of, grabbed a few gummy bears and had another orange slice or two, and started loop 2, which I thought would go well but it didn't.

My feet were killing me! With the Brooks Cascadias I was wearing I ended up feeling every little rock. And my left IT band started tightening up, especially on the last part of the loop. Damn! The IT band really bothered me during my 20 miler in February and I figured the last 10 mile loop was going to be painful and ugly! And I was struggling with keeping my 10 min run/1 min walk pace. Uh oh! The best part about this type of course is that you are rarely alone. There is always someone running past you or towards you so you can't get too bored. People encourage you and your encourage those who are also struggling. As I finished my second loop, I saw Ron, the photographer (Hillcrest Photo) who had gone out for a run during the race. I asked him how the run went, and he said it was painful. My response was - all runs hurt but some are better than others (or something to that effect - this is what I get for waiting so long to type up my report - I forget good quotes!).

Finished the second loop much slower than the first. I saw that Johnny and Marie were taking care of Jessi who definitely looked like she was struggling - which was not good as this woman kicks ass on the trails and her training had gone so well this year. Her accomplishments truly amaze me!  Johnny asked if I needed something but I don't usually ask for or accept much help during a race as I usually don't know what I need and I usually just get it myself. But given my struggles I accepted the cheese quesadillas he offered as well as the one Marie brought for Jessi who didn't want it. I took 3 ibuprofen, stopped at my truck to change my shoes and to get the stick to massage my IT bands (now both were tight!) and continued along the course to my tent to get new socks. As I was changing, another runner encouraged me to get back on the course and to run with him. I assured him I'd be back out there shortly after changing my shoes & socks.

So new shoes, socks, and more food and I was on my way. As I was running through the fairgrounds I was starting to feel better. I was running more and walking less and caught up to the guy who encouraged me to get back on the course. As I passed him at a nice clip - he was walking and seemed to be struggling - he asked if I was Nascar. LOL! Nope! Just new shoes, drugs, and some food and I was feeling like a new woman! There were times I actually was able to run 10 min straight! I would have to stop and stretch the IT band every so often but after a while that didn't even bother me. During this last loop, and with my renewed energy, I was determined to not finish last! I caught one 50 km runner while running the fairgrounds and continued on the out-and-backs. I handled the bridges without issues and traversed the rocks across the water without a problem. Tho I did tell the two guys that were gingerly making their way across the rocks they needed more practice. I had to wait for them and I wanted to run! As I was making my way to the last aid station, I was taking note of who was wearing bibs in the 100s (fellow 50 km runners). I knew there were at least 2 guys behind me so I knew I wouldn't finish last but I also wanted to see who I might be able to pass. Yes I was feeling 100 times better than I did in the second loop. At the aid station I was well taken care of by Jody (thanks!) and checked out my competition. I thought there were two women I had to worry about but it actually was only one (the second woman was running one of the longer races - the 100 miler I believe). I try not to stay too long at aid stations and got back to running. I passed the one female 50 km runner that I saw at the aid station, made it to the water stop and then up the hill on the fairgrounds to make my way to the finish. I was feeling pretty good but not enough to run up the hill - heck I was probably past the marathon distance at this point! But any time I was running, I was running strong and with good form. I barreled down the hills and occasionally walked. After passing the pond and making my way across the bridge I knew the finish was right around the corner! I passed another runner who was running the marathon and ran most of the back stretch. I made the right turn onto the road, passed the gate, and tapped the inspirational sign. Man was I feeling good at this point! So I picked up the pace. Mentally reminded myself of the potholes at the next turn - avoided said potholes - and sprinted through the finish line! 7 hrs 34 min. I heard Becky screaming for me (such enthusiasm!) and Rick handed me my finishers medal and fleece and gave me a congratulatory kiss on the cheek.

The 7.5 hrs was not quite the time I wanted but was much better than expected given how I felt during the second loop. Next race - 12 hrs at 3 Days at the Fair. But I've moved up to the 48 hr race. It'll be a good start for training for the Finger Lakes 50 km at the end of June. Keep on running!