Monday, September 24, 2012

Merrill's Mile 24 hour Race- Sept. 1, 2012


One Mile Loop Course

I have been curioius about 24 hour races ever since I completed 12 hours of Hostelity Race.  In a way, I had kinda sorta wished that I could have stayed for 24 hours at that race.  So, when I was able to find a nurse friend who was willing to volunteer 24 hours at Merrill's Mile well then, I also had to stay 24 hours to run.  I couldn't very well ask my friend to volunteer that long and me go home after 12 hours!  So, I registered for this race on the 2nd day the race was available for registration back in April.  I didn't know how to run a 24 hour race, but I was determined to do it.  After all, "Poor Decisions Make for Better Stories" according to the DUMASS (Dahlonega Ultra Marathon Association) theme. 
I have been training all summer primarily for The Jewel 50 mile in the upcoming weeks and for DRT 50k in Nov.  These are the two races that I have feared the most out of the 5 races I'm signed up to run this fall.  This 24 hour race is simply a training run for me, and I set a 50 mile goal for myself and then plan to reevaluate from the 50 mile point.  I am nervous about running more than this mileage for fear of a long recovery period 3 weeks prior to the Jewel.  However, my other goal for this race is to remain standing for the full 24 hours outside of brief breaks and a short nap which I am expecting that I am going to have to take at some point during the race.  So, I'm pretty confident that I can run the 50 miles and will likely get between 60 to 70 miles in the 24 hours.  However, I am not putting any kind of pressure on myself to do this.  Because unlike Hostelity, I plan to have FUN at this race!  I had fun at Hostelity, but I was very focused the entire time.  This race, I want to enjoy it more as I get the miles.
I arrive at the race with a folding chair, sleeping bad, and a waterproof duffel bag with enough running clothes to last several days and a change of shoes.  I was very overpacked!  I only changed once while I was there and never changed shoes.  I also packed a few tolietries that I never used except for the sunblock that I reapplied once.
This course is a one mile crushed gravel flat loop.  It's also a very long loop.  But, it's cool though because there is a fully stocked aid station at the start/finish line and then a water station at the other end of the course.

The race starts and the runners are off and runnning; however, no one is in a rush because everyone is there for either 12 or 24 hours.  It's not a fight to the finish by no means.   I decide that I am not going to run fast the entire time before I even arrive at the race.  My goal is to last as long as I can, and I know I cannot do that running too fast.  Also, I got a nasty cold earlier in the week and when I woke up on race day I felt weak and my sinuses hurt.  I simply, did not feel good.  Along about mile 4, I heard a runner say in passing that it's time to walk more to himself than to anyone else.  I'm not really sure when I should take walk breaks and when I should run.  But, I decide to walk for awhile.  The morning is progressively warming up, and I later decide to run more until it gets too hot then that would be the time to slow down and walk.
I run alone at times and with various friends throughout the race.  This loop course is fun because you can catch laps with other folks and talk along the way.  It's fun running with friends who know me well and then at other times with people I don't know at all.  It's always interesting to hear other people's stories.
My friend Donna and nursing professor from college,  who has long since retired is at this race.  I am so inspired by her because she has run in nearly 20 marathons.  When she saw that I signed up for this race in April, she did not hesitate to also sign up for this race.  She told me, "We are nurses, we can stay standing for 24 hours!".  My thought exactly, Donna!  However, Donna had to have a total hip replacement in July.  She is recovering and healing well, but won't be able to run this race as she had planned.  This doesn't stop her though.  She sets a goal to walk 10 miles with breaks when she needs them.  I am in such awe because I think most people in her predictament would have bagged the race and why not, she'd have the perfect excuse!  I wave and cheer her on everytime I pass her and she always greeted me with a smile and was so happy to be there.  On one of her breaks, she even got involved in the aid station to help out and handed me a grilled cheese and a drink!  I hope one day, when I grow up that I have that kind of determination to keep going!
I'm particularly excited for the Rusk family as it's Alan and Gayle running their first 12 hour event and their son Tyler running in his first 24 hour event.  They all have goals in terms of mileage, and I am excited to see them achieve their goals as much as I hope to achieve mine.
I am enjoying the loop course because we can wave, yell, and just be silly to our friends across the course when we are all at various points along the loop.  It's fun watching everyone and really just takes my mind off the heat at times.  The volunteers at the aid stations are awesome too, and one of them hands me a water bottle which I refill with ice several times and carry.  The cold bottle is helping me to stay cool even if it's just my hands.  However, these water bottles also come in handy as water gun weapons as Brad and I surprise each other squirting ice cold water on each other.  It's funny that we are actually running away from the water when it actually feels good!  It's hot out here!
It seems like no time has passed and Gayle has reached her goal of 27 miles and she has several hours left to go!  I am so excited because after a break she keeps going.  I know she can get a lot more miles in if she wants to.  I am particularly excited for her because like me at Hostelity, I had never run a marathon before and then I surpassed the marathon and went on to run an ultra.  I know she is going to do the same today.  I remember how awesome that felt when I did it also just 8 months prior.
Somewhere between miles 36-38, I get really really hot and tired.  I take a brief break out of the heat and walk with Alan and Gayle.  I tell them how hot I am.  Alan says on the next lap let's all go to the river and cool off.  I had seen people go back there off and on all day, but I didn't want to veer off course yet until I had to.  We get to the river and I soak my head in the cold water.  That felt so good just to wash all the sweaty hot grime off my face and hair and to wash my hands.  Gayle puts her knees and feet in the water.  I so want to do that too, but I fear getting my feet wet because I know I have all night to go.  This water break was exactly what I needed and it really was a re-start to my race again.  I feel soo much better!  Even my sinuses and head no longer hurt as I think I blew all the yucky snot out of my sinuses in the cooler morning hours.
This is a pic of Margaret and I catching a lap together along the loop.  I have had the priveledge of tagging along a few training runs with her at Amicalola Falls and my 3rd time running the same race as her.  She is a phenomenal runner whom I can never tire of her stories.  In this pic, she is telling me to look up, but I obviously didn't do it in time!  Margaret was flying around this loop course and made it look so effortless!
Lee and our children arrive with Mitchell's new pet hamspter that they picked up that day.  Lee is carrying her around in a shoe box.  It's funny because some folks thought he was bringing me a new pair of shoes!  Actually, they just didn't want to leave Oreo in a hot car.  They came out and walked a full lap with me before heading out.  It was so good to see them, and at the same time, I am wanting to go home with them.
Before I know it, the 12 hour race is over.  Gayle has reached 40 miles and doubled her longest run ever!  I know she has to be thrilled.  Alan comes in at 39 miles.  YAY!  I am really really excited for them because they really toughed it out for 12 hours in the gruelling heat and racked up a lot of miles. 
At the 12 mile mark, I hit 43 miles.  When I see the 12 hour day runners leaving and the new night 12 hour folks coming in, I have mixed emotions.  On the one hand, I felt like I took my time a lot during the day so that I could last all 24 hours and not be too drained from the day's heat.  I really wished I could have gone all out during the 12 hours and be finished now!  On the other hand, I'm hoping these night folks will breathe new energy into this race.  And, I am glad to finally have some real food at 9pm....PIZZA!  I am hungry.  I have eaten the usual race fare but for about 4 hours,  I want something real!  But, I cannot text or call anyone to tell them that as there is no phone service!  LOL
It doesn't take long before it's dark and we are pulling out our headlamps.  Note the picture below where you see the lights there is a runner below the light! 

It's not long into the night race that I realize this is a different race.  There are far less people as numerous runners have left the 24 hour race for various reasons and the larger 12 hour day group folks have left.  I don't really know any of the 12 hour night folks.  It's much cooler now and it's easier to run, but with a full stomach and 5 more miles, I realize for the first time all day that I am exhausted.  I am at mile 48, and I notice that I am weaving down the road on my feet!  LOL  I am laughing to myself, as I realize I need sleep!  I also realize that my stomach is bloated and is hurting a little bit from gas. 

I am determined to reach my 50 miles no matter what.  I am afraid that if I lay down now that I won't get back up.  My feet really hurt.  Nothing else really bothers me, as I've stopped at the Masssage clinic for the 2nd time already to work out the issues in my left leg and foot which are chronic.  It helped so much!  I get through the next 2 miles almost half asleep and then I go to the tent, set up my sleeping bag, and take off my garmin and plug into my external charger.  I want to capture every mile that I earn!  LOL

I lay down in the tent and note the time to be around 11:45pm.  It feels like heaven.  I stretch out in the sleeping bag, and I think I maybe asleep in less than 5 minutes.  My last thought before I fell asleep was that it's ok if I don't wake up till the morning.  I have run my 50 miles and met my goal. I sleep so hard that when I wake up, I am wide awake.  I am clueless as to what time it is and I lay there for what I estimate to be about 10 minutes.  I am debating on whether I should get out and run because I am snug as a bug in a rug and for the first time it feels cold out there!  I am really a cold natured person.  I then start to check to see if I can move.  My legs and feet feel ok for having just run 50 miles all day.  So, I'm thinking oh guess I should go get my gravy miles.  I don't have long to think as I hear Tyler outside of the tent rustling around and I'm not sure if I call out "Tyler" or he calls out "Angela" but either way I am awake.  He wants his phone that's in the tent.  I hand it to him and ask if he needs to get in to nap as I am getting out.  I am hungry again too!  I get out and find my rain jacket to put on as it's warm. 

Tyler and I go to the food tent and grab something to eat.  I can't believe how good I feel from that nap and I'm surprised to learn that it's 1:45am and I've slept nearly 2 hours.  I feel like I slept all night!  Tyler says he is at mile 62 or 63 and wants to get to mile 65 before he lays down.  We start walking and I look at Tyler and he is stooped over and walking funny.  I don't know why but this strikes me as the funniest thing I ever saw.  But, also I am thinking how ridiculous this is to have signed up for a 24 hour race.  Afterall, I could be home, showered, and snuggled up in my warm bed next to my heater called Lee.  But, instead, I am out here cold, hungry, and walking at 2am.  I get a serious case of the sillies and all I can do is laugh.  I am not laughing at poor Tyler who looks like the most exhausted person I have ever seen, but anything and everything is just striking me as funny at this point.  Tyler and I finish out the lap, and he says he is going to nap.  I ask him if he is sure because he said he wanted to get to mile 65 first, and I tell him I'll walk with him if he wants to get to the 65 miles, but he declines, and I don't try to push because he looks sooo tired!  

I am ready to run again after having eaten and slept. What else have I got to do at this point? I can't exactly go home.  So, I start running again.  I run as long as I can until I have to stop.  My stomach is really hurting, and I look 4 months pregnant.  My belly is hard as a rock.  I cannot even make myself pass gas.  I haven't passed gas all day.  I think about the water bottle I sucked on all day and feel quite sure that my belly is full of gas.  It's a miserable feeling.  Then I start to feel queasy and lightheaded.  So, I walk to the aid station, and I know I need something, but I don't know what it would be.  Nothing looks good.  The volunteers happily ask me "What do you need?".  I tell them, "I do not know, tell me what I need".  Someone hands me a cup of noodles.  I take it and walk with it.  These are the best noodles on the planet.  I walk around again, and this time I ask for noodles.  I eat these noodles and throw away the cup half way down and start running back around again.

Basically, the rest of the night I am in a cycle of constant stomach pain.  My feet hurt too bad to walk on them, so I run.  But, when I run too long I get queasy and lightheaded and have to walk.  So, again I walk to the aid station and get more noodles.  When my lightheaded feeling passes, I run again and it really hurts for the first quarter mile and then it feels better as the pressure is lifted off of my feet and it feels good to run.  But, then I have this same pattern and realize I am in a peat and repeat mode.  Stomach pain, run, lightheaded, eat, and walk then repeat.  But, I am above all determined to see daylight standing on my feet and hopefully moving.

During this process, Dave shows up to support Tyler and helps him throughout the rest of his race.  I loop around and see them at the aid station, and I ask the massage volunteer to work on my left hip, thigh, and foot.  Then I start walking with Dave and Tyler.  Tyler looks a little more rested but he is still walking funny.  I walk about a half lap with them and the pain in my feet is too much, and I need to run again, so I think I apologize and tell them I gotta run because my feet hurt too bad to walk.  I run for awhile and loop around in time to use the porta potty.  I feel relief in sight of my abdominal pain!!!  I go to the porta potty and release the demons!  I am audibly moaning in the porta potty my sweet relief !  I don't care who hears me.  I feel so much better that I come out of the potty smiling, and dammit I am ready to run!  I run past Dave and Tyler and tell them in passing, "I just had the best shit of my life!"  I think only runners can truly appreciate this sentiment!

The rest of the morning is a blur as I push and struggle past my feet pain.  By 8am, I am told that I am grouchy, and I'm not laughing anymore.  I am ready to get this shit done in my 67th mile.  Actually, I am told that I said, "I am ready to get this fucking shit done!"  I already decided that at mile 65 that I would go to 70 miles, as I know I have 5 more miles in me.  I also know that if I tell myself a number, I will die trying to get there.  Seventy miles just sounded like a nice round even number.  Afterall, 70 just sounds better than 71 or 72 at least in my mind. 

I am in my 69th mile and as I'm making my way up I think I see Lee, Mitchell and Megan.  I think I want to cry, but I can't even if I tried.  I am so happy to see them and just want them to walk my last mile with me.  I can't believe how bad my bloody stumps are feeling.  I reach them and they start to walk with me, but then all of a sudden it begins to pour the rain.  The sky opens up and it pours!  So, I tell Lee and the kids to just wait under the canopy and let me finish one lap to get to 70 miles.  I run so hard in the rain or as hard as a person can run in her 70th  The rain makes me mad.  Where was this rain yesterday when it was so hot?  Why Why Why does it have to rain in my last mile?  Normally, I love to run in a warm rain but not in my last mile of a 24 hour race!  Oh, and yet another reminder to becareful for what I wish for! 

Nevertheless, my last mile was over and as I approach the check in, Willy says I have about 20 minutes left.  I say, "No, I am done!" LOL  I am happy going home with my 70 miles. 

To this day, I still can't believe that I actually ran 70 miles.  I just felt like I was going round in round.  I am very happy to have had the experience of running a 24 hour race because I was so curious about it.  I'm not sure that I really gained anything after 46 miles except time on my feet that will likely come in handy in my upcoming races.  I figured out that 24 hour races are really more meant for people training for 100 mile races or very long endurance runs.  I really have no desire at this point to run a 100 mile race.  Would I run a 24 hour race again?  Yes, under the right circumstances, but I really missed going all out on a 12 hour race.  I do not like the feeling of holding back.  I kept holding back to last the full 24 hours.  In a sense, I went all out for the 24 hour race, but missed the feeling of going out fast as I can.  And, at the same time, it's just a different race with a different mindset.  It's a test of endurance, and I think I passed because I lasted.

I signed up for different types of races this year 50k, marathon, 24 hour race, 12 hour race, 50 mile race as I am trying to find my niche in running.  I know it's trails but not sure where my place is just yet in the ultra distance world.  I really enjoy the marathon and 50k because the recovery is short, and I can run faster.  I still enjoy trying to be fast on my shorter runs.  I still enjoy chasing pavement, but I love trails more.  I haven't really figured it all out yet, so I'm just enjoying it while it lasts.  It's ok if I don't have it figured out yet because the one thing I do know is that I can do anything I put my mind to, and so far, I have. 

And, that is ALL that I really need to know.

**Pictures are taken from facebook and my friend Gayle**