I'm not sure who talked me into this thing called "Ultra Running"... Baboo? Vato? Jenny? I'll blame you all. Di and took off from Tampa to head to Palatka, FL to run the 4th or 5th running of the Iron Horse Ultra. I'd signed up for the 100k - my first Ultra ever - after Jen said, rather convincingly, "you've done an Ironman, you can do an Ultra". Hmph.
So we rolled into Palatka - and if you are from Palatka, I apologize - but OMG this is redneck USA. Our dinner choices were: all of the fast food chains you can think of, a packed, line out the door Chili's, or Golden Corral. WE CHOSE POORLY. Not having been to all the Golden Corral's in the country, it's hard to say that this is the worst one...but it's got to be close! Fortunately, I guess, the food tasted so bad that we didn't eat enough to be sick the next day.
5am comes early - we drove out for a 7am race start, and was startled with an actual "starter's gun" sendoff. My plan was simple; walk a half mile, run a half mile for as long a I could. I'd done so in practice runs, and was able to keep a 13-min pace... Also... drink lots. Remember to eat. Change socks and shoes at 28 miles. Be tough. Easy, right?
After everyone took off from the start, I spent the rest of the day pretty much running by myself. Hit the 10 mile mark at 2:10, exactly on "plan". 20 miles came at 4:23 - only 3 min back from plan. 30 miles rolled in at 7:05 - now about 30 min back from plan. But I had done a change of clothes, stopped to pee a dozen times (I was hydrating really well apparantly), and hit 4-5 aid stations as well. At 30 miles I thought the plan was working well - I thought I'd saved enough for the next 30.
40 miles told a different story. At exactly 10hrs of running, it took an extra 40min to run that leg then my 13-min plan. I could tell - my walking pace and my running pace were much slower. After changing shoes and socks, my right foot was developing blisters - It was almost as if these second shoes had a narrower toe-box than the first pair. I'll figure that out... but the damage was done, and the foot was now hamburger. I'd also somehow tweeked my left knee - the one with that I'd had my ACL repaired - I couldn't straighten it completetly, and soon running, even at a shuffle, was no longer possible. My pace dropped steadly, and just like that, my miles were averaging in the 22-23 min per mile range. The drop came fast and hard. It was ugly.
My Garmin battery died 6 min into mile 48...it took an hour for me to walk it in to 50 miles. I finished the 50 miles at 13:56, an hour under the 15 hr cutoff. I was going for the 100k (62miles), but a 2 miles per hour, I was looking at another 6 hrs out there, and 20 hrs total - 2 hrs over the cutoff. Good enough for government work.
Diana was a trooper - she drove out and met me at the 13.5 mile turnaround, twice, and also at the 28 mile point so I could change clothes. She dragged my hobbled body back to the hotel and got me some food before I fell asleep. It had to be pretty boring for her, not knowing anyone at her first Ultra, in a town without much to do in it!
What did I learn? Well, I don't think I trained for 100k. Obviously I did enough to get through 50 miles, but I was so far removed from the next 12 miles, and the cutoff, that I think I need more miles in me next time. Feet swell! Especially with as much Heed as I was drinking, combating the humidity and heat buildup - I could really feel my hands swelling up, and that should have been my key for my feet. I really didn't even think about it, even as the blisters grew. Lose weight. At some point, reality sets in for a 270lb ultra runner- there aren't many 270 lb ultra runners for a reason! I really should be more like 230 for these things. For all things. C'mon Bigun!!!!! Arrrg. I really liked my waist pack. I really, really liked my Knuckle Light! I put it on my waist pack belt, and shined it downward - it was perfect. I'm glad I carried it from the start, and didn't wait for 50 miles like I had planned. Those last 4 - 5 miles would have been impossible in the pitch black.
Run more. Duh. Lose Weight. Duh. Balance the sodium intake. Thinner socks, less padding, more room in the shoe.
It was amaising to see the levels of finess out there. The speed and effortless of men and women running after 50 and 75 miles was hard to believe. Everyone was friendly and genuine - even the frontrunners had encourgement for me, even as they lapped me on a 25 mile loop. The volunteers were awesome, the race was well run, and except for the rocks not yet grown over from years of duty holding up train tracks, it would be an easy decision to sign up again for next year. I'll have to wait for the pain to wear off first...