So I signed up for Iron Horse 100k Ultra (Feb 18) back in November, and most of the sample training programs say that, at a minimum for a 62-mile run, you should really do half of that at some point before the race. Now I've also read that there's not much reason to have a long run much longer than 20 miles, a plan I like a whole lot better - but I really wanted to some point of reference under my belt before February.
I had a couple of choices - Gator Ultra and Everglades Ultra both had 50k runs, but Gator was a 2.5hr drive away, and the Everglades Ultra wanted $155 to go run. Seemed a bit excessive - so in my infinite wisdom, I decided to do a self supported, lonely 50k right here in Flatwoods, 20 min from my front door. A last minute suggestion was a good one - go and pace someone at the Long Haul 100 mile Ultra being held about 30 min from my house. This whole thing was such an unknown to me, however, I don't know, it just didn't seem fair to go out there and run-walk when my agenda was something other than helping out another runner.
So I packed up my gear - just my Camelbak Delany DC
and some gels, I loaded one bottle with Gatorade, the other with water, and off I went. Lesson #1: It's dark in the woods at 5:15 with no moon. I'm used to running out on Bayshore; the lights of Tampa and the streetlights are such I could read a book at midnight. I'd forgotten how scary the woods are at night. Alone. I figured out at mile 5 something I used to know - I run slower in the dark. In this instance, perhaps that's a good thing, but those first rays of dawn were a welcome sight! Bottom line, the Bigun needs a running light. It was still 9 miles before I saw another (real) human being - my first inkling of a eureka discovery.
One full lap at Flatwoods, Gate-Gate is almost exactly 13 miles. I ran back to my truck, and lubed up with some Body Glide - lesson #2: Lube up BEFORE starting up the run. I've got some nice NIKE lycra under-garments, but I still had some chafing issues not even half way into this thing. Out I went on lap 2, and into the unknown. Once past 26.2 miles, I had no idea what to expect (yes, the Body Glide cured the issue, and I was good to go to the finish)...
My Dad rode by on his bike, in the opposite direction, a bit later at the 18 mile mark. I was in the midst of some really bad pain at that point, so a short break was ok - but stopping even for a minute just made it hurt more.. had to keep moving! Dad rolled back around at 21 miles, so I turned back on the loop and welcomed his company for the two miles back to his car. The eureka moment is coming into focus now...
At that point, I just couldn't keep my shirt on any longer. My nips were rubbed raw, the simple act of removing my shirt meant one less painful piece of this strange new puzzle. Hard lesson #3: Bandaids become a part of the pack! A nice reminder of taking my shirt off - today I've got a bit of sunburn. I was still running a bit, even at +22 miles when my Dad was with me, but once I left his car, I really had a hard time doing anything but walk. I did the "just run to that fence" and "run to that trail up there" for darn near 7 miles! Here's how the pace looked by mile:
My goal was to stay at 5 miles per hour for as long as I could. I walked .15 and ran .85 almost to the 20th mile. Each time I do a long run, I can maintain that cadence longer and longer. I think it's a valid way to eat this elephant - at least until at some point where I just can't run any longer. Like those last 9 over 15-min miles. So maybe I'm going out too hard still, for me.
I got back to my truck at mile 30... how cruel is that?!? I turned around, walked back down the trail a half mile and then walked back in for the full 31 miles. How was that mile faster than the one before it? I saw a runner that I saw on one of the laps walking it in. I walked in faster. Eureka knowledge comes completely into focus!
Eureka: Doing these things alone, on your own, is NOT the way to do it! The camaraderie of fellow runners. Their support and the support of volunteers and of pacers, even on bikes. Seeing that person you've been chasing, or that passed you, who is now hurting and passable - that's what these events should be about, and that's how I'll do better than 7:23:10 next time. I learned a lot about my self and ultra running with this exercise, but I missed all of the fun things about running and ultras - all those things centered around other people.
The next day, I'm sore, but not crippled. By tomorrow, Monday, I'll be walking fine, and on Tuesday I'll be back on my training schedule, with any luck. My feet, in the way of blisters or hot spots, are clear with the exception of a small area on one toe that almost always blisters (duh, I really need to get preventive with that as well). I truly have NO IDEA how I'm gonna go double that distance in 4 weeks. This workout was NOT a confidence booster - more like a reality check. Gulp.