December 19, 2015, 8am sharp, and we are off. 24 hours of running (forward motion!) is my goal. I knew going into this that I was under trained and under prepared. But truthfully, I wasn’t sure that mattered much. I feel like the few good running performances I have had came when I wasn’t trained up well or was just totally clueless about what to expect. The times I’ve shown up to a race with good training and a solid plan, I haven’t preformed well. Many reasons for this! And I am going to get things in a line some day…or maybe in lots and lots and lots of circles.
When I decided to run this race back in June (I think, maybe before then) my goal was to run a fast 100. Then I got injured. 😦 I spent a lot of weeks half-training before I realized I needed to do absolutely NOTHING in order to recover. This sucked. But I knew that if I wanted to be able to run strong again, a good 3 weeks of NOTHING was needed. Once I was able to start running again, Desert Solstices was 9 weeks out. When I am running strong, I am training 80-110 miles a week of running and lifting weights, doing core and doing yoga. But I played it safe (and I think smart!) and went from 0-100 miles in those nine weeks slowly. I never added weights, core or yoga back in, because the injury I had was a yoga injury to my core and I was plain scared to push it too soon. I HATE injury. I will give up racing way before I fall into a chronic injury cycle. Running means more to me then being fast, and I want to be running the rest of my life. I also took a 3 week taper, so I had about 5 weeks of over 60 miles a week running. Super low for me.
Three weeks before Desert Solstice, I ran 35 miles on a track. This run felt so good (the whole time!) that I knew going and at least seeing what happened at this race was smart. While I knew I wasn’t in top shape, I felt like I had enough in me to go try. So I changed my goals from a fast 100 to 24 hours. (Hind sight- this was a naive change!) My plan was to run in my comfortable zone for as long as I could and then push into the pain when I had to and then just see what happened. I’ve never run a 24 hour race, so I knew I would learn a lot from going, no matter my performance.
Learn a lot I did!
The first obstacle I faced came less then 2 hours in. My hands were hurting and swollen and turning white. I sorta freaked out, because this is only the 2nd time I have had severe swelling, and last time it lead to dead legs pretty fast. I have always thought that swelling during an ultra was due to low electrolytes. Now I know this is not always the case! When I passed my crew (Hubby and Parents) and flashed them my hands while saying, “I’m swelling. Maybe I need more electrolytes? Check it out!”, my husband began to calculate my electrolyte intake along with calories and water and realized I was way over electrolytes! The weather was good, and I was likely over on water too. So we changed the nutrition plan to acomidate the conditions and my needs. 200+ calories an hour, but way less electrolytes and a bit less water. Less then an hour later, the swelling was going down. I could feel my hands sweating and it felt good. I’m not sure, but this early problem might be what lead to the very bad blisters I had…more on that soon. This mistake certainly is the reason I had to pee almost every hour though. THAT sucked! I’ve never peed so much in a day in my life! And it wasn’t just a little pee. I held it until I felt like I might pop, every time. Still made 11 stops at the port-o-potty. I’m fairly sure I can do better then that next time.
Back to the blisters. The last 100 I did (Rocky Raccoon), I had one blister and I never took a shoe off, the whole race. The 100 before that (Run Rabbit Run), I had zero blisters, switched shoes once but never socks. In truth, I do not blister often and I can not remember blistering badly (like more then a couple blisters per foot) ever before. Yet at Desert Solstice, I had fairly bad blisters on both feet by 50 miles in! I want to know why!!!!! Well, lots of possibility. I already mentioned the early on swelling. My shoes did feel tight across the foot (not on length), and I do not remember them feeling like that ever before. Somewhere around 50 miles, one of the 4 blisters on my left foot was bleeding and I could feel the moisture spreading along my foot so I stopped and changed socks and dressed the big blister, putting the same shoes back on. A couple of hours later, more of the blisters on both feet had popped and my feet felt too swollen for the uppers of the shoes I had on, so I switched shoes to a looser, softer upper. This was nicer on my blisters, but left less cushion under foot, and my feet were sad. After the race, I asked a fellow ultra runner who has way more track and road experience then me, and trail experience too about the blister problem. She said she blisters a bit more on tracks and roads compared to trails, but not more on tracks compared to roads. Interesting for me, being I ran Mad City 100k (roads) and didn’t blister at all…then it hit me! She also said to think about the shoes and socks. Well, this is the first time I have run over 35 miles in the socks I wore! I almost always race long in wool socks. But for some reason I wore the same socks I train in to race in this time. ($$$$$$) I will try wool next time and hope that, along with proper nutrition helps!!!!!
As to the race plan…
Early on, keeping it easy was hard. I wanted to bust out a fast mile and then settle back into “comfy” pace. “Comfy” pace felt boring and dumb and Slow. When 2 girls on the track were steadily lapping me, and I could see them working hard, I began to second guess myself. Why not push it a bit…why not one fast mile…maybe I am wrong to run easy…but I knew I was way too under trained to deviate from my plan. This sucked for me. I have run a couple trail 50 milers in under 7 hours, and running 49 miles in 7 hours on a track felt kinda draggy. While I knew I was running smart, I felt like I was running blah. This is partly because I’ve never raced long on a track before and partly because I was under trained. I want to go try trained up, and with a solid plan! I think my plan might have been good, but my lack of experience had me doubting myself early on, which is not good! It is a good thing I tried to keep my pace in check, because I was right about being under trained! My legs felt dead by 60 miles, even though I ran easy. That, along with the painful blisters that I wasn’t sure how to deal with lead me to the biggest lesson of the day:
THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR GOOD TRAINING AND PREPARATION.
When it comes down to it, running for more then 10 hours will hurt. And handling the pain is mental- maybe more of a choice then physical ability. However, making the jump from 100 miles to 24hrs is, I do believe, a physical, mental and even emotional thing. ANY missing piece and forget finishing the 24hrs. It will take me another try. And I am supper excited to train up, take what I have learned, learn more and give it another go. I think the 24 hour race will be the hardest and most rewarding of all the races for me when I achieve it. 2017!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In closing, thank you to Araviapa Running for putting on this amazing, competitive event. It was mind blowing to see all the goals people set, and see them execute. I am so glad the port-o-potty’s were in lane 4!!!!!!!!
Thank you to my parents, for flying into Phoenix to crew me and cheer me on and support me in this endeavor.
Thank you to my husband for believing in me, encouraging me and taking care of me before, during and after the race.
I am blessed and grateful for the opportunity to try, learn and grow.