Earlier last week I saw a post about the Palmer Lake 24 Hour Fun Run. On Friday morning Paula, Chris and I signed up for it. Saturday morning rolled around and we headed south with a few bags of food and many layers of running gear having no idea what to expect.
We went in with the goal of 6 [or 7] hours at the race then heading back to real life and such. We really had no idea what we were doing and if it weren’t for Paula waiting for a ride I may have stayed in bed. The idea of showing up at a small ultra terrified me. It was a laid back event put on for the sake of getting people some training miles but I had decided I was going for a PRD [Personal Distance Record] of at least 32 miles and that got me all worked up.
Turns out I got myself in a tizzy over nothing, as usual. We arrived, introduced ourselves to the Race Director, Israel Archuletta, and haphazardly claimed a place in the grass. At 8:01am the 30ish runners started their first loop around the lake.
Oh, did I mention that entire race was run around a 0.82 mile “lake” loop? Yea. That may have been another reason I was freaking out about the race and my distance goals. I have spent many mornings whining about the 2.5 mile loop around Wash Park, how was I going to survive just 0.82 miles per loop?!
I started running with Paula at an easier pace – she is completely insane and did the Crossfit 14.5 Friday night so her legs were hating her – while Chris cruised along as his version of an easy pace. He might be new to this running thing but I’m quickly losing my ability to keep up with him! As we looped around the lake area [it was a very empty lake] we talked each other’s ears off and let the miles just slide on by.
The timing system was old school – write your name on the board and mark down a tally every time you pass by. We started out stopping at every single loop to tally and play tic tac toe. Yup, we play games when we run. There was a playground set right near by so we spend the first 10ish miles being awesome at tic tac toe. We both won, then we got distracted with miles and eating. Lots of eating. Israel cooked up 6 pounds of bacon for us…I was in heaven. Bacon + chips + M&Ms + Swedish Fish = Happy Shorts Heidi!
Paula came to run 10 miles and called it a day when she hit 20 miles…she is crazy. Completely crazy. Chris was strictly instructed [by me] to keep his distance under 25 miles. He finished up at 27.06 miles – he’s an ultra runner! I would have smacked him for it but I may have been the one to instigate the last few miles. Oops.
They both promised me they were happy to nap in the grass while I kept my loops going…so I kept running. After the first 15 miles or so I decided to either get someone to tally for me or save up my tally marks for every other loop – the constant stopping to tally was making me crazy. By the time I hit a full marathon I had gotten into a rhythm of stopping every 2-3 loops to eat, drink and tally.
I hit a full marathon 10 minutes shy of 5 hours, took a breather to swap out socks then headed back out to cover a 50K in just under 6 hours. Technically the 6 hour make was our “limit” for the day but I was still going strong and Paula assured me she was capable of speed showering before her dinner plans so I started looping again hoping for 36 miles in 7 hours. By the time I hit 6.5 hours I was at 34 miles…which meant I was definitely going for 37 miles, I had the time.
I finished my final loop at 7:01:08 with a grand total of 37.75 miles and 46 loops around the lake. The last 2 miles were annoying. My body wanted a breather but with a 7 hour limit I didn’t have the time so I kept running. Nothing really hurt, per se, but everything wanted to be done running. I’m glad I didn’t stop at 35. I’m really glad I made it the full 7 miles.
My last 10+ miles were the fastest of the day, on average. Actually, from mile 15 on I started pulling out miles in the 9’s and low 10’s while seeing a lot of 8:xx and low 9:xx on the “current pace” Garmin display – not entire accurate, but nice numbers! It felt crazy to see those numbers but my body wasn’t protesting – it was actually more annoying to slow down the pace so I just kept going. The last 5 miles were all below 9:10 with two at 8:5x. That’s really just a bunch of numbery stats to most people, but to me that is crazy talk…and proof that I am probably capable of running a fair bit faster than I currently do.
As soon as I finished my last lap I stopped by the aid station table, stared at the food and walked away empty-handed. I expected to feel a gnawing hunger after all those miles and I was ready to take on large quantities of real food. But food didn’t appeal to me. I plopped myself down in a chair and chugged water. I wasn’t exhausted. No part of my body was broken. My feet were blister free. My muscles were tired but fully functional. And I was incredibly proud of my body for pulling off this kind of crazy, impulse racing!
It wasn’t rainbows and unicorns the entire run but the aches progressively moved throughout my body as the loops went on. My first ache was in my lower back – it’s been a trouble spot for a long while now. A dull, annoying pain became grouch inducing even after awkward stretching but at some point it just went away. I don’t remember when, I just remember realizing my back wasn’t hurting any more.
After I hit the 20 mile mark my right calf got angry with me for unknown reasons. It tightened up and kept threatening to knot. After I crossed over the 26.2 mile mark [really wanted my sub-5hr marathon] I spent some time rolling it out and switched over to the Zensah Compressions socks that arrived in the mail this week. The next miles were better and after another roll out stop around mile 32 my calf had settled down. It wasn’t overjoyed with me, but it was no longer protesting. I’ve never been a devote compression wearer…after this little experience that may change, I think the added Zensah compression socks made all the difference in the world!
Aside from those two incidents my body didn’t really complain. I was impressed. Personally, I expected much more misery – both physically and mentally. It wasn’t all easy but I never doubted my ability to run and after the first 20 miles there was no doubt in my mind that I’d hit at least 30 miles. The course may have been flat and loopy but it was a huge confidence booster for my endurance!
We went grocery shopping at 9pm the night before the race with no idea of what we would need. It wasn’t required that we brought food but I wanted my own stash of go-to snacks, just in case. We arrived at the race with chips, Swedish Fish, Powerade, Mt Dew, espresso beans and random gels. Israel has an awesome set up with fresh fruit, cupcakes, donuts, potatoes, M&Ms and bacon galore.
I started running with a handheld + gel mixture. I hesitantly used a Clif Shot Citrus gel [not a citrus fan] and a standard Honey Stinger gel. Turned out to be an awesome combo, tasted just like sweet iced tea! Definitely buying more caffeinated citrus gels! Beyond that I had absolutely NO plan when it came to food. I’d eat whatever I was in the mood for and when I was hungry. I ate quite a bit in the beginning but as the miles wore on I slowed down my inhalation of food.
I never felt very hungry or depleted of energy so I must have been doing something right but I need to do some serious nutrition experimentation before I take on Quad Rock! I at least need to have a backup plan should things go south, something I know I can depend upon. Something that isn’t pure sugar or lubed up in bacon grease. Something that doesn’t make my lips all sticky with gel residue. Something that is guaranteed to at least settle a stomach and get me nutrients…any suggestions on what that something can/should be?!
Overall, it was a crazy awesome day. Not only did I run further [and faster] than I expected I got do watch other people to crazy things. Crazy things like Chris’s first marathon, on a whim. Crazy things like Paula double her “goal distance” even after a heavy leg workout the night before. And super crazy things like 7 and 8 year olds covering 20+ miles. I was really hesitant to actually show up on race day but I am so glad I drug my butt out of bed, even if I hadn’t covered my goal distance it would have been an incredible day!
The official results are in – I pulled off second place female! Yay for small races! The woman ahead of me was nearly 50 miles ahead of me so I didn’t have a chance at winning. I’ll happily accept my 2nd place status! You can see all the numbery result stuff on UltraSignup.com.
Random Side Note: My body is loving the long miles. After the 7 hours of running a Palmer Lake I took the day easy but never crashed and burned or hated myself for the distance. Instead I got up early the next morning to meet the Boulder Running Company crew for 10 miles on rolling hills at Lair o’ the Bear.
My body did not protest until it realized I’d stupidly forgotten to bring any food with me. The miles were not easy but they were far from the most difficult steps I’ve taken so I’m calling this weekend a fan-freaking-tastically huge win!