A Stroll in Central Park 12 Hour Endurance Run: March 8, 2014 (Cumming, GA)

Surprise! This is not a race in New York’s Central Park. The park in the title refers to a popular recreational area in a pleasant suburb just north of Atlanta. I had first met Lia Knower, Race Director for the Stroll, at the 8 Hour Hot to Trot race in Lithia Springs, Georgia, several summers ago. We were both struggling through the heat and difficult trail, although to be quite honest, I was the one cursing the roots, rocks, and climbs of the trail, while Lia was managing quite well. During out time on the trail, I mentioned how I preferred races on asphalt to those on trail (even though I consistently sign up for trail races, regardless) and Lia told me about the Stroll, a timed race on asphalt in the springtime. It sounded great to me so I made a decision to do the race next time I had the chance.

Last year in March I was in Rome for the marathon in the eternal city but this year I decided to fit the Stroll into my schedule. It turned out to be a good decision even though I had to deal with some unexpected blister problems. Since Cumming is only a six hour drive from home, Darcy and I left on Friday morning and arrived in plenty of time to check into the local Hampton Inn and then drive a few miles further north to explore the park and scope out the course. The course is a 1.03 mile asphalt route around several large fields. It’s advertised as pancake flat but in reality there are several quite definite inclines and descents. They are probably not considered hills by Atlanta standards but to Floridians and other flatlanders, they are definitely noticeable after the first couple of loops. I actually prefer the change in elevation because courses that are too flat often cause me to have shin splints.

Packet pickup was not until early Saturday morning, so after examining the course we drove back to town for a bite to eat. Our restaurant of choice turned out to be Taco Mac Sports Grill where we devoured some burgers, sweet potato fries, and beer. We also shared some pepperoni and cheese flatbread. Then we headed back to the hotel for some rest. I was just a little bit nervous, mostly because I wanted to do really well here and try to complete at least 45 miles. In 12 hour trail races, the best I can usually do is between 40 and 43 miles. On pavement, I can often get to 45 miles and I was hoping for at least that and maybe a little bit better here. That was not to be, unfortunately.

Saturday morning dawned clear and cool, 33 degrees but with no wind. After an early cup of coffee and a roll with peanut butter, I dressed and waited patiently until 5:30 am when I woke my husband and told him we needed to get started. I was starting to get jittery and anxious to begin. The drive to the park only took a few minutes but since everything looks completely different in the dark, it took us awhile to figure out exactly where to park and set up. Lia and her corps of hardy volunteers were already there putting up tables and getting the aid station and timing table arranged. I got my bib and tee shirt (short-sleeve green cotton tee), and decided where to place my plastic bin full of extra stuff – shoes, socks, food, Vaseline, and all the other essentials necessary in a timed race. Just in case, I threw in a rain jacket, mittens, and hand warmers, but I didn’t need any of those, thank goodness. I met some friendly runners, Rob and Amanda, who were doing their first ultra and generously encouraged me to set up my things close by.

About 10 minutes to 7, Lia called us all together and gave a few brief announcements about the race. We all lined up behind a crack in the asphalt, the official starting line, with me at the very rear. At 7 on the dot we took off. Naturally, I was worried about getting lost on the course; after all, I do have a habit of losing my way even on one mile loops. One of the nice things about Central Park, however, is that it is all but impossible to get lost. There is a clear line of sight and it is easy to see other people ahead of you for a good distance. And of course once I got a couple of loops behind me, I was fine.

There were about 41 participants in this race; seventeen had signed up for the inaugural 6 hour event and 24 for the 4th running of the 12 hour. Even though that sounds like a small number, the park was very busy and that was an extremely good thing. I think it’s wonderful to have public parks and recreation areas that are so heavily used by the community. All day long and well into the early evening, there were soccer games, baseball games, batting practice, and informal playgroups all going on at the same time. Individuals and small groups of runners, walkers, families, and plenty of well-behaved dogs shared the course with us. I enjoyed watching all the activities and smiling and chatting with people as I went around and around and around. The time went by quickly and I was never bored.

Because this is a heavily used public park, there are many REAL restrooms located around the course. One of these is just steps off the course. This is a definitely a real plus in a timed race. It is wonderful to have running water and real bathrooms.

The race is not chip-timed but there were several wonderful and patient lap counters who managed to keep track of all of us and all our laps. There was also a chart set up of the laps and mileage equivalents. I do like races that are just over a mile in length because eventually those additional fractions of a mile add up to a whole and that is a bonus. The single aid station had plenty of water, soda, and Gatorade as well as peanut butter quarters, ham and cheese quarters, candy, cookies, pretzels, and other assorted snacks. At 1 pm, pizza was delivered and I happily chose a big slice to eat on my way around the next lap.

The weather stayed perfect – almost 70 degrees with some sun and a cool breeze. I gradually shed my jacket and mittens and then my lighter jacket and finally spent the remaining hours in just a comfortable long-sleeved tee shirt, rolling the sleeves up and down as necessary. In at timed race, I always like to reach certain stages by certain times and this race was no different. My initial goal was to get past the marathon distance by around 6 hours. I missed that by just a bit. Then I wanted to complete a 50k by no later than 9 hours. I did that handily but I was starting to have a major problem with my feet. I could feel the unmistakable pain of at least one blister begin to develop on the ball of my left foot. The bunion on my right foot was also starting to burn. I tried to take my mind off the pain by concentrating on all the games and people around me. Several runners had slowed their pace and were occasionally walking so I had a chance to touch base with some of them. I shared a few laps with Scott when he took a couple of walking breaks (the rest of the time he flew by me on his way to well over 50 miles) and spoke with Malisa who had to slow down a little because she was also having some blister problems.

Around 4 pm I decided to change my shoes. I was afraid to take off my socks because I didn’t want to get discouraged at what I might find. I simply changed to a slightly larger shoe, hoping that would make at least my bunion more comfortable. It did, but the blister on the ball of my foot was still aching and troubling me. Heck, I only had 3 more hours to go and I had already reached 32 laps. Anything I could accomplish over that number would be fine with me, so I kept moving forward. Darcy had checked on me around lunchtime and I was fine. He returned around 6 to find me hobbling. By 6:40, my laps were getting longer, much longer, and I didn’t feel up to trying another circuit. I finished with 44.29 miles, not quite my goal but close enough.

I’ve been trying to analyze why blisters were such a problem in this race. My shoes were fairly new but I’d worn them in races before, the weather was perfect, there were no rocks or pebbles to get in my toes, and the course was smooth, so the only possible explanation was the coarseness of my Injinji socks. Instead of wearing the smooth Injinjis that I usually wear, I had put on a slightly heavier (and maybe a bit rougher) pair. That may have caused blisters to form and erupt. I could trace a similar problem the first time I did the FANS 24 hour race. I guess I will need to use those coarser socks only on much shorter races. Meanwhile, my feet are starting to heal and I am looking forward to trying this race again.

There are no medals given in this race. Instead, everyone gets a nice plaque with their name on it when they pick up their bib and shirt. After the race is completed, Lia plans to send out mileage results to each of us so we can stick them onto the plaque. This is similar to what is done at the FANS events. This race is definitely recommended for walkers, especially those wanting to try an easy and well-supported smaller ultra.

Advertisements

One thought on “A Stroll in Central Park 12 Hour Endurance Run: March 8, 2014 (Cumming, GA)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s