Someday I plan to do a timed race and stay for the entire scheduled time. On a multi-day race, I always spend at least one night, often more than one, in a hotel sleeping in a real bed. Even in a 24 hour race, I frequently stop an hour or two before the end of the race. I can talk myself into stopping early for practically any reason at all, although I usually have some excellent (to me) excuses – stormy wet weather, bad blisters, acute back pain, indigestion are just a few select choices.
Last year at Endless Mile, I had signed up for the 24 hour and managed to do just 56 miles. My rationale for stopping early was the unexpectedly frigid weather. October in Alabama is not supposed to be 37 degrees! I was very underdressed and people kindly loaned me jackets and blankets to keep me warm. It wasn’t enough – I was still shivering. As long as I achieved at least a 50k so I could count it in my statistics, I was okay with stopping a little earlier than originally planned and I relished a hot shower and warm bed.
This year I had registered for the 48 hour and I came prepared for all sorts of weather – whether cold, wet, hot, I was ready for it all. It turned out the weather this year was perfect. Beautiful sunny days that never rose above 79 degrees and evenings that were clear and cool but not cold made for great racing weather. Gentle breezes enveloped us throughout the weekend.
Since this was a 48 hour race, I knew I would be spending at least one night in our hotel (the Hampton Inn in Calera) to get some restorative sleep. My plan was to stay on the course as long as I could the first day, shower and rest in the hotel the first evening, return early on Saturday morning and stay until the race ended on Sunday morning. The plan worked like a charm until Saturday night when the hot spots and blisters that had been irritating me for most of the race began to plague me nonstop. Changing shoes and socks helped a little at first but too soon the blisters on the soles of my feet worsened. I alternated using both the off-the-shelf and custom orthotics that were supposed to resolve my blister issues and they helped a bit but not enough. Finally, I gave in and texted Darcy at 4 am to come get me and he did. While texting him at that early hour seems mean, in reality it was kind; I was ready to leave at 1:30 am but didn’t have the heart to call him in the middle of the night.
So once again, I did not spend a lot of time on the course. I left at 7 pm on Friday evening, returned at 5 am the next morning, and left at 4 am on Sunday morning. That means I spent only 33 hours on the course. That said, I did accomplish my primary goal, reaching 70 miles by Saturday afternoon, and my secondary goal, 100 miles (and that coveted buckle) by 1 am on Sunday. To celebrate, I spent about 30 minutes relaxing in my new zero-gravity chair, but I started to get cold just sitting still so I made myself go around the course for another 4 miles, giving me a final total of 104. I was satisfied but a little disappointed in myself for giving in to blisters once again.
The Endless Mile series of races is a great opportunity for walkers and runners who enjoy timed events. The series is held in Veterans Park in the small town of Alabaster. There are lots of choices – 6, 12, 24, and 48 solo races plus relays. The timing system is unusual, with two small rectangular chips that must be pinned at hip level or attached to a waist belt but it works perfectly (and Raymond the timing person is terrific, shouting out laps every time I came through). There is single aid station that has the usual buffet of ultra snacks as well as made-to-order fried eggs, bacon, tortillas, pizza, sandwiches, and just about every other food one could desire.
The partially shaded 1 mile course is completely paved with a few gradual hills. One hill was a special challenge to me, especially when I was tired, but overall the course was pleasant and the scenery (we passed by a dog park and several ball fields) enjoyable during the daylight hours. The park is well-lit except for a couple of spots so I made sure to carry my flashlight so I could use it when needed. It’s a good idea to bring and use sunscreen and bug spray because I ended up with myriad mosquito bites (I always think I’m immune to bites until it’s too late).
My friends Joyce and Ray, along with Joyce’s sister Patsy and brother-in-law Andy from California, were in for the 48 hour race and I set up camp with them. Because Endless Mile is so popular, a lot of my other racing friends also signed up for it and I enjoyed visiting with all of them. It was easy to make new friends as well – going around in circles offers lots of opportunities to see people over and over and over again.
Overall, I had a great time and successfully achieved my goal of at least 70 miles in this – my #6 ultramarathon – for 2017.