Endless Mile 48 Hour (Alabaster, AL) – October 18, 2019

There is not much new to say about this race. I’ve done the 24 hour here twice and the 48 hour once, so this was a return visit. I had really hoped to stay on the course the entire time because I usually end up leaving with at least 4 – 5 hours to go. The reasons for leaving are varied; usually the weather plays an integral role. Sometimes it’s too cold, or rainy, or windy, but this year the weather turned out to be just right. I cannot use that as an excuse. In fact, the short period of rain and wind that did occur turned out to be during the 5 hours I spend away from the course sleeping. That was pure chance but it worked out in my favor.

No, my reason for not sticking it out for the full 48 hours this year was a bad blister situated under a hard callous on the sole of my right foot. In rereading my previous reports about this race, I realized that I had had the same problem in past years. While the course is asphalt, usually a good thing (for me), the surface is jagged and broken in places and, combined with the inclines/downhills on the course, the result is a challenge to my sensitive feet. This year was no different. After 24 hours on the course, I began hobbling and changing my gait to accommodate the chestnut-sized lump on the sole of my foot. I decided to return to the hotel (the nearby Holiday Inn) to shower and get some sleep. I was optimistic that after a few hours with my feet elevated, the situation would improve.

That was not to be, however. After a welcome 5-hour rest and a change of shoes and socks, I began walking around the one-mile course once again. I was refreshed and ready to go (and had missed the rain shower), but my feet were still bothering me. Around 8 pm, my only objective was to get to 100 miles and receive my buckle. It took me until 1 in the morning to achieve that goal. During those midnight and early morning hours, I walked the course with Kimberly, and our chatting helped to pass the time. After she reached 100 miles, I decided to continue for another couple of laps, take a break, and then bide my time until a reasonable hour when I could text Darcy to come get me. My final mileage was 104 and I had spent 44 hours on the course.

Despite these blister problems, I enjoyed myself tremendously. I know a lot of the runners who return every year to do this race; it was great to visit with Joyce and Ray as well as Kim, Jim, Doyle, and others. The race director, his wife, and the many helpful volunteers are welcoming and pleasant. I’d like to give a special shout out to the kind man who controlled the timing booth for the entire race and always let me know my lap count. The food and drink were plentiful, there are real bathrooms, and other than my blisters, I have no complaint. Next year, I will probably attempt the 24 hour rather than the 48 and give my tired feet a break.

Six Days in the Dome – The Redux (Milwaukee, WI) 2019

The Dome in Anchorage, AK, was home to the first Six Days in the Dome in 2014. The Six Days – Redux series is currently being held this year at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee, WI, from August 23 through August 31 (which means it is still going on – this is day 3). Steve Durbin of Durbin Race Management along with elite runners Joe Fejes and Traci Falbo are the masterminds behind the event.

By the time I heard about the 6 day race last April, it had already filled up and there was an extensive waiting list. However, there were opportunities available to register for one of the two 24 hour races or the 48 hour event. These were to start two days before the 6 day race was to begin. In a weak moment, I decided to try for the 48 hour but it too had completely filled up. Not willing to give up, I put my name in the waiting list lottery. Then I promptly forgot about it. Imagine my surprise a few weeks later when I discovered a message in my email that a spot had opened – was I still interested? I had to respond quickly. After discussing with Darcy, I decided to go for it. We bought plane tickets to Milwaukee and then I once again put it all in the back of my mind – until last month when RD Steve began sending us informative emails with lots of intriguing race details. Suddenly I realized that it had been years since I had to fly to a multiday ultra; I had a lot of planning to do!

I wanted to make sure I had sufficient clothes in case one of my suitcases got lost or misplaced, so I packed duplicate outfits and several pairs of shoes in both of my checked bags. In addition, I wore a running top and pants with injinji socks and running shoes on the plane. To say I was a little obsessive compulsive was an understatement. I didn’t want to chance anything coming between me and my best showing in this race.

Darcy and I left Thursday morning and arrived in Milwaukee in the early afternoon. We picked up our rental car and drove by the Pettit Center to make sure we knew exactly where it was and how long it would take us to get there on Friday morning. We checked into a pleasant Homewood Suites where we had a suite on the 5th floor. It was in quiet location and only about 3 miles from the Ice Center. An early meal at Olive Garden allowed me plenty of time to panic about what to pack in my drop bags and think about strategy (as if I hadn’t been thinking about that for weeks).

Packet pickup began Friday morning at 6:30 in the lobby and we arrived at 6:31. I had arranged to purchase a sleeping bag and rent a table and chair beforehand and everything was ready and set up for me. I got my bib, ankle chip, hat, long-sleeve cotton blend hoody, and a drop bag (personalized – my name was on it – how neat is that?!).

My friend Judy soon arrived and we commiserated on our nervousness and anxiety. Judy was doing the first day 24 hour so she brought a minimum of belongings. I envied her at that point, thinking maybe I should have signed up for the 24 hour as well. But heck, I was in this for 48 hours and I was determined to give it my all.

Because there are two rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs, in the Ice Center, that are designated for sleeping and/or resting, Darcy and I wandered around to each so I could decide where I wanted to put my sleeping bag. I also wanted to make sure I knew my way there and back –I have a tendency to get lost very easily and didn’t want to waste valuable racing time trying to find my way back to the track. I also had to check out the location of the several restrooms. The closest ones to the track were immediately outside the track double doors in a heated lobby area – convenient and a lifesaver.

Timing was done by Mike Melton and Brandon Wilson and there were large monitors that gave real-time results, including miles, kilometers, lap distance, and position. There was one fully-stocked aid station that provided the usual ultra staples plus scheduled meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I never went hungry, and the one time I made a special request (for my favorite drink of seltzer), Steve quickly brought several bottles.

Our pre-race briefing took place at 8:30 and Steve and Mike went over rules and procedures. At 9 am on the dot, we took off counter-clockwise and immediately I felt a surge of relief course through me. All that anxiety and worry disappeared and my only focus was to move forward and have fun.

The track is a 443 meter track with 3 lanes, each approximately 18” wide. We changed direction every 4 hours. Runners AND walkers were required to use the inner lane except when passing (in the middle lane). For sauntering or strolling but still moving forward, racers could use the third (or outside) lane. As a serious walker, I loved this rule – I was no longer relegated to the outer lane. I’m not sure how much faster runners liked it, but most were moving so quickly around me they didn’t seem too bothered about it.

The really great thing about an indoor race is the controlled climate. For a change, I did not have to worry about rain, thunder, lightning, snow, freezing cold, or heat-stroke highs. Inside the Pettit, the temperature is an almost constant 55 degrees with 30-35% humidity. I did not have to pack rain gear or heavy jackets, mittens, or handwarmers. I did find that the low humidity was a problem for me (there is a reason I live in humid Florida). My nose bled constantly, and my lips and fingers were chapped and sore. But that was a small price to pay for the lack of severe weather extremes.

There was music, lots of it, several tapes that played the same songs over and over. Some I recognized and enjoyed (oldies like ‘I Heard it through the Grapevine’) and others I tried to block out. During the first day, there were several hockey games taking place in the center rinks and the loud smashing of the hockey sticks and pucks competed with the musical refrains. Occasionally there were skaters, young and old, in one of the rinks. During the late evening hours, the center rinks were quiet, and the only sounds were the music tapes and runners moving past.

Those first 24 hours went by relatively quickly. I had no foot or leg problems, no pain or aches, just occasional dizziness from going around the track in tight little circles. I have experienced similar dizziness on outdoor tracks so this was nothing new. I had to concentrate on looking up and around me instead of down and at the center. That queasy feeling only occurs during track races and seems to be my personal bugaboo.

Except for changing my shoes or stopping at the bathroom, I never took a break. By 30 hours in, I was starting to get tired and a little sleepy. I decided to get some rest in the sleeping quarters downstairs (ironically called ‘the party room’). At least that was my intention. However, there were too many impediments to getting any real rest for me. Even with a sleeping bag and mat, the floor was too hard. I couldn’t lie flat and my legs wanted to cramp as I lay down and rose up. In addition, the room was filled with people snuffling, snoring, and coughing. Whatever was I thinking?? I am an insomniac who finds it hard to fall sleep even in an ideal environment. How was I supposed to sleep on a hard floor with a roomful of people around me? It wasn’t going to happen. I texted Darcy to come get me so I could get at least a few hours of restful sleep. By that time, I was up to 93 miles. I had a blister and hot spot on the sole of one foot. Darcy came around 4:30 pm on Saturday and took me back to the hotel where I soaked my feet and doctored my sore foot. I set my phone alarm for 7 pm and immediately fell asleep. The bed was comfortable, the room dark and quiet. I don’t even remember my head touching the pillow. The jarring noise of my phone woke me from a sound slumber. I really wanted to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep but I resisted. I quickly changed into clean new clothes and shoes and and returned to the track.

It’s amazing what a little bit of quality sleep will do for one’s physical and mental ability. I felt so much better after what essentially was a simple power nap – I really needed those 2 hours of sleep. From that point on, the only breaks I took were to visit the bathroom, change my shoes, or put my feet up for 10 minutes or so. I soon reached 100 miles and decided that next I wanted to get to at least 121 miles by Sunday morning. My 48 hour PR was 120 miles several years ago at UltraCentric in Grapevine, TX. It would be great if I could beat my own record, especially now that I was older and slower. I cannot remember at what time I reached that goal but I was still feeling pretty good, though my blistered foot was starting to bother me again. I realized that 200k was within my reach if I kept moving. I mentioned to another runner that my husband was supposed to show up at 8 am and when he does I will probably leave. However, by that time I was too close to 200k to stop. I persisted until I finally reached 125 miles (201k) and I carried the little 200k pennant around the track once more as the few remaining runners cheered me on. What a rush that was for me! I’m told that 125 miles is the USA age-group record for women 70-74. If accurate, that is even more reason to celebrate.

My mantra during races is “stagger onward rejoicing” (from W. H. Auden’s poem Atlantis) and that certainly kept me going here. I also remembered my friend Joyce’s advice to take occasional short breaks but stay on the course and keep moving. Joyce never seems to stop, even when she is exhausted, and as a result she often finishes in the #1 spot because of her persistence.   I have a fair amount of stamina and stubbornness but I tend to give up when I am too cold, wet, or tired. In this race I was only tired, so it was easier for me to keep moving and motivated.

Another bonus to this race – the buckle for achieving at least 100 miles is also personalized. I have several 100 mile buckles but this is the only one that has my name on it!

As I mentioned earlier, the 6 day race is currently taking place and I have a number of running friends who are now attaining major mileage numbers. I want to send lots of positive thoughts to Sally, Kevin, Jimmie, Doyle, Joe, Dr. Lovey, and all the other runners and walkers in the 6 day event.

Someday, maybe, I will try a six day race, but for now I will enjoy cheering on everyone still moving forward.

 

Southern Discomfort Resurgence – July 27, 2019 (Albany, GA)

Last year, stress fractures prevented me from doing my best at Southern Discomfort. I was overly cautious after spending 4 months in a boot and I left the race after only 10 hours on the course and less than 25 miles . It was an abysmal showing for a 24 hour event but I look back on it now as a wise decision.  Because I was overly cautious then about listening to my body to prevent further injury,  I managed to do 7 races between September 2018 and June 2019 without any major problem.

I eagerly anticipated this year’s Southern Discomfort (SD) because I planned to stay on the course the full 24 hours, taking rest breaks, and changing shoes and clothes as needed. As an added bonus, I would get to see my friends Joyce and Ray again, since Joyce had signed up for the 30 hour option. I had no goal in mind other than to get to at least a 50k (but of course I really wanted to do as many miles as I possibly could).

This year, as in previous years, the weather was hot and humid (no surprise there – what else could I expect in Georgia in July?) but unlike the course at The General and The Mrs. in Omaha, GA, the 1.1074 mile paved loop in Albany is partially shaded and almost completely flat. The 6, 12, 24, and 30 hour races all begin at 7 am (an hour earlier than previous years), although 6 and 12 hour people have the option to begin in the evening (and several took advantage of the relatively cooler evening hours).

As I’ve noted in previous reports about SD, there is a lot to like and that is why I come back every year. Race directors Kelli and John have all the essentials down to a science; it’s hard to believe this is only the race’s third year. Usually packet pickup is at the race site on Saturday morning before the races but this year we could also get our packets on Friday afternoon at Pretoria Fields Microbrewery in downtown Albany. In addition to bib with chip, soft cotton-blend tee shirt, cap, and bag, we received a coupon for a free pint of beer. I couldn’t resist that offer so I enjoyed a pint of Rye Charles IPA (highly recommended) while chatting with other racers.

After packet pickup we checked into our hotel, the Hampton Inn near the Mall, and had a satisfying early dinner at Olive Garden. I slept fairly well (unusual for me before a race) and was anxious to get to the race site at Chehaw Park. We met up with Ray and Joyce, said hi to Anne, Sue, Drina, and Mike, and on the dot of 7 we were off. The early morning hours were pleasant, with a cool breeze, but as the afternoon wore on, the sun became oppressive. To survive, Joyce and I decided to do two laps and then a ten minute break. That plan managed to get us through the hottest hours of the day.

The well-staffed aid station had cold water, Tailwind, and lots of food, though I really didn’t have much of an appetite except for the watermelon and pizza. Although I had one bout of indigestion, it was quickly resolved by an Alka-Seltzer (thanks, Ray). I’ve decided that some of my previous digestive problems during races were caused by not eating enough protein so I made sure to consume some protein-hearty meals several days before the event.

Once I reached 50k, I felt relieved. My next goal was 50 miles and I achieved that sometime during the night. Most of the time after that is a blur and I kept going around and around, changing shoes when my feet started to hurt, resting occasionally, but mostly just going in circles, checking my lap count occasionally to be sure it was going up.  At some point, I began walking with Charlie, a young pilot from Fort Rucker in Alabama, who was going for his first hundred miles. He asked if he could use me as pacer for his last 3 laps and I said ‘sure’ – he was keeping a comfortably fast pace and that helped motivate me during those wee morning hours when I would otherwise be trudging slowly and looking for excuses to rest.  When he reached his 100 (and received his buckle), I had completed about 65 miles (yea!) and continued on but more slowly. As morning dawned and I was prepared to stop, Darcy arrived. When I asked at the timing tent about my mileage, I was told I was in FIRST PLACE (female) for the 24 hour! That spurred me on for one more lap; I finished with 68.65 miles, the best I’ve achieved in the past 1.5 years. I received a neat plaque as an award, plus a finisher beer glass (for completing at least 100k), and a painting done by a rattlesnake (a gift for all participants).

I would highly recommend this race for walkers and runners; it remains one of my favorites.

Hotter than H_ _ _ !! General and the Mrs. Run for the Heroes at Omaha (Omaha, GA)

Heat doesn’t usually bother me a bit, and I certainly prefer warm weather to cold, but this weekend’s race nearly did me in. Pity the poor runners who signed up for the 72 hour race; some – like strongman Kevin – did amazingly well, with over 200 miles at last count, while others suffered in the oven-like heat. Even my friend Sally, who wins practically every race she enters and, as a fellow Floridian, is accustomed to hot weather, decided to call it a day after reaching the 100 mile point. I was glad, under these circumstances, that I only registered for the 12 hour race, but even 12 hours was too much for me.

The course is a .85 miles loop located behind Omaha Brewery, a wonderful oasis in western Georgia farm country near the Alabama border. Although the terrain is primarily dirt and dust, there are a couple of small roots sticking upright or looping across the track. Of course, I managed to stumble over them and had to watch my footing carefully, especially as the day wore on and I got more fatigued. While the 72 and 48 hour participants started at 2 pm on Thursday and Friday respectively, those doing the 12 hour with me began Saturday at 8 am. This gave me a good 4 hours before the sun reached its zenith and during those hours I was feeling strong.

However, by 1 pm the heat intensified, and the few steep inclines and descents began to feel like mountains. I could feel myself huffing and puffing as I chugged up and coasted down them. There is no shade on the course except for a few places under the surrounding trees. On my way around the loop, I realized I was stopping in every one of those little spots to catch my breath and remove myself from the sun’s direct glare. My hopes of achieving a 50k in under 10 hours quickly dissipated. I decided a marathon distance would be achievable without requiring a trip to the ER, so I reconsidered my goal.

By 4 pm I must have looked sickly and pale because RD Kena approached me and asked if I wanted to sit in her air-conditioned car for a bit. I took her up on her generous offer. She also encouraged me to drink some electrolyte solution and had me check in with Doctor Joe, the MD on call, to make sure I wasn’t suffering from heat exhaustion. I decided to do a couple more laps to make sure I had at least 26.2 miles and then decided to call it a day. I collected my medal (a useful bottle opener) and thanked Kena and her crew for a fun if dramatically overheated race. Darcy and I packed up my chairs and drop bag and repaired to the air-conditioned brewery where we absorbed some of the local color by eating delicious food from the two food trucks, drinking excellent beer, and listening to live music.

In the future the race will probably be moved to a cooler time of year and that would certainly be a blessing. Whether I do the General and the Mrs. again is uncertain but I will definitely visit Omaha Brewery whenever I’m in the area.

Other things to note:

  • The tee shirt is a comfortable short-sleeved cotton in a subtle yellow color
  • There is no hotel or large grocery store nearby. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Columbus, which made it a 45 minute drive to and from the race site
  • There is one aid station with all kinds of ultra goodies, plus grilled sandwiches, hot dogs, and hamburgers, water, soda (including ginger ale), electrolyte solutions. About halfway around the loop is a table set up with ice water and electrolyte drink and I made it a practice to stop there quite a few times
  • There were 2 portapotties on the course and 4 at the start/finish line. Despite my decision to only do races with real bathrooms, I made an exception in this case. I wanted to have something in-between Operation Endurance in March and Southern Discomfort in July and this seemed to fit
  • The race has 1, 6, 12, 24, 48, and 72 hour options but only the 12 hour started in the morning. The other races began at 2 pm
  • If you are going to be racing during the evening hours, be sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight. I was told it was extremely dark during the nighttime.
  • The races are a fundraiser for the Chattahoochee Valley Chapter of House of Heroes, so registration fees and monies raised by runners goes to a great cause

Results have not yet been posted but I was told I completed 27 miles. Despite my love of hot weather, I was not sufficiently acclimated to walking in 100 degree heat for an extended period of time. My usual training walks had purposely been in the early morning hours before sunup. This race experience made me realize that I need to do some serious heat training, especially if I want to do well at Southern Discomfort in late summer, another hot weather race.

Operation Endurance 24 Hour Race – March 23, 2019 (Columbus, GA)

Some races are just a lot of fun and I enjoy returning to them repeatedly. That’s how it is with Operation Endurance. This was my third attempt at the 24 hour and would have been my fourth if not for the stress fractures that sidelined me last year. I’ve also done the 12 hour version and found that to be near perfect, but stubbornness keeps me signing up for the longer race.

This year our usual hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, was full so we stayed at the Hampton Inn near Fort Benning and that turned out to be a good choice. It was very close to the race site (which is on the base) and the room was quiet and clean. The only negative was the lack of close-by restaurants but since there were several good brew pubs downtown, that was not really a problem. In fact, one of the highlights of this trip was the opportunity to have dinner and drinks with my friend and race director Kena and her BFF Stephanie at Nonic’s. The draft beer list at Nonic’s was extensive and I had a very satisfying IPA flight as well as a huge pretzel with beer cheese and mustard. However, the next day – during the race – I realized that I probably did not consume enough protein and, as a result, I encountered some digestive queasiness that might have been prevented with a heartier meal. But it seems no matter how many races I do, I always learn something I might have done better or differently.

On Friday afternoon, we stopped at the visitor center to get our weekend passes. Without a pass, one cannot enter the base, and it is so much easier and less crowded to stop the day before the race than the morning of. The weather was supposed to be clear and cold (40’s) at night and mid-70’s during the day, so I had to bring a variety of clothes so I could add and subtract as needed. Fortunately, there was NO RAIN and that was a blessing. However, the early mornings and late evenings were much colder than usual for this date in Columbus, and I was dressed in my usual 6 layers until the sun was up.

The track at Stewart Watson Field is just shy of a mile so it is necessary to do more than one lap to achieve one mile. After doing track ultras (where a mile is almost 5 laps), at first the miles seemed to come quickly but that sensation did not last long. A mile is still a mile. The course is relatively easy on one’s feet because of the packed dirt. I wore my gaiters to keep out the occasional pebble or two but I had no real problem with my feet or legs.

I did have a problem with my back, however. For some reason that I still cannot understand, I woke up race day morning with pain in my lower back. The bed at the hotel was a typical comfortable Hampton Inn bed so I can’t attribute the pain to my sleeping arrangement. I didn’t pick up or move anything heavy the day before. I seldom have back pain and have no idea as to why this happened. It did not stop me from starting the race, however, and I found that the very flat course did not make the pain worse, so I was able to continue racing for a total of 16 hours, broken into two segments. Yes, I succumbed as I often do when I get wet or cold or hurt and decided to spend the night in the hotel. My friend Mellody was doing the 12 hour and she generously offered me a ride back to our hotel and I decided to go (at that point I had completed 41 laps). I showered, ate several slices of pizza, drank some chocolate milk, brushed my teeth, and retired to bed. After 4 hours of sleep, I was ready to go again. My back was still sore but at least I was clean and rested.

It was freezing cold at 4 am on Sunday morning when I returned to the course but I was able to move steadily and consistently. I did not stop at all until I had it the 50 mile mark. Then I slowed down just a little but kept moving. During the still dark hours of the morning, I saw about 30 animals cross the course from one side to the other – these animals looked to be the size of medium -sized dogs and I thought perhaps they were coyotes. Only a few other runners were on the course at that time and we were all spaced far apart. At first I thought I might be hallucinating but when I caught up with the racer ahead of me (I was moving fast because I was nervous being out there alone with what might be wild animals!), I asked him if he had seen the animals too. He had (good!) and I was both relieved and apprehensive. When finished that lap, I asked Kena what these strange critters could be and she thought they were feral pigs, evidently a common animal in these parts. It was a neat experience once I knew the answer.

Other important stuff – our shirt this year was a light green cotton-poly short-sleeved tee, nice to add to my collection of Operation Endurance shirts. The race has a 6 hour and relay option in addition to the 12 and 24. Best of all, Smith Gym is open from 9 to 5 on Saturday and we can use their real bathrooms. If it had been open during the entire 24 hour period, I probably would have hidden there during the coldest part of the evening. There are also 3 portapotties but I much prefer the real bathrooms and I don’t care if I must walk a little bit to get to them. The aid station has typical ultra food, including pizza in the early evening.

The final results are not yet posted so I don’t know how I ranked, but I did manage to complete 57 laps which should equal 56 miles.

FastTrack Revisited (Palatka, FL) – January 19, 2019

In some ways, this year’s FastTrack was a much better experience for me than my previous race here. The weather was terrible – hot and humid on Saturday, rainy and windy Saturday evening – and I had several bad blisters, but overall I had a much better time this year than in 2018.

The race offers 3 options – a 6 hour, 12 hour, and 24 hour – and I once again did the 24 hour. Although the track is rubberized, the footing is harsh and feels like rough pavement (probably the reason I developed blisters on the soles and sides of both feet) but I didn’t have to worry about falling on the flat surface and gaiters kept the occasional pebble and other debris out of my shoes.

Around 7 am Saturday we set up my chairs and drop bags, and while we waited for pre-race instructions, I had a chance to chat with other racers. One of the best things about the race this year was visiting with some of my ultra friends, including Drina and Mike, Kevin and Annie, Doyle, Jimmie, and his wife Debra. Later in the day, my friend Kay, the RD of Perpetual Motion, arrived to do the 12 hour and we did several laps together.

The race began promptly at 8 am and we headed counterclockwise around the 398 meter track. Every four hours, we changed direction to give our legs and feet, as well as our minds, a break. I’m now used to the exasperating notion of having to do 5 laps to get one mile, so I never bothered to keep track of my numbers, instead relying totally on Mike Melton’s excellent timing system. As usual, my initial goal was to get to a 50k. That took me almost 9.5 hours. My only breaks were to visit the rest room twice. The cloudy and cool morning quickly gave way to a sunny 80 degree day; there is no shade on the course and the heat and humidity affected most of us.

Around 5 pm, Darcy arrived with coffee, chocolate milk, and tostadas and that gave me the opportunity to take a brief rest break to eat and drink real food. The blisters on my feet were starting to really bother me so I used this time to change shoes. Fifteen minutes later and I was back on the track. In addition to the food and drink, Darcy brought me a bag with my rain gear. My initial plan was to stay the entire 24 hours moving forward and – if it did rain (there was a 90% chance predicted) – I would put on rain pants, change my shoes and socks, and just keep going. At least that was my plan.

However, by the time the rain began around 8:30, my blisters were causing me to change my gait. I kept pushing through regardless, ignoring the pain as best I could. By 10:30 I was soaked to the skin. I gave serious thought to changing into my rain pants and putting on dry shoes and socks, but I was concerned that once I took off the wet shoes and socks, I would not be able to put dry shoes and socks back onto my bruised and irritated feet. I texted Darcy to come get me and when he arrived 15 minutes later, I turned in my ankle chip to Mike at the timing tent, assuring him I would return in the early morning to finish the race. By the time I left I was up to 47 miles.

What a blessing to return to the hotel for a shower, dry clothes, and a few hours of sleep! I manage to puncture a huge blister on my left foot but the blisters on the sole of my right foot were far too deep. When I rose at 3:30 Sunday morning, I felt much better, still sore, but ready for a few more hours of racing. I was back on the course by 4:30, and by the 8 am race finish I had managed to complete almost 60 miles (59.8 to be exact) in a total of 18 hours on the course. It was a better result than last year’s FastTrack, when I only achieved 53 miles.

We once again stayed at the local Hampton Inn, which was quiet, clean, and convenient. Although there are several local restaurants, we ate our Friday evening meal at Chili’s, mostly so I could stay with a familiar food regimen. Overall, it was a good experience, inclement weather notwithstanding.

 

The Tallahassee UltraDistance Classic, Marathon Version – December 8, 2018 (Wakulla Springs State Park, FL)

I’ve lost track of how many TUDC 50ks I’ve done. It was my very first ultradistance race and it was where I had a personal best (7:03) several years ago. Every year I can count on seeing the same friendly faces of numerous running and walking friends (Mellody, Julie, Deb, Vicky, Gary, and others), along with several ultramarathoners new to TUDC who have heard about the race and want to try it for themselves (including Phil, Elena, and Kim). It’s just a 45 minute drive for me but for those who come from farther away, lodging is available right at the start/finish line.

We were fortunate this year because the weather was cloudy and in the upper-40’s to start and the mid-60’s at the end, with no rain and minimal sun. The course is entirely paved and consists of a 10k loops on roads closed to traffic. There is plenty of space to set up drop bags or use your car as a personal aid station. This year, a marathon distance was added and, to make it easier on myself, I signed up for the shorter distance. Those doing the 50 miler have to do 8 laps, those running the 50k must do 5 laps, but marathoners only have to do 4 laps with a brief one-time additional loop at the very beginning. That worked out fine for me. I enjoy seeing my friends and the park is a wonderful example of old-time Florida. But the course includes 2 out-and-backs and the longer one seems to go on forever. After 26.2 miles, I was happy to finish.

The volunteers are wonderful, the race is chip-timed, and there is plenty of food and drink at the three aid stations. There are also real restrooms at the start/finish. There is a 10-hour time limit for all races. The race directors try to find something different for a premium instead of the usual race tee shirt. Last year we received a wonderful warm hoodie. This year’s gift was a long-sleeved hooded tee shirt with the Creature from the Black Lagoon on the front (movie aficionados will recall that the underwater scenes in the 1954 movie of the same name was filmed in Wakulla Springs). Marathon finishers received a ceramic medal with the Creature and date on it.

Fortunately, I had no major foot problems, although my left big toe (the broken one) gave me some painful moments. When I do timed ultras, I purposely try to keep my pace comfortably easy and consistent because I want to last the requisite 24 hours or so. However, when I do a half or a full marathon, I push myself harder and walk faster – I know I can’t dawdle or I won’t make the time limit. Of course, at TUDC, I knew I could manage a marathon in under 10 hours but since I hadn’t done a marathon since January 3 of this year (when I completed the last of the Lucky 13 Ocala marathon string) I felt rusty. I wanted to try and finish in under 7 hours, just to see if I could. I was pleasantly surprised to cross the finish line in 6:39.

Next year, who knows? I may return to the 50k or stick with the marathon distance. In either case, the TUMC is definitely a race to do again and again