Thursday, July 30, 2015

Round and Round at Montour 24 (12 hour)

Montour is a timed event something completely foreign and new to me. I love single loop trail races or point to point type races. Multiple loops on a track or otherwise scare me. I guess it's the fear of boredom or something. Looped courses just seem mentally harder due to the ease of simply stopping. But on the plus side there is no DNF and you are always so close to supplies and bathrooms. It's about convenience I suppose. So since my A race for the year is Oil Creek 100 in October I decided early on the year that the more looped type races I would sign up for the better. OC100 is a looped course with three 50k loops and one 7.7 mile mini loop.

Signing up for this race was sort of a last minute deal. I was stalking the race but just couldn't get myself to hit the enter button. Until of course I ran Worlds End 50K back in May. That race put on by the same RD David Walker was nothing short of spectacular. I floundered in that race due to the high humidity on race day but the feel and vibe of that race coupled with the jaw dropping beauty of the course and the aid stations and many friends I made there had me all but destined to sign up for the 12 hour day race. It was perfectly set up for a nice training run to work on nutrition and my speed walking skills. I didn't feel I needed the 24 hour event as I didn't need anything over 50 miles. I also had several friends, Ryan and Casey, doing the 24 hour event and Destrie doing the 12 hour night race so I would have plenty of friends there. So off to Danville I went, just a short two hour drive from home.

Casey and the BRCC crew all set up.

I set up my chair and supplies with Casey and his BRCC crew Ken and Dan who came up from Maryland. They were all doing the 24 hour event. I chatted with them while setting up and found Ryan and Lauren set up over near the start. Ryan introduced Lauren a newly transplanted Floridian from Orlando but originally from Chicago who now lives in Philly. This was her first Northeast race and more importantly first PA race. As we stood there chatting we realized the race was about to start and all of a sudden we were off along the wet grass and in to the woods for the first 1.5 mile loop. We chatted some as we jogged along the creek. The course was well shaded, super easy to run, and flat. There was one little hill to climb each loop but it took maybe a minute to climb it each time. Just enough to break it up I thought but I prefer more climbing then more flat running. Before you know it you are back at the start crossing the mat.

I could do this I thought. This won't be so bad as long as it didn't get overly hot and humid. My goal was to run 50 miles. My previous 50 miler at Dirty German in Philly was sort of a mess really. I mean I finished it but it was ugly. That race was unbearably humid and I cramped badly and overheated. This race was to see if I could avoid that fiasco and finish on a somewhat more upbeat note. So that was my simple plan. I would rely on Tailwind and whatever fruit and things would be at the aid station. To my surprise they had single pack servings of Tailwind at the aid station! That was a huge score cause I didn't need to fumble around with scooping it out of my drop box bag. They also had ice cold Tang which rules by the way and fresh brewed ice tea and various cold watermelon and cantaloupe.

Lap after lap went by and I finally glanced at my watch and I was at mile 10 already and running comfortably at an almost tempo pace. I was running too quickly. I knew it and even told Ryan and Lauren I was running too fast. But did I slow down? No not really. Somewhere around this time the heat was creeping in and I suddenly needed to go to the bathroom. This never happens to me. I never use the bathroom in the middle of a run unless I ate something odd. Luckily the bathroom is only 1.5 miles away at worst so again that was nice. That break pretty much killed my running flow and cost me at least 10 minutes but nothing you can do. I did feel better after though and continued the lapfest. I was having a good time passing some folks then they would pass me then I would pass them again. It was Groundhog Day. Every runner was so great cause we would all say hello or give a thumbs up.

Mile 20 came and went and I decided to start the music flowing to keep my mind from focusing on another 30 miles. I was starting to speed walk a little more on the flats and was completely content with that and mixing in running when I felt like it. I was still managing 12-13 minute miles which was plenty fast to get 50 miles in 12 hours. Lauren and Ryan came up to me at one point and Ryan was running strong and went ahead. Lauren convinced me to start jogging with her instead of walking which I did. She had the quote of the day for me, she said "fake run." Apparently her coach who worked with her to finish Ancient Oaks 100 miler gave her that idea. Ya know just fake run which is really faster then a walk but somewhat slower then a jog. I loved it cause I'm not fast at all and have no official track background so I'm a natural in the phony running department. And sure enough to my surprise it worked. I was trying so hard at this point to keep my heart rate in zone 2 and not let it spike like I let it the first 10 miles and the "fake run" idea was keeping it low. She went ahead shortly after that as I slowed down again but that tip was perfect for me and I would use that idea the rest of the way.

That space between a 50k and 50 miles is like a dead zone. Or better yet more like a chasm. It really is fairly wide and you just have to not think about another 19 or so miles. But I was of course. Run walk run walk run walk over and over. The fun part of doing a 1.5 mile loop is that before you can really start feeling sorry for yourself you are crossing the mat again and staring at the aid station again. Then you tell yourself "hey it's only another 1.5 miles, I mean really who can't do that right?" I told my brain this a few times around lap 23 through 26. It was pretty hot and I was almost chugging a mixture of Tailwind, Tang, and Brewed Tea constantly. I was careful not to give myself the dreaded "sloshy belly" but I think I was starting to really get close. Onward I went and almost always walked from the start to the woods line then jogged to and across the planked stream crossing, walked the hill, and walked half of the straightaway then ran the footbridge section and walked a portion of the rooty trail then ran to the finish. I really tried to adhere to this because I needed to keep my mind engaged in some sort of diversion plan once it was clear I had to move to a half speed walk/half jog approach. I also had to make sure my heart rate stayed in zone 2. This after all is 100 mile training and not a race.

I met Bill who is 66 years young sometime in the mile thirties for me. Because of his walking I passed him at least one time each lap.  He didn't run at all ever. He limp walked which resulted in a slow pace. He looked like he was in pain but I'm not sure if he was or not. He didn't appear to be in pain but I could be wrong on this of course. It was rather amazing that he was out here for 12 hours and managed a total of 15 laps. It was nothing short of inspirational. I asked him how he was and he chuckled in a very upbeat tone "kinda slow!" I gave him encouragement and shook his hand introducing myself. Another runner ran by and gave him some love also. This moment right here sums up ultra running for me. The grit and determination this guy had was top notch. I didn't know his life story or why he was out here but it didn't matter because he was doing it. I wished him well and walked away while choking back some tears. I felt really emotional after speaking with him and his gutty performance gave me a lift. I went on the pass him several more times and shouted out to him a few times when I went by and he would raise his arm signaling he was fighting onward. One of the highlights for me during this race was meeting Bill.

Bill getting it done!

Onward and round and round I went. But around mile 40 I simultaneously started to feel a chafing issue coming on along with several blisters on the bottom of my left foot and pinkie toe. The blisters I ignored figuring I'm not going to tend to my feet when I'm almost done. The chafing was really bothersome however and it was in a spot I have never experienced before. Let's just say a very private spot that only my gender has. A spot I failed to apply lube or glide. I ignored it as well for some reason thinking I could block it out. I finished that lap and did another then another then on my thirtieth lap I felt raw and stinging and my mind quit at that point. My mind took control and I was to end on this lap. I strolled across the mat at mile 45 and walked into the aid station and told David I was done. I then proceeded to tell him how much I enjoyed the event and how surprisingly fun it was. I got a bowl of chili, sat down, and ate.
Ryan high on life at mile 40!

I still had 1:26 on the clock when I finished which made me feel really good. It doesn't really matter that I missed my goal by 5 miles. 50 miles is simply a number. I didn't have to prove to myself I could run 50 miles I've already done that. This run was more about feeling better after running such a long distance and I felt pretty darn good, which is good because I had a solo 2 hour drive home. And honestly with almost 90 minutes left on the clock if I really had to I could have cleaned up and gone back out for the extra 5 miles. But 45 is a great training day in my book plus I got to hang out with Destrie, a fellow TrailWhippass teammate, and cheer on Ryan and Casey and his crew for a little bit. It was great day in Danville for sure and I hope to return for the full 24 hour event next year.

Done and happily eating chili.

A few takeaways from this event.

1. I felt pretty good except my hip flexors were really starting to tighten up sometime after the 50k distance and I wasn't used to that. Because of this my stride became short and I really could tell I was starting to shuffle. In hindsight maybe I should have taken a few moments to stretch out or whatever but I foolishly didn't. That will be something to watch for at Labor Pains 12 hour in September.

2. Way to much "lounging" at the aid station. Can't do that in a 100 miler for sure. I should have taken a baggie and filled it then left and ate on the walk to the tree line. But kudos to David and his wife and the volunteers for having such a fantastic aid station where ravenous runners like me didn't want to leave.

3. I need to eat more protein and fat during a long event. I lived on Tailwind and fruit which is fine but toward the 10 hour mark I was craving fatty protein rich foods and I did not address that craving which I should have. The body knows what it wants. Again something to work on.

4. I enjoyed the looped course way more then I originally thought I would. Lucky for me I have another 12 hour event coming up and a 6 hour event. And my fellow runners where so great and fun to cheer on. The convenience of the aid and bathrooms and personal stuff right along the course was huge.

Montour 24 is truly a big gem in a small town in Central Pennsylvania.