Thursday, May 29, 2014

Great Savannah Endurance Challenge

I don't really know where to start with this race report.  My goal for months has been to break 120 miles in the 24 hour and qualify for the national team.  This weekend I broke 133 miles...national team spots go to the top performances so I'm not guaranteed a place, but I have a chance.  I also set a new GA state women's record, and hit new PRs in the 50 mile (7:59), 100K (9:59:15), and 100 mile (17:09).  I should be incredibly excited, but to be honest I'm just numb.  I'm exhausted, as I still haven't been sleeping or eating as much as I should since the race.  Also I'm half-convinced that this didn't really happen, or somehow doesn't really count.  I'll need official confirmation with USATF before I can believe it.  And of course then there's my normal post-race depression/emotional lability.  I'm tempted to wait until it all "sinks in" before writing a race report, but I probably should do it while it's pretty fresh in my here goes!

Saturday morning I got to sleep until past 5am- benefits of actually getting to run an ultra in my own town!  Alec and I got out to Hutchinson Island by 6am and set up my things along with my Lowcountry Ultras buddies, Tim, Bren, and Sara.  Besides having Alec to crew, I also had my friend Katie, who would take over for Alec while he ran his 6-hour race during the night.  On top of that support I had quite a few other friends running and volunteering, which always helps!  I still started crying from nerves before the race started though.

I had a pretty good plan for the race, written down for Alec and Katie.  I knew the slowest part of the day should be from about noon to 6pm, as that would be the hottest time.  Each lap was 2.213 miles (although GPS showed it shorter, that's what USATF certified it at- so I defer to their measurement!), and my number 1 goal was 60 laps- 132.78 miles.  I would attempt 3 laps/hour from 8am-noon, then 2 laps/hour from noon-8pm, 3 laps/hour from 8pm-2am, and the remaining 14 laps in the last 6 hours.  I didn't think it would shape up exactly like that, and I thought it unlikely I'd make the 60 lap goal, but it would be something to shoot for.

I began the race running with Bren.  We started out a bit fast, first mile around a 8:00 pace, but I needed to burn off a bit of adrenaline anyway.  I was feeling good and moving consistently the first few hours, eating a gel every odd hour and some Ensure and bacon (and getting sprayed with sunscreen) at the 2 hour mark.  I even ended up getting an extra lap in those first 4 hours- 13 laps total.

At the 4 hour mark I was around 28 miles, and I hit my first low point of the race.  It had gotten hot and I wasn't able to get food down, and I panicked.  I started crying, convinced I was about to have a repeat of the SC ultra.  Alec talked me down a bit and helped me change into a white long-sleeved shirt and my wide-brimmed hat.  I got a bottle of Tailwind and headed out on a walking lap.  I was feeling nauseated and upset, but Andy walked with me a bit and he's always a welcome distraction!  By the next lap I was running again.

I was dealing well with the heat with my hat and an icy bandanna, and was able to keep eating and moving at a good pace- after 2 laps in hour 5 I was up to 5 laps every 2 hours.  I hit 50 miles at 7:59 in, which was about a 20 minute PR for me and gave me a bit of a boost.  This whole section is a bit of a blur for me- I mainly ran alone during this section, and I just kept moving, eating, applying sunscreen, and soaking my bandanna.  Throughout the day I also alternated a bottle of water with a bottle of Tailwind, drinking a half bottle per lap.

At 9:41 in I watched Bren hit his 100K split, setting a new state record!  At that point I was one lap behind and I decided to book it to try to get 100K under 10 hours.  No real reason but 9:59 sounds better than 10:01 or whatever!  I managed an 18-minute lap to hit the split at 9:59:15.  That was actually a female age group state record as well, although only by default as there was no time on the books for the 18-34 age group!  After that my quads felt a bit sore (the left one still is a little), so I took an easy lap to recover a bit.  

Alec did a spectacular job crewing for me all day, as always- making sure I was eating and drinking, and keeping me cool throughout the heat.  Katie was a great help as well, and she took over more crew duties as it got closer to 8pm.  Alec was running the 6 hour race from 8pm-2am, and as it was his first ultra he was getting a bit nervous as the start approached.

At the halfway point I was in the middle of lap 33, which was ahead of my schedule still, but I wasn't feeling energetic enough to up my pace to 3 laps per hour so I was happy to have a bit of a buffer.  I switched back to my singlet and visor at this point, and grabbed my headlamp as the sun went down.  I kept at my pace of about 5 laps every 2 hours during this section, and Alec zoomed by a few times as well- he burned himself out a little but ended up killing his race with over 37 miles! Katie walked with me a bit too, which was great company.

Keeping to my steady pace I hit my 100 mile split at 17:09, nearly a 2 hour improvement over Delirium- although to be fair I spent quite a few hours just straight walking during that race.  With nearly 7 hours left in the race it was looking more and more like I would make my goal of 120+ miles.  I got a little emotional thinking about that, crying a little and asking people if this was really happening...

With 6 hours to go I needed 14 more laps to make my 60 lap goal, so I needed to push myself just as I was tempted to slow down.  I whittled away at the laps until I only had to do 2 per hour for the last 2 1/2 hours...during the night I was taking occasional walking breaks and still making laps in under 25 minutes, so I was doing fine on time.

In the last few hours I was in a lot of pain.  I could feel a large blister on the ball of my right foot, and every step I took was killer.  Alec did some laps with me and kept me moving, so I kept powering through at a decent pace although I was also crying a little at the same time.  I held it together for a while, although at one point I just broke down at the aid station and let out a wail...I think some of the people around me were really concerned at that point!  I also started getting really hungry for the first time in hours, and enjoyed a warm pancake from the aid station every few laps.

Finally the sun came up, and I had less than 2 hours to go!  I just kept going, trying to block everything out.  At 7am I was mumbling, "just one more hour, 
one more hour" as I limped/jogged around the track.  Just around 7:30am I headed out on lap 60!  I picked up a bit of a posse at the end to get my partial lap after that- Alec, Sara and Katie came out, plus Verity who had come back to see the end of the race.  There were also some Savannah Striders who came out from the bridge run and cheered me on at the end!  I finished the lap and kept going until the end- Verity counted down the last few minutes as I tried to push up the pace to get as many additional meters as I could.  When she yelled "time" I stopped short and didn't move until Dan got there with the measuring wheel for my official distance.  It was finally over, and I knew I had done over 132 miles- I started sobbing as my friends hugged me.

Once the distance had been measured and documented, Bren drove his truck up and gave me a ride back to the start- I pretty much refused to walk any more!  After getting my buckle and getting ready to go I suddenly got really nauseated and lay down on the ground.  I think that freaked Dan out a bit since he had someone come over with a med kit to check my blood pressure and pulse!  But after a couple minutes I hobbled to the car with Sara's help, while Alec packed up the car.  After all that I went home and pretty much just laid down for the rest of the day.

I'm still just exhausted and emotional and confused about the whole race.  I can't believe it happened, and that I did so well.  I have a hard time thinking of myself as a really good runner, but this race result puts me in the top 10-15 women in the country in the 24-hour.  I have a decent chance at making the national team in 2015.  I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around that.  I recognize I'm in a weird emotional place right now, but hopefully I'll be overjoyed about the race once everything settles back to normal...

I am so thankful to have such amazingly supportive runner friends- there is no way I would have run so well without their help.  I definitely don't think it's a coincidence that I've had my best races while surrounded by my Lowcountry Ultras family.  And of course I am so grateful for my amazing husband...he's gotten really good at this whole crewing thing!

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