Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Race report: Running in circles at the Presque Isle 12 hour

As I write this, in many ways I remain stunned on how this turned out. I didn't do this alone. Runners, and more specifically ultrarunners, never hesitate to share their experiences and knowledge on the "how to" of going long. I give credit to community over at the coolrunning.com's Ultra & Trail forum for the insight on the 12 hour loop run. Ask any question of these folks and you're sure to get a solid answer. Thank you, Coolrunners.

The event: PRESQUE ISLE PERSONAL ENDURANCE CLASSIC Saturday, October 21, 2006 Presque Isle State Park, Erie, PA hosted by the Erie Runners Club. Per their website:

PURPOSE: The purpose of this unique event is to invite any person to run/walk a distance beyond that which he/she has previously achieved, and thus establish what will be referred to as a Personal Endurance Record. This event is designed to support and assist individuals in their endurance efforts by creating a comfortable, relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Promotion of cardiovascular fitness is the prime purpose of this event. This is not a competitive race. You will be competing with yourself and your own limits and abilities, not those of others. The intent is to challenge each individual's personal stamina by exceeding a previous distance or endurance record.

My purpose? I'm considering moving up to the 100mi distance in 2007. A 12-hour run seems like a logical step in that direction.

Preparation: Running-wise, I averaged 40mpw for the preceding 12 weeks. One 3-5mi tempo or speed workout per week, to go along with a long run on the weekend. In September, I added weekly races including 4 races of marathon or longer. The highlight was a back-to-back 50k and marathon weekend. Leading up to the 12-hour, I tapered the long run for three weeks, yet continued the speed workouts.

Pre-race disposition: Last week I started a new position within my company with new hours. By Thursday, I was beat and exhausted. I planned to go up to Erie on Friday night, but was not ready. Instead, I stayed home Friday night to prepare my aid station. Saturday morning became an early 3:30am wake-up call in order to hit the road by 4am and the 110 mile drive to Erie. Although not ideally rested, my gear was good-to-go.

The course: A one mile loop, rectangular in shape with the length about 3 times longer than the width. A flat, scenic loop around a lagoon and with partial views of Lake Erie on both sides of the loop. The surface was an unforgiving concrete paved road (85%) except for the dirt parking lot (15%) which was the start/finish area. On one side of the loop, runners could opt to add another 2-3 tenths of a mile on the grass. All-in-all, there was scenery to break up the monotony but the flat hard surface took its toll. The event was chip timed and every participant was provided mile splits of their performance.

Aid station: My buddy Faceplant and I shared the tailgate of his truck as our aid station. We parked directly in line with the course and we accessed our "aid station" without losing too much ground. I had a cooler, a gym bag full of clothes, and a stool. I found a tool box with compartments that worked just fine for all the odd-and-ends such as gels, capsules, mp3 player and the like. The box gave me quick and easy access to everything, including the all important S-caps. My main liquid was the CLIP, which I prepped on Friday night and kept chilled and ready to go in 20oz bottles.

The goal: Earlier this year, my furthest run was 70 miles at the Laurel Ultra. I wanted to surpass that. I picked the arbitrary sum of 72 miles since it equaled the round number of 10 minutes per mile pace.

The plan: A run/walk ratio of 25/5 minutes. Stay on 6 mile per hour pace. Do this for 4 hours and go from there.

Index card: I made a "cheat sheet" index card and taped it to the top of my tool box. It simply read:

- 200-250 CAL
- 1 cap per hour
- 20oz H2O
- Have fun

Nutrition: Imagine all of your favorite foods set up at your own personalized aid station. I picked out all of my favorite ultra foods and beverages and set it all up. My magic number for ultras is 250 calories per hour. So for 12 hours I needed to consume about 2750-3000 calories. Here's what I had:

CLIP2 - 5 pks (750 cal)
GU gels - 7 pks (700 cal)
Trail Mix - about 2/3 bag (approx 1200 cal)
Pretzels (150 cal)
Sugar Free Red Bull - 3 cans
Chilled grapes - 3 lbs
Coke - 20oz
Turkey Wraps

For sodium, 1 Succeed capsule per hour (12 total)

I prepped smaller portions of the trail mix, pretzels, grapes, and wraps into sandwich bags, which made it easier to grab and keep moving. Along with the CLIP and gels during the run, I managed to eat some solid food (mostly trail mix) during each and every walk break.

Medications: 2x Tylenol 8hr (3hr mark) and 1x 200mg Ibuprofen (10hr mark.) Depending on how you look at it, I'm blessed (or cursed) with a tolerance for pain. No major injuries or pains and I only use meds during the long ultras. I feel lucky that that is all I needed on this day.

The 3-mile cycle: It didn't take long to fall into a routine. From the very first hour I employed a 3-mile and sometime a 4-mile cycle. After a 5-minute walk (0.3mi) to start the cycle, I ran the rest of the 3 loops (2.7mi) before walking again. Repeat. The cycle took about 30 minutes each. One of the coolrunners gave me a tip that I used as a mantra in the early miles. The fella assured me that walk breaks were, "Money in the bank."

Miles 1-10: The weather was mid 40s with light winds and ideal for a long run. I didn't quite have my bib pinned on when the run started and got going 90 seconds behind everyone else. That suited me just fine as was able to say my first "good morning" to everyone along the way on the very first loop. It was dark enough that I wore the headlamp for the first 4 miles. These early miles went by fast. As I approached mile 10 in 1:28, I did the quick math and discovered I'm on an 80 mile pace.

To the marathon (26mi): I forgot to stretch at the first hour, but at 2 hours I took my first stretch. I used standing static stretches of each of the major leg muscles and the ITB. Then self-massaged with "the stick" to keep the muscles limber. Once per hour, I invested 3-4 minutes on stretching. I reached 20 miles in 2:58 and still on good pace. Using the cycles, it was easy to pick out simple intermediate goals in 3 mile increments. As I approached mile 26, however, I picked up the pace a bit. Over the course of the day, I found myself more motivated to move forward as I approached milestone numbers such as 26, 31, 40, 50, and 62. The day became a numbers game. First marathon done in 3:50.

31mi in 4:34: At 4 hours I finally added my Ipod. The tunes must have energized me as some of my fastest miles of the day were between miles 29-31 in 7:51, 7:38, and 7:29. I didn't get an exact split at the 50km, but I would have broken my previous best of 4:39 at Punxsutawney.

40mi in 5:59: I reached the 5 hour mark at the end of lap 34 and decided to change shoes to a new pair. Yahoo. I was still working the plan, eating and drinking on my walk breaks, and moving along okay. I pushed on knowing I was still less than halfway complete. I reached 40mi in 5:59 and although I remained on 80mi pace, I knew I could not keep it up for another 6hrs.

50mi 7:37: One of the pleasant surprises of this event was discovering the 5oz flask. Normally on the trail, I carry one or two 20oz bottles. Not needed on this day. I went with the 5oz flask and it became easy to fill on each lap. I made it a point to drink it all before the end of the lap. It seemed to work. Quick math: 6mph x 5oz = consuming 30oz per hour. Not bad for a cool day. The pace started to slow a bit, but not much. I reached 50mi in 7:37 (another PR) and still on 79 mile pace. It helped having these intermediate checkpoints.

Caffeine: Having only 4 hours sleep, caffeine became my friend early on in the day. I took a Red Bull at the 4hr, 7hr, and 10hr marks of the run. A 20oz Coke pulled me out of a low point at the 9hr mark.

62mi 9:43! I've yet to run 100km, but I'd be hard pressed crack sub-10 hours anywhere else. Miles 50-62 were the slowest of the day and I had several moments where I questioned my existence. I asked some familiar questions of myself. Why this was important? Why not just pack it up and call it a training run? Why this, why that? Late in the day, the field of runners started to thin out resulting in less people to feed energy off of. The run became hard.

This run was never a race, but the timers made sure I knew my position on the course. At mile 54 I was informed that I was the leader. Faceplant was only a couple laps behind, but wasn't feeling too good and took a nap in the truck. (Oh, the pitfalls of a cozy loop course.) There were a handful of us who ending up with over 60 miles. While I had just met each one of these fellow runners, it felt like I knew them like old friends. I've never participated in a non-competitive running event and was pleasantly surprised at the camaraderie displayed for each other in striving for our common goal.

At some point near the 60 mile mark, I told myself that it's not every day I get to this point in time. When the brain is telling me to stop, my heart is telling me today is the day to do something great. I relied on my marathon mantra in the late miles, "You gotta want it." I had two choices: To pack it in, or to take part in The Gift.

10 hours and beyond: The worst part of the 3-mile cycle is starting up running after the walk break. The legs are most noticeably sore in the first few minutes coming out of the walk. After about 10 minutes running they start to feel okay again. It's funny how it works. Approaching the end of loop 3, several times I had to talk myself out of running a fourth loop. Money in the bank, money in the bank. I continued with the stretching and eating throughout each and every hour.

70mi 11:05! I reached mile 66 in 10:28. After 10-and-a-half hours of running in circles, I finally knew I was going to make my goal of 72 miles. The question now was how many. Something happened here. I don't know if it was me smelling the barn with a mere one hour to go or the Red Bull/Motrin combo kicking in, but I got my ass in gear during the last hour. I hit mile 70 in 11:05 and never looked back. No more walk breaks and I ran the last 7 miles on a mission.

Miles 70-73:

I arrived at mile 73 with 30 minutes left on the clock. Some of the participants had called it the day and were assembled in the parking lot. Their applause fired me up. I saw 11:30 on the clock and said out loud, "Going for 76." Each lap, still filling up and drinking from the little flask that I carried for the entire race. I ran on:

Miles 74-76:

Unreal. I just ran 76 miles in 12 hours. No finish line, no winner, no medals, but the reward was plenty. To run for the sake of running a personal record. And to witness another do the same. It made it all worth it...like money in the bank.

The people: By running in circles like that, I got to meet almost everyone in the field at some point in the run. Folks came of all walks of life, but it didn't matter on this day. It was a coolrunner gathering like no other--we met for 12 hours! I got to meet Michelle from Buffalo, who filled us in with course details, and Frank from the ultrarunning hotbed of Medina, OH. I felt priviledged to not only chat with, but run aside the likes of Ohioans Leo Lightner (age 78,) Art Moore (69) and Fred Davis during the course of an ultra. *I'm not worthy*

Whew. That's a lot of running in circles. On pavement.

Will the trail running gods ever forgive me?


Blogger JenC said...

Absolutely incredible! What a great story! Can't wait to see how you do with 100 miles.

9:07 AM  
Blogger E-Speed said...

all of that on pavement. I cannot fathom how bad my legs would rebel. I am still sore from Chicago and that was only 26.2!

11:25 AM  
Blogger TriSaraTops said...

WOW. That is unbelieveable. Thanks for sharing and hope you find some nice soft trails to recover! :)

9:39 PM  
Blogger Tim Looney said...

Congrats Lloyd. I just read the UR article. No doubt that you have and will continue to inspire me as I head towards Auburn.

10:55 PM  

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