Coming out of the Covid-19 induced cancellation of so many races, it was fun to finally take part in an event again, even though the event was substantially reduced in footprint at the last minute. This was my first-ever 12 hour endurance run, setting a new PR for the longest time I've ever ran. It went well and I was pleased with the outcome. Here’s how it went.
The statistics...how far I went each hour and the important distance times:
Hour Total Mileage Segment Mileage
1 5.2 5.2
2 10.3 5.1
3 15.3 5.0
4 20.1 4.8
5 24.8 4.7
6 29.2 4.4
7 32.5 3.3
8 34.7 2.2
9 38.5 3.9
10 41.9 3.4
11 43.8 1.9
12 48.3 4.5
Half Marathon: 2:33:21
48 solo runners started the race. I was the oldest runner in the field. Amazingly, I placed 7th of the 48, was 1st of 3 in the men 60-69 AG and the oldest person ahead of me was 46 years old, who placed 5th. The race was won, outright, by a 33 year old female.
The numbers tell the story. And, in 12 hours of running, 7am to 7pm, much goes through my mind. I’ll spare you most of it. The day came down to two adjustments, though
The race took place at Southeastway Park, a hidden gem SE of Indy. About 200 acres totally surrounded by flat, plain cornfields, this mature, well-planned and tended public park emerges....thousands of lush trees, open space, many picnic areas, three large, modern playgrounds, all tastefully tied together by a series of hard-surface, all-season walking paths. It was scenic and wonderful...in the middle of nowhere. Our race utilized a 1.93 mile loop along the perimeter of the park. It was a great setting for a race. I got there early and backed my car up to the path near the start/finish line. This worked perfectly to grab food and fluids as the day progressed every couple of miles.
The first 50K went quite uneventfully and enjoyably. From the start, I did a 2/1 run/walk pattern, carried 10oz of fluids which I drank and then reloaded every lap and just settled in. No problem...just keep going and I hit the marks you see above.
After getting through the 50K mark though, the wheels started to come off. I started cramping below the knees, not only the usual calf muscle culprits but my left foot and the tiny muscles running along the shin. Yikes. I was not yet to 7 hours and I really wanted to keep going but was not going to in that condition. I racked my brain for similar situations in the past and recalled the seemingly miraculous properties of chocolate milk, which I had in my car. But I’d never drank milk DURING a race, only afterwards. Would it work? I had nothing to lose.
So, just after the 7 hour mark (2pm), I took a break. I got the cooler from my car and my food bag, found a nearby shelter with a picnic table in the shade with a pleasant breeze blowing through. I sat down (wondering if I could get up again) and, in 15 minutes, drank 20 oz of chocolate mile, a 20oz bottle of Diet Coke (the cold and fizz tasted really good), ate a full PB&J sandwich I had packed, changed into dry socks and donned compression sleeves over my calves. I could feel my heart rate come down, my core temp lower and a renewed sense of normal. I packed up and got back on the run, wondering what would happen. Amazingly, I was back to near normal. I logged only 2.2 miles that segment, as I had sat 15 minutes. But I bounced back and was moving, cramp free, feeling new again. I shifted back to a 1/1 run/walk at this point and continued in that way to the end.
(Note: I named my compression socks "Alan Greenspan" years ago...but that's a story for another day. "Alan" was good to me yesterday, though)
The second adjustment happened 3 hours later, just after the 10 hour mark (5pm). While I was still moving comfortably, a real sense of fatigue hit. No cramping or pain but the energy was gone. I decided I needed to rest a bit more, as the core temp was creeping up. Once more, I grabbed what I had planned as my post-race cooler and downed a second round of chocolate milk and Diet Coke, this time with half a PB&J and a whole bunch of salty tortilla chips. Again, the time seated in the shade, refueling and reorienting really helped. I took almost 25 minutes this time, as it had become evident it was more important to finish strong than chase down a fading hope of covering 50 miles.
It seemed to work...while I only covered 1.9 miles in that segment since I sat so long, my final hour on the course was worth 4.5 miles, even at the 1/1 run/walk.
As the time wound down, I crossed the start/stop line with 11 minutes to go, not early enough time to do another full 2 mile lap. But I didn’t want to stop, keen to see just how far I could go in 12 full hours. So I pushed with what energy I had left, using my own watch and Garmin. I smiled and truly enjoyed those final minutes and felt terrific. 48.3 miles...done and happy.
People ask me "Why run?" and running for 12 hours is even more curious. For me, it's about figuring out how to keep doing this thing I enjoy. And this race captured the criticality of thinking, executing, adjusting and tweaking a plan, on the fly. The two adjustments at 2pm and 5pm made the day both successful and fascinating to me. Yeah, it's not everyone's cup of tea but I sure enjoyed it.
A good race. And a fun feature was having my wife and my three best running pals in a text group all day...I posted to them and they connected in such a fun way all day. Virtual fans...they helped urge me on!
Some inconsequential learnings from the day...which I post mostly for my own benefit...skip these unless you are fighting insomnia:
- Food supply. I packed quite a bit of food to take but realized that all carbs aren't created equal. The bananas were perfect, as they usually are. Easy to eat on the run, digest well and no waste. I had one gel which was unsatisfactory. I had some sweeter items...I ate a few Oreos but they didn't sit so well. Tortilla chips were a plus. Not only did I eat a bunch at 5pm but grabbed 5 or 6 on many laps. Licking the salt off my fingers when I was done with them didn't hurt either. Fluidized carbs via both Gatorade and Liquid I.V worked very well.
- A long sleeve tech shirt as sunscreen. I really don't like the feel of sunscreen lathered all over me. Yet, being in the sun all day isn't smart. So, in anticipation of this event, I ordered a couple of lightweight, long-sleeve tech shirts with UPF50 ratings. But, wait, you wear long sleeves in hot weather? I tested them the last couple weeks on afternoon runs in 90F temps (remember...nothing new on race day...). Surprisingly, they worked great. They were big and "billowy", I wore it untucked and thus got a lot of airflow under and over the shirt. Surprisingly comfortable and zero sunburn.
- Drinking big gulps vs sippy cups. In trying to stay hydrated, I observed it was hard to get a big quantity of fluids as I drank from my handheld water bottle while I ran. I tried too modifications
- From my 10oz handheld, I would unscrew the cap and just gulp fluids, rather than taking the small stream through the lid.
- When I refilled at each lap, I often drank from the handheld, refilled, drank again and then filled again to take off.
- In short, I found just taking these big gulps really helped get more fluids down.
- Recharging batteries at a long event. Total nerdness here, but I managed to figure how how to keep my phone, Garmin and bluetooth speakers charged all day. Too much to go into but having a reliable portable charger made all the difference.
So there you go...a full, long Saturday. I was happy to be out racing again, even if the event was officially unofficial. A good 40-50 folks showed up anyway.
Persevere. And make adjustments to keep persevering.