Race Report: FANS 24 Hour Race

Official Results:
Distance: 29.5 mi
Placing:
Overall: 116/147
24 Hrs: 77/84
Gender: 18/19

Watch Results:
Time: 10:24:37 (This includes about 25 minutes of time between when I finished my last lap and when I finally stopped my watch)
Pace: 19:57
Distance: 31.3
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 100 mi
B: 90 mi
C: 75 mi

Food:
What I ate the night before: sesame chicken with brown rice, chicken satay skewers
What I ate on race morning: bagel, Clif bar
What I carried with me: n/a

Gear:
What I wore: to start – tank top, shorts, trucker hat; later changed to t-shirt, shorts, trucker hat
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: There’s nothing like “failure” to make me want to try again.

Also it’s really funny that 9 months ago, I’d never even run a marathon, and now I’m looking at 29.5 miles as failure. Once that thought popped into my head yesterday, I started to feel ok with the results.

I have a long history of quitting when it comes to running. I walked the mile runs in gym class because I didn’t want to put in the effort. I ended up in the duty van in college during ROTC physical training runs far too often, because I would rather quit than be so much slower than everyone else. I DNSd 2 races last year because I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. So in some ways it’s not surprising that I quit this race so early on.

My husband and I drove down to the Twin Cities on Friday afternoon, picked up my packet, and then went to my dad’s to transfer all my supplies to his truck. The plan was: I stay at my dad’s Friday night, he takes me to the race, we set up, he crews me til late afternoon; my husband stays at our hotel Friday night so he can sleep as late as possible, he arrives at the race in the late afternoon to crew me til the next morning. That part worked out pretty well, although I slept really poorly. I must have gotten an hour or two of sleep at some point, but nothing really restorative.

It was 75F at 6:30 a.m., so that was not the best omen. It took about half an hour to drive to the race start, which was really easy to find and had plenty of parking. We unloaded some of the gear, set up the tent, and then I ate a bit before heading over to the start. I should have made sure we unloaded the chairs, so that I could have sat down for a bit before the race started. Not that it really mattered in the end, but still, I was standing and moving around for an hour before the race started. I didn’t warm up, but I wasn’t planning on it.

The race started right on time, and we did a shorter out and back on the path before turning around and starting our first full loop. The trail loops around Snelling Lake and has significant sections of shade, though it also had stretches of full sun. The shaded sections were actually bearable, but when the sun blazed down on me, it sapped away my energy. By noon, the temperature had reached 90F. I know that’s nothing compared to the heat from, say, Western States or Badwater or Marathon des Sables, but I have had zero heat training.

I ran almost all of the first “long” loop (the out & back + the full loop), stopping to walk for 5 minutes so I could finish my Clif bar. I did a few intervals of Run 30/Walk 5, then went to Run 10/Walk 5, and then deteriorated into Walk Slowly/Run Occasionally. The loops all kind of blend together to me, so a traditional recap isn’t going to make a lot of sense.

During (I think?) my 9th loop, I was walking along and heard some cracking noises. I thought it was squirrels or just trees moving in the breeze. Nope. A tree came crashing down about 20 feet behind me, and maybe 15 feet behind a runner coming up to pass me. We looked at each other in shock, then I high-fived him, because what else do you do to celebrate a near miss like that?

The heat was really frustrating to me. I’m so envious of the folks who were still able to run in the heat, and who didn’t seem to have even a touch of sunburn. I was reapplying sunscreen every 1.5-2 hours, and I STILL got sunburned (though not too badly). All I could think about was making it until the sun went down. If I could just hang on, and keep moving forward at whatever slow pace I could comfortably manage, I could rally in the evening.

My friends showed up around the 6 hour mark, and one of them did loops 10-12 with me. My feet were starting to hurt, so I’d changed into my trail shoes to relieve some of the pain from the gravel. The extra support and the rock plate helped a bit, but the bases of both my heels were really hurting. After loop 10, I took my socks off to see what was up. On my left foot was a blister stretching across most of the circumference of my heel. On my right foot was a blister that had formed on top of the remnants of an old blister (from Chippewa Moraine, I think!), about the size of a walnut, puffing out about half an inch. So, no wonder. I lanced them as best as I could, bandaged them up, and started moving again. It didn’t feel amazing but it felt a little better.

I managed 2 more slow laps, talking with my friend, gimping along, and then sat down to rest again and talk with them. They decided to leave, and just as I was gearing up to leave again, my dad told me my stepbrother and sister in law and my 2 nephews were at the park getting their permit. I didn’t think they were coming since it was so hot and my younger nephew had been sick. I decided to stay until they arrived, and then talked to them for a little while, ate some of the snacks they brought me, and then headed out for what I didn’t know would be my final lap, lucky #13. The blister on the right hurt a lot, and I ended up changing my gait to try to accommodate it, which was bad news. I planned to try to tape it up better with some moleskin, and I did, but when I got up to test it out, the chafing on my inner thighs/near my shorts liner really started to sting and burn, despite changing my shorts, cleaning the salt away with wet wipes, and slathering the area with Vaniply and Vaseline.

So I quit. I chose to take the easy way out. Neither the chafing nor the blisters were the worst anyone has seen in the history of chafing and blisters, but I didn’t see any reason to continue and to make them worse. (It’s 2 days later and I’m wearing flip-flops at work, so I’m glad I didn’t in that regard.) I had sort of stopped caring about the race, and there wasn’t much to look forward to, just endless loops. I didn’t want to trudge around in a circle with a stinging crotch for 14 more hours. That was really not going to give me any guidance as to my readiness for a longer race.

It’s funny that in the end, it didn’t even matter that I was undertrained. I was plenty well trained for 29.5 miles! And while the heat really concerned me, I think I managed my hydration well (I only lost a pound at the first weigh-in, and had the same weight at the second weigh-in, probably because I wasn’t running hard), I didn’t have much nausea, and I still had the sense that I could pick it up once the sun went down.

I’m chalking this race up to a learning experience, even if it wasn’t the learning experience I was looking for. There were still a LOT of lessons for me.

  1. Having a crew makes me uncomfortable.
    My dad was so kind and gracious to sit out there in the heat for 10 hours, fill my water bottles, monitor my food, and support me. He kept offering to do other things, like spray me with sunscreen, but it just made me feel more guilty and uncomfortable. I am so used to doing everything for myself, since I usually go to races alone. I spent extra time at my tent because I felt bad that he was by himself. He did enjoy the people-watching; I think he was getting too many ideas from one of the other crews nearby – there were like 7 people crewing one guy and they were like a NASCAR pit crew! No thank you. I think if I do a long race, I won’t enlist a crew until the later stages, when I need extra gear or to get resupplied or something.
  2. Visitors are too much of a distraction.
    It was awesome to have my friends and family visit. But it kept me at the campsite longer than I should have. It was also sort of demoralizing that when I was running with my friend, he was walking. So I walked, too, when maybe I could have run here and there. And I talked, which slowed me down, too. It would have been better if we were both entrants in the race and could meet up, part ways, meet up, and so on.
  3. I brought too much stuff.
    I should have just relied on aid stations. I didn’t need like 75% of the stuff I brought, and again, it kept me in the campsite longer than I needed to be.
  4. Running a marathon doesn’t destroy me physically anymore.
    I’m not walking around much, but that’s mostly due to the blisters, since even without shoes on, they hurt. I have some general soreness in my back and my hips, but that’s it. Granted, I took several long breaks, but I still traveled 29.5 miles.
  5. I’m the slowest walker ever.
    I’m short, and I’m long-waisted. So my legs are not really built for fast walking. But it was hard to be out there, seeing people putting in a similar effort but passing me with ease, or even seeing people struggling and being unable to catch up with them.
  6. Summer is not the time to try new distances.
    I don’t do well in the heat, so I think it’s best left to the spring and fall when I’m trying something new, at least as long as I’m living in Duluth.
  7. I don’t really like timed race formats.
    I like point to point races. I like running a set distance, rather than a set amount of time. I just couldn’t shift my paradigms enough. I really should do more “run for x number of hours” training runs, to try to get into that mindset better.
  8. I will totally do this race again.
    Maybe just one more time, for “revenge.” It was such a cool atmosphere, though! I mean, I got an email from the race director yesterday with the subject line “Well, THAT Happened!” These are my people. The race rules packet was littered with funny, snarky comments. The whole attitude is so relaxed – it’s not full of aggressive, hyper-competitive runners, it’s full of people doing their own thing, whether that’s winning, taking it easy, or doing all their laps in the opposite direction. And the volunteers were so great! Especially the lap counters. My lap counter (a guy for the first 6 hours and a woman for the last 4) were SO cheerful every time I came through, calling out my name and telling me great job. This is a real benefit of a looped course: getting to know the volunteers and making a connection. So many more times to thank them, too.

Now I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m getting a massage tomorrow, and then I’m not running for awhile. At first I said two weeks, but now that I didn’t really go above and beyond in distance, I might amend that. HOWEVER, no running until my feet heal completely. Curnow is in 6 weeks, so I do need to be mindful of that and at least put in a bit of training. Maybe I’ll have a really great performance there, since I didn’t beat myself into the ground this past weekend!

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