Race Report: FANS 24 Hour Race 2019

Little by little, brick by brick.

Official Results:
Distance: 45.4 mi
Pace: N/A, but I tapped out at about 15:14, so 20:08
Placing:
TBD once the results are published

Watch Results:
Time: 15:14:02
Pace: 16:12
Distance: 48.1 mi (once my watch even beeped off a mile while I was sitting in a chair)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
Big distance PR, short laps

Food:
What I ate the night before: Gyro pizza
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese
What I carried with me: gels, mints (I had some Oreo cookies at my tent), water bottle with electrolyte tabs

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, arm warmers for the first few laps, ball cap, hydration vest (without a water bottle – used for storage), buff as headband (in the afternoon)
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: It’s pretty amazing how much the events of the week preceding the race can affect the race itself. The cumulative effects of a rainy and chilly Twins game on Monday, another Twins game on Tuesday that wasn’t rainy or cold but got out late, a lot of deadlines and stress at work, a really poor night’s sleep on Wednesday, air quality issues late in the week that left me feeling sick, and temperatures over 90F on Friday ended up putting me in a significant sleep debt. To cap it off, despite being tired when I went to bed on Friday, at a very decent hour, after avoiding caffeine most of the day (just like I did at Ice Age), my bedroom was so hot and stuffy I couldn’t fall asleep. I had a built-in excuse right from the get-go! Lucky me!

Before this week, I was really excited for the race. I imagined that I was going to really enjoy myself out there, that the shorter loops and the even surface would mean I could really cruise and even walking would be a lot faster. I pictured myself taking selfies with all my friends at the start and having a great time. I even allowed myself to imagine, for a moment, taking a few short loops at the end, dead tired but triumphant. It’s disappointing now to look back at how excited I was the week prior, and how optimistic I was, and see that I let the days preceding the race wholly throw me off my game.

I spent most of Friday preparing for the race, after doing almost nothing earlier in the week. I was just so darn tired. I meant to sleep in as late as possible, but ended up waking up at 7 to feed the cats and had a hard time truly falling back asleep, so I got up around 9. Very annoying, I used to be a champ at sleeping in. I realize that 9 am is sleeping in to a lot of people, but it’s all relative! I felt sick most of the day; my eyes itched and my head felt stuffy. I hoped it was due to the air quality and not due to an illness. Allergy pills didn’t help at all. I felt so listless I didn’t want to run any errands before the race, but I managed to get everything done that I needed to. I bought a bunch of gels (yes, I waited til the day before the race to replenish my gel stash!), picked up some bagels and vanilla Coke, packed my gear bag (I got a free duffel bag at the Twins game on Tuesday, which was the perfect size for my gear), re-stocked my supply kit, and went to packet pick-up to get my number and my t-shirt.

I tried to be as minimalist and self-sufficient as possible for this race. It stresses me out to rely on others for this event. It’s a lot to ask people to get up early/stay up late and sit around bored while I run in loops, whine and grump, and then throw in the towel early. It’s also very embarrassing to me to pack a lot of stuff, set up a tent, etc., and then have to haul it all away in a walk of shame when I tap out before the event ends. So this time, I brought hardly any gear at all, no tent, and I drove myself to the race. I told my dad he could stop by (this was a big mistake for him, because I was cranky every time he got there, which I feel badly about), and my husband came in the evening to support me overnight (the two of them also ferried my car back to our house, so that I wouldn’t have to figure that out later on), but other than that, I didn’t make a big deal of the race or invite a bunch of friends to do loops with me. You would think that this would make it easier to quit, but it actually worked out in my favor. The first year, I quit early in part because I knew that my dad was leaving and that would mean I’d have to haul a bunch of stuff back to his house in the morning, so I chose to quit so that we could send the tent and chairs and stuff back to his place when he left. I find that the more inconvenient a race is for others, the less likely I am to run it, or in this case, complete it. It’s sort of funny because in other spheres of my life, I am pretty self-centered, but in running I can’t seem to muster any of that selfishness.

I showed up to the event at about 7:00, a little later than the year prior, but I didn’t have to stake out a tent location. Instead of bringing my own tent, I was lucky enough to mooch off my friends’ tent. Through my race volunteering adventures, I have made friends with some incredibly awesome people who are also much more serious runners than I am. My friends Jeff and Amy had a whole set-up going, with a canopy, tent, tables, chairs, etc., and right next to them, my friends Tyson and Stefanie had a similar camp. I was able to lug my chair, cooler, tackle box, and duffel bag over to their site in one trip. (One benefit of the last-minute change of venue due to flooding at Fort Snelling: the new location has a parking lot close to the “camping” area.) I took over a little corner at the front of Amy and Jeff’s tent and walked over to get weighed in at the start. (The timing tent was actually about a quarter of a mile from the tent area, which was a little strange. I technically ran like 45.6 miles before giving up, boo, I was robbed of mileage!)

I felt really tired and out of it at the start, and basically wanted to quit right away. I have a serious running attitude problem that I need to fix if I ever want to improve. This self-defeating nonsense that gets inside my head on race day is seriously hampering my fun. Since there was no actual reason for quitting, I soldiered on. My legs felt kind of heavy, which was to be expected because I felt sleepy and because I hadn’t run since the previous Sunday (due to feeling sick/overwhelmed/tired). Overall, things just sucked for the first few miles, but I figured I’d get into a groove and go from there.

The new course is a bit different; it’s much hillier than the Fort Snelling course, and it’s all pavement. It’s also much busier; while I wouldn’t say it was crowded, there were a lot more non-racers on the course at any given time. There’s still a bit of plane traffic overhead since it’s close to the airport, and there was a lot more street traffic noise, since it’s much more urban. While I was glad not to have the painful gravel from Fort Snelling, I didn’t realize how much the asphalt would affect me.

For the first few loops, I used the hills as a natural point to switch from running to walking. I was drinking and eating gels fairly regularly; I didn’t want to get behind on my nutrition since that has been an issue for me in past races. There were Rice Krispie bars at the smaller aid station, and I probably ate three or four of those (or more) throughout the day – they were a bit sticky but they were a nice change from the usual cookies/chips, and they were surprisingly easy to eat, I thought they might be a little dry. The sun came out fairly early on, and while it was much cooler than it had been the day before, I started to heat up quickly. I decided to change my strategy to manage the heat; I told myself I’m here to stay, I’m not going to let myself get overheated, and I started walking entire laps. My friend Amy, who was entered in the 6 hour race but not really racing, joined me for a lap and perked me up. After running along in relative silence for close to 4 hours, I was glad to have her to talk to, and it changed my mental outlook. Talking to her also helped me release some of my expectations and anxieties about the race. I didn’t have to do anything, there was nothing I was supposed to do. I could do whatever I wanted.

I ended up resting a lot between laps, something I hadn’t done in the two previous races. I sat down and put my feet up a few times during the day, just to take the weight off my feet. I was having blister issues, which was unsurprising – I got them in the exact same spots I did at Ice Age, so my feet likely didn’t have a chance to recover entirely. I stopped and dealt with the first batch of blisters, drank some pop, and then got back out there. If this race has taught me anything, it’s that I need to get a much better handle on blister prevention. Time to start experimenting with the tips from Fixing Your Feet.

I thought things were going better for me after I taped up my feet, but then I got either sweat or sunscreen in my eyes. It doesn’t matter which, it just matters that it hurt like crazy and the sun and wind didn’t help. One eye was burning so badly that I had to run about half a mile with it mostly closed, tears running down my cheeks. I had to stop for probably 20 minutes to rinse out my eyes and let the stinging subside. I put a buff on my head under my hat after that and didn’t have any more problems, so maybe it was sweat (or sweat and sunscreen mixed together). Just as I was ready to head out after dealing with my eyes, my colleague (who was running the 6 hour) came by and said he’d walk the last lap of his race with me. We talked about strategy, and he told me screw it, just walk until it cools off or you feel better. He’s done the 24 hour race before, so I trusted his judgement. Once again, just spending a lap talking to someone changed my mindset for the better, and I was able to pick up the pace to match his.

After my colleague peeled off to do some short laps, I continued right into another lap. I knew I was getting close to a marathon, and I dialed in on that milestone. I told myself no more breaks til I was beyond the marathon. I hit the 26.2 mi mark at 7:13:24 (they had signs marking a marathon, 50K, 50 mi, etc.), and then focused on hitting 50K. I was feeling more motivated, so I switched to running the shady sections and walking the sunny sections, and was really motoring (for me). I could tell I was getting more blisters, and I had switched to straight water because I didn’t stop for more electrolyte tabs, but I wanted to get to 50K before I took another break. The 50K mark was between the timing tent and the camping area, but I wanted to do the entire loop to get “credit” for reaching 50K before I took a break.

I hit 50K in 8:44:37 and finished that loop for 31.6 miles. After that loop, I was looking forward to stopping, dealing with my feet, eating some spaghetti (yes, really) and chilling out. My dad was there when I reached the tent, and for some reason that was making me super anxious. I don’t know what it was, but it made me feel like a zoo animal, like he was just watching me and waiting for what I was going to do. Which he kind of was, but mentally at that point I just couldn’t take it. He said he was going to wait to leave until I was on my next lap, and that seemed like too much expectation. I ended up eating a couple cookies instead of the spaghetti, and basically told him to leave by saying I was going to start my next lap soon. Oh look, there was some of that selfishness coming out. After he left, I dealt with my blisters and hung out for a little longer talking to Amy before I headed out.

I ate my spaghetti on the following lap, as well as part of a piece of ciabatta. This was one of the biggest benefits of walking through the afternoon – my stomach was feeling great, as was most of the rest of my body. I was eating and drinking like normal, everything was going down fine, I wasn’t losing weight (I’d lost 2.5 lbs between the morning weigh-in and the 4:00 PM weigh in, but at the 8:00 PM weigh in, I was stable), and I didn’t have any dehydration issues (total TMI but because I wasn’t worried about time, I used the real bathroom at the pavilion a couple times, so I can confirm I was staying hydrated). I also didn’t have any issues with finger swelling like I did at Ice Age.

For a little while, things started to look up. The sun was still hot (I reapplied sunscreen at 6PM, and Amy asked “Are you sure you need that? It’s after 6.” I’m just that pasty) but I was able to run a lot more than I had been able to when it was hotter. I felt like things were going well. Then my feet started to hurt a lot. Not just the blisters, but the balls of my feet, as well as the side/top of my right foot, which hurt like my left one did last year. I was getting worried. I switched to completing a loop, then putting my feet up to rest, then heading out for another.

And it got dark! I made it past nightfall! That was huge for me. Last year I was still there at night, but I didn’t actually do a loop with a headlamp on. This year I did two. And they were hard. I ran quite a bit of them, mostly because it hurt more to run, but I was starting to get frustrated with how much my feet hurt, how much I wanted to go home and sleep in my own bed, and how futile the rest of the race felt. I passed last year’s total on lap 24, and started to feel better about how things were going, but I was also annoyed with how long each lap was taking. I was past last year’s total, but it had taken me so long to get there. I didn’t know how many more laps I had in me, and I started thinking about what it would take to even get to 50 miles. I finished what ended up being my final lap at about 11:00, and realized that it would probably take over two more hours, maybe even three, to do the three more laps I needed to get to 50 miles, and I decided it wasn’t worth it. I just didn’t feel like the effort was worth the result. I could go home and go to bed, or I could shuffle through a few more laps. I don’t think I could have even made 100K if I’d stayed there til the finish, and I didn’t care.

I don’t feel too badly about it. Of course now I realize I could have shuffled on longer with some tweaks here and there. I could have stopped at the benches along the way, for example. I could have stayed in my chair and just done a lap here or there and stayed there all night. I could have just shuffled along in increasing amounts of pain. But that’s okay. These are all things I am saying in hindsight; in the moment, I didn’t think of them, or I just didn’t want to do them. But I still did a lot.

I figured out a survival strategy when things were going wrong. I fixed my blisters (kind of) and got back out there. I ran when it hurt. I got back out there when I didn’t want to, over and over again. I didn’t chafe. I didn’t get sunburned. I ate and drank like I should have. I spent time with my friends. I got a distance PR and lasted longer than I ever have at this event. I ran night loops. I did all this on really minimal training – the only truly long run I did was another race.

I’m left with a lot of the same questions in my mind as I had last year. Am I cut out for these really long races? Is this event a waste of my time? Should I just do the 12 hour or 6 hour next year? So much helpful self-doubt and self-flagellation. Yet I do keep improving. And I do love this event. And there’s something so special about the loops after 8 PM and that solidarity that the 24 hour runners have that I don’t think I want to give up. I think I really need a big success at this event before I’ll feel comfortable trying for 100K or longer (I could probably still give 50 miles a shot, though it would need to be the right race), so it’s probably going to be on the docket for next year, even though I said last night that maybe I’ve finally scratched the itch this race has given me.

I completed 45.4 miles and was still running at the end. Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t even run the entire mile in gym class because it seemed too hard. Five years ago, I couldn’t even handle marathon training. When I feel like a failure, it helps to remember where I started.

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FANS and ESTRS

I had a dream last night that it was snowing for FANS, and I had absolutely nothing except a winter coat (I guess that was fortunate). I tried to go home and pick stuff up (specifically like 25 pairs of socks) and realized I didn’t have my car keys. I think this is a sign that I need to get my butt in gear and start doing actual planning for the race. It is in six days, so that’s good advice.

Wednesday, I volunteered for the first installment of the Endless Summer Trail Run Series. It was a bit on the chilly side, so the “summer” part seemed more like “beginningless” than endless, but I was covered for many contingencies – I had long pants, a sweatshirt, and even a poncho. The poncho is so great that I almost want it to rain during an event so that I can bust it out. I spent the evening checking in runners, wrangling (and eating) pizza, and cheering people on. It is SUCH a great event: the prize this year is a race-specific sticker (collect all 5!), the people who volunteer and/or run are top-notch, and the locations are awesome, too. If not for this race, I wouldn’t have known about Lebanon Hills! I signed up to volunteer at all 5 events this year, just so I wouldn’t miss out on the party.

Before I headed to the ESTRS shindig, I went to the new FANS course over lunch for some course recon. I went with my much faster colleague (who is competing in the 6 hour event) and ended up busting my butt to try not to bog him down, but I feel like I got the lay of the land anyway. The FANS race committee had to scramble to find a new place since Fort Snelling is still experiencing flooding. What a nice surprise for the new race directors! This year it will be at Normandale Lake, which has some positives: no gravel, no fee to get in (great for spectators), and the course is much closer to the lake, so I think that will help keep things cool. It has some challenges, too: it’s all asphalt, which could be tough when it gets hot, and it has some hillier hills. They aren’t that bad, but I’m sure by the 10th time around, they’ll be annoying. They are strategically placed to facilitate walking breaks, so that will be good!

I still have a lot to do this week to get ready, including a trial run at setting up my tent on my own, purchasing gels (I went to REI during their sale and the selection was not great!), restocking my tackle box of supplies, and figuring out how to deal with my feet. I did finally rid myself of this annoying callus I’ve had forever that was causing some serious issues, but my right foot is still sort of healing from the blister I got at Ice Age. I think it should be ok, but I’m still missing a layer of skin from where the blister was, and there’s a ridge where the old skin meets the new that I’m a bit wary of. What an appetizing though, I know.

I’m hoping my newfound talent for getting a decent night’s sleep before wasn’t a fluke, but I’m taking the day before the race off of work, and I plan to avoid sugar and caffeine in the afternoon and evening. I’m hoping to avoid a lot of my past FANS mistakes this year (eat more, walk more, deal with ANY problem, no matter how small, ASAP, apply more sunscreen) while also avoiding new mistakes, I want to get a BIG distance PR, and I really, really, really want to get at least one short lap in (meaning, I’m still in this thing in the final hour). Other than that, no expectations. No A, B, or C standard distances planned. Just see what I’m capable of, and try not to permanently damage myself.

Idle Feet

I’m really bored and unfocused with my running lately. The days are shortening, and the weather is getting colder. Over the weekend it was so cold! In the low 20s/high teens (F, of course. What I wouldn’t give for some 20 C weather…) I just got back from Duluth and instead of running on one of my favorite trails, I ran on the hotel treadmill. I guess I didn’t look at the weather closely enough, and packed clothes that might be acceptable for a run in near-freezing temps, but not 15 degrees colder and windy. Whoops.

In order to try to bring some excitement back into my running, I went out and spent a bunch of money on races. Ugh.

I’m probably going to race 2 more times in 2018, we’ll see. I signed up for the Mustache Run half marathon in 2 weeks. I’m not really training for it, just hoping to capitalize on my residual training from the Twin Cities Marathon (that was only a month ago??). I’m also well-rested from lower mileage and additional rest days. I think it’ll be fun, as long as the weather isn’t awful. I saw a very early forecast and it called for light rain in the morning. No thank you. Obviously anything would be a half marathon PR, as my current one (3:51:24) is from the Harder n Hell Half in 2015.

I hate road races – they’re so freaking expensive! Although I think I could have saved some money by signing up sooner. It was like $80 though! I had better get a gold-plated finisher’s medal.

I also signed up for Zumbro 50, which cost $90 – much better cost per mile than the Mustache Run. (Although I’ll also have travel and lodging costs so that is misleading.) Last year, I waited too long to sign up and it filled. I was somewhat bummed but also wasn’t sure I was ready to run it, and I’m also really glad I didn’t sign up because it ended up being terribly snowy, and I would not have been prepared for that. Now I know that I’m capable of it. I ran 42 miles in 13 hours at FANS, for crying out loud. I keep having to remind myself of that when I get scared of these 50 milers. Not only did I complete 42 miles in 13 hours, but a lot of that was walking/limping due to my poor foot.

Speaking of FANS, I also signed up for the 24 hour race again. I can’t help it – I love this race so much. I keep having disappointing results there, but I keep coming back for more. This coming year, I think things will be better. I’m planning to set up my tent with friends this time, so I’ll have a fun camp and that will mean my husband/my dad won’t be sitting by my tent alone while crewing me, bored out of their minds. FANS doesn’t fill and the price increase isn’t until April, but I signed up anyway. I guess that’s less money I have to worry about paying later?

The only downside right now is that Zumbro is the same weekend as the Frozen Four in Buffalo. Obviously I have no idea if I’ll be there or not, but the Bulldogs are having a great season! I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, I guess.

Now all that’s left is to get back into the groove of winter running. I’m not really excited about it, and it feels like I barely had any decent running weather at all in 2018 (it seems like it went from cold to blazing hot and back to cold), but I also know that this current cold snap is making it feel a little more difficult. Once it’s back to more normal temps next week, of course my crappy attitude will magically dissipate!

Summer 2018 Running Goals Revisited

Summer is “over,” let’s see how it went for me.

  1. Distance personal best.
    I ran 42.3 miles at FANS, which I knew before I even wrote the original goals post.
  2. “Unofficial” marathon personal best.
    I calculated my unofficial marathon PR at 6:58:32, also achieved at FANS.
  3. “Unofficial” 50K personal best.
    Nope.
  4. Check out the Endless Summer Trail Races
    I volunteered for 3 of the 4 races, doing various fun things like checking IDs and putting wristbands on people who wanted to drink post-race, standing underneath the time clock so no one ran into it (success! though it was close a few times), marking pizza boxes, and directing people the correct way into the finishers’ chute (moderate success). I enjoyed volunteering, and considering how hot it was for 2 of the 3 races, I am glad I wasn’t running! Although there are great raffle prizes for runners…
  5. Legitimize my 5K PR.
    I didn’t end up doing this. I raced one 5K this summer and finished in 29:29, which was a best for that course, and it was after not running for 2 weeks, so I’ll take it.
  6. Race a new distance.
    I signed up for a half marathon (I counted this as a new distance because I have only run a trail half, and this was a road race) but ended up sick and DNS.

Yeesh. Only 50% of achievements unlocked, that’s not great. But that’s ok, those goals can live to fight another day, and I can enjoy the accomplishments I did have. I forgot to add on here that one of my goals was to run from home to the state capitol building, and I did that! It was kind of neat to run through downtown St. Paul. I found all kinds of cool buildings and nooks and crannies around town – I need to do more exploring! (I just went back and edited my fall running goals post!)

Post-Mortem: Fans 24 Hour Race 2018

Over a week’s gone by, and I’m mostly back to normal. My foot still hurts a little bit, but I am able to walk without limping and most of the time I do not have any pain at all (although when I wrote that sentence, I had just gone to the printer to pick something up and my foot hurt a bit, so I guess I jinxed myself). I haven’t had much time to enjoy my break from running, because I’ve been traveling for work, but I’m looking forward to a weekend of nothing. Well, not nothing. I painted my bathroom. But there won’t be any running.

I’ve had some time to consider this years FANS experience. Overall I had a great time and I’m proud of my result. Of course it wasn’t what I wanted, but I did reach a new distance PR, and I made it past 12 hours. Some thoughts/lessons learned:

I liked bringing less stuff, but I really did need food at my tent. I got sick of the race food after awhile, probably because I was eating mostly cookies and pretzels. I realized right before I quit the race that I was behind on my food, and I either had to go back to the main aid station or walk a mile+ to the first aid station. I had some gels at my tent but what I really needed was a substantial snack like a bagel or a sandwich or anything different.

I don’t know nearly enough about foot care. I did a few things right, like stopping to fix my heel when my shoe was rubbing against it, or lancing my blisters and just getting on with it, but what I really should have done was tape up my callus to begin with. I read an article on I Run Far a couple days ago on blister care with a hilarious infographic on causes of blisters, with the #1 cause being “saying ‘I don’t usually have problems with blisters’ before the race.” TOO SOON, LIZA HOWARD. TOO SOON. I just ordered Fixing Your Feet so I can fix my feet.

42.3 miles wasn’t really that much harder than 31. Okay, it was also on a mostly flat trail, I didn’t have to carry my own water or gear, and I had plenty of people to motivate me along the way, but still. I was on my feet for almost 13 hours, and I felt pretty good the next day. As we were taking down the camp, I felt pretty crappy and sad about quitting early again, and thought maybe I wasn’t meant to run more than 50Ks. Then the next day I felt pretty good (other than my foot), and I realized that I completed 42 miles in about 13 hours with the last 10 miles at a slow walk, and the 50 mile dream was resurrected.

My job is more important than my race. I don’t get paid to run, I get paid to be an engineer. I had a site visit the Wednesday after the race, and it would have been unsafe for me to go out there with limited mobility. If I had continued for 11 more hours, even walking slowly, I doubt I would have been able to complete the site visit. Running is my hobby, not my livelihood, and this race was a good reminder of how to balance those. I’m reminded of one of my former coworkers, a construction manager who was a bull rider in his spare time. His superintendent finally told him that he had to choose between work and rodeo because he kept showing up to work injured. I don’t want to jeopardize my career for recreation.

It’s time to try something new. I’ve “failed” at the 24 hour event twice now, but I really love this race! I think it’s time for me to do the 12 hour race and set a different goal (like 50 miles?) before I give 24 hours another shot. Could the third time be the charm? Maybe. But it’s a lot of work and logistics and pressure to plan a 24 hour race. With a 12 hour race, I can sleep in my own bed!

Race Report: Fans 24 Hour Race 2018

Official Results:
Distance: 42.3 mi
Placing:
Overall (24 Hrs): 67/78
Gender: 21/25

Watch Results:
Time: 13:41:27
Pace: 18:25
Distance: 44.58
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 100 mi
B: 90 mi
C: 75 mi

Food:
What I ate the night before: pizza
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese, bagel with hazelnut spread
What I carried with me: n/a

Gear:
What I wore: to start – t-shirt, shorts, trucker hat, vest
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: Two disappointing results in two years! Not a good sign.

I slept really poorly the day of the race, which was frustrating. I hadn’t slept well in the days leading up to the event, so I was starting with a sleep deficit. That ended up not being a factor, but it could have been. I felt grumpy and wished I could just go back to sleep and not run.

My dad picked me up and we loaded up the car quickly. I only had one tub of stuff, plus a cooler with some pop, and a chair to sit in. He had the tent (a different tent than last year, he has an abundance of tents) and his own chair already in the truck. We got their early enough that we had a spot on the path itself, which was a huge benefit over last year. He had a great people-watching spot, and I had easy access to my stuff.

The weather was cool enough that I put on a sweatshirt while I relaxed before the start. I liked setting up camp early and having time to finish my food and chill out – even if that meant I had to get up earlier. It didn’t really matter since I barely slept – half an hour wasn’t going to make or break me.

The race started at 8, and I ended up running and chatting alongside someone I’d recently met. It was a little faster than I would have liked, and after a little bit he did break off and run at his own pace, while I settled into mine. My plan was to run 10 minutes, walk 2 minutes, for as long as that was sustainable. I think it worked really well for me while I was able to run, but of course I can’t say what might have happened once I really started to get fatigued.

After my first lap, my dad left to go to work, and I was on my own for awhile. This worked really well for me. I got food and water at the aid stations and only stopped at my tent if I needed something (electrolyte tablets, gels, bug spray, sunscreen). Since it was threatening rain, I had to keep everything in my tent, which was annoying. I ended up tossing my sunscreen and Body Glide into my chair and not caring if it got wet.

It started to rain somewhere around 10 or 11. I knew it was coming, and I didn’t really mind. I didn’t want it to rain before the start, because I didn’t want to sit around getting wet or have to set up the tent on wet ground. I didn’t want thunderstorms to force the race directors to suspend the race. Neither of those things happened so it didn’t really matter. I didn’t have any chafing issues and it was warm enough that I didn’t get chilled. It was WAY better than heat and sun. I felt like everything was going well for the first few hours.

At around 4 hours elapsed (right after my first weigh-in), I stopped to fix my feet. One ankle was chafing where my shoe met my ankle. My sock was too low, and my ankle was dirty, so I had to stop and slap some moleskin on it. That fixed the problem, and at the same time, I worked on my other foot. I have a callus on that foot from some really old blister (possibly stemming from last year’s FANS race), and a blister was developing under that callus. I slapped some moleskin on it as well, but what I should have done is popped the blister. That was stupid. I thought the moleskin would be enough to protect it, but it was protruding too much. It seemed like a good enough fix at the time, so I continued, and was still able to run.

Since things were going really well, and I was finding my run 10/walk 2 strategy wasn’t working very well (I was always hitting the aid stations/my tent right in the middle of the run cycle), so I thought I’d try running to each aid station, then walking 2 or 3 minutes or so after the aid station/my tent. I did one lap of that and found it more fatiguing than I’d like, so I went back to the run 10/walk 2, and that was much more comfortable. I was having a decent time of running my own race, staying out of my head, and just letting the day happen however it would. I was pretty excited that I was still running many laps into the race, which hadn’t happened in 2017. I came through the 6 hour runners on their short laps and cheered them on.

My dad came back at around 2:00, and I was still running at that point, which was awesome. I was slowing down and my feet were starting to hurt, but I wanted to hit the 27.4 mark (12 laps) and get the unofficial marathon PR before I stopped to do anything. I came through 27.4 mi (12 laps) in 7:17:42, which is faster than my marathon PR; interpolating, that makes my unofficial marathon PR 6:58:32. So at least I made my first goal for the summer! I kept moving after that, wanted to hit the 50K mark (lap 14, 31.6 mi) before I stopped for a break. I wanted to get an unofficial 50K PR too, but since I was really slowing down, that wasn’t going to happen, and I also forgot to hit the lap button at that point. I think I came through somewhere under 8:40, which means that I finished 50K at around the same pace I did Chippewa Moraine. I was in good shape, time-wise, but I was slowing a lot, and both feet were really starting to hurt.

I took a longer break to deal with my feet – I lanced my blister several times but could not seem to fully pop it, no matter what I did. I finally decided to just cover it up with moleskin to protect it, and let the natural pressure from walking push the rest of the fluid out. I finally got up and started walking. The blister hurt, but so did my other foot. I had not realized how much I’d been compensating for the pain in my right foot. I thought if I walked it off, it would feel better, but it didn’t really.

I weighed in again and continued to walk. The blister pain actually did start to subside, and I was right – the pressure from my foot did make the swelling go down for awhile. The pain on the outer edge of my left foot was what kept me from running. It was especially bad during the gravel sections – it was impossible to keep from stepping on rocks and that seemed to exacerbate the pain, even though it was on the side of my foot, not the bottom. I just kept going, figuring that it would either go away or I’d just get used to it, and I kind of did.

I asked my dad about the weather, and he told me after about 4:30, it should be clear, so I got out my portable charger to charge my GPS watch, which was down to 10% battery. I clipped that on and wore it for the next 3 laps. Since I wasn’t running, it wasn’t a big deal to charge it while on the move. I tucked the charger itself into the pocket of my vest so my hands were free (other than my water bottle), and checked periodically to make sure the charging clamp didn’t dislodge. I got it charged up to about 60% and then put it back. My feet were still killing me and I was trying to decide what to do. I was thinking I should get to 100K and then stop for awhile, then I started re-assessing and decided I’d get to 50 miles and then stop. I walked through while the 12 hour runners were doing their final short loops and was able to cheer everyone on. The trails were a lot more empty at that point, except for a couple other people hustling through one final loop. One guy was running with his pacer and ended up dropping her as he took off to try to get that last loop in before the 12 hour mark – he had a little over a mile to go and plenty of time, but he wanted to make sure he made it.

I came through after the 12 hour race had ended, and decided to do one more loop before changing my clothes and shoes for the night. Mostly I wanted to use the porta-potty with my shorts on rather than with running tights – I didn’t want to wrestle with my tights in that confined space! I was still walking, and pretty much everyone was passing me, but I was still moving at least! It was getting toward dusk during that lap, and I carried my headlamp with me just in case, but it turned out to be fine. There were lanterns out on the course which looked really cool.

I sat down in my chair after lap #19 (42.3 mi) and took off my shoes. My blister had bubbled back up again, so I lanced it a couple more times. I went into the tent and changed into tights, a new t-shirt, and a hoodie, since it was getting kinda chilly. I brought out some fresh socks and then worked on my feet for a little while. It was getting dark out and I wanted to finish dealing with my feet before the light was gone. I finally put my shoes on, which was a difficult task because I was trying to avoid dislodging my moleskin. I lounged in the chair with my feet up for awhile, contemplating what I was going to do. I didn’t have a lot of hope left that I’d be able to start running. The pain in my left foot was not getting any better, and in fact was worsening. So I had 11 hours of hobbling ahead of me — or I could strike my tent and go home to my cats. I thought about it for awhile, and realized I wasn’t enjoying the effort. This was twice that I’d done this race and had it not work out. I also realized that I had been changed and sitting around for probably half an hour (I don’t really know), so I would be behind on my nutrition at a time when I really needed to be sure I was on top of it. Maybe quitting wasn’t a bad idea.

I said to my husband “I don’t want to do this anymore, let’s go.” He said ok, without any judgment, and I got up to take down the tent. My left foot hurt to the point where I couldn’t really stand on it, and that sealed it – but I made the decision to quit before I knew that. It turns out it was a good decision, because a day later, I’m still gimping around. I don’t know what the deal is – it doesn’t hurt at all when I’m not moving, there’s no bruising or swelling, but it hurts to walk. I am in big trouble if it doesn’t get better by Wednesday, because I am making a site visit in North Dakota and I have to be able to walk then. I’m hoping some stretching and massage, plus some rest, will be enough to make it feel better.

I don’t think the 24 hour event is for me, although I really enjoy the race! I guess maybe the 12 hour race would be a better option and would require much less from a logistical standpoint. I was questioning whether or not I actually ever want to do a long race, like a 50 miler or longer. I’m not sure if I’m cut out for that distance – I don’t seem to do that well with adversity, although I’m getting better. I lasted a lot longer this time and worked through a lot of issues before I ultimately gave in to the foot pain. I didn’t have any stomach problems, and today I feel pretty good. I was on my feet for 13 hours and traversed 42 miles, and I don’t feel much soreness in my hips or legs. If I’d dealt with that callus from the start (covered it up, or gotten a pedicure and just gotten rid of it), I probably would have been able to keep moving a lot longer.

I don’t feel the same level of regret I did last year, since I at least got in a mileage PR. I think the level of foot pain I’m still dealing with also makes me feel more justified – continuing could have done more lasting damage, or made it more likely I wouldn’t be able to do my job. I also had a great time – the atmosphere is so welcoming, and the other runners, volunteers, and spectators are so supportive. After a bit of time to think about it, I’m now really looking forward to doing the 12 hour event next year and creating some new challenges for myself. And… provided my foot gets better soon, I’m probably going to sign up for a fall 50 mile race, just to see what that’s like.

FANS 24 Hour 2018 Goals

Here we go again. After last year’s disastrous end at 29.5 miles, I’m ready for redemption.

My goals are the same as last year:
A Standard: 100 mi
B Standard: 90 mi
C Standard: 75 mi

The weather is not looking dry, but I think I prefer rain to heat. I think. Will I feel the same way tomorrow at this time, when it’s been pouring for six hours straight and my feet are raw and I’m shivering too badly to use my hands?

Many of the lessons I learned last year are not applicable to this year’s race. All my heat management techniques are pointless. That’s okay, though. I did learn a couple other things that I’m working on for this year:

  1. Less stuff. I brought so much stuff last year that I didn’t need, and it was extra embarrassing to haul all that gear back after quitting early. Some of it was necessary because I didn’t live nearby and I needed to be prepared for all kinds of weather. A few days before the race it was predicted to be cold and rainy, and instead it was hot and sunny. So I had a lot of clothes and gear. This year I am bringing way less gear, but I also only live 7 miles from Fort Snelling now. If I need something, someone can get it for me in half an hour. I’m not bringing any food besides vanilla Coke and some gels – I’ll rely on the aid stations.
  2. No crew in the morning. My dad is picking me up and helping me haul my gear, but after the start, he’ll leave for awhile. He’ll miss out on some prime people-watching, of course, but I found last year that I felt guilty about having someone sit there all day just to give me fresh water bottle every half hour or so. I have run enough ultras to know that I can be self-sufficient for the first several hours of the race, and rely on volunteers, aid stations, and my campsite for anything I need. I can focus on getting in the miles and not on worrying about the entertainment of someone else. No one that visited me while I was running last year was anything but helpful and understanding, and no one ever gave the slightest hint of annoyance at being there, but I still felt like I was inconveniencing people.
  3. Arrive earlier to try to snag a better campsite. Last year, I had to set up my tent off the path. The people who arrived earlier set their tents up along the running path, which was way more convenient! I had to walk off the path, through someone else’s campsite, to get to mine.
  4. Relentless forward progress. This worked okay for me for awhile last year – I felt too fatigued from the heat and the sun to run, so I walked. I’m going to aim to do a better job of that this time. And if I do have to take a break, I’ll do it – and then get up. I don’t have to leave early.

This year I have some advantages I didn’t have last year. Obviously, I live here, so I’m not paying for a hotel room and I’ll be able to sleep in my own bed. The weather will be cooler so if I’m having chafing issues, I can switch to pants. (I’m making a mental note to pack a pair of tights.) I bought a pair of shoes with a rock plate but smaller lugs, so the gravel won’t bug me as much. And, of course, I now have “beat last year!” to drive me forward.

I won’t have time to post my Summer 2018 goals post yet, but I am setting a couple goals that will pertain directly to FANS – I’d like a distance PR, an unofficial marathon PR, and an unofficial 50K PR – hopefully I can get all three!