Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Croatan 24 Hour Report

The inaugural Croatan 24 Hour Ultramarathon is in the books.  It was a great race put on by Brandon Wilson, his family and volunteers. 

I'll give the short stat summary here:  I finished with 53.07 miles (22nd out of the 63 that started), reaching 50 miles by 13.75 hours then crashing.  More on that below.  But to back up...

The run took place in the Croatan National Forest, just a couple miles north of the southern tip of Emerald Isle.  74 runners signed up, but only 63 started.  Rumor has it the other 11 got confused and headed to the Croatian National Forest near Zagreb.  The object was to run a loop (slightly less than 1.37 miles) as many times as possible.  It was a pleasant loop - mainly nicely packed dirt with a few wood and aluminum footbridges that spanned the salt marsh.  It was flat except for a couple bridges that gained 10-15 feet of elevation near the middle of the loop.  I can honestly say that the views varied enough (looking out over the waters and running through the woods) that I never got bored with the route.  

At the start point, they had a table of volunteers that registered every lap, an area where we could drop bags of spare clothes, shoes, cyanide tablets and other things you may want in a run like this.  Finally, and most importantly, they had a tent with refreshments (water, Gatorade, coffee, chips, bananas, etc).  The refreshment tent also served lunch (veggie burgers), dinner (pizza) and had hot snacks to deal with the cold night (even veggie broth).  There were lots of veggie options and I didn't have to dip into the bag of stuff I brought.

Me, the naive fool smiling before the run.

Now on to the race report.  I tried hard not to set a mileage target, but I would have been disappointed at less than 50.  Greater forces prevailed, however, and on the ride from the condo we rented to the trailhead, my asshole left brain concocted an 80 mile run plan - 20 laps in the first 6 hours, 20 laps in the next 8 hours and a final 20 laps in the final 10 hours.  My right brain - distracted by glimpses of the sun shining through the pines - went along with the plan.

It being the 237th birthday of the Marine Corps, and with many veterans taking part in the race, there was a birthday party (with cake!) before the race.  I missed most of it as my wife and I put up my tent in case I wanted to get a couple of hours of sleep in during the night.  We were off and running at 8am.  Veterans led the first lap, with Cheryl Yanek (trying to qualify for the Women's National 24-hour team) running ahead to try to hit 120 miles.

5 laps (6.85 miles), 1:16

The first lap went well.  On the second lap, the left side of my groin started to hurt.  My groin and I were very close during my teenage years, but it seems now was the time that it would exact its revenge for years of neglect.  This was short-lived, however, and by the fourth lap I was feeling good again, trying to take it slow and not exceed an 11-ish pace.  So far all was going well.

10 laps (13.7 miles), 2:33

Still on track, but unfortunately my weak October was already starting to rear its ugly head.  I felt a bit of tightness starting to creep in to my quads on the 10th lap.  Also, it was getting warm, and I was wasting time at my drop bag, making sure I kept drinking enough HEED and taking an Endurolyte cap every hour to keep the electrolytes up.

15 laps (20.55 miles), 4:06

I ran the first 10 laps at an 11:10 pace, but the feeling of an unquenchable thirst was already setting in, a most unwelcome feeling that I get all the time during long runs in the summer.  I hate this feeling, and didn't expect it with temperatures not going much above 70F.  I walked lap 14, giving me a 13:35 pace for the last 5 laps.  I was enjoying myself a bit more, though, talking with various people.  It will surprise nobody who has run an ultramarathon that everyone I spoke to was extremely friendly and supportive - from the slowest to the fastest folks out there.

20 laps (27.4 miles), 5:59

I just did an ultra marathon, but holy hell.  For some reason, this felt worse than the Umstead marathons I've run before.  I was sweating more than expected, and felt nauseous.  This feeling stuck with me for a couple hours, but I figured it was par for the course and I just had to deal with it.  I ate a lot, drank a lot of water and Gatorade and took some Endurolytes.

25 laps (34.24 miles), 7:59

Still on pace for the left brain 80 mile plan, but just barely, and I pretty much felt like shit the whole time.  The last five laps were done at a 17:40 pace.  I walked almost all of this, and started to realize how quickly stops at the drop bag add up.  My groin flared up on lap 24 when I started to try to run, so I felt like walking for awhile was my best option.  I probably wasted an average of 2-3 minutes each lap, eating, drinking, looking for something, etc.  I changed from my Nike Frees to some older, more cushioned shoes to make it easier on my feet during the walk around lap 22.  This was a mistake - I got a blister from the old shoes within 3 laps and changed back after 25.  I still had both my sense of humor and nausea at this point.  Usually my humor makes others nauseous so this seems fitting.  A cool breeze started to blow here, which was really welcomed.  I also saw the men/women being separated from the girls/boys here.  A handful of runners were still going at a pretty good clip and looked like they had just started.

33 laps (45.2 miles), 11:44

I didn't record the 30 lap time, mainly because cognitive function was starting to take a hit.  A lot happened during these 8 laps.  First, I was overjoyed to see Tiffany (my wife) at the close of lap 26.  She told me I looked good, and that she was going to run an errand and meet me in an hour.  The bout of nausea was subsiding and I was cooling off.  I walked the next couple of laps pretty quickly as darkness fell.  At the end of lap 29 I put on a long sleeve shirt, ate some pizza and walked a couple laps with Tiffany.  My legs hurt - but it was just muscle soreness - no joint pain.  At the end of lap 31, the muscle soreness subsided a little and the nausea was complete gone...I felt better than I had in probably 6 or 7 hours.  Tiffany left to go get some dinner.  It was cooling off quickly, so I switched into long pants and put on a fleece.  I felt so good that I ran considerable portions of laps 32 and 33.  This, I believe, was my downfall.  The soreness came back quickly, forcing me to walk.  While walking, the slight breeze was enough to evaporate the sweat and cause some pretty nasty chills.

37 laps (50.68 miles), 13:45

34-36 were hell.  Legs hurt.  Could. Not. Get. Warm.  I had long pants, two shirts, a fleece and a wool hat on.  It was only 40 degrees, but I was shivering.  Normally in 40 degree weather I run in shorts and a long sleeve shirt.  I tried drinking coffee, vegetable broth and eating, but nothing seemed to help.  This caused the nausea to return.  I have to thank Ray Krolewicz, a guy who's run countless ultras, for walking a lap or two with me here to take my mind off of things.  A really positive, energetic guy who put up 70+ miles at the age of 57.  He once held the 48 hour world record - but he'd never tell you this - I found this out from other runners.  Tiff rejoined me for lap 37, and I decided to take a break.  I was really worried about my temperature, and decided to forgo the tent for a warm night at the condo.

My wife was awesome here.  She had gone out an gotten Epsom salts for me to soak in, and they really felt great!  I still couldn't get warm in the bath, however, and crawled into bed, hoping to wake up at 3am and get some more miles.

Basically, at 3am I was still freezing, and could barely move my legs - in fact, I didn't feel warm again until late Sunday night.  To make a long story short, I got out of bed at 6:15, and it took me 45 minutes (!) to get dressed. I drove back to the race, realized I didn't get any photos the previous day, and hobbled around the loop for 45 minutes taking a few photos to tack on a bit more distance, finishing with 53.08 miles.  I'll take it for my first marathon+ distance.

Some views from the loop

Just to call out a couple of amazing performances:

The men's winner was a 22 year old (ex?) Marine, JJ Jehangir who logged over 109 miles!  Jason LeDoyen (candidate for World's Nicest Person), who I had the fortune to speak with a few times and lives in the Triangle, finished with over 100 miles.  Cheryl Yanek didn't reach 120, but fought through a rough race to finish first female with over 104 miles.  Wow.  And perhaps most impressive was Walt Esser, a 74-year-old who did over 80 (!!!!!!) miles.  Goddam.

In my preview, I outlined a few goals.  How did I match up?

  •  Complete at least 50 miles, with a stretch goal to keep moving the entire time  Win!  and Fail!
  •  Avoid bleeding due to chafing or falling  Body Glide was awesome.  Absolutely no chafing or bleeding.  Other than a couple water blisters, my skin was unscathed.  I do feel sorry for Tiffany who happened to walk into the room while I was applying Bodyglide to the area between my buttocks.  She was certainly most negatively affected by the race.  I don't think she's eaten since Saturday
  •  Hallucinate at least four times  Didn't happen.  Got too much sleep.
  •  Maintain fluency in English, mainly to complain about my self-inflicted situation  Check!
  •  Avoid sleeping  Epic fail.
  •  Remain married after my long-suffering wife supports me all night...despite smelling like a locker room, farting with reckless abandon and asking for favors with a whiny whiny voice  Tiffany was AWESOME!!!  Gave up her weekend to take care of me, and did a great job.  Very supportive, and even let me lounge around the house on Sunday evening nursing my legs.
  •  Count how many times I claim "I'll never do this again," then see how long until I sign up for another one of these.  Didn't happen.  At no point was I not having fun, even if I did feel like shit.  I'd love to do this race again next year.  I also realized that I will not be a regular ultramarathon runner for the next few years.  For me to be even half-way decent I'd have to take too much time away from family, work and other things I'm interested in.  I'd like to do one or so a year, though.


    1. great report! Shannon and I will be out there joining you this year. I'll use this as my race plan, including the body glide between the cheeks.

      1. Thanks Anthony,

        Unfortunately I won't be able to make it this year - have a family obligation that came up. And yes, Body Glide is most effective when someone has to watch you apply it. Good luck at Croatan!