May 20, 2017 — Terre Haute, Indiana
In Crust We Trust Reunion
Saturday I ran 55.8 miles in twelve hours. Somewhere jumbled into that space of time I swore at geese, splashed through ankle-deep puddles, sang Tom Petty songs to myself, and emptied my stomach on the side of the trail. It was a good day.
Hawthorn Half Day is the hometown ultra of my friend and teammate Chris. The course is a 5k loop that edges around a couple small lakes, winds through a campground, and incorporates crushed stone, pavement, and grass surfaces. Supposedly it’s always hot, the geese are dicks, and the competition is solid. Shoes pitched the race to us (the In Crust We Trust team) and offered to buy us pizza so we all went.
This is my first of 3 ultras this summer. I wanted to use Hawthorn to iron out nutrition & fueling issue before my next two races. I have a long June race in Letchworth State Park with challenging elevation, and my A-race this year is the Barkley Fall Classic which will challenge me on all fronts. I am using a plan based off of Jason Koop’s Training Essentials for Ultrarunning, and I’ve been hovering around 40 mpw, focusing on quality over quantity with two to three workouts per week. I spent January to March rebuilding after a lower leg injury late last year.
Lately my goals have been set too lofty and I’ve struggled to meet them. This time around was no different:
- A+ Goal = 100k (20 laps)
- A Goal = Top 3 in age group
- A- Goal = 50 mile PR under 10 hours.
- Secret Goal = Get more miles than Chris.
Saturday was cloudy and cool. Perfect. The weather all week was forecast to be in the mid 80s and rainy. It was supposed to be miserable. Sixty and nice was a pleasant surprise.
Betsy and I woke up at our hotel, had some breakfast and tended to our nervous stomachs. We ended up leaving later than planned and it threw our pre-race routine into a mad rush to get ourselves and our crewing station set up. Somewhere in this mess I lost the key fob Betsy’s car. Sweet. The radar was also not looking promising.
The first 50k flew by. I held a steady 10:30 pace and stuck to my nutrition plan: Each loop back at camp I refilled my drink, ate something solid, and swallowed a salt pill every hour and a half. I didn’t think I’d be able to hit my A+ goal of 100k, but I thought I could get really close. Daydreams about placing in the top 5 were frequent. Aside from being hissed at by geese and sweating more than normal, I just kept cruising and smiling. Our awesome crew kept telling me how great everyone was doing and my three teammates who ran the 6 hour race took 1st overall, 1st female in the 16-39 age group, and 2nd male in the 20-29 age group.
By seven and a half hours in I was tired but still knocking out loops and maintaining a consistent pace. There were fewer racers on the course, the crazy lightning storms had passed, the geese had shuffled off the path, my shoes were slowly drying out, and many racers were walking instead of running. I was thinking that twelve hours was a long time to run, but 7.5 felt pretty good.
That was when it got hot. Stupid hot. I caught up to a teammate that was struggling and made plans to have a bag of ice ready for him when he got back to camp. I passed another teammate and found out he was on the same mission. At camp I helped prepare for hot, exhausted runners before heading back out. Little did I know that I would be the next to fall.
I went from averaging 11:00 minute miles to dry heaving. After several failed attempts while I was alone, I finally puked just as other runners came around. I could have lived without that embarrassment, but confirmed to them I was alright. After walking back to camp, I sat with ice on my head for ten minutes before heading back out on a walking lap. An hour later, I didn’t feel any better. I sat down for another twenty minutes this time at camp. I swallowed another salt pill, drank more soda, and ate what I could. I set out for another walking lap and hoped that something would balance out and my body would come around. This was not the turn I wanted my afternoon to take.
Slowly but surely I came around but I still felt like I was overheating. Assuming that my body had quit regulating my temperature, I decided to do it manually. There was cold water available at camp, at an unmanned aid station halfway through, and via spigots in the campground. At each of these locations I poured cold water over my head and refilled my bottle so I could continue to squirt myself when needed. It meant I was constantly soaked, but it worked well enough. On the down hills my steps started to pick up instead of plod. By the time I made it back to camp again I was smiling and ready to get back to running. I refilled my bottle, took more salt, briefly shot the shit with teammates, and ran away. It cost me roughly 2 hours between dying and resurrecting, but I came through feeling decent on the other side.
Lets End This Already!
With 1:37:00 still on the clock I wanted to get in two more laps. That would give me 18 of my A+ goal 20 and would put me in the mid 50’s for miles. I could be happy with that. Rejuvenated, lap 17 took 37 minutes stopping only for water and to walk hills. When I left for my final 18th lap, I still had 57 minutes on the clock. I could have walked it if I wanted and still made it, but I ran instead and crossed the finish line for the last time at 11:42:04. I placed 13th overall and 4th in the 30-39 age bracket.
Twelve hours. Goddamn that’s a long time to move forward. Now, four days later, my swollen feet are getting back to normal, my appetite has returned to normal, and I might run a little tonight. We also have a new tire on my wife’s car because we got a flat on the drive home. We joked that we drove 8 hours to Terre Haute so we could run for 12 hours. That seems a little absurd.
I have 30 days until my next race. I printed out the trail maps this morning so I can start studying them. It’s a 40 miler with 7000 feet in elevation gain. It should be a good one.
The Sappy Part
At home my wife and I don’t have any running friends. There’s no one to talk to about races or to get some recovery miles in with. It makes our ICWT meetups all the more special, and I miss my ultra family. To know that at any given time in a race there are people I care about out on the same course makes me push harder. To know that when I get back to camp, there will be people to talk to and joke around with makes me smile. And to know that no matter where any of us finish, we’re all still part of the family makes me happy. They’re good people. I’m already excited about our next race together, wherever or whenever that may be.