Monday, July 25, 2011

20in24 Race Report - Can't All Be Great Races

I've honestly been avoiding writing this race report because it means I have to relive a painful race. We all have off days, but it honestly stinks more than anything that my off day had to be on the day of my 24 hour race. I know this will be an experience I can learn from, but right now, I am still bummed out.

Friday before my race, my mom (and sherpa for races) came into town. She, my boyfriend, John, and I went to pick up my race bib at the Art Museum, picked up last minute items from the running store, and grabbed dinner. My mom and I then went to the grocery store to pick up food items. I was up a bit later than I had hoped in order to get everything prepped (including applying my good luck race nail polish), but I still got decent sleep.
Delicious danish as my pre-race meal!

I woke up Saturday morning before my alarm, eager and ready for the day that was to come. I didn't wake up nervous, but just eager for the race to happen. I picked up a breakfast pastry and my mom/sherpa and I drove to the race location. We set up our tent and eagerly awaited the start of the race. I camped out next to the TrailDawgs tent and got to me the three kind gentleman there. We talked about our previous races and our hopes for the race at hand. We had the pre-race meeting, I finished getting ready, and then we were off!

I was extremely excited for this race, so my first lap went by quickly and went by pretty much without a hitch. I did find myself with quite the dry mouth, which made it hard to eat the way I wanted to, but I felt pretty okay with this first 8.7 mile lap.

I write on the Runner's World Marine Corps Marathon forum and have become great friends with a lot of runners. One of the runners, Patti, lives in the Philly area and came out for last year's race, which was SO sweet. She of course topped herself and came with a really sweet sign! It was really great to see a familiar face towards the end of my first lap and it definitely gave me some juice to move towards the second lap.

Patti's awesome sign for me!!!
During my second lap, I noticed that doing my 27 minutes running/3 minutes walking pattern was getting a bit difficult, but I kept it up for this loop. My mouth became exceedingly dry and that made it even harder to eat anything. As I drank more and more water from my hydration pack, my mouth never felt hydrated and the water started sloshing in my stomach, making me feel nauseous. When I finished this lap, I felt much more tired than I normally do after 16.8 miles. This worried me, but I just kept plugging along.

Patti snagged a picture of me finishing my first lap
The third lap is when everything started to fall apart. I had zero energy (partially from the tiny amount of food I had consumed do the the dry mouth). I stopped doing the 27/3 ratio and switched to my old 10/2 run/walk ratio. I ran into a runner from my 12 hour race, who easily blew by me after a quick chat. I was super desperate and feeling awful. I texted fellow ultrarunner, Jesse, and Jon (whose 100 miler I paced back in Apri) for some words of advice. They said I could do it and to keep pushing, but I didn't really believe it was possible.

When I finished this lap, I was an emotional mess, too. My mom rightly suggested I come inside to the air conditioned runners area to lay down and get some more calories in me. She grabbed me a turkey sandwich and some chips, which were eaten between upset and frustrated tears. A fellow runner (and as I found out later, a running coach) gave me some great advice and overall, calmed me down. After eating, I felt better, but knew I wasn't going to have the race I had originally envisioned. I picked myself up and pushed along to the fourth lap.

I slowly trudged along for my fourth lap, but thankfully ran into another Back on My Feet volunteer that I run with, Sebastian. It was his first ultra and we ended up doing most of the lap together. I was really feeling upset and negative, so being around another running friend was amazing. We talked about a bunch of things, but the company was extremely needed and I got lucky finding him!

For my fifth lap, my great friend, Chuck, came to pace me. He had never run more than 5ish miles and was worried about "keeping up with me" (his words), but at that point, I was walking a lot and running verrrrry slowly. As I told him, he would have no issue sticking with me because I was going to be slow. He did a great job of keeping me entertained and we talked about everything from running, our friends, politics, and more. I had a hot spot on my right pinky toe, so I had the medical people tape up my toe about halfway through the loop. This sadly comes back up later in the race....I know that it was hard to stick with me because I was moving so slowly, so I owe Chuck big time for his help!

Blurry picture of Chuck and me after our lap together
By this point, I was really so tired, I knew that walking would be it for me. I could run faster than I could walk, but it took so much more energy out of me, so I walked. I had one awesome pacer for my last lap, my mom! She was amazing company and was able to keep me walking at a decent clip (for most of the loop). At this point, I really didn't know how I was going to keep going after this lap. My mom was extremely helpful and helped me talk out my options for the race. Did I just keep walking through the night, even with feet that were killing me? Did I attempt to sleep in the runners room inside and see how I felt after? Did I just go home after this lap, knowing I did the best I could and that I'd at least get in 50 miles? All of this was being pondered when I headed to the medical tent yet again for my right pinky toe.

As I hobbled over, I sat down and had my toe tended to by the same podiatry student that taped up my toe before. When he ripped off the tape, he quickly said, "Whoah!" That's not a good sign. My pinky toe was covered in two giant and gnarly looking blisters. He drained them, which was stupid painful. It felt like a cross between a painful burn and a sharp stinging. The other medical person there kept joking with me and I, like a baby, kept squeezing my mom's hand to forget the pain. He taped it all up and then taped up my heel after I told him about some plantar fascia pain. I couldn't put much weight on it, so my mom and I slowly moved on (me hobbling, of course).

Before we left the medical tent, the woman who founded Back on My Feet (the charity this race was for) came to the tent to warn of a mugging that had happened recently. A runner was mugged on the bridge on the course and we were told to not go out there with headphones and be careful if we were alone. We were not too far from that bridge, so as we approached, two other male runners asked if we wanted to be accompanied by them. It was really nice of them and I appreciated getting to talk to other runners. They, too, were having worse races this year than last year, so it made me feel a bit better that I wasn't alone.

With about 1.5 miles to go in the last lap, I saw two familiar faces walking to me: two of my co-workers, Melissa and Pat! They were nice enough to trek out to my race at midnight and seeing familiar faces really helped. We walked to the end of the lap and I decided I wanted to sit down inside and think about the rest of the race.

When I sat down, I had half of a mushroom and asparagus wrap (cafe in the building was open all night for the race!) and really thought out what I wanted to do. I was mentally much better, but my feet were killing me and I have no drive to keep going. I probably could have walked the last 10 hours of the race, but would I have enjoyed it? Would I have been proud of that race? Probably not. I also thought about my marathon that is only 18 weeks after this race, so I ended up deciding to stop. I got to 50.7 miles on a terribly off day, which isn't half bad. I did, though, shed a fair amount of tears. Walking up to tell the timers I was done, I cried. Walking up to pick up my 50 mile finisher plaque, I was crying. I felt like a failure and mentally weak for not finishing what I wanted. My mom and boyfriend were great in telling me I did the right thing, but I just felt like a quitter. I felt trapped and overwhelmed by the timing of it and stopping after 14 hours felt so lame.

I looked up "decision making" and found this.  It almost was like picking apples, except not.
As the days since my race have passed, I know I did maybe the right thing. I did the thing I felt I was only capable of. Minus a tender toe from the blisters, I was back to normal within two days. I am able to start training for the Philadelphia Marathon today, just one week behind a normal 18-week schedule. I am not injured for a month or so like I was last year, so that is a partial win for this race. I also was injured just two months before this race and only had one full month to train after the PT. I expected too much after coming back from injury. Overall, I'm still pretty bummed and will never know if I made the right decision, but I'm not focusing on it now. There are two more races (RNR Philly Half Marathon and Philly Marathon) in my schedule this year to focus on and I'm ready to put this behind me.

Final Stats:

Distance: 50.736 miles
Time: 14:15:09
Toenails lost: 0 (when you only have 6 to start, it helps...)


  1. Reb,

    While I full well understand how disappointing it is to not quite get what you were shooting for, I need to let you know how much of an inspiration you are just for sticking it out all those 50.736 miles. Plenty of people would've given up after that second lap or that first blister. There definitely aren't that many people in the world that have the kind of drive and motivation that you have which propels you to keep going even when every rational fiber in your body is screaming at you to stop. That's truly something special- and powerful to have. There will be another chance (Philly Half and Philly Marathon like you said) and at that point you will set new goals for yourself and you WILL achieve them. We all have our cruddy moments, the important thing is you get back up and keep going. You got this gurl!!

    Feel Ya,

  2. I agree with Srav!! 50+ miles is SUPER impressive! Great post! I enjoyed reading it!

  3. Aw, thanks Srav and Liz. Your support is wonderful and much appreciated! :D