I was a little bit nervous going into this race. Still recovering from the SI problems that destroyed my BQ at the Wisconsin Marathon, my pain was minimal but my endurance left a lot to be desired. My longest run since the marathon was 7 miles. My SI also screwed me over in the week leading up to the ultra, which I caught before it gave me any lingering damage.
All these factors considered…. I was not expecting my best performance.
My parents and I also left for Green Bay Friday night at 11:30, arrived at UW-Green Bay before 4 AM, and were off on the trail at 5 AM.
That means…. all nighter!
I went out on Friday afternoon for drinks and snackies with a friend, and it just did not feel like the day before a big race. I’m used to being in a hotel or somebody else’s house the day before a race. It wasn’t clicking that I would be running soon… and no sleep would precede that run.
Attempts at napping before we left and napping in the car only left me more tired because I couldn’t fully fall asleep. After my dad’s best friend arrived, we started getting ready to run. It was too dark for any pictures, which is a shame. UW-Green Bay is a beautiful campus (I almost went to school there!). It got light as we wandered towards the start. It didn’t even cross my mind to take a picture or ask our cheerleader (my dad’s bestie’s wife) to take pictures.
I have a whopping ZERO pictures from this race. I am a terrible photographer and rely far to much on others to take pictures for me. Sorry everyone!
Since this was a “green” race, they asked runners to carry water bottles or hydration packs. I can’t handle much more than my Flipbelt around my waist, so I used a handheld water bottle. I used it one time before race day, but it didn’t bother me as much as I was afraid it would.
What did bother me though was my Garmin! It kept losing signal throughout the course and would pause if I slowed to almost a stop (a feature I didn’t think to turn off!). I was getting so mad at it… next time I might have to just use an old fashioned stop watch.
The trail around the campus was beautiful. It was mostly dirt and wood chips (easy on the feet), and mostly shaded. There was a nice view of the bay, and even though there were a couple short yet steep hills, the views were pleasant. Less than 100 people total participated, so I found myself very much alone for long periods of time. It was peaceful, but I missed the energy that is present at other events, especially around the 4 hour mark when I was slowing up. If the two aid stations on the course had boom boxes… I wouldn’t complain!
Besides walking the hills, I ran the entirety of the first 15 miles. This was more to boost my ego than anything else. It felt good to know that I still have some endurance left in me. I started to walk chunks of the 4.75 mile loop at this point. The loop felt extremely long, and it was difficult to mentally gage where the mile markers were.
To run 40 miles would mean 12 minute miles for 8 hours. Much harder than it sounds! I had some faster loops in the bank early on when it was cool and I still felt good. I thought that 8 loops might be possible (38 miles), but set a goal for the day of 35 miles. Like I always do, I started doing math in my head in the last several hours. When the 6 hour runners finished, the trail was even more empty than it was before. I started breaking it up in my head… to do 35 miles, I would need to walk 6 miles in 2 hours. 4 miles in an hour and a half. Thanks to my strong first half, I could reach my goal at a power walk.
Power walking was about all I could do after loop 6. Running just felt terrible, and by the time I got to loop 7, I realized that I could easily finish 7 loops and be able to at least make it to the first aid station on an 8th loop (runners could finish at an aid station and have the distance count toward their total miles without finishing the loop, making it less risky to start a new loop with not much time on the clock). However, in order to finish 8 loops, I would need to run almost the entire loop at an 11 minute pace, which was not going to happen.
I made it to the first aid station and ate a few pieces of watermelon while the volunteers told me how much time I had left and my total milage if I made it to aid station 2. They also told me that they were giving rides back to the start/finish at aid station 2 (good enough reason for me to keep going!). I had about half an hour to walk 1.8ish miles, so I set off pretty pleased with myself.
Leading up to aid station 2 (between 400-800 meters away) was a sign that said “Don’t poop your pants! Port-a-potties ahead!” and I had been calling this the poop sign. As soon as I saw the poop sign, there were a couple twists and turns, and then I could see the aid station through the trees and I was there. On loop 8, however, I was starting to panic. My Garmin was a few minutes off due to it pausing and losing satellite, and I knew I was cutting it close. I couldn’t find the poop sign. It seemed further away than ever! So I mustered up all I could and started running until I finally saw it. The few twists and turns to the aid station also felt longer than ever.
The second I saw the white pop-up through the trees, the first thing in my head was “EXTRACTION POINT!” I have clearly been watching too much Naked and Afraid. It was strange to finish somewhere other than the finish line.
I finished with 8 minutes to spare and with 35.85 miles!
Another runner finished a few minutes after me, and a volunteer drove us back to the start/finish. It felt so wonderful to be done!
I also took the opportunity to sneak up on my parents and their friends, who had their eyes glued to the path where they were expecting me to finish. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity.
We got our belt buckles for finishing and had our free lunch at the golf club (I almost thought I would go hungry until an employee ran off to get me a veggie burger… thanks golf club employee!) Around this point, the fact that I had been awake since 7 AM Friday morning was starting to make an impact, though surprisingly
the lack of sleep ZERO sleep didn’t have much of an effect on my running.
There were only awards for the overall winners, but I was happy to find out that I was in a three way tie for third; meaning only two women ran further than me.
I know that I originally had a goal of 40 miles, but all factors considered, I’m thrilled with how I did. I also did not feel nearly as crappy afterwards like I usually do after marathons. I think that the soft footing helped but I think my body is also getting used to the abuse I give it on a fairly regular basis. I think that getting more long runs in would have helped me at least finish my 8th loop, but there was nothing I could do about that. I have been trying to build up since being recovered, and wasn’t ready for anything long yet. Now that I know that my body can handle the stress (NO hamstring pain, NO hip flexor pain, and my SI stayed in place and didn’t cause ANY pain), I’m excited to start getting some longer runs and some speed work in for my half marathon in July and my fall marathons.
Three days after the race, and I was able to use the elliptical at the gym, and I’m feeling pretty good! It took me a week and a half to feel this good after the Wisconsin Marathon.
The bad news, though, is that my right big toenail separated from the toe during the race. I thought it was be ok, but putting my running shoes on today made me think otherwise. So my dad removed it… not fun. However, snap chatting a short video of the removal to a bunch of friends cheered me up. It was worth the friends I probably lost. I knew the nail would need to go, and the sooner it was off the less runs I would have to miss. Meanwhile, I’m hobbling around with a bandaged toe. Thank baby Jesus I don’t work as a dog groomer anymore…. a psycho dog jumping on me and landing on that toe would be a perfectly reasonable excuse for me to slit a throat (sorry dog lovers, but thats the cold truth)!
So now its time to get some long runs in so I can do 40 miles at Howl and get ready for Chicago Rock’n Roll in less than 3 weeks! As soon as one race is finished, I get so giddy for the next one, so I’m loving all that I have planned. I convinced one of my close friends (who has always hated running) to do the Chicago Rock’n Roll 5K the day before the half marathon, so I’ll be run/walking that with her. It should be a fun event and I hope she gets hooked on running!
In case anyone was wondering… 35.85 miles in 8 hours is a PR for me!