"Little Debbie" that is. We had a bit of an online discussion about ultra food the day before this race and yes, the general consensus is that Little Debbie Snacks are a popular choice for fuel when running an ultra.
So, I had high hopes going into this weekends Delano 12 hour run in Decatur, AL. My initial goal on paper from a few months back was 65 miles in 12 hours, but after the past couple weeks, I was feeling strong and thought 70 was very doable. Unfortunately, it seems that those same past couple weeks turned into my downfall. Well, not really a downfall but it definitely made it harder.
The night before the race I got home a bit later than anticipated after shuttling kids around, shopping etc., as such I did not have as much time to prepare as I normally might. Between that and the fact that the race was local and that it was a 1 mile loop where I'd be running by my car repeatedly, my mind jumped to the resolution that I did not really need to get too many things ready for the next day. I keep all my running stuff together anyway, so I would just throw it all into the car and work it out in the morning. I'd have plenty of time.
Well, race morning comes and I only gave myself 1/2 hour to get prepared at home due to the early start time and my love of sleep. No worries, I think I can get it going. I pull everything together and get out of the house only 10 mins later than anticipated. A slight drizzle greets me in the dark morning as I pull out of the garage. Still not sure of what weather to expect but ok, no worries. After 5 mins on the road, the bottom drops out of the rain and it is raining buckets... this is not looking good. Another 5 mins down the road and my gas light comes on... ok the stress level is starting to rise. Maybe I should have prepared the night before. And lastly, as I rummage through my race bag. No Imodium, so much for settling that stomach.
Well, despite running on fumes I get to the race only 10 mins later than anticipated. It is a low key start but my entire time is spent trying to get things organized, no time to relax and settle in.
As the siren sounds, I try to first push it out of the crowd a bit and then settle into a nice easy pace. It's going to be a long day so I look around for friends to latch on to. Seeing Glen King up ahead I push it a bit more and catch up to him. He's pushing an 8:30ish pace, definitely faster than I planned on but he it's early.
Lately as I've been running more and more, my legs have been taking at least a couple miles to loosen up. Knowing this is the case I do my best to ignore tight legs and expect they will loosen after a few laps. Joey Butler and Linda Scavarda soon catch Glen and I and push the pace a bit more. There seems to be some strange phenomenon that when Joey and I run next to each other we both end up going faster than we want to and this was no different. Pretty soon we're averaging something like 8-8:10 miles.
The strange thing about this race is that you pickup and lose people left and right and never really know where you stand among things. Somewhere along the line, I feel like I lost everyone else and ended up running by myself. I blame most of it on the fact that you run by the start every mile and whoever needs something (bathroom, bottle, snack etc) just peels off and you never really notice. Unfortunately, my legs never seem to loosen up. After 3 miles my hamstrings are tight as knots and I'm trying to just run through the pain. This does not bode well. As I run more laps, I convince myself that I never really recovered from that 10K PR effort last weekend and my legs are fighting back. Joy.
Anyway, after several laps I approach Glen again, not sure if I'm ahead of him or behind but he introduces me to Ian from Lancaster, PA. We run for a while discussing his long drive down and his upcoming attempt at the Florida Keys 100. Good luck to you Ian! Good conversation however is good for distracting from pain, so this is all very welcome. Drifting around, I also run with Josh Kennedy for a while. He's a metronome out there on the course steadily pounding out the miles all day long. Spent quite a while with him 2 weeks earlier running the Mount Cheaha 50k so we caught up for a bit and then either he or I drifted ahead or behind, hard to remember.
Somewhere around 15 miles I decide that I'm going for some early Advil. I pop a couple and after another lap I can feel them kick in. Things loosen a little so I keep on going.
Well the day goes on and we go round and round. I hit my marathon right at 4 hours which seemed reasonable then hit my 50K at 4:50 a PR by only 8 minutes but happy with that given the situation. It's around this time that Jon Elmore shouts out to me that I'm in 4th place. Great. The last thing I need is motivation to go faster, but I can't resist. I pick it up for the next few laps and let the thought of placing consume me for most of the day. It's also around this point in time that I decide I'll put some music on. This helps and I even catch myself singing along now and then as I continue to run in circles.
When I get to the 40 miles + range, my feet decide to kick in and add to all the other pain. I regularly struggle on and off with Morton's Nueroma and today will be no exception. Sometime around mile 42 or 43 Eric Charette passes by me and is struggling a bit to close out his 50 miles. Somehow I get the energy to catch up to him and try to pull him along. I only run with him for one loop but it has me moving a bit faster and I keep on going. Legs are still very tight but it's moved a bit into my calves now and the hamstrings, though still tight and hurting, are reduced to secondary pain.
On I go though and eventually I hit 50 miles at 8:30, yet another PR (this time by 1 hr). Somewhere around this point someone tells me I'm now in 6th place. Oh well, so much for placing, but no worries. I'm starting to feel confident that I can reach my goal. Now all I can think about how I can make time go faster. I only need 15 miles to hit my goal but there is still 3:30 left on the clock. Damn this timed race thing, no way to speed up the clock. So onward I go.
My mind wanders as I drift between different people on the course. Run for a while with Hope Wisner who is part of a relay team. Four self proclaimed Divas who individually have never run more than 14 miles are still going strong and she pulls me along having to hold back to stay with me. (in the end they knocked out 64 for the day. Impressive!). Run for a while with my buddy Blake Thompson, normally a stud at this (70 miles individually last year) but is still recovering from a fast 100 mile run a month back. After a slow start though, he has really picked it up and I cannot hang for long. And also run with Kristen Pinyerd who did a run/walk all day never having run more than 9 miles before she ended up with 32. Very impressed, however I hope she did not hurt anything too bad.
Finally somewhere in my upper 50s or lower 60s, Wayne Heckler joins in to run it out with me. This is good as I'm in uncharted territory now. Never have run beyond ~53 miles before. Wayne brings along the knowledge that he believes I'm now in 3rd place overall and the first place Master. This is amazing to me as I rarely ever place in Ultra races, typically more concerned with covering the distance than doing it in a winning time. This boosts my spirits a bit and after several laps of struggling with the pace and walking every "hill" (about 10ft total climb each loop I would guess) Wayne gets me in a groove and we're running steadily for the remainder of the race.
Somehow I pull off 10 min miles for the last 3 laps and I come in on my last lap with about 9:20 left on the clock. Mentally I decide that I've done enough and don't push for one more lap. It turns out to be enough as I do achieve 3rd Overall Male and 1st Master with 67 miles. Delirious but content my great wife Casey and kids help me over to the dinner and awards ceremony.
One thing I never really mentioned was the weather. As it seems is typical with this race it was a factor but nothing too drastic I suppose. It rained on and off most of the day but the rain only came down real hard once that I remember and fortunately I was refueling in the tent for some of it and only got stuck for a lap or two. It did start to hail for about a loop which really did hurt, but fortunately it too passed quickly.
I was in pain the whole day from the very first lap but somehow gritted it out and achieved my goal. It wasn't the great day it could have been if I had been feeling it but it was a great day nonetheless as I achieved a big personal goal. Content with everything except for the fact that I've ruined my legs now for several day. Hopefully I'll be back out there soon.