Monday, July 28, 2014
I paid to run around a trail loop for 6 hours: A review of my 6 hour ultra experience
Saturday was incredible. Challenging for sure, but the Montour 24 race was a great experience. Just a tidbit about this race: there was a 6 hour option; a 12 hour option; and, hence "Montour 24", a 24 hour option. I took on the 6 hour option as it was my first time running continuously around a looped course and I had no idea how my running would be affected.
Val, her uncle, and I all woke up around 3:15 Saturday morning to have some coffee and try and wake up for our 2 1/2 hour drive to Danville, PA for the inaugural Montour 24 Endurance Runs event. Luckily, Val's uncle was fine driving the whole way and I was able to get an additional hour of sleep in during the ride. When Val woke me up, I was a bit worried. It was raining. Now that's probably one of the last worries an "ultra runner" should have, but I truly don't know how it feels to run in inclement weather for anything longer than an hour. Soggy shoes and feet. Blisters. Wet, heavier clothes. Nothing to really fantasize about, but fortunately that didn't happen.
We arrived at the race area with about 15 minutes to spare before the start of the race. I barely had time to..err....unload...before final race announcements were spoken and the start of the run was announced.
In fact, I was talking to Val and shaking out the jitters when I heard the 10 second countdown and had to run back to the starting line to meet back up with the group. You can see them all gathered around in the back by the Start/Finish blowup.
Let me break the rest of my review down by sections to avoid a very scatterbrained post.
So I started the race in the clothes pictured above. A six year old, cotton t-shirt from high school that I slept in. I've run in this shirt before and just went with my gut on it. It lasted me an hour before it was too wet and heavy for my liking. Then I changed into a moisture-wicking running top that only lasted me about another hour and fifteen until...yes...my right nipple started to chafe a bit from the abrasion that was occurring while running. This might sound weird or funny, but it's no joke. I did not want to be these runners that's for sure. So because the nips were too sensitive for a shirt, it was shirtless for the rest of the race which really felt like heaven.
Next, shoes. I went with my trusty Asics Gel-Excel33 2's for the race and opted to not change into my Asics trail running shoes. Since half of the course was on rocky trail, I thought I might get small rocks stuck in the treads which would have been quite annoying if that were to happen or continue to happen. The sneaks got me to the end of the run and they are now retired from running, which is perfect timing because...
My Asics Gel-Excel 33 3's arrived over the weekend!!! So excited to test them out.
So, as I mentioned before, half of the course was rocky/loose gravel, while the other half was more grassy/rooty/dirt path type of trail. It was very runnable which is why I decided to stick to the road trainers for the race. All runners, no matter the duration of their event, had to run on the same 1.5 mile loop course. And it was awesome! I was so nervous about running around in circles for 6 hours, but I didn't get tired of it at all. Being able to see Val and her uncle regularly for support was a great plus and being able to always be close to other runners was motivating as well. There were times I felt a bit wobbly toward the end, but then I would see a 12 hour or 24 hour runner pushing through and I knew I couldn't slow down.
Runnable trail. Well-maintained trail. Beautiful-in-its-own-sort-of-naturalness-trail.
I stuck with the fuel that I laid out in my previous post (scroll down to find) with two variations:
1) I ate an additional honey stinger for quick energy for the last hour of my run and
2) I only had two single Clif Bloks blocks although I brought a whole sleeve and another half sleeve.
For hydration, I was all over the coconut water and water with Nuun Tri Berry electrolyte tablets I brought. I had at least 50 ounces of liquids and only had to pee once!
Calories consumed: Approx. 765
Calories burned (See image of watch): 4,254.
The environment of people was perfect for running. The spectators/support crew alongside Val and her uncle were cheering me on every time I looped around and were even helping to crew for me when Val and her uncle went for a 90 minute run! I mean the energy at an ultra event is truly a special kind of energy. It's not like your loud, festive, crazy energy at triathlons, 5ks, or half marathons. It's really a much calmer, but still very genuine energy that perfectly reflects that fact that we are in Nature's realm.
The organizers clearly planned very well for this race. It seemed to have been run flawlessly and the communication through Facebook and e-mail was always motivating, explanatory, and remained open for runners to ask their questions privately and/or publicly.
It takes a special person to run an ultra. And we are all special, aren't we? So what does that mean? We can all run an ultra marathon!
There was once female runner who informed us via Facebook that this was her first ultramarathon (she loved it) and is now thinking about running a "regular" marathon!
These runners come in all different shapes, sizes, and ages which was just an incredible testament to the beauty of ultra running. There was a much older man, probably in his late 60s at least, who I believe was speed-walking the entire 12 hour event due to what probably was age/physical-related limitations to his ability to run. But he was out there. And he kept going. Every time a runner ran past him (Bill was his name) and expressed their support, he simply replied, "Go, go, go," while gesturing his arm in a forward motion.
So that's what I'm going to continue to do. Go, go, go.
For those of you who are worried about how your body will feel during/after an ultramarathon. It's nothing soothing. The run is quite a load of stress on the body, but the body is an amazing thing. It recovers. Just like it's meant to do. (It recovers faster on a plant-based diet, too!) I haven't run yet, but I will ease back into running with the help of proper stretching, nutrition, swimming, and biking and should be registering for my next ultra to take place sometime in August or September with another in October. Crazy, I know. But it's what I've learned that I love to do. Test and challenge the body. See how much my body is capable of.
I hope this review has gotten you somewhat interested in the possibility of running your first race whether it be a 5k or an ultramarathon. Who cares. I would love to hear from you via Facebook or email (email@example.com) and talk more about what smart training would entail to complete your first or, perhaps, next running event if you desired to reach out.
That's all for tonight.