Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Update

Not much going on around here. I finally ran last night - first time since the Ultra. It was fine but the humidity was gross.

I've been tracking my calories with my new, awesome, iPhone, and hopefuly this will help me lose a little bit of weight before the Baltimore marathon but so far it's not deterring me from eating lunch out all the time. It has steered me away from a couple of late-night pop tarts though.

Tomorrow I have 15 on the schedule for Baltimore but USA Fit is only going 10 so hopefully I will have enough motivation to log the extra five miles. If I don't, I'll probably wind up doing more miles on Sunday than I am currently planning.

USA Fit Philly is now sending 6 red team members to the Goofy Challenge -- how awesome is that?

I'm considering starting the 200 sit-up challenge and the 200 squat challenge. More on that later....

Friday, July 24, 2009

20in24 - The Aftermath

As I said, I was home in bed by 4AM.

Before getting my shower I spent some time on the couch using The Stick to rub my calf muscles. This hurt a little too much so I gave up and went to sleep but as I was laying in bed I was just AWARE of them. They didn't really hurt, they weren't in active spasm, but I could tell that they were angry with me. I was concerned but mostly just tired.

Around 8 AM my husband woke up and I woke up too, I spent a little time talking with him (he hadn't had an update from me since about lap 4) and he was about to head out on a bike ride so I had him bring me a dose of Advil and big glass of water before he left. Then I rolled over and went back to sleep until around 11:00.

Getting out of bed was a challenge. I was afraid to set my feet on the ground for fear of what it would feel like. Luckily, things weren't much worse than the day after a marathon. My quads, which are usually sore, were just fine. My hips were tight, my calfs very sore and my feet were kind of swollen and stiff. They didn't really hurt so much as they just felt worn out and stressed.

I spent most of Sunday sitting with my feet up, drinking lattes and relaxing. I was pretty tired all day long but not horribly exhausted. I ate alot too. Random stuff, mostly healthy, but alot of food. (eggs, toast, tuna fish, pastry from Starbucks, steak & potatos for dinner). I made myself stay awake until 10PM before turning in for the night.

Monday I felt really good, aside from the one small heel blister I'd developed on Lap 6 and my swollen feet I was in pretty good shape. Stiff and zombie like when getting up after sitting but mostly feeling good. Still tired.

Monday night I slept with my feet propped up on a giant pillow and by Tuesday the swelling was gone. Not sure if that was coincidence or not.

By Wednesday the muscles & feet seem fine. Blister still there.

Still don't want to run.

Here it is Friday. I'm still obsessed with the event. Over the last few days I've come around from "never again" to pretty sure I'll be back next year. I'm not sure I have the motivation to do a 50 mile race without the cushy support sytsem in place along Kelly Drive. It's nice being able to duck into the air conditioning to rest every 8 miles. I think I'd like to RUN a shorter ultra event someday. A 50K seems feasible. No matter what I'd like to be better prepared for my next ultra endeavor.

It was hard, but not as hard as expected. It was fulfulling but also not quite as fulfilling as I expected. It was a good challenge and a good experience.

20in24 - The Final Loops

Laps 5 and 6 were when this really got hard.

The start of Lap 5 was great. We were in our night-time gear, reflective vests, headlamps, glowing arm bands etc. It felt silly and fun and like we were some kind of warrior people sticking this crazy race out no matter what.

It was also nice to hook up with my sister at this point. We'd both been alone all day and it was good to have a buddy to talk to - especially one where you didn't have to start with the really basic small talk like "what's your name and what's your goal for today?".

She was on her 6th lap which meant she was 8.4 miles ahead of me and moving towards her 50 mile goal. We agreed that we'd take it easy on this lap and do mostly walking. We stuck to that plan, only breaking it up a few times to relieve pressure on my toes that were feeling sore again. Oddly, for me it felt better to run at this stage than to walk.

As the night wore on, I was starting to get really tired. I'm sure quite a bit of the fatigue was related to the race, after all by the end of lap 5 I'd have covered 44 miles, but mostly it was because it was approaching my normal bedtime. On the 2nd half of the loop I was having a really hard time trying to decide if I should press on to get to 50 miles.

What was the point? I kept asking myself. I don't get a medal or a t-shirt. There is no finish line, this was just an arbitrary goal I set for myself. I'd already accomplished a PR for one day distance. There wasn't much incentive to continue other than it sounds a lot more impressive to say 50 miles than it does to say 44 miles.

But I was tired. I felt OK physically, but I wanted to stop. I couldn't find it in myself to decide either way what to do. I could see good reasons (well, reasons anyway) for choosing each way. My sister wasn't much help. She'd hit 50 but was feeling some pain from blisters and was willing to stop if I really wanted to quit.

Checking into Lloyd Hall I collapsed into the beach chair still undecided about the plan. I took another Tylenol. I ate a couple slices of pizza. I talked to some college girls who were running the relay. They were impressed enough with the 44 miles that they sort of made me want to throw in the towel.

Luckily I decided around that point to check my cell phone for messages. I had two texts that both were encouraging me to press on to get to the full 50! Thanks Joan and LaDonna for helping me make the decision! About that same time, I got a call from my friends Tom & Maureen who were there to run the Midnight Madness Loop.

He won the prize for the best costume "Most Illuminated Runner". We could see him clear across the river!

Anyway, seeing them and getting the texts pushed me over the edge so around midnight we struck out on our last lap of the night. By this time our Garmins were dead so we were just out there on our own hoping that we were maintaining some kind of normal pace.

We did OK, not slowing down much over the last lap even though it felt like we were walking though molasses the whole time. I don't think there was much if any running on this lap.

The Lone Rangers were all tired and cranky and SILENT at this point. You'd see groups of them chugging along together but nobody was saying much of anything.

About a mile from the finish line my left calf started to feel funky -- like it was about to go into cramping spasms or something. That was how I knew it was smart to to quit at Mile 50.

By the time I sat down in my beach chair the right leg was getting the same feeling. Luckily they didn't really get much worse. A few twinges on the way home but nothing too bad.

What did it feel like to finish? Kind of anti-climactic! Because everybody stops this race at different times there was no finish line hoopla or anything. I went from the finish area (where the nice volunteer did mark my bib with exclamation points and a happy face) to Lloyd Hall were everybody was sprawled on the floor sleeping. I was happy but kind of in a state of total disbelief that I'd done this crazy thing and that I didn't feel too bad.

I was dreading packing up all the junk and lugging it back to the car so we ended up abandoning some stuff there in the gym. The cooler, the aerobed and some other stuff I think. I sat there taking in the scene and drinking another Slim Fast before heading SLOWLY back to the car and driving home.

I was showered and in bed by 4AM.

Video (after lap 5, kind of sad):

Video (after Lap 6):

20in24 - Even MORE about the race (it's a really long race)

Can you believe how long it's taking to tell this story? It's a really long race!

So by now I'm on lap four, still feeling good and still in somewhat familiar territory. I've done this distance before at the Brandywine Trail End-to-End Hike but only one time. I took some Tylenol 8-hour during my rest break after lap 3 and that really helped with my sore toes. They didn't really rear their head again until late in Lap 5.

I stuck to the same plan of walking mostly on West River Drive and running mostly on Kelly Drive and was still maintaining that 14 minute pace. My breaks were about 15 to 20 minutes between laps. Mostly due to shoe changes and the a memory of a blog I read about a guy who did Lone Ranger in 2008 who rested that long and said he didn't think it was long enough.

As I'd be walking along I'd stretch out my shoulders and arms and upper body and try to keep myself feeling pretty loose. I was still shocked about how good I felt at this point.

Getting back to Lloyd Hall I'd find notes from my sister who was also out on the Lone Ranger course. She was taking fewer and shorter breaks than I was and therefore was a full lap ahead of me! The system of writing on a clipboard to one another was great. Very good to keep tabs on one another in a super easy way.

There was a great aid-station around mile 2.5 that tried to keep things light and fun all day long. At some point folks from Baltimore BOMF were there in costume cheering us along. My favorite part was the tribute to Brian Dawkins they had for awhile. For those of you who don't follow the Eagles, Brian Dawkins was the heart and soul of the Eagles for many years. He gives everything he has every game and he's also a big fan of the X-Men. I loved this sign that was at the aid station next to a B. Dawkins jersey.

I finished Lap 4 around 7:30 at night. It was cooling off and I knew that the next lap would see me in the darkness. My sister had left on her 5th Lap at 6:16 so I decided to take an extra long break and wait for her so we could do our night-time laps together. This was great because it gave me time to change my clothes and eat some stuff while I waited. I'm sure the rest was good but it also kills some momentum. It's a mixed bag but as I said, mostly good.

Food/Hydration: Only thing of note is that I had a Chocolate Slim Fast after Lap 3 (marathon distance). Went down easy and tasted really good. I felt great on Lap 4 and I think it might have been my fastest lap of the day. During the very long break before Lap 5 I ate about half to 3/4 of a ham on wheat bread sandwich that the race people provided. didn't want to eat it but I thought the protein & salt would be good for me. Continued with the hand held Gatorade bottle and water refills out on the course. During one of my laps (probably lap 3?) I lost between 1 and 2 pounds even while mostly walking and drinking along the way. Dehydration is pretty amazing!

Before leaving for Lap 5 I put on my reflective gear.

Video (Lap 4 recap):

Video (starting Lap 5):

20in24 - More about the Race

The first three laps (up to about mile 25) were just fine. Beautiful weather, nice conversation, little to no fatigue.

I found myself walking at first out of the base camp area and in the narrow section along West River Drive and then jogging some until getting close to the medical station where I would try to slow myself down and relax before having to check in (This never only good readings were on loop 4 when I was walking & talking with another Lone Ranger who was by my side until they slapped the BP cuff on my arm. No time to worry...totally normal BP.) Once clearing the medical tent I always took off jogging and I'd usually jog most of the 4 miles of Kelly Drive -- especially the parts where I was able to run on the soft dirt path that paralleled the sidewalk.

The bottom line was that I was averaging right about a 14 minute mile and that was well within my range of acceptable pace for this event.

Finishing lap 3 was essentially marathon distance and I felt great, not at all like I usually finish at the end of a marathon. It was different physically and emotionally. Really strange to have there be not one bit of fanfare or relief at crossing that distance milestone. I was doing so much more walking than I am used to and my body could really feel it. Tension in my hips and rear end that I never feel when running and SORE TOES that I haven't felt since the long end-to-end hike or my walking marathons.

Food/Hydration/Other Stuff:
Between laps I would duck into Lloyd Hall to cool off and refill my bottle with Gatorade. They were serving Gu2o on the course which I thought tasted like poison so I avoided it as much as possible. I also changed socks between each lap. A couple of times I reapplied sunscreen and body glide. (No sunburn or chafe marks at the end of the day, yay!)

I had another Roctane at some point but mostly I was eating small bits of food at Lloyd Hall base camp or at the stocked aid stations. Snacks included soft pretzels, regular pretzels, salty popcorn, peanuts, trail mix, raisins (LOVED the little boxes of raisins) and some bananas.

Video (during Lap 3):

Video (after Lap 3):

Video (start of Lap 4):

20in24 - the Event itself

We were super lucky to have the storms blow through on Saturday night to clear out the horrible humidity. Saturday was a gorgeous day: blue sky, puffy clouds, even a breeze. Just ideal.

The course is along a public use trail in the middle of downtown Philadelphia along the banks of the Schuykill River. It's busy with tourists and locals and people rowing on the river. It was a great place to do this type of long race because there was so much to look at to distract you from the matter at hand.

I was really anxious in the morning, mostly because of the medical stuff, and I successfully hid from the medical team in the early hours. We arrived well before the 10AM race start and set up our base camp and I sipped some Gatorade and ate a banana during the pre-race meeting. My nerves were calmed when I literally ran into the St. Joe's Hawk in the middle of Lloyd Hall. The Hawk is awesome and he seemed like a great omen for me today. A few times over the next 16 or so hours I had to remind myself that The Hawk Will Never Die!

Just about 10AM after the Star Spangled Banner we were off. After about a minute of slow jogging most of the Lone Rangers near me slowed to a casual walk. This was great and allowed me to get to know a handful of people and learn their strategies for the day. Most were planning to take it slow for the daylight hours and then pick things up later when the sun was heading down. Many had plans for 50+ miles or for staying all night but some, like me, were in it with 50 miles as the goal.

At about mile 4 we came across the first medical tent where some of us, like me, were dragged aside for a mandatory medical check. Of course, I freaked out. I was wearing my Garmin and watched a 20 beat spike in HR walking from the trail to the medical tent. Isn't that crazy? They weighed me, took pulse and BP, and commented that it was high. After swearing to them that I was OK, not dizzy, flushed, headachey or anything else they let me go. This would happen on every lap of the event. I think being able to show them my low average HR and knowing facts about my normal resting HR and BP helped them come to grips with the fact that I was OK. Plus, I was clearly never in any kind of distress other than being tired late in the day. I do think it's great that they pay this much attention. There wer 15 maybe 20 people who were made to do these mandatory lap check-ins.

I finished the first lap feeling great but went inside to record a video and to change my socks just because that was the race plan.

Food/Hydration plan: I was carrying a 20oz hand held amphipod bottle, drank this plus water at the aid stations. I think I filled the bottle up with water on the 2nd half of the loop. (I carried this thing for 5 of my 6 laps and it never bothered me a bit.) Had a Roctane gel at mile 4.5. Did not eat any food at the well stocked aid stations on this lap.

Video (at base camp):

Video (at starting line):

Video (start of lap 2):

20in24: The Night Before / Packing up

The Friday before 20in24 was just plain gross. Super hot, super humid, disgusting haze. We drove downtown to collect our t-shirts and numbers and were surprised that they wanted us to check in with medical.

I was a basket case at this point. Heart Rate was off the charts and of course, my famous white-coat hypertension was in effect. I sat down and they tried to calm me down by telling me that everybody was nervous and was getting abnormally high readings. Perhaps not as crazy high as mine, but still high. They sent me home, told me to get some rest, and to check in again in the morning when it was cooler and when I'd be more relaxed.

I did not relax. Instead I went home to run around like a maniac packing up my junk and fretting about how they might not let me do the race at all. (Which would be sort of awesome and sort of awful.)

We were thinking like relay people and packed A TON of stuff to take with us. Here's what we took and my verdict on if it was a good item or not:

Big cooler with ice (contained Gatorade, diet Coke, Slim Fast and uncrustables). Verdict: Good. We used everything in it, including the ice. The flaw was it's size. We ended up leaving it behind when we drove home because we were too tired to lug it up the hill to our car.

AeroBed/blanket/pillows Verdict: Bad. Ours didn't inflate but even if it did we probably wouldn't have used it. Only good for relay teams or those truly planning to stay at LLoyd Hall all night.

Sleeping Bag Verdict: Good. Opened this up and used it as a big cushy beach blanket. A nice place to sit in between laps.

Beach Chair Verdict: Good. Who doesn't like a chair? Especially after 50 miles!

Changes of Clothes Verdict: Mixed. We brought changes for each lap. This was because our experience for this event was 2008's 100 degree day. This year was cooler and breezy and we were not as disgusting as in years past. I changed my socks between each lap, so that I'd do again. I changed my entire outfit after 4 laps (about 33 miles) but I don't think I'd need more than one complete change of clothes.

Extra shoes Verdict: Good. I changed from old shoes after 2 laps and wore newer shoes last three laps. I think my feet were happy with that.

Extra Food Verdict: Bad. We had pretzels, cheetoes, and pop-tarts but didn't open any of it. There was plenty of food on the course and at Lloyd Hall. We didn't need this stuff.

Medical Stuff Verdict: Good. Used glide, sunscreen, a couple of band-aids and Tylenol. Didn't need most of the other stuff but it was good to have it handy just in case.

Baby Wipes Verdict: Mixed. Not really needed but nice to have anyway.

Towels Verdict: Mixed. Big beach towel not necessary because small hand towel would get the job done. Was nice to wash face a couple of times and to dry off.

Camera Verdict: Good! Used it to take some photos and to record video.

Here's a video from the night before. I look pretty tired and miserable and be warned, it's an extreme closeup!

20in24 Lone Ranger. Pre Race Plans

Before the Race

I didn't post much about this here on the blog but I did my first real ultra event this past weekend at the Back on my Feet 20in24 event. Last year I did this event as part of a 5 person relay team and had a great time but in 2009 my sister and I decided to enter as Lone Rangers. What does that mean? It means we agreed to do as many loops of the 8.4 mile course as we could in 24 hours.

I've had a really spotty training plan this year. I never quite got it together to train properly for the Seattle Rock'N'Roll marathon (which was great, by the way, and I nearly ran a PR) and therefore never trained properly for the Lone Ranger. As race day approached I was surprisingly not worried. I think I decided that I was so ill prepared that I would set a few goals and just take it as easy as I had to in order to accomplish those goals.

Goal #1: Complete marathon distance (no reason at all why I couldn't do this)
Goal #2: Go farther than I've done in one day, so that meant 35 or more more miles
Goal #3: Finish 50 miles (6 loops of the course)

I knew that goal #1 and goal #2 were manageable, even if the weather was bad, but I really didn't know if I'd be able to get to 50 miles.