Ultra #4 - BPAC 6 Hour Endurance Challenge
So I completed my 4th Ultramarathon yesterday at the BPAC 6 Hour Endurance Challenge. Rather than run a fixed distance, this race was about seeing how much mileage you could complete in a fixed 6 hour time period. It was located in Buffalo – 4 hours away from Cooperstown. I signed up on a whim just a couple of weeks ago, thinking it would be a good way to get in a long (30+) supported run as part of my 100 mile training, and also just interested to see what I could do in 6 hours. Of course, I signed up just off of my last Ultra – NJ Ultrafest trail 50K, where I did really well – so was still riding that high as I pressed the registration button.
So – on 4/2 I ran 50K of trails. Did a 22 mile road run the following Saturday, followed by a 23 mile trail run the following Saturday with Pat McHenry and Luana Pesco-Koplowitz. Normally I’d do 3 hard weeks, 1 easy in terms of long runs – but because of race timing, I was looking at 4 long weeks in a row, culminating with the 30+ run at BPAC.
Somewhere in the middle of last week my daughter informed me she was coming home on Saturday – the day I was supposed to head out for Buffalo. Because of my race, I’d miss her. I also started feeling self conscious about how many weekend days I’ve been spending time away, running or racing – and so found myself really waffling heavily about whether or not to go through with this race. Even as late as Friday night, the night before I was supposed to head out, I still had thoughts of cancelling – and not just cancelling the race, but scaling back to maybe a 10-miler – just because it felt like mentally I was a little bit burnt out on long runs.
Saturday morning came. Because of my race on Sunday, instead of a “back to back” (long run Saturday, shorter long-ish run on Sunday), I decided to just get in 6 easy miles before I headed out to Buffalo. I think that run clinched it that I was going to proceed – everything felt good and strong and I just wanted to keep running. So – despite the fact that I’d miss Patty’s visit, and despite the fact that I was feeling kind of bad about abandoning Matthew for an overnight and all day Sunday, I headed out mid-day on Saturday to Buffalo.
Have actually decided to go, I was in a good mood driving out to Buffalo. The sun was bright, and I made good time – enjoying travelling, once it was in progress. I checked into my Red Roof Inn (Plus) and headed out for some solo sightseeing at Niagara Falls – always impressive.
Of bad food choices...
Following my brief stop at one of America’s most visited tourist spots, I set my sights on dinner. Checking out Trip Advisor, I saw that there was a highly ranked German Restaurant near my hotel. Hmmm. My brain said no – but my stomach said yes yes yes. Now – anyone who knows me well at all knows that I am VERY food motivated. And, although I like pretty much any kind of food, I really like to take advantage of foods I can’t get in Cooperstown. Which is really – well, anything that’s not American, Chinese or Italian.
I had made this type of bad-food decision before my 50 mile race as well – my lunch the day before consisted of nachos and fried pickles. One could see where that could go very bad – and it did – but fortunately it went bad for an hour in the bathroom BEFORE I started my 50 miler – so caused me no issues on that particular race.
So German food. And I have to say, it was pretty much the best schnitzel and spaetzel I’ve ever had in my life. I ate with gusto and, alas, cleaned my plate, knowing as I did so that it was probably a bad idea.
The rest of the night was smooth sailing – my bed and room were comfortable, and though I had some minor heartburn, by and large I got a good night’s sleep without too much fretting about the next day’s race.
Set my alarm for 5:30 a.m, in order to be at the start line by 7-ish. I didn’t really HAVE to get up that early – but given my experience with the CanLakes pre-race digestion, I wanted to allow enough time for lots of coffee drinking, breakfast, and, please oh please, some quality bathroom time so I could approach the race start comfortably. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of eating my cold mini bagels, so I went out in search of a McDonalds for an Eggamuffin breakfast special (hash browns and OJ included – of course). Breakfast was yummy – but I was pretty dismayed with just how sloshy and bloated my abdomen still was after the previous night’s dinner and that morning’s breakfast. Clearly I had overdone it a bit at dinner – and the Potty Gods were not being good to me.
Everything else was in order, though, and the temperature was warmer than expected. I headed over to the race start and got settled. Was happy to see Katherine, a runner acquaintance I had met at Winter BOB, and one whom I had connected with a little bit on Facebook. And the race began…
The starting pack was relatively large – and, I was relieved to see, mostly starting out at what I felt was a comfortable pace. I wasn’t feeling like I had to bolt like a rabbit in order to not be at the back of the pack. My goal pace for the race itself was about 10:30 – but if I could exceed that, I would. My first couple of miles I was pretty much in the 10 minute mile range. It felt good and comfortable, so I tried to push the pace a bit on mile 4. Bumped it up to a 9:25 minute mile for that one mile – and paid for it. My next mile after that pushed out to 10:15 – as did the next couple. Which just goes to show I really should NEVER push the pace early on.
I was still pretty happy with 10:15’s, though, and was absolutely amazed at how the first 8 or so miles just flew by. It really felt like I had just started. I’d say this fresh feeling continued pretty much until almost hour 3. Which was really a gift.
The course was a 3.25 mile paved loop in a park. It was really easy running, and pretty scenic – the sun was shining, and the air felt like spring. Things were just starting to green up a bit – and there was just nothing to complain about with regard to this venue.
So – probably about 11 miles in, when I was just about as far away from the aid station as you could be on the 3.25 mile loop, my gut suddenly complained. Sharply and insistently. “Now”, it said. “Find a bathroom RIGHT NOW.”
Damn it. So the next 1.5 miles were going to be THOSE kind of miles.
Although for most of my running life I could run for hours without needing a restroom, this had changed suddenly and, I expect, forever, after a bout of travel induced IBS after a trip to Belize a year and a half ago. Since that time, I have, on more occasions than I’d prefer to report, had some pretty uncomfortable moments on my runs – until I stagger into the nearest bathroom. I’m a firm believer that there out to be a whole lot more porto-potties out there regularly spaced out on country roads, just for me. But I digress…
So. 1.5 miles. There was a thread on the Trail and Ultra Running facebook page about this very issue, which spoke of finding your perfect pace at moments like these – which is, fast enough to get to the bathroom as quickly as possible without going so fast that your gut just completely rebels on you. I slowed down. And prayed. And found myself in the altogether too familiar position of checking out the scrubby trees on either side, wondering just how much cover they would grant in the case of a true emergency.
The most excellent news is that I made it to the aid station without embarrassing myself, although it was an incredibly uncomfortable 15 minutes. Jogged over the timing mat and right into the blessed blue box. Where I only lost about 2 ½ minutes. This time.
Had one more emergency trip to the blue phone booth a bit later in the race – although I’m happy to report that there was considerably less distress involved. Lost another 2 minutes.
So, I figure that had I made better food choices and not gorged the night before, there is a good chance I would have gotten in close to another .5 miles in my total distance. But, if that’s the worst thing that came out of my bad food choices, I suppose I got off lucky. It could have been a LOT worse. As we all know, from that horrible race picture that keeps floating around Facebook.
OK – well that was probably TMI for most non-runners. Most runners, I think, will understand.
So the thing that was pretty cool for me about this race was – I kept running. And running. And running. With the exception of my two bathroom breaks, and my brief stops to swill down some Coca Cola and refill my water bottles, I really didn’t do any walking at all on the course. And my pace stayed pretty consistent almost the whole way.
For most of the race I was pretty sure I’d have a choice to make at the end. The course was advertised as “as much mileage as you can do in 6 hours” – (person with the most miles wins). The kicker is this. It is a 3.25 mile loop – and in order to get any credit for partial mileage, you have to complete the WHOLE loop. That is, I was predicting I’d finish 32.5 miles (10 loops) in less than 6 hours – and I was equally sure there was no way I’d finish 11 loops in less than 6 hours. So – did I go out for that last loop, knowing I’d be coming in a bit after the 6 hour mark?
The answer is… yes I did. I hit 32.5 at the 5:44 mark. My goal mileage was 34 miles in 6 hours, so the only way to achieve that was to go out and do that last loop. Which amazingly, still felt just fine.
According to my Garmin, I hit the 34 mark at just prior to 6 hours, earning me the 2nd place female and the 10th runner in the race. And I came heading down the home stretch with my Garmin reading 36 miles, at 6 hours and 20 minutes. The advantage of being one of the only runners left on the course is that there were a bunch of runners who had already ended their races who cheered me in. It felt really great.
So – 4 ultras under my belt. And I’m doing some reflecting. My “training plan” (those that know me know I’m a plan gal…) has me continuing to build my mileage from 25/13, to 28/15, to 30/15, to a couple of 30/20’s. Do-able – but daunting. More from the overall mental perspective – it’s just a lot of long mileage to look forward to. And the thing is, I did this 36 miles – and I have a sneaking suspicion that in fact, if I aimed for 100 now, I’m pretty much there in terms of base and long runs. Which means… maybe I can get away with only doing a bunch of 20-22 mile long runs with a just a couple of 28-30 thrown in maybe once a month? Must give this some thought.