(My quick side note, I wrote this a while back and have just felt so very LAZY and working on catching up with so many things. All I needed to do was add the pictures and here we are 3 weeks later! Thanks for being so patient… here’s my original thoughts).
What’s better than running an ultra-marathon?
Running it when you should be sleeping, of course!!! And, because the night is so long, be prepared to read a long post! HA HA. Feel free to just fast forward to the end. In fact, I’ll spoil it for you… I finished 🙂
A week and a half ago, I saddled up to the starting line of the Christmas in July 6-Hour Race in Lisle, Illinois with 6 of my closest ultra (crazy awesome) girlfriends! My goal at the time was to at least get to 27 miles or 27 laps. Anything more than 26.2 is considered an ultra-marathon and in this race, the number of laps is what counts on the official results.
Last year, I found out about this race when I went to cheer on my dear friend, Karen at Trading in My Heels, as she completed this race as her very first Ultra-Marathon! There was noooo way, I’d spend the night cheering her on (this Mama needs her shut-eye) and so I went bright and early to cheer and watch her finish this epic endeavor. I saw her as she just stepped into ultra territory and at mile 27, Karen was in serious pain, sleep-deprived, and exhausted, but even despite that, she planted the seed for me to do this really cool event a year later with her… Just because she was smiling at the end of her 50K!
Karen is amazing! Even after staying up all night conquering 50K,, she looked more awake than me!
Here’s what went down for my run.
About 6 months ago, I met these women. They were incredible and we all came together toward a common goal. We wanted to do an ultra-marathon and the Christmas In July 6-hour event was the one to do because HEY, girls just wanna have fun!!!
We had some amazing, hilarious, mosquito-infested, memory-making training runs together as we shared our journey and progress with one another online sometimes on an hourly basis! I’ll be honest and say that they were all a lot more dedicated than I was and I know that without them, I wouldn’t have slugged it out the last 10 weeks of training to make it to this event. (Many hugs, much gratitude, and love to you tough chicks!)
In hindsight, it’s hard to believe there is any way I should have done what I did. I literally ran an average of 24 miles a week in the last 10 weeks… not exactly a perfect training plan.
It was the hottest, most humid day of the year and I had just flown in from spending 3 weeks in Portland, Oregon where it was 70 degrees with no humidity. I arrived 24 hours before the race spending the whole next day sealed up inside my house only opening the door to let the dogs in and out of the house! Each time I met that blast of hot, humid air, I started to worry a bit more. I even cranked down the A/C because I was sweating my boobs off just doing some light housework! Holy Hotness!
I spent the day of the event packing my gear, literally moving stuff out of my suitcase and transferring it straight into my ultra duffel bag. The one thing I changed was my running outfit.
I normally wear compression shorts & socks for anything over 13 miles, but there was no way I could wear that many clothes with it so hot. So I did a million Madonna wardrobe changes… I almost wanted to run in a swim bikini…(oh, but the thigh chaffing. Nope. I don’t have Madonna’s body).
I also couldn’t figure out what to eat and had a minor panic attack at 1am the previous morning asking my ultra chicks what to do! Normally, most of us eat a light dinner the night before, then sleep and wake up to have a light carbo fueled breakfast before going to the race. But since this race started at 12 am, do I eat a light ‘dinner’ at breakfast and then try to sleep and have a light carbo ‘breakfast’ for dinner?
OK, so this is where I started getting delusional. Yes! It starts 24 hours before the race (Oh stop, I know you’re thinking that signing up for an ultra already makes me delusional.)
I ended up have a light spaghetti dinner early and then attempted a 2-hour nap at 6 pm. I got in a 1-hour nap and then reality hit waking me up!
Karen picked me up at 10 pm and as we drove to the event, there were these beautiful huge clouds filled with lightning. Hmmmm. We arrived in the dark at almost the same time as Penny, Kim, Barb, Michelle and Maggie. We basically gave each other play-by-play texts… “Leaving now”, “Be there in 5 minutes”, “See you soon!”, “We are crazy!”!
Once we walked to the main race course area, I picked up my race packet and was happily surprised to see a warm winter cap, long-sleeved tech shirt AND short-sleeved tech shirt! WOW! I had no idea we’d get so much great gear… I guess I didn’t read the fine print. I thought I was just paying for food and lighting! HA HA! (or HO HO).
This was also the first time I wore an ankle timing chip. I thought it might bug me, but it was actually very soft and I forgot I was wearing it until they had to help me take it off at the end!
This year, the event also allowed participants and those cheering to set up open tents along the course route for drop bags and other spectator comforts. Of course the UBAGE girls (Ultra Bad Ass Girl Extravaganza – coined by Kim) had a blanket and a chair and we just threw our stuff in the grass about 50 paces from the aid station and starting line along the route.
The aid station was AMAZING! In all honestly, I got hungry just looking at the aid station before the race even started!
Isn’t this ULTRA AWESOME aid?
The race stocked up on water, Gatorade, soda, various forms of food, candy, fruit, gels, pizza and other special request items on 4 tables. They rotated food items throughout the night, too which was perfect because when you’re running that long, something that sounds appetizing at 2 am, doesn’t always sound appetizing at 3 am! In fact, it’s quite possible it sounds good when you grab it and as soon as you put it in your mouth you decide it’s no longer tasty. (I did a few double takes and back tracks myself).
We started promptly at 12 am with about 50+ other 6-hour runners. Believe it or not, there is also a 12-hour race and a 24-hour race, both of which had started an hour or two earlier with all of us running our respective raced concurrently. We started off to one side as we watched these amazing people on their journeys!
It took me a couple of laps to take in all the wonderful sights and sounds all along the course.
The starting line was all decked out in Christmas lights and red & white stripped tents. Along the way, the volunteers set up luminary candles around the entire course with signs pointing the way. I specifically remember a huge blow up snowman and a huge Santa on The Hill (more on this soon) along with several other Christmas displays. The back part of the course was really dark, but it was one of my favorite spots because the lightning bugs became God’s disco ball creating a party of their own and it became my quite place to reflect when things got tough.
I also really appreciated a few glow sticks thrown into puddles and around that sharp bend. And the fan?! Thank you to the spectators who had that glorious fan set up around the bend when the air became stifling! I did happen to notice your nice blender and margarita mix station, too… I wanted to stop, turn on the Jimmy Buffett and join you. I think that will be in my drop bag next time!
Surprisingly, even with all the darkness, at some point I just turned off my knuckle lights (thank you to the best Mom in the whole world for the very handy gift) for all but the darkest sections because my eyes adjusted to the low light and the harsh lights just annoyed me. Might be that lack of sleep thing?! LOL!
Now que up Queen! Thunderbolts and Lightening… very, very frightening!
From the moment we arrived at the race, there were huge clouds giving us a great lightning show just to the south of us. But as we started running, the clouds started building up and the lightening was all around us. It finally opened up on us about a half hour into the run for about 1.5-2 hours. Honestly, the rain felt WONDERFUL, but I’m a huge scaredy cat when it comes to being outdoors in dangerous weather. Kim and I were running together at this point and she probably wanted to push me off the path because I wouldn’t shut up about how freaked out I was every time I saw the lightening.
At some point we were separated and then it was like a Merry-Go-Round as I somehow caught up to Penny, Maggie and Karen who asked where Barb, Kim and Michelle were. Then as I found Michelle, she’d ask where everyone else was. I lost Kim and Barb for a good part of the evening and at one point Michelle I think ran backward to try to find Karen!
Even my coach, Tom apparently said hi to me several times through the night, but I was oblivious and didn’t see him until it started to get light and my iPod stopped working. I also was blaring it, so I didn’t hear much else except Straight No Chaser for a couple of hours – sorry, Tom 🙂
There was also this little-ish hill. I don’t hate hills, I actually love hills and am a pretty strong hill runner. But after 23 miles and 23 times of seeing this hill, I named it, ‘The Stupid Hill’. I still didn’t hate it. It was just that now I had to walk The Stupid Hill. When you’re running an ultra marathon, you need to walk. Most people will never make it if they don’t. Ask everyone who ran that race because they walked up The Stupid Hill, too. And at some point going DOWN The Stupid Hill becomes as tiring as going up it.
As far as fueling, I hadn’t even thought of my plan, other than drink often and make sure I had something to eat every half hour. It didn’t occur to me I would lose complete track of the time and thankfully, Karen shared her plan to drink every 2 miles and eat every 5 miles.
To be honest, I followed that rule for the first 10 miles. After that it became a blur. I know I drank my Isagenix e+ shots at miles 13 and again at mile 25 which helped tremendously, but I also ate a lot more frequently and drank more, too. I pre-made quite a bit of concentrated Caffeinated Raspberry Buzz Tailwind and Lemon Tailwind for my drop bag which has worked great for me on 4-hr runs. I also had umeboshi and brown rice balls that I nibbled on for extra salt and carbs, too.
I predicted the humidity might take a toll on me and it still did despite my best fueling efforts. I also alternated with extra water and Gatorade every loop, a few pieces of candy, a half a banana, and at dawn the aid station provided boiled potatoes I actually LOVED!!! Who knew?! I tried Mountain Dew around 20 miles, but it was too sweet. #gag
At the 2 hour point, I couldn’t believe we still had 4 hours to go. At the 4 hour point, I couldn’t believe we still had 2 more hours. At 23 miles the leg cramps started. Just like in my Chicago Marathon! GRRRRR! This time I didn’t panic. I just stretched a bit, walked for about 2 miles and started pounding down the Gatorade at every single lap to see if I could curb the cramps. At this point, I knew I would make my goal of 27 miles, but now I had it in my mind to reach 30. It meant I had to speed up and go faster than the 18 minute miles I had just finished. If I could go under 15 minute miles, I could do it.
At 25 miles I adopted a very funny hip shuffle run that got the job done. I finally saw Barb who I thought had flown by me at the very beginning. She looked so strong and decided to stay with me for the last few miles as we crossed the finish together! She probably could have run another whole lap around me, but I was grateful for her company. Thank you, Barb!
This was Barb’s and Kim’s first Ultra and they both ROCKED it! I’m so proud of them and know the ultra bug has hit its mark with them, too.
I still can’t believe I ran 30 miles in 6 hours. We walked past the finish line until my Garmin said 30. It was 30 official laps. Each loop was a 0.9732971994 mile. I finished in 6 hours.
I was shocked when I discovered I placed 4th overall for women and was 1st in the Women’s Master’s Division. REALLY? ME? AAND… Barb took 2nd! WOOHOO! We both received the coolest nutcracker awards and Mr. Pirate is happily sitting on my mantle next to my finisher’s medal.
Do you think he’ll get lonely and want a friend to join him next year?
Maybe there’s a rumor of us getting together for another ultra event in the future? Time will tell and you’ll just have to wait and see 🙂
This race experience has been one of my best ones ever. In the past, I felt proud of my running accomplishment, but this time, I really believe this was an amazing group effort. It took all of us working together, sharing ideas, plans, motivation, encouragement, (pickles and bug spray) and so much more for all of us to make it to the end of this race!
I’m so proud of these women and the nutcracker award is really a win for all the UBAGE chicks. I’m incredible honored to know each of them and have their friendship. They inspire me daily. They make me a better runner, friend and woman. I’m forever grateful to each one of them!!!
Have you ever thought about running a race that seemed out of your reach? Is an Ultra on your bucket-list? Do you have friends who are crazy enough to challenge you to check off your goals and dreams… and join you at the same time?!
If not, you should go find some. They are out there 🙂
P.S. Blogging hasn’t exactly been on the forefront of my mind in the past 3 months as I’ve been focused on some pretty important things with my family that needed my love and attention. I hope I’m back on track and wholeheartedly appreciate your patience, love and support as I get re-energized and focused again!