Saturday, September 19, 2009

patriots' run: 48.776 miles & 50 miles

the setup
i registered for the "patriots' run" in june. i found the event on "marathon guide", and it looked like an excellent opportunity for me to complete a marathon in the state of kansas. the "patriots' run" offers a traditional 26.2 mile marathon or a 9 hour and 11 minute timed ultramarathon. i was attracted to the ultramarathon and envisioned it as an excellent opportunity for me to log my first 50 mile run. the course: a paved loop around a city park that measures close to 3/4 of a mile. research indicated that i would need to complete 69 laps to log 50 miles for the day.

pre-race: race day
i had been anticipating this event all summer, so when race day arrived all my equipment was packed and ready to go. i suprisingly slept great during the morning hours of 9.11. when my alarm sounded at 5 a.m., i jumped out of bed with only two things to do before my supercrewman, scott griffith, arrived at 6 a.m.: shower and partake of breakfast. given that the race started at noon, i thought it would be wise to eat something a bit more on the substantial side. thus, i prepared and consumed an egg, sausage, cheese, and english muffin sandwich (and it was tasty).

when scott arrived at 6 a.m., i was chillaxin in the garage ready to roll out [more on scott's supercrewmanship: here].

as we drove, i read out loud the first few chapters of christopher mcdougall's book: "born to run: a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen". it was the perfect content for inspiration.

in clinton, missouri we stopped at mcdonalds and switched drivers.

we arrived at the race location, "two trails park" in olathe, kansas, with a little over two hours to spare. this early arrival was according to my preference, to keep race day stress at a minimum. our first order of business was to check out the loop. we walked it, and strategized regarding the best location for scott to set up camp for the day. we found a spot where scott could plug in a powercord for his electronics and have easy access to his car.

i had a few people that i was hoping to greet prior to the event, so as other runners arrived i was keeping my eyes open. prior to the event starting i had the privilege of greeting:

(1) jeff hyde: a friend of my friend joel maxwell. i met jeff the first time at the "frisco fifty", and this was the second time we got the chance to run together.

(2) kim greer [kim's blog: here]: kim and doug claxton [doug's blog: here] are a couple i met online prior to the "frisco fifty". i did a google blog search to see if anyone was blogging about the "frisco fifty" and discovered their blogs. sadly we missed meeting in-person at that event, so i was excited to hear they would be at this one. i visited with kim a little prior to the race starting and she informed me that doug would be coming a bit later as his feet got pretty trashed at the "heart of america marathon" on labor day.

(3) chris scott: i met chris via the dailymile. he has a return-to-running story similar to my own. he initially had hoped to run 51 miles at this event due to the event being on his 51st birthday, but his conditioning was majorly set back by a ski accident this past winter. he had only recently returned to running and therefore he adjusted his goal for the day. 9.11 was our first time meeting in-person.

(4) steve miller: a fellow "marathon maniac" and facebook friend. this was our first time meeting in-person. steve ironically works at the same university as my friend chris bean. steve had a full plate weekend with doing the marathon in olathe on friday and the "lewis & clark marathon" in st. charles, missouri on sunday (those crazy maniacs).

(5) diane bolton: another fellow "marathon maniac" and facebook friend. diane was another person that i had yet to meet in-person. diane was doing the same double that steve was, but she decided to do the "patriots' run" as an ultra via logging a 50k for the day (she claims i talked her into doing the ultra?).

i was also keeping my eyes open also for mickey woolard. i had met mickey online via dailymile and later found out that he too was a "marathon maniac". in online conversations i learned that he was intending to log 50 miles for the day, and watching his training log it looked like he had that in the bag.

prior to the race starting we heard from two mothers. one had lost her son at the pentagon on 9.11.2001, and the other had lost her son in military service in afghanistan. very moving words from both.

the national anthem was performed and we all got prepared to start our various adventures.

the race

following an audible countdown, we all started crossing the timing mats and setting out for our first lap. i wore my garmin watch precisely for this moment in the event. i knew the temptation at this point for me to run a quick pace would be excruciating. i was committed to staying very close to 9 minute pace for this portion of the day, and my garmin kept me right where i wanted to be. mile 1: 8:51, mile 2: 8:51, mile 3: 8:56. i was committed at this point to fueling every 30 minutes, and walking while i was fueling. in one pocket i had gels and fruit snacks, in the other pocket i had marathon bars portioned into halfs (in sandwich bags), a bottle of thermolyte electrolyte tablets, and an 8 oz. water bottle. throughout the race i would exchange my empty bottle for a full bottle with scott. usually this was at a rate of every other lap. the event provided a water cups just after the timing mats. i consistently used these to pour water on my head. the water over my head was extremely helpful (for some reason i kept telling other runners that it was "saving my bacon", an expression that i don't think i had ever used before). on a relatively hot day, i did not even feel overly warm until about 2 and a half hours in, and with another cold cup of water poured over my head i was once again feeling perfect. mile 4: 9:39.

at this point i had a sense of what this day was going to be like. doing laps in this environment was actually enjoyable. i was able to visit with other runners and having such regular contact with scott was really encouraging and helpful.

mile 5: 8:59, mile 6: 8:57, mile 7: 9:41, mile 8: 8:57, mile 9: 8:53, mile 10: 8:53.

10 miles into a long run, especially in an event, is usually very challenging for me. i consistently feel really good at this point. the temptation is to pick up the pace or change my strategy for the day. i have learned not to give into this temptation. the "patriots' run" was no exception, i felt awesome, thankfully i did not give into temptation, i stuck with my pace and my plan.

mile 11: 9:38, mile 12: 9:01, mile 13: 8:58, mile 14: 10:18, mile 15: 9:05.

i believe it was after i logged about 15 miles that i opted to put on my mp3 player. i didn't want to start with it on, so i thought maybe i would wait an hour. it turned out that i waited close to two hours before i got it out and put it on. in retrospect, though i found a couple songs to really give me a lift, it really wasn't very necessary to have with me.

something that was necessary was my thermolyte electrolyte tablets. as a child athlete i had huge issues with headaches. since i have started being more aware of my electrolytes, headaches have not been an issue. i took two tablets just prior to the start of the race, and then i was on a schedule of about two tablets every 45 minutes. when i would start to feel a headache emerging i would hit a couple more thermolytes and i was able to keep the headache away all day. in my context, that is like a miracle!

mile 16: 9:03, mile 17: 10:58, mile 18: 9:14, mile 19: 9:17, mile 20: 10:27.

after about 17 miles i started to notice that my pace was moving from a 9 minute pace to a 9:15 pace. i decided i was ok with this. i didn't think it would be wise for me to try and fight to get back on 9s. i was intending to go 50 miles, and i felt like i needed to stick with whatever glide pace my body was willing to put out.

mile 21: 9:20, mile 22: 9:22, mile 23: 10:48, mile 24: 9:39, mile 25: 9:35, mile 26: 11:13, marathon split: 4:08:42.

after 20 miles, i experienced my glide pace sliding closer to 9:30s. i decided i would get my marathon split, and then make my first bathroom stop (turned out to be my only one). thankfully i found an open porta-potty. after my bathroom stop, i finished my lap and attempted to visit the timing people. i didn't want to accidentally trigger the timing mats by getting too close. i finally got the attention of someone in the timing vehicle and when he told me how many laps he had me logged for it was a few less than i had splitted on my watch. he must have noticed the panicked look on my face, because he quickly informed me that his data was from about 45 minutes earlier. in retrospect, this was a complete waste of time. i think i was thinking they would have somekind of screen that would display where i was at in relation to others participating in the ultra.

i believe it was about this time that doug claxton offered me a freeze pop and i took him up on the offer. that thing totally hit the spot.

mile 27: 14:49, mile 28: 11:41, mile 29: 10:36, mile 30: 10:24, mile 31: 12:39, 50k split: 5:08.

i don't totally remember what i was thinking regarding pace between the marathon split and the 50k split. i was doing a mix of running and walking, but i was trying to keep it to mostly running. i do recall trying to compare my experience to what i experienced running the 50k at the "frisco fifty". at the "frisco fifty" i was feeling totally spent, like i had burned myself for picking up the pace after 10 miles. at the "patriots' run" i was feeling a bit tired, but also still fresh and optimistic about my potential to keep moving for another 4 hours.

once i had covered 50k, i gave myself permission to walk one entire lap. after that lap, i went back into a run-walk mix and tried to stay primarily with running. during these few miles i started to commit to 5 miles at a time.

mile 32: 18:28, mile 33: 11:14, mile 34: 10:57, mile 35: 10:34.

it felt great to have 35 miles in the bank, and i was confident that i could get 5 more. it was between mile 35 and mile 40 that i landed on running 4 minutes followed by walking 4 minutes. a mile or two of this and i started to realize i was getting crunched for time regarding 50 miles. i felt like i could keep going for 50 miles, but i didn't see myself getting back on a pace that would get me that distance before 9:11 p.m. i attempted not to get discouraged and to fall back on the fact that i was still confident i could keep moving for another 3 hours.

at this point in the race many of the marathoners had completed their distance and this allowed me to size up the competition for the ultra. it was very obvious who was winning. gregg buehler was absolutely flying around all of us. gregg set the course record for this event in 2008 with 61 miles. due to looking at last years pictures, i recognized gregg prior to the start. when he flew by me the first couple of times i honestly thought that he had opted to run the marathon in 2009 instead of the ultra. finally, i asked him one time as he was lapping me. he informed me that he was running the ultra and i informed him that he was seriously ripping it up and well on his way to destroying his distance from 2008. gregg not only had the physique of a god, he was a very generous and supportive guy. he would encourage me every time he lapped me, and i have been informed that he offered this same encouragement to other runners.

there was one other runner that appeared to be logging more distance than me. he was a little more mature than gregg and i, but he had the most incredible calf muscles i had ever seen. all day long i had been keeping my eye open for mickey woolard. i had asked all the marathon maniacs if they knew mickey or had seen him. i even asked two or three runners if they were mickey. i finally started to have my suspicions that this runner with the phenomenal calf muscles could be mickey. later that night i saw this guy get something from what appeared to be his wife. as i went by her i inquired "is that mickey" and she confirmed that it was. i was never able to catch up to him after that, so i had to wait until the event was over to introduce myself.

mile 36: 13:52, mile 37: 13:24, mile 38: 14:43, mile 39: 14:27, mile 40: 14:48.

once i had 40 miles in the bank, i was confident i could make it to 50. the temperature was starting to cool down and i was really enjoying the energy of the event (i think the live band helped). i still was feeling pressed for time, but i was also thinking that if it was necessary i would keep going past 9:11 p.m. to get 50 miles.

i could sense after 30 miles that my feet were not going to be pretty when the day was over. i did not see any sense in stopping to take a look at them or to change into fresh socks. the runner that was in my mind was david goggins. i could see in my mind his interview after the 2007 badwater 135 when he shared that he did not change his socks or shoes once, and he had refused to think about his feet. another concern i had about stopping was that the temptation to not get rolling again would likely be very strong. i decided it was best to just keep moving!

after 40 miles, it became difficult for me to eat. i took one bite of a marathon bar and knew that if i took another, i was most likely going to vomit. i was able to chew on a few fruit snacks though. my supercrewman scott griffith joined me for a few laps around this time, and we started talking about what i might possibly be able to eat. somehow we landed on breadsticks. scott called dominos on his phone and ordered me some non-buttered breadsticks. while scott drove to get the breadsticks, i started to experience some freshness and skipped a couple of the 4 minute walk segments. once i knew i only had 10k to go to get 50 miles, i knew i was going to make it, the question was how fast could i run that final 10k.

mile 41: 14:42, mile 42: 14:19, mile 43: 13:46, mile 44: 12:17, mile 45: 10:52.

i slowly consumed one dominos breadstick [see picture above] and it really hit the spot. with four miles to go, scott joined me again and attempted to help me get 50 miles before 9:11 p.m. i was trying to envision that i was just out for a 4 mile run fresh out of my door in the morning at home. that worked for about a mile and a half. i finally returned to walking and informed scott that i was going to get 50 miles, but i wasn't going to make it by 9:11 p.m.

mile 46: 12:58, mile 47: 11:24, mile 48: 10:47

at 9:05 p.m. i logged my last sanctioned lap which gave me 48.776 miles for the event in 9 hours, 5 minutes, and 32 seconds. i continued on the course alone as others wrapped up there day. i thought maybe my 48.776 miles would be enough for third place overall, behind gregg buehler and mickey woolard. when i came back around i made sure to walk around the timing mat so as not to corrupt the official results. i went out on another lap and continued until my garmin officially read 50 miles. 50 miles in 9 hours, 18 minutes, and 15 seconds.


it was in my heart to get my first 50 mile run at this event and i am pleased that i was able to get it! this was 19 miles beyond my longest run. the event-ethos enabled me to do this. i have set out to run beyond 31 miles on other runs, but there is something very empowering about an event atmosphere.

i had a blast fellowshipping with other runners at this event. kim greer completed another marathon, diane bolton completed her first ultra, steve miller completed another state and got some bonus schwag, jeff hyde completed 43.68 miles, chris scott set his new distance best at 34 miles, gregg buehler took first in the ultra with a new event record at 63.336 miles, and the stud, mickey woolard, took second with 50.960 miles (at 57 years old)!

the official results: here.

i am totally inspired!!! i want to go further and i want to continue to increase my efficiency. i am hoping to be prepared for a 100 mile event in 2011.

[pictured above are my marathon/ultra states]
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