Goals can be an amazing motivator. Something to set your sight on and then work towards. It’s a way of convincing your mind that you really can do it. Before I set the goal for this race, if someone had said I could go out and run 43 miles, that’s halfway between here and Las Vegas, I’d have laughed and waived them off. But, over time, the goals I set began to take roots, and the training that followed helped me actually believe I could do mileage that most people find crazy.
The 2013 – 24 Hours of Utah races include a 12 Hour race where runners complete as many 5.37 mile loops as they can before time runs out. The event is held outside of Moab, Utah, on the Monitor and Merrimack trails. Each loop involves 606 feet of climbing. You can read more about it here.
I was somewhat familiar with the course, having done it the year before. Just knew (even then) that I was capable of so much more. So, for this race I had three goals: 1) to keep moving the whole time, 2) to complete seven laps, 3) to complete an eighth lap, if all went well.
Interesting the mind games your mind plays, even without your permission. Going into the race, I had three pretty good reasons not to meet my goals. The first was weather. A storm was expected to blow through on race day, lowering the temps from the 60’s to the 30’s. The second was my ankle. Over the past month, it’s been getting more and more sore. Made worse, I’m sure, by my last long training week/weekend/and Flying Monkey trail run. Thinking it’s a small stress fracture. Lastly, hormones are a wreck. Perhaps common for a “woman of my age.” Two full periods in two and a half weeks. That can really sap your energy. But, I kept an open mind.
While it was beautiful the days before and after the race, actual race day was bitter cold. Starting temp was around 27 degrees. The 8mph winds they predicted began before sunrise and were more like 15-20mph at times. So, I bundled up once again, two shirts, a half zip, a wind jacket, hat, gloves, and thermal tights. It was 7:02am and, since I’d just eaten and had drank a full bottle, I only took my camera and nothing else. Then, off we all went. I stopped along the way to take pictures of the trail during the first lap, but still kept up with most everyone.
After lap one, I ditched the camera and set out again. I was feeling pretty good but decided I should make sure I didn’t get behind in nutrition. So I opened a chocolate protein drink and drank about a third of it. I ran lap two unencumbered. Just me and the biting wind. On every lap, you reverse direction and head out towards where you just came back in from. I guess it keeps it more interesting.
Lap three, I put on my pack, grabbed a bottle of ade, ate about 1/4 of a PBJ sandwich, and headed out. But that lap quickly had me doubting. Having only finished about 14 miles at this point, my IT band was already hurting. It caused me to really slow up, especially on the downhill. I had to walk more much of the downhill, which takes its advantage away. I HAVE to figure this IT issue out! I came in and took some Ibuprofen.
End of lap three and I just didn’t feel that great. So, I accepted the aid station offer for ramen and some coke and set out on lap four. Wow, it was like mana from heaven. Maybe I just needed some warm food. No doubt the salt helped too. Since the first half of each lap is all uphill, it gave my IT band more time to rest. I’m sure the drugs helped as well. I started feeling so much better.
Lap five and six were awesome, aside from the big pile of sand that had started collecting in my socks and gathered under my toes. I was power walking the uphills. Literally pulling with my hamstrings at a clip just short of running. I was flying (for me) downhill. I was feeling great, in spite of the fact that it snowed during both of these laps! Even though I was constantly doing the mental math, it was hard to tell whether I’d have time for the 8th (bonus goal) lap.
I knew I’d need to start the eighth lap by 5:30pm in order to give myself an hour and a half to complete it. If I was walking the whole way at that point, it may even take longer. My biggest fear was that I’d go out on that eighth lap and not finish in time for it to count. But, when I came in after lap seven, it was only 4:48pm! I had reached my goal of seven laps and had over two hours to do one more bonus lap! So, I sat down, took off my gators, shoes, and socks, and shook out the sand. Put myself back together and off I happily went.
I walked more than I would have liked to on lap eight, but I was ok with that. No sense beating myself up when I knew I’d finish even if I walked most of it. However, I did try to run a little, but my legs weren’t having it anymore. Gary caught up to me mid-lap and snapped some pictures. He’s so good about that.
So, after 11.5 hours, at 6:35pm, I came in and finished my eighth lap, 42.96 miles and 4848 feet of elevation gain.
The combination of major efforts like these and cold temps almost always leaves me shivering. I quickly grabbed my heavy coat from the car and went and sat in the runner’s tent, huddled around the heater with a couple other racers. I was shivering so badly, that the assistant RD threw a down sleeping bag over my lap. 15 minutes later, he threw another one over my head. The almost violent shivering lasted at least an hour.
Also, after finishing, my stomach started to revolt. I felt queasy and nauseated. Nothing sounded good, not even anything to drink. I forced myself to start drinking a bottle of Recoverite to see if that would help. It wasn’t helping. The assistant RD offered me a Tums, which I eventually got down. Not sure if it ever helped, but some of the nausea subsided over that next hour. We went to Denny’s to get some dinner, but it was still lingering, so I just had toast. It finally went away overnight.
As it turned out, I was first place of the women over 50 (there were only two of us). The results can be found here. But the even better news was, I was second in women overall! When I learned that, I had a huge grin on my face. I felt I’d been validated. Guess I can finally shake the feeling that I’m faking it till I make it. I guess I can call myself a runner now. It still feels odd.
What’s next? Dare I say a 50-miler?