Since January, I have spilled my guts about this ill-advised plan to run back-to-back LONG races in December 2007. I ran the Way too Cool 50K in March, the PV Marathon (and 26.2 miles the following day) in May, and attempted the Mt. Disappointment 50M (and didn’t finish AND hurt my back) in August. I wasn’t entirely sure I would be able to do both, BUT… I had already secured the airfare, the hotel, so I might as well try.
My major issue at Disappointment was cramping, or not taking in enough electrolytes to prevent cramping. Mark Fell suggested I ingest capsules, and I ended up practicing on a trail run with them, and then ordering 2 bottles of Succeed! Caps prior to my run.
I arrived in Dallas, TX, on Thursday, December 6th, two days prior to the 50, and three days before the marathon. The weather was unseasonably warm, though pleasant (60s).
On Friday, I slept in a little bit, and at noon, went with my parents to the Marathon expo to pick up my number (364). We only stayed a little while, because I needed to pick up my rental car and drive down to Houston for the Ultra Expo and dinner.
The drive was fairly uneventful (much like driving through California’s central valley for hours), and I was able to spot the exit for the race and get an idea of how long it would take from the hotel in the morning (hopefully, there wouldn’t be rush-hour traffic!).
I made it to the tail-end of dinner (about 5:30pm), which was ravioli, vegetarian lasagna, pasta, salad, fresh fruit, brownies, strudel, water and coffee. I also picked up my number (182 – exactly half of my marathon number) and my goody bag – a duffel bag, which included a disposable camera, sunglasses, hat, polo shirt, gloves, teddy bear, poncho and more!). All the Sunmart Swag (plus the finisher's medal and finisher's Afghan).
After dinner, there were some directions, plus a short presentation by guest speaker, Peter Snell (former world record holder in the Mile, Gold Medalist… and UC Davis graduate).
Afterwards, I tried to go up to my room and get to bed as early as possible, since we needed to be at the park by 6:15am, and it was an hour drive (and 6:15am is really 4:15am in CA!). I was not particularly successful at this, although I had been going to bed at 9pm in California for the past week.
I fell asleep around 12:45am (including lying in the dark, trying to fall asleep). I awoke a few hours later (4:15am) and prepared for the day. I had my clothes set out and I had also prepared bags with supplies for each of my four laps (laps were 12-1/2 miles each). Each bag had two Clif Shots, 4 Succeed capsules, and 3 Advil. Additionally, I had 6 bags of Clif Blox and a few extra of the Shot and capsules. The night before, I fished a used shoebox out of the trash and wrote my number on it with permanent marker, figuring that my “drop bag” would be unique (it was). When I was ready to go, I checked out of the hotel and got my car. Even though it was 5am, it was about 70 degrees out and extremely muggy (think Atlanta in the summer). Who knew that I would have to drive to an ultra with the A/C on full blast?
I arrived at the park just after 6am, which was a long forested drive in the dark for several miles, ending at an overly lighted parking area, tents galore, and probably 15 of those tacky oversized inflatable Christmas decorations (some with animation). I got my box together and then headed over to the breakfast area. The participants in the 50K were chowing down on breakfast (which included bacon, eggs, pancakes, grits, sausages, and more). I can’t eat that stuff, especially at 4am equivalent! The 50K wasn’t starting for another half hour after us, so maybe breakfast was ideal for them at that time. I had a cup of caffeinated soda, however, and chatted a few people (the majority were running the 50K).
At a little after 7am, the run began. The course was fairly flat, with a little gentle up or down and a few road crossings. The trails tended to be full of roots, so I really had to watch my step. I ran at a moderate clip, but didn’t want to get overheated. It was overcast, and immediately the humidity kept me sweating. I took a swig of water every 10 minutes and a capsule every hour. Also, there were aid stations every 2-4 miles.
Midway through the first lap, I got to the lake, which was pretty and then a 4 mile section where it was fairly marshy, so there were raised wooden platforms to run over. A minor uphill took us out of this section to the last aid station on the lap and then another 2 miles back to the start.
I finished my first lap in 2:27 (pretend like I ran a half marathon), and realized that I put my shoebox in the wrong area, so I had to run through ankle deep leaves, get my box, switch out a bag of Shot and capsules and continue on my way.
I hoped my second lap would be comparable to the first, though I decided that I would walk even the smallest of the uphills to stay rested. Occasionally, I would be with the same people for a while (a woman doing her first 50M at age 60, or assorted 50Kers who I was lapping – they ran a 10K and then 2 laps of the 12.5 mile course. I felt great and finished in 2:50.
As I started on my 3rd lap, I was calculating the pace I would need to maintain to finish (not trying to win here), as there is a time limit of 12 hours, but also a time limit on the 3rd lap of 8 hours, 30 minutes. All I needed to do was do my next lap in 3:13 (about 15:30 per mile), and I had been walking briskly and jogging. At about mile 28, disaster struck. I started cramping, bad! I am used to walking with cramps, but I tried all of my tricks (Clif Shot, lots of salt, another capsule), but nothing worked. I had to take much smaller steps and my pace dropped off to at least 20 minute miles. I had about 2 hours and 10 minutes to do 9 miles (and I was on a 3 hour pace).
After about a mile of feeling bummed, a gal from Arkansas passed me and suggested that I try sucking on rock salt and gave me some. She said probably 5 minutes would take care of the cramps and then I should spit it out. I could feel the cramps dissipating, but 5, 10, 15 minutes passed, and they hadn’t really gone away. I just kept sucking on that rock salt, hoping that I could increase my pace and have a chance at finishing the 3rd lap under the time limit.
I felt better and better and I passed a number of people who had passed me (when I was cramping) and told me I had a good chance of making the cut-off time. The trouble with trails was that I couldn’t really tell how close I was. Finally, when I recognized the area, I had 15 minutes to cover 0.6 miles and I KNEW I could do that. Exultation! Oh, yeah, 12.5 MORE miles! Dwarfing the competition?
I finished the 3rd lap in 3:07, which meant I had about 3:35 to finish the last lap. I felt really good at this point, because the rock salt had replenished my nutrient balance and I couldn’t possibly have as much trouble as I had the last leg! I continued to maintain my fast walking pace, and running where I could, and I was not getting any of the cramps or even inklings of cramps (though my mouth felt really raw from the salt).
At around 4:30, however, it began to get a bit dusky. I really had to watch where I was going as it got darker and darker. There were glow sticks on the trees, but the path wasn’t all that obvious. I would basically look up for the next glow stick and then figure out if I was on a path.
When I got to the aid station before the dam, I asked about flashlights, but I didn’t have an available hand to carry one. I figured, “How bad could it be?” It was BAD!
The only spot where I could walk fast was on the raised platforms over the marshy areas, because there the trail was obvious. Everywhere else, I was stumbling in the dark, except when someone with a flashlight came upon me and I could use their light to give myself a leg up.
At the last aid station before the end, I was severely off pace and in danger of not finishing under the time limit. I didn’t feel bad; I just couldn’t maintain any pace in the dark. I begged for a flashlight and they said they had one, but what if someone else came along who really needed it? I countered with, “Who else has a chance of finishing under the time limit?” They lent me the flashlight!
I basically carried two water bottles with one hand and the flashlight in the other and it was still difficult to see where I was going, but I could move faster, because I could identify the roots on the ground.
Finally, I recognized where I was and knew I had about 20 minutes to cover the last 0.6. I was positively giddy and I started cracking up (laughing hysterically). Only 5 hours earlier I had pretty much given up on finishing.
At the finish, I got my medal and my afghan (or I could have had a Tyvek jacket). I went over to the Dinner tent and had a Chicken Filet on a bun and they wrapped up a HUGE turkey leg for the road.
Almost everybody was gone already; just a few stragglers were still finishing. I talked briefly with some people I had seen earlier, who finished a little ahead of me, and they were planning on taking some time off… not driving to Dallas, and running the next morning. They said I was crazy.
An additional 5 people came in after me under the limit, and another 4 (over). There were 88 DNFs (out of 251 runners). Emmett at the finish with the two water bottles and the flashlight... just under 12 hours. "Halfway" done!
If you ever consider running a 50K, this is a well-planned event, and 50K runners have 11 hours and 30 minutes to finish (around 20 minutes per mile).
Now to day 2.
Well, I still had several hours in the car (hopefully no cramps). I called my sister to let her know I was on my way (since my parents were at a party). I struggled a little bit (a compact car), but didn’t hit any traffic until 2-1/2 hours later in Dallas.
When I got back to my folks’ place, they filled their bathtub with cold water and turned on the jets. I sat there freezing for about 30 minutes. I was ready for bed and my mindset was definitely not geared towards running a marathon the next day. Am I nuts? Fortunately, the forecast was for 40 degrees, wind and rain. At least, it wouldn’t be too hot… again.
I had less trouble the next morning getting up (8am start, 20 minute drive) and my parents slept through their alarm (they had returned from California Thursday as well).
It was REALLY cold out and I meandered over to the start in my AREC tank top and shorts, and everyone asked if I was cold. I said that I was plenty warm from my 12 hours of running yesterday.
I again had my two water bottles, some Shot, Blox and 6 Succeed capsules.
My goal during the marathon was to bank as much time as possible and then maintain a fast-enough walking speed to finish under 6:30. My legs certainly felt OK, so I stood with the 4:15 Clif Group.
However, when we started, I felt better than their initial pace, and the group leader even shouted at me to slow down… Thing was, I wasn’t going to run 4:15, so I just had to do my own thing.
At the start, I was able to spot Linda and Lewis Lazarus, so that was pretty cool (initially, Linda and I were going to do the marathon together…). It rained on and off for the first few miles, but it wasn’t too bad. When we got to White Rock Lake (the namesake of the marathon), it got a little cooler and rained a little harder, but I soldiered on. I kept glancing at my pace band (5:30 was what I selected) and I was 25 minutes ahead of that pace.
I reached the half marathon point at 2:17, and then I began to walk/racewalk/jog. I spotted my parents at mile 14 (at which point they said, “Screw it. It’s too cold,” and they went home.) and maintained a kind of walk pace where I was not losing more than a minute per mile off of my 5:30 pace.
At mile 18, I took a beer from the Dallas Hash, and around 19, I ended up walking with a goofy 26 year old (almost as tall as me) from Mesquite, TX. He said it was about 20 degrees colder than at his first marathon.
At mile 23, he took off, with hopes of finishing under 5 hours.
I planned to just walk in all the way, because I was going to finish (I had probably 2 hours to cover 3 miles, and it was light out!).
However, by the time I reached mile 25, the wind was howling and it was REALLY cold out. Usually, if I have been walking for 2 hours, I cannot start running again, because I will start to cramp. Maybe the cold weather allowed me to keep limber, because I was able to run. I started passing the people who ran by me earlier, and shouted encouragement to them as well. Wow, I felt REALLY good – even like I was running in a 10K race.
I started to laugh hysterically again, because I was on the verge of finishing 76.2 miles of racing in 2 days. As I crossed the finish line, I looked down at my watch, and I had run the last 1.2 miles in 9 minutes!
In the end, I was 1 of 15 people who completed both races (8 did the 50K and marathon and 7 did the 50M and the marathon). Quite an accomplishment from someone who started out with 5K/10K doubles 7 years ago.
I’m not sure if I have something in mind to top this. Maybe I will just take it easy in 2008, or maybe someone will suggest something that I just can't pass up!
All smiles (or grimaces) after finishing the marathon!
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This page created on May 12, 2010 by ED Rahl.