What’s 80 miles shared among friends?
A friend of mine contacted me a while back and asked if I’d care to join his team for a 12 hour ultra race on Labor Day weekend, appropriately called “Labor Pain”. Aptly named by the well-known Ron Horn, the infamous race director with a twisted sense of humor who enjoys planning ridiculously difficult trail races which people continue to eat up like they’re candy. My answer, “Sure thing! Sounds like fun.”
We needed a fourth teammate so I got in touch with my friend, Laurie, and she didn’t even hesitate. Four minutes after sending her an email asking her if she was interested she shot me an email back with one word, “yep.” We were all pretty excited because while Tim and Terry have done some trail races, and I, only two, Laurie is an experienced ultra runner with two 100 milers in her pocket, her most recent was the Vermont 100 in July. On the other hand, Laurie was nervous because this race was a completely different beast than the ones she usually runs. The 5 mile loops would mean a faster pace and we had the rests in between in which we were all unsure as to how we ought to refuel and prepare for our next laps.
The day could not have been any more perfect with a high of 74°. It was actually chilly in the morning and my shivering forced me to put on pants and a fleece. We decided on the running order: Terry, me, Tim, Laurie. Terry wanted to run a 40 minute lap, my guess was that our laps would be between 40-50 minutes. The start of the race was a little jumbled as close to 100 runners tried to squeeze through the turns at the start and we were all thinking that Terry was probably a little flustered because he got stuck in the middle of the pack and wanted to run a hard pace. We had no idea what the course was like except for a brief description from the race director at the start: up a driveway, across someone’s lawn, through the woods, over a guard rail and as is always the case in Ron Horn’s races, a straight climb up an embankment at the very end (not kidding!) The description was right on.
I stood there with a couple of other relay team members, my competitors, joking that one of the first ones up will most likely be one of our relay teammates and that one of us would be at a disadvantage because we had no idea where the course went and had no one to follow. Within seconds of me saying that, wouldn’t you know it, there comes Terry tearing up the hill, leading the whole damn race. Great! We all had a quick laugh and off I went, cruising at a 7:25 pace all pumped up with adrenaline. I ticked off that first mile in 8:00 flat but was forced to slow down for the second two miles because the elevation was rough. After about 3.5 miles the course had a long downgrade which I actually was able to bang out most of that final 1½ miles at around a 7:40 pace. I was in the lead of the entire race in this second lap, actually catching up to the tail end of the ultra racers but got passed by Kelly at the very end of my lap. The girl was good and the goal from that point in the day and on was to beat her and her teammate, Gary. Four against two seemed like pretty good odds to us but they sure gave us a run for our money for a while.
The trail was very tough in some sections and absolutely perfect in others. There was a lot of roots and rocks in the first 3 miles which then opened up to clear single track and some two tracks. Everything was marked well with flagging tape and the sharp turns had signs to make sure we didn’t miss them. There was a water stop half-way on the course but I never bothered stopping. I can go for 5 miles without water and I didn’t want to lose my place by giving up valuable seconds.
At one point (my second loop) we were about 90 seconds behind the Kelly/Gary team and I did not think I’d be able to catch up to her. In fact, I totally forgot that she was in front of me and then around 2.5 miles I was suddenly behind her and passed her and another guy. I got an adrenaline rush and pushed on hard and was able to pull my team ahead of hers by almost two minutes. I shot up over the final hill and said to my teammates, “Got her,” which pumped them up and off went Tim for his loop.
This was all in fun, none of us really cared because more than anything, this was such an amazing day of hanging out with friends, getting to know each other better, laughing, and oh yea … some running in there. We had prime seats along the course to watch the runners pass through each loop on their way to running 50k up to 50 miles. Some went over 50 miles. Some were tired, exhausted, limping and others were so psyched that they would literally hop through the pavillian, jump on tables, grab a potato and take off down the trail again. Insane.
I had a couple of friends who ran their first 50 milers yesterday. What an achievement. Other friends ran 40 and 45 miles, the most they’ve ever run in one shot. My team, Los Cuatro Locos, ran 80 miles total and placed 2nd team overall. We did not lose to Kelly and Gary but to Randy and Kevin and their two other friends who conveniently showed up at noon and ran until 5pm. They were all quite younger than us, my team’s ages ranged from 38-50 years old.
It was very interesting trying to figure out how to rest and refuel between our laps. I had about 2 hours between laps throughout the day. Imagine, running 4 five mile races in one day with only 2 hours of rest between races. That was how my day went. At first I would lay down on my cot and relax for about 20 minutes before moving around and drinking. I forced some food in me after my second lap but didn’t snack on much other than a handful of nuts and berries and some pieces of candy a couple of times. By the time my next lap would come up I would feel ready to run again. I was definitely the most fatigued for lap 3 and that was also my slowest lap.
My stats for the day:
3 hours total
9:00 pace average
fastest lap: 43:30
slowest lap: 47:00