Sunday, December 9, 2012

Umstead Crazy 8's Death March

Ultramarathon runners, don't take this the wrong way, but you people are all f'n insane! As if 26.2 miles isn't enough pain and suffering (and glory) for even the moderately insane among us, you maniacs have to double down on that, or nearly quadruple down in the case of the 100 mile events. If running a marathon is the gambling equivalent of going "all in", you lunatics throw all your chips onto the table along with your watches, credit cards, mobile phones, and any clothing you happen to be wearing. And then you jump on the table and dance naked to music that only you can hear, all the while waiting for the dealer to play the winning card.

But just like Vegas, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose (DNF). The true difference is that win or lose, an ultramarathon is always a glorious human adventure.

Uwharrie Training
Already being insane, I decided to attempt joining the other patients in the ultramarathon insane asylum by signing up for the 40 mile Uwharrie Mountain Run. Of course this means that I have to stop saying "I'll never..." since I've consistently proven myself wrong. "I'll never run a half marathon!" I've run a half dozen of them now. "I'll never run a marathon!" I've run 4 of them now. "I'll never, ever, ever run an ultramarathon!" Sigh.

So, recently I found myself organizing a training run in Umstead in an attempt to somehow get my body ready for the 40 mile Uwharrie Mountain Run. I created a calendar event on Facebook and invited all my nutty running friends to come out and share a lap (or two, or three) with me on the Company Mill and Sycamore trail figure 8 route (about 9.5 miles of hilly, technical single track).

I figured I might goad a couple of my crazier friends into coming out for a lap, but just to show how awesome the trail running community really is, about a dozen people came out to run or just to show moral support in my first attempt at a distance beyond the marathon. You people just rock! Thanks to everyone who dedicated a bit of their Saturday to my insanity. In no particular order, Jay, Karen, Aline, Brandy, Ryan, Gene, Josh, Iris, Chris, Andrew, Anthony and Shannon. A special thanks to Karen and Jay, who ran all 29 miles with me. And to Gene who kept me laughing that last 5 miles, when I needed it most.

Aline, Jay, Iris and Josh at the start.


Lap 1 - This Is Easy!
I'm not bragging, but my fitness is pretty high at the moment. I came off Medoc Mountain Marathon in mid-October with a good aerobic base and have managed to maintain that base with little effort the past couple of months. So, 10 miles in Umstead on the first lap felt very easy. I had good company on the lap (actually true of every lap) and spent a lot of time joking and laughing. I ate one fruit snack (maybe 80 calories of sugar) during the lap, and then had a couple of peanut butter cups and some blueberries when I finished the lap. I drank only about a cup of water from the water fountain. This was a totally stupid fueling strategy, as I would discover on lap 3.

Aline made a custom shirt for the event.
Aline is awesome!


Lap 2 - I'm Done, Right?
Heading out on lap 2, I was feeling great. I tried to remind myself to walk all the hills, but I was still trotting up the first part of most hills. Again, I had only one fruit snack during the loop, and then a handful of blue berries and some raisins at the end of the loop. The temperature had gone up during the loop and I was feeling very thirsty by the time I finished the loop, so I guzzled down about 20 ounces of water at the fountain. I felt done. My body definitely did not want to go out for another 9.5 mile loop. I was behind in fueling and hydration, and at this point there was no way to make it up. But, dammitall, this is what I came for! The last loop was the important one. The loop where I would train my body to keep moving through pain and exhaustion. So, out I went.

Lap 3 - I Hate Running
The final loop started hard, and got worse from there. I was behind on hydration and fueling, and my stomach was now bothering me, so there was no chance of getting out of the hole I had dug for myself. I managed to choke down about half of a fruit snack (maybe 40 sugar calories) on the loop, but it was difficult to keep from hurling that onto my shoes for the next couple of miles. As my misery levels increased, and my energy evaporated like the fog from earlier that morning, my mood went straight to the crapper. I think the only thing that prevented me from giving up about half way through that lap was the company. Having four experienced ultra runners with me in those dark moments saved me. Their banter and joking kept me moving forward, although I walked a lot (I had to walk when my stomach did flips).

The Finish
With about 2 miles to go, standing on the stone bridge on Sycamore Bridal Trail, I entered death march mode. I would finish this run, even if it killed me (I'm stubborn like that). So, I used up nearly every last bit of blood glycogen that I had left in a determined shuffle towards the end.

Dizzy, nauseous and trying not to pass out
after finishing. Photo courtesy of Shannon.


Lessons Learned
So, what did my first trip into the nether world of the ultramarathon distance teach me? Loads. I have a pretty solid feel for how to prepare for and finish the marathon. However, that knowledge seems to only partially translate to ultramarathon distance.


  1. Go slow! No, really. SLOW! Especially early in the run. If it feel effortless to run up a hill, it really isn't. Save it for later, when you will desperately need it.
  2. Speaking of hills, WALK THEM! Even the itty bitty ones early in the run. Yeah, you'll feel like a total pansy for walking up a tiny hill on fresh legs, but trust me, this will pay off later.
  3. Eat LOTS! I'm a notorious camel when it comes to running. I rarely carry water and eat very little on runs up to 20 miles. This DOES NOT work for ultramarathon distances. The time on your feet is simply too long.
  4. The first half of the run just gets you to the starting line of the real run. I think this might apply to a run of any distance, but it's a lesson I have yet to learn.


Epilogue
So, I feel like I was only partially successful in my first run past the marathon distance. I did finish the run, but I learned some hard lessons. Worst of all, I screwed up the fueling so badly and threw my body into such a bad tailspin, that I wasn't able to eat my BBQ ribs afterwards.

Good times afterwards. But those ribs never did get eaten.
Photo courtesy of Shannon.


PS: Special thanks to Josh for helping me across the parking lot at the restaurant. And for giving me the sweater off his back when I tanked at the table and began shivering uncontrollably. I owe you!

PPS: More special thanks to Shannon, who made me take a salt tab in Umstead when I finished, and then made me eat lots of salt at the restaurant. After a sucking down a beer and some salty fries, I felt nearly human again.

25 comments:

  1. Wish I could have joined you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hate you couldn't make it out, Sean. It was "fun". ;-)

      Delete
  2. You did great yesterday! Too bad about those ribs though.

    YES to all four of those lessons. Hinson Lake was great for me because I followed those rules. Crooked Road sucked because I got cocky and forgot them. Staying ahead of my hunger and thirst is huge, and I have to include fat, salt, and protein. Too much sugar leaves my tummy rumbling.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Such hard lessons to learn aren't they, Iris? I hope I can remember them for next time. It was great seeing you out there. And congrats on your unintentional Umstead 11 miler!

      Delete
  3. Did you yell "WOOHOO! This is the farthest I've ever run!" when you passed the 26.2 mark? Congrats. This run sounds 100% successful to me. You learned all the most important ultra lessons in one painful session. I'd call that a steep learning curve! BTW my new favorite trail food is peanut-butter filled pretzels. They. Are. Awesome. Of course, my only real ultra skill seems to be an iron stomach. But it's a good one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Honestly, Steph, I was in such a blood sugar fog at that time, I wasn't talking very much. I'm gonna work on my iron stomach skills.

      Delete
  4. I wondered if there would be people keeping you company through that last lap. I had half a mind to drag the boys over to Umstead later in the morning just to check on you. But, my youngest needed a nap. ;-)
    Anyway, I'm so glad you had company the whole time. I'm inspired by your run despite the sad fact that I couldn't make out there this time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I missed seeing you out there, Ash! Totally understandable though. Kids come first. Besides, I'll be attempting this run again in the near future to work on my fueling. You can come out for a loop (or three)! :-)

      Delete
  5. "Partially successful?" Nonsense. Your success was resounding:
    1. you're not injured
    2. your training can continue
    3. you learned what you need to do for a successful Uwharrie. Now all you have to do is practice that.

    Seriously, what good would it have done you if your last lap felt easier? You wouldn't have learned those lessons. And what if you had fueled and paced properly? Sure, your run would have felt more successful, but would you fully attribute that success to fueling and pacing? Maybe, or maybe you would have just assumed you were in good shape, and then for the next long one you run faster with less fuel, wrecking yourself closer to race day.

    I'm rambling. Excellent run no matter how you slice it, I say.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very good points, Josh. I'm guess I'm beating myself up a bit too much, as usual.

      Delete
  6. The good news is you learned the lesson on a training run - not a race :) Next time the goal is finish feeling good enough to eat your ribs (well...not YOUR ribs... but... you know...)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a goal I can get behind, Karen! Run for Ribz! Thanks again for coming out and slogging through that run at my glacial pace. You are going to rock the U100 this year, I just know it.

      Delete
  7. Dang, dude, now I feel bad for seeming insensitive to your pain yesterday with all my joking around. Your blog postings have been an inspiration to me since before I started destroying myself with ridiculously long runs last year, and I still think of you as a veteran with these distances. I don't feel like I have much to offer the master, but I would also recommend that you carry water and food so you can take it in with more frequent, smaller doses.

    Great job out there! It will only get easier the next time. Usually.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jay, you have nothing to feel bad about! I knew going in that miles 20-29 were going to include some suffering. I'm glad you were around and on top of your entertaining smack talk the entire run.

      Oh, and I have no idea what you are talking about with all this "veteran" and "master" stuff. I know nothing. You've run a 100 mile ultra. Period.

      Catch you out in Umstead again sometime soon.

      Delete
  8. Great job out there yesterday Scott! We will be ready to take on our mean Uncle in February!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Gene. Even with all the stupid fueling decisions, this run gave me hope of surviving a trip through Uncle's backyard in February.

      Delete
  9. Your lessons are the same ones I have learned (over and over).
    And #4 is really a good strategy for the 40.
    You've already done the 20 miler with great success.
    Now just imagine you're doing it again, accept starting from the other end, and you have get to the starting line by foot. Like any race, when you get to the start you want to be well fueled, well hydrated and well rested.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Totally agree, Anthony. I think I've boiled down Uwharrie 40 success to managing the first 20 miles well (just as you describe), and properly fueling. Luckily I still have time to at least practice both of those.

      Delete
  10. Great recap and useful info should I decide to turn crazy and run an ultra.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Win. Stay away from people who run ultras. The insanity is definitely infectious.

      Delete
  11. Nice entry into the "dark side!!" Don't worry . . . it gets even darker! Way darker!

    Don't over-do the fueling . . . you need some but not as much as you may think.

    Sounds like you did GREAT out there! Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks, Frank. I definitely under-did the fueling out there. I'll need to practice a bit to figure out the right balance for me. Eating a little, but more often, might work better, but I'll have to experiment.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great job on your first ultra distance! It does sound like you learned some important lessons. Definitely practice carrying water/electrolyte mix and food with you. Train to eat while running and figure out what works for you. My personal favorites: PB&J, peanut butter pretzels, GUs, pringles, swedish fish, and fruit cups - very refreshing on a warm day!. Wish I could have made it out to run some with you, but I am avoiding the single track these days (scared of falling).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Lauren! I definitely learned some hard lessons. Fueling is going to be especially tricky for me since I'm not compatible with gluten it seems. I've got about 2 months to get it sorted out. Ugh.

      Delete
  14. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog.
    Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Anyway
    keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a nice
    blog like this one nowadays.

    Visit my web page; cheap payday loans

    ReplyDelete

Sorry about the captcha. Spammers ruin everything.