So I tried out the Ultramarathon experience today. Let's just say I'm not an ultramarathoner...yet.
I signed up for the GBRC 6hr/8hr ultra this week. Partly because of some peer pressure from my running friends, partly because of the swag (neato wooden medal and a backpack! Squeeee!). When will I learn that life's problems are not solved by cool race swag.
The answer is never. OF COURSE life's problems are solved by cool race swag!
The other thing that tempted me was the fact that the start line is about a half mile from my front door. That's a huge plus right there. Plus it's a trail I run all the time, so I knew exactly what I was getting into. Or so I thought.
I felt good on the first 4.4 mile lap. Nice morning, good temps, fresh legs. Lap 2? Ditto. Felt fine. Lap 3? Slowing down a touch, but nothing major, still feeling pretty good. Lap 4? Lap 4 kicked my ass. I started out fine, then felt my back sort of slip. It happens to me from time to time, always has. I have a slight scoliosis of my lumbar spine, and sometimes it rears its ugly head. Or tail. Or whatever. I could feel myself beginning to lock up about a mile into the fourth lap. I tried to keep running, but as the distance ticked by each step became more painful until finally I was walking. My shoulders were twisted up to my ears, my back was totally locked up, and my legs. Sweet cheeses, my legs. They totally betrayed me.
I hit THE WALL.
I've never, ever understood "The Wall". I've never even gotten close to that level of exhaustion. I have always been able to keep going. Always. No matter what my brain told my body, I could not move any faster. Walking was becoming painful. My legs were made of lead. I get The Wall now. Man I hope that never happens again. I didn't bonk, I still had my mental faculties, but my body was DONE. This did prove to me that a 20 mile run is plenty for a marathon/ultra training run. Too long of a run and you just burn out.
I finished my 4th lap way off pace and called it. DNF. I did not finish 6 or more laps in 6 hours. No medal. I did get to keep the nifty backpack, though. Woo! I would be disappointed in myself, but I don't really have a reason to be. I still completed nearly 18 miles today. 18 miles I didn't plan on and wasn't really training for. I stopped so that I wouldn't hurt myself, and there's no shame in that. It would have been cool to call myself an ultramarathoner, but I'm 35. There's plenty of time. I have gone from zero to repeat marathoner in 5 years. I'm not done yet.
This event was really, really fun. There were about 60 runners between the 6 hour and 8 hour groups. Everyone was incredibly friendly on the course (seriously, the level of encouragement was off the charts). It was refreshing to be on a trail, and because it was a multiple loop route even back of the packers like myself were never really alone. I met a nice lady named Tamara from Cincinnati, I got to run with some friends that I never get to run with, I met some GBRC people that I only knew from Facebook. Big win all around.
Positives for this event:
1. Really pretty course. Gravel, blacktop, and chip trail complete with big ol' trees and streams and shit.
2. Very friendly feel, lots of excited chatter at the start.
3. Nifty swag.
4. Watermelon in the woods. This is fucking brilliant. You come out of the trees and happen upon a waterstop. Where they have watermelon. It was...beautiful.
5. There's a lunch buffet after! With gluten free and vegetarian options! (I didn't eat it, as I went home to swallow a handful of Flexeril and lay on a foam roller.)
1. Wood chips in your shoes. Ouchie.
2. Gravel in your shoes. Ouchie.
I will totally do this next year. Only I'll sign up for the 8 hour. That way I will for sure get 6 laps :) Who knows, maybe I'll hit a 50k next time. It could happen.